Authors: Ann Mullen
“I put the baby food in the cabinet by the refrigerator and I
left her clothes in her diaper bags and put them on the floor by her crib. I
figured you might want to empty out one of your drawers.”
“Oh, that’s not going to happen.” I laughed. “I’ll have to go
buy her a small chest of drawers, I guess.”
“Why don’t we take one out of one of the bedrooms upstairs?”
“That’s a good idea. I never thought of that.”
“Your mind has been too preoccupied with destroying
evidence.” She looked at me with that look she gets when she thinks one of her
kids has screwed up.
“Mom, you’ve got to promise me that you’ll never tell anyone
about that. It’s a secret that you and I will have to keep, unless you want me
to go to jail, too.”
“The things we do for our kids…”
“I don’t believe you think I was wrong in what I did, or
you’d be lecturing me and trying to get me to make amends.”
“I don’t want to talk about it. We have more important things
to worry about than what I think.”
I got up from the rocker, went over and kissed Mom on the
forehead and then went to the bedroom to put Maisy back in her crib. I closed
the bedroom door slightly, just enough to buffer any loud noises. As soon as I
walked back into the living room, Thor came up to me, sat down in my path, and
then looked up at me with those big eyes of his. He whimpered. I reached down and
patted his head.
“Oh, don’t be jealous, you silly dog.”
Obviously satisfied with my show of affection, Thor turned,
went back over to the fireplace and lay down beside Athena.
That dog is just too smart, I thought to myself. What’s he
going to do next?
Mom was in the kitchen heating up leftovers in the microwave.
It didn’t take long for the aroma to assault my sense of smell.
“Yum,” I said. “That smells great.” I sat down at the kitchen
table as Mom walked over and placed a plate full of food in front of me. “It’s
awful late to be eating, but I’m hungry.”
“You haven’t eaten much of anything all day. You need
something regardless of what time it is.”
I took a few bites, but couldn’t finish the food. My stomach
churned and a second later, I was in the bathroom throwing up.
“That certainly was pleasant,” I said as I came back to the
kitchen and sat down. “My stomach is a bundle of nerves and this arm is giving
me a fit. I wish I could take some drugs.”
Mom went to take the plate, but I stopped her. “Leave it sitting
on the table. That was the point, remember? We want the dogs to smell the food
if the cops bring them in here.”
I heard a noise at the front door and then someone pounded on
“Mrs. Blackhawk,” a voice called out. “Open the door.”
Mom and I stared at each other.
I got up from the table and walked to the door. I hesitated
for a minute and then, against my better judgment, I forced myself to open it.
“Did you find what you’re looking for, officer?”
“We’ll be back in the morning,” was all he said as he turned
I waved to them and flipped them off in my mind as they got
in the Blazer and headed down the driveway. “And a good riddance to you, too,
pal,” I said as I shut the door.
“I wonder why they didn’t want to come inside,” Mom said.
“Why would they,” I said, winking at her. “They’ve already
searched in here.”
“I guess they’re not as smart as I thought.”
I went over to the kitchen table, picked up the plate and
walked to the trash can in the kitchen. I scraped the food from the plate, rinsed
it, and then put it in the dishwasher.
“Yep, I guess they’re not so smart after all.” I laughed at
the thought. I had barely gotten the words out of my mouth when I saw a set of
headlights coming up the driveway. “Oh, no, I hope they’re not coming back.”
Mom walked to the window and peeked out. “It’s not them.
That’s Claire’s SUV and Cole’s behind her in his Jeep.”
“Thank goodness. I was worried for a minute.”
“You should be, Missy. I still can’t believe what you did.”
I walked over to Mom and begged, “You can’t say a word, Mom.
Cole will probably arrest me if he finds out.”
“I’m not going to say a word. My conscience is clean.”
“So is mine,” I responded. “I’m looking after my man. Billy’s
innocent and we both know it.”
Claire came running up the porch and into the house. She
pulled something furry from her coat and placed it on the floor. I looked down
and was startled to see Spice Cat.
“Don’t say a word, Jesse,” Claire said. “I couldn’t leave the
cat alone. I don’t know how long we’re going to be here.”
“I hope you brought him some food,” Mom said as she walked
over to the door and held it open for Cole.
“Claire’s SUV is loaded down,” Cole said as he walked in
carrying a duffel bag on each shoulder. When this woman packs, she doesn’t
forget a thing.”
“They need to go upstairs,” Claire said. She looked at me. “I
guess we’ll have to put the litter box in the laundry room, huh?”
“I guess so, unless you have a better idea. It’s not going in
my room,” I said with a chuckle.
Spice Cat made himself at home. He walked over to Athena and
Thor and lay down between them. Neither one of the dogs stirred. All three of
them were content. They were together again.
