Saturday, June 27, 2015

Chapter 10


 

Chapter Ten

 

The sun was sinking low in the sky and there was a warm, golden hue on the horizon by the time Grace finally looked up from her reading. Time seemed to stand still as she visited her mother’s past; written in her own hand. She had poured over page after page; each one telling a small but not inconsequential part of her troubled and, at times, desperately unhappy life that was cut short much too soon; thought her daughter as she absorbed her mother’s words and took in her mother’s scent; still lingering on many items stored in the old trunk. It was bittersweet for Grace; her being able to feel her mother’s pain that was so evident in her writing; providing a great deal of insight into what may have led to her fateful decision to end her own life; yet missing her terribly at the same time.

Her mother had not been the perfect parent and everyone knew it, especially her, but the short time she had with her had not been filled only with bad memories and hurt. There had been good times as well; times that she would not have traded for anything; times that she cherished. And as any child with a mother knows, no matter how many bad or selfish decisions they might make along the way, it is still his or her mother and that is a bond that is clearly formed by nature as well as nurture. Many times throughout her life she loved and hated her mother, Vivienne, both at the same time. She cursed her and missed her all in the same breath when she was gone. And she had always felt an overwhelming need to know her; and know the reason she decided that fateful night to walk to the barn and hang herself with a noose made from an old, dirty braided rope; ending her pain for good. Her mother was the one that had to find her swinging from one of the wooden rafters.

It was getting late and she was sure Jesse must be wondering where she was. He was already at work by the time she received the call from the cleaning crew and in her excitement she had forgotten all about leaving him a note. She was a little surprised he hadn’t called her, but figured he didn’t want to bother her in case she was visiting Adrienne or somehow dealing with what was happening to what was left of her family; unsure if she may have had a change of heart and visited her uncle in the county jail.

Grace took out her phone and gave him a quick call; letting him know where she had been and that she was heading back to his house in a few minutes. She couldn’t wait to tell him everything; that she no longer felt like she had just lost the only real home she ever had; that she had spent the day getting to know her mother again and all the awful things that had happened in her life – as well as all the good ones she had read about.  He sounded truly happy for her and told her he couldn’t wait to hear every word.

They had a late dinner and talked for hours; Grace for the first time feeling a little more relaxed than stressed and exhausted. She was beginning to resign herself to the fact that the police probably had the right man in custody; that her uncle plausibly was responsible for taking her grandmother so suddenly from her life and for Adrienne lying in that hospital room in a coma. It was a strange feeling, she thought; her not even being angry anymore, but only sad and longing for understanding. What relationship she would have with Caroline now that Chris was probably going to be taken out of the equation she wasn’t certain. No decisions of any kind were going to be made that night; of that she was sure.

When she finally came up for air it was quite late and she was ready for a good night’s sleep; something she had not had for a long time now. She stayed at Jesse’s house for the last time before moving back into Genevieve’s house; just she and her sidekick, Casey. Being mentally and physically spent, she imagined a night of sound sleep, but just like last night and the night before, her dreams were visited by visions of her grandmother. Grace knew these dreams were not just dreams caused by the stress under which she had been. These dreams meant something. Her Gram was trying to tell her something; and it seemed to her that it must not have anything to do with what happened to her or catching who did it. The police had her killer already, so what was she still trying to say? she puzzled over. What was so important that she could not see yet? If the dreams were about holding Chris accountable for her death and Adrienne’s injuries, then why was she still having them? she kept asking herself. There was something more her grandmother needed her to know and she for the life of her couldn’t think of what that could be.

Even without a sound night’s sleep, she was able to face the new day with a renewed sense of purpose. Though it was difficult to imagine what the lessen she was supposed to learn from all of this could be, she was beginning to look ahead toward the future; the future that seemed impossible to picture at all two days before. Jesse took the day off work and went to Genevieve’s house with her to start transforming it back into the home it used to be; in times past when she and her best friend – and her cousin – had their whole lives ahead of them. It was time to breathe new life into the old house, too; take down the heavy curtains shutting her grandmother off from the world outside and let in the light again. Grace didn’t want to spend another day thinking about what could have been; instead wanting to imagine what could be now; living in the present. She knew she was far from having all the answers she sought, but at least she was finally on her way.

The two best friends even found themselves forgetting for a few moments here and there all the bad things that had been happening around them; long enough to find some fun with the job of opening up the old house; long enough even to laugh. There were no interruptions, no delivering of bad news; no phone calls from the detective and no trips to the police station today. The only time Grace’s phone rang at all was when Caroline had the funeral director call her to inform her that Genevieve’s funeral would be the following day; with a viewing that evening…the call she hadn’t had the guts to place herself; having made cursory funeral arrangements at the last minute. Not that her niece could blame her. Maybe none of this was her fault at all, but even if that were the case, there were still a lot of reasons Grace had not to want her aunt in her life.

There was a visit to the hospital to check on Adrienne and tell her everything that had happened in the last twenty-four hours, give or take. No small miracles took place this day, but that didn’t shake her faith in her cousin’s recovery. Nothing was going to stop her from doing whatever she could to bring her Addie back to her and whatever she could to bring peace to both of their lives. She told her cousin to hold on to her voice and pleaded with her to feel her touch; for she would be with her every day until she was ready to come back to the world.

She chose not to attend the viewing for Genevieve; partly because she didn’t want to remember her that way – lying in a casket with makeup to mimic the blood that had given color to her face in life; and partly because she wasn’t ready to face having to put her in the ground until she absolutely had to face it. She took the night to say good-bye to her Gram her way; almost wishing sleep and tomorrow would never come. Somewhere between falling asleep and the next morning, she again had the same dreams she had been plagued with in previous nights. And still, Grace had no idea what her grandmother was trying to tell her; why she was trying to tell her or warn her and what about.

The next morning, the morning of the funeral, was a grey, cloudy, and unseasonably cool day; with the threat of a storm looming in the distance. Grace had chosen a simple black dress with three-quarter length sleeves and a straight skirt that hung just below her knees with a pair of plain, black sandals that had sashes that tied around her ankles almost like ballet shoes. She was actually amazed at the turnout for Genevieve’s funeral. The impression she had always gotten was that not too many people – particularly women – took a shine to her grandmother. What she really thought was that the female townspeople ostracized her out of jealousy, as she was a striking beauty in her day; and possibly decided to avoid her altogether because they didn’t have the strength that she had to be exactly who she was and nothing less. Genevieve had never cared what anyone but her husband and family thought about her; least of all bored housewives with not enough substance to fill their days and not enough sense even to realize it.

The service was held in a beautiful old, stone chapel with stained-glass windows depicting scenes from the bible allowing the light to spill in softly; every piece of colored glass arranged carefully and soldered together by hand with care and precision. This was far from Grace’s first time visiting this church; though she never remembered it being quite so breathtaking. The pastor, Mark Royerson, delivered Genevieve’s eulogy with genuine feeling and seemed to move people she never would have expected to be moved by anything said about her grandmother; even under these circumstances. She was actually happy to be proven wrong about what she thought of the townspeople in this instance.

A light mist began to fall when they reached the gravesite and she couldn’t help but think that her Gram would have approved. One of the best scents in life, she always said, was the smell of a lightly falling rain on a cool spring day. The rain continued through the reading of the last prayer; until the last rose had been placed on the casket. And when that happened, the skies dried up quickly and the most beautiful rainbow appeared, its colors curving through the air; forming the perfect arch. She hoped that it was Genevieve letting her know that she would rest for eternity among all the vibrant colors and fragrant fields of Heaven; watching over her even in death.

Detective Scheffield attended the funeral to pay his respects, but his day didn’t end there. There was still plenty of work to be done on the case. Though the police were – with the exception of the detective – fairly satisfied that they had the right culprit safely locked away, there were still other possibilities that had to be ruled out, more questions to seek the answers to, and a successful case to be made. It was far more difficult to convict someone of murder than it was to charge and detain him or her. Since nearly every piece of evidence they had collected was circumstantial, the road ahead would be bumpy for the prosecution’s case.

Because the only possible eye-witness to and victim of the crime was not able to fill them in on the information they were lacking, they thought it best to start by figuring out how to prove to the jury during the trial who it wasn’t – who didn’t commit the crime; rather than bear the burden of only trying to prove who it was. Now the police and the prosecution were working together to discover how they could achieve that goal. One of the things the Assistant District Attorney, Leigh McMaster, a young, but confident woman, wanted to clear up was whether or not anyone else was complicit in the crime. Of course they wanted to take a very close look at Caroline Devereaux; as she was his wife and the closest person to him. But Matt Scheffield believed and expressed that their time would also be well spent taking a look at Herbert Mullins’ possible involvement in or knowledge of what happened that morning at ‘Devereaux Downs’. He was hiding something and it was something about Genevieve. He was sure of it. He just had no idea what it was.

