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.
“Is your name Caroline Devereaux?” (examiner)
“Is the current president Barack Obama?” (examiner)
“Are you wearing a red skirt?” (examiner)
“Are we in the state of North Carolina?” (examiner)
“Is your name Tina Smith?” (examiner)
“Is your name Caroline Devereaux?” (examiner)
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)
“Do you know who killed Genevieve Devereaux?” (examiner)
“Did you shoot Adrienne Devereaux?” (examiner)
“Is the year 2025?” (examiner)
“Did you shoot Genevieve Devereaux?” (examiner)
“Do you know who killed Genevieve Devereaux?” (examiner)
“Is your name Caroline Devereaux?” (examiner)
“Did you shoot Adrienne Devereaux?” (examiner)
“Do you know who shot Adrienne Devereaux?” (examiner)
“Is the current president Barack Obama?” (examiner)
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.