“I know since my husband died, I’ve had a hard time keeping up with friends, but I started doing what you advised me to do,” Betty said. “I started making dolls that I can work on talking with. I even went one step further and made them life size.”
Betty was very proud of her accomplishments and hoped Dr. Abbott would be also.
Betty had always been a prominent member of town, but when her husband died, something changed in her mind, and she found it difficult to talk to people she had known her whole life, or make new friends, which had always been easy for her.
She waited patiently for her psychiatrist to voice her approval, but they were interrupted by a knock at the door.
“I’m sorry, Doctor,” Betty said standing, and went to see who was at the door.
When she opened it, she impatiently asked, “What, Billy?”
Billy, her son, nervously replied with, “There are policemen at the door, and they want to talk to you.”
Annoyed, Betty turned back to her shrink and said, “I’m sorry, I’ll see what they need, and I’ll be right back.”
She quickly stepped into the hallway and closed the door behind her.
“What did I tell you about disturbing me when I’m with friends?” Betty asked.
“I know,” Billy stuttered. “I told them you were busy, but they said it was important.”
Even though Billy was twenty-six and over six feet tall, he rubbed his hands together nervously, as if he was still a child being admonished by a teacher.
Betty pushed him aside and walked to the front door to see what they wanted.
“Good afternoon, Mrs. Betty,” one of the officers said.
It was a small town and most have known Betty their entire lives. She was a strict religious person in the church, and was usually placed in charge of disciplining the children during services. As the kids grew up, they never stopped treating her like their disciplinarian.
“Good afternoon, Timothy,” Betty replied, always playing the part. “What can I do for you?”
“Sorry to bother you, Miss Betty,” the second officer started. “But we’re looking for a missing couple that seemed to pass through town. We were wondering if you could check to see if they stayed here over the last couple of days.”
“Of course, Johnny,” she replied with a softer smile.
Both the officers visibly relaxed.
At the front counter, Betty turned the sign-in book around to look over the guest names.
“Now, what were their names?” she asked.
“Winston and Samantha Jenkins,” Timothy answered.
Betty looked through the names and said, “Here they are. They stayed one night and checked out yesterday morning.”
“Did they happen to say where they might be going, or give any indication that something was wrong?” Officer Timothy asked while Officer Johnny wrote down the details.
“I think they mentioned they were going to see a sister out west or something, but that’s about it. They seemed pleasant and nothing stood out as unusual about their behavior,” she replied.
Both officers nodded their understanding.
“I’m sorry I can’t be more help,” she continued. “But that’s all the interaction I had with them.”
“You didn’t see them at check-out?” Officer Johnny asked.
“No. They were gone before I got up, and they left their keys in their room,” she said.
“Anything off about their room when you cleaned it?” Officer Timothy asked.
Shaking her head, she answered, “No. Nothing out of the usual.”
Satisfied, Officer Timothy said, “Well, we appreciate your time, Miss Betty.”
“I hope you find them safe and sound, boys,” she said, watching them walk out the front door.
As she walked away, she muttered, “Dammit!”
“I’m sorry, momma,” Billy began to plead. “I tried to tell them that you were busy, but they said it was important.”
“It doesn’t matter,” she said, sternly. “Just go check on the rooms and make sure they are completely clean.”
Happy to be dismissed, he vigorously shook his head and walked away.
Feeling overwhelmed by Timothy and Johnny’s presence, she went into the basement, where her doll friends sat quietly.
She fell into her loveseat and began to vent. One by one she could hear the dolls reassure her in her head. Though they weren’t real, the more Betty talked with them, the better she felt.
Dr. Abbott had once told Betty that when she did eventually go out to reunite with her friends, she should pretend that she was talking to her dolls.
“I agree, Sam, that is a good point,” Betty spoke out loud.
“I know they were just doing their job, but I feel like they were mocking me. Mocking the woman who doesn’t go out in public anymore.”
She shook her head in understanding as if someone were explaining something to her.
“We’ll,” she replied to the small group of dolls placed on the couches. “I see your point. You know, I feel like you all are helping me so much in overcoming my fears. I wish everyone in town was as easy to talk to as you all are.”
She smiled, as in her mind, all the dolls spoke their appreciation.
Betty stayed down in the basement with her dolls for a few more hours, when she heard the bell at the front desk ring.
“Well,” she said. “If you excuse me, it looks like we have some more guest.”
She took a moment to smile at her doll friends, and then quickly walked upstairs to see who was there.
“Hello,” she pleasantly said to the young lady waiting for her at the front counter. “Can I help you?”
The lady smiled back and said, “Yes, I’d like a room for the night, please.”
“Of course,” Betty said. “Just for the one night?”
“Yes,” the lady replied.
Betty spun the book around and said, “Just fill out this part and we’ll get you all settled in.”
As the young lady filled in her information, Betty asked, “So, what brings you through such a small town?”
Not looking up, the lady replied, “Oh, just passing through. I’ve got a job interview in Boston, and I decided to drive, instead of fly. Take the scenic route.”
Betty smiled warmly.
Once the lady was done, Betty turned the book back around and said, “Elizabeth. Oh, what a beautiful name.”