Rather than have the detective or anyone else simply having another go at interrogating them, everyone agreed that doing their best to coerce both into taking a polygraph exam would probably save them time and spare them the headache of repeating the same questions over and over; and of having to gauge with their own radars who was telling the truth or telling a lie. Caroline was the first one they hauled back down to the station and, to their pleasant surprise, she readily agreed to submit to the polygraph. So either she truly had no knowledge or involvement…or she stupidly thought she could pass the test; that she was a good enough liar to fool the machine.  Detective Scheffield was of the mind that it was the former, not the latter.

Caroline looked around nervously as she was ushered into a small room in which the polygraph machine had been set up; only this one had glass through which she could see outside the room and no lock on the door. That apparently did little to soothe her nerves as she was introduced to the polygraph examiner, Stewart Setterling; a tall, thin man with kind brown eyes and a soft-spoken voice. She sat down in the chair when she was asked to and he hooked her up to the device; which in and of itself is kind of daunting; even to an innocent person.

The first thing the examiner had to do was establish a baseline, so they know how the needles on the polygraph react when the subject is telling the truth. This is done by asking a series of questions that any normal person would be able to recall instinctively; such as answering yes when asked, “Is your name____?” and other questions to which one would answer in the affirmative honestly. These questions are mixed in with others to which one would answer in the negative honestly like “Do you live in France?” or something of that nature that is blatantly untrue. No specific questions about the case are asked until this baseline is established. That way, if the needle reacts differently and more aggressively on specific questions, the examiner will know that the subject is lying.

With Caroline strapped securely in the chair, facing away from the polygraph examiner, he asked his first question of her, “Is your name Caroline Devereaux?” to which her answer was of course yes. His next, “Do you live in Aurora?”

“Yes.” she stated.

“Is the year 1998?” he asked watching the needles carefully as she delivered her answers.

“No.” (Caroline)

“Is your name Caroline Devereaux?” (examiner)

“Yes.” (Caroline)

“Is the current president Barack Obama?” (examiner)

“Yes.” (Caroline)

“Are you wearing a red skirt?” (examiner)

“No.” (Caroline)

“Are we in the state of North Carolina?” (examiner)

“Yes.” (Caroline)

“Is your name Tina Smith?” (examiner)

“No.” (Caroline)

“Is your name Caroline Devereaux?” (examiner)

“Yes.” (Caroline)

With that he was satisfied he had established the baseline and marked that section of the paper off; moving on to the next phase of the test. By the time he was done with the testing he would be assured of when she was telling the truth and when she was telling a lie; if she made the decision to lie. Though it was not proof of innocence or guilt and not admissible in a court of law as evidence, the polygraph was a fairly reliable tool for separating the innocent from the guilty.

After a thirty second break so Mr. Setterling could make some notes on the continuously running roll of paper, he began with, “Is your name Caroline Devereaux?” to which of course her answer was again yes.

“Do you live in Aurora?” (examiner)

“Yes.” (Caroline)

“Do you know who killed Genevieve Devereaux?” (examiner)

“No.” (Caroline)

“Did you shoot Adrienne Devereaux?” (examiner)

“No.” (Caroline)

“Is the year 2025?” (examiner)

“No.” (Caroline)

“Did you shoot Genevieve Devereaux?” (examiner)

“No.” (Caroline)

“Do you know who killed Genevieve Devereaux?” (examiner)

“No.” (Caroline)

“Is your name Caroline Devereaux?” (examiner)

“Yes.” (Caroline)

“Did you shoot Adrienne Devereaux?” (examiner)

“No.” (Caroline)

“Do you know who shot Adrienne Devereaux?” (examiner)

“No.” (Caroline)

“Is the current president Barack Obama?” (examiner)

“Yes.” (Caroline)

This line of questioning continued until he was satisfied he had enough reading on when she had answered yes and when she had answered no. Then the test was repeated two more times, with short breaks in between. Caroline was unhooked from the apparatus at the end of the third round of testing; looking quite relieved to be free of the constraints and out of the hot seat, figuratively speaking. She was ushered into a separate interrogation room by an officer; to await the results collected and analyzed by Stewart Setterling.

After close, careful scrutiny he informed Detective Scheffield that he believed Caroline to be telling the truth on all questions asked; the official result recorded as ‘no deception indicated’. Honestly, the detective was not surprised by the results. He didn’t really believe her husband was the guilty party, either. He definitely didn’t think she had any knowledge of or involvement in the crime. Of course there was always the chance that he was wrong about Chris Devereaux and he was guilty after all. It wouldn’t be the first time he had been wrong and certainly wouldn’t be the last if he was indeed wrong. He took the results up to Brady Peterson to sign off on for him to put in the case file and forget about. Then he cut Caroline Devereaux loose. To his astonishment, she left the police station directly when she could have stayed and visited her incarcerated husband. Strange, he thought. Perhaps she believed him to be guilty, too, and simply couldn’t face him.

The next victim in line for the polygraph was Mr. Herbert Mullins, Genevieve’s closest neighbor. Apparently there had been more than one report filed in the past regarding heated arguments between the two neighbors which, oddly enough, never once involved Genevieve’s husband, Jonathan. It appears that, whatever it was they were fighting about, he stayed out of it. No actual violence or assault occurred due to these sessions, but they were hot-headed enough to need officers to break it up.

Detective Scheffield was again surprised when Mr. Mullins readily agreed to the test. The examination was carried out in the same fashion as with Caroline Devereaux; Herbert seeming a lot less nervous than she had, though. Maybe he submitted to it in an attempt to exorcize some of his old demons, the detective thought after hearing the results collected by the polygraph examiner, because he didn’t seem the least bit shocked when he was told he failed on a few of the questions. There was no deception indicated on every question pertaining to the shootings, however there was on every question regarding his knowledge of anyone having some sort of issue or disagreement with Genevieve.

He was ushered into one of the interrogation rooms by an officer; the detective entering a few minutes later and taking a seat in the only other chair in the room; the one directly across the table from Mr. Mullins. The look on his face was one of resignation; him appearing to accept the fact that his deep, dark secrets were going to be brought out into the light. The old man thought to himself, what does it matter anymore? The people who would have been the most hurt by this weren’t even alive anymore.

“Mr. Mullins. May I call you Herbert?” the detective said in greeting.

“Sure, I suppose.” answered Herbert.

“You failed on some questions, but I think you already know that. Why don’t you just get it all out in the open, Herbert?” he asked the old man, “We know you had nothing to do with the shootings, so how bad could the truth actually be?”

“All right, all right.” he agreed, “I’ll tell you what you want to know. I don’t know what you’re thinkin’, but it ain’t got nothing to do with killin’ nobody.”

“Okay. So what does it have to do with?” questioned Detective Scheffield; his curiosity peaked, wondering what the story was he was about to hear.

“Genevieve’s daughter? You know, the one that killed herself a long time back?” Herbert began; the detective now extremely interested in what the man had to say; nodding his head in agreement, “She wasn’t Jonathan Devereaux’s daughter.” he explained.

“Yeah?” prodded the detective, “Whose daughter was she?”

“Mine. She was mine. My daughter.” Herbert admitted; sadness evident in his voice, “I was the girl’s real Daddy. We never told nobody; surely not Jonathan. It was something…it wasn’t that we was in love or nothin’. It was just a mistake. A terrible mistake and we both regretted it after.” he continued, “The reason we was always fightin’ was that I wanted that girl, my Vivienne, in my life. Anyone if they really looked close could see that girl belonged to me; same blue eyes, same wavy hair. I don’t know how Jonathan never seen it. I think he just didn’t wasn’t to ‘cause he loved that girl like she was his own. But that boy, Christopher, he knew somehow – the two kids was always fightin’ about it. He seen an opportunity to make trouble for my girl and he took it. He hated more than anything that his Daddy loved that girl so much. He had threatened his Momma; sayin’ he was gonna tell Jonathan a few times, but he never did. He just took his hurt out on my daughter. No wonder she felt so lost.”

Detective Scheffield sat quietly, taking it all in. He decided he was simply going to let the old man keep talking until he ran out of words. He deserved some sort of vindication after all those years of torment – keeping such a painful secret, he thought. It must have hurt him deeply to know that he had to lie for all those years…to Genevieve’s husband and to his wife as well. To have his beautiful daughter so close yet so far away and untouchable for so long must have been torture; like dangling a carrot in front of a rabbit, only to pull it away before they are able to take hold.

Herbert Mullins talked for a long time, spilling every detail he thought people ought to know. The detective could plainly see the weight come off the poor man’s shoulders as he unloaded all of his long kept secrets. When he was finished, Matt Scheffield thanked him for telling the truth and informed him that he was free to go; that he was no longer considered a suspect in the crime; that the police believed he had no knowledge of or involvement in the murder and attempted murder. Mr. Mullins walked out of the police station a different man; no longer so bitter and hurt, but somehow finally beginning to heal from his deep, emotional wounds.

