A Crying Shame: A Jesse Watson Mystery (10 page)

BOOK: A Crying Shame: A Jesse Watson Mystery
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“It’s snowing pretty hard,” I said. I looked over at Cole,
who had barely said two words since our return. “I’m not trying to get rid of
you, Cole, but I’m scared for Claire. It’s really getting nasty out there and
I’m sure she doesn’t have a candle in her car.”

I used Cole’s own advice against him. He responded
immediately by saying that it was time for him to leave. He would check on
Claire on his way home. If we needed anything, we were to call him and then
he’d come back in a flash. He turned and was gone.

I was shocked at how well I had pulled that off, but I didn’t
stand around and pat myself on the back. The minute Cole left, I walked over to
Thor who had been soaking in the heat from the fireplace.

“All right, rat, no more crap. Let’s go!”

The minute I spoke, Thor jumped up and ran to the back door.

“What…” Mom started to ask, but I cut her off.

“Just stay here and keep a lookout for Russ. We’ll be back in
a minute.”

I grabbed my coat and a flashlight and then ran after Thor.
As soon as I got outside and shut the back door, I saw Thor disappear into a
hole in the house foundation, beside the air-conditioning unit. I walked over,
bent down and saw a rubber flap, just like the one on the back door. I pulled
the flap back and discovered a cut-out in the cinderblocks. The hole was just
big enough for either one of the dogs to crawl through. Billy must have done
this for them in case they ever got shut out of the house for some reason (like
the time I put a basket of clothes in front of their hole and they couldn’t get
in), or maybe he wanted them to have a hiding place. I stood up and smiled.
This was just one more of the many reasons why I loved Billy. He’s such a
loving, compassionate person. A hiding place, huh? The moment the thought
crossed my mind, Thor jumped through the hole with the plastic Zip-Lock bag
clenched between his teeth. He dropped the bag at my feet.

“Thor, you’re a real trip!” I bent down and hugged him long
enough for him to get in a couple of licks. I figured he earned the right to
slobber on me. I picked up the bag and headed toward the back door. I stopped
and looked around, surveying the landscape. Should I hide it somewhere and pray
that no one finds it, or should I do what I thought about in the beginning, and
burn it? Burn it, won out. Mom said that this was proof that Billy was
innocent, but without this shirt, there was no evidence at all. It was going in
the fire, but I had to be discreet. If I should get caught… oh, I wouldn’t
think about that now. I would go inside and burn the shirt! I opened the back
door and prayed all the while that Thor wouldn’t do something stupid like bark
and draw attention to my illegal act. I stuffed the bag under some dirty
clothes in the laundry basket until I had the opportunity to complete my task.
As I walked through the kitchen to the living room, I saw a pair of headlights
shine through the living room window, and then heard the honk of a car horn.

Mom jumped up from the sofa and said, “That must be Russ.”
She walked over to the door and opened it. “It’s Russ, Jesse, and he’s carrying
a baby seat.”

Athena came running out of the bedroom and stood by the front

Russ came inside and immediately walked over to the fireplace.
He placed the car seat on the floor and pulled back the blanket covering it.

Mom and I held hands as we walked over to him and looked
down. In the car seat lay a beautiful baby girl with thin locks of blond hair.
She was sound asleep. The first thing Mom said was, “She’s not sucking on a

“What’s that?” Russ asked.

We both laughed.

“Even I know what a pacifier is,” I said, jokingly.

Athena and Thor came over, sniffed around and then lay down,
one on each side of her. Maisy now had two guard dogs to look after her.

“Have you met my mother?” I looked up and asked him.

“We’ve met before,” Mom said. “Do you have any children, Mr.

“No, thank you,” he laughingly replied. “I’m not even
married, and probably never will be since Billy told me that I couldn’t have
her.” He pointed to me. “He sure is the luckiest guy in the world. He has a
wonderful wife and a great family. I should be so lucky.”

