Sunday comes in its orderly fashion. I am glad that we are going to have some quiet time. I want to cleanse the conservatory and prefer to do that when it can then sit without anyone in it for at least twenty-four hours.
Zeke had gone to Paul the day before to show him the pile of guts Dorie spilled all over us, so to speak. I was more than content to let him speak to the authorities about that particular person and her story. By mutual consent, he and I do not hash over it. I really don’t want to think of John Robert using me to inflict pain on his wife.
I am minding the store when the phone rings. I answer it and am pleasantly surprised to hear Rob’s voice.
“Hey there, Mattie! How are you?”
“Doing good, Rob. What’s up?”
“I was wondering if you all had plans for dinner tonight?”
“None that I know of—“
He interrupts me. “Good, because we’d like to get together with you all. We thought maybe somewhere downtown?”
“Rob, I need to check with Zeke and make sure. Especially since he’s the one who usually prepares our meals.”
“Do you want me to hold and you can ask him, or would you rather call me back?”
“Well, if you can hang on…”
I ask Zeke and he is happy to forego cooking tonight so I tell Rob that we will be honored to join them. We set up a time for them to pick us up and then hang up.
I close up shop and even have enough time to grab a quick shower before “The Boys” are knocking on our door. Zeke lets them in and they troop back upstairs to wait for me.
I come out of the bedroom and am immediately engulfed in hugs. I laugh and hug back, and then Josh takes my hands in his. He looks into my eyes and begins to speak.
“Mattie, I had my doctor’s appointment last Tuesday and he wanted to get another MRI to determine when we would need to do the surgery to remove what he had described to me as a malignant, aggressive tumor.
“I had had a needle biopsy just before…just before we saw you, so we knew it was cancer. It runs in my family. My mom died of cancer when I was fifteen, and pretty much everyone else in the family has either died from cancer or had to deal with some sort of growth.”
I nod to show that I am hearing him. He continues.
“So I had the MRI. They made me come back three times. Then they wanted me to have an ultrasound. We did that four times. They even did a (he looks over at Rob)—what did they call it?”
“A PET scan…stands for Positron Emissions Topography. It uses radioactive air to make a more detailed image than ultrasound or MRI’s can.” Rob is grinning from ear to ear.
“So I had that done yesterday. And Mattie, I am going in the medical books for the first documented case of spontaneous remission ever known.” Josh is also grinning even as he pulls me into the tightest hug I have ever gotten from anyone.
Zeke looks at them and at me. “You mean to tell me—“
“It’s gone. It’s totally gone. They cannot find a trace of a cancer that was killing me.” Josh interrupts him. “Mattie pulled it completely out. Of course, I did not tell them that…well, I did say that I had seen a healer and I think my doctor would like to meet you.”
“It’s gone?” I can hardly believe it. “Really gone? And it was really there. I mean, your doctor was definitely sure that you had…”
“Oh, Mattie…I had seen three different doctors, they did the biopsy. I had cancer. A really bad one. It was growing around my heart, and it had doubled in size in just three months. I only had about six months at that rate of growth before it would kill me—even with the surgery.
“They had been planning that for over a month. I made them wait until after the holidays, and they weren’t happy about it. But I didn’t want…if anything happened in surgery, I did not want Rob to associate the holidays with my death.”
“Right…I didn’t want him to wait, either, but he insisted. So when I met you that day in the lab, I figured…why not?” Rob comes over to us and puts his arm around Josh. “The doctors are calling it a miracle. There was only about a fifty-fifty chance that the surgery would take care of it anyways. We were talking radiation and chemo for like months after the operation.
“Now they keep saying ‘spontaneous remission’ and ‘complete re-absorption of the cell mass’—medical babble talk for ‘who knows what the hell happened?’ Of course they want to monitor him for like the next couple of years, but as long as the pictures come back clean…and I see no reason why they won’t.”
I am stunned. I had no idea that it was that bad…and that I had done something that—well, that stupendous.
I can feel my face pull into the same goofy grin that both of the young men are wearing and when I look at Zeke, his smile is only slightly smug but fills his face as well.