Night was starting to fall; the wonderful pinks, blues and yellows of the sunset visible. This was to be the first night Grace would spend the night at her grandmother’s house since the Friday night before the shootings. She had not felt completely comfortable with the idea of being all alone in the big, empty house that first night, so Jesse had volunteered to stay there with her for the night; or however long she needed him to stay before she felt confident staying there by herself. He had told her she was more than welcome to stay at his house for as long as she needed to – if she needed to, but she put on a brave face and told him this was just something she had to do; to be able to get through this awful tragedy…she needed to go home again.

The two friends got take-out for dinner; satisfyingly greasy burgers and fries. After dinner, they decided to polish off a bottle of red wine Genevieve had corked in the kitchen. Neither one of them wanted to admit it, but they were both a little spooked by the big, old house with all its creaks and groans. The last time they had been alone in this house they were ten years old. Grace’s grandmother had always been there to explain away all the bumps in the night; making her feel better. Now there would be no soothing and no explanations; only the quiet house – empty except for the two of them.

Jesse couldn’t bring himself to sleep in Genevieve’s or Adrienne’s bed, so he decided to hunker down on the sofa; as he had been doing at his house for the last three nights. He and Grace got ready for bed and said their goodnights; him retiring to the living room sofa and her to her bedroom. She and Casey got comfortable in the nice, soft bed and both fell asleep quickly. Casey had been acting a bit strangely since being brought back to the house, but her mistress hadn’t really noticed; being so busy keeping herself from being nervous or afraid. Generally she would have paid attention to her dog’s sensitivity because it almost always meant she was trying to tell her owner something important, but not this night. Looking back later, she would wish that she had noticed.

It was close to 1:00am the first time Grace was awoken by a low growl from her dog, followed by a whine. Again she had been dreaming of Genevieve and whatever it was she was trying to tell her. Only tonight, sleeping at home instead of at her friend’s house, every dream was a thousand times more vivid. Still there was only her mouth trying to form the words, but no sound coming out. She appeared to be mouthing the same words that she had over and over in her granddaughter’s dreams, “Look up. It’s above you.” Again she looked as if she were in her own house; standing at the top of the staircase, yet being pulled backwards by the same invisible force. And once again Grace could never manage to reach the top; a new step appearing for each one she climbed.

She thought maybe Casey woke her up because she had to go outside, so she rolled out of the bed sleepily and took her downstairs and out the back door like she always did when she stayed in this house. Though she was only half awake, she did take note of her dog growling as they walked up the few steps to the door and went back inside. The dog actually tugged her in the opposite direction; as if the dog were just as irrationally afraid as she was staying here. They passed Jesse in the living room on their way back upstairs and he was still fast asleep; not disturbed at all by whatever noise the two may have made going outside and coming back in.

They both retired again to her bedroom and both fell asleep as soon as they laid down their heads. She entered the next dream right where she had left off in the last one, trying a little harder each time to understand what her grandmother meant to tell her and why it seemed so important to her that her granddaughter make sense of it all. Then about two and a half hours later, she was awakened one more time by a low growling from her dog sleeping in the bed with her. This time, she actually heard what sounded like the creaking of a wooden floor when someone walks across a soft spot, but it sounded like it came from above her; not beside or below her where a person could have actually been walking. Above her there shouldn’t be anything but the empty space between the rafters holding up the roof.

“Grace, it’s just the house settling. Stop freaking out.” she said aloud to herself, “Go back to sleep. You’re only scared because you’ve never stayed here alone without Gram. Jesse is right downstairs if you need him.”

With that she laid back down, but sleep didn’t come as quickly as it had twice before. This time she remained awake for a while; just lying in bed listening for any more noises in the night. Eventually she fell back to sleep; not waking up again until morning. There were no more bumps or groans that she heard, yet she was still thankful to see the morning sun streaming in through her bedroom windows; putting an end to the darkness.    

Grace and Jesse had a light breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast, and coffee; the only things they could really find among the bare cupboards and the empty refrigerator. Genevieve had always been the one to make sure there was food in the house and she was no longer here to do that. After breakfast, Jesse went off to work and she stayed at the house by herself; still having much to do in the way of cleaning and restoring the house to what it once was. She was surprised that, even with the safety of the daylight, she still felt quite spooked; now being completely alone in the house except for her dog.

She cleaned Adrienne’s room and put fresh sheets on the bed; convincing herself that her cousin would eventually be back home at their Gram’s to sleep on them. She did the same in Genevieve’s room; though she would not be coming back – not now, not ever. After putting in several hours of cleaning and restoration, she sat down in the living room to take a break. She thought it very strange, but Casey didn’t seem to want to go upstairs without her right by her side. Maybe it was her Gram’s ghost still lingering in her house, she thought jokingly, then realized that it might be possible that her analysis was correct. She had visited her every night in her dreams and wanted to deliver some important message. Maybe she was still hanging around; not at rest until Grace understood what she was desperately trying to make her understand, she mused; thinking that animals are more sensitive to that sort of thing than people are to it. They can often times sense a presence that a person standing right beside them cannot.

For the time being, she put all these thoughts out of her head and decided to focus on something else for a while; thoughts of Gram’s ghost in the house sending a shiver down her spine. In all she had been doing at her grandmother’s house and in discovering her mother’s belongings and her journals, she had completely forgotten about another potentially important object that she had in her possession, Adrienne’s diary. She recalled the disturbing entry about how ‘He’ was forcing her to keep a terrible secret; whatever that could be. She supposed that it was time to turn it over to Detective Scheffield; as it could possibly help him with the case. There may not be any way to find out what her words truly meant without Adrienne herself explaining their meaning, Grace understood, but maybe, until then, in some small way it could help.  She took a shower and got herself ready to go visit her cousin in the hospital; deciding she would drop the diary off at the police station on her way over; explaining that she had just discovered it in going through her grandmother’s house the previous day. A small white lie; one with which Grace was prepared to live.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Chapter 9


Chapter Nine

 

Today, Grace got her wish; about seeing Adrienne alone; without the prying eyes and ears of her Uncle Chris and Aunt Caroline. She had called the hospital that afternoon to check on her cousin’s condition. The nurse she spoke with told her that there had been a subtle change; in that the swelling inside her head, putting too much pressure on her brain, had begun to lessen. Adrienne was still in a coma, but now it actually appeared that she could possibly be on the road to recovery. It meant that her odds of coming out of the coma just increased drastically. Not exactly a miracle, thought Grace, though it did give her more hope; something she was sorely lacking in the last few days. The nurse told her something else as well…that her aunt and uncle had left to go to the police station with Detective Scheffield. She didn’t even stop to think about what the implications of that could be; all she could think about was getting to the hospital quickly.

Jesse had not gotten home from work yet, so she left him a note again; letting him know that she would be back by dinner time. It was impossible for her to move back into her grandmother’s house that night, so she would be sleeping at his house again. She had decided to heed the detective’s advice and hire a professional crew to come in and clean up the remaining blood – on the floor, the walls, the ceiling, and even the banister on the stairs; not a job that she wished to tackle. And that was only downstairs. After careful thought, she had realized that if she did attempt to take care of it herself then that blood, that is the first picture that would pop into her head every time she thought about Genevieve…and Adrienne, too, if she didn’t pull through.

She arrived at the hospital and followed the same path she had taken with the nurse, Julia, the last time she was here. Something about simply walking into the ICU unit made her a little uneasy; sometimes thinking about things like having to watch a dead body being removed from there to take to the morgue downstairs because the person had died while she was visiting. All sorts of morbid thoughts were running through her mind. She pushed open the door to her cousin’s room slowly, irrationally afraid she would see her family sitting there after all. But there was no one. No one except young, beautiful Adrienne; who at the moment didn’t look so beautiful.

Grace walked over to a chair that had been placed close to the head of the bed and sat down. The first thing she did was take her cousin’s hand in her own; having an idea that she knew was a long shot, but could possibly work. She planned to ask her yes or no questions only, then ask her to squeeze her hand once for yes and twice for no. In reality, she knew her plan probably wouldn’t work, but what was it hurting to try? she asked herself. There was nothing else she could do; no other way to know if she was still in there, if she could hear her when she spoke or if her cousin was already gone.

Tears began to stream down her pretty face as she started to speak, “Addie, it’s me. It’s Grace. So much has happened so fast and I’m not sure what the truth is anymore. I really need your help, Addie. I need you to come back to me now. Please.” she said, pausing for a moment to see if there was any change; any small thing that could provide a ray of hope. “I’m holding your hand and I want you to do something for me. Okay? I’m going to ask you some questions and I want you to squeeze my hand once for yes, or twice for no. Can you do that for me? she asked, looking at her face to see if she could see a hint of her cousin inside the shell that was her body. She also waited for a second to see if she could feel any pressure on her hand, yet she felt nothing at all; and Adrienne remained still, her eyes closed. “Do you know who did this to you?” she begged of her, but again there was nothing; no response, no change of expression in her facial features. “Addie, please. I need for you to hear me. I know you can hear me in there.” trying desperately to believe the last statement as she spoke it.

