Friday, December 2, 2016

The McComber Switch - Chapter 63 Part 1 of 2 – The Hot Grill



The McComber Switch
By Karen Singer

Chapter 63 Part 1 of 2 – The Hot Grill
April 22


The small executive jet landed at a private airfield shortly after dawn Wednesday morning.  Trish and Michelle were there to meet it, along with Jed who had driven them.  Not having their own vehicles yet was a bit irksome, but for the most part, the family was helping them all get around just fine.  Their own vehicles would be there in another day, along with the rest of their crew. 
The jet touched down and Emily got off quickly.  There were no hugs between the women.  They simply worked together that much.  Jed loaded her bags into the back of his truck while Emily took the front seat instead of Trish.  They were on their way before the jet had even moved to taxi back to the landing strip for takeoff again.
As he drove away from the little private airfield, Jed tried to size up this new player – another woman.  He hadn’t expected the network to send mostly women out to do this story.  But he realized that maybe he should have.  He figured that maybe this kind of news piece was more of a women’s kind of thing.  He didn’t know any men that would really be interested in watching anything like it.
Like the other two women, Jed lumped Emily in the middle age category, only perhaps a little better looking than the two that had arrived before.  But he also figured she would have to be better looking to get her face on TV all the time…not that he had ever seen her there before.  Even now, after evidently flying half the night, she looked like she was ready for the camera to start filming her. 

