Chapter 1: Sis is Missing!
Mary looked at herself in the mirror.
'Not too bad for a mother of three.'
She stared critically at her nude body facing her in the mirror. Her breasts didn't sag. Her belly didn't show the stretch marks that most women had after even one birth. Only an internal examination could testify to her having had three children. A fourth had miscarried of which even she had no knowledge.
'Maybe I can really pull this off.'
Her eyebrows were crinkled and a slight frown reflected back at her. She reviewed some of the items that she thought made her upcoming foray possible.
'Let's see, I've performed on stage several times. I've even performed in the nude on one occasion. (Luckily that play folded after one performance!) I'm blond from head to toe. I'm in good shape. This may be the only way to find out what happened to my sister.'
A small article that she had cut out was on her dresser. It described the efforts of the police and friends that had been made in order to find Mary's missing sister, Faith. Two other articles from older editions were also part of an open file. The oldest article had told of the efforts to find the missing mother of two. An article dated a year later related the efforts of the families of the two missing women to find them. One of them had been her mother. The other had been her aunt.
A small number of pages of hand written notes were also present. A couple of diaries were lying next to the file. One was much older than the other. It was the personal account of her grandmother detailing her feeling of the abandonment she felt when her mother went missing when she was but fifteen years old. The other diary was from her sister. It also told of her feelings when their mother had turned up missing. It also related her astonishment upon finding the documents that Mary had just read.
The women in their family were either runaways or, as Faith and now Mary believed, somehow stolen away into slavery or just murdered and never found. Faith had decided that she had to find out. She had written down what she considered leads. The police had not seriously considered her theories. Mary had not wanted Faith to 'poke around in the past'. Mary had wondered about murder and she didn't want Faith to get too close if something like that had happened. Mary had thought she had talked some sense into Faith. She really didn't think she would be so stupid. Now her sister was missing.
Her husband, James, hadn't been too keen on the idea.
"What the hell are you thinking about doing? You want to go out and try to find your sister? You think some guys took her away? What if what you think happened actually did happen? What if you find them? Will they just let you get away? What will happen to you? What would I be able to tell the girls? 'Well girls I let your mommy go after these bad guys who kidnapped your aunt. I guess they got your mommy too.' What do you think? What happened when your mother didn't come back? Isn't it enough Mary? Please stop what you're thinking about doing and just love our little girls even more. Maybe the cops will be able to track Faith down. I love you too and don't want you to end up lost somewhere or ... dead."
"O.K. James I won't do anything."
She looked at her nude body in the mirror again.
'Isn't it a woman's prerogative to change her mind? I mean it is my sister that's missing. I need her back. When Mommy went missing Daddy's soul went out of his body. He never recovered. He took care of us but he never dated or went out. When Faith reached eighteen he just withered away as if he wanted to die and join mommy.'
Her mind set was complete. James was away for a week doing his job. She had found a sitter for the girls who would take them for the week. She hoped that it would be long enough for her to find Faith. She had one clue. It was a building that was still in the town. It had been there for over a century. It had always had been the location of an import/export type business. But it had changed ownership several times. Now it was the Import/Export Emporium.
She marched into the building and noticed that a 'Trainee wanted' sign was on prominent display. She took the sign down and went to the receptionist's desk in the lobby. There she met a rather older black-haired woman of oriental descent. She was not very personable until she looked up at Mary. She became nice in an instant. It seemed that she couldn't do enough for Mary. She offered Mary tea and scones while she rang her boss.
Mary viewed her surroundings. The room was tastefully done with Oriental décor. She sensed more than saw that it had a dragon motif. Yet, where dragons can be almost overwhelming in their intensity, she noticed that they were primarily in the background with benevolent expressions or poses. The entire wall appeared to be telling a story. It was a happy story with happy families. However the final panel was one of violence and devastation.
Raiders had descended upon the village and had killed the men. The women had been raped and the last scene in the panel showed the conquerors leading the small band of women away in chains. Eerily, one of the women was a blond of European heritage who looked very much like Mary's own mirrored reflection that morning.
Mary's eyes were wide at the resemblance depicted. It had deeply shocked her since she had identified with the peaceful village only to see the horrors of the final panel. Now she could see that the blond had been in the other panels of peace as well. It fact it had a wedding with her in it. Also in one of the little scenes, the blond had given birth.
Mary shivered again. Her attention was diverted from the mural by the quiet comments that the receptionist made about the images she had just viewed.
"Yes, I saw you shiver. It is quite beautiful yet disturbing. The scenes of the typical village life are so real to all cultures. Alas, the final scene is also quite real. Despite the presence of the good luck of the dragons, the villagers suffer their defeat and subservience to the lord of war. They are killed and their women raped and kept as concubines. It is still a fact of life today in many so called civilized lands."
"Thank God that it can't happen here!"
"Hmmm, I see that you have not really understood the mural. It may be just as well.
Now Please sit down and fill in the questionnaire for Mr. W. he is most anxious to find a new secretary and is willing to overlook some deficiencies in order to train the right one."
Mary thought, 'This may be the way to find out what happened to Faith. If I can get this job I can look through the files and possibly find out where they took her.'
"I have to say that you bear an uncanny resemblance to our previous secretary. It astounded us to have her leave and not even tell us that she was going. I hope that you a re not like that."
"My goodness! She left and you don't know where she is? Maybe she was kidnapped. Have you told the authorities?"
"I wouldn't know about that. I'm only the receptionist. However, Mr. W. has never thought highly of any government, especially their police forces. I doubt that he did so. Yet he is not a man to trifle with and he may have decided to find her himself."
Mary looked up at the Older Oriental woman and saw a smug look. She appeared to be hiding something from her. Mary thought to herself.
'Why would she be doing that Mary? I think I'm getting paranoid. First the blond woman in the mural looks like me and secondly the receptionist is against me. I better not prejudge her. I may need her help later and I don't want to make needless enemies.'
She made out her questionnaire. She didn't reveal that she was married or that her sister Faith had evidently been the previous secretary. Her ring had been left in her handbag before she had entered the Emporium.
Suddenly the door opened from the Bosses office and Mr. W. walked purposely out of the doorway toward her. He introduced himself.
"Hello, Mrs. Is it Miss –uh- Hunter? My name is Mr. Woo-mien Wang. Please call me Mr. W. It is much easier and the mispronunciation of my name hurts my ears after a while."
"I see here that you are single. I am sure however that a good looking woman such as yourself must have dozens of boy friends."
"I'm sorry to say that isn't so Mr. W. In f act, I don't even have a family left. My mother died recently and I'm the only one left."
"I'm sorry, Miss Hunter. It is so much better for people to have family. Without family life can be difficult. Now this is most satisfactory for my purposes. You may be able to help us. Please accept an offer to join us. Your salary may not be much to start with but will grow if you stay. I review job performances every year and give raises based on them."
"It sounds very fair Mr. W. Please accept me as your new secretary. I will not fail you. I have been told that I have a good head on my shoulders."
"The rest of you is not bad as well. Oops, my receptionist is wagging her finger at me. That is not a pass my dear but a truth. So let's get to work Miss Hunter."
It was the third day and Mr. W had readily accepted her. Her hair was up in a ponytail. It made her look like a teenager. Mr. W. had fussed over her for the past two days and had told her he was pleased with how fast she caught on to the business. Her typing had been rusty but Mr. W. had a good computer and program for business letters. She found out that he had some very secret files. His code words were not so secret however. She found the insides of the files were what she had been looking for when one of the first notes she read referred to Faith and her disappearance.