Authors: Ann Mullen
“It was,” she replied. She walked over to Cole and sat down.
“I’ll have dinner ready soon,” Mom said. “Let’s have a good
meal and a nice, quiet evening here at Billy and Jesse’s home.”
“That works for me,” Billy said. He looked at me. “The dogs
probably need to go outside. Let’s take them out and we can talk while they’re
doing their thing.”
“Let me get my coat.”
“Can I go, Uncle Billy?” Benny asked.
“Not this time, buddy,” Billy said. “It’s freezing out there.
I’m sure your mother wouldn’t like it if your nose froze off.”
“That won’t happen,” Benny said as he turned to look at his
mother. “Would it, Mom?”
Claire chuckled. “I don’t think so, but if Uncle Billy says
it’s too cold, maybe you should stay inside with us. Maybe Grandma will let you
help her in the kitchen.”
“That’s for sissies. I want to do stuff men do.”
“Then why don’t you come over here and we’ll turn on the TV?”
Cole asked him.
The look on Benny’s face was a dead giveaway. Apparently, he
wasn’t too fond of Cole. “No thanks,” he said. “I’d rather go help Grandma.” He
grabbed Carrie by her sleeve and they both headed toward the kitchen. He
stopped for a minute and then turned back to speak. “My dad says that no one
will ever take his place.”
I smiled at Benny’s obvious dislike for Cole. “I guess kids
do have a sense of what’s really going on. They’re pretty smart.”
Claire wasn’t at all pleased with her son’s declaration. She
got up from the sofa and took Benny into the laundry room. A minute later he
returned and apologized to Cole.
Billy opened the front door and then called to the dogs. They
took off into the woods as we stood on the porch watching them disappear. The
chill in the air went right through me even though I had on a big, heavy coat.
Tiny snowflakes swirled around making circles in the air and then fell to the
“Haven’t we had enough snow?” I asked, making conversation. I
could see my breath as I spoke. I looked up at Billy and noticed the cut on his
forehead had begun to heal and his black eye was starting to fade. I touched
his face lightly with my finger. “I guess battle scars come with the territory,
“That’s why I want you to stay home and let me handle this
“What case are you talking about and why can’t I help?”
“Brian Cherry has been charged with the murder of his wife.
Russ is going to handle his defense and I’m going to look into the events
surrounding his case. There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s innocent. From what
I’ve been told, someone broke into his house while he was at work. Brian swears
it was a home invasion and his wife, Vicki, was killed in the process.
Fortunately his infant daughter was unharmed.”
“Ah, they have a little girl?”
“Yes,” Billy replied. “Her name is Maisy. She was named after
her mother’s nanny from way back when.” He looked over at me and smiled. He
kissed me passionately on the lips. His embrace was tender, but firm. “Have I
told you lately that I love you?”
“Yes, many times.” I looked into his warm eyes and saw the
man of my dreams. I couldn’t have made a better choice in men. “I’m so lucky.”
“Why do you say that, `ge ya?”
“Who would have thought that the two of us would’ve made such
a good pair? We’re so different, yet so much alike in many ways.”
“Isn’t that what your people say, that opposites attract?”
“You’ve got to get past this ‘your people’ thing. Now it’s
“Yeah, I guess you’re right.”
“You’re avoiding my question.”
“What question was that?”
I turned to him and stared into his eyes. I pointed my finger
at him and said, “If you think for one minute that I’m going to stay home just
because I’m pregnant, you’ve got another thought coming, mister! You don’t know
me as well as you think.”
“Oh, yes, I do,” he replied. “I have other plans for you, but
I’m not sure you’re the right one for the job. I’m not sure who is. I thought
about talking to my mother, but then realized that I’d better talk to you
“Just spit it out, Billy!”
“Brian’s daughter, Maisy, needs a home for a little while.
She’s with Russ’s mother for the time being, but she needs someone who can care
for her until her father gets out of jail and this mess is cleared up. Russ’s
mother, Madeline, has a bad back and can’t handle it for long. Brian wants a
family member to take her. He doesn’t want her in foster care and I can
understand why. If it were my child…”
“We’re not his family,” I said, shocked at what Billy had
just told me. Silence hung in the air as I realized where this conversation was
going. “I don’t know what to say, Billy.”
“Just tell me what’s going through you mind, and we can
“Why would he ask you to take care of his daughter; he hardly
knows you, and what brought him to you to begin with?”
“Would that be the only concern you have?”
“Hold on. I need to think about this situation for a minute.
This is a serious decision; one that could impact the lives of us all.”
