Juan refused to sleep in the same bed as a married woman. He decided that instead he would sleep on the floor. This led to an argument with Laura which ended when Juan grabbed a pillow and a spare blanket and walked down to the motel lobby. The clerk at the desk eyed him curiously. “Had a fight with the Missus,” Juan said. He chose the most comfortable-looking chair, pulled off his shoes, and tried to get a few hours of sleep.
He managed to slumber fitfully until the morning staff began setting up the complementary breakfast. Juan put on his shoes and returned to the room. He quietly unlocked the door and stepped in. Laura was asleep on the bed. Juan grabbed some fresh clothes from his suitcase along with his toiletry kit and went into the bathroom to take a shower.
When he was clean and shaved and dressed, he turned and saw Laura, wrapped in a sheet, sitting on the bed and looking at him. “Breakfast is ready,” he told her. “We can dawdle over it; my friend’s office doesn’t open until nine.”
Laura yawned. “You go on ahead,” she said. “I’ll join you after I’ve had my shower.”
Juan was sipping his second cup of coffee when she made her appearance. She had managed to find an outfit much like her usual garb, complete with large earrings. Juan smiled at her, and she smiled back. She ate a light breakfast with fruit juice—no coffee—and then asked, “What else can we do to kill time until nine o’clock?”
“You could satisfy my curiosity about something.” Juan paused, uncertain how to phrase his questions. “This husband of yours—Ron—where did you meet him and why did you marry him?”
Laura laughed. “OK, fair enough. Ron is an amateur stand-up comedian—very amateur,” she emphasized. “But he has a way of getting what he wants from people. Like the police uniform you saw him wearing—that was just a costume, as phony as the search warrant.”
“So he’s not a police officer?”
“Right. Well, one of his friends managed to get him a job as an extra on the show I’m in. He was only in two episodes, but he took the opportunity to talk with me. He can be very charming, and he was with me. We had dinner together a couple of times, and then—out of the blue—he proposed to me.”
“And you accepted.” Laura nodded. “Why?”
“I know it sounds funny, but he swept me off my feet. Other men seemed to be drawn to my looks or my fame or my money. Ron made it seem as though he cared about the real me. We had a Las Vegas wedding, and soon I discovered that looks and fame and money were all that mattered to him when he was with me. Especially the money. I stayed with him three months. I should have left sooner.”
“However did he manage to involve you in that stunt at the airport?”
“A lot of fast talking, some threats—I won’t tell you what they were—and the thought that, after this, I might never hear from him again.”
Juan shook his head. “The whole thing still confuses me, but the most confusing part is this: how could any man treat you like this?”
Laura smiled weakly. “Partly it’s his disorder, and partly it’s my insecurity. I’m sure when he met me—maybe even before he met me—he could see the word ‘victim’ written all over me.”
The two chatted for the rest of the hour. Shortly before nine o’clock, they went out to Juan’s car and he drove them to the private detective agency.
Mike Johnson had been trained as a police investigator, but after a few years with the force, he decided to move to Westfield and go into business for himself. Much of the work was tedious—for example, getting details about one of the parties in an impending divorce—but every so often a case came along that made the job worth keeping. Juan expected that Laura’s predicament would be one such case.
The two friends shook hands. Gesturing toward Laura, Juan said, “And I believe you know who this is.”
“I would need to see some identification,” Mike said, always the cautious one, “but I will say that she bears a striking resemblance to the actress, Laura Kinser.”
“Not only does she resemble her,” Juan boasted. “She is her.”
“Given the news of the last few days, I definitely want to see some identification. But first, won’t you take a seat.”
“Thank you,” Laura sad as she sat. Mike settled into his chair behind his desk. Juan also found a chair and sat. “Identification is the problem. All of mine was lost with my airplane.” She described to Mike the plan Ron had invented to blow up her airplane and collect insurance money, a plan which ripened when Harvey learned of his terminal state of health. In words almost identical to those she had spoken to Juan, she explained how Ron persuaded her to accompany him to the airport. “I thought that, within hours of the explosion, he would get me out of there and I’d be off to some private resort. Instead, he left me there, locked up, for two days. When he came back for me, he had a gun. I panicked. I ran. Juan helped me to hide, and he’s been helping me ever since.” She smiled warmly at him.