“He’s kidding, Mom,” I said as I gave Russ a hug. “How old is

“I’m not sure,” he replied. “I don’t know a thing about
babies. Mom told me what to do, step-by-step to get her here in one piece. I
would’ve been here sooner, but Mom kept giving me instructions. I didn’t think
I’d ever get away from her. I can ask Brian.”

“She looks to be about four or five months old,” Mom said.
“It’s terribly sad for a child to have to grow up without a mother. I sure hope
she doesn’t lose her father as well. She’s a pretty one. When’s the last time
that she was fed?”

Russ reached into his shirt pocket, pulled out a piece of
paper, and then handed it to Mom. “Here’s a list of everything you need to know
according to my mom. Maisy was fed and changed before I left Mom’s house. At
least, that’s what she told me to tell you. I have some stuff in the car that
you’re going to need. Actually, I have quite a bit of stuff.”

I looked at Russ and then back to Mom. “I’ll help Russ get
the stuff out of the car, if you’ll watch her for a minute.”

“Sure, honey, I’ll be glad to.”

I put on my coat and walked out to the car with Russ.

“Boy, it sure has gotten cold,” he said, making conversation.

For a minute, I thought about asking Russ’s advice about what
I should do with the shirt, but I figured the less who knew about what I was
about to do; the better. I guess I wanted his okay, but the more I thought
about it, the more I realized that I had my mind already made up, and there was
no changing it, regardless of what he might say. I would keep him out of it.

“I’m getting tired of all this snow. I’m ready for spring.”

We carried the portable crib, two large diaper bags and a box
full of baby food into the house. I put the food and diaper bags on the kitchen
table while Russ showed us how to unfold the crib.

“See, it’s a piece of cake. Even I can do it.” He laughed and
then winked at me. “Where do you want to put it?”

“You can leave it right there beside the sofa for now. I’ll
figure out where to put it later.”

“I guess I’ll be going,” he said. “I’ll call you after I’ve
had a chance to talk to Billy.”

“Please do,” I said as I walked him to the door. “I won’t
sleep a wink until I hear from you.”

He looked over at Mom and said, “It was nice to see you, Mrs.

“Thanks for everything. I’m sure we’ll see more of you in the

“I’m sure you will,” he said as he walked out the door.

After he left, Mom and I stood and looked at Maisy, neither
one of us speaking for the longest time. Finally, I said, “She really is a
beautiful child. What do I do with her?”

“Don’t you worry, honey, you’ll figure it out.”

“You’re not leaving, are you? I thought you were going to
stay for a while… you know… just until we get settled.”

“I’m not going anywhere, so don’t get all upset. I’ll be here
for as long as you need me. Stop worrying, honey. You worry too much.”

“Thank you, Mom. I don’t know what I’d do if you left now.”

Mom smiled at me and said, “We need to find a place to put
Maisy. We don’t want her in the draft from the front door. I think we should
set up the crib in your room and then we’ll take her out of the baby seat and
put her to bed.”

“Do we have to move her? She looks so peaceful right where
she is.”

“You might as well get your hands dirty, so to speak.” Mom
looked at me and giggled. “Don’t look so forlorn, honey. It’s not that
complicated. Just remember that at this age, when they cry they’re either wet
or hungry, or both.”

Mom and I picked up the portable crib and carried it to my
room. Then we went back to get Maisy. I bent down and picked her up in my arms.
She stirred, opened her eyes, and then went back to sleep.

“She has blues eyes, Mom.”

“I know; she opened them and looked at me while you were
outside with Russ.”

With Mom’s watchful eyes, I took Maisy to my room and lay her
down in the crib. She wiggled around a little and then settled in. I placed the
blanket from the car seat over her, and then walked out of the room. Athena and
Thor followed my every move. I left the door open so I could hear her if she
cried, and then ushered the dogs back into the living room.

“See, that wasn’t so hard,” Mom said. “Now it’s time to take
care of you. You need to eat something. You didn’t eat much dinner.”

“I’m not hungry,” I said as Mom gave me one of her looks.
“Okay, I promise to eat something if you’ll get some rest.”