“I realize that,” Billy said. He raised his hand to touch my
“No touching,” I said as I backed up. “That’s not fair.”
“I know you have many questions, Jesse, but this is only
going to be temporary.”
“You say that now, but what happens if Brian Cherry goes to
“It wouldn’t make any difference. Brian Cherry is my cousin,
on my mother’s side. His mother,
is my mother’s sister.”
“Why didn’t you tell me who Brian was right from the start?”
“I was a little busy getting married at the time, if you
“Not to appear crass, Billy, but why doesn’t someone from his
immediate family, like his mother or father, step up to the plate?”
“He does not speak to his father, Eli, and his mother is an
“Doesn’t he have any brothers or…”
“No, he’s the only one. He chose me,” Billy said, proudly.
“As children, we were close, but we have not seen each other for some time.”
My mind raced. There were so many unanswered questions, but
so little time in which to make a decision. Billy needed an answer now. Instead
of analyzing the situation to death, I decided to follow my heart. If this was
what my husband wanted us to do, then we would do it somehow. I looked at him
and said, “You’re asking a lot of me, Billy. I’m inexperienced and I’ll have to
deal with being pregnant and taking care of someone else’s child at the same
time. I’m going to need some help. You know how I am.”
“We will do this together. You have my word as a true
“Okay,” I said, forcing the word out.
“All I have to do is call Russ.”
“Then I guess you’d better call him.”
Billy hugged me and kissed me on my face over and over again.
“You’re so wonderful, `ge ya!”
“Okay,” I said. “You can stop now.”
Billy released me and said, “Your heart is large, `ge ya.”
“I hope you mean that in the rhetorical sense.”
Billy turned and whistled, calling the dogs.
Athena and Thor came running out of the woods, leaving paw
prints in the snow as they reached the front steps. As soon as they were on the
porch, blue flashing lights appeared in the driveway. Seconds later, Sheriff
Wake Hudson and his men walked up on the porch. Sheriff Hudson was carrying a
folded piece of paper in his hand. The word WARRANT stared back at me.
Sheriff Hudson placed the
search warrant in Billy’s hand and said, “I have a warrant to search the
premises. I’m going to have to ask you to come inside and remain with the rest
of the family.” He turned and said to me, “I see your mother is here. Maybe
you’ll get everybody together for me.” He turned back to Billy. “I’m also
going to need to speak to my deputy outside.”
“Sure, sheriff,” Billy responded. “Can you tell me what this
is all about?”
“The warrant is self-explanatory,” a man said as he came up
from behind Sheriff Hudson. He then motioned for his men to enter the house.
“It isn’t my intention to satisfy your curiosity. You can read the warrant for
yourself once you’re inside.” He held up his shield and said, “Detective Frank
Trainum, D.C. Police. Now step inside.”
Detective Trainum was a detestable character—I could feel the
anger he carried. His demeanor was gruff and his attitude obnoxious. I could
tell that he was someone who liked to push his weight around, and he had plenty
of that. His suit was wrinkled and he looked as if he had just crawled out of
bed fully clothed. He was a short, heavy-set man with black, square-shaped
glasses; the lenses so thick that his eyes looked like pinpoints. His belly
protruded past his belt by four inches and his breasts were bigger than mine.
He was in desperate need of a serious weight loss/exercise program. He was a
heart attack in the making, and there was no doubt in my mind that it was going
to happen soon. He also looked as if it wouldn’t take much to send him off the
deep end. He was wound up tighter than a tick on a dog’s butt and appeared
ready to explode any minute. He was so unfit; I was surprised that he was still
on anyone’s police force. Maybe he was close to retirement. Don’t cops have to
pass some kind of yearly physical fitness test? I wondered how fast he could
run, if he had to.
“I’m not going to ask you to step inside again,” Detective
I was about ready to say something back to the nasty
detective, but Billy grabbed me by the arm and led me inside the house before I
had a chance.
“Let’s not make this more difficult than it already is,”
Billy whispered in my ear. “He’s a jerk; there’s always one.”
Detective Trainum’s men had already gathered up the family
and had them seated on the sofa. Mom was holding Benny in her lap, and Carrie
was crying as she clung to her mother. Billy bent down by the fireplace and
held onto Athena’s collar as I sat down on the hearth and did the same thing to
Thor. Cole had stepped outside with Sheriff Hudson.
A full house search ensued. As the detective and his men
riffled through our belongings and every nook and cranny in sight, Thor snarled
and Athena growled. After twenty minutes of confinement, both dogs appeared to
be ready to chew off a leg. Billy and I tried to calm them down. The last thing
we needed was for one of them to get loose and eat Detective Trainum, however
pleasant that thought seemed at the time.
