Chrissie will never be sure when exactly her mother got her first letter from Maria Duval or how she became a target.
What she does know is that in the months leading up to her mother's eightieth birthday, before Chrissie or even Doreen realized that Alzheimer's disease was slowly and silently infiltrating her once rational mind, Doreen had handwritten at least forty different checks in response to Maria's letters, which Doreen believed were ending up with the psychic.
Chrissie suspects that her mother's obsession with these letters had far more to do with gambling on a cure for her failing mind than with winning a financial jackpot. In fact, Chrissie would later find evidence of an internal battle that Doreen hid from her children for years. She'd kept a Reader's Digest book full of brain games promising to keep her mind sharp. Not a single page was completed. And in her small personal address book was a page where she incorrectly wrote her son's phone number over and over again. On other pages, she furiously wrote her son's name repeatedly, sometimes followed by the words, "I kneed (sic) new shoes," and "Help me."
"You could see the pressure of the pen. Obviously she was angry with herself," Chrissie said. "To have a glimpse into somebody's mind like that -- how difficult it was for her to figure out a phone number that she has phoned for so many years. It's scary."
We leafed through the pages of this small book as we talked to Chrissie. And though we had never met Doreen, it was painful for us to read these outbursts from a woman so trapped in her own mind. But this all came later. The first time Chrissie began to realize how bad things had gotten was in the winter of