What janie found, p.1

What Janie Found, page 1

 

What Janie Found
 


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What Janie Found


  CONTENTS

  TITLE PAGE

  DEDICATION

  JANIE JOHNSON HATED HER FATHER…

  MISSING CHILD MILK CARTON CAMPAIGN MARKS ANNIVERSARY

  CHAPTER ONE

  CHAPTER TWO

  CHAPTER THREE

  CHAPTER FOUR

  CHAPTER FIVE

  CHAPTER SIX

  CHAPTER SEVEN

  CHAPTER EIGHT

  CHAPTER NINE

  CHAPTER TEN

  CHAPTER ELEVEN

  CHAPTER TWELVE

  CHAPTER THIRTEEN

  CHAPTER FOURTEEN

  CHAPTER FIFTEEN

  CHAPTER SIXTEEN

  CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

  CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

  CHAPTER NINETEEN

  DON’T MISS CAROLINE B. COONEY’S RIVETING TIME TRAVEL QUARTET

  FRIENDSHIP IS TIMELESS

  CHECK OUT MORE EDGE-OF-YOUR-SEAT THRILLERS!

  ALSO BY CAROLINE B. COONEY

  COPYRIGHT

  For my son-in-law, Mark Zanardi,

  driver of the Face on the Milk Carton race car

  Janie Johnson hated her father at that moment with a hatred that was wallpaper on every wall of every room she had ever lived in: stripes and circles and colors of hate pasted over every other emotion.

  But gently she slid the police report back into the file folder and put the folder in among the others, pressing with her palm to even up all the folders so that the one that mattered vanished.

  It took control to be gentle. Her fingers wanted to crush the contents of the folder, wad everything up and heave it out a window, and then fling the folder to the floor and drag her shoes over it.

  The drawer was marked Paid Bills. Her father was very organized, and now that he could do nothing himself, her mother wanted Janie to be organized in his place. For a few minutes, it had seemed like fun; Janie Johnson, accountant and secretary.

  The drawer contained a long row of folders, each with a center label, each label neatly printed in her father’s square typewriter-looking print, each in the same blue ink. Folders for water bills and oil bills, insurance policies and tax reports.

  And one folder labeled with two initials.

  H.J.

  MISSING CHILD MILK CARTON CAMPAIGN MARKS ANNIVERSARY

  NEW JERSEY (AP)—Today is the anniversary of the “Missing Child Milk Carton’” campaign. Launched by Flower Dairy, the campaign placed a photograph of a different missing child every month on the half-pints of milk sold in school cafeterias throughout New Jersey, New York and New England. The campaign was discontinued when some parents felt it was too upsetting for their children.

  A spokesperson for Flower Dairy reminded the public, however, of one spectacular success.

  Thirteen years earlier, while shopping with her family, three-year-old Jennie Spring had vanished. Mall witnesses saw the child with a young woman, but the woman was not identified. The little girl was never seen again.

  The Springs continued to hope they would one day find their daughter. They agreed to put her face on a milk carton. Jennie Spring herself, by then fifteen years old, recognized her photograph.

  America was riveted by the story that emerged. The kidnapped child had been raised in a wealthy Connecticut suburb as Janie Johnson. The kidnapping was apparently the act of Hannah Javensen, known to the public because of another drama, in which she joined a cult, and her parents, Frank and Miranda Javensen, stole her back. Javensen had returned to the cult, however, and her parents had never heard from her since.

  Why Hannah Javensen kidnapped Jennie Spring is still unknown, but having done so, she evidently panicked and drove across three states to reach the home she had abandoned. She telephoned the parents who had not seen her in years, insisting that the little girl was hers—and therefore their granddaughter. Asking her parents to bring the child up, Hannah Javensen disappeared again.

  The Javensens moved, changing their name to Johnson and the little girl’s name to Janie to protect their grandchild from the cult and from their daughter.

