Elizabeth Lee spent the better part of a year living the life of Marie Desjardins, and from reading her letter, I got the impression she was afraid much of that time. I don't blame her; she is young and used to having a large family to support her; being dropped into Marie's life must have been especially terrifying for her, and her transformed friend Ashlyn seems to have fed her paranoia, albeit unintentionally. I suspect someone else was scaring him, although that might not necessarily be the case; dropped into the life of a criminal, his life genuinely was coming under more scrutiny.
Maybe it's because I'm older, or because I grew up with less than Elizabeth, but I know a little more about men like André Trudeau. He is a dangerous man, but he can be handled. The trick is to not make it seem as though you're trying to escape - to give him a chance to impress you. So I told him something that might in a roundabout way be considered the truth - that I ("Marie") had a sister in America, and that she deserved to know about our mother's passing from me. I embellished details - that we had met a couple times at the Trading Post, that she had been given up for adoption as a baby - and told him that I didn't know exactly how long I would be, since I only had a vague idea of where she lived. "Jean-Michel" backed my story up. André was upset, of course - I can see where Elizabeth got the idea that keeping secrets from him was a bad idea - but he fancies himself a romantic, so it pleased him to offer his assistance. So he gave me a debit card, and neither of us mentioned that my using it would allow him to track my movements.
After that little tête-à-tête, Jean-Michel pulled me aside. "Do you think you can really do it? Do you think you can find the original Marie?"
I shrugged. "I can try. If not, I'll at least be on my own. Maybe I can string things along for long enough that André finds some other pretty young thing to focus his energy on, and if I can't stay in America, I can always re-enter the country somewhere out west. I hear Vancouver is nice."
"Not a bad plan. I just ask - if you do find Marie, you'll probably find the original Jean-Michel. I don't want to say too much, but there's a safe that I don't know the combination for, and if my guess as to what's inside it is correct... Well, I suspect André wouldn't be much of a problem for anybody after that."
I didn't think much of that comment at the time, because I'd never met Jean-Michel in his Ashlyn days; this was just what he was like to me. I spent much of Monday and Tuesday finishing up some legal things, and getting Mme. Desjardins's house listed. I didn't break the lease on Marie's apartment - André pays for that anyway, and why signal that I'm not planning on coming back? I gave the lawyers and realtors my mobile phone number, so that they could contact me and I could arrange to be near a fax machine if they had any documents that needed Marie's signature.
After that, I flew to Boston, checked into a Cambridge hotel, looked up Elizabeth Lee and Raymond Kim in the phone book, and headed over to their place. I could have called first, but felt that I would have had nothing if she turned me down flat. This seemed to be something she was inclined to do; she looked a little like she'd seen a ghost when she answered the door.
She apologized, saying that she expected me earlier, if I was going to visit her at all. I told her about the circumstances, and she said she understood. She'd only spent a little time with her apparent mother when she was living as Marie - Claire and Marie were a bit distant even before the inn worked its voodoo - so didn't have much attachment. Still, she said, it's rough too think of that sort of thing happening and not being around for it. She looked down at her engagement ring, and smiled a little. "Can you imagine if Arthur had said yes when my fiancé proposed the first time? It would have been the same result, but to miss it..."
I complemented her on the ring, and she smiled. "I guess that's one good thing to take away from my time as Marie - I learned to appreciate a good thing. Now I just want to live my real life in peace."
I said that was what I was trying to do, in a way - get Marie some important news from her real life. Elizabeth shrugged. "I wish I could tell you something, but she pretty specifically gave me no way to contact her."
I thanked her for her time, and was about to leave when she got an idea. "Hang on... I'm not really that interested in how the inn works or anything about it; like I said, I just want to live my life. But Ashlyn -- the new Ashlyn -- is. Maybe she can help you out."
Which brings me up to date; I've left a message with Ashlyn; hopefully we'll be able to meet soon.