I grab their hands and begin the Happy Dance, as we call it. Vader joins in, springing up and down as we do a major victory shuffle.
We hoot and whoop, celebrating life…and then go out to dinner.
Zeke and I finally crawl home in the wee, small hours of the morning, having thoroughly celebrated with the guys. We don’t drink to excess very often but I am very relieved that it’s Monday and I don’t have to get up for work.
By the time I roll out of bed, it’s noon and I’m the first one up. I start the coffee, knowing that my beloved will need that and a couple of aspirins before he will be human again. Vader follows me as I go between the kitchen and the bedroom, quietly setting the cup on Zeke’s bedside table and putting the pain relievers in a small dish right next to it.
I go back out into the living area and am drinking my water when the phone rings. I grab it before it can ring again.
It’s Paul and he’s in a loud place. It takes me a moment to hear what he is telling me.
“Mattie, did you hear me? I said that they have had to dismiss the hit and run case against John Junior. He had an alibi, and he didn’t do it.”
“Alibi? Why didn’t he just say so when they arrested him?”
“Well, it seems that he was visiting his drug dealer at the time of the accident.”
“And that’s his alibi?”
“Wait, it gets better. His drug dealer is presently incarcerated, but still running his business from the state pen. So we have video tape of John Junior talking to him that day, the same time his car was running Zeke and Vader over.”
I am stunned. My mind is trying to decide which piece of information is more amazing: that John Junior is not the one who hurt my boys, or that there is a drug dealer running his ring from a penal institution that is supposed to prevent the committing of felonies.
“Mattie, you there?”
“Yeah. So what is the court going to do about…well, all of this?”
“Oh the con has been busted so far into the system I doubt he’ll ever see daylight again. And as much as it irks me, John Junior did not do it. Between the video at the jail and Laurie Bradford’s testimony—“
“What do you mean, Laurie’s testimony?” I shriek at him.
“Oh, yeah. That’s how we found out about him being at the pen that day. She took him. She got up on the stand and swore under oath that he was not driving that day.”
“Paul, what are they doing about finding out who was?”
“Well, the judge insisted that Junior get on the stand, to swear to the new evidence. The DA asked him who would have had access to the vehicle in question,” and Paul sighs, “and his answer was that the only other person who had the keys to his car and could drive it was his father.”
John Robert’s cold dead hand reaches out once more to clench around my heart. I am holding my breath as I try to assimilate what Paul has just told me. He apparently understands the silence and when he speaks, his voice is sad and heavy.
“Mattie, I think we agree that John Robert is most likely person to have been driving. Since the car was back in the Schmidt’s garage, it really could not have been a car thief. The police are not closing the case, but let’s face it…the chances of it being someone else are very slim.”
“I know. I…suppose it was John Robert. Which means he’s beyond paying for it, damn him.”
“Yah. Except that I have a feeling he will have to live several lives to pay off the bad karma he managed to gather in this one.”
“One can only hope.”
“You’ll tell Zeke? I have to go back to the office and prepare to be in court again tomorrow. It’s Eric Adamson’s turn to talk to the judge.”
“I’ll tell him. And what did you all end up charging Eric with?”
“Desecration of a dead body and tampering with the evidence. I hear he’s going to plead guilty with extenuating circumstances. He is a very…emotional young man. And he’s got those good looks…if he gets Judge Brendt, he’ll get off with a light slap. She’s got a real soft spot for those golden haired boys.”
“Not a good quality in a judge. I understand Ted Bundy was very good looking.”
“My thoughts, too. But I can’t do much about it.”
It’s a good thing that I have very little faith in our judicial system or it would be shaken. I say good bye to Paul and sit on the couch, thinking about what he’s told me.
Zeke finds me still there when he finally gets out of bed.
He is amused that John Junior’s alibi is a videotape of a drug deal. We talk about the accident and whether John Robert did it or not—and if he didn’t, we both agree that the chances of solving the case are essentially non-existent. He is also interested to hear about Eric. He points out that the police can use more or less the same charges against Rhyssa. We figure they probably will.
