Read Dark Secrets 2: No Time to Die; The Deep End of Fear Online
Authors: Elizabeth Chandler
Tags: #Murder, #Actors and Actresses, #Problem Families, #Family, #Dysfunctional Families, #Juvenile Fiction, #Family Problems, #Horror Tales; American, #Fiction, #Interpersonal Relations, #Death, #Actors, #Teenagers and Death, #Tutors and Tutoring, #Sisters, #Horror Stories, #Ghosts, #Camps, #Young Adult Fiction; American, #Mystery and Detective Stories
"Except Ashley," Adrian remarked dryly.
"When I pick him up from school, I see the boys playing together and him standing alone."
Adrian sighed. "I've been too caught up in my ridiculous therapy."
"Many children have only one parent and do fine," I assured him. "If you want my opinion—and I'm going to give it to you whether you do or not—I think the problems he has here at home are affecting his ability to get along with other children. I suspect he is acting like an impossible brat at schoollor withdrawing entirely. Either would be a natural response, given the hostile treatment he receives from those who are supposed to be loving family members—Robyn, Trent, and Brook. Mrs. Hopewell doesn't help any."
"You're quite blunt, just as your mother was."
"They're quite nasty, just as they were to Ashley."
I saw the brightness in his eyes—whether it was surprise or amusement, I wasn't sure.
"True enough," he said. "And so you want me to put the leash on them."
Adrian pulled the tab on the FedEx package and shook out a blue-striped envelope, which he slit with a letter opener.
"I can't do that, Kate, though I wish more than anything I could spare Patrick the pain. But it is better for him to go through this while I am still here to keep an eye on it.
"See this?" he waved the blue letter at me. "Someone wants money. They all have heard the enticing news of my cancer." He grimaced. "Every college on the East Coast, every charitable institution, a flock of former employees, and relatives I haven't heard from in years are suddenly interested in making contact with me.
"Perhaps you can understand then that Patrick, as my heir, will need to become tougher, to grow a much thicker skin. He will spend his life dealing with greedy people, many of them his own relatives. He has got to learn how to keep them from getting to him."
"In time," I agreed. "But he's only seven years old."
"And he is doing well enough for a little boy," Adrian replied, "keeping them at bay with this Ashley nonsense. Eventually he will learn to do better than that: He will intimidate them when necessary. And trust me, it
be necessary for Patrick's survival."
I felt helpless. Adrian understood what I was saying, but he believed it called for a different response.
"In the meantime," I said, "why don't you speak to the school counselor? I'm a little surprised the counselor hasn't asked to speak to you."
"She has, but I have no use for her prying and suggestions. One has to look no further than psychologists' children to see that these people don't know what they are doing. Patrick is in a very special situation, one his teacher and the counselor could never understand."
"I think you are wrong," I said.
"Rarely," he replied. "Is there anything else you wish to discuss?"
"Yes. Why did you lie to me about the reason my parents left? You were having my mother investigated for the death of Ashley."
Adrian leaned back in his chair for a moment, as if catching his breath, then moved forward, leaning on the carved arm, looking me directly in the eye.
"As I said, I am rarely wrong, but I was that time, and it shames me. It shames me each time I look at you. Anything else?" he repeated, this time more softly.
"Just one thing. I am very afraid for Patrick."
"So am 1, Kate. So am I."
"But Kate, I
it's frozen," Patrick protested Monday afternoon. He looked longingly out of the schoolroom window. "I can see the ice."
I laughed. Surrounded by tall evergreens, the pond wasn't visible from any window of the house.
"The ice isn't thick enough. Besides, we made a deal. We'll skate at the college rink this evening, but only if you finish your homework."
Patrick sighed. He was failing math and had brought home remedial work from his teacher. It was taking him a long time to complete his subtraction problems. His focus would wander, and he would forget what he had borrowed from the adjacent column. My reminder to write it down only made him angrier.
"All right, shall we work on the next problem?"
He stared at the numbers.
"Can you take seven from five?" I prompted.
He pushed his pencil hard against the paper. The point broke.
"Think it through," I said, calmly handing him a fresh pencil.
He threw it down. "I hate this!" He pushed back his chair, looking pleased when it fell over. Striding around the room, he poked at things, his hand skipping from books to art supplies to a plastic globe, knocking them over. He'd already fidgeted his way through one "time-out"; I doubted another one was going to help, but I also wasn't going to give in to playtime. He needed an activity that was physical as well as mental to work off some energy and help him concentrate. "Let's take a break and try piano." "Piano?" He sounded interested. "Yes, but don't forget that we're going to have to finish these problems if you want to skate."
For the first ten minutes, he seemed intrigued. I taught him the way I remembered Joseph teaching Ashley and me. After numbering the fingers on his right hand with a marker, I called out one to five, and he would practice wiggling them. When I mixed up the order, it became a game for him. Then I assigned five black piano keys to his fingers and called out the numbers again, this time for him to play. He made a mistake. His jaw clenched. "You're doing well. Everyone makes mistakes when learning, and afterward, too. Let's try again. Ready?"
