(A novel by Susan Overturf)
[“Well, proof or not, it could be a motive for murder.”]
For several minutes, neither David nor I said a word. David kept putting his fingers through his hair and staring at the ceiling. I folded my hands in my lap, watched David’s every move, and waited.
Before either of us spoke again, the phone rang. We both looked at it and then at each other. “May I answer it?” I said.
“It could be my nephew. He calls to check on me,” I lied. “If I don’t answer, he could get worried and decide to come over.”
On the fourth ring, and just before the voice mail would have kicked in, David said, “All right. All right. Answer it.”
I walked to the phone, David following close behind, and picked it up. “Hello.”
“Hi, Aunt Dorthea. How are you?”
I couldn’t believe my good fortune. Of all the people to call, who better than my nephew, the police officer? He rarely called, so this was an amazing stroke of luck. My mind raced as I tried to think of some way of telling him that David was in the apartment with me.
“Jeff. How nice to hear from you. It’s been ages.”
“Oh, it hasn’t been that long, Aunt Dorthea. Don’t be silly.”
“No, really, Jeff, it’s so good to hear from you. When did you get into town?”
There was silence on the other end of the phone. “Aunt Dorthea? Are you all right?”
“Yes, yes, I’m fine. It would be lovely to have a visit with you if you could come over some time. How long will you be in town?”
“Is someone there, Aunt Dorthea? Are you unable to talk?”
“Is it someone who shouldn’t be there?”
“Are you in danger?”
“Yes, that would be lovely. Can you call again later when I’m not so busy?”
“Aunt Dorthea, is David Fuller there?
“Yes.” I was running out of things to say to keep David Fuller unaware of my conversation with Jeff. As I said the word ”yes” for the fourth time, David began to frown, and he gestured to me to cut off the conversation. “Well, thanks so much for calling, but I really must go now.”
“Aunt Dorthea, I’ll bring help.”
“Thank you, dear, that would be lovely,” I said, as I put the phone down.
“Who was that?” David asked.
“Oh, just a friend. Jeff. He and I taught at the same school, but I haven’t heard from him in quite a long time. He doesn’t live in Vancouver.”
David acted uninterested. He turned and went back to his seat. “I’m hungry,” he said.
“I can make you a sandwich. Would you like one?”
“Sure. What kind?”
“That’s all you’ve got?”
“I can add some honey to it.”
I walked to the kitchen and made the sandwich, while David stood behind me, watching, but saying nothing. We returned to the living room together and I handed him the sandwich on a plate. I sat back down in my chair and stared at him. “What can I do to help, David?”
“Nothing, I suppose. I’m at the end of my rope. I want my life back the way it was.” David took a bite out of his sandwich.
“You can’t start again if you don’t clear up the past, David.”
David shook his head and took another bite. “There’s nothing to clear up. Catherine is dead. Eileen is gone. Why can’t you tell me where Eileen is?”
“Because she asked me to respect her privacy. You should do the same.”
We talked together, going in endless circles, for nearly half an hour. When the knock on the door came, I jumped, and so did David. At first, he refused to let me go to the door, but I used the same excuse as the phone. “It could be a friend who has come to check on me. If I don’t answer, they might be concerned and start asking questions.” I spoke in a whisper so the person at the door might not hear us.
David, reluctantly, finally agreed to let me see who it was. He nodded his head, pointed to the door, and put his fingers to his lips to tell me to be quiet. He went just to the bend in the hallway while I opened the door, without leaving the chain on, and there stood Jeff, grinning from ear to ear. Before I could say a word, he stepped into the apartment and handed me a bouquet of flowers. “Dorthea,” he said, “it’s so good to see you!” As soon as he spoke, David came around the corner. There was no sign of his gun, which surprised me.
“Who are you?” David asked.
“Well, I could ask the same of you, sir. My name is Jeff and this is my friend, Dorthea.”
David did not have much time to think about my nephew’s response. Jeff moved forward, grabbed David’s right arm and twisted it around his back. David struggled, but Jeff was bigger, stronger, and better trained. Jeff grabbed David’s other arm and held both arms behind his back. “You’re under arrest, David Fuller.” Jeff reached behind him and pulled out his handcuffs and placed them on David’s wrists. It happened in less than a minute and then two more police officers arrived at the door. Jeff padded David down and quickly found the gun hidden in his pants. He pulled it out, looked at it, and checked the chamber: it was full. To be honest, even though David had pulled out the gun during our encounter, I had never thought he would use it.
The sight of the gun, however, alarmed Jeff even more. “Are you all right, Aunt Dorthea? Did he point this thing at you?”
I really didn’t want to get David into any more trouble than he already was in, but I had to be honest. “Yes, he did, for a moment, and then he put it away. I’m fine, Jeff.” I looked at David. “Are you all right?” I asked.
David merely nodded his head. “I wouldn’t have hurt you. I’m not really a bad person, you know.”
“Maybe that’s true, David, and maybe it’s not. But you need to find better ways of living your life.” I suppose it was a rather silly thing to say, but they were the only words I could think of at that particular moment. The two other officers took David out, and Jeff remained behind for a moment.
“What happened?” he said.
I gave my concerned nephew as detailed an explanation as I could about what had happened.
“Did he admit to killing his daughter?” Jeff asked.
“No, he didn’t. But he did say that he didn’t believe that Catherine was his daughter.”
“What? Did he think Eileen had had an affair?”
“He thinks Eileen had many suitors and, when she discovered herself pregnant, she chose him because he could best provide for her and the child.”
“Does he have proof that he wasn’t the father?”
“Well, proof or not, it could be a motive for murder.”
“It could be, yes, but I have to admit, Jeff, that I’m beginning to wonder about the whole thing. David wanted Eileen back, and he insisted he hadn’t killed Catherine. He said that Eileen has ‘bigger monsters’ to fight than him. Eileen goes back and forth, uncertain of what happened, sometimes afraid of David, and other times very defensive of him. It’s hard to tell where the truth lies.”
Jeff shrugged his shoulders. “Well, maybe we can get something out of David in a good, solid interrogation. Are you sure that you’re all right? I should leave, but I can have a policewoman stay with you, if you’d like.”
“I’m fine. I think I’ll just take it easy this evening and watch some TV or read. I wonder if David’s the one who sent me those notes and made those phone calls.”
“Notes, as in more than one?” Jeff asked. “Phone calls? What phone calls?” Jeff was clearly upset.
“Oh, I guess I never told you about the second note and the two calls.” I looked as appropriately chagrined as I could be. “Sorry.”
“Aunt Dorthea, why didn’t you tell me?”
“Just too busy, I guess, dear.”
Mark frowned. “Well, at least we’ve got him in custody. If it was him, there won’t be any more notes or phone calls. We’ve already got him for unlawful entry and taking a hostage.” Jeff gave me a big hug, telling me to bolt the door when he left, which I did. I also made sure the chain was on.
I went into the bedroom to lie down. As my body tried to relax, I closed my eyes and thought perhaps I would be able to sleep, but it eluded me. I opened my eyes again and turned onto my side. Little Catherine stood in the doorway. She looked worried and she seemed to beckon me to come towards her, but I remained where I was and watched her ephemeral form disappear. I stared at the space where she had once been and wondered why she had beckoned me. Was it her way of telling me that I was making progress? Or was I going nowhere and she was suggesting a new direction?
I didn’t know the answers to my questions. I wondered where I would find the answers.
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.