It was obvious she was getting nowhere with trying to get a response from her cousin, though she did believe there was a chance she could hear her. She wasn’t willing to give up on that; especially with no evidence to the contrary. So she simply kept talking; sometimes telling Adrienne what happened to Genevieve and what happened to her; sometimes asking her questions. It felt good just to get it all off her chest honestly. She hadn’t been talking to Jesse about her feelings very much; there being so much self-imposed stress and tension over his guilt or innocence.

Grace talked to her cousin for at least an hour straight; telling her everything. She told her about her uncertainty about her best friend, how awful it felt losing their grandmother, and regarding her fears surrounding moving back into Genevieve’s house…alone for the first time. Anything that popped into her head within that hour, she told Adrienne. For the entire hour, she noticed no change in her whatsoever; she hadn’t squeezed her hand, or made a facial expression, or opened her eyes. Then, just as she was beginning to give up hope, she felt something. She had asked again if she knew who did this to her and began to notice movement under the white sheet covering her; a slight stirring. So she asked once more and she could swear she felt her cousin put a very slight amount of pressure on her hand one time; so lightly she almost didn’t feel it. Excitement started to mount in her and her adrenaline started pumping; happily thinking that it was possible that she could hear people speaking to her after all; and that maybe there was a chance her soul was still in there; just waiting for her body to catch up with her mind.

Running into the hallway like a crazed person, she went looking for anyone; the first nurse or orderly or anyone she could find to tell about Adrienne. She was stopped by a male nurse coming out of the room next to her cousin’s; him looking at her like she was insane.

“Addie…my cousin…room 214!” she squealed, “She squeezed my hand! I asked her to answer me and she squeezed my hand!” she practically screamed at the poor man.

                                  

He pulled out a small two-way radio and called the doctor to tell him of her claims so he could come up and examine Adrienne, explaining what Grace had told him. Then he walked swiftly over to her room and in to see for himself what was happening; if anything at all. He examined her limp body; opening her eyelids with his fingers and shining a light on them to see if her pupils responded, checking all her vital signs and going through the normal process of elimination to see if any significant change had taken place. After a couple of minutes, the doctor arrived; basically doing all the same things the nurse had done. The only test he performed that the nurse didn’t was to test her reflexes, which appeared to be getting better, according to the doctor. He tried as well to get her to squeeze his hand, but there was no stirring this time. He felt no pressure on his hand the way Grace had.

The excitement was wearing off and she was beginning to feel somewhat disappointed; thinking maybe she had just imagined the whole thing; that her unconscious cousin hadn’t really squeezed her hand after all. Then she stopped herself; told herself to stop questioning what she knew she had experienced. She did squeeze my hand! she yelled at herself silently; chastising herself for not trusting her own intuition, which is rarely wrong. So she decided that, until someone could prove otherwise, she was going to believe that Adrienne heard her and squeezed her hand to let Grace know she was still in there; and that she was coming back to her soon.

Over at the police station, Detective Scheffield was just ushering Chris Devereaux into one interrogation room, and Caroline Devereax into a separate one across the hall; both rooms having locks on their doors; insuring that they would remain there until the detective told them they could leave. He decided he would have a go at Chris first; letting his wife stew for a while; causing her nervousness to increase; almost insuring she wouldn’t be able to do it successfully if she needed or wanted to lie about something. He was going to take a swing at Chris quickly; not giving him any time to get his story straight – if that were the case.

“My name is Matt Scheffield. I’m the detective handling the case. How are you today Mr. Devereaux?” he asked a bit sarcastically as he walked through the door; closing it behind him and knocking twice for the officer planted outside to lock them in together. He wanted this man to feel the heat.

“Fine. And you?” answered Chris with a rather arrogant air about him that the detective picked up on immediately. That only angered him further. Not a smart move for Chris, but he was never the sharpest tool in the shed…though he stupidly thought otherwise.

“I was wondering if you could help me out a little. Do you mind if I ask you some questions?” he asked slyly, “I was hoping you could clear up a few things for me.”

“I’m willing to cooperate fully; whatever you need from me.” Chris responded; the detective a bit surprised that it actually sounded genuine; though he wasn’t going to let that deter him from carrying out his original plan.

“Could you tell me why we found your gun in the pond behind your mother’s house?” he tossed at him; switching gears, “We tested it, Chris. It’s the same gun that killed your mother and put your daughter in that hospital bed!” he told him angrily, raising his voice a few notches, “Where were you between 8:00 and 9:00 Saturday morning?

“I swear I don’t know what you’re talking about! I was home that morning!” he answered; fear quite evident in his voice, “I don’t know! I don’t even know what gun you’re talking about!”

“Come on, Chris! Give it up! We’ve got your prints on the gun!” the detective practically shouted at the petrified man sitting across from him with his head in his hands, “And let me guess, the only person who can attest to your whereabouts is your wife, Caroline? Am I right?

“Yes, but I’m telling you the truth! I’m telling you I don’t know how it got there! I haven’t even fired that gun in years! That’s the truth!” retorted Chris; whom anyone could see was growing more frightened by the minute, “I don’t know what you want me to say!”

“I want you to tell me the truth!” Detective Scheffield threw back at him instinctively.

“I’m telling you the truth! I swear it!” he returned pathetically; throwing his hands up in the air as if to say “What do you want from me?”

“You know, things will go a lot smoother for you if you just tell me the truth. You gotta get it off your chest sometime.” he told him; taking another tack, “I can understand how things just happen sometimes. You get into an argument that starts to turn physical…and you just lose it; you can’t control yourself. Everybody gets mad like that sometimes, Chris. I get mad like that sometimes. It could happen to anyone.” said the detective; trying a little reverse psychology on him; seeing if he would take the bait.

“I’m telling you I don’t know anything!” Chris answered emphatically; crossing his arms – body language that his interrogator knew was a defensive move. He felt threatened so he closed himself off from the detective; literally and figuratively.

“I’m going to give you one more chance to confess before I have you tossed in a holding cell.” he threatened calmly.

“You can give me a hundred chances and I’m still not gonna confess to something I didn’t do!” yelled Chris defiantly, “I want a lawyer!” he demanded.

“You got it.” answered the detective, “Can you stand up for me please?” he asked politely as he rose from his chair and walked around the metal table separating them. Chris stood up. “Christopher Devereaux, you’re under arrest for the murder of Genevieve Devereaux and the attempted murder of Adrienne Devereaux.” he explained as he handcuffed his hands behind his back and read him his rights.

Detective Scheffield walked the dazed man to the door of the interrogation room and stopped him for a second while he knocked on the locked door to be let out. When the officer outside unlocked the door and the pair came walking out, he took over for the detective and walked Chris to one of the hard, cold, concrete holding cells and locked him safely inside. He gave him a sarcastic grin as he slammed the cell door shut – the officer knowing the details of the case and feeling sickened by the fact that the man in custody could shoot his own mother and daughter. He should consider himself lucky that he’s in a cell alone, thought the officer to himself. He undoubtedly was not going to be treated well by the other prisoners, so for now he would remain separated.

The detective would normally have felt victorious in such a situation, but that was not the case this time. He hadn’t wanted to do what he just did; arrest Chris Devereaux for the crime. That word had come down from his boss, Brady, and it was an order he had to follow, regardless of how he felt about it. The decision was made when the fingerprint analysis came back and the only prints they could pull off the gun, its case, or the bag in which it was enclosed…belonged to Christopher Devereaux. And of course the gun was registered to him as well. One thing was certain, that gun came from Chris’s house and it was covered in his fingerprints. Yet Matt Scheffield couldn’t help but feel something was still off; amiss with the entire situation. He was not the man they were looking for; he just knew it. There was something or someone they were overlooking; he simply couldn’t prove it…yet.

As for Caroline, she was questioned basically in the same manner; and professed her innocence the exact same way her husband had done. She told him they had both been home that morning. She said she had no idea why the gun would even be missing from their house; and informed the officer questioning her that she had never even held the gun, much less fired it. And since her fingerprints were not found on any of the items, she was cut loose, but warned not to venture far from home; that they would be needing to speak with her again in the near future and it would be in her best interest to acquiesce to whatever they asked of her. That was more than enough to sufficiently scare her; she decided then and there to cooperate to the absolute best of her ability.  

Grace could hardly wait to tell Jesse about Adrienne squeezing her hand. For the moment, she forgot all about distrusting him and the reason why; elated about the wonderful thing that she had just experienced. He seemed genuinely happy for her; and even a little relieved himself…that there was hope Adrienne could get better. Though he didn’t admit it to Grace, he hadn’t been able to sleep very well either; being just as worried as she was about her cousin.

