The Marvelous Mind of Marilyn Hansen, Episode 7: Finding Words
By Lauren Derrick
Editor's Note: You can access the previous episodes of this series by clicking here.
Brigham stowed his ear buds into their case and let out a breath.
Inside the airplane, he waited. His eyes drifted over the mother next to him, who was gathering trash into a plastic grocery sack while holding her baby, and then to the other side of the plane, where a rather emotional elderly woman clutched a small, tan pug. The elderly gentleman next to her gently squeezed her hand. The dark-haired girl next to the window in their row was asleep.
Brigham smiled softly, making no effort to hide his watchful gaze. His eyes continued to scan the area around the three as the passengers gradually began to stand and stretch their legs.
When he finally exited, the flight attendant told him rather flirtatiously to enjoy his stay in Salt Lake City. Brigham smiled wordlessly and nodded down at her. He stood about a head taller than most of the passengers and gazed out over the crowd as he shuffled off the plane, a duffle bag on his shoulder.
Brigham hadn't been out of the terminal five seconds before the three passengers he'd been observing earlier blocked his path. Robert Byrd set his hands on his hips, sizing Brigham up. Slowly, Brigham brought his bag off his shoulder and set it next to his foot. He looked down, meeting the older man's eyes easily.
“What have they got you doing here?” Byrd asked.
Brigham's cheek grew sallow, as if he was biting it from the inside. His eyes passed over Marilyn, but landed on the dark-haired girl. Finley's curly black hair was askew, having pulled out a little from her scrunchie while she slept. She blinked wearily. Brigham sighed and turned back to Byrd. He cleared his throat.
“M-m-mon-Monica w-w-want...w-wanted m-me to...k-k-keep you-you s-sa-sa-safe...” Brigham recited slowly.
Byrd's eyebrows furrowed in confusion. Marilyn put a hand on Byrd's arm. “I've worked with Brigham before. They wanted me to help him find a workaround for his stutter. He works security tasks for the agency. Also, you're from this area—aren't you, Brigham?”
Brigham's eyes turned down briefly at the mention of his stutter, but he quickly recovered, finally meeting Mairlyn's eyes and smiling at her in affirmation.
Marilyn smiled back. “It's nice to see you again. I assume you're just here in case Madelyn decides to send someone after us—as a precaution?”
Brigham nodded, but then lifted up a hand hesitantly. “Th-they a-als-so...al-also wa-w-want t-to know...t-to know if sh-she tr-tr-tries t-to c-cont-contact y-you...o-or i-if y-you ge-ge-get any in-in-info...inform-mat-ion.”
Marilyn nodded pleasantly. “Glad to have you along.”
Byrd threw a sidelong glance at Marilyn, questioning her assessment. Finley simply looked up, head tilted and lips slightly parted at the newcomer. Brigham, noticing her attention, gave her a quick smile before walking after Marilyn and Byrd. Finley smiled back, then turned away with a blush.
The group made their way down the escalator and towards a black shuttle parked on the curb in a sea of cars and minivans. Brigham helped load the luggage into the car. Covertly, Byrd looked at Marilyn and rubbed at his eye as if he had an itch. Marilyn met his eyes and opened a telepathic link.
What is it, Robert? Marilyn thought wearily at him.
What's that kid doing here, Mar? Byrd asked.
Marilyn let out a long sigh. I don't know, Robert. We both knew Monica would send someone.
Byrd complained. I thought they'd send someone to spy on us, not a rookie to BABYSIT us.
Marilyn retorted. They knew better than to send someone to spy on you. Don't underestimate Brigham. They’re probably counting on you doing that. Speech impediments aside, he has studied spy craft since his high school days—and he's quite capable. They were really hoping I'd be able to cure him. He could easily be as good a spy as you were—if not for the speech impediment.
Finley leaned in towards her elders from the back seat of the shuttle. “You guys want to let me in on the conversation?”
Marilyn blushed. “Sorry, Finley. I'll fill you in.”
She made eye contact with Finley and began sharing thoughts with her as Brigham ducked down and made his way into the shuttle. Seeing that the two middle seats were taken, he awkwardly crouched into the back next to Finley.