Two of Sheriff Hudson’s deputies stood guard over us as the
police continued their search. I assumed that was what they were doing. I
wasn’t sure since I’d never been the victim of a house search until now.
Billy leaned over as if to read my mind and said, “It’s
protocol; they have to have someone to guard the suspects.”
“Oh, is that what we are?”
“Yes, for the time being.” Billy unfolded the search warrant.
“I don’t believe it! They’re looking for bloody clothes—something to tie me
into the disappearance of Carl Benson.”
Claire was about to say something when Carrie interrupted
her. “Mama, I have to go wee-wee,” she said in between her tears. She jumped
down from her mother’s lap and ran toward the bathroom down the hall.
A ruckus broke out. A five-year-old had stunned the cops by
breaking their cardinal rule of fleeing from the confined group of suspects,
and heading to the bathroom. Two of the cops took off after her, setting off a
barrage of fleeing suspects and dogs to the bathroom.
“Just a minute,” my mother said. She pushed past several of the
cops. “I’ve had just about enough of this! She’s just a little girl who has to
use the bathroom. She has no idea of what’s going on here, so get out of my way
and let me tend to her.” Mom was as mad as a farmer catching a fox in his
henhouse, and she was out for blood. “Back off,” she demanded.
The cops stepped back and let the angry grandmother pass.
“You should be ashamed of yourselves,” she said as she
pointed her finger at each one of them and then slammed the bathroom door.
Sheriff Hudson ushered us back into the living room. “Please
come back and sit down until we’re finished here. Deputy James will stand guard
over the child. He motioned to Cole. Detective Trainum’s men backed away.
Sheriff Wake Hudson is not like the rest of his Greene County
Deputies. They’re tall, muscle-packed men with arms of steel, while he’s not
much bigger than I am. His blond hair is cut short and tapered. He looks like
he weighs about 160 pounds and isn’t one inch taller than 5’ 9", which is
a far cry from his subordinates. Regardless of his size, or lack thereof, he
demands respect. His words carry the weight that he doesn’t. I respected him,
but at the same time, I disliked him. I guess that was because we always seem
to be on the opposite side of the fence. Take away that part of the scenario
and I’d probably like the man, just like Claire had said. His display of
compassion just now with Mom and Carrie made me like him more and more. He was
winning my vote. He didn’t hesitate to stand up for a helpless child and do the
right thing. Yep, I could finally see the good in this man.
A commotion broke out in the laundry room behind the kitchen
and then we heard one of the men call Detective Trainum’s name. Seconds later,
the detective walked back into the living room carrying a large plastic
Zip-Lock bag. The bag contained one of Billy’s shirts, and it was covered in
“Look at what we found hidden behind the washing machine,” he
“It wasn’t hidden,” Billy said. “It probably just fell back
I gasp as I looked over at Billy. Words couldn’t explain how
I felt at that exact moment. I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach
as I released Thor and grabbed for Billy. I put my good arm around him and held
on; hoping that the longer I held on, the sooner this would all go away. Tears
streamed down my face.
“Billy, where… how… how did you get blood all over that
shirt?” I cried. I looked back over at the detective as he waved the bag at us.
The smirk on his face made me want to stab him with a hot fire poker.
“It’s not what you think, Jesse,” Billy said. “I was helping
While Billy was trying to explain the bloody shirt, Thor took
off, jumped up and grabbed the bag from the detective’s hand with his teeth. It
happened so quickly that it left us all dumbfounded. Quick on his feet, Thor
took off, jumped through the cutout in the back door and was gone in a flash.
We all stood with our mouths hanging open as we watched the scene play out.
“Stop that dog!” Detective Trainum yelled as he recovered
from the shock. “Shoot him if you have to. I want that dog stopped.”
“Don’t you dare shoot my dog,” I yelled as I ran up to the
fat detective. I really hated the man now. Anyone who would shoot a dog wasn’t
a decent person. “What’s the worst thing Thor could do… eat the shirt?”
The room fell silent for a second and then the detective
shouted orders to his men as they took off after Thor with a vengeance.
“Get that dog!” the detective shouted as his men flew out the
door. “I want that evidence.” He turned to Billy, his face blood-red. “Billy
Blackhawk, you’re going to have to come to the station with us to answer a few
questions.” Detective Trainum walked out the front door, slamming it as he
Sheriff Hudson turned to Billy and said, “You’ll have to come
with us voluntarily, or I’ll have to place you under arrest.” He motioned for
one of his men to escort Billy.
I cried the whole time.