She had no idea of what had just happened at the police station; thinking Detective Scheffield had only called her aunt and uncle down there to verify their alibis and have them sign statements the same as she had done. She didn’t know that her Uncle Chris had just been arrested for the murder of his own mother and the attempted murder of his own daughter. Not that this would surprise her; she was fairly convinced that he was the guilty party and not Jesse. Still, she didn’t think the police would be able to arrest someone so quickly; guessing that she didn’t know everything they knew and then some after all.

Actually, Grace was the first person the detective called to deliver news of the arrest. He felt she deserved to know, with all that she had been through since she arrived in town. Plus, he may have had an ulterior motive; a personal one.

“Grace, good evening. I hope I’m not disturbing you.” he began when she answered his call, “I just wanted to call to give you the news. We’ve arrested your Uncle Christopher and charged him with the murder and attempted murder. I’m afraid I can’t give you all the details as it’s still an ongoing investigation, but I can tell you that we found enough proof of his involvement to charge him. Now the prosecution successfully making a case against him; I don’t know. This is the point at which I hand it over to them. I just thought you would like to know.” the detective told her.

“Well, thank you very much for calling. I appreciate it.” she responded; a bit surprised that she did feel shocked after all. 

“You’re welcome. I know it’s getting late, so I’ll let you get back to your night.” he answered.

“Thank you detective. And thank you again for calling.” she said slowly, in a monotone; stuck to the spot in which she stood, “Good night.”

“Good night.” he returned; hanging up the phone.

Grace hung up her phone, but remained standing in the exact spot she had been; Jesse noticing the change in her demeanor. “Are you okay?” he inquired with a concerned look on his face.

“Um…what? Oh…yeah I’m all right. I think.” was her reply; speaking to him, but her eyes remaining fixed on the same spot.

“Grace, what? Tell me.” he begged of her; actually beginning to get a little worried.

Still without shifting her gaze, she blurted out, “They’ve arrested Uncle Chris for the murder and attempted murder.”

“What?!?” he exclaimed with disbelief, “How did they know…what did…how did this happen? Do you think he did it?”

“Yeah…I mean I’m not sure. Do you think he’s truly capable of killing his own mother in cold blood? And trying to kill his own daughter? I know they never really got along, but that’s a far cry away from actually trying to take out your own daughter.” stated Grace.

 “You know, I can almost believe he would kill Genevieve – just for her land and the house alone. That always seemed to be a sore spot for him. Remember that fight he and your mother had about it that one time? The one that had to be physically broken up? That’s what he was so angry about; the land going to your mother before him…right?” he inquired of her; testing her recall.

“Yes. I remember like it was yesterday. He thought she didn’t deserve the land; that she would only sell it off piece by piece to fund her drug habit. I know my mother would never have won any ‘Mother of the Year’ awards, but she wouldn’t have done that.” stated Grace emphatically. “Uncle Chris always hated her for taking up too much of Grandpa’s time and attention; jealous that he seemed to love her more.”

“I never could understand that. Your grandfather was good to him. It’s not like he treated your mother like gold and your uncle like crap.” said Jesse. “He was afforded every opportunity in life that your mother was.”

“I always got the feeling that there was more to it than that. I know her father did treat her like she could do no wrong…and we both know that was never the case. So I can kind of see where that would piss the good kid off. It’s not that, though. They were always fighting about something else; something they only fought about behind closed doors, so I could never make out what they were saying.” she explained to him. “It was also something they never let Gram hear them arguing about either. It was just strange, that’s all. Normally they couldn’t have cared less who heard them fighting, but this was something different. That’s why I have to get in Gram’s house and find my mother’s chest. Her journals have to be in there and I know she would have written about it; whatever it was. She wrote everything in those damn books.” she told Jesse; just now realizing that the unease she had felt around him the night before had begun to dissipate.

“I don’t know, Grace. I do know that it is possible he’s the one who did this. I can believe it.” he replied; offering her his opinion. “I also know that it’s been a very upsetting and exhausting couple of days and I think you need some rest. Everything will seem clearer in the morning.” he promised her.

“You’re right. I am exhausted. Too exhausted to think any more tonight.” she said in agreement. “Good night, Jesse.”

“Good night Grace.” he replied; smiling at her.

 She retired to the bedroom and he to his couch; both falling asleep quickly. Again that night she had strange dreams about her grandmother. It was the exact same as before; her lips were moving, but there was no sound coming out. Genevieve simply kept looking toward the ceiling and mouthing “Look up, look up. It’s above you. It’s above you” over and over. And she felt even farther away in these dreams; seeming to have some sort of invisible force pulling her backwards against her will. In her previous dreams, her grandmother had appeared to be standing in a stark, grey room, but in these dreams Grace could swear that she had been in her house. She was at the top of a staircase; one with a low ceiling just like the one at her house. In the last dream, she kept trying to climb the steps to get to Genevieve before she disappeared again; before whoever or whatever pulled her away and she was gone, but for every step she climbed, another one appeared; she wasn’t getting any closer to the top. Then her Gram had simply vanished; like she had in every dream Grace had had for the last two nights.

That morning, like the previous morning, she had been awake long before the sun began to stream in through the bedroom windows. Only this morning, she felt completely different than she had the previous day. Yesterday, she had woken up with too many questions and not enough answers. She had woken up not sure if she could trust her best friend in the world. But this day, she had some answers. Today, she believed that her cousin could hear her; that she had squeezed her hand to say to Grace “Don’t give up on me”. Today, she believed that she didn’t have anything to fear from Jesse. She believed that she now knew who killed her grandmother and tried to kill her cousin; since her uncle was presently waking up in jail; having been arrested and charged with the crime. Today, she felt as if she could begin to move in a direction instead of feeling stagnant and confused.

This day, she waited for Jesse to wake up rather than sneaking past him and out of the house like the day before. They had breakfast together and afterwards they both took Casey for a walk through the woods; giving her a chance to run free; something her owner could not allow her to do for the last couple days. When they returned home, he helped her find a cleaning crew that specialized in cleaning bloody crime scenes; knowing how badly she wanted to get back into Genevieve’s house to find answers to questions that she had been plaguing her for years rather than days. Grace felt as if she may possibly soon have the answer to the biggest question of her life…why her mother killed herself. Then maybe, just maybe, she thought, her life could actually begin again.

She was quite surprised when she received a call two and a half hours later from the head of the cleaning crew saying that they were finished and the house was now habitable. Though she was glad that part of her ordeal was over, she couldn’t help but think about the fact that it took less than three hours to erase every trace of her grandmother that remained in the house. Now there were only memories; ones that thankfully didn’t have to be tainted by thoughts of her mopping up her Gram’s blood. For once in her life, she had made the right decision. She hoped it was the beginning of a new trend.

The anticipation was eating at her as she made the short drive from Jesse’s house over to her grandmother’s. How would she really feel when she put her key in the lock and walked over the threshold into Genevieve’s house? she asked herself. She knew one thing; she was not going to allow her fears to hold her back from something she had wanted and needed for so long. So she put her key in the lock and opened the front door of the house that – for all intents and purposes – belonged to her for the time being. The only person that would have argued that point had no say at the moment; her uncle presently being held in a locked cell with few comforts, she imagined.

Entering the house slowly, she stopped in the front hall and let her eyes be led to the bottom of the stairs; where her grandmother had been found already dead. She expected for it to feel strange, her being in the house again after what happened, but it actually felt oddly comforting to be in this house; like she was finally home. The same way it had always felt to her. At least her Uncle Chris had not been able to take that away from her as well as her Gram, she reasoned. She had lost more than her fair share in life and was so relieved that she didn’t have to lose the only real home she had ever had.

Grace made her way up the stairs; trying her best not to think about what happened on them. When she got to the top, she walked right past Adrienne’s room and her own; to Genevieve’s bedroom at the end of the hall. She had to keep reminding herself that it was no longer off limits to her; there were no more limits imposed on where she could go or what she could touch. And the article she had most wanted to touch for the last ten years…rested at the foot of her grandmother’s bed; her mother’s trunk.

She retrieved the key to the trunk’s lock from its resting place on the nightstand, put it in the lock, and turned; hardly being able to wait that long to view her mother’s things. As soon as she opened it, a smell hit her in the face instantly. It was the smell of old wood and maybe a little mildew – the same smell she had wondered about at the gas station! she realized. She knew it had seemed so familiar to her; and now she knew why. Another answered question, she noted happily.

 The trunk was filled with all sorts of items; her mother, Vivienne’s, christening gown and white baby shoes, items from her childhood that her mother had saved – a small, brown teddy bear and school papers that she had made good grades on – the normal things you would expect to find stashed away in a trunk or a closet and forgotten about as time went on. Grace knew exactly for what she was searching; finally finding one of them…one of her mother’s journals. She took the leather-bound book over to the chair beside the window and nervously took a seat. Taking a deep breath, she opened the cover and thumbed through the old, yellowed pages; just taking in the scent of the aging paper for a moment. Then she simply picked an entry at random and began to read.