--- §§§§§§§§§§ ---

Emily had talked fairly extensively with Trish the night before, and she still needed to sit down with her whole team, but that didn’t mean that she wasn’t up to date enough that she couldn’t start asking her questions.  “I hear you’ve got our camera guys on cloud nine,” she said to Jed to start the conversation off.
Jed smiled.  “Just trying to help them out with whatever they need,” Jed replied.  “I hadn’t expected them to have so much experience in the woods,” he added.  “It’s turned out to be a pleasure for me as well.”
“I’m glad,” Emily replied.
“One of them even had a suggestion for the family business that none of us ever thought of before,” Jed continued.
“Oh?  What’s that?”
“Instead of just doing guided hunts for people with guns, we can do them for people who just want to take pictures of the animals.  Maybe we wouldn’t even have to charge as much since none of our animals would be getting killed.  It’s something I think we’ll look into.  See what my brother’s all think.”
“Do all your brothers act as guides?” Emily asked.
“All of them ma’am,” Jed replied.  “Them more than me.  My main job is to look after the land and the animals.  Make sure none of them are over hunted…or in some cases like with the deer, make sure we’re killing enough.”
“Killing enough?  I’d think you’d rather most of them not get killed.”
“Deer are kind of funny creatures,” Jed replied.  “Even way out here in the middle of nowhere, if the herds get too big, then some of them starve or get sick.  Especially during the winter.  Controlling their population keeps them healthy and the hunters much happier.  And trust me, we’ve got more than enough deer to go around.”
“I understand that one of our cameramen spent some time filming a heard right in one of your backyards.”
Jed smiled.  “Yeah, Bob told me about that.  The deer are all over – including in our backyards sometimes.  He laughed.  “Susan isn’t too happy about it though.  It’s nearly impossible to keep them out of her gardens.”
“So you’ve got plenty of deer…and I guess other animals to hunt,” Emily stated, just for the facts.
“Plenty,” Jed replied. 
“Have you ever been hunting with Jimmy Joe?” Emily asked next.
“Lots of times,” Jed replied.  “My boys though more than me.  She was really green when she started, but she’s come a long way.  She loves it though.  Can’t get enough.  I mean, he loves it!  Sorry.  All this is still pretty new to me and the rest of the family.  We’re all trying though.”
“Trish tells me that the women in the family don’t hunt.  Why is that?”
Jed looked over at her briefly, wondering where she had heard it.  “That’s right, ma’am.  It’s kind of a family tradition.  The men do all the hunting.”
“Forgive me for saying it,” Emily replied, “but it sounds a bit sexist.”
Jed nodded.  “I’m sure it does, but we’ve got a few good reasons for it.”
“Such as?”
“Think about it ma’am.  We don’t kill anything for fun.  None of us.  We pretty much eat everything we kill.”
“Everything?”
Jed nodded.  “We never kill for the fun of it like a lot of the tourists do.  The land and the animals here are too precious to us.  We have no reason to kill any more than we can eat.  No use letting good meat go to waste.”
“But why should that be a reason for the women not to hunt?”
“Because then there’d be twice as many of us out hunting all the time.  Killing twice as many animals, most for no reason at all.”
“And you think that not allowing the women to hunt solves that problem?”
He nodded.  “It’s worked for generations.  There’s another big reason too,” he said, “although you’re probably going to label it sexist as well.”
“What’s that?”
Jed tried to think how to explain it.  “We’re an old backwoods family,” he said.  “Yeah, my brother Brian is now a doctor.  Clint and Pete are licensed electricians.  My two sisters have done rather well for themselves too.  One of them is even a teacher.  But we all basically come from the same backwoods past.  The men in the family have always been the providers, and the women have always taken care of the rest of the family business.  And don’t misunderstand me, I know how hard all the women in the family work.  Probably as hard as the men.  But the point is, we all have our place, and we try to stick to it.  It helps all of us know how we fit into the family.  And ma’am, family is about the most precious thing in the world to all of us.”
“Even more so than all your land and the animals?”
Jed nodded. “A lot more!”
Emily moved on to her next question.  “You said you’ve hunted with Jimmy Joe.  How about Jade, when she was still a boy?”
“Not much.  Not like I’ve been with Jimmy Joe.  Jimmy…I mean the one who’s Jade now, usually went with her father, not me.”
“So why are you hunting more with Jimmy Joe than you did with Jade?”
Again Jed glanced over at her again.  “Jimmy didn’t care for hunting much.  Jimmy Joe loves it.  Can’t get enough.  And…she’s getting pretty good now too.  Almost as good as my boys.”
“But that doesn’t explain why Jimmy Joe would go hunting with you or your boys when the original Jimmy didn’t.”
Jed smiled.  “Jimmy Joe is learning more than just about hunting with me.  I take care of the land and the animals.  I’m teaching my sons that part of the business too.  Ethan is in college right now studying land management so he can start helping me, and I have no doubt that in a few years Justin will be working with me too.  Jimmy Joe is already starting to learn the things I’ve already taught my boys.  And like I said, she’s come a long way already.  I mean he!”
“So you think Jimmy Joe will eventually help you and your boys out with…I guess, tending the land?  Taking care of it?”
Jed nodded.  “That’s the way it’s looking.  As long as she keeps on in the direction she’s going…I mean he’s going, of course.”
“What do you mean by the direction he’s going?”
Jed looked over at her quickly again.  Emily noticed the troubled look on his face.  “If she still decides she wants to stay a boy,” he replied.
“Because girls in the family can’t hunt,” Emily stated.
Jed nodded.  “Something like that.”
“And do you expect Jimmy Joe to change his mind and go back to being a girl?”
Trish in the backseat was holding her breath, waiting for the answer.
“That’s just it,” Jed replied.  “We’re all hoping.  Wishing for it.  The problem is, as much as we all want it to happen, Jimmy Joe is just being plain stubborn about it!  She…I mean he now, ain’t budging one little bit!”
“So you think Jimmy Joe is simply that determined to become a boy…or a man?”
Jed nodded.  “As much as none of us like it, none of us have any doubt about it at all anymore.”
For a moment there, Emily thought she might have cracked part of the big family secret that Trish had hinted might exist.  But as far as she could see, Jed had just blown that theory out of the water. 

