(A novel by Susan Overturf)
The next morning I took the time to do some personal tasks. Eileen was safe at the shelter, and I hoped that she might use the time to reflect on everything we had discussed. If anyone was going to tell the authorities what really happened, I suspected that it would be Eileen. I decided that I would not visit her for at least a couple of days, allowing her the time and freedom to think for herself.
Jeff was working with his colleagues to see if they could lay charges against David. They might not have enough evidence to charge him with murder or even manslaughter, but they could certainly put out a restraining order against him, so he couldn’t harm Eileen. I puttered around the apartment, and then left to run some errands. Before leaving, I called Jeff and told him where Eileen was. For a little while, I thought I could forget about David and Eileen Fuller.
After my shopping trip, I returned to my apartment, but since I had several heavy bags, I didn’t take the stairs. If I had, things might have turned out quite differently. I stepped out of the elevator and strolled to my door. Just as I slipped the key in, someone who had been hiding in the stairwell, came up behind me, grabbed my arm and pulled it behind my back. “Don’t say a word,” he said. “Just open that door and step in.”
I did as I was told, though I have no idea whether or not it was the wisest thing to do. The man pushed me forward and shut the door, bolting it and sliding closed the chain lock. He released his grip on my arm, and I turned around to see David Fuller standing before me, looking distraught and unkempt, not the confident, self-controlled lawyer I had seen in the office a few weeks ago.
“Mr. Fuller,” I said. “What are you doing here? What do you want?”
David Fuller seemed confused and disoriented. He put both hands to his head, covering his ears, as though he had a terrible headache, and then he shook his head from side to side. “I have to talk to you,” he said, and then he just stared at me. He was wearing a pair of slacks and a shirt, but they were wrinkled and unpressed. It looked as though he had slept in them, or perhaps he had not slept at all. He was unshaven, at least a one-day stubble on his chin.
“Mr. Fuller, What do you want to talk about? Is there something I can do to help you?”
“I said that I want to talk to you.” His voice was low and soft. I did not feel threatened by him, but I was still uncertain of his motives or of his mental stability.
“All right, we can talk.” I began to move down the hallway towards the kitchen and dining area, trying to keep my voice calm and relaxed. “Why don’t you come in?“ I pointed to the living room. “Would you like something to eat? Or a cup of tea?”
David Fuller shook his head. “No,” he said, this time loudly and firmly. “I don’t need anything. I just want to talk to you.”
“Fine. Fine,” I said, all the while trying to think how I should best deal with this apparently unstable man. He seemed like a time bomb, just waiting to go off. “Let’s go sit in the living room,” and I walked ahead of him towards that destination. He followed.
“Sit down, please.” I offered him a chair in my small living room as though he had been an invited guest. I sat down in the other. David Fuller looked around the room, seeming to imagine how the apartment had looked when they had lived there. I watched him, and waited.
“You’ve decorated the place nicely,” he said. His eyes continued to gaze at every single item in the room.
“Thank you. But I still want to know why you‘re here. You‘re not, after all, an invited guest.”
Ignoring my comments, he went on. “We had a couch and chair in this little living room, and our baby, Catherine, slept in that front bedroom.” He pointed to the room that I now used as my study. “It was too small an apartment for three, but I imagine it’s not too bad for one.”
“No, not too bad for one,” I repeated.
David leaned back in the chair, slouching. He stared at me and his eyes focused on mine. “Why are you giving me all this grief?”
“What grief am I giving you?”
“Eileen’s left me.”
“Yes, I know that. I helped her to pack her bags.”
“Did she tell you I had killed our daughter?”
David Fuller didn’t respond. He laid his head back, against the back of the chair, and stared at the ceiling. He rolled his head back and forth.
“Mr. Fuller? David?”
“Did you kill your daughter?”
He sat up, looked me straight in the eyes, and shouted, “No! I didn’t kill my daughter!” He ran his fingers through his hair and rolled his eyes upward. “Eileen is confused. She had a very difficult childhood, Mrs. Parsons. You don’t know the full story here, and Eileen needs help. You have destroyed my family by confusing Eileen. I’m not her enemy. Someone else is.” He stood up and took the one step he needed to be right in front of me. “Why have you done this to us? We were doing all right until you came along.” He stared down at me, his hands clenched and his eyes vibrant with anger.