“I think you’ve got a good idea. I’ll go upstairs and lay
down with the kids if you promise to wake me if you need me.”

“Oh, you can bet on it.”

Mom turned and walked upstairs.

As soon as she was out of sight, I turned and ran to the
laundry room. I pulled the bag out from under the dirty clothes and ran back to
the living room. I tossed the shirt, bag and all, into the fire and watched as
it burned. Ten minutes later, the only evidence left had been turned into a
pile of ashes. The only eyewitnesses to my crime were two canines, and I knew
they’d never tell a soul.

Chapter 10

A horrible, burnt-plastic smell filled the air. I had to do
something to get rid of the odor, and I had to do it quickly. Waiting to hear
from Russ Shank and with the threat of Detective Trainum’s return, I was sure
to have company soon. If anyone got a whiff of the smell, they would know
immediately what I had done. I went to the kitchen in search of a box of
matches. Shortly after finding out that I was pregnant; I was forced to give up
smoking by well-meaning family members, so I no longer possessed a lighter. However,
I was sure that there had to be matches somewhere. I rummaged through the
kitchen drawers and searched all the cabinets, but came up empty-handed.
Finally, I went over to the computer desk in the living room and pulled open
the drawer. I found a book of matches containing only two matchsticks. This
would have to do, I told myself. If I’m careful, I’ll be able to light several
candles, and hopefully, cover up that stinking smell. I walked over to the
fireplace and grabbed the two candles sitting on each end of the mantel, and
then walked around the room, gathering up more candles. I took the candles back
over to the desk and started lighting each one. I managed to get all seven of
the candles lit before the matches burned out. I strategically placed the
candles about, and since our living room, dinning room and kitchen is one big
open space, the scent of the candles quickly eradicated the horrible odor. I
was saved! No one would ever know that I had burned evidence that could’ve
possibly caused Billy problems. I knew he wasn’t guilty, but I wasn’t taking
any chances.

I sat down on the sofa and put my feet up on the coffee
table, soaking up the smell of vanilla, pine, and a faint hint of cinnamon. I
lay my head back and tried to sort out all the stuff that was going on in my
mind. Then it dawned on me that Claire hadn’t returned. I turned my head and
looked over at the microwave. It was sixteen minutes after nine. Where was she?
She should’ve been back a long time ago. I got up from the sofa, walked over to
the desk, and picked up the phone. I punched in Mom’s number.

“Hello,” Claire said with a slight giggle in her voice.
“Quit,” I heard her whisper to someone as she tried to carry on a conversation
with me. “Stop, silly!” she said loudly, and then laughed as if she was being

“Claire!” I shouted, tired of her playful silliness. It was
obvious that she was fooling around with Cole, and I didn’t want to hear it. I
had more important things to occupy my mind.

“Oh, I’m sorry, Jesse,” she replied. “Cole and I were…”

“When are you coming back? I was worried about you.”

“I’m leaving in a few minutes. Is everything all right? Are
the kids okay?”

“Everything is fine. Mom’s upstairs asleep with the kids and
Maisy is in her crib in my room. She’s so beautiful, Claire.”

“Don’t get too attached to her, Jesse,” Claire warned.

“Oh, I won’t.”

“Have you heard from Billy?”

“Not yet,” I said. I heard a commotion in the background and
then Claire said that Cole wanted to speak to me. “Sure, put him on the phone,”
I said.

“Jesse, has the sheriff or that detective been back?”

“No, they haven’t, why?”

“Be prepared. I’m sure Detective Trainum will be back with
the hound dogs. Don’t let him intimidate you. He’s got a big mouth…”

“I’m not afraid of him. I can handle myself.”

“I’m sure you can, but just in case, don’t answer any of his
questions without your lawyer present. Things are heating up and I don’t want
that detective to take advantage of the situation.”

“What do you mean, heating up? Have you heard something?”

“I talked to Sheriff Hudson and he said the blood test came
back and it’s Carl’s blood. They also found blood from at least one other
person, maybe two. It’s still being analyzed. They found Carl’s car at the
airport. It’s been impounded and they’re going over it with a microscope, well,
maybe not a microscope, but you know what I mean. Rest assured they’ll be
coming back to your house to do another search.”

