“May I speak to Grace Wymans please?” Jared leaned back on the couch and propped his feet up on the coffee table. After Amy left, he re-read the chat transcripts Will had given him, hoping to pick up on something new, but nothing jumped out at him. So he decided to call David Kline’s widow to see if there was any connection at all between her dead husband and Mary’s David.
“Speaking,” a woman’s voice answered his query.
“Good afternoon.” Now that he had Grace Browning Kline Wymans on the phone, he needed to choose his words carefully. “My name is Dr. Jared Quinby, and I’d like to talk about your first husband, David Kline.”
The silence on the other end of the line went on for what seemed like minutes. “I haven’t heard that name for a very long time,” Grace said. “What’s this all about?”
“Mrs. Wymans, I’m working on a case that may have a connection with your late husband, but I don’t want to go into it on the phone.” Jared took a chance—the worst thing that could happen is she’d hang up. “May I come by and talk with you?”
This time the silence was shorter. “Dr. Quinby, I’m not sure that would be a good idea. I have a new life now.”
“It would really help my case.”
“How do I know you’re who you say you are?”
Now it was Jared’s turn to pause. “My friend, Will Fulton, can vouch for me. He’s an FBI agent.”
“Which office does he work out of?”
“Then I’ll call his office and get back to you. I have your number on caller ID—is that the right number to call you back on?”
“Yes.” Jared hung up the phone, praying that Will would be in his office. He barely had time to refill his coffee when his phone rang.
“Thank you for calling me back.”
“Special Agent Fulton said you were trustworthy and honest.” She sighed. “My husband, Chris, will be taking the children out later for ice cream. If you come by at four, I can spare a few minutes.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Wymans. I have your address as 445 Orchard Drive in Warrenton?”
“And Mrs. Wymans? If you have any photographs of David, I would very much like to see them.”
“I’ll see what I can do. Good bye.”
Jared ended the call and glanced at the time on his cell phone. Three o’clock. He stretched and phoned for a taxi. He really needed wheels of his own if he was going to drive all over the country investigating this case. After ordering the taxi, he stuffed his notes into a briefcase.
The clock on the taxi’s dashboard read a few minutes before four when the car pulled up in front of a brick Colonial. “Can you come back to pick me up at five?” he asked the driver as he paid the fare.
“Great, thanks.” Jared eased out of the back seat. At the front door, he rang the doorbell. The door opened quickly to show a beautiful redhead wearing a cotton sundress with ladybugs dancing on a background of bright yellow. The black-and-white photographs accompanying the news stories he had read hadn’t done her justice.
Jared nodded and held out his hand. “And you must be Grace Wymans.”
She shook his hand briefly. “Come on in. We’ll sit on the side porch, since it isn’t too hot today. Lemonade?”
Jared followed Grace through a tastefully decorated living room and cozy kitchen before arriving at a screened-in porch. Ceiling fans lazily spun in the afternoon sun and a breeze ruffled wind chimes above the outside door. “Have a seat.”
He chose a glider rocker and sank into its cushioned depths. Grace handed him a icy glass of lemonade. “Thank you.”
She sat on a chaise lounge, an identical glass in her hand. “So you want to talk about David.”
“You mentioned a case you were working on, but I don’t see the connection to my previous husband.”
Jared sipped the lemonade before replying. “Maybe this will help.” He set his glass on a low table and opened his briefcase to pull out David’s missionary brochure. “We’re interested in knowing more about this man.”
Grace took the brochure and studied the photograph of the smiling David Kline. Jared watched her reaction closely, but detected no recognition at all.
“This man’s name is David Kline, but he’s not a bit like my husband. Surely there must be hundreds, if not thousands, of other men who go by the name of David Kline.” She handed him back the brochure.
He looked at the face of Mary’s fiancé and grimaced. “Yes, but I happen to know that this David Kline says he works at the same software company, OutBox, as your late husband. He’s a member of Mount Pleasant Baptist Church. He graduated from the same school and has the same birth date.” Jared tried to relax but he couldn’t help jiggling his leg in anticipation that Grace would tell him something important, a piece of information that would move their case forward.
Grace stared at him. “You think this man is pretending to be my dead husband. Is that what you’re saying?”
“That’s exactly what I’m trying to find out. Do you have photographs of your first husband?”
“Yes, I pulled our wedding album off the shelf for you.” She reached for a slim, white-bound book lying on top of a low bookshelf next to her chair. She gave the volume to Jared.
He flipped open the page to a younger version of the woman before him, radiant in a flowing ivory wedding gown. Beside her, a bespectacled man with dark brown hair, slightly receding on the forehead, wore a black tuxedo with cummerbund. The David Kline in the wedding photo and the David Kline on the brochure couldn’t possible be the same man. Another dead end.
Jared asked Grace a few more questions, but it was apparent that she could shed no light on why a man with her dead husband’s name and same background would want to be a missionary to Peru.
“I’m sorry to have bothered you, Mrs. Wymans.” Jared said as she walked him to the front door. “It was too much of a coincidence not to check it out.”
Grace Wymans frowned as she opened the door. “I hope you find what you’re looking for, but whatever it is, it won’t be my first husband. He drowned in the river ten years ago.”
“But his body was never found.”
“No, but there was never any doubt that David had died that day.” Grace clutched the door knob with her hand. “Are you saying otherwise?”
Jared shook his head. “No, I don’t think your first husband is the man I’m looking for, but I had to be sure.”
Grace sighed. “I wish you luck in your search.”
“Thanks. I have a feeling I’m going to need all the luck I can get. Tracking down his imposter, if imposter is the right word, might be nigh on impossible.”
# # #
Once back in his apartment, Jared booted up his laptop and pulled the brochure from his briefcase. There had to be a way to check out the picture-perfect smile and bronzed cheekbones that taunted him from the brochure’s cover. Jared was about to throw it in the trash when an idea flashed into his mind.
He stood to reach his printer/scanner combination. Flipping open the scanner’s top, he placed the brochure face down and hit the scan button. Seconds later, David’s photograph filled the screen. A few clicks of the mouse isolated the photograph and he saved it as a JPEG file.
Opening an Internet browser, Jared pulled up a popular photo stock site. David’s photo looked like a model. Maybe it was a picture of a model. In the site’s forum discussions page, he started a new thread asking if anyone knew who the model was in the photograph he’d just posted. He visited three other stock photo sites and uploaded David’s photograph in the discussion forums.
Posting this photo might be a long shot, but maybe, just maybe, he would catch a break.
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Phantom Love is copyrighted and cannot be used in any form without permission from Sarah Hamaker.