The agency sent Brigham, most likely to protect us—like he said. We should be careful, though, he could also be here to make sure we don't go after Madelyn. He's not to be underestimated. Marilyn thought to Finley.
He smells nice. Finley thought back absently glancing at him. She blushed. Er...Sorry, Grandma—I...
Marilyn hid a smirk. It's hard sometimes when you're communicating like this not to share ALL the thoughts that come into your head.
Marilyn lifted Ladybug out of her carrying bag, and Byrd helped her put a harness on the little pug. The harness attached to the shuttle seat, and they were off. When they arrived at the hotel, Brigham hunched and scooted out to help unload everything. Byrd glanced over towards Marilyn. “I guess it is kind of nice to have someone get the bags.”
Finley made her way out of the backseat and followed Brigham. Byrd gave Marilyn a frowning sidelong glance. Marilyn just shrugged.
The travelers made their way to their rooms on the third floor. Marilyn and Byrd led the way, Ladybug on a red leash at their side. Finley brought up the rear. She carried her bag while Brigham easily handled his duffle bag on one shoulder, Marilyn and Byrd's bags in his other hand. Finley stared at him, eyeing the well-defined bicep which steadied the brown bag on his shoulder.
“Thank you for your help, Brigham.” Marilyn said kindly as he gently deposited the bags in front of her door.
Brigham gave a short nod towards Marilyn. He turned back to go to his room, nearly bumping into Finley. She flushed and turned away.
Once Brigham had disappeared down the hall into his own room to get settled, Marilyn quickly hurried Byrd and Finley into a room. She made eye contact with each of them.
I'd rather not risk telling Brigham about my genealogy center visit. Marilyn thought towards both of them. Finley, I need you to wait about ten minutes and then take Ladybug for a walk. Invite Brigham to come with you. Tell him Byrd and I are resting up after the flight.
You're going to the genealogy center? What's that? Wait, you want me to WHAT? Finely asked nervously. But what if he thinks...won't it seem like...
A date? Byrd offered. He probably doesn't go on a lot of those with that stutter.
I'm not sure you should make that assumption, Robert. Marilyn chastised. Not that I'm trying to set you up, Finley, but I think he's single. If he thinks you're coming on to him then it won't be a problem. At any rate, he's from this area so he probably knows a good place to walk the dog. I just need him out of the way for a few hours. Do you think you can manage that?
Finley's cheeks burned. Sure, Grandma. I'll try to distract the incredibly attractive tall guy with a stutter for a few hours.
Way to take a hit for the team, champ. Byrd joked. We'll text you as soon as it's safe to come back. Maybe just get him to talk about himself—that should take up some time.
Marilyn shot Byrd a dirty look. That's unkind.
What? It's a good tactic. Byrd defended.
Be nice to Brigham, Robert. Marilyn warned. I'm telling you, it's a mistake to underestimate him. I’ve been inside that boy’s mind. Get too casual, and he'll be able to take you down without any trouble at all.
Finley glanced around nervously. Do you think... do you think he wants to take us down?
I don't think Monica is actively moving against us. That being said, we can't be entirely sure what she has asked Brigham to do. So exercise caution. Marilyn replied calmly.
And what will you guys be doing again? Finley asked.
Marilyn opened her mouth, but quickly closed it again. Madelyn sent an email—could be nothing—but we need to check it out.
Byrd went back to his room next door, and Finley gave Ladybug some water in a little bowl. Marilyn poured some kibble into a separate bowl, and the little pug ate with gusto. After a few minutes, Marilyn checked the time on her phone and touched Finley’s arm.
“I try to maintain a constant connection with Lady. If she sees you are in distress, I'll come for you.” Marilyn said, offering the leash to Finley as Ladybug tracked the device with bug-eyed anticipation.
Finley's head jerked back slightly, then down to the pug that was now dancing with excited anticipation. “Nothing's going to happen though, right?”
Marilyn smiled, the corners of her eyes wrinkling sweetly with the expression. “Of course not. Just a precaution.”
“Is Brigham dangerous?” Finley asked in a low whisper.
Marilyn paused. “He's capable. Brigham is a very nice young man with an unearthly amount of anxiety about speaking to people. But he's observant. He solves cold cases as a hobby—picks up the little details other people miss. And he is a skilled martial artist. He actually had to register himself as a lethal weapon in the state of California—there was a lot of hubbub at the agency about it. Anyway, he doesn't need to know everything.”
