By now you've probably read that Elaine did not get to become herself again when her turn came up at the Inn; another fellow gets to have that experience, although for what it's worth, I don't think him becoming Elaine, specifically, was not part of his girlfriend's master plan. It could be, but Elaine is inclined to believe it's not, and I'm inclined to believe her.
The way she puts it, she, her sister, and her sister's boyfriend were on track to arrive at Old Orchard on Friday night. She falls asleep in the car - apparently that's a Mackenzie thing; the rolling wheels just sooth her somehow - and when she wakes up, the car is stopped in a rest area with her by herself. She gets out to look for her sister and maybe get herself a snack, and when she comes back the car is gone. She doesn't have her phone, the others don't notice she's gone until they reach the Inn, and then according to Elaine the boyfriend is the one that says she'll be okay and they can get her in the morning. Everyone changes that night, though.
Meanwhile, a Massachusetts State Police Officer finds her sitting on a park bench, guzzling coffee to keep awake through the night because she knows it's not safe for someone who looks like a ten-year-old to be on her own like this. She's taken to the station because she can't remember "mom's" or "dad's" phone number, says they were going to the Trading Post Inn, and the night clerk at the place down the street says, yes, the Mahoneys have checked in. By the time the local police get there, of course, there are no Mahoneys, just a young African-American couple whose story about being in a room with the Mahoneys' luggage makes no sense.
Around noon, I get a call, as Elaine is telling them that they came to Maine to visit me. Fortunately, more than a few people on the force like hot dogs and know me to say hello at least, and don't seem to seriously think I'm any sort of actual suspect. They just want to know something about the Mahoneys, and I tell them what I remembered from Elaine talking to them. I don't suggest that they may show up in a couple of weeks or so; a couple of other Inn guests saw the handbooks I left at the Inn after changing back and have me a call, saying that a wide investigation would just stir things up and make the issues with missing time and the like different for everyone, and since people tend to be changing back this early in the year, maybe we should let the Inn's curse smooth things out, like it seems to do.
Of course, I can't do that entirely; as I'm walking out of the station, Elaine hears somebody call me by name and bolts from the table where she's sitting, running up and leaping at me. It's such a genuine scared-kid thing that I'm not entirely sure how to respond to it, but she seems okay when I put my arms around her and pick her up, though maybe that's because it gives her a chance to talk to me without someone overhearing. "You've got to do something, Cary - they're going to put me into foster care and the real Mahoneys don't know what's waiting for them!"
I say I'll think of something, and then ask the officers if she can come home with me. They shake their heads, saying not while they didn't know what was up, but if I want to fill out some forms, they can start a background check, just in case. So I tell Elaine to be good, getting a sarcastic look, and start doing some paperwork.
I get Missy's text message, so at least I can tell her that her body is in good hands when she drags her temporary guardian to the truck on Tuesday, though I can't say much more than "Elaine's doing well" without the other little girl and her mother thinking I'm suspicious. By then, I've talked with Missy a bit and we think we've figured out what's happened, that this Bing-Bing girl must have left the Inn while Max was sleeping, came back in, scoped out where Elaine's suitcase would be and then rushed Max out during one of the moments when there weren't any police.
We got a little more time to talk this afternoon; she does not like what Missy and Max are saying about things being like this for a year, but she was at least able to give me an email address for the Mahoneys along with her own (though she says not to use it, because it's probably monitored). I haven't heard back from them yet so I don't entirely know what's going to happen, but so far, it seems like everyone is at least safe, and apparently my application to be "Mackenzie's" temporary guardian is hung up on jurisdictional issues as much as anything. So, hopefully, will be able to figure more out soon.
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