--- §§§§§§§§§§ ---

Shortly after arriving at Jacob’s house, Emily called her whole team together for a meeting in her bedroom…and closed the door.  They all went over everything they had learned so far, as well as everything any of them thought or suspected.  Foremost on Emily’s mind though was the suggestions from Doctor Hapkins to check out the friends of the twins in order to learn about them that way. 
“Okay,” Emily finally said. “Let’s see if this Doctor Hapkins is right.  I still want to tackle the twins alone…and separately first before we go after the friends.  When we do, we’re probably going to have to get permission from the parents to do it, but I want to hit each of them – and hit them hard.  Today with the twins, I want to go in with both cameras filming – maybe using the excuse we want to get them used to it so they can learn to ignore the cameras in their faces when we interview them later.  Most people have a pretty much impossible time with that anyway.”
“But won’t the mother insist on being there?” Michelle asked.
“She can try,” Emily replied.  “Well tell her that we don’t want her to be any kind of distraction to the twins.  Besides, the family is getting full rights as to what gets broadcast on the air anyway, and we’ll tell them this is only trial video to see if the scene locations will work.”
Michelle shrugged. “Maybe!” she said.  “That mother watches her kids like a hawk!”
“We’ve got to try,” Emily replied.  “When do they get home from school?”
“Not until later this afternoon,” Trish told her. 
“Damn,” Emily muttered.  “You said they’re keeping all the kids home from school on Friday.  I wonder if we can talk them into keeping them home tomorrow too.  It would sure help.”
“We can ask,” Trish replied.
“Look into it,” Emily ordered as she looked at Michelle.  “Now, today I hit Jed with a few good questions while we were driving here from the airport.  I thought I might have shaken something loose, but it didn’t pan out.  Until the twins get home, I want to split up and find every family member we can and grill them hard about just what they each think about the twins swapping places.  I already know none of them like it.  But let’s see how they each react separately.” 
She turned to her two cameramen.  “Bob, you stay with me.  Ryan, you follow Trish.  As of right now, we’re filming everything!  As far as the family needs to know though, it’s all just for trial and setup and to get them used to it for later.”  She looked around.  “Questions?”  There were none.

--- §§§§§§§§§§ ---

There weren’t many family members that were home.  In fact, the only one turned out to be Rose.  The rest were down at the family business office – working.  While Emily headed down the hill in Rose’s borrowed car, Trish and Ryan tackled Rose in her own kitchen. 
Rose wasn’t delighted to have the big camera stuck right in her face.  Not only was it intimidating, it was downright annoying.  Especially the big bright light attached to the front of it.  But she could easily see Trish’s explanation of having to get used to ignoring it before they did any of the actual videotaping.  Rose also wasn’t delighted with any of the questions that Trish was throwing at her.
“Rose,” Trish started.  “How do you really feel about Jimmy Joe and Jade switching places with each other?”
Rose looked from her to the camera uncertainly.
“Just ignore the camera,” Trish told her.  “That’s why we’re trying to get everyone used to how this works.
“It’s not easy,” Rose replied.
“No, it’s not.  Trust me, it takes time.  Just look at me when you speak.”
“But he’s got that thing practically right on your shoulder!  The light is blinding.”
Trish smiled.  “Wait until the lighting and sound people get here.  It’s going to get twice as bad.”
“You mean it will be worse?”
“Much!” Trish emphasized, even though the reality of it was that the indirect lighting they would use later would be a lot easier on everyone.  “Ready to try it again?”
“I guess,” Rose replied.
Once again Trish asked her question.  “Rose, as the mother and grandmother to this entire family, I’m sure you play a big important part in everything.”
“Well, I guess so,” Rose agreed uncertainly.
“Then tell me, how exactly do you feel about Jimmy Joe and Jade switching places with each other?”
“Um…none of us are happy about it,” Rose replied.
“How about you personally?” Trish asked.  “Do you think the twins are better off now than before they switched places?”
“Of course not,” Rose told her.  “I would absolutely love to see them both back the way they belong.”
“So you feel this switching around was all wrong.”
“Yes, I do,” Rose replied.
Trish thought she might be making headway – before Rose added…
“It’s just that…”
“Just what?”
“Well, maybe they’re happier this way than they were.”
“They are?”
Rose nodded.  “As much as I hate to say it.  Jade especially.  But I’ve also seen changes in Jimmy Joe that I never expected as well.”
“What changes are they?”
Rose shrugged.  “He’s growing up.  Maturing in ways I hadn’t thought about.  He’s suddenly gaining a lot of confidence he never had before as a girl…and I thought he had plenty of that before.  But now, well, I just see a difference.”
Trish realized she was getting nowhere with her theory of something else going on. 
“And how about Jade?” she asked next.
Rose smiled.  “Now Jade is a gem.  She’s got compassion like even few women have.  And we McComber women pride ourselves on trying to be compassionate.” 
“So is Jade more compassionate than…Jasmine ever was?”
Rose nodded.  “Oh yes!  Without a doubt!  And I have no doubt at all that she’s happier now than she ever was before too.”
“Happier?”
Rose nodded again.  “Much!  She smiles now…and laughs.  Plays with the other kids.”  Her voice lowered a little.  “She never did that before.  She was the most somber and alone child I’ve ever seen.”  She sat back and smiled.  “How did I do?” she asked hopefully.
“Great!” Trish replied with a muted smile.  “Real good.”  She hadn’t gotten anything strange out of Rose at all.

