November 26, 2010

Inherit My Heart Chapter Twenty-one

Gavin maneuvered her chair down several more hallways away from the busy emergency area. At last they came to a door and entered a small, nearly deserted waiting area.

Two men were seated in soft chairs by a window. They stood as Katrina and Gavin entered. “Katrina, this is Lt. Carew and Detective Beals.”

Gavin parked her near another chair in the room and leaned forward to secure the wheelchair’s brakes.

“I’ll be right outside the door. If you need anything, just yell.” Gavin gave her an encouraging smile and stepped out of the room, closing the door behind him.

Katrina took a deep breath and surveyed the two men. Lt. Carew was an older man, with a kindly face and watery blue eyes. He was hefty rather than stout, and when he smiled at her, she felt a little easier. Detective Beals, on the other hand, was younger, with a dimple in his chin. He was trim, and Katrina got the feeling he was a serious jogger. Something about him, however, put her on edge just a bit.

Lt. Carew smiled his encouragement. "Now, Ms. McSwayne, please tell us what happened today, as clearly and as carefully as you can. Leave nothing out, even if it doesn't seem particularly important to you. It may be important to us, you see. So, why don't you just start from breakfast this morning and go from there?" Detective Beals had his notebook out, his pencil at the ready.

”I’d feel better, Lieutenant,’ she said, looking at the older man, “if Gavin were in the room with us.”

“You would?” Surprise registered on his face, his eyebrows taking a hike toward his receding hairline. “I asked him to stay outside, thinking you’d be more comfortable telling your story without him listening in.”

“Thank you for your concern, but I’d really rather he was here.” ‘Maybe then I won’t have to go over things twice,’ she thought, knowing Gavin would only grill her until he got his own answers anyway.

Lt. Carew shrugged and stepped to the door and invited Gavin inside. Gavin returned to the room, taking the chair close to Katrina’s wheelchair.

She took a deep breath and began, occasionally asking help from Gavin to clarify a point or two. When she finished speaking, Lt. Carew looked at Gavin for confirmation. He nodded.

Officer Beals had been scribbling madly in his book throughout her discourse. He now consulted his notes, then asked, "Do you remember what the man driving the cart was wearing?"

"No,” she said. “I only remember that wicked grin as he swerved deliberately to hit me."

"What do you think he might have been wearing?"

"I don't know. Long pants. Long-sleeved shirt or jacket, I suppose."

"Do you remember a color? Green, red…?"

"Brown. It was brown on his arms, but not…." she hesitated, screwing up her face in her attempt to remember.

"But not what, Ms. McSwayne?"

"But not by his face. It was darker and patterned by his face. I’m sorry, but I don't remember what kind of a pattern."

"That's okay. You're doing fine. Now, his pants. Were they brown like his jacket? Take your time. Think about it. He's coming at you. His shirt is patterned, his jacket is brown, his pants are…."

"Dark blue. Like new jeans, but I'm not sure if they were really jeans. And…" Again she stopped, unsure.

"And what?"

"I don't know." She passed her hand wearily across her forehead.

"Come on, think about it. You remembered something else. What?"

"I'm not sure. I…I think he had on a hat, but I'm not sure. It…it's just an impression. I wish I could remember better for you!" Katrina’s frustration made her impatient.

"You're doing fine, don't worry! Now. About the hat. What kind was it?"

"I don't remember."

"Let me help you. Was it a cowboy hat?"

"No. It wasn't that big."

"A baseball cap?"

"No-o-o-o, smaller, I think."

"Okay, smaller than a ball hat. Did it have a bill that stuck out over his face?"

"No." Katrina shivered. "Nothing hid his face. I have…the impression," she said, "…that it was one of those floppy kind that little old men wear. The kind that the top pulls forward so it looks like it's got two bills instead of one. Do you know what I mean?"

"A driving cap? Golfers wear them most often. That kind of hat?”

Katrina nodded and then winced with pain.

“What else do you remember?" he said, his pencil just skimming the page.

Katrina thought for awhile. "Nothing else."

"Can you tell me what color the hat was?"

"Mmmm, light. Just light. It was lighter than his hair." She sighed with the effort of trying to remember so much.

“And was his hair light or dark?”

“Grey.”

“So he was an old man?” Officer Beals almost pounced on the information.

“Not…not really old old,” Katrina said, “Not like a little old man covered in wrinkles kind of old. More of a young old, oh…like an early fifties just barely retired sort.”

