“Where?” she gasped, “where is it? I need to see it!” Her head had turned, searching the room, seeking something. When she failed to find it, whatever it was, she suddenly collapsed. Not just back into her former apathy, but a complete collapse, her heart and breathing erratic, almost stopping. She had remained in a coma ever since. Kathy sighed. Mentioning the word hot had been her idea, and it had brought some reaction, though very slight.
Jen moved in beside her, and sighed. “I wish I could take back what I said. I have destroyed her.” She murmured.
Kathy put a hand on her arm. “No Jen, it isn’t your fault. Nor mine, though I was the one who suggested saying hot to her. All we can do now is take care of her, and hope that somehow, we can bring her back.”
The P.A. system dinged twice, and a voice said “Kathy Bates, please report to reception. Please report to reception.” Kathy squeezed Jen’s arm and hurried off. When she got to the reception area, there was an official looking man waiting for her.
He gave a slight nod and said “Miss Bates, I am Detective Inspector William Everet, of the Mars Federal Police. I am following up on a kidnapping that happened in December. We have reason to believe that the woman was brought to Earth, and is now a resident here. This is a picture of her, taken just before she disappeared.” He handed Kathy a flat pic.
Kathy looked at it and gasped. “Yes, that is Jane Doe. But she has had a serious episode that has left her in a coma. We have only now been able to stabilise her. Can you tell me, Inspector Everet why she would react to the words hot afternoon? One of the attendants coming on duty mentioned that it was a hot afternoon, early last week, and Jane literally came alive. But when we were unable to give her what she obviously wanted, she went into a complete collapse.”
“I’m not certain, but I think it has to do with a piece of art. Her husband is landing now, in a fast courier ship. He will be here as soon as he can get transportation. I’ll contact him and tell him about this, so he will be prepared.” He took his communicator out of his pocket, and tapped in a message. He received a reply immediately. “Mr. Greydon says he knows what it is, and will stop off at an art restorer and bring the work with him. He’ll be here in about an hour.”
“Oh, I am so glad; I only hope that her husband’s presence will get through to her. We have all been anxious about her. Such a beautiful young woman, and from the pictures in the locket she was wearing, she has two beautiful young children. It would be wonderful to see her awake and normal.” Kathy sighed, sending up a silent prayer that it would be so.
An hour later, Mr. Greydon arrived with another man, carrying a large package between them. Once inside the room, he rested his side of the package on the floor and rushed to the bed.
“Beatrice, oh, my love!” he took her limp hand in his. “Beatrice, I am here, love, I will take you home. And I have Hot Afternoon. Look, sweetheart, look” He turned and motioned, “Get the wraps off, and bring it close to the bed. Can she be raised up some?” The head of the bed was raised to a semi sitting position.
Kathy moved in to help man with the parcel, carefully removing the cord and paper. The picture showed a riot of flowers in red, yellow, white, tans and greens. It was beautiful, though why it should have affected Beatrice so strongly she couldn’t understand. She helped carry it to one side of the bed, and held it steady.
Mr. Greydon continued to talk to his wife, stroking her hair and kissing her. At last, she stirred and opened her eyes, recognition slowly dawning as she gazed at his face.
“Oh, Jamie,” she whispered. “He wanted my paining, demanded that I give it to him. I told him it was on Earth.” She paused, gathering strength. “All I remember after that is rousing to a strange feeling, and then walking, freezing, with snow blowing all around.”
“I know love. I know what he did, and he is already in custody, along with the woman who helped him sneak you off Mars.’
“I’m off Mars?” Is that why I feel so weak?”
“It’s partly that, and you have been very ill. We are on Earth. But look, my heart look there.” He pointed to where the art restorer and Kathy were holding the large painting. She turned her head, and her face lit up with the most beautiful smile. “Oh, Jamie, it is safe! And it’s perfect again. Oh, thank you, thank you.”
Her head sagged back against the pillow and her eyes closed. Kathy’s eyes went to the monitors. They showed that her vital statistics were improving, and her brain wave patterns were much stronger. Kathy sighed, tears in her eyes. Jane Doe was found, and would get well and return home again. She whispered a small prayer of thanks.
Three weeks later, Mr. and Mrs. Greydon left Limberlost Lodge, with everyone gathered in the front garden to say goodbye. Beatrice smiled at everyone, and thanked them again for the care she had received. “I am grateful, too, to Inspector Everet for his determination and perseverance. Without him, I would never have been found, and able to return to my family.”
Together, they walked out to where the ground vehicle was waiting to take them to the spaceport. “We’re going home at last,” she whispered. “I will see my little ones again, and my Hot Afternoon will once again grace the wall, a reminder of long lost relatives.”
“Yes,” James said. “Back to our castle, and the prince and princess.” He smiled.