--- §§§§§§§§§§ ---

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The McComber Switch - Chapter 62 Part 2 of 2



The McComber Switch
By Karen Singer

Chapter 62 Part 2 of 2 – Entering Pandora’s Box
April 20 - 21


Trish and her whole crew had dinner that night at Jacob’s house. After which, Rose took them around to meet everyone else in the family that lived on their land.  They learned that there were also the Cumberlands they had yet to meet, but they couldn’t be there until Friday at the earliest, and more likely not until Saturday.
Later that night, alone in her room, Trish got her phone out to make a call.  She was officially the director of the program they were going to produce, but she still answered to higher authorities.  And in her case, it was the producer, Lyle Montgomery, back in New York. 
“Lyle?” she said as soon as she got him on the phone. 
“How’s it going?” Lyle asked.
“Good so far.  It’s a real nice family, from everything I’ve seen.  And the two kids are going to be fine as far as I can tell.  One of them, the boy, he may be a bit of a camera hog I’m afraid.  I’ll let Bob and Ryan have some fun with him and use him when they can to get the trial shots.  That should keep him happy.”
“Could make for some interesting video though,” Lyly pointed out.  “How about Jade, the girl?”
“She’s a lot shyer.  But I still don’t see much of a problem.”
“The family wanted that video showing their land too,” Lyle noted.  “Any possibilities?”
“Shit!  You should see this place.  We could do a whole hour…or a weekly series here.  It’s gorgeous!  And the view from in front of all their houses is to die for.  Believe me!  Bob and Ryan are trying to drum up a plane to do aerial shots of the land.  And from what they tell me, there’s animals all over the place.  The two of them are in heaven.”
“Great!” Lyle replied.  “We’ve still got the option to run this thing into a full hour show instead of the half hour we originally planned on,” he said.  “But the time window to make the call is already short.  Do you think we’re going to be able to get enough material to cover that much time, or should we just stick with the plan?”
Trish thought about it.  “We only just got here, but like I said, the place is gorgeous.  And the family is pretty big too, and I haven’t even met them all yet.  The family is also bringing in that gender psychiatrist expert that the Little Rock news talked with.  Evidently she’ll be popping in and out all week, and then she’ll be here Friday and Saturday for the whole shoot, so we can also tap into her if we need to too.”
“So you’re suggesting I make the call and fill it in for a full hour slot?”
Once again Trish thought about it.  “Go for it,” she said.  “Like I said, it’s a real nice family and a real nice place.  We’ll have no problem finding filler material if we need it.”
“Consider it done,” Lyle replied.  “So no big problems then?”
“Not as far as I can tell,” Trish replied. 
 “Sounds great then.  Keep me posted.”
“Will do,” Trish replied.  Just before they hung up though, she quickly said, “Lyle!”
“Yeah?”
“Um…I’m not real sure, and trust me, I may be totally wrong about it, but sometimes in talking with the ladies of the family, I get the impression that there may be more behind this story than what we’re hearing.”
Lyle was immediately more interested.  “What do you mean?”
“I don’t know.  I have no reason to think it.  I just get that feeling, you know?  But then these people are all nervous as heck with us around.  Maybe that’s all it is.”
“I trust your gut!” Lyle told her.  It’s why I sent you out there.  That and the fact that Bob and Ryan have so much experience with filming the wildlife stuff.  “Do you need Emily out there now to help you dig it out?”
Trish thought about that.  Emily was a much better journalist than she was.  Emily simply had a nose for finding the facts when nobody else could.  “No, not yet,” Trish decided.  “And it may be nothing at all.  I’ll have to let you know.”
“Okay, keep me in the loop.  This started out as something the world was interested in, only because it was so bizarre and had never happened before.  But if there’s a bigger story behind it, that’s what we need to know about – and the contract with the family be damned!”

--- §§§§§§§§§§ ---

Jade got out of bed.  She tried sleeping, but it wasn’t working.  She sat down at her desk and turned her computer on.  A minute later, she started another email.