Finley missed a breath, but nodded slowly. “Okay. And the... email? What's all that about?”
Marilyn shook her head. “Ah—well...well there's a lot I should get you up to speed on. We should talk about that, and also about... about your grandfather.”
Finley looked intently at Marilyn, waiting. Finally, Marilyn sighed. “Go. We'll have to have a nice long chat later about all this. Maybe we can get ice cream.”
Finley smiled. “Sounds good.”
When the door closed, Finley let out a big breath and glanced hesitantly at the door Brigham had gone into ten minutes earlier. She bit her lip and hurried to incarcerate the loose strands of hair back into the scrunchie. Ladybug looked up at her, head tilted.
“I'm nervous, okay?” Finley hissed at the little dog. Ladybug just panted.
Hesitantly, Finley shuffled over and knocked on the door. A few seconds later, Brigham appeared, looking down at Finley with a confused look.
“H-hey!” Finley said, pulling her mouth into a smile. “Um—Grandma says you're from here so...so she thought you might know a good place to...uh...take the dog out?”
Brigham's eyebrows furrowed. He glanced down at the dog, then back at Finley and the plastic bag sticking out of her pocket. Understanding seemed to settle in, and he nodded. He held up a finger, licked his lips, and turned back into the room. Finley watched as he grabbed a small pistol in a black holster and strapped it around his shoulder. She stared for a moment before blushing and turning down to see the little pug glancing down the hallway with wanton eyes. Brigham hefted a denim jacket over his holster and smiled courteously at Finley.
“Th-there's a g-goo-good pla-pla-pl-place c-c-close.” He muttered quietly.
“Thanks.” Finley nearly squeaked. She cleared her throat. “Do we need a taxi?”
Brigham shook his head. “M-m-mar-marilyn h-has s-some-some-w-where to g-g-g-g-go?”
Finley grimaced, face burning. “Either that or she and Mr. Byrd want some time alone together.”
Brigham laughed at that. “Th-th-they're... a thi-thing?”
The laugh seemed to melt a little of Finley’s tension. Her shoulders loosened and she shrugged. “There's definitely something there. He has feelings for her, but I just can't tell if they're dating. I can tell they're having a lot of... um... private conversations though, if you know what I mean.”
Brigham grinned, clearly delighted, and the two went into the elevator. Finley eyed him curiously.
“So...you're not worried about what they might get up to while we're gone?” She asked, hesitation creeping into her voice.
“N-nah.” Brigham shrugged. “J-ju-j-just gen-g-gene... gene.. alogy.”
Finley sighed. “Yeah.”
Brigham smirked, just a little smugly.
Finley bit her lip. “So I guess you're not worried then.”
“Well, that's good I guess.”
“A-a-are y-you wo-w-worr-worried?” Brigham asked.
Finley squeezed Ladybug's leash. “I don't know. I guess...it's just weird. I didn't even know about Aunt Madelyn until last week. I thought she was in a nursing home. She seemed pretty nice when I met her, but then that cute little old lady that LITERALLY looks just like my grandma turned out to be WAY more than she seemed. I didn't even know people like her were possible, and now I'm not sure what to think about anything. I don't know if I should feel worried or freaked out or excited or...”
Brigham stopped walking and looked down at her. His lips twitched a little, but he said nothing. Finley cleared her throat.
“Sorry. It's been a few days since anyone's really checked in with how I'm feeling. It just kind of all came out.” Finley apologized. “I guess seeing you strap your gun on got me thinking that maybe we're in danger.”
“P-pre-precau-cau-cautions aren't al-a-a-always nee-needed.” Brigham said as they stepped out on the sidewalk. “K-k-kind of l-li-like s-s-seat-sea-seat b-b-belts.”
Finley gave him a puzzled stare, glancing at him from the side and scrunching up her eyebrows, but Brigham seemed unwilling to offer more. She thought for a moment as they began their trek. Slowly, she began to nod her head.
“Maybe Aunt Madelyn doesn't want to hurt us at all. She probably just saw a way out and took it...but it's better to be careful? I guess that's why you're here?”
Brigham smiled at his feet.
