The Stolen Name

- A Serialized Novel -

A man learns that his name has been used by someone else and sets out to find the man who stole his name and help those whom the imposter betrayed.

Author’s Note: I went ahead to their next opportunity to talk. I considered doing a flashback for Robert, but again, I could not find one that connected to the story, so I didn’t do it. I also considered his conversation with the police, but I didn’t know that it would be all that useful to extend that when Robert covered the pertinent bits here.

New and Old Questions

“How are you feeling?”

Robert could not help smiling at her question, easing himself into one of the other chairs. He did not know how his head would fare today, since he had not been allowed much rest. He knew why they woke him every couple of hours, but he did not enjoy the experience and could not pretend otherwise. “Should I ask you that?”

Violet smiled. “I think, other than yesterday’s upset, the need for me to rest has been greatly exaggerated. I am not so much of an invalid. I don’t think I should have to be confined to bed, just that I must be careful. It is so frustrating to be pregnant.”

“I would not know.”

She laughed. “No, you wouldn’t. Though that would be quite interesting if that were possible.”

“So you like to imagine the impossible?”

She frowned. “I am not certain that is accurate. It is not like I enjoyed being compared to a sprite or a nymph. Those things are impossible, yet I dislike them. They are not the only things that make me uncomfortable to contemplate, either.”

“The man who deceived you…”

“He is, I think, one of the more difficult subjects to dwell upon,” she said, letting out a sigh. She lowered her head, her hand turning over her stomach. He winced, realizing that he had brought up more pain for her. That was all he ever did. “Did they… Did the police talk to you at all? Do you know if they found anything?”

He grimaced. “I rather felt as though they did not think I had heard anyone at all.”

“You mean they think you injured yourself? That you did that to your head? Why would you? That is absolutely absurd—”

“Is it?” He reached up to touch the wound, wincing again. “I’ve known men to suffer wounds far more grave than that, and even I know that there’s no good reason why he didn’t hit me a second time. If he wanted me dead, it would have been so easy…”

She shook her head. “No. I refuse to accept that. I know that he lied to me, that he betrayed me, but he is not a killer. I did not fall in love with a killer. I couldn’t have.”

Robert let out a breath. He didn’t—couldn’t—say much to that as he would only hurt her, but he couldn’t help thinking that she hadn’t known the man she’d married at all. He’d told her things that were Robert’s, not his. He had not given her much of his own truth, and that made him capable of anything, in Robert’s opinion. Still, he did not think she would want to hear that. “It may not have been his intention to kill me. I don’t know what he wanted to do. I don’t think he accomplished it because he left me there and I woke up not long after I’d been struck, but I don’t have any way of being certain. If we knew more of why he did what he did, then we would perhaps know why he might do this, but he is not going to tell us that.”

“Unless he already did and I don’t know what it is in what he told me. I don’t know what is significant there. The stories? The way that he sometimes referred to himself like a separate person—which makes sense when we consider that he was talking about you, not him. Perhaps there is something else that I should have noticed, but I do not know.”

Robert nodded. “That is still possible. Did he ever speak of a reason to hate my family? I suppose he spoke of hating my father, but that only leads me to ask who doesn’t hate my father?”

“I did not hate him, though he did his best to make me do so.” She shifted in her seat, looking toward the door as though she expected someone to enter, and he had to wonder where her mother and aunt were. Listening through some other door, perhaps? Or were they out in town, permitting her to leave her room and speak to him? They would not be pleased, then, when they returned.

“Nevertheless, unless he spoke of despising himself—me—or some other member of my family, I cannot see why he felt that he must do this.”

“Because he attacked you.”

“If he attacked me, yes,” Robert said. He sighed. “I wish I understood this. If that was him, then what did he want? To make me suffer? If he does hate me, then yes, I suppose he might, but why does he hate me?”

“I do not know.”

“I’m sorry. I did not expect you to have the answer. I’m only trying to think of it myself, and I spoke aloud when I should not have.”

She shook her head. “Of the two of us, it would seem that I should have that answer. I did know the imposter, and it seems that you did not.”

“Yet, as we have said so many times before, it does not make sense that it is someone who does not know me. Or that I do not know. I should know him.”

“Unless, of course, he is not punishing you for something you did but for something someone else did.”

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