Woman Still Missing: After three months Michelle Mickels remains missing, the article declared.
She touched the clipping from the paper, and posted on a board, with a finger. She pulled her finger back to study the ink that had smeared on it. Outside the office she listened to the voices arguing over her.
"She shouldn't even exist!"
"It was the choice of the family. They want her to help us. She is Michelle in every way."
"She isn't Michelle, and she can't tell us anything we don't already know!"
"They want her involved. Just talk to her."
Then the two entered the room. The man was still clearly angry, and the woman was quiet. The woman that remained in the room with her was impassive; she was only here to see after her creation.
"So… Michelle-" The man began.
"She goes by Mae." The scientist put in much to the man's annoyance.
"Mae then, what can you tell me that I don't already know." There was venom in his voice. He didn't like to be doing this.
Mae didn't respond. She was still looking at the board. The board was the search for Michelle- her mother of sorts. She cocked her head to the side looking at the information the police had gathered when tracing Michelle's last known actions. Abruptly she reached up, and plucked a picture free from the board. It was Tammy, her- Michelle's best friend. She smiled at the photo of her. It was hers- Michelle's.
"Did you know that I- she was having an affair with Tammy?" Mae turned to the man behind her, and held out the photo. "They were lovers."
He took the photo, and looked at it, and then to her, and then to her guardian. "Is this some kind of joke?" He demanded.
"She tried to hide it during the mapping, but it was still read, and then imprinted on me." Mae paused. "It started when Tammy's grandmother passed away. Michelle found a way to comfort her friend when she was on the verge of suicide." Mae watched the man- Detective Sandvick- he didn't want to believe her, but the woman, Chief Mayis, did.
Unexpectedly Sandvick sat down. He grabbed a note pad, and began making notes. When he paused he looked to Mae with a glare. "What else?"
Mae smiled, wanting to reassure him, but Sandvick only scowled. "Tomas doesn't know. He doesn't know that Michelle was only marrying him to get her parents to leave her alone. Tomas really did believe that they were just friends." Mae paused, and then turned back to the board. She scanned everything before her, and frowned. She shook her head.
"What is it?" Sandvick demanded.
"I- I'm not sure." Mae continued to study the bored. A hand on her shoulder pulled her attention. It was her guardian, Lina. Mae studied her guardian, then told her, "Something's not right." She told her gesturing to the board. "Something is missing."
Lina reached up with a tissue, and wiped away tears that Mae didn't know she was crying. "It's ok. We will come back tomorrow."
Mae didn't want to leave. She knew there was something wrong here, and it was pulling at her mind.
Chief Mayis rose. "Mae, thank you, and we would welcome any other help you may provide."
Mae let herself be pulled from the room.
"Get Andy, and check it out." Mayis ordered. She moved to the door, and paused. "Be nice to Mae, she may be more valuable than you think."
"Hello again Miss Walker, we were wondering if we might ask you some more questions?"
Tammy stepped aside to let the two detectives inside. "Anything I can do to help to find Michelle. Have you found a new lead?" She asked as they settled down in the front room of the house she shared with Tomas.
"Something like that." Sandvick replied. "Is Tomas home?"
"No he went to the store, I can call him though."
"No need," Andrew quickly put in. "Miss Walker we have come across some information that pointed to you and Miss Mickels having an intimate relationship behind Tomas' back. Is that correct?"
Tammy sat back, and took a deep breath. "Well… yes that is correct."
"Why did you withhold this information before?" Sandvick questioned.
Tammy sat forward once more. She opened her mouth to speak, but then the maid walked in with tea. Tammy waited until the woman was gone. "I didn't think it was that relevant, and I didn't want anyone getting the wrong impression about Michelle. She was a strong woman, but she wouldn't want to disgrace her family in such a way. I didn't want the information to get out, and do it either. I love Michelle more than I should, and I don't want her name slandered in anyway, nor the investigation compromised." She paused, "I want her found."
"There was a dog walker that was walking by around the last time you saw Michelle. He said that he heard arguing between two women before Michelle stormed outside, and drove away in her car. Can you explain that?" Sandvick asked.
Tammy sighed. "Michelle and I were arguing about her upcoming wedding to Tomas. I was her Maid of Honor, and she had several decisions she had to make. She said that she wanted to set back the meeting with the planner to give her time to think about things. I said that she needed to go, and just do it. She got mad, and stormed out when I told her it might look suspicious. She yelled that she didn't care, and it would look like cold feet. She said she was tired of living to satisfy everyone but herself. Then she left. I tried calling her, but she wouldn't answer, or text me."
"So she wanted to think. Is there anywhere specific she would go to do that?" Andrew asked.
Tammy shook her head. "She would just go drive."
Both detectives stood. "Thank you Miss Walker." Andrew said as they headed out.
At the station Sandvick froze when he saw the woman in his office again looking at his board. The woman gave him the creeps, and he didn't like being around her. She was an affront to his beliefs. He didn't want to have to even look at her let alone have her help in the investigation.
Chief Mayis instantly pulled him into her office. "The family spent a lot of money having her grown and imprinted. If you can't respect what lengths they have gone through to provide this help then I will reassign you to another case, and get a detective that can." She told him without preamble.
"You can't sit there and tell me that you don't find it slightly disturbing everything that- that- thing in my office represents." Sandvick shot back.