The rest of the day passes quietly. That sets the tone for the remainder of the week and I am glad to have the reprieve from drama for however long it will last. I work in the store during the day and at night, we eat our dinner and watch Zeke’s beloved news.
Paul does let us know that Rhyssa is out of the hospital and has her day in court with the same charges as Eric. He is checking out Dorie’s background based on what Zeke had told him—and he mumbles something about looking closer at Barry Tisdale’s movements as well.
The shop does a decent amount of business and I am happy to have the ability to pay my bills. It’s going to be nice to get a little bit ahead—until Zeke figures out that we can use the extra money to have Josh come and do some architectural magic. There goes that cushion!
It’s been a quiet Sunday afternoon and I am back in the kitchen, concocting a lotion for a customer when I hear the door chime. Zeke is out front, so I don’t think too much about it until I hear him call my name. I excuse myself and walk out into the entryway.
Laurie Bradford is standing there and she looks like hell.
“I hope you’re happy.” She snarls at me. “The police have just arrested Johnny for murdering his father.”
Zeke and I look at each other and then at her.
“So did he do it?” Zeke asks.
“Of course not. But they found atropine in his room, so of course they think that it means he did.”
“Laurie, what was he doing with atropine?”
She looks at the floor and the walls, anywhere but at us. Finally she speaks. “Well, ummm…you see, Johnny…ahhh, well, he does drugs.”
“And he read somewhere that atropine was like LSD, but doesn’t stay in the body like LSD does.”
I glance at Zeke and he shrugs.
“Laurie, why are you here? What does John Junior’s arrest have to do with me?”
“Because you just couldn’t keep out of it. Because you told the cops about Sara, they started poking into Johnny’s stuff.”
“If he’s innocent, he’s got nothing to worry about, does he?” Zeke points out, almost maliciously. “Mattie had a duty to Sara to get her the help that she needs. Right?”
Laurie manages to look ashamed and angry at the same time.
“She still should have minded her own business. Sara could have asked for help any time…”
Zeke takes her arm and turns her towards the door. “Get out. When you’ve grown up, you might understand things better.”
She sputters and tries to dig in her heels, but he is one of Newton’s unstoppable forces and she is gently but firmly pushed out of the store. He comes back and looks at me.
“Poor Mattie. You are not to blame, and if ‘Johnny” (he manages to mimic Laurie’s rather whiny voice) is the murderer, then I’m glad that they’ve got him.”
“I’m not so sure that it’s him…” I mumble as I go back to the kitchen and to my customer.
I am barely finished with giving the lotion lady her change when Barry Tisdale walks into the store. At least, I assume that it’s Barry since it is the man we saw talking to Dorie at the restaurant.
“Excuse me, are you Mattie Weaver?” he asks as he comes over towards me. Vader steps between us and utters a low growl. “My name is Barry Tisdale and I would like to talk to you.”
I nod and stand there, pretty much knowing what he’s going to say to me. Something about John Robert’s vague widow, I have no doubt. This is beginning to be tedious.
He is much smarter than John Robert was since he stops well away from me, acknowledging Vader’s presence with a glance. When he speaks, he doesn’t disappoint me.
“I am a (barely perceptible pause) friend of Dorothy Schmidt’s and she is going through a terrible time. When she talks about any of it, your name keeps coming up. It doesn’t matter whether it’s her husband’s murder, her son being in jail or the fact that her daughter no longer lives with her. All I hear is ‘Mattie did this’ and ‘Mattie did that.’ Three separate situations that are not linked in any way and yet your name gets mentioned in each one. Can you explain why?” His finger points at me like an indictment.
“Mr. Tisdale, even assuming that they are not connected other than all happening to Dorie, I can’t imagine why anyone would think that Mattie is responsible.” Zeke comes out of the office. “No one denies that they are tragic events, but it is kind of annoying that people keep coming in here and trying to blame someone who has absolutely no motive for creating this kind of chaos in anyone’s life.”
I stand there watching both men. Barry draws a breath and turns towards Zeke as he starts speaking again. “Maybe if people are coming in and blaming her there is a reason. You know that if more than one person says…” His finger is still pointing at me.