  After the teenage Janie Johnson recognized her face on the milk carton, she was reunited with the Spring family. In the investigation that followed, police and FBI failed to locate Hannah Javensen.

  Both the Spring and Johnson families declined comment for this article.

  A spokeswoman for Flower Dairy said they remain proud of their part in finding Jennie Spring.

  CHAPTER

  ONE

  Last seen flying west.

  Over and over, Janie read those last four words on the report.

  I could do that, she thought. I could be “last seen flying west.’” I too could vanish.

  By not being here, I could be a hundred times more powerful and more present. No one could ever set me down. I would control all their lives forever, just by being gone.

  She actually considered it.

  She didn’t worry about the logistics—plane ticket, money, shelter, food, clothing. Janie had never lacked for shampoo or supper or shoes and she couldn’t imagine not having them.

  She considered this: She could become a bad person.

  In the time it took for a jet to cross America, she, Janie Johnson—good daughter, good friend, good student, good sister—with no effort, she could ruin a dozen lives.

  She was stunned by the file folder in her fingers, but she was more stunned by how attracted she was to this idea—Janie Johnson, Bad Guy.

  In all that had happened—the kidnapping, the new family, the old family, even Reeve’s betrayal—nothing had brought such fury to her heart as the contents of this folder.

  She couldn’t even say, I can’t believe it. Because she could believe it easily. It fit in so well. And it made her so terribly angry.

  She knew now why her older brother, Stephen, had dreamed for years of college. It was escape, the getaway from his massive store of anger.

  She herself had just finished her junior year in high school. If college was the way out, she could not escape until a year from September—unless she escaped the way Hannah had, all those years ago.

  Janie Johnson hated her father at that moment with a hatred that was wallpaper on every wall of every room she had ever lived in: stripes and circles and colors of hate pasted over every other emotion.

  But gently she slid the police report back into the file folder and put the folder in among the others, pressing with her palm to even up all the folders so that the one that mattered vanished.

  It took control to be gentle. Her fingers wanted to crush the contents of the folder, wad everything up and heave it out a window, and then fling the folder to the floor and drag her shoes over it.

  The drawer was marked Paid Bills. Her father was very organized, and now that he could do nothing himself, her mother wanted Janie to be organized in his place. For a few minutes, it had seemed like fun; Janie Johnson, accountant and secretary.

  The drawer contained a long row of folders, each with a center label, each label neatly printed in her father’s square typewriter-looking print, each in the same blue ink. Folders for water bills and oil bills, insurance policies and tax reports.

  And one folder labeled with two initials. H.J.

  It was invisible in the drawer, hidden in the forest of its plain vanilla sisters. But to Janie it flamed and beckoned.

  You don’t have to stay here, being good and dutiful and kind and thoughtful, said the folder. You can be Hannah.

  Reeve Shields was sitting on the floor, his back against the wall, his cutoff jeans and long tan legs sticking out toward Janie. Mrs. Johnson had been sure the project of Mr. Johnson’s papers would include plenty of work for Reeve, but so far she had not thought of an assignment for him. That was okay. He was too busy studying Jani
e to sort papers.

  Janie had a very expressive face. Her features were never still but swung from thought to thought. If he could read cheeks and forehead and chin tilt, he could read Janie.

  But although he had lived next door to her ever since he could remember, and although they had once been boyfriend and girlfriend and had been through two hells together, right now he could not read her face.

  He did, however, know that he wanted to read the contents of that file. The label was very tempting. The way she had returned it to the drawer, the silence she was keeping—also very tempting.

  Don’t even think about it, he told himself. How many times are you going to jerk her around? She tells you how to behave, you say, Sure, Janie, and then do exactly what you want. You going to do it now, too? She’s speaking to you again, letting you here in the house again, and once again, you can’t wait to trespass on her. You promised yourself you’d grow up. So maybe tonight would be a good time. Maybe tonight you should not look in that folder, which obviously contains the most interesting papers Janie has ever seen in her life.