They began down a series of sidewalks and crosswalks across busy streets. Brigham led Finley to a train stop that stood right in the middle of the road. As they waited for the train, Finley noticed that a bulky, middle-aged woman was staring at them from across the street. She was accompanied by a young woman with long hair that had clearly been dyed blonde from brown. The two held several shopping bags.
Finley nudged Brigham. “Why is that lady over there staring at us?”
As soon as Brigham turned to look, his face fell and his eyes widened. The woman, on the other hand, developed an expression of undying determination. Her eyes narrowed and she immediately ran across the busy road straight towards them, the younger woman and all the shopping bags in tow. A gray Subaru blared its horn at the woman, but she paid no heed. Finley's mouth dropped a little and her eyes darted from Ladybug to Brigham.
The security detail simply stood, dumbfounded, as the woman rushed up and threw her arms around him. “BRIGHAM! You're HOME! Why didn't you tell me you were coming?”
Brigham winced and threw Finley an apologetic look. “So-s-so-sorry...we-w-we're o-on a l-l-lay-layov-over...”
At the mention of the word “we,” the woman straightened and turned to Finley. Her eyes brightened with a look of predatory excitement. Finley forced a smile.
“Uh...yeah. One night layover on the way to New York.” She sputtered.
“Oh! You...you're traveling together?” The woman asked.
Brigham opened his mouth quickly, but it took a moment for words to come out. As he struggled, the young blonde woman piped in.
“We were just wedding shopping when we saw you,” she said, showing off her ring proudly to Brigham.
A new wave of surprise gripped him, and his mouth changed shape a few times as if unable to choose which words to say. “W-w-wow B-bre-bre-brenna! C-co-con-con-congrats!”
“Thank you.” Brenna said with a flounce. She glanced briefly towards Finley. “So how long have you been seeing each other? I can't believe you didn't tell me!”
It was Finley's turn to gape. Brigham turned towards her, then back towards Brenna, and then to the older woman, his mouth struggling to broadcast sound. “Oh...oh! I...I...I...we-we-...we-w-w-well...sh-she...”
The older woman took Finley's free hand and shook it. “I'm Brigham's mother, Rachel. This is my daughter, Brenna.”
“Oh! Nice to meet you—I'm Finley.” Finley looked to Brigham, lips parted as if waiting for permission to say more.
“That's a cute name. I like it!” Brenna chirped.
“Me too!” Rachel chimed in. “So you're just doing a little sight-seeing and walking the dog on your layover?”
Brigham licked his lips and nodded. “Ju-j-just g-going t-t-to L-lib-lib-liberty...Liberty P-p-park...b-b-bu-but M-mo-mo-mo-mom...”
“Fantastic! Dad's at the mall with Ben. I'll have him grab some pizza. We'll have a picnic!” Rachel said. Brigham stared in horror, and Finley in awe as Brigham's mother deftly handled her smartphone, sending the text as she clutched her shopping bags and spoke to them simultaneously. “There! Let's see who else is around. It’ll be like a little family reunion.”
They rode in the noisy white tram car through several stops before disembarking. Ladybug stood on her hind legs, panting and looking out the window. Rachel and Brenna sat across from them, whispering and giggling to one another.
“Wow, your mom sure seems excited to see you.” Finley finally said under the bustle of the car. “I...uh...hope your family isn't too disappointed when they realize...”
Brigham's face went ashen. Finley pursed her lips together worriedly as she glanced at him.
“So-s-so-sor-sorry.” He finally managed, mouth turned downward and eyes wide and twitching as he searched her face for forgiveness.
She smiled comfortingly. “Hey, don't worry about it. They seem really nice—should I just play along?”
He gaped at her in horror and shook his head.
“Oh—okay. I guess they didn't really give you a chance to explain. Do they know...what your job is?”
Brigham nodded. “Y-y-yeah. Do-do-don't wo-wor-w-w-wor-worry. I-I w-w-will ex-expl-ex-explain...”
Byrd held a glass door for Marilyn as she strode into a large building. The two glanced around. Gradually, they made their way to a large computer lab inhabited largely by senior citizens in either long skirts or white collared shirts and slacks—many of them sporting black name tags. After standing around and looking lost for a good moment, an elderly gentleman approached them. His name tag read “Elder Hoover” and he smiled kindly as he hobbled over.