"Good. Now, is there anything else about him or maybe about what he was doing that you can remember? Did he say anything or yell at you?"

"No. He just grinned that awful grin, like he was really going to enjoy running over me." A shudder passed through Katrina's body. Gavin patted her hand, giving her some comfort.

Lt. Carew asked if she had seen anything when the shots were fired. Katrina thought and replied, no, she had not seen anything then.

"Anything at all?" Detective Beals spoke once more.

"No. I was looking at the ground, as I told you. I saw the quarter and leaned forward to pick it up. I heard a loud crack—like a tree branch breaking, then a whizzing noise and a ping behind me at the statue base. I sat up, looked across to the parking lot, but I didn't see anybody or anything moving. Then I had a feeling to hide. I can't explain it. I don't know what made me do it. I just jumped for the bushes and rolled under them. The second shot came almost at the same time I moved. I stayed there until I heard Gavin call for me. I'm sorry, but I just didn't see anything. Or anyone."

"Did you see a car?" Lt. Carew asked her.

"No. Not even Gavin's."

Lt. Carew asked Katrina who would want to hurt her so badly.

"I don't know, Sir." She twisted her fingers together in her lap, watching their interplay, not looking at anyone in the room.

"Don't you? Is there someone who is angry with you, perhaps?" His persistence made her uneasy and she looked at Gavin for support. His face was inscrutable. Katrina dropped her gaze back to her hands.

"Please think hard. I think you have a very good idea who would want to hurt you, but you're afraid to tell us. The only way we can help you is if we know who to look for. Could this person have threatened you that he would hurt you if you told anyone about him?"

"No. Not really, I mean." Her eyes were still on her hands. She willed them to stop moving, but her eyes remained fixed on them, staring without really seeing them.

"Tell me exactly what you mean, Ms. McSwayne. Please."

"Well," Katrina licked her lips to moisten them. She looked at Gavin and this time he nodded. Looking back at her fingers, she cleared her throat.

"Well, it…might be…I mean if he found me, he might want to…to…" she gestured with her hand in her agitation.

"Who might want to what, Ms. McSwayne?" Detective Beals took up the question. Katrina looked at him and then at Lt. Carew. The watery blue eyes looked kind and interested in what she had to say. He smiled encouragingly. Her mouth worked, but no sound came out. She tried again, but a hoarse whisper was all that found its way past her suddenly stiff lips. Helplessly, she turned to Gavin, pleading with him with her eyes.

"Do you want me to tell them what you told me last night, Katrina?" Gavin quietly asked.

She nodded, misery and fear swamping her, weighing her down in the chair.

Gavin briefly repeated the last parts of Katrina’s story; tersely mentioning Robert and Charleston’s abuse and how she’d come to settle in Spencer.

"She fled in fear. She thought if he came back then, he'd kill her, or at least do her very serious bodily harm. That was roughly six years ago," Gavin concluded.

"I see," Lt. Carew said gravely. "Ms. McSwayne, have you seen him since then?"

Katrina shook her head no.

"Have you seen this Robert since then?"

Again she shook her head.

"Have you spoken to either of them by phone, or had any contact whatsoever, like regular mail or email?"

Once more a negative answer was given.

"The man who tried to run you down today…could it have been Charleston or Robert?"

"No." The word was nearly a whisper, but at least Katrina was able to manage it. "I'd never seen him before."

"Could your husband have gotten him to do that, do you think?"

Fear leapt through Katrina as the possibility occurred to her. She became agitated, her breathing accelerated. She looked at Gavin, then the other two men.

"I…I don't know. Could he…could…? It's been six years. Why would he all of a sudden send someone now? Why not right away when he would have been angry still?”

No on answered her. Detective Beals shrugged his shoulders, continuing to look at her closely but keeping his silence.

After looking at each of the policemen, Katrina looked at Gavin. “I don’t think he’d spend much time or energy this long after I left. He always just…sort of lived from minute to minute, looking for his ‘big break’. He constantly talked it. I'm not sure what that really meant to him. No, trying to find me…I don't think it is something he would follow up on. He seemed…to not…really want me around all the time, anyway. In fact, he…really had no…use for me…at all. I don't . . . think he would have…tried to find me…very hard…when I wasn't close by…right at first."

"Could you have seen anyone recently who would have told him your whereabouts?"

"I don't think so. No one in Spencer knows I was even married. Except…" she faltered.

"Except who?" Detective Beals asked.

Katrina stared at Gavin, her suspicions of him reborn.