He made another mistake, and I suppose it was one too many that day. He slammed both hands down on the piano. I hate this!" he screamed, jumping off the bench. His arm swept across the top of the piano, knocking off a pile of music books. They were Ashley's, their bindings old and dry. Sheets of music flew everywhere.
"Stop it, Patrick!"
A second pile was thrown to the floor.
"You can forget about skating," I said angrily.
"I hate it! I hate you!" he cried.
Leaning over to pick up the books before he damaged them further, I noticed a pair of black shoes in the doorway. Perfect timing. I straightened up.
"Hello, Mrs. Hopewell."
She nodded stiffly.
"Is there something I can do for you?"
"You can control him," she said. "And if you can't, you should resign."
Patrick gazed up at her wonderingly. For a moment I was speechless. "Well, thank you for clarifying the situation."
Mrs. Hopewell stepped into the room and gazed down at the music sheets, her face grim. Patrick backed against me—I was his best friend again.
"Pick them up," she ordered.
He jutted out his jaw, trying to look defiant, but I could see his little hands shaking. "I will if Kate tell s me," he said.
I almost laughed. Just as she followed Robyn's orders over Emily's, he followed mine over hers. It angered her. A vein on the side of her head, a small blue one close to her hairline, pulsed.
"Let's do it together, Patrick," I suggested.
"He'll do it himself," Mrs. Hopewell said. "You and I have something to talk about."
can talk and pick up at the same time."
"You were at the auction house with Joseph Oakley." She spoke it like a challenge.
"Yes, this morning," I replied. "Here, Patrick, I think this page goes with the book you're holding."
I am tell ing you for your own good, you cannot trust that man."
"Thank you for the advice, Mrs. Hopewell, but I learned not to trust people a long time ago."
"It would be foolish to make any deals with him regarding your father's paintings."
I glanced up from my handful of sheets, surprised. Why would she care? What was it that really vexed her?
She walked over to the window and looked out, her chin raised, surveying the property. "To Joseph Oakley, a fair deal is anything that works out wel for himself." That's not unusual in business." She faced me. "Joseph hasn't the brains to be a businessman. His only skill is whining. He sees himself as a victim of circumstances who deserves whatever he can get his hands on. I hope his view of the Westbrooks will not pervert yours."
I make my own judgments of people," I said, then turned to Patrick. "Let's put these on top of the piano and order them later. Why don't you finish up your math problems, so we can get to the skating rink by five thirty?"
He set aside the papers and dutifully sat down at his worktable.
"Five thirty… today?" Mrs. Hopewell asked. "He is scheduled for dinner."
"I spoke with Emily. She gave me permission to take him skating from five thirty to seven."
"But you must clear it with me," the woman insisted. "Everything that goes on in this house is cleared through me."
"It is? How long has that been the rule?"
"Since Mr. Westbrook divorced his first wife."
"I see. Then perhaps you can help me."
The firm line of her mouth told me that she had no intention of helping, but I gestured toward the hall, counting on her desire to know what everyone was doing. After a moment she followed me, and I closed the door behind us.
"Mrs. Hopewell, what do you remember about the day Ashley died?"
Her short eyelashes flicked. "Good employees do not gossip about their employers' personal business."
"It's my business too," I pointed out, "since my mother was investigated for the death."
"This sounds like Joseph's nonsense. You're a fool to believe him."
"Adrian confirmed it."
Not a muscle moved in her face, but her hands tensed.
"Where were you that day, when we were looking for Ashley's rabbit?"
"What an absurd question to ask! How would I remember?"
"How could you forget?" I replied. "It was a rather dramatic day. Where was Robyn?"
The woman's thick fingers curled into her palms. "There is no reason I would know that."
"You just told me everything is cleared through you. Even if you didn't know beforehand, I am sure you pursued the details afterward."
The blue vein again, pulsing like a warning light before a structure blows.
"That's why you came here, isn't it," she said, "to stir up the past, to pry into matters that were settled long ago. I knew you meant trouble."
"Then you're prophetic, Mrs. Hopewell, for I came simply to return a ring to Adrian."
"But you gave me such a difficult time," I continued, I had to devise an excuse to get inside the house and see him. I decided I liked my excuse—it would be interesting to work here. Since then, I have discovered some unsettling things about the time when Ashley was alive. I have remembered a few things as well."
"Things such as what?"
"You didn't like Ashley," I went on. "Why? Were you jealous, as Robyn was? Perhaps it bothered you that you couldn't control Ashley."
"I controlled that child better than anyone," she said between her teeth.
"You tried," I replied, "but she wasn't afraid of you. She wasn't afraid of anyone or anything."
Mrs. Hopewell's flat voice chilled. "Only the foolish and the dead have no fear."
"As proven by Ashley, who ended up dead," I replied.
I knew she was warning me, hoping that fear would keep me from prying into family secrets. Unfortunately for Mrs. Hopewell, when I become afraid I find it unbearable to pull the covers over my head. No, I am the kind who, when frightened, must open the closet door.
My rental skates had blades as blunt as butter knives. Not that it mattered—Patrick and I weren't going to be ice dancing anytime soon. He had been given a beautiful pair of skates at Christmas, but the time to take him skating was something no one in the family could seem to afford. He had never been on the ice, and his legs went every which way but forward.