July 23, 1979

15 year old girls can sometimes find themselves in a place they believe at the time cannot be escaped. In a situation that fear or shame keeps them from choosing the behavior that would spare them. The behavior that I should have chosen…because it would have saved my soul. My innocence.

The strange thing, in my opinion, was that this one time – after spending my time so supervised it was suffocating – my parents decided to loosen the reins. I guess I actually wish they hadn’t after all. I wish I hadn’t gone to the gathering of just an acquaintance; at his house in the middle of nowhere. With no adult supervision and no other sort of help available. But 15 year old girls are na├»ve and trusting. I trusted that people, for the most part, were good and kind. That decent people would never stand by and do nothing if something bad were happening.

You know, I struggle today to picture his face in my mind. I’m not sure how strange that is or isn’t. Maybe it’s normal sometimes. I can’t recall the reason I followed him into his bedroom alone, but I did. There was positively no physical attraction on my part and I was oblivious to the fact that he was dangerously attracted to me. I wonder how he knew I was a virgin because he knew. I have no doubt this realization took his fantasy from harmless and ordinary to somewhere different…somewhere dark.

He raped me right there in his bedroom; with 8 other people in the house. They weren’t that far away. I know they could hear me crying; had to hear me yelling for help. But nobody came. Nobody at all. Eventually, I just laid there crying and waited for him to finish. When he finally rolled off me, I looked up at him through my wet eyelashes and he had a smile on his face – a smile of total satisfaction. I could tell by his expression that he was happy he finally got to be with me; happy his conquest was won. Like it wasn’t even rape at all. And my virginity was gone. I would forever have to remember this as my first time.

Vivienne

Grace rested the aged book on her lap as she wiped away the tears that had flown freely as she read her mother’s own words in her mother’s own handwriting. She had wanted answers…and she may have just learned one of the most important answers to one of the most pressing questions she had ever had; what went wrong with her mother’s life. She had always wondered what terrible thing must have happened to her mother to make her so unhappy. So unhappy that she felt the only way to make the pain stop was to commit suicide; leaving her daughter behind. Was it possible that she had just uncovered the exact moment at which her mother’s life took a turn for the worse; the precise thing that had damaged her so badly? she wondered. She had wanted answers. And for the first time in her troubled life, she appeared to be finding them.

At this moment, she truly believed that God was up there; looking down on her. She could come up with no other explanation for the small miracle she had just witnessed. How else could she explain stopping on that exact page – at that particular entry – of all the entries she could have turned to and read, why else would she have stopped and began to read where she did? she asked herself over and over. Why else would answers have begun falling into her lap; when she had searched so hard for so many years for these exact answers? she couldn’t help but wonder. It had to be God finally, finally answering her prayers.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Chapter 8


 

Chapter Eight

 

The detective arrived at Genevieve’s house about 30 minutes after the other officers he had dispatched to go search it for a second time; looking for the .38-caliber revolver…the missing murder weapon. So far, they had come up with nothing and it was not for lack of effort. Every room, closet, and possible nook, cranny, or crevice that could potentially be a hiding place was torn apart; the house quite a mess at this point. Even though he knew certain spots had been gone over diligently, he could not stop himself from double and sometimes triple-checking all of them. Still, nobody had been able to locate any access point to an attic, so they all – including Detective Scheffield - believed there simply was no attic space to the house.

There was a very messy and cluttered basement; this being the only space that had not yet been searched by the time he got there. He decided he would try to tackle this on his own. He opened the creaky basement door, located just off the kitchen, and carefully descended the deep, narrow wooden stairs; afraid he might fall through several of the aged, sagging steps, but he didn’t. There was no good place to start down here, so he simply started as he reached the bottom of the staircase. The area contained a makeshift workshop with a large, wooden table covered with rolled blueprints, loose tools, and bunches of hand-drawn plans; as Mr. Devereaux was planning to build an addition to the house before he died. It appeared that Mrs. Devereaux had left everything just as it was; not even returning the tools he left out on the table to their respective cases or hooks on the wall. The detective guessed that the only use the late woman of the house had had for the basement at all was to house the washing machine and dryer she had utilized.

Searching the workshop area thoroughly, leaving no stone unturned, he came up with nothing. He came up with nothing at all during the entire 2 hours he was looking; not feeling discouraged by this, though. He never expected the gun to be found in the house. It was in that pond; he felt it. But he had to rule things out using the easiest, least expensive methods first. So he went through the motions, though he was anxious to test out his own theory. After finding no clues or weapons at all, he called it a day and allowed the other officers to go back to whatever else it was they had that was pressing. Everyone was more than glad to leave the awful scene behind; the sight and the smell of the place enough to make even a seasoned officer sick.  

After re-searching the fairly large house, Detective Scheffield gave it some thought before deciding to release the house as a crime scene; allow Grace Walker access, in case she wanted to move back in. He wasn’t sure where she had been staying, but if it was a hotel, he was certain she would appreciate not having to spend the money any longer. Either way, even if she didn’t want to move back in, she would have access to the house and grounds; at least until the reading of the deceased owner’s will decided who the new owner of ‘Devereaux Downs’ would be.

His decision to take down the crime scene tape made him remember something else the police had in their possession that needed to be processed and returned to Grace – her car. He wasn’t sure if the technicians were finished going over the ancient light blue Lincoln Continental, so he thought he would check on that before heading back to the station to inform Brady Peterson about their lack of success in finding the gun in the house. It was just one more thing he could cross off the list before moving on to the next venture.

The technicians who went over the car with a fine-tooth comb were in the middle of putting the old car back together; having done everything short of take the engine apart. There were even the removed bench seats still sitting on the concrete floor; waiting to be returned to their proper place inside the car. Detective Scheffield walked through the work area, carefully stepping over every loose part that blocked his path to the small office at the back of the shop. When he finally reached his destination, he knocked on the closed door.

“Yeah. Its open.” came through the door; the voice belonging to one of the best forensic crime scene techs the rookie detective had ever had the pleasure of working with, Paul Federici.

Pulling open the door, he greeted Mr. Federici with “Hey, Paul. I see you’re keeping pretty busy here.”

“Hey, Matt. What’s up? What can I do for you?” he politely asked the detective.

“Just checking the status of the blue Lincoln I sent in yesterday, “I know I haven’t given you a whole lot of time.” Matt Scheffield answered. “Any chance of returning the car to the owner today? Pulled down the crime scene tape at the house; we’ve done all we can do there. So Miss Walker, the other granddaughter of the deceased, can move back in if she wants to. Thought it would be nice if we could give her back her transportation, too.” he finished.

“Um…let me check with Juan and see where they are on it. Should be about done. Don’t think they found much of anything, though, Matt. Just some human hairs – from two different subjects – and, uh, just the normal stuff. Dog hair, human DNA where you would expect to find it; no blood or anything that would lead me to believe that the vehicle was involved in any major crime.” explained the ruddy faced man, “And no murder weapon. No weapons of any kind.”

With that, Paul Federici got up from his chair, walked around his desk and out of the room to go check on the vehicle in question, Grace’s car. Matt Scheffield had risen from his chair as well and followed the short, stocky man out to the shop and over to the space her car and all its various loose parts occupied.  Though it looked like a hell of a mess to the detective, to the experienced forensic technician it was a work in progress that was almost complete. After some discussion with the other techs, Paul informed him that it would be ready to be picked up within the next couple of hours. Detective Scheffield thanked him and everyone else and headed out to his car so he could call Grace and let her know her car would be available for her to pick up by the close of the business day.

Grace answered the phone still distracted by her dilemma, “Hello.” was her laconic greeting.

“Grace, its Matt Scheffield. I’m sorry to bother you again. Just wanted to let you know you can pick your car up this evening around 6:00 if you like. The garage is at 2400 Locust Lane, in town. Can you arrange for transportation?” he asked of her; halfway hoping she would say no, “I can swing by and pick you up if you need.”

“No, that’s okay. I’m pretty sure my friend should be back from work by then, so I can get him to give me a ride. Thank you, though. And thanks for letting me know.” said Grace, fairly sure she was correct about her time estimation for Jesse’s return home.

“Okay. Well, I suppose I’ll see you in the morning then.” was his reply, thinking of her coming to the station to sign a statement.

“Oh, yeah. I almost forgot. Thanks.” she responded. She actually had forgotten all about her agreement to go to the police station in the morning; being so absorbed in thought about other things.

“Okay. See you then. Bye.” was the detective’s farewell.

“All right. See you.” answered Grace, and hung up the phone, returning it to its resting place on the oak end table beside her chair.