Dear Christy,

The TV people showed up today, but not all of them.  And evidently there’s another woman that’s supposed to come in a few days to ask us the real questions.  Jimmy and me had to sit and talk with two of them after school today for a little while.  I can’t tell you how weird it was.  They just asked us things like how school was and about my friends and stuff.  Mostly they were really nice, but I was still pretty nervous the whole time they were here.  I was really glad that they didn’t ask about any of the stuff Jimmy Joe and me had talked about.
There was this one thing they asked me about though that kind of threw me for a loop.  One of them asked if I had any boyfriends yet.  How was I supposed to answer that?  I said no, of course.  And then Jimmy Joe had to open his big mouth and tell them that I didn’t have any YET!  Like I’m supposed to really want one or something.  The idiot! 
But Christy, what if I really do have to stay a girl for a long time…like it’s looking like I’ll have to.  What then?  I can’t tell anyone that I sometimes wonder about it.  But maybe that’s only because all my girlfriends talk about guys all the time.  I’m not going to bother telling you who they’ve all got crushes on.  I’m always kind of passed over in those conversations.  Fortunately, I guess.  But that doesn’t mean that I don’t think about it sometimes. 
If I stay a girl, will I start to be more interested in boys?  I’m not sure if I’m really interested in girls now or not, other than Olivia of course.  I still like her the best, but the way I am now, I can’t even tell her that anymore.  And I think she feels the same way.  I’ve changed too much. 
Will more changes like that take place? Will the hormones make me like boys?  I don’t think the videos I’ve seen on the internet showed that at all.  In fact, most of the ones I’ve looked at were girls who were changing, but they were still going out with other girls and not guys.  Some were though.  So what can I expect – if I have to stay a girl for much longer?
I was real glad today when I didn’t have to lie much to the TV people.  Real glad!  But I’m still really worried about what they’re going to ask me next time.  Really worried. 
So what should I do Christy?  Any suggestions?

Your friend,
Jade

Jade read the email over twice, then with a swipe of the mouse, deleted most of it.  What she was left with was much shorter.


Dear Christy,

The TV people showed up today, but not all of them.  And evidently there’s another woman that’s supposed to come in a few days to ask us the real questions.  Jimmy and me had to sit and talk with two of them after school today for a little while.  I can’t tell you how weird it was. 

Your friend,
Jade

--- §§§§§§§§§§ ---

In the pre-dawn hours early Tuesday Morning, Bob McDonald forced himself out of bed to head for the bathroom.  His head was killing him and he felt mildly sick.  He was still slightly hungover.  He and Ryan had spent half the night talking with Jacob and Jed about their hunting experiences – he and Ryan with their cameras, and Jed and Jacob with their guns. 
They had started drinking a very nice whisky that Jacob had poured for them.  Bob didn’t remember when, but eventually that whisky had become something else.  Moonshine!  It wasn’t his first taste of the potent drink by a long shot.  Jacob had only said not to ask where it came from.  From what he had seen of Jacob though, Bob wasn’t totally sure that Jacob hadn’t made it himself.  Not that he really cared.  It might make for some interesting film though if he did.  But that wasn’t the story they were after.  He was here for…fluff stuff.  The animals and scenery locations in the wild were what balanced the trip out for him, making the whole thing worthwhile.
As silently as possible, he went into the bathroom, and just as silently he went back to his room.  He had a single room right now, later, when the others came, he would be doubling up with Ryan.  They usually roomed together when they were out together.
Before getting back in bed, he pulled the curtain aside and looked out the window.  It was just barely starting to turn light, and all the moisture from the rain had left the backyard blanketed in fog.  He was about to close the curtain, when something in that fog moved.  He stood there a moment and watched.  A minute later, his hangover forgotten, he had one of his favorite cameras and was quietly making his way downstairs.  He opened the kitchen door as quietly as possible, and slowly closed it again a moment later.  The air was crisp and damp and cold.  His bare feet were cold and now wet on the ground.  Since he had slept in just his underwear, a chill immediately ran through his body.  He ignored all of it.
Carefully creeping around the back of the house, he turned his camera on and began filming.  He knew from experience that fog was a fickle thing.  It moved.  It came.  It went.  It got thicker.  And it got thinner.  He spent half an hour filming an entire herd of deer that had moved into Jacob’s backyard.  And not just a few deer either.  A large heard with several good sized males.  He couldn’t wait to see the final footage.  Deer in the fog.  It was going to be beautiful!