  But not for you, sport. Give it up. Offer a distraction, mention dinner, get out of the house, get away from this office, do not interfere.

  So Reeve said, “Let’s all go get a hamburger. Brian? Janie? Mrs. Johnson? You up for McDonald’s? Or you want to go to Beach Burger?’”

  “Beach Burger,’” said Brian Spring quickly. He loved that place. It had its own oceanfront, a tiny little twenty-foot stretch of rock, and you could get your hamburger and fries and milk shake, and leave your socks and shoes in the car, and crawl over the wet slimy rocks and the slippery green seaweed and sit with your toes in the tide. Of course, you had to get back in the car with wet pants and sticky salty skin, but he loved the smell of it: the sea scent you carried home and then, sadly, had to shower off.

  Brian felt so included here. It was weird to be part of a large friendly family like his own family in New Jersey and yet never feel included. Up here, visiting Janie (his sister, but not part of his family), he felt strangely more welcome.

  That wasn’t quite fair.

  What he felt was less useless.

  He missed his older brother, Stephen, badly. But Stephen was not going to return in any real way. A night here, a week there—but Stephen was gone.

  Brian’s twin was no company at all, still a shock to Brian, who had thought they would be best friends all their lives. Brendan had not noticed Brian for a whole year. And with the close of school, and the end of baseball (Brendan, of course, was captain and his pitching won the local and regional championships and they even got to the semifinals) and now summer training camps—basketball and soccer—well, the best Brian could do was stand around and help fold his brother’s jeans when he packed.

  (Brendan even said that. “At least you know how to fold T-shirts,’” said Bren. “Although I don’t screw around with that myself, I just shove ’em in.’”)

  And the other good reason for going to Beach Burger was that Brian wanted food in his hands, so that he wouldn’t leap forward and yank that file folder out of Janie’s hands. Because he knew in his gut that she had found something important. And everything important to Janie was important to Brian’s family. Her other family.

  But Brian at this moment did not feel a lot of affection for his own family. No matter what he did there, he was last in line. He was sick of it. Up here in Connecticut with Janie, he wasn’t first, but he was part of them, and he wasn’t going to wreck that.

  What he was going to do, he decided, after the rest of them went to visit Janie’s father in the hospital tonight, was walk in here boldly and scope out that folder, as if it were his business.

  Because he was pretty sure it was his business.

  Mrs. Johnson was sitting at her own desk, which was at a right angle to her husband’s desk, where Janie was studying the bills, paid and unpaid. Mrs. Johnson had been using a small calculator to balance the checking account, and it was making her cry, because this was not her job, had never been her job. In the division of labor that every family requires, checking accounts belonged to her husband.

  And now he was in the hospital.

  A stroke and a heart attack.

  She could not believe either of these things.

  Frank was slim and strong and he worked out and ate well, and he was still, in her opinion, a young man. Well, not young. But he wasn’t old! He was not old enough to have a heart attack. He could not leave her now; he could not die. He could not end up speechless and drooling. She couldn’t go through that. She wouldn’t go through that.

  She had to believe he would recover. Completely.

  She mixed up numbers and skipped decimals and could not manage a simple subtraction.

  And so she did not see her daughter blazing over the contents of a file folder in Paid Bills, and she did not see Janie’s former boyfriend staring in fascination, nor Janie’s real brother observing them all.

  Mrs. Johnson said, “Yes. Beach Burger. I hope the rocks aren’t crowded. I want to sit on the rocks. Don’t you, Brian?’” She was crazy about Brian. He was such a sweetheart. It was a ridiculous time to have a houseguest, but Brian was a treasure. In a weird way, Miranda Johnson was thrilled and honored to find that her family had extended from here in Connecticut down there into New Jersey, and that somehow, miraculously, she too had been adopted.