"I do, but I can keep it away from my professional obligations. That woman is a huge step, and a huge benefit to us. She may be the last chance we have to finding Michelle." Mayis told him. "So I need to know if you can respect the family's effort to help, and utilize it, or if I need to find another detective to replace you." She stared at Sandvick daring him to question her choice to allow this again.
Sandvick ran a hand through his hair. "I can do it." He muttered.
"I want to you be nicer to her as well. It's not her fault or even choice that she was made. She is struggling to adjust, and deal with this more so than any of us. She is still trying to cope with the fact that she isn't who she was made after. She is doing her best to help." Mayis told him as she returned to her seat behind her desk.
With a huff Sandvick went to his office, making sure to calm himself before he entered, and lock away the disgust that the woman inspired in him. Mayis was right, she had no choice in her making; she was just dealing with it like everyone else.
"Mae, it is good to see you back." He said as he entered.
Mae looked at him with a cocked head as if trying to understand his sudden change in disposition toward her from the prior day. She glanced toward the chief's office, and seemed to nod in understanding. Then she turned back to the board.
Sandvick looked at the chief, and saw her watching. He nodded to her, then returned his attention to the room. Lina was acting impassive again as he watched her creation. Andrew was studying Mae with interest.
"Mae?" Andrew suddenly asked. This was the first time he had encountered the woman. She turned to him, and he sucked in his breath as a face he had been hunting for during the last six month met his eyes. He scrambled to regain his thoughts and composure. "Why are you called Mae? He asked suddenly.
Mae glanced toward Lina her guardian. "Mae… was my choice." She said slowly before looking back to Andrew, and he was struck by the understanding but also intense confusion that lay in the depths of her eyes. "After all I am not Michelle." She said more surely. "Despite my body," she lifted a hand, "And my imprinted mind, I am, at the same time, essentially not her, and am her." She looked away from him as if searching for the answer. "When it was explained to me what I am, and why I am, I chose to be called Mae. It was- is confusing what I am and remember, and being called by her name only makes it harder for me." She paused, and looked up at Andrew again, "I am not Michelle, and I think that I shouldn't be called by her name."
"So you chose her middle name?" Andrew asked.
Mae nodded, "I see Michelle as- as a mother. I am still her in ways, and I wanted to honor that."
Andrew nodded. "I understand." He looked to Lina.
"Her name was her first choice, and the first thing that made her not Michelle. She chooses to respect Michelle, and her existence." Lina supplied.
Sandvick forced away a shudder while Andrew nodded. He hated this, but Mayis was still right, and he had a job to get done. "Mae, have you anything new for us?" He forced himself to ask nicely.
Mae shook her head. "Did you go see Tammy?"
Sandvick sat down. "Yes, she confirmed what you told us." Then he looked at Lina. "How up to date are Mae's memories?"
Lina knew this would come up. "Michelle's last scan was only a month before she went missing."
Sandvick nodded and looked back to Mae. "Were Michelle and Tammy still on good terms?" At Mae's nod he asked, "And Tomas?"
Again Mae nodded. "Why? What did Tammy tell you?"
Sandvick was considering withholding the information that they had gotten from Tammy, but Andrew began telling her. As Mae's attention turned to Andrew, Sandvick wondered if he was enjoying it.
"Tammy and Michelle got into an argument about the wedding plans just before Michelle left. Michelle had wanted to set back the wedding plans, and Tammy didn't want her to. Michelle drove off after saying that she needed to think." Andrew supplied as Mae held his eyes.
"Tammy was trying to protect Michelle from herself." Mae said distantly as she turned back to the board.
She plucked another photo, one of Michelle's car, from the board. "That's what's wrong." She said as she studied it. "You based you investigation off her car assuming it was the starting point for anything that happened to her, like abduction." She turned to the investigators that were watching her intently. She held up the photo. "Michelle didn't think while she drove." Mae dropped the photo into Andrew's hands. "There was too much to pay attention to for her to really think when driving." She said as she stared into Sandvick's eyes. "She would park her car, and go walking to think."
"We've scoured everything within a two mile radius of her where her car was found. About a mile away we found a hair that was tangled on a bush. It was Michelle's but nothing else could be found. The case has gone cold again, and Mae hasn't offered anything new." Sandvick reported to the chief.
The chief nodded. "There is a month of Michelle's life that Mae doesn't remember.
"Lina tells me that as time passes Mae's connection to Michelle will fade. Once she was exposed to stimuli that Michelle never experienced she began to not be Michelle. Soon she won't be able to tell us anything than what her imprinting tells her from Michelle's memories."
Mayis breathed a sigh. "With that in mind, we will soon lose our last connection to Michelle. The family has asked that we give Mae immersion."
Sandvick was instantly on the edge of his seat. "Meaning?"
"Lina explained that if Mae is exposed to Michelle's life and living conditions that she will retain better. The family hopes that if she were to go live with Tomas and Tammy that she would be more help." Mayis explained.
Sandvick was silent while Andrew asked, "And what of us?"
"The proposal is that both of you and Lina will live next door in the vacant house." She paused letting it sink in. "Tammy and Tomas have agreed to letting a profiler live with them in order to find Michelle, they don't know that it will be Mae, nor what she is."
"So basically what you're telling us is that the choice has already been made." Sandvick said.
Mayis regarded him. "This will be your last chance out of this case. The family is desperate for answers of any kind."
Sandvick nodded. "Who will explain to Tomas and Tammy what she is?"
Mayis clenched her teeth involuntarily, but quickly released them. It was noted by Sandvick, and he sat back knowing the blow that she was about to deliver. "You two."