"Except who, Ms. McSwayne?" Lt. Carew gently prodded her.

"Except Gavin. I haven't seen anyone that I knew from before. I only met Gavin a few days ago when he called me on the telephone and asked if I had been married to Charleston. I’ve gone by my maiden name since I came here. I have no idea why Charleston would start after me now if, indeed, he is behind this. Not after this long a time. He usually…." Katrina bit her bottom lip.

"He usually what?" Beals prompted her.

"Well, like I said, he usually didn't have any follow-through. Even on things he was thoroughly involved in. If he had to do much work on it, he…kind of let things peter out easily. Unless Jason was involved. Jason could keep him focused. I don't know," she sighed. "It's been such a long time, and I really don't think he would pursue it. Not really. Not on his own."

"Who is Jason?"

"Charleston's older brother."

"Was he involved with Charleston and Robert and their…unkindness?"

"No. We hadn't seen Jason for about six months or so when…that happened, nor have I seen him since then." She sighed in relief, the sound a little forlorn in the quietness of the room. She looked around her with quiet dismay. She felt very alone, even though Gavin was here.

"Do you think the brother would have any reason to hurt you or come to find you now?"

"Jason?" Katrina questioned. "No, I don't think so. He didn't have much use for me back then, but he never deliberately sought me out to be hateful, either. He more or less ignored me unless Charleston brought me to his attention. He really seemed to just…I don't quite know how to put it. It was sort of like I was beneath his notice, or something. If I couldn't be used to fetch and carry for him, he wouldn't even speak to me." She sighed again.

"So you don't think he could be behind this action against you?"

"No. I don't think he would stir himself for someone he felt was so very far beneath him." Katrina's voice trailed off, a frown on her face.

Silence reigned for a few long moments as Lt. Carew studied Gavin and Detective Beals checked over his notes.

"Do either of you have anything else to add?" Detective Beals looked at each of them. They, in turn, shook their heads no.

"Just a final question or two, please, Ms. McSwayne, for myself, then," said Lt. Carew.

"Yes?" Katrina looked at him.

"Do you know where your husband is right now?"

"No, I don't."

"Have you known his whereabouts at any time since you fled?" Fear clogging her throat, Katrina shook her head, the swirling pain making the room begin to wobble.

"One last, simply curious question, if I may. Why, with all you say you suffered at his hands, have you not gotten a divorce?"

"I…I… because he would find me and…because…" Katrina rubbed her temples with her eyes closed for a moment and then opened her eyes and looked at the floor.

"Well, Ms. McSwayne?" Carew said gently. “Please finish your thought.”

"He…Charleston, told me once…that…that…" Her distress was rapidly increasing along with her breathing. Her voice became very soft. She felt, rather than saw, the men leaned closer to hear her.

"That what?" Detective Beals verbally nudged Katrina when long moments passed with no sound passing her lips.

"It…was during an…argument. I…had said something about treating me as a proper wife. He…he laughed at me. He told me…that we weren't…" she swallowed. "He said…the preacher at our wedding had been an…actor friend of his and our…wedding was only…play-acting. We weren't really…married."

Katrina's shame brought heat to her face, and she knew she was blushing yet again.

"And yet you stayed with him after that?"

"I'm…a…very religious…person," Katrina said quietly, feeling tears begin to fill her eyes. "I…could not…bear for anyone to find out…I had been...living in sin…for those years. It…it would have killed my aunt. I…I couldn't tell anyone. In my own mind, I had married Charleston in good faith and it was a full and correct marriage for me, even if it wasn't particularly happy." Katrina's voice was so low now, it was almost a whisper. The tears were now coursing down her cheeks. There was no sound for long moments after she stopped speaking. Was there no end to her shame and misery? She kept her head down, eyes firmly on her toes, her fingers occasionally wiping at her cheeks.

Katrina wanted to shrivel up and fade out of their sight. She knew they had no use for her now, knowing the wickedness she had done.

How could anyone good and wonderful like Gavin want to ever even speak to her again? Her heart cried out in its torment, without fully realizing the reason for such a question. She felt she had lost something very precious to her. She didn't dare look at Gavin…she couldn't have borne the censure in his eyes…couldn't have shouldered the disgust she knew she would find there. Still, after all this time, she could barely stand the shame.

She closed her eyes, but it didn't help shut out the agony. Silence filled the room as long minutes passed. Even the heavy quietness in the room seemed to shout her shame, and her misery was complete.