She still had not moved from her seat on the plush yellow armchair; having been completely lost in thought; thinking about her uncle, and about how she would feel when Jesse finally did arrive home. Whether she would be able to maintain the pretense of normalcy or whether she wouldn’t be able to ensconce her doubt from him. She hoped it didn’t turn out to be the latter; thinking she couldn’t bear to hurt him in that way if she wasn’t right about him being involved in her Gram’s death – and responsible for Adrienne, still lying in a deep, artificial slumber. It wasn’t him, she told herself, it wasn’t him. Why would he do it? He had never cared before about her family’s approval of him; why would he start now? she asked herself. If he were in love with her, he would simply come to her and tell her, she thought. He wouldn’t kill her family. Not Jesse.

And just as she was thinking of him, he appeared; Casey jumping up from her resting place at the foot of her mistress’s chair the second she heard Jesse’s key in the lock and bounding toward the opening door; her little nub of a tail wagging furiously. He smiled down at her and she jumped up, landing her big front paws squarely on his chest; the same way she always did with Grace. She cringed for half a second, wondering if he minded this excited assault by her dog, but relaxed when he scratched behind the dog’s ears and then roughhoused with her for a few minutes before coming over to where Grace was seated, plopping down on the powder blue sofa that had been his bed the night before, smiling at her.

“How was your day, dear?” he inquired jokingly.

“Oh, not the best day of my life. You?” she asked, returning his exchange.

“Nothing to write home about. Any news about Adrienne? Or anything else, for that matter?” he questioned, truly hoping for some positive news.

“Nope.” began Grace, “Nothing. She’s the same.” she told him, not positive yet how much of her newly acquired knowledge she wanted to share with her best friend. She loathed herself for not totally trusting Jesse, but what if he did do it? she speculated at the same time.

“I’m sorry, Grace. I really wish things were different. I can’t stand to see you hurting.” offered her true friend, “You hungry? I was thinking Chinese takeout for dinner. I know I don’t feel like cooking and I’m sure you don’t either. Okay with you?” he asked.

“Yeah that sounds good.” was all she could manage to get out.

“Okay. What do you want? I’ll call it in and then go pick it up.” he inquired of her.

“Um…let me think…I guess I’ll have sesame chicken with fried rice and an eggroll.” she answered slowly after mulling it over for a few minutes.

“Sesame chicken and the works coming right up!” responded Jesse cheerily; the same way he always did; he was in a perpetual good mood it seemed.

“Thanks.” said Grace.

Feeling more than slightly awkward around her friend, she was relieved that he was heading back out the door, though he wouldn’t be gone long this time. While he was calling in their order, she used the time to get up and take Casey outside, if for no other reason than to avoid an uncomfortable silence between her and Jesse until he left to go pick up the food. Over and over she told herself to put all that stuff out of her head; everything she had been pondering regarding his guilt. The last thought she had on the subject before he returned from his 15 minute venture to pick up the food was that, if he had killed her Gram and tried to kill Adrienne because he was in love with her, then he probably would have professed his love for her by now; especially when you consider the fact that she was staying at his house. At night she was only a few steps away in his bedroom; if he wanted to make a move, he undoubtedly would have at least given her some clue by now and there was nothing, she reasoned. She vowed to try to let it go for now, unless she found some concrete proof of his guilt.

Dinner actually went a lot smoother than Grace thought it would; her even letting a little laugh escape after one of his stupid jokes. There were no dishes really, so they headed out to pick up her car directly. She didn’t realize how much she had missed the old car until she put the key in the ignition and started ‘The Dream Machine’s’ engine. Though it had been completely taken apart, searched, and put back together, it wasn’t in that bad shape. Not the mess she expected to get back, so that was one thing to be happy about. She followed Jesse back to his house and they both retired early for the evening; this making it much less stressful than she had imagined it would be.

Falling asleep quickly after attempting to watch a movie - her dreams that night were quite strange; so vivid and filled with visions of her grandmother. In every dream Genevieve was there, and seemed to Grace to be desperately trying to tell her something. She couldn’t make out what the elder woman was mouthing, as there was no sound coming from her mouth and she appeared to be getting pulled farther and farther away in the dream.  All she could manage to get from it was something about being careful and something about climbing, and she kept mouthing over and over “Look up, look up, it’s above you”. Eventually waking from this bizarre set of connected dreams in the early morning hours, Grace tried to make sense of her subconscious thoughts, but to no avail. She had no idea what “look up, it’s above you” could possibly mean.

She slept no more that night; remaining awake, waiting impatiently for daybreak; ready to tackle some of her unanswered questions. Detective Scheffield had forgotten to tell her that the crime scene tape was coming down at her grandmother’s house, so she had no idea that she would be able to move back in to the house if she so wished. When she was to learn this, it would inevitably cause another stressful decision that she would have to make; to move back into the house where her grandmother and cousin were shot and one killed, or stay with the man who potentially could have caused this whole situation.

That morning, she got herself ready early to drive down to the police station and sign whatever statement she needed to sign; signing off on her own innocence. Jesse had said he was going back to work today to catch back up; easing her anxiety somewhat. Still, she made sure to be gone by the time he woke up; avoiding the uneasiness altogether; leaving him a note rather than waking him on her way out.

Jesse,

I didn’t want to wake you. Couldn’t sleep so I decided to get an early start to my day. Going to the police station to sign whatever I need to sign and get it over with. Also going to ask about when the crime scene tape is coming down at Gram’s house. You’ve been so great, but I don’t want to put you out forever. Talk to you later in the day. Have a good day at work.

Grace

And with that, she was off to the station; which was going to result in more answers for her than she imagined. Detective Scheffield was already at his desk; crime scene photos, police reports, and witness statements spread out all over it, covering virtually the entire desk; with the exception of the space the telephone and his very large mug of coffee were occupying. He saw Grace as she walked through the double doors she was directed to by the receptionist downstairs; waving her over to his desk. He did his best to put out of sight any photographs or anything of the sort that he thought may potentially upset her.

“Good morning, Grace.” he said; surprised to see her there at such an early hour, “Have a seat.” he offered, clearing off the stack of files he had resting there as well.

“Thank you Detective.” she answered; sitting down and resting her elbows on the edge of the desk; trying to hold her tired head up.

“Here you go. All I need from you is to go over your statement carefully, to insure it is accurate, then just put your John Hancock on this line at the bottom. And date it, too, if you don’t mind.” he explained as he pulled out her typed statement and laid it on the desk in front of her; pointing to the signature line at the bottom of the paper.

He pretended to be occupied with something in a file while she read the words on the piece of paper slowly and carefully. Finally she seemed satisfied and signed her name on the line and dated it May 11; two days after the terrible crime. She never would have imagined she would have made it through the first day, much less the second; doing the same thing Grace always did and underestimating her true potential and strength. It almost didn’t make sense for her to be so unsure of herself in a situation such as this. She had made it through too many catastrophes to be so insecure, and still she persevered. She didn’t know it yet, but her strength was to be tested one final time; in the true fight of her life that she could never have seen coming.

Detective Scheffield was kind enough to explain to her about the remaining blood and other unpleasant things in Genevieve’s house; and how with a crime scene of this type it was most times necessary for a professional cleaning crew to be called in; one that dealt with scenes like this one every day. He told her that it wasn’t a good idea, in his opinion, to try to tackle that by herself – or even with help. It simply wasn’t something she would want to see; especially if she planned to move back into the house, which was available to her from now until the reading of her grandmother’s will decided who should occupy the house and own the land.

Finding out she had an option soon, since she was becoming uncomfortable staying at Jesse’s house and not knowing the truth for sure, made her relax a little. She definitely didn’t want to insult him in any way; him being her very best friend of more than 20 years. There was quite a bit she wanted to get her hands on at her grandmother’s house as well; knowing that somewhere in that house was a trunk that belonged to her mother – one that she had always been forbidden by Genevieve to ever open.  And though the temptation for Grace at times was extremely great, she and everyone else respected Genevieve’s wishes; guessing it was just too painful for her to see her dead daughter’s belongings. It’s just that Grace had a feeling that the locked trunk contained her mother’s journals, as well as other items that she felt might give her a better understanding of the woman who had left her so soon in life. She wanted to know her mother; know what force was so great that it had the power to take her away from the one person who needed her most in the world…her daughter.

With some paperwork completed, Detective Scheffield couldn’t get the pond off his mind. It had been too late to do anything about it the day before, but today he was going straight to his captain and let him know how strongly he felt about the murder weapon being somewhere in the depths of the murky pond. He had the report filed by the officers who searched the house again yesterday, as well as his account; all of them concurring on the fact that the gun was absolutely nowhere in Genevieve’s house.

Walking to his captain’s ever-open door, he got a “come in” before he even knocked.

“Matt, what’s up?” asked Brady Peterson.