“Thank you,” the lady replied with a smile of her own. “Is there a good place to eat around here?”
“Oh, honey,” Betty started. “It’s getting late. My son is about to run some errands. Why don’t you take a quick look at this menu, and we’ll order and pick it up for you. We’ll just add it to your room charge in the morning.”
“Awe, thank you, but I don’t want to put you out,” the lady replied.
“Nonsense,” Betty said. “We do this all the time. You go settle in and we’ll send it up when he returns.”
“Oh my gosh, you are so great,” the lady replied. “I am tired.”
She looked at the menu and told Betty what she wanted. Betty made her notes and sent the lady off to her room.
“Daniel!” Betty called out.
Daniel came shuffling into the room and said, “Yes, mama?”
“I’m putting in an order for the young lady that just checked in. I’ll call it in while you go pick it up.”
“Yes, mama,” he replied, and quickly left.
In less than a half an hour, Daniel arrived back with the food and put it on the front counter, where Betty was patiently waiting for him.
“Here mama.” Daniel stood there looking at her, as if waiting for her to tell him to take it up to the lady.
Reading his mind, she said, “I’ll take it to her. You go ahead and finish up your chores before bed.”
Reluctantly, he nodded and shuffled away.
Elizabeth had just gotten out of the shower when she heard the knock at the door.
“Just a minute!” she called out, quickly dressing herself in her pajamas.
She peeked out the peephole, and seeing it was Betty, opened the door.
“Here, you go sweetheart,” Betty said, handing her the food.
“Thank you,” Elizabeth said. “I’m starving. Thank you again so much for this. Being on the road so long today, the thought of getting back in my car to eat was daunting.”
“It was completely my pleasure,” Betty said. “How far have you driven today?”
“I drove all the way from Ohio, if you can believe it,” she replied.
“My goodness,” Betty said. “That is a long drive. Well, enjoy your dinner and get some rest. When you wake up, we’ll be happy to go get some breakfast for you.”
Thoroughly pleased, Elizabeth said, “Thank you again so much. I do appreciate it.”
“Think nothing of it,” Betty replied. “We’ll see you in morning.”
They both gave each other one more smile, and Elizabeth closed the door while Betty walked down the hall.
Elizabeth quickly made her way to the bed, turned on the television, and tore into her food. She was completely serious about how hungry she was.
When she finished eating, she put the empty bag into the trash.
As she watched tv, her eyes began to get heavier and heavier. She knew she was tired, but she felt unable to stop herself from closing her eyes and eventually falling asleep.
Everything was blurry and dark. Elizabeth tried to remember if she had gotten up to turn off the light.
She felt like she was waking up from a very deep sleep. It took her a moment to realize that she couldn’t move. As her senses came back, she could feel that she was no longer wearing her regular clothes, but something itchy, like a potato sack.
When she tried to speak, she realized that she was gagged, and her heart began to race.
A bright lamp instantly turned on and she instinctively closed her eyes. After it felt like her eyes had adjusted, she slowly opened them.
“Oh good, you’re awake,” she could hear Betty say. “I wanted to welcome you to your new life.”
Elizabeth began to struggle against her restraints.
“Now, now,” Betty said, pinning her down even more.
“I’m almost done dressing you, and then I’ll let you up,” Betty assured her.
Feeling a tinge of hope, Elizabeth stopped struggling.
“Good,” Betty replied.
After a short time, Betty said, “All done here. Now let’s introduce you to the group.”
Betty unbuckled Elizabeth’s restraints, but before she could escape, Daniel grabbed her arms from behind, and with super human strength, held her in place.
“Now follow me,” Betty said, walking out the door.
Daniel drug Elizabeth into the hallway, and easily kept pace with Betty.
Betty led them into a room down the hall, and confusion set in as Elizabeth saw a couple of couches with life size doll things sitting in them like a normal person would.
Daniel led her to an empty part of a couch and forced her to sit.
“Now let’s introduce you to the rest of the group,” Betty said. “Here we have Winston and Samantha Jenkins.”
She continued to say the names of the others sitting on the couch.
When she finished, she looked at Elizabeth and said, “Why don’t you introduce yourself to the group, dearie.”
Confused, but unsure of what to do, she played along and introduced herself as if she was in a room with people.
“Very good,” Betty said when Elizabeth was done. “Let’s begin.”
She nodded to Daniel, who immediately put a plastic bag over Elizabeth’s head, taking away her ability to breathe.
She struggled as much she could, until her strength faded, and then her life.
Once Betty was sure Elizabeth was dead, she walked over, replaced the plastic bag with a cloth mask, and began to sew it shut.
“You can leave, Daniel,” Betty instructed when she was done sewing. “Go make sure her room is clean of any evidence that she was here. I’m going to take a few minutes and get to know my new friend.”
With his head held low, Daniel slowly shuffled away, not wanting to disappoint his mother.
A few hours later, Betty took a seat across from Dr. Abbott and told her how happy she was to have made a new friend.
The life size doll of her psychiatrist merely sat there, staring with empty eyes.
“Thank you, doctor, for all you’ve done,” Betty concluded. “I can’t wait to get out and meet even more new friends.”