Claire and Cole continued to bring the stuff in the house
while Mom and I talked about the sleeping arrangements. Usually, if they stayed
the night, Mom would have one of the rooms upstairs and Claire and the kids
would share the other, so that’s how it would be. Cole could sleep on the sofa
since he wasn’t going to be here for long.
Once everything was brought inside and things settled down,
Mom fixed hot chocolate for everyone except me. I opened a can of soda, hoping
it would calm my stomach. We were sitting by the fire when the phone rang. We
all stared at each other. We knew it was probably Billy on the line, or Russ.
Fear rose in my throat as I stood and walked over to the
phone to answer the call. I picked up the receiver and spoke. “Hello,” I said.
My voice was barely above a whisper.
“Hello, Jesse,” Billy said. “I’ll be home as soon as Russ
shows up. I’ve answered all their questions and now it’s just a matter of
waiting for Russ to show up and give me a ride home.”
“He should’ve been there by now. He left here a while ago.”
“There are a few inches of snow on the ground, so he’s
probably caught up in traffic.”
“I hate this.”
“I know, Jesse, and I’m sorry. The cops are putting us
through this for nothing.”
“Maisy is here.”
“How’s it going?”
“I’ve learned a few things already. Mom and Claire are
staying the night.” I looked over at the two of them and smiled. “Cole’s here,
too. We’ll be fine.”
“I’m glad you have their help, but when I get home, we will
take care of her.”
“Yes, we will.”
“Did the cops return with their search dogs?”
“Yes, but they left a little while ago,” I said. My heart
started beating faster. “They didn’t find the shirt.” I wanted to tell Billy
that they weren’t going to find the shirt, but I was afraid someone might be
listening to our conversation.
“Are you serious?”
“I sure am, but they said they were coming back in the
morning. What happens if they never find the shirt? You know Thor, that shirt
could be on the other side of the mountain by now.” I glanced over at Cole to
see if that statement was convincing, and from the look on his face, it
appeared to be. He was buying every word.
“Once they test Jonathan’s clothing, they’ll realize that
what we said was the truth. They won’t need to find my shirt, because they
won’t have a case against either one of us. They still don’t have a body and
only circumstantial evidence. In other words, they can’t place the gun in my
“What do you mean, gun?” I whispered as I turned my back. “If
they don’t have a body, how do you know he was shot?”
“It was a metaphor, Jesse. I don’t know what happened to the
“The blood they found was Carl’s,” I said.
“Yes, I know. They also found another person’s blood at the
A long silence hung in the air.
“Jesse, are you still there?”
“I’m here,” I replied as I turned back to face everyone. My
mind slipped into the dark side as thoughts of terrible things to come flashed
before me. “I’ll always be here for you, Billy. I love you. We’ll get through
this together. Everything is going to work out. You’ll see.”
I wanted Billy to know that I was behind him all the way, and
that I was confident everything was going to be fine, but to tell the truth, I
was scared. I knew that things just didn’t always turn out the way you wanted
them to... no matter what. I prayed that this wasn’t one of those times.
Billy agreed that
everything would work out; don’t worry, he had said. Unfortunately, worry would
be the only thing I could do until he returned home. I hung up the phone and
went over to the fireplace to sit down. I was worn out.
“What did Billy say?” Mom asked.
“He said he’d be home shortly. He’s just waiting for Russ to
“Russ should’ve been there by now,” Mom said.
“That’s what I told Billy, but he said Russ was probably
caught up in traffic because of the snow.”
“What about Jonathan?” Claire asked. “They found bloody
clothing at his house. That doesn’t sound too good.”
“I don’t know,” I said. “I forgot to ask. I had my mind on
“It’s a sad, sad day when something like this happens,” Mom
said as she got up from the sofa and walked toward the kitchen. “What right do
the police have to put a person through all this without concrete evidence? How
many times have you heard about someone who’s been arrested, had their life
turned upside down and their reputation ruined, only to find out later that
they were innocent all along? I bet the jails are packed with people like this.
I guess this is one of those little loopholes you’re always hearing about. It
reminds me of some of those crappy medical insurance companies. They’re
supposed to be there for you, but when you turn your back, they stick a knife
in it. It makes you wonder how many people just sit back and take it.”
“What are you going on about?” Claire asked.
“I’m serious,” Mom said. “I have a friend back in
who once told me that every time she
filed an insurance claim with her insurance company, they always denied it.