“I’m getting a little rattled.”

“Why, you don’t have anything to hide, do you?” He hesitated
for a second and then asked, “Do you want me to come back with Claire and stay
the night?”

“That might be a good idea,” I replied. “Do you mind?”

“Of course, not,” Cole said a little too quickly for my

“I want you here for family support, nothing else.”

“I understand. We’ll be there in about an hour.”

The phone connection was broken. I replaced the receiver and
turned to go sit back down on the sofa and immediately saw the familiar sight
of flashing blue lights through the window.”

“What’s going on now?” I said as I ran to the foot of the
stairs. I whispered Mom’s name just loud enough for her to hear and hopefully
not loud enough to wake Maisy or the kids.

Mom came out of the bedroom to the top of the stairs and
called down. “What is it, Jesse?”

“The cops are back.”

She was at the foot of the stairs within seconds. “If they
don’t have a warrant, don’t let them in,” she said.

“I won’t, Mom. I’m getting a little sick of their…”

“What’s that smell?” Mom turned to me with a hard look on her
face. “Please tell me that you didn’t do what I think you did.”

“What do you mean?” I tried to look innocent, but nothing
gets past my mother. She’s way to smart to be fooled by a rookie like me.

“You know good and well what I mean.” She looked around the
room. “Blow out those candles, all except the two over the fireplace. We don’t
want to look guilty.”

“Why would burning candles make us look guilty,” I asked as I
did what she said.

“She rolled her eyes at me and said, “Give me a little
credit, Missy. I’m nobody’s fool.”

“No, I didn’t think you were,” I said, watching the trails of
smoke from the extinguished candles.

Mom walked over to the wall and flicked the switch to turn on
the ceiling fan. “Let them knock a couple of times before answering the door.
That’ll give me time to turn the fan off. Cops aren’t stupid either. They’ll
know exactly what’s going on the minute they see that fan running. Nobody runs
a fan in the winter.”

“Sure they do, Mom. It helps circulate the warm air.”

“I never thought of that. I’ll have to try that when I get
back home.”

After the sound of several car doors being slammed and
footsteps on the porch, someone began pounding on the front door.

“Just a minute,” I yelled out as Mom turned off the ceiling
fan. I went to the front door, opened it slightly, and then stuck my head out.
“What do you want?” I asked a man in uniform.

The man had a K9 Unit patch on his jacket. Two other men
crawled out of a Chevy Blazer and came up behind him. They were dressed in the
same uniforms sporting the same patches, and each one held the leash of a hound

“I have a search warrant to search the premises, the
surrounding land, garage, shed, and all automobiles belonging to Billy

“I hope you don’t plan on bringing those dogs into my house,”
I stated. “We have two small children and an infant in here. You’ll scare them
to death.”

The officer looked at me as if I had lost my mind, but I
stood firm. I had no intention of letting those animals sniff around my
fireplace. Besides, I had no idea how sensitive their noses were and I didn’t
want to find out.

“If we don’t find what we’re looking for, we might have to do
exactly that,” he said with a snide grin on his face as he shoved the search
warrant in my hand. It was obvious that he was trying to scare me. “Thank you
for your cooperation.” He turned and motioned for his men to follow him. They
disappeared from sight and the bark of the hounds ensued.

I shut the front door and walked over to Mom who was standing
by the fire. I unfolded the warrant and we huddled together, reading it. After
a few minutes, Mom looked at me and asked, “Do you understand any of this

“Basically, it says that they can pretty much do anything
they want to and we’re supposed to cooperate or face being arrested.”

“That’s ridiculous!” Mom was adamant. “I don’t want them in
this house!”

I looked up at her and said, “I have my own reasons why I
don’t want them in here. What’s yours?”

She turned her head, stared into the fire and then replied,
“I wonder if buttons would burn up to nothing? I’d hate for them to find a
couple of them in the ashes. They might get the wrong idea. All I want to know
is how did you find the shirt?”