  It will all work out, she said to herself, and she was actually almost happy. She turned and smiled at the three teenagers, but she did not see how quickly Janie’s smile came and went, nor did she attach any importance to Janie’s habit of lowering her face to let her heavy dark red hair cover her expression.

  Janie got through the whole hamburger thing.

  She was pleasant and even funny because she liked the three people with her. But she was aware of her terrible anger sitting next to her on the rock, waiting to come back in, and she could hardly wait to get home, and be by herself, and go back to that folder and let the fury take over.

  She thought she could probably produce enough rage to power the house. She could plug the toaster into her hand and burn the bread with her anger.

  But no. Once again, she must be controlled and careful and a total fake in front of everybody. Janie Johnson: Good Guy. She was so sick of being good.

  “Janie darling,’” said her mother. Her mother was affectionate with everybody: it was Janie darling and Reeve sweetheart and Brian love.

  Did her mother know the truth? It seemed unlikely. Mom would never have let her open that drawer if she had known about the folder in there.

  On the other hand, her parents had kept a massive secret for years, and Janie had never suspected a thing. So perhaps they were keeping two secrets, and had kept this second secret in front of everybody: the FBI; the police; her Spring family; Reeve; Reeve’s lawyer sister, Lizzie; and most of all, Janie herself.

  She could not trust either parent now.

  “I don’t think I’ll visit Dad tonight,’” Janie told her mother, knowing she should tag on some friendly reason, some kindly excuse, like exhaustion. But she was so angry. What if she said, Because I’d rip out the tubes keeping him alive if I had to see him right now?

  “I’ll drop you guys at home,’” she said to the boys, “and then drive Mom to the hospital.’” She checked her watch. Six P.M. Plenty of time to get rid of all three of them, examine that folder, finish screaming and go back to the hospital. “I’ll pick you up at nine, Mom.’”

  Janie did all the driving now.

  For years, she had dreaded the moment in which she must stop being the passenger and turn into the driver. Had cringed at the thought of facing traffic; flinched at choosing left lane or right.

  Janie Johnson had preferred leaning on her parents. But her mother and father had been weakened from finding out that Janie was theirs by theft. They’d so carefully kept a secret all these years—the secret of Janie’s birth—but they’d been wrong about what the secret was. They’d
never known the real secret.

  The media attention and the law, the neighbors and the necessity to face Janie’s birth family had quite literally put them both on heart medicine.

  Janie had had to become strong for her mother and father, and she’d done it. She was proud of herself. But there had not been quite enough energy to be strong for herself, so she had leaned on Reeve. Probably the most painful mistake she would ever make. Once the possibility of leaning on Reeve was gone, the solution to her problems seemed to be in the driver’s seat.

  Overnight, Janie wanted a driver’s license and a car.

  Nothing low to the pavement. No dumb little four-cylinder engine. She wanted height and power. She wanted a cool name. Wrangler or Blazer. (Her best friend, Sarah-Charlotte, suggested a Tracker. “The better to find your kidnapper,’” said Sarah-Charlotte, as if this were all rather comic. As if anybody at all ever wanted to find the kidnapper.)

  The only good thing about the kidnapper was that she had vanished. Nobody in either family had a clue to the kidnapper’s whereabouts or even if she was still alive. Finding the kidnapper would destroy all that the Springs and the Johnsons had managed to save.

  In the end, Janie chose an Explorer, which her father gladly bought. He was so pleased that Janie wanted to drive, and have power and freedom. It was a big step up for a girl who had spent the winter barely able to turn a page in a magazine.

  Now she thought grimly, I don’t need a Tracker, do I? And Dad knew that when he bought my Explorer. The kidnapper has already been tracked.

  She remembered to be calm. She smiled at her mother, her former boyfriend and her little brother. Then she realized that even when she dropped Mom at the hospital, she would not be alone when she got home.

  Brian would be there.

  Janie could see no way to unload Brian. No way to shut him up in a guest room while she stormed around screaming.

  It was her careful smile.

 
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