Daniel dug his heels in. “We’ll get more done if we split up the work.”
“Split it up however you want,” I told him. “But I’m calling the interviews.”
“I want to watch too,” Jamie said.
Daniel looked at Stella, who held up her hands in defeat. “We bought popcorn,” she said. “Should I make popcorn?”
“This isn’t movie night,” Daniel grumbled.
I couldn’t help my smile. “Yes,” I told Stella. And then, to complete the picture, Jamie fetched blankets and tossed them at us. “Where do you want to start?” Jamie asked me as Stella walked in with a bowl of popcorn.
“What’s the first one we’ve got?”
Jamie shuffled the little DVD envelopes and announced, “January eighth, 1994.”
“That one, then.”
Jamie dutifully popped the DVD into his aunt’s Xbox (I very much wanted to meet this aunt), turned out the lights, and plopped down in an armchair.
There was static at first, and then it cleared to reveal a very young-looking Dr. Kells sitting at a small card table in front of a pea-green-and-off-white-striped wall. It looked familiar. After a moment I realized why.
It was the room from the video of her I’d seen in the Horizons Testing Facility, the one she’d used to trick me into searching for her, so she could lure me into the containment room. It had been there since 1994.
“State your name for the record,” a male voice said. I didn’t recognize it.
“Is this a deposition?” Daniel asked. I shushed him.
“Deborah Susan Kells.”
“Have you ever gone by any other name?”
“My maiden name,” Dr. Kells said.
“And what is that?”
“Holy shit,” I whispered.
“No fucking way,” Jamie said.
It wasn’t possible. I’d met Jude and Claire’s parents. I’d seen them at the funeral and memorial service. I’d—
“What is your date of birth?”
“Wait, someone pause this, we must discuss,” Jamie said as Dr. Kells started to recite what sounded like addresses.
“Where’s the remote? Fuck!”
“I was awarded a PhD in genetics from Harvard, and my first postdoc appointment was at—”
Dr. Kells paused midword. Jamie left his hand extended while pointing at the television. “So okay,” he said. “Deborah Susan Lowe. As in—”
“Jude Lowe,” Daniel said.
“What the fuck, guys,” I said. “What. The. Fuck.”
Jamie looked taken aback. “Who would marry that bitch?”
“I’ve met Jude and Claire’s mother, though,” I said thinly. “I’ve met her and their dad. And I went to their house.” Then I remembered something—something Noah had said. “But . . . it wasn’t their house.”
Daniel cocked his head. “What are you talking about?”
“Noah went there before Horizons,” I said. “Before . . .” I held up my wrists. Daniel flinched as if I’d hit him.
“To Laurelton? Seriously?”
I nodded. “To try to find Jude’s parents, to see if they knew anything, when we thought he was hunting me. But they weren’t there,” I said. “Jude’s parents, I mean. The people who answered the door said they’d owned the house for the past eighteen years. Noah thought I’d given him the wrong address.”
“So okay.” Stella held up a finger. “If the people you thought were his parents weren’t really his parents,” Stella said, “who were they?”
“Jesus, how far does this go back?” Jamie looked nervous.
“Jude and Claire moved to Laurelton a year before they died,” I said. “Claire was in my grade, but Jude—”
“Was in mine,” Daniel said.
“Did you know him?” Stella asked.
“Not well,” my brother said uncomfortably. “I should have. Maybe if I’d known him better, I could’ve—”
“No,” I said quickly. “Even you wouldn’t have guessed this.”
“What, though?” Jamie asked. “I mean, we were just looking at pages of records of miscarried pregnancies. You think she’s his mother?”
I thought back to every interaction I’d had with Dr. Kells, rifling through my memories for a clue, a hint, anything. But every time I’d talked to her, she’d been dispassionate. Clinical.
Except for the last time, anyway.
“Lowe isn’t really an uncommon name,” Jamie said.
We all looked at him.
“Maybe it’s a coincidence?” he asked meekly.
I leaned forward. “You’re not serious.”
“I don’t know!” he admitted. “Maybe they’re related but she’s not their mother? We’ve barely even watched five minutes of this.”
He had a point. “We’re going to have to marathon them.”
“There are hundreds,” Stella said.
Jamie rubbed his forehead. “And they’re not exactly The Lord of the Rings.”
“Well, we’re not exactly the fucking Fellowship,” I said. “Unless anyone here can think of a shortcut, you should probably press play.”
“Wait.” Daniel stood up. He disappeared into the kitchen and returned with five spiral notebooks, which he must have bought at the bodega. He tossed one to each of us.
“No pens?” I asked.
Daniel threw a box of pens at me, and then the five of us got to work.
By five a.m., we’d barely scratched the surface of Dr. Kells: The Early Years. We broke to sleep—or nap, really, since Daniel had us up by ten to begin again. We were afraid to divide the work—what if one of us noticed something that the rest of us didn’t? So we watched them all together, Stella and Daniel skimming through files that seemed to correspond with the months and times Kells was interviewed, though each file wasn’t properly labeled or dated. The sequence 18213 was a cipher, and we needed to use it to find the files we wanted. Jamie was inordinately good at it, so he did the code-breaking. Daniel and Stella hunted for the files in the stacks, and they brought them back to me to read. This is what we learned:
Dr. Kells was a carrier of G1821. She never manifested, though. That’s a thing that can happen, apparently, an interesting little factoid that Daniel made much of. Manifestation was like cancer, kind of. There’s a gene involved, but there are also environmental triggers, so even if you have the marker for the condition, you might still be safe if nothing switches the gene on.