Murder On Covey Hill chapters 3 & 4, a short story by AidanRGreen. Date added: 2011-06-08. Times viewed: 710.
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- Intro: A small New England town, a violent murder, and secrets behind every door.
Coming into the den through the back door of the house, Ryan and I were greeted by the smell of a meatloaf in the oven. After tossing our phones and keys onto the drop-leaf maple table that sits in front of the bay window, we wandered into the kitchen where we found my mom cutting up tomatoes to add to a salad.
“Hey! We’re back.”
She gave us each a kiss on the cheek, then looked up at me and grinned. “I have just two words to say. PHONE. CALL.”
“Oh my gosh! Mom I’m sorry. I guess I lost track. We’ve got some great news!” I opened the icebox to pull out a pitcher of tea, while Ryan grabbed a couple of glasses from the cabinet.
Mom looked up from her work. “And I’ve got some that isn’t so great.”
We both turned around to find her with the oddest expression on her face.
“Okay, but we get to go first. Good news should always take precedent over bad. David and Dianne are engaged!”
Whatever her news, my mom suppressed it momentarily. “Oh boys, that’s great! I guess David knows he’s getting one of the sweetest girls in town doesn’t he?”
“That’s exactly what I told him.” I poured Ryan a glass of tea, and we moved to the breakfast nook and sat down. As I did, Joey jumped up in my lap, nudging my hand to remind me that he was due some attention. I sat there rubbing his back with one hand while I downed my glass of tea with the other.
Mom added the tomatoes to the salad, placed it in the icebox, checked her meatloaf and then joined us at the table.
She sat stone still for a moment, just staring at her hands.
“Mom, what’s up?”
She looked me straight in the eye. “Nora Mae Gallagher is dead.”
“What?” Ryan and I both exclaimed at the same time.
Ryan looked at me. “Well I guess that would explain the Garda in the yard.”
Mom and I stared at Ryan, a blank look on our faces.
Ryan grinned. "Police."
"Ah," we said in unison.
I looked at my mom with disbelief. “What happened?”
“Tess came in this afternoon and found her on the kitchen floor. Someone...” Mom stopped and swallowed hard. “Someone apparently came in and bashed her head open.”
Ryan and I couldn’t help ourselves. We began laughing uncontrollably.
My mom’s face went white. “I fail to see what is so funny.”
“Oh mum (as Ryan had taken to calling my mom), if you only knew!”
After we finally got ourselves under control, Ryan and I took turns telling mom of Dianne’s rather weird prophecy.
“Oh my gosh! I’d better call Dianne.” As I jumped up to grab the phone, I interrupted Joey’s ‘lap time’, causing him to jump down and head for the den.
Before I could get to the kitchen phone, it rang.
“Hello? Yes. Yes, I know. Mom just told us. Is that weird or what? It’s what? Oh great! That's just what I need. What about last night? Oh, that. Yes, I know. I know. That didn’t mean anything. I was just aggravated with her. Look, I’ll...hang on I’ve got another call coming through. Hello? Oh, hey Dalton. Yeah, mom just told us. Do what? No, I’ll be here. We were just getting ready to sit down to dinner. Sure, that’ll be fine. Okay. See you then. Dianne? That was Dalton. Yeah. He’s coming up. Listen, I’ll call you later and let you know what’s going on.”
I slowly replaced the receiver back into the cradle.
‘Think,’ I told myself. ‘You’ve got to get yourself under control.’ I took a moment to offer up a prayer. Partly for peace for Nora Mae’s soul (hey, I might have disliked her, but I’m not without feelings), and partly for guidance on how to handle what I knew was coming.
I turned back to face mom and Ryan. “The first call was Dianne. It’s all over the news. The other call was from Dalton. He’ll be stopping by in the next couple of hours. It seems I’m under suspicion. Apparently my little tête-à-tête with Nora Mae last night is the talk of the town.”
Mom and Ryan didn’t move. They just sat staring at me with disbelief on their faces.
“Well? Alrighty then. Let’s eat.”
A knock at the back door three hours later marked the arrival of Dalton Owens.
Dalton is not only the Covey Pointe Chief of Police, but also our friend and neighbour and lives two doors down with his wife Olivia and their two kids.
Short and athletic, he looked ready for a back-yard barbeque rather than an official investigation. His sleeveless sweatshirt, blue jeans and tennis shoes were a sure sign he’d been called away from the latest project he and Olivia were working on.