Later, she found out that they do that to all their policy holders. Every one
of her friends at work said the same thing. It was standard procedure. They
deny the claim and if the person doesn’t call and raise a ruckus, the insurance
company gets out of paying. They’re liars and the ones who aren’t liars are
cheats! They promise you everything, but all they do is take your money and
give you nothing. Just try to get treatment at any hospital without that stupid
little card. It won’t happen. If you don’t have medical insurance, you’re out
of luck. Think about it. What do they do when a person comes in for treatment
and they don’t have insurance coverage? Sometimes I wonder if they’d let you
die right there on the ER floor if you couldn’t produce proof of insurance
“I think your friend has filled your head with a bunch of
bull, Mom. It’s not like that.”
Mom ignored Claire’s statement and continued with her tirade.
“If the medical insurance companies are this bad, can you imagine how other
companies treat people and get away with it? Look at the
. You don’t dare make a mistake with them. I saw a
special on the
and how they were harassing people
who owed them money. One mistake and you could spend your whole life trying to
fix it. It’s pathetic, I tell you. It just ruffles my feathers that things like
“Where did all this come from?” Claire asked as she looked
over at Mom. “What does the
and medical insurance have to do
with the police?”
“It’s all a racket,” Mom replied. “Even the police have their
own game going.”
“We have rules and procedures to follow,” Cole said, adding
his two cents’ worth. “It’s not a game to us; we take our job very seriously.”
“I’m sure you do, Cole,” Mom said, walking back over to us.
“But don’t you think sometimes you carry it a little too far? You know Billy
wouldn’t hurt a soul. What’s wrong with those people?”
“This situation would be handled the same way regardless of
who the suspect is. I know Billy better than almost anyone, but when something
like this happens, we have to follow the law.”
“I hate to say it, but this all started because of Carl,” Mom
said as she glanced over at Claire. “What man in his right mind would go to
this length to get back at his wife? You know that’s why he did what he did.
There has to be a reason, after all this time, for him to come here and take
his children. It’s been almost a year and not once has he come to visit them or
even called to check on their well-being. He didn’t even send Benny or Carrie a
birthday card on their birthday. The only time he ever called was to fuss at
Claire. Eventually, he stopped doing that once she filed for a divorce. He had
to have known that he would be heading for a fight by taking the kids. There
has to be more to it. Maybe he had another motive. Let’s think. If we can come
up with a reason why he came here to start with, then maybe we can figure out
where he is now.”
The room was quiet as we waited for Mom to finish releasing
her anger on the ills of evil-doers.
“That was a terrific monologue, Mom,” I said. “You should
become a victim’s rights spokesperson. I’ve never heard you talk like this.
Most of what you said is correct. People are constantly getting shafted by big
business, insurance companies and many others. The list is endless. If you ever
decide to do charity work, I know just the place for you to become a
“And where might that be?” Mom asked as came back over and
sat down beside Claire.
“There’s a halfway house in
that protects abused women and children. They always need
money, clothing, and any kind of help they can get. I read an article about
them in the paper. The paper didn’t say where the place is; it only gave a
Cole stood and excused himself. “I need to use the bathroom.”
Yeah, I bet you do, I said to myself. You’d better leave the
room, or you might just get an earful.
“I think Mom has enough to keep her busy without becoming
involved with people like that,” Claire said.
“People like what, Claire?”
“Oh, you know, people with problems we don’t want to get
involved with. They aren’t our kind.”
“Oh, you mean people who need help in protecting themselves
from bad people? Are you telling me that it’s okay to turn a blind eye to women
whose husband or boyfriend beats her… beats her children?”
“Hold on a minute,” Mom interrupted. “Where is this going,
“Why don’t you ask Claire to show us her back? How did you
get those bruises? I know you must have bruises if you fell and hit the
handrail on Cole’s porch. However, I have my doubts about that accident. You’re
not that clumsy.”
“What happened to me is…” Claire said, looking straight at me
with angry eyes. “I’d appreciate it if you’d mind your own business.”
“Cole said you fall down all the time. He thinks you need to
go to a doctor.”
“What?” Claire looked at Mom and then back at me. “Cole said
I need to see a doctor?”
“That’s right. He said you were accident prone and that you
need to see a doctor. He’s worried about you.”
Claire’s eyes bulged, her face turned red and she looked as
if she wanted to hit someone. “I can’t believe he had the nerve to …” Claire
stopped in mid-sentence when Cole walked back into the room. She jumped up from
the sofa and walked up to him. “How dare you tell Jesse that I need to see a
doctor! If anyone needs professional help, it’s you. I said I wouldn’t say
anything this time, but since you had the audacity to tell such a blatant lie,
I think it’s time we cleared the air.” She turned away from Cole and looked at
us. “Cole and I had an argument over you, Jesse.”
Cole grabbed Claire by the arm and said, “Maybe you and I
should have a talk outside.” He led her to the front door, grabbed their coats
off the rack and went outside.