After ten minutes of brave effort he hung on to the side of the rink like an exhausted swimmer hanging on to a pool wall. "This is kind of hard, Kate."
"I know. Everything is at first. Rest a moment and, when you're ready, we'll try again."
I needed the break as much as he. I had made Patrick wear thick pants, knee pads, and a padded snow jacket, which had protected him from the tumbles we had taken. But I, dressed in thin, stretchy pants and a sweater, was starting to feel like a mashed frozen vegetable.
Fortunately, there were few people using the rink that evening. The guy who had stamped our hands had said the college was on spring break. The high school team moved off the ice at 5:30, and the college team didn't practice until 7:15. I had dawdled a bit, reading athletic plaques aloud to Patrick, to make sure we didn't run into Sam. My anger had faded with the phone call this morning. Having learned since then that Mr. Koscinski had had a legitimate reason to suspect my mother, I was embarrassed.
"Ready," Patrick announced.
"Take my hand," I said. "Remember, push, glide, push, glide."
He faltered, then surprised me, all at once figuring it out. He had his balance, and we were moving steadily forward.
"I'm doing it!" he shouted.
"Good! Keep it going. Push, glide. Easy now. Easy!" I warned.
With a burst of confidence, Patrick took off, dragging me by the hand. Suddenly, he discovered his feet weren't under him. His arms rotated like propellers. I reached forward to steady him, and we went down in a heap.
"Are you all right?"
He nodded. "I guess I went too fast."
"You guess right."
He scrambled halfway up on his feet, then fel back down. "The wall's too far away," he complained. We had been using it to pull ourselves up.
"Okay. Let me stand first."
But before I was all the way up, he pulled on me, eager to get going. I lost my footing and came crashing down with him.
Others skaters laughed.
"Patrick, you must wait," I said, attempting to rise again.
Something in him just couldn't. We landed on the ice once more.
"I didn't mean it!"
"I know, but you must listen to me." I rubbed my backside and glanced around the rink. At that moment, my body hurt a lot more than my pride. "Why don't we crawl to the wall," I suggested. "Come on, make like a dog."
Patrick thought that was funny, and barked and crawled. I reached the wall first and pulled myself up.
Sam. He was sitting in the first row, his arms draped casually over the seatbacks, his school pack on one side, his skates and sports bag on the other.
"Sam, you're here!" Patrick said joyfully, using me and the wall to pull himself up. "Guess what, I'm skating!
"Is that what that is. And what is Kate doing?" Sam asked.
"She's teaching me. Want to skate with us?"
Sam glanced at his watch.
"I'm sure he's too busy, Patrick."
"Are you?" Sam replied. "Do you know my schedule?"
"Wel no, of course not," I sputtered. "I simply didn't want you to feel as if you had to."
I never feel as if I
to do something," he said, then laughed at himself. "I'm cool. Here's the situation. I've got a pile of homework, but I'm waiting for Dion." He pointed to a guy skating backward on the ice. "He was late today. Coach assigned him laps. So, maybe I can give you a few pointers, Patrick"—he glanced at me uncertainly—"or maybe not."
For Patrick, this was better than Christmas. "That would be very nice," I said.
Sam slipped the plastic guards from his skates, then pulled them on. His sweater sleeves were pushed up, revealing the muscles in his forearms. I watched his strong fingers as he quickly laced his skates. He glanced up, and I turned away.
"Do you want me to stay around for the lesson?" I asked, when Sam had stepped onto the ice. His shoulders were huge, even without the hockey padding. Patrick gawked up at him.
Sam studied my face. "You don't want to."
I thought it might be easier without me."
Sam smiled; he didn't believe the excuse.
"Call if you need me," I said, pushing off quickly, aware of the heat in my cheeks.
For the first five laps I skated looking straight ahead, but when I thought they had forgotten about me, I stopped to watch from a distance. Patrick listened intently to Sam, taking in every word. I laughed to myself when his little-boy arms gestured the same way Sam's did, imitating even the non skating moves. How could a guy resist a child who so adored him?
Sam squatted next to Patrick and adjusted the position of his feet for the hundredth time. Patrick skated, began to turn, and took a spill. Tears started—from frustration, I thought, rather than hurt. Sam crouched down again. He talked to Patrick, holding his face in his hands. How could a girl resist a guy who was so tender with a child?
Skate, Kate, I told myself, and moved my legs faster, as if I could give my thoughts and feelings the slip. Dion, making his laps, caught my eye and flashed me a smile. I wondered about Sam's friends, who they were, what they did, what kind of girls he dated. I skated on and tried to think about other things, focusing my attention on the talk show that was being broadcast over the college's radio station.
"Is there anyone here named Kate?"
I looked quickly to the right. Sam had caught up with me. "Sorry, were you talking to me? Where's Patrick?" I asked, spinning on my skates, looking for my charge.
"He's okay. Dion's taking care of him."
I skated more slowly, checking out the situation across the rink.
Sam matched my strides. "So how's it going?"