“What can I do ya for?” Elder Hoover asked.
Marilyn glanced at Byrd and then down at the manila folder she clutched tightly in her hand. “My sister dug up some...interesting information. She seems to think that my...my late husband had family in Russia. Close family. I would really like to know if her findings are accurate.”
The elderly gentleman smiled and shuffled the pair over to a large computer. He asked if they had a FamilySearch or Ancestry account. Marilyn shook her head. “No—do I need one?”
Upon sensing Marilyn's confusion over the question, Elder Hoover proceeded to ask Marilyn about where she was from, where Byrd was from, what brought them to Salt Lake City, and whether they had ever heard of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Marilyn did her best to steer the conversation back to her main query several times, but Elder Hoover seemed obliviously determined to find out each of their entire life stories before proceeding with the research. Occasionally, as Marilyn was about to lose patience, Byrd rested his hand on her shoulder and spoke cordially to Elder Hoover. The genealogy specialist seemed genuinely delighted to talk about the last time he had visited New York and how he had a son working as a lawyer in Maryland.
Once they were finally logged into the desired website, Elder Hoover put “Frank Hansen” along with a date of birth and a death date into the search. He included New York as a place of residence.
The search yielded several results. Elder Hoover helped Marilyn discount entry after entry as clearly not being the right person. There seemed to be no matches for Frank Hansen with the personal information Marilyn had. They tried widening the search, but no matches came.
After about an hour, Marilyn opened her manila folder. “My sister thinks that this was my late husband’s real name.”
“Interesting...” Elder Hoover said quietly, scratching his head.
They entered the information from the page Marilyn held. They selected the top result and looked at the information.
“Friedrick Borodin, alternate name of Frank Hansen.” Elder Hoover read, stroking his chin with a curious grin on his wrinkled face. “Well, I'll be.”
Marilyn frowned, holding up the paper from her manila envelope and comparing the information to that on the computer. Everything seemed to match. “This is what my sister found—is there any way of knowing whether it's accurate, or whether it's the right person?”
“Try clicking on that little photo icon next to the name.” Elder Hoover suggested.
Marilyn did so. An enlarged, black and white photo of a tall, lanky young man in a Soviet uniform stared back at her. She paled.
Byrd's eyes grew wide. “That's him, alright.”
Marilyn went speechless, her chin and hands quivering slightly, but Elder Hoover went right on talking. “It's tough ter know sometimes how good the information is, but if ya just click here...and again right here...” He maneuvered the mouse, pulling up an email address.
“This here is the person who posted the photo and...yeah, looks like he posted the information too. So he's the one to contact if you want to check it out.”
Marilyn finally managed to get a grip on herself for a moment. “Can anyone—can just anyone post on here?”
“Only if they have an account.” Elder Hoover said, as if that somehow qualified as a screening process. “Genealogy is a collaborative effort, and we do get a lot of duplicates and wonky information sometimes, but most people are just tryin' their best to get the story straight. You oughta email the guy. But we may be able to find some confirmations—you said he was in New York in the seventies? Well, let's have a look at the census records.”
Finley sat next to Brigham on a tattered quilt in the middle of a large park. They both held paper plates that contained a slice of Hawaiian pizza, a chocolate chip cookie, a mint brownie, carrot sticks, and watermelon chunks. At least three women in their twenties or thirties had shown up with the side dishes, and Brigham's father had brought the pizza. Finley took at least one bite of everything. Brigham hadn't touched his food. Brigham's mother chatted with a group of women while kids of various heights and ages chased one another all around. Ladybug had found a pudgy little blonde boy who looked to be about four years old. The boy was taking great delight in lying down, allowing the dog to lick at the pizza sauce off his face for all of two seconds before sitting back up in a fit of giggles.
A twelve-year-old girl with glasses had taken up residence next to Finley and was quietly relaying information between bites of brownie. She had a plate with two more brownies and a cookie serving as a bridge between the two. The girl claimed she had “already eaten lunch” and thus had permission to indulge. Brigham had eyed the girl suspiciously upon hearing that, but had said nothing since their arrival.