Mom and I just stared at each other for a second. Finally, I
decided I’d had enough. There was no way I was going to let this pass. I wanted
to know what had really happened to Claire, and I wasn’t going to find out by
sitting and waiting for Cole to tell me the truth.
“Stay here, Mom,” I said as I stood, walked over to the coat
rack, and grabbed my coat.
“I don’t think so, Missy,” she responded. “I want to know
what’s going on with my daughter.”
Mom was right behind me as I walked out onto the porch. We
both stood with our mouth hanging open as we watched Cole slap Claire. He
pinned her up against the wall, but released her and stepped back when he saw
“Have you lost your mind?” I yelled as I pushed him aside. I
grabbed Claire by her coat sleeve and pushed her toward Mom. My anger let
loose. The only thing I could think to do was to knee him in the groin. The
look on his face was not only one of shock, but also one of pain. I had hit him
where it hurts, and I did it as hard as I could. He grabbed himself and bent
“Get inside,” I said to Mom and Claire. “Cole’s leaving.”
Mom and Claire hustled inside.
I looked up and could see them peering through the window.
They were hugging each other as they watched. I turned back to look at Cole. If
I’d had a bat handy, I would’ve beaten him up side the head with it. I would
have hit him until he bled. He deserved to be hurt like he had hurt my sister.
It was all I could do to keep myself from going inside and getting my gun and
coming back out to shoot him. My anger was so out of control that I had to back
off and take a deep breath. I let a few minutes pass before I spoke.
“I think you should leave,” I said as I shivered in the night
air. “I don’t know what your problem is, but I think you’re the one who needs
to see a doctor. Get help, Cole. This isn’t like you.”
“I’m sorry, Jesse, but she made me do it. She was getting
ready to tell lies about me. She knows how I feel about you and she won’t leave
me alone about it.”
“You lied to me, Cole. You said you had never hit my sister,
and I almost believed you. Men like you are sick. You need therapy. ”
The front door opened and Mom tossed Cole’s duffel bag out
onto the porch. She slammed the door shut without even looking at him.
“I guess that says it all.” I turned and walked back into the
The three of us stood in front of the window hugging each
other as we watched Cole leave. Claire cried as his tail lights disappeared
into the night.
“It’s okay,” I said to her as I pulled the curtains together,
hoping to block out the ugly scene. “He needs the kind of help you can’t give
“I know,” she said. “But I still care about him.”
“Of course, you do,” Mom said as she walked Claire over to
the sofa. “We all care about Cole and when he calms down; maybe you can talk
him into getting some professional counseling. Cole’s a good man, but he
obviously has a few problems to work out. I’ve never known him to act like this
before. However, I can’t stand by and let him hurt you. Maybe a doctor can help
him learn to control his temper.”
“He needs help, but he’s going to need a lot more than just
help when Billy finds out what happened,” I said. “There’s no telling what
Billy will do. He’ll flip out.”
“Jesse, please, you can’t tell Billy,” Claire cried.
“Billy has enough on his plate as it is,” Mom said. “Maybe
you shouldn’t tell him just yet.”
“Tell me what,” Billy asked as he walked through the front
All three of us squealed as we jumped up and ran to him. We
hugged and kissed on him as if we hadn’t seen him in months. In the background,
a baby cried out. The dogs came out from hiding and barked wildly. Benny came
down the stairs rubbing his eyes as he held onto Carrie’s hand.
“It’s too loud,” Benny said. “You woke us up.”
“It’s loud, Mama,” Carrie added.
We all broke out in laughter.
“I’m so glad you’re home,” I said as I helped Billy take off
“It’s been a long day,” he said and then bent down and kissed
me sweetly on the lips. “I’m so glad to be home. They had to let me go when
they found out the blood on Jonathan’s clothes was from an animal. I tried to
tell them, but you know how they are. They just don’t listen.”
“I’m so glad you’re home, too,” I said.
“What kind of secret are you gals keeping from me?” He looked
at each of us.
Neither one of us said a word.
Russ Shank walked in after a light tap on the door. “May I
come in?” he asked.
“Please do,” I said. “Come and warm up by the fire. I have to
go get Maisy.” I turned to go to the bedroom and looked up and saw Claire
walking out of my room carrying Maisy in her arms.
“Somebody’s wet and hungry.”
“We fed her a couple of hours ago,” I replied.
Mom and Claire looked at each other and laughed.
“We’ll take care of her while you talk to Billy,” Mom said.
“I know you two have a lot to talk about.” Mom gave me a funny look and I knew
exactly what she meant. She didn’t want me to tell Billy about Cole… and I
wasn’t going to, yet. “Tomorrow, you and I will have a class on childcare.” Mom
snickered as she went to the kitchen. “Right now, I need to heat up a bottle
for the little one.”