Chapter 14 – Sunday July 31st
Well, things were a little more normal, in the sense that we didn't have to trek to the hospital to bring Sundays to Melanie because was staying at Mom's house with Josie and Jeremy.
Josie was sick enough that she couldn’t hide it from Melanie, now that they were living in the same house.
The texts flew between us.
Melanie to me and Liz: Josie's really sick. Says it’s the flu, but this started before I was in the hospital.
Me to Mel and Liz: She's really skinny. Doesn’t she eat?
Mel to me and Liz: Just picks. Jeremy hovers, TG at least he seems to know what's up.
Liz to me and Mel: We have to corner her. Or him. Agreed?
So I thought we were in agreement, that as soon as we could corner either Josie or Jeremy, we'd insist they talk to us. But as usual, shit happens and the best laid plans sometimes go awry.
Liz was already in the kitchen when I arrived, with Sam and Annabelle in tow. The whole place smelled phenomenal, so I suspected Liz had been there awhile.
Melanie was cleaning out the back hall closet, piling up coats and boots, tents, a sled, and an odd assortment of outdoor games.
"What's Liz cooking?" I asked Mel.
"Stuffed shells, I think. She's been in there half the day," Melanie answered.
I picked up a heavy, spiked dart with red flanges as long as the shank. "Hey, Sam. Did you ever play with these when you were a kid? There were these plastic rings…" I peered at the pile, and found one of the plastic hoops. I clearly remembered arranging the rings across the yard from each other, then tossing the dart into the air and scoring points if it landed inside the ring. Like Horseshoes, but deadlier. "How on earth did we manage not to kill each other?"
Sam laughed and said, "Man, toys have sure changed, haven't they? Dig out the rest of the set – let's bring them home."
"Should we set Annabelle and Caleb loose in the yard with them?"
It was a new voice – Craig – and it startled me.
"Hey," I said. "You gonna start coming to Sundays every week?"
He shrugged. "When I can. Long as Melanie's okay with it."
Melanie was staring at the pile of junk and pulling out another red lawn dart, and then two blue ones. She was almost smiling. "You're a good duck, Craig. I'll set up the lawn darts." She raised her voice, "Caleb, Annabelle – come on out back. I've got something to show you!"
I had yet to see either Jeremy or Josie, but Silas came through the front door, and he looked stressed to the max, almost haunted.
"Well?" I asked, pulling Silas into the living room, as far away from the back yard as we could get.
Sam and Craig followed. "Did you find out anything?"
"I don't know. Maybe. It's weird. I got a guy looking into it more, and he's going to call me back."
He'd dialed the number Melanie said was for her abuser, and someone answered.
And then hung up, without a word.
It was a five second phone call, but Melanie fainted, crumpling forward and landing on me.
Silas called the number again as we got untangled, but only reached a generic voicemail greeting. He kept trying until the phone suddenly went out of service.
It was all very fishy, so he was putting on his lawyer hat and digging, but he didn't want to freak Melanie out, so we weren't telling her that part.
"Well?" Craig demanded. "What's weird?"
Silas rubbed his hands over his face, then gave his head a slight shake. "They transported Melanie's asshole to higher security with another asshole going into the release program. Like, the other guy was graduating, but not Melanie's guy."
"Okay. And?" Craig prompted.
"They both left MSOP, and they both arrived at St. Peter, but there was some argument along the way, and the transport van was in a wreck that put two guards in the hospital with head injuries, and both the bad guys were a mess, like their faces went through auto glass."
"So Melanie's guy landed in the release program?"
Silas shrugged. "You know, everybody I've talked to makes it sound like that would be impossible, except for one guy, and he doesn't want his name getting out. MSOP worked it all out, officially, but the guards involved really don’t remember much. It was a pretty bad accident. So the one guy said, unofficially, that he supposed the two could have switched IDs. But even he didn't know why the guy headed into the release program wouldn't have raised holy hell about landing in maximum security instead."
"So he really could be out," Craig said, and took in a deep breath. "Shit."
Silas was nodding. "Yeah. He could. But the people in charge who are willing to entertain that idea can't find him. And officially…"
"Yeah," Craig said. "I get it. Officially he's right where he belongs."
"The thing is, the accident was seven years ago. We're talking long-term planning. Just to get at Melanie. It's hardly realistic."
"Nobody ever suggested he was right in the head," I said.
Liz came in then, and said, "Supper's almost done, and Eric's on his way. Does anybody know where Josie and Jeremy went?"
And speak of two little devils, they came in the door, Eric on their heels. It was 5:05. Jeremy was carrying a pie box and grinning.
Josie looked better. Maybe not a lot better, but better.
"Eric, help me bring the food out. Jess, Josie – can you guys set the table?"
"On it," I said, and went to the front hall closet for the kids' table and the folding chairs, because with everybody here, we'd need it.
Josie helped me. "You look a little better," I said.
She sighed. "Yeah, getting better. Got headache drugs that seem to help a lot. Don't know how I ended up with migraines."
She looked like she'd been sleeping more, and her skin had some color.
As we pulled the everyday dishes out of the china cabinet, I asked, "So, is the doctor saying migraine headaches? Is that it?"
"Yeah, pretty much. They're testing my thyroid, and some other endocrine stuff. I'm not sure I understand everything, but I have a follow-up appointment next week, and I'll find out more."
"Is Jeremy taking you to all these appointments?"
"Yeah," she said. "He's pretty great. I wish Silas would let himself have a real relationship. Then again, the way it is now means more Jeremy-time for me. He really is a nice guy. I'd be awfully lonely without him."
"How's it having Melanie here?"
Josie pursed her lips and turned one hand sideways, gesturing so-so. "Well. Slightly scary, considering maybe she's being stalked, you know? But we haven't seen anyone suspicious, thank God."
The minute she said it, the doorbell rang.
I jumped and shrieked a little bit.
We were all here. I couldn't imagine who'd be at the door.
Silas's voice cracked over us like a whip. "Sam, you get the kids. I'll get the door."
Sam, with Craig not far behind, booked into the kitchen to get the kids from out back.
My heart was in my throat, pounding, almost stopping my breath. Even though we'd been talking about it, we'd already let ourselves be lax and left Melanie and the kids alone outside.
Those of us in the dining room, Me, Josie, Liz, Eric, and Jeremy stood silent, on high alert, all our heads turned toward the front door, watching Si.
Silas pulled the door open with more force than necessary, the fingers of his free hand clenched into a ready fist.