“...Brenna was so surprised when Joe proposed, that her diet coke squirted right out of her nose. Right in his face.” The girl said. “Connar was hiding in the bushes, recording the whole thing on Dad's phone. We're TOTALLY going to show it at the wedding reception.”
Finley tried not to laugh as she swallowed a bite of watermelon. “What's your name?”
“I'm Bailey.” The girl said, matter-of-factly.
Brigham stared at the quilt on the ground as if he wanted to hide under it.
Finley gave him a pitying glance, then turned back to Bailey. “You know—we're not dating or anything. Brigham's just helping me and my grandma on our way to New York. For his job.”
The girl looked surprised. “Oh, man, that's gonna be rough.”
Finley pursed her lips together. “I don't think we're in danger or anything, it's just—”
“No, I mean for Mom. She sent out a message on the family group chat that Brigham was finally dating somebody, and we all needed to show up to support him.”
Brigham squeezed his eyes together tightly, then suddenly opened them as if a thought had just entered in. He turned quickly to Bailey, but she cut him off before he could say a word.
“I'm not going to be the one to burst her bubble.” Bailey told him. “Mom says she's worried you're never going to get married because you won't ever even talk to girls.”
Brigham hung his head.
Bailey just shrugged at him. “Maybe try telling Dad? I'll go get him for you.”
Before Brigham could protest, Bailey was up and tugging on the sleeve of a gray-haired man in khaki shorts. Brigham sighed and stood, giving Finley an apologetic smile. She stood alongside him, greeting the man that girl in glasses brought behind her. Bailey stood off to the side a little ways, weight shifted to one side, watching.
Brigham's father shook Finley's hand and began telling her how glad he was to meet her before Brigham began stuttering, nearly uncontrollably. Not a single word formed completely before a new jumble of repeated syllables intervened. Finley licked her lips and glanced around. There were tons of kids and adult family members all around, laughing and eating and talking. There was a sharp contrast between the relaxed family members and the tall man beside her. Her eyes darted from the place where he had strapped on the pistol earlier to his twitching jaw, and her face tilted, softening. Finally, Finley put her hand on his arm and looked up into his eyes.
“Brigham.” She said. “It's okay. There's no pressure—you've got this. Nobody is judging you.”
Brigham stared at her in confusion. Finley lent a small smile and a slight nod. He turned back to his father. “Wh-wha-what I'm t-trying to say is...is...”
Brigham’s breath caught as he glanced from Finley to his father. He swallowed. “F-finley is not my g-girlfriend. I-I'm wo-working with her. I j-just barely met her to-today.”
The father's eyes widened behind his glasses, and then he cocked his head. “Wow—well that's embarrassing. Sorry for the misunderstanding, Finley.”
Finley turned her eyes down and mumbled. “Oh, it's fine...”
Brigham caught his father's sleeve. “C-can you tell Mom? Pl-please?”
The man looked at Brigham, even more perplexed than before, as he nodded slowly. “Sure, son—I'll go tell her right now.”
Brigham stood, stiff and posture turned downwards as if his father was still standing before him. He watched his father walk away, breathing deeply. He glanced over at his twelve-year-old sister, Bailey, who had been looking on with great interest. She gave him a thumbs up. Brigham turned back to Finley.
“Thank you.” He said quietly, with no hint of a stutter as his fingers absently touched his lips.
Finley smiled weakly and shrugged.
“Grandma, I suck at lying.” Finley announced as she came back into the hotel room with Ladybug at her heels.
Marilyn smirked. “He had us all figured out, did he?”
“He knew exactly what I was up to, exactly where you were going, and he wasn't even a little bit surprised!” Finley lamented, launching into the story of the day.
Her steam suddenly ran dry as she came to the part about the picnic.
“Was he able to tell everyone?” Marilyn offered. “Or did you tell them?”
Finley blushed. “Uh... he did. He told his dad. It all worked out okay in the end, I guess. Except when they found out we weren't dating, all of his sisters ambushed me and started telling me what a great guy he is.”
Marilyn nodded, absently fingering the top of the manila folder in her hands and staring at it without really seeing it.
After a few minutes of silence, Finley spoke up again. “Hey Grandma?”
“You mentioned that you, uh, have rules for how you use telepathy.” Finley began. “How—how do you know when it's right or wrong to use it?”