Sheriff Hudson walked over to me and said, “You might want to
get on the phone as soon as we leave and call Billy’s lawyer. Even though this
is a shared effort between
the CPD and the D.C. Police Department, we’ll take him to the closest
station—that’ll be the Charlottesville Police Department. Try not to be too
upset, Mrs. Blackhawk.” He winked at me and then leaned over close to my ear
and said, “That’s a pretty smart dog you have there.”
I looked up at the sheriff and smiled. “Billy hasn’t done
“I think they’ve jumped the gun on this whole situation,” the
sheriff replied. “All they have is some flimsy circumstantial evidence. I
wouldn’t make an arrest based on what I’ve seen so far. I’d retrieve that shirt
and have it tested first. But it’s not for me to say. I have a job to do. If
you want to go talk to Billy, make it quick.”
“Thanks,” I said to him as I walked over to Billy.
It broke my heart to see Billy standing there defeated,
waiting to be taken off to jail. Yet, I knew he was a proud man, and nothing
was going to beat him.
“Call Russ Shank and have him meet us at the police station,”
Billy said as he leaned down and gave me a kiss. “Don’t worry, `ge ya, this has
been a big mistake. That detective is an idiot.”
I grabbed him with my good arm and held on until the deputy
forced me to let go.
“You can come to the police station, but we have to go now,”
the deputy said just before he led Billy out the front door.
Within a matter of minutes, Detective Trainum and his men had
taken Billy to police headquarters. Sheriff Hudson and Cole were outside for a
long time and then finally, they came back in the house.
Mom, Claire and I stood in the middle of the floor with our
arms around each other, crying. Benny and Carrie hugged their mother and cried
right along with us. Athena sat upright on the floor beside my leg the whole
time. A deep, low snarl came out of her mouth the minute Sheriff Hudson walked
up close to us.
“Okay,” the sheriff said to Athena as he backed up. “I get
the message.” He looked over at Cole and then back to us. “Your house wasn’t
the only one we searched. We had men searching the homes of Billy’s brothers at
the same time. I just got a call that Jonathan Blackhawk has been taken in for
questioning. They found bloodstained clothing at his house. Daniel and Robert
Blackhawk were clean.”
“What about Thor?” I asked. “Did Detective Trainum leave some
men to continue looking for him?”
Sheriff Hudson chuckled slightly. “There’re a few of
Detective Trainum’s men out there still searching for your dog, but I think
it’s a lost cause. Thor’s long gone by now.”
That last statement caught our attention and caused us to
stop crying and begin to laugh.
“I have to admit that was the funniest thing I’ve seen happen
in a long time,” Mom said. “Thor probably saved the day and he doesn’t even
“Oh, I wouldn’t be too certain about that,” Sheriff Hudson said.
“This isn’t the first time that I’ve seen him in action, or heard of his
“That’s right,” Claire added. “Remember when he went after
that Westover guy?”
“Yeah, and he got a big kick in the head for that little
endeavor,” I said. “I thought he was dead for sure. He was a real hero.”
Athena let out a big howl.
I bent down to pat her head. “It’s okay, girl. We know you
would’ve done the same thing if you’d thought of it first.” My words didn’t
seem to soothe her; she continued to growl. She lifted her head, sniffed the
air, and then took off toward the back door. A second later, she returned with
Thor by her side. The bag with the bloody shirt was nowhere in sight.
“Thor, you’re a character,” I said as I kneeled down. “What
did you do with that bag?”
Thor licked at my face and then ambled over to the fireplace
and flopped down. Athena followed him and then did the same thing.
“My guess is,” Sheriff Hudson said, “Detective Trainum will
call in the K-9 unit if his men don’t have any luck. However, I wouldn’t be
surprised if we never see that bag again.”
“I sure hope not,” Mom said as she ushered the kids to the
kitchen. She opened the refrigerator door and started taking stuff out. She
asked Benny and Carrie if they were hungry, and of course they nodded their
“I don’t know if I can eat a thing after all this,” Claire
“Sure you can,” Mom replied. “I started the meatloaf before
the police arrived, so now all I have to do is throw a few potatoes in the
microwave and toss up a salad. It won’t take long. Make sure you tell the
sheriff that Billy didn’t get to eat his dinner. They need to make sure that he
gets something to eat.”
While Mom cooked and kept the kids busy, Claire and Cole sat
down on the sofa and chatted as if they were in a world all their own. I needed
to call Russ, but before I did that, I wanted to pick Sheriff Hudson’s brain
while he was still here. I walked the sheriff outside and tried to see if I
could pry anything out of him.