My Name is Jane

written by Christine Unger


A Dream of Two Dogs Fighting

I was at the Studio again. I clicked on my flashlight, scanning the wall in front of me. There it was, what I suspected, pushpins, but no photos, empty spaces on the wall. A flutter of white caught my eye, a photograph caught by the wind. I chased it, running easily over stones and branches, down the narrow trail through the forest of evergreens and past the cold faces of the looming boulder’s that stood guard at each turn. Inch long mosquitoes made a constant hum around my head, a halo of voices heard just out of range. The moon was high and very full, filling the sky, creating long confusing shadows. Dread dropped a leaden lump in my chest, but I kept on, chasing my white rabbit as it passed, sentiently, down the hill, over rocks, just out of reach of my grasping hand. A branch caught at my arm, ripping it open. Red gushed over and down my fingers, painless. I kept running, feeling my heart beat faster and faster as I came to a clearing lit up like stadium at night, everything seemed flat, shadowless. The buzzing stopped. Two great beasts, demi-gods of breeding, faced each other, circling warily at the edges of the clearing: my phantom of the storm and her identical twin, glowing white in the moonlight. Dick stood to one side, a paper cut-out circus master, his expression unreadable under a mask of iron. For a moment there was silence and then deep low growls. I put my hand to my pocket, searching for my gun but found only the peacock box. Gripping it, I watched blood run over silvery plumage in slow motion.

As if on cue the wolf-hounds lunged together in an awkward, deadly grip: twisting and contorting in their lust for flesh, those gentle blue eyes transformed, long yellow teeth bared, mirroring a ferocity I had not imagined part of their breed. Over and over they met in combat and then retreated, skin gory with saliva and ichor. In the trees crows filled the upper branches, their horse barking caws goading the pair on. One blacker, taller and more beautiful than the others, glided towards me. My arm held itself out, a perch, it landed, claws grasping my skin tightly, looking quizzically at me it spoke, “see Dick play.” I noticed then, a cross, marking it’s chest.

I awoke, covered in sweat. At least part of the meaning of my dream was perfectly clear. I moved, filled with urgency. The moon truly was enormous, the air blissfully cool. Damn! it was raining again. I pulled on my rain slicker and an enormous rain hat and headed for the car, creeping silently past the dark and empty front desk.

I drove the 12 miles to Dick’s studio with more passion than intelligence. Luckily, at this hour there weren’t many other vehicles on these under-lit country roads. Dick was out at an opening. I had 2, maybe 3 hours before he got home. I pulled in to the narrow unpaved drive, almost sliding off into the mud filled ditch, a-rush with vengeful brown water sloughing off the mountain slope. I left the key in the ignition, made sure of the spare inside my pocket and felt for the weight of the gun in my pocket.

The dream had left a clammy skim over my entire body. I felt stiff and awkward. Pausing, I stood in the black shadows beneath the enormous shaggy conifers. Briefly protected from the rain I forced myself to take deep calming breaths. A quick dash across the squelching mud turned on a motion sensor, it’s brief light was a god-send. I sent up a prayer at the front door for all people with the good sense to make generous overhangs at their outside doors.

Under the circumstances, it would be hard not to leave evidence of my visit. I removed shoes, coat, and hat and pulled on a fresh pair of fitted cotton gloves (leather made my hands awkward and just putting on a pair of old leather gloves could place evidence at a scene, I’d learned this the hard way in the early days). With shaking hands I tried the lock. Dick hadn’t made it easy, but at least he hadn’t upgraded to a thumbprint mechanism and I hadn’t seen any evidence of an alarm system on my previous visits. I pulled out my Peterson-International lock pick set and went to work. I’d gone through Southord and HPC picks early on in my career. It had taken years to reach the point where I could get through a lock in minutes. Under pressure I made fumble after fumble but finally, after 10 minutes of trying, I was in.

Outside the storm ramped up. Flashes illuminated the elegant, quirky interior of Dick and Jane’s home. I closed my eyes to remember the layout and hurried to the basement workshop/studio/gallery. Forcing myself not to rush I clicked the timer on my watch, set to vibrate when it was time to leave and began a methodical search. I began with the great wall of photos. Everything was as I remembered it and there, just as in my dream, were the empty spaces. Please god, let Dick not have destroyed those mementos. Another flash, this time I notice something else, like one of those kitchy hologram posters from the 90s you had to stare at in just such a way to see the image, suddenly I could see it. Under all the photos, there was the ghost of a number. 47. What the hell did that mean.

Never mind, I had to find the pictures. I checked all the usual places, freezer, under the cupboard drawers, in the vases, inside books. Time was running short. Where, where would Dick put the missing images. I stopped, took a deep breath and thought about Dick, thought about what he was. A sculptor, a handy man. Under the sink was a tool chest. I'd already dismissed it, it was too dirty to be a place for pictures. Now, I looked again. Gigerly pulling the box out for a better view. There was a screwdriver with an unusually large handle tipped with a screw cap. Pushing the cap all the way open I saw what I was looking for. Where once there had been slots for different screw heads, it had been hollowed out and inside was a roll of photos wrapped in plastic. I carefully removed the photos and spread them on a table. Maitaining their sequence so I could return them in the order I'd found them. I took out my brand new Nikon 1 J1 and crossed my fingers that it would deliver the low-light accuracy I'd bought it for.

Placing a hanky over my flashlight, I bounced the difused light off the insides of a large shiny mixing bowl I retrieved from the kitchen, onto the photos. I shot photo three times and made a quick movie for extra insurance. It might not be the highest resolution, but I'd found that movies were far more reliable when it came to focus. With shaking hands I placed the photos back into the handle, leaving the cap just a little open, as I'd found it, and shoved the box back under the sink, hoping my invasion would go unoticed. As I'd filmed the photos I found myself holding my breath. What had I gotten myself into.

Shot after shot of Jane AND another Jane. In the sequence it became clear. At first it was clear that Jane 2 was M. But as the sequence progressed it was increasingly difficult to tell one Jane from the other. I began to form a theory of what had happened. It wasn't very appealing. It must have been such a lark at first, fooling the public, for Jane, an enormous relief not to have to go to every function. When I'd started my investigation I'd anticipated nothing more sinister than a relationship gone bad, this was different, this was far more sinister. If what I thought was going on was going on, I could hardly believe Dick had held on to these. It was time to talk to the sisters, time to find out where the fortuneteller's key would lead me.