--- §§§§§§§§§§ ---

Sleeping in on a business trip was a luxury Trish didn’t get to enjoy very often, but there wasn’t all that much that she and Michelle could do since the kids were all at school.  Her camera guys though were determined to find a plane to shoot the land from.  She left them to it for a while. 
Later in the morning, she and Michelle climbed into Valerie’s car and drove down to the business office for a quick tour there.  Jacob was already in his office when they got there.  Trish had already seen his office at home.  She had notes that if she needed some filler material, he had some war medals and two folded military flags displayed on the walls that she thought they could ask about. 
Susan led them over to the new lodges the family was building.  Even though Clint was supposed to be off, they found him and his brother Pete in one of them, running electrical lines.  Trish and Michelle both made notes on the lodges since they knew the family wanted it known they were building them.  Advertising.  Well, Trish couldn’t blame them.  Their network, their station, their jobs, their lives depended on advertising dollars.  She would make sure the family business was well represented in the video. 
Again Trish and Michelle asked countless questions, but unlike the friendly chatting they did the day before, today, their questions were far more pointed.  Especially Trish.  She still wondered if there might be something more behind this whole business than the family was letting on.

--- §§§§§§§§§§ ---

By midafternoon, Trish, Michelle, and Susan were all sitting in Susan’s kitchen drinking coffee while an airplane once again buzzed over the house.  It wasn’t a social meeting.  Trish and Michelle started going over the questions they had come up with so far to use in the program with not only the twins, but their entire family.  They had made it clear from the start of the meeting that Susan wouldn’t be expected to give any answers right then.  The purpose was to start solidifying at least the direction for the questions that Emily would use when she got there. 
They had been at it for a while, when a knock on the back door interrupted them.  Susan went to open the door. 
“Doctor Hapkins!” Susan said brightly, surprised to find the doctor there.  “You got here early.”  She held the door wide and let the woman in.
“My last patient today cancelled,” Doctor Hapkins told her, so I got in the car and took a chance on trying to find this place myself.  I made it!” she declared happily.  Her eyes though were already taking in the two strange women at the table.
Susan made the introductions.  “Doctor, this is Trish and Michelle from CBS News.”
“Cynthia Hapkins,” the doctor replied as she nodded to each of the women.  “Psychiatrist and gender therapist.”  She headed for another seat at the table.  “I’m just here to see how things are going.  I was asked to keep an eye on everyone.  And I guess I’m also supposed to be available in case you have any questions I might be able to help with.  Gender dysphoria is my primary area of expertise.”
Trish smiled.  “I have no doubt we’re going to want to talk with you,” she replied.  “ABC may have a lot of experience now with the gender change stuff.  But CBS is somewhat new to it.  We’re…trying to catch up, I guess.”
“Well, I’ll be glad to help,” Cynthia replied.  “Oh thank you,” she said to Susan as Susan deposited a mug of coffee in front of her.
With Susan’s permission, Trish and Michelle went back over each of the questions on her list, looking for the doctor’s thoughts on each one.  Trish was surprised at how many opinions the doctor seemed to have, and it wasn’t long before she found herself listening very seriously to what the doctor seemed to think.  She made a note to get the doctor alone as soon as possible to ask some…other questions.
When the kids came home, Trish got Susan to agree to let her and Michelle talk to them alone for a few minutes.  She took Jimmy Joe, and Michelle took Jade.  Their brief discussions with the kids were okay, but mostly very disappointing.  But more than ever Trish got that feeling that there was something else going on.  Many of the questions she had asked of Jimmy Joe, hadn’t been answered directly.  Instead, the boy had turned the subject around to something else, as if he was setting his own agenda – or avoiding letting her know something he didn’t want her to know.  Or was it just that he was a kid?  She couldn’t tell.