“I figured a man in your position would be able to help Laura prove her identity,” Juan interrupted. “There must be something that will work—fingerprints, maybe, or dental records; a DNA sample, or a voice print….”
“All excellent thoughts,” Mike said, “but if you want to do this quickly, we can rule out DNA and voice prints. Fingerprints would be great if we already had an authenticated set of Laura’s prints. Trying to obtain such a set would be difficult after several days, though.” He peered over his glasses at Laura with some amusement. “I don’t suppose you’ve ever been arrested, have you?” She shook her head no. “Too bad,” he said in a cheerful voice with a twinkle in his eye. “That would have been convenient.
“Dental records are our best bet, then,” Mike continued. “Laura, tell me who your dentist is, and I’ll arrange to have your last X-rays delivered to my computer. Meanwhile, there’s a dentist here in town who can take a set of X-rays this morning or this afternoon. He and I will compare both sets and see if we have an answer.”
Laura’s face was increasingly pale as Mike said these things. “I’m sorry,” she said softly, so softly both men had to lean toward her to hear her. “I haven’t been to the dentist in more than two years.”
“Oh, that’s no problem,” Mike assured her. Even if they’re five years old, or older than that, we can still use them.”
“But I don’t even remember who the dentist was, or where his office was.”
“Now, that is a problem, but not too big for me to handle. Tell you what: I’ll track down your last dental records. All you have to do is visit Doctor Welz for X-rays. I’ll make an appointment for you right now.” Mike picked up the phone.
“No, wait!” Tears welled in Laura’s eyes as she said, “I can’t do this. I’m very much afraid of dentists.”
“Laura,” Juan said gently. “This isn’t a full dentist appointment. This is just X-rays. They take hardly any time at all.” He smiled at her. “He isn’t going to clean your teeth or examine them.”
She shook her head. The tears began to flow down her cheeks. “Isn’t there some other way?” she demanded. “I’m scared of dentists.”
Mike set down the phone. “Laura,” he said. “I want to help you. But you have to do this my way. The dental records will prove who you are. If you refuse to do this, I won’t help you, and neither would any other investigator.”
Still crying, she pleaded, “Wouldn’t be easier to start over with a new name, a new identity?”
Mike laughed, but his laughter was kind. “Not in this century!” he exclaimed. “I might be justified in putting you into a Witness Protection Program, but even they would need to have firm evidence of who you were before they changed you into someone new. Now let me call the dentist and get this started.”
Juan added, “Laura, you have to do this!”
She smiled at him through her tears. “If you say I have to,” she said, “I have to.”
Mike placed the call and set an appointment for 10:30 that morning. “Come back at three,” he said. “I may have something for you by then.”
They began to stand, prepared to leave, when Mike said, “Oh, one more thing. I probably should track down this Ron Lawrence. Can you tell me where to find him?”
Laura dropped back into the chair. She leaned her head back and closed her eyes. In a monotone, unlike her usual voice, she slowly recited an address. Mike thanked her and dismissed them again.
Heavy clouds were moving in as Juan and Laura returned to the car. They decided to drive around town until Laura’s 10:30 appointment. “How did you get to know Mike Johnson?” she asked as they traveled.
“We were neighbors when I was growing up,” Juan answered. “He was a police officer then—he hadn’t become a private investigator. He’s the reason I decided to take a job as security guard. I was thinking I might join the police force someday, just like him.”
At 10:15 they stopped at Dr. Welz’s office. His receptionist welcomed them and assured them that Mike Johnson would pay for the X-rays. A hygienist led them to the examination room. Laura began to cry again, so Juan took her hand. “Stay with me,” she begged him. Juan knew that the X-rays posed a small health risk, but he was willing to take bigger risks than that for Laura. She squeezed his hand tightly as the four images were taken.
“Mr. Johnson will be by later to look at these with Doctor Welz,” the hygienist said. “That’s all we need; you’re free to go.”
A shower had left drops on the sidewalk and on the car during those few minutes, but it was not raining as Juan and Laura returned to the motel. Almost immediately she turned on the television and absorbed herself in the program. The two of them had a light and leisurely lunch from the food Laura had packed in Juan’s kitchen. Occasional rain splattered on the room’s windows while they waited. Eventually, the time came for Juan and Laura to return to Mike Johnson’s office. There they would discover what the investigator had found.