“Quiet, Mom,” I said, putting my finger to my mouth. “They’re
probably listening.”

Mom stepped back and looked at me strangely. “I knew you’d do
it!” She turned and started walking in circles. “Jesse, you might have made a
terrible mistake. That shirt might have gotten Billy off the hook. I hope you
haven’t sealed his fate.” She looked down at Thor who was sleeping peacefully
by the fire. “He’s probably one of the smartest dogs I’ve ever known.”

“I’m beginning to think that he’s a genius, as far as dogs

“I just hope the two of you aren’t too smart for your own

“You can’t prosecute someone without evidence.”

Mom seemed to be in deep thought and didn’t respond to my
statement. She stopped pacing and sat down on the sofa. “I wonder why they
didn’t ask us for one of Billy’s shirt or other clothing. How are they going to
track his scent if they don’t have something to go by?”

“That’s a good question,” I replied. “Maybe their dogs are
trained to sniff out human blood, and it doesn’t matter whose blood it is. I
don’t know, Mom. Maybe they took Billy’s shirt or something from him at the
police station.”

“Just in case they come in here, we need to confuse the dogs.
Go check the laundry basket and see if there’s one of Billy’s dirty shirts in
it, and then put it on.”

I was confused at first and then I realized that she might
have a point. “I’ll go find something of his while you go to the kitchen and
heat up some leftovers for me. I haven’t had a chance to eat, and…”

“That’s a great way to throw a dog off track. The aroma of
food gets everybody’s attention, especially a dog.”

I went to the laundry room, dug in the clothes basket and
came up with one of Billy’s T-shirts. I smelled it and then pulled it over my
head. The sweet scent of Old Spice lingered in my nostrils along with a faint
odor of body perspiration. Oddly, I liked the smell.

The sound of a baby’s cry caught my attention. I ran to the
kitchen, stood and stared at Mom and then said, “What do we do now?”

“I’ll heat up the food while you go get Maisy. Then I’ll show
you what to do. Just remember that she’s only about five months old, so she’ll
still be a little wobbly.”

“What do you mean, wobbly?”

“Lord, help me. Don’t you know anything about babies?”

“I know they cry and you have to hold them all the time.”

“All right, come on,” Mom said. “I’m going to give you a
quick lesson.”

Fifteen minutes later, Maisy had been changed and given a
bottle. Mom showed me how to do everything I needed to know for the time being.
She explained that for right now, she didn’t think we were to give Maisy
anything but a bottle, but once Claire returned, we’d ask her.

“Things have changed since you were a baby. We used to
sterilize everything and had to make up the formula. Now everything is premixed
and all you have to do is pour the formula in a bottle and stick it in the
microwave. Modern technology! You’ve got to love it.”

“Yeah, where would we be without it?”

“It’s a good thing you have this rocking chair. Babies loved
to be rocked,” Mom said. “Why don’t you give it a try?”

She handed Maisy to me. I carefully took hold of her like Mom
had instructed earlier and sat down in the rocking chair. Within minutes, Maisy
was sound asleep.

“See, that’s not so hard, is it?”

“Gosh, Mom, you’re right.” I looked down at the little girl
in my arms and tears came to my eyes. “How could anyone not want something as
sweet as this? The idea of a person hurting a child makes me want to scream.
You hear stories about child abuse all the time.”

“What made you think of that? Oh, never mind. I forgot about
your emotional state. Don’t go there, Jesse; it’ll make you crazy. Fortunately,
this child hasn’t been abused. She’s been well-provided for; I can tell by the
way she acts. She’s so content. One thing we can be thankful for is that
whoever killed her mother didn’t harm her. It makes a person wonder.”

“Do you think the father did it?”

“I don’t know enough about the case to make an informed

“I guess we need to find a place to put her clothes and the
baby food.”

“I already did.”

I looked over at the kitchen table. “I didn’t even notice.”

BOOK: A Crying Shame: A Jesse Watson Mystery
9.06Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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