“Sorry I’m late, it just took longer to wrap things up than expected.”
I knew from the look on his face that he wasn’t looking forward to this any more than I was. “Not a problem. Come on in and have a seat.”
As I turned off the television, Ryan stood up to excuse himself. “I know you’ll want some privacy. Good to see you Dalton. Tell Olivia hallo for me. Colin, I’ll be in your office working on that proposal.” He opened the French doors connecting the den to the kitchen and headed for my home ‘office’. The office, originally a bedroom, now contains a workstation with computers linked to the mainframe at OCEAN via satellite and gives me the opportunity to check data at any given hour.
As Dalton and I got settled, my mom opened the French doors and brought in a tray containing a coffee pot, cups, cream pitcher and sugar bowl.
Dalton looked up at her and smiled. “Thanks Lori. God knows I can use a cup of that right about now.”
“I have a feeling both of you probably can. How’s Olivia doing?” She set the tray on an antique cherry wood tea cart, a gift from my dad on their silver wedding anniversary.
“She’s fine. You know how she is. It’s just one project after another! She’s out in the backyard finishing up a new flower bed if you’d like to keep her company while Colin and I go over a few things.”
“I will. God knows I need a distraction right about now.”
My mom leaned down and kissed me on the cheek. “I’ll be near if you need me.” Even though I’m thirty, she still finds it hard letting go of that protective maternal instinct.
After she left Dalton and I settled down to face the issue at hand. “I’m sure you know why I’m here.”
“I’ve got a pretty good idea. I’m guessing it has to do with the scene Nora Mae caused at last night’s meeting.”
Dalton nodded. “Some people who were there are now calling your parting words a threat, given all that’s happened.”
“Some people? Some? Oh come on! Don’t kid a kidder. Be honest. Two out of the twenty-five that were there? Come on Dalton! Ninety-nine percent of this town is just waiting for you to make an arrest so they can throw a gigantic party to congratulate whoever did it. Look, I know you guys have only been here about ten years, and I don’t know if you’ve had many dealings with her or not, but the truth is, if everyone in this town were honest with you, you’d find out that pretty much everyone here hated that old woman’s guts!”
Dalton sat his coffee cup down, stared into it for a moment, then raised his head and looked me straight in the eyes. “Enough to kill her?”
I turned and looked out through the large bay window at our view of the ocean off in the distance. Without turning back to face him I said softly, “I can’t believe you asked that.”
“You don’t know how much I hate asking.”
The silence that followed grew uncomfortable.
When I managed to get my thoughts in order, I turned back to face him. It was hard to read what was written in his eyes. His face was a slab of marble with no hint of life behind his stare. In all the years of our friendship, this was a side of him I had never seen before. And to be honest, a side I hoped I never saw again.
I finally found my voice. “You know me. Why would you even ask such a thing? Look, I know I spouted off last night, but Dalton, she just kept pushing my buttons. She pushed them every chance she got. I admit that that probably wasn’t the smartest thing in the world to say, but for God’s sake, how was I supposed to know something like this would happen? I was just blowing steam.”
“So then you won’t mind telling me where you were last night?”
“Well?” He sat stone still waiting for my reply.
I poured myself another cup of coffee and walked back to the bay window. Watching the distant waves in the ocean, I took a couple of deep breaths to calm myself. I stood, continuing to stare out the window. I was afraid to turn around. Afraid my eyes would betray me.
“After I spouted off, I took the lift up to my office. I started to pour myself a drink. When I did, I looked up at the picture of my mom and dad and Tom and Rose that hangs above the mini bar. I knew drowning my frustration in a bottle of scotch wouldn’t accomplish anything. I felt ashamed. Ashamed I had let myself get pushed to the point of blowing up. And it wasn’t just the fact that I had made a scene, but I had to go and do it in front of people that I love and respect. Suddenly I was thankful that my dad and Tom weren’t there to witness what had taken place. I sat the bottle back down, opened all of the windows and sat down at my desk. I just sat there with the lights off, staring out at the ocean. I don’t even know how long I was there. The next thing I knew, Ryan was in the office, standing behind me and asking if I was okay.”
“What time was it by then?”
“I honestly don’t know.”
“Had the rain started at that point?”