It wasn’t until Susan and Jade were making dinner together that Trish had the opportunity to talk with Doctor Hapkins.  The doctor was just sitting at Susan’s kitchen table, seemingly fascinated with watching Jade and her mother making dinner together.  “Doctor,” Trish said quietly.  “Would you mind if I talked with you for a few minutes?”
“Of course,” Cynthia agreed happily. 
Trish looked around.  “Maybe alone somewhere?”
The doctor’s face turned more serious.  “If you like,” she replied. 
Trish led the doctor outside where the air was already beginning to turn cooler.  “Thank you for agreeing to help us out,” Trish started.
“My pleasure,” Cynthia replied.  “Hopefully, I can dispel any misconceptions when it comes to gender problems.”
“That wasn’t what I wanted to talk about,” Trish told her.  “Not yet at least.”
“What’s on your mind?” the doctor asked, knowing that there were things now she couldn’t say about the family.
“How well do you know the family?” Trish asked.
Cynthia shrugged.  “Not that well.  I only met them a short time ago, and I was only here overnight and that was it.”
“So you don’t really know them well at all?” Trish said disappointedly.
“Not that well, but hopefully well enough for my needs right now,” Cynthia replied.
“Well enough?”
Cynthia nodded.  “I hope so.”
Trish decided to come out with her big question.  “Have you noticed anything that might give you the suspicion that there’s more going on here than meets the eye?  Like the family isn’t telling us everything?”
Cynthia stared at Trish for a moment while she considered her words carefully.  “Possibly,” she admitted hesitantly.  “But I’m not really sure what you mean.”
“I mean like there’s more about this switching around of the twins than the family is willing to tell us about.”
Cynthia shook her head.  “There are always things in any family that they’re reluctant to tell anyone about.  That’s only normal.  And in this case, we should expect it.”
“What do you think they’re holding back?”
“I have no idea,” the doctor replied.  “And if there is anything at all, I’m not sure I want to know.”
“You don’t want to know?”
Cynthia shook her head.  “Nope!  But I can tell you one thing.  Those questions you’re planning on asking are good, but you may have to do more to get what I really think you want everyone to see on TV.”
“We do?  Like what?”
“I’ve talked with the entire immediate family,” Cynthia told her.  “And I had a rather long conversation with Doctor Brian McComber and his wife.  She pointed further down the street.  “Clint’s brother.  I’m staying with them again tonight,” she explained.
“I’ve met them,” Trish replied.  “And?”
“And I think you can talk all day long to Jimmy Joe and Jade, and not even come close to discovering who they really are.”
“Who they are?” Trish asked, not sure what the doctor meant, but also remembering the way that Jimmy Joe had danced around her questions earlier.  “So what do you recommend?”
Cynthia smiled.  “Jade sits in her room alone and broods.  Probably too much.  But in her room alone, I think she’s pretty much dead.  She doesn’t come alive until she’s in the middle of all her friends.  And the same with Jimmy Joe.  For all his bravado, I think there’s a lot more to him than what he’s letting anyone see.  Like with Jade, if you want to find out about Jimmy Joe, you need to talk to his friends instead. 
“I spent a while talking with Tommy, the twins older brother,” the doctor continued.  “He said Jimmy Joe loves to hunt.  He was so impressed with Jimmy Joe’s hunting skills that he had to mention that Jimmy Joe wasn’t quite as good as he was yet.  Which to me means that Jimmy Joe may be a better hunter than his older brother.  But all the boys here love shooting and hunting.  You need to talk to them about Jimmy Joe.  And as for Jade?”  Cynthia smiled.  “Find the Four Musketeers!”
“The Four Musketeers?” Trish asked incredulously.
Cynthia nodded. 
“Who are they?”
“Find them,” Cynthia said with a sly smile before turning and heading back to the house.

--- §§§§§§§§§§ ---

Later that night, Trish again phoned Lyle Montgomery with her daily status report.  “Lyle,” she said.  “I made a mistake.  We need Emily out here right away.  I wish I had her here right now!  Doctor Hapkins seemed to agree that there’s something going on here that we don’t know about, but I can’t get a grasp on anything at all – if there is anything at all.”
“If you need her, I can put her on a private jet tonight and send her to a local airfield somewhere,” Lyle replied.
Trish thought about it.  “Do it!” she said decisively.  “It may take all of us to dig to the bottom of this thing.  And Lyle…”
“Yeah?”
“It still may be nothing at all.”
“I’ll put Emily on a plane tonight.  She’ll be there first thing tomorrow.”