“Well, all the reports about the search are in, and the gun is not in that house, Brady.” began Matt Scheffield, “I really think we need to start focusing on that pond on her property. I just…I can’t tell you what it is, but something is telling me that gun will be in that water.” he finished, bracing himself for his boss’s response.

“I think you’re right, Matt. But either way, it wouldn’t hurt to find out. We got nothing to look at except possibly Old Man Mullins…but my money’s not on him either. It’s going to be somebody close, but I don’t think it will be him.” agreed his captain, “You know, I always got a funny feeling about Mrs. Devereaux’s son, Chris. Just never could figure him out. A strange guy. But I don’t know. To shoot your own mother and daughter? Could you do it?” he asked the younger detective.

“No way. I don’t care what the circumstances are…there’s always a better way to solve your problems. You want me to check him out? What about Herbert Mullins?”

“No…not yet. We’ll sit on them for a while. Let’s see what we find in that water. I’m going to make a call, get some divers out there today. I’ll let you know as soon as I get the word, because I want you to go out there and oversee this thing.” his boss informed him; picking up the phone to place the call as he spoke.

“Call me and I’m on it.” Detective Scheffield said softly, as Brady was already on the line. His boss gave him a thumbs up.

He kind of puttered around the office for the next 45 minutes, just waiting for word on the divers. Finally, he did get the go ahead to have the entire pond dragged to see what they find, if anything. He got three divers help, which wasn’t so bad for the size of the body of water. Running home quickly to change into some clothes he didn’t mind getting filthy, he arrived at Genevieve’s property right about the time his reinforcements arrived. None of them looked particularly happy about the job they had been dispatched to do, though he couldn’t blame them once he got a close look at the bath water warm yet caliginous water. You couldn’t see six inches in front of your face underwater, according to one of the men diving.

Still, it wasn’t like searching for buried treasure in the open ocean. It was a nice contained body of water that he now knew was 18 feet deep in the very center, but fairly shallow until one reached the middle. He had given the three men his opinions; careful not to make them sound like orders. There was clearly a definite side of the pond the killer had run around to reach the clearing on the other side – or so he thought – so he said he believed the gun would have been thrown in the water from that side; possibly placing it closer than the middle. In reality, it could have been anywhere in the pond, but they all agreed starting in from that side was probably not a bad idea.

So they all three began walking into the water slowly, in a straight line on the west side of the pond; the direction the killer was thought to have run. They were using sticks to poke around in the sediment at the bottom of the water, letting them know when they came across any solid mass along the bottom that required inspection. For a residential pond buried deep in the woods, quite a bit was found; a tire from a kid’s bike, one filthy man’s shoe – which he kept and bagged just in case – and several school textbooks; from the 80’s by the look of them. It wasn’t until they got into deeper water that something half buried in the silt and somewhat hidden by the plant life growing at the bottom really peaked their interest.

“Matt, I think I might have something here!” one of the divers yelled over to him from the water, “Let’s pull her up and see what we’ve got boys.”

All four men gathered on the beach along the west side, breathless with anticipation; particularly Matt Scheffield. It appeared to be some sort of case; duct tape wrapped around it and enclosed in a large plastic bag that was also reinforced with tape across the opening. The detective decided up front to keep every bit of whatever evidence they managed to dredge up, no matter how trivial it seemed at the time; so he began bagging things as they were taken apart. Inside the plastic bag, the case did somewhat resemble a gun case, though it was hard to tell before the removal of the duct tape, which was a slow process, since they wanted to preserve the evidence as best they could. There could be fingerprints on the plastic bag, all over the tape, and on the outside of the case; as well as possibly on whatever they found inside the water-tight, gun metal grey case.  

It was difficult to pry the case open, as it was affixed with a lock that could only be opened with a number combination. None of the men wanted to stand around guessing at what it could possibly be; they thought better to open it forcibly, which turned out to be the much faster option, but also the more destructive one; having to be done with force and care to preserve the evidence. Still, what was inside the case was more important to their case than any fingerprint or DNA evidence they may manage to get off the case, duct tape, and plastic bag, thought the detective. So he gave the go ahead to force it open, almost salivating waiting to see its contents. It took a lot of force, but eventually they did manage to pry it open.

Detective Scheffield’s eyes got big when he saw one of the divers pull out a gun; even bigger when he inspected it a bit more closely. It was a completely intact, undamaged at all from its time spent in the water….38-caliber revolver! There was no way to prove it on sight, but he would bet his pension it was exactly the .38-caliber revolver for which they were looking. He would have to wait for ballistics testing, though he was sure of it. He excitedly pulled out his cell phone, dialing Brady Peterson at the station to let him know the initial good news – it was the same kind of gun used in the commission of the crime.

“Brady, its Matt. Still here at the pond, but you’ll never guess what we just pulled out of a water-tight case enclosed in a plastic bag.” he began teasingly.

“Let me guess. A .38 revolver?” his boss retorted sarcastically.

“A .38 revolver.” repeated the detective like a parrot. It was difficult for him to control his enthusiasm; it was evident in his voice, his tone. He was happy for the first time since he began this case…and maybe a little bit proud, too. His theory turned out to be true – so far.

“That’s great. Well, you were right rookie. Congrats on that!” he said, teasing him, “Now bring it in and get it to ballistics as soon as you can. I want to move on this one. It might actually get us somewhere. Good work, Matt.” said Brady genuinely.

“Thanks, Brady.” the detective said to his boss with a grin, “And this thing is in pristine condition; it was packaged to withstand its stay in the water. Not a drop got into the gun case itself. Whatever’s on here, we can get it. Fingerprints would be nice, but I’m not counting on that. My bet is its wiped clean.” he rattled off; realizing he was speaking very quickly and probably sounded as excited as he was.

“Let me know rookie.” was his superior’s only response.

“Yep. Soon as I know, you’ll know.” Matt Scheffield told him.

As soon as he got off the phone, he told the guys that had been sent to help that they could go ahead and pack it in; they had found what they were looking for and there was nothing else they expected to find in the pond. They all seemed happy; not at their findings, but more to be free of the mucky, muddy water. Not that he could blame them. Having seen it in action he really had no desire to do what they do, or see what they see when they duck their heads under the water. He was perfectly happy in his current job. Nobody had been that hard on him for being new, for being a transfer, or – worst of all – for being a yankee. He had received a much warmer reception than he had originally thought he would.

Now the buck was being passed to Harrison Cole, the local ballistics expert. The detective took all of the carefully bagged and tagged evidence that had been collected from the pond and drove back to the station; impatient to find out what they were going to get off the gun, its case, almost an entire roll of duct tape it seemed, and the plastic bag that the whole lot had been placed in. Scenarios where running through his head on top of each other they were coming so fast. Whose latent fingerprints might they get lucky and pull off a piece of the tape, or the plastic bag, or the gun itself? he wondered excitedly.

The first action of Harrison Cole was to get the serial number off the gun and run it through the database to find out to whom it was registered; though Detective Scheffield had a theory about that as well. It was by now painfully clear that the killer had wanted the gun found; having taken such ‘care’ in disposing of it, as well as disposing of it in a place he knew the police would eventually search; a place that was incredibly close to the crime scene itself. But the detective’s idea was that the perpetrator had wanted the gun found and ensured that it would be in order to frame someone else for the murders. He was nearly positive that whatever name came up on that gun registry would not be the name of the killer. Whatever prints, if any, they were able to lift from the gun besides that of the registered owner…that would be the man for whom they were so diligently searching. He just knew it; the same way he knew the murder weapon would be found in the pond.

The only problem the detective could foresee was finding a different set of prints and them not belonging to anyone already in the database. He thought, whether this was his first kill or they were looking for a serial killer, it wasn’t going to be anyone who had been caught previously for a crime of this nature. His bet was that this was a first kill, despite how carefully the crime had been planned and executed. This guy was the man next door; the one you could trust with a key to your house to feed the dog while you were away on vacation. This was the guy you want your daughter to marry because you would never have to worry about her ever being mistreated by him. This kill was personal. He had felt it from the very start. The same way he had felt that Grace Walker was not the culprit upon meeting her.

While they were waiting for a report back on the gun’s registered owner and the fingerprint analysis, they test fired the weapon to see if they could match that bullet to the two slugs that had been successfully removed from Genevieve’s head and chest by the medical examiner during the autopsy. They had been unable to remove the bullet from her granddaughter, Adrienne’s, head without doing more harm than good, so they removed what fragments they could and left the rest inside her swollen head.  Everyone crossed their fingers as Harrison fired the gun into an enclosed metal chamber made specifically for that purpose. It had water in it to drastically slow down the velocity of and catch the bullet. The room was silent as he pulled the fired slug out of the water and brought it to a metal table to closely examine the markings made on the slugs by the barrel of the gun on its way out. He painstakingly examined every groove just to be certain of his findings. He was a perfectionist as well. Detective Scheffield found himself holding his breath in anticipation of the results.