Zeke interrupts him. “I don’t care how many people say it. I guess you’ve never heard of the mob mentality, repeating gossip or just generally looking for a scapegoat. Just because a million people repeat a rumor—or a lie—doesn’t make it true. And the truth is that Mattie doesn’t go around hurting people, either literally by killing them or by somehow creating a situation that ends up causing the kind of emotional distress that Dorie is dealing with.”
Barry is not mollified by Zeke’s comments and Zeke is just waiting for any further verbal attacks. Vader sits on my feet but he is watching Barry even closer than Zeke is. I decide to break the tense silence before either man says—or does–something that can’t be retracted. Zeke is a wonderful man, but he cannot be described as having the patience of Job. I prefer not to deal with the authorities again for any reason, but definitely not for something involving him.
“Mr. Tisdale, I am sorry beyond words for Dorie. I can’t imagine how dreadful her life is right now and how much it must hurt her. She chose to share some of her past with us and she has had a rough time of it for a very long time. But I am truly only an observer of all of this.”
“I don’t think siccing the police on Sara is just observing…” He grumbles but at least he stops pointing at me.
“First off, I didn’t ‘sic’ them on her. I reported a situation that was reprehensible and should have been brought to the authorities’ attention a long time ago. Secondly, if that leads to her being able to get the help she so obviously and desperately needs, I don’t care who thinks it was interference. Not you, not even her mother.”
He has the grace to look abashed at that but I can tell that he’s gearing up for some other sort of argument.
Zeke steps closer to me. “Mr. Tisdale, I suggest you limit yourself to supporting Dorothy Schmidt as she deals with the total chaos that is her life and leave Mattie alone. We have nothing to do with this and we are finished talking about it.”
“I am supporting her! As near as I can tell, you are the sole reason her daughter has been taken away from her. You’re the reason her son is now in jail, charged with his own father’s murder. Explain this to me, tell me how you’re just an “observer” when it’s plain that you acted and these things happened. How is it just observing when everything that has happened to Dorothy can be traced back to you?!” He ends this tirade in a shout, pointing that finger at me again.
Vader has started barking just about the word jail and is still going, every hair on his body standing straight out. He’s a regular hellhound puffball…so I stoop to pick him up and tell him to hush. When I straighten back up, I start to answer the irate and red-faced man, but Zeke interrupts.
“If you think that your accusations are true, take them to the police and let them handle it—the same as we have with any sort of information we thought was valid or vital. Until then, I refuse to listen to this anymore. Shut your mouth and get out of my house.” Zeke is calm and quiet; he doesn’t raise his voice but there is a deadly intensity as he clearly states this. I am so glad that he is not directing his words at me because just standing here listening to him, I’m scared.
Barry Tisdale is apparently psychic—at least a little because he apparently gets the real message behind the words. He turns on his heel and stalks out of the store. Vader stops barking and I can breathe again. Zeke is stalking out the back door before I can lock the front one and catch up to him.
The dog runs out, trying to match his strides as Zeke moves out into the garden. He gallops up to this angry man and something in the electricity coming off of my beloved sends the dog scampering back to me. I pick him up and stand there, with my arms wrapped around him, puffing clouds of smoke and wondering if I should stay out here and freeze or go back in and let him freeze… although it’s not going to happen any time real soon, as angry as he is. His wrath is palpable, even at this distance.
He comes to a sudden stop in front of the wolf statue. He puts both hands on it and I know that he is consciously grounding himself—just like an electrical circuit, he is letting all the anger flow out of him and back into the Earth. I watch him closely so that I can breathe in time with him, letting my feelings also flow out of me and finding calm and contentment once more. I turn and head back into the warmth of the house, knowing that he is not far behind me.
I don’t realize how close he is until he scoops both me and the dog up and carries us inside. “Don’t you know you’ll catch your death of the cold going outside without a coat on?” He grins at me.
“Oh, I’ve got my love to keep me warm.” I snuggle into his arms and nuzzle his neck. He sets me down and then pulls me against him, holding me tightly. The dog wiggles and complains so we pull apart enough to set him down. We cling to each other, survivors of yet another of someone else’s emotional storms.