“No.” My voice sounded surreal, as though I had been hypnotized. “I was watching the lightening far out over the ocean. The wind hadn’t picked up enough that I needed to close the windows.”
“And after Ryan came in? Then what?”
I sat back down in my chair, and turned to face Dalton.
“We shut the office down, took the lift to the lower level then went aboard The Jace 2Oh to make sure we had everything ready for the outing we took earlier today.”
“And how long did that take?”
“I don’t know. Three, four hours.”
“That’s a long time to prepare a boat for a trip, don’t you think?”
I didn’t say a word, just sat staring at the floor. After a moment I looked up to find Dalton patiently waiting for an answer.
“I don’t know how to answer that Dalton. But, yeah it took that long. Afterwards we made sure the building was secured and then left for home.”
Dalton sat his coffee cup down and stood. “Okay. As a friend and neighbour, I’m going to take you at your word. But if you hear anything, and I mean anything at all, that you think might be of use, I want you to come straight to me. Understand?”
I nodded. “I understand.”
I saw Dalton out then went through the house to find Ryan. Poking my head in the office, I found it empty. I stepped down the hall to my bedroom. Opening the door, I found Ryan asleep on my bed with Joey curled up next to him. The volume on my television was turned down low. On the screen Susan Hayward was calling Robert Benchley a bombastic bagpipe for throwing food down the drain. I recognized the comedic scene from the 1943 classic “Young and Willing”. I switched the set off and left them sleeping.
Going back through the den I grabbed my phone and keys and prepared to head out the door. My first thought was to hop in the Calster and take a drive to unwind. Knowing how my attention span was short circuiting, I decided against the idea. With my mind in a fog I didn’t trust myself behind the wheel. I tossed the keys back down, grabbed a throw from the back of the sofa, went out the back door, across the patio that runs the length of the back of the house and up the stairs to the sundeck built over our carport. I had just settled in on one of the chaise lounges when my phone rang. Checking the caller I.D., I answered on the second ring.
The voice on the other end seemed surprised that I had answered so quickly. “Is it safe to talk?”
“Yeah, I’m alone.”
“Good. About last night, how’d that go?”
“No problem. It’s taken care of.”
“You weren’t seen?”
“No. I parked off of the main highway out of sight and was able to stay well hidden going to and from.”
“And you’re sure nobody suspects?”
“I’m positive. And if anyone should get suspicious, well let’s just say I’ve got an alibi lined up. With that and some good ole Theatre 101, I’ll be able to lie my way out of it.”
“Trust me on this.”
“I do. Now listen, about the money…”
“Forget about it. You have no idea how good it felt to do it.”
“Someone’s coming. I gotta ring off.” I snapped my phone shut as the footsteps started up the deck stairs.
“Colin?” It was my mom.
“I’m up here mom.”
She poked her head up from the stairs. “I thought I heard you. What are you doing up here?”
“Unwinding. How’s Olivia?”
“She’s fine. You should see the beds she and Dalton have put in around the corners of the pool. It’s going to look so nice once they finish. I think I’ll call Mary on Monday and see if she’ll let me come out and dig a few ferns. Those would really add to the look Olivia’s going for.”
“I’m sure she won’t mind. I’ll probably see Michael at mass in the morning. I’ll ask him, and if it’s okay, you and I can drive out tomorrow afternoon.”
“Thanks son.” My mom glanced around the deck. “Where’s Ryan? Has he already left?”
“Nah. He crashed on my bed. Just let him sleep. It’s such a nice night I think I’ll just sleep up here.”
“Are you sure?”
“Everything go okay with Dalton?”
“Yeah mom. No worries. Just a misunderstanding. It’s fine.”
“Do you need to talk?”
“Nah. I’m fine mom. Honest.”
“Okay then.” My mom smiled up at me. “Do you want me to wake you when I get up?”
“That’s okay. I’ll just set the alarm on my phone.”
“Well then, I’ll see you at breakfast. Goodnight son. I love you.”
“I love you too mom.”
I watched her head disappear down the stairs and heard her cross the patio and enter the house. I laid my head back on the chaise lounge and looked up at the stars. ‘Dear God,’ I prayed, ‘Please forgive me for what I did, and for having to lie to my mother. I’d rather cut my arms off than to lie to her and keep secrets from her, but there’s just no other way around this. If there is, please show me how.’
I fell asleep staring off into the heavens and wishing I had a dull plastic spoon with which to saw my arms off.
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