I thought it best to keep calm if I could, but it wasn’t easy. My heart pounded and my mouth felt dry. “Please, David,” I said, in as calm a voice as I could muster, “sit down. I don’t know if you killed your daughter. But I have seen your daughter’s ghost. She’s happy but she wants something resolved. That’s why ghosts stay around; she’s unhappy because there was unfinished business. People who lived in this apartment before me also saw her.”
“What a load of crap!” He turned around and stared out the window, leaving his back to me. “There’s no ghost in this apartment. My daughter, if she was my daughter, is dead and buried. And that’s the end of it. If my little girl’s unhappy, it’s because her mother was weak and didn’t protect her.” David turned around and faced me again, and then sat down. “So I’ll bet you didn’t think about that when you started in snooping, did you?”
I shook my head. “You are telling me things I didn’t know, true. Are you saying that Catherine’s father was not you, but someone else?”
“Who? How do you know?”
“Oh, Eileen always denied it. She always said that I was the only one she had ever loved. But she was beautiful and there were plenty of men who tried to date her. When she told me she was pregnant, I figured she just chose me to be the father because I had the best earning potential. Or maybe because I was the one her parents hated the most, and she’d do anything to make her parents mad. Her father is a prick and her mother is a shrew.”
I leaned back in my chair. David seemed calmer now and I actually felt safer than I did when he first forced his way in. I tried to look relaxed, but I thought David was a keen observer and could probably sense my nervousness. So far, David had said he was possibly not Catherine’s father, had called his wife weak and more-than-likely responsible for her child’s death, and cast aspersions on both of his in-laws. I wondered how much was true, how much was not. It was hard to know what topic to tackle first. I finally decided on what I thought was the easiest: “Did you ever have a paternity test?”
He shook his head and ran his hand through his hair again. It seemed to be a nervous habit with him. “I didn’t need to. Catherine didn’t look like me at all.”
“That’s your proof? Catherine didn’t look like you?”
“Yeah.” His voice held a unmistakable defiant tone.
I shook my head, then sat up on the edge of the chair cushion. “Mr. Fuller, surely you know that that is no proof! I have two sons and both of them are the spitting image of their father. Does that mean that I’m not their mother?”
David looked puzzled. He didn’t answer for a moment and he fidgeted in his chair, but he clearly saw my logic. “It doesn’t matter!” he yelled. “It doesn’t matter! Why are you bringing this up? You keep getting me confused!” He simultaneously jumped up and reached down and lifted his shirt and pulled out a small handgun he had tucked in his pants. I didn’t know a thing about guns. In fact, I’d never seen one before. All I knew was that it was a gun, and I assumed it had bullets. My father had taught me to act as though any gun was loaded. David pointed the gun at me. “Maybe we should just end it all, eh?”
I could not believe how calm I was. Maybe it was because I didn’t think for a minute that David was going to use that gun. “David, please. Don’t be ridiculous. I’m not the cause of your troubles. You married Eileen long before I came on the scene, and Catherine died in this apartment ten years ago. Put the gun down and let’s talk. Please. Maybe together we can figure out what happened.”
I was surprised by David’s quick decision, but it proved my belief just moments before that he wasn’t going to use that gun. He stuck it back in his pants, as quickly as he had originally taken it out. “All right,” he said, as he sat down again. “Let’s talk. Where’s Eileen?”
“I don’t know,” I said.
“Yes, you do. The maid and the gate man say that you two left together in a taxi. Where did you take her?”
“To a women’s shelter.”
“I’m not going to tell you where.”
“Because Eileen is afraid of you and she wants time to think.”
“She has no reason to be afraid of me. There are bigger monsters in her life.”
“What do you mean by that?” I asked. I remembered Eileen telling me that when David was dealing with drugs she had “other worries.” I had wondered then what she meant. Now David was alluding to it, too.
“Nothing. You wouldn’t believe me anyway. You think you have this all figured out, don’t you?”
“Maybe,” I said. “And, then again, maybe I don’t. Maybe there’s something you need to tell me.”
David changed the subject. “What does she need to think about?” he asked, referring to Eileen, of course.
“You,” I said. “And Catherine. And how she died.”
David stared at me and shook his head. “You just don’t get it, do you?”
Disclaimer: Let it be said that these characters are fictional and created from my own imagination. Similarity to persons living or dead is unintentional and coincidental.