Thursday, November 15, 2007

Chapter Forty-Seven

After Peter said his goodbyes and left to return to Charlottesville, Harold remained behind reading a magazine while Fanny busied herself with her writing. In many ways it was familiar. Harold sitting and reading on one side of the room while Fanny worked on her novel. They’d spent many contented hours like this in companionable silence. At one point Harold noticed that the steady clicking of the keys had abated and he looked over at Fanny and saw she was absorbed in something on the screen. “What are you looking at honey?” It felt so natural to address her in affectionate terms forgetting that he was still a stranger to her.

“I’m reading my journal. It seems I’m a very lucky woman and that you’re a big part of it. Listen to this. It’s dated September 12th – just a couple of weeks ago.”

This morning I am surprised to find myself "crying for happy" as I sit on the deck soaking in the changes the seasons bring. I am overwhelmed with a sense of peace. The peace is undisturbed by Arlo who still feels the need to bark at the gulls that circle at eye level over the creek. He believes, I think, that they are invading his space. Each bark echoes back to him from across the creek. Soon he ignores the birds and begins barking at his echo as he searches in vain for the dog across the creek. It is chilly here on the deck. I wrap myself in a blanket. I sip my coffee. I am totally content. As I write, Harold is seated cross legged at the end of our pier in meditation. Abundance looks so different than it once did. Warmth, nourishing food, loved ones near by, my health. That is abundance.

“I’m not saying it’s prize winning material or anything, but it makes me very happy to know that this is the way our life is, Harold.”

Fanny smiled at her husband and went back to reading her journal. There was an entry dated May 31st.

Blue Moon

Second full moon this month. The seem to be coming around more often, but according to this morning’s news it’s really only every two and a half years. The moon wasn’t up yet when I took Arlo for his walk.. Or maybe it was and I was too busy talking to my friend Emmy. She’s here for our regular Thursday night write. It’s late. Almost 9:00 and we have just begun writing. We sat on the deck and talked for a while. She helped herself to some salad while I tried a slice of the bread she had brought from the farmer’s market in Bethesda. We watched Arlo play in the backyard. Still daylight then. No moon. Blue or otherwise.

My left knee is sore. For the past few days I have been running on the treadmill. They moved the row of elliptical machines to a part of the gym that is gloomy and only has one TV. In their place they put new treadmills that are supposed to have a soft track to cushion the knees and ankles. Not soft enough. I noticed the first twinge just as I was fastening Arlo’s leash. Maybe it’s time for another cortisone shot or maybe I’ll just go back to the ellipticals – even if it is gloomy there. Whatever I do, I can’t let this be an excuse not to exercise in the morning.

“You know, Harold, it really amazing how much one can learn about themselves by reading their journal. But I do have a few questions.”

“Okay – ask me anything.”

“All right. Who is Emmy?”

“Emmy is your best friend. She’d like the sister you would have had if you got to pick your sister. And she is your writing buddy. She comes over to our house every Thursday and you two write together while I am at my meeting. Does any of that ring a bell?”

Fanny turned her head to one side and looked off into the distance as though she were trying to hear a figurative bell. Then she shook her head. “No, honey. Nothing. But I do have another question. Do I have a bad knee?”

“You’ve got a pretty complete journal there. Yep. It’s your left knee. You have a torn medial meniscus. Right before we went to Italy last year you went to a doctor at Georgetown Hospital. He took some pictures of your knee, gave you a shot of cortisone and prescribed physical therapy. You walked all over Italy – pain free. Any bells?”

“No bells. Sorry.”

Harold got up and walked across the room to where Fanny sat. He was about to kiss his wife when suddenly the door opened and in rushed Jerry Benson along with Detective Jacoby and a third man that Harold didn’t recognize.

“Sorry to bust in like this, but something has come up and it couldn’t wait.” Jacoby was dressed casually in a sweatshirt and jean but he still managed to convey the persona of a hard-boiled detective. “Mrs. Britt, we want to move you to a more secure location.” Harold put his arm around Fanny protectively.

“You’re not thinking of taking her back to jail?”

“Let me explain. Let’s start at the beginning.” Jerry Benson sat down on the corner of Fanny’s bed. “Late yesterday afternoon. Mosby Ellis came to my office.” He pointed toward the stranger who was leaning uncomfortably against the wall. “He gave me some very disturbing information about the person who is apparently responsible for the murder of his friend Lillian Petulengro and a similar murder down in Calvert County.” Fanny’s eyes widened. This was the first she had heard of a second murder. “The reason we barged in like we did is because about an hour ago Mosby saw that man in the lobby of this hospital.”

“Did you see him yourself, Jerry?”

“I saw a man running away. I didn’t get a look at his face. However, Mosby is absolutely certain it was the same man.” As he stood in front of his friends trying to explain the reason for his distress, Jerry realized that much of the evidence against Jaffe and Carl Stone was circumstantial. All that really tied them to the murders was a tattoo and a forty year old news story.

Mosby interrupted. “I know it was the guy. And the only reason he would have for being here is that he’s afraid you saw something that day at Lilly’s shop. You’re in danger, Mrs. Britt.”

“Now just hold on a minute, Ellis. My wife has been through some kind harrowing experience that we can only imagine. She’s still suffering the after effects of that trauma. I won’t have you barge in here and alarm her further.”

“I can appreciate that and I am truly sorry. But Lilly was my best friend. I want to see her killer punished. But even more important – I don’t want anyone else hurt.”

Jacoby held his hand up. “Mr. Britt, Jerry and I have just talked to your wife’s doctor. He assures us Mrs. Britt will suffer no ill effects from a move to a more secure location. We can’t protect her here at the hospital. There’s too much activity. Too many people coming and going. We have a safe house up near the Washington Cathedral. We’re going to move you there now. And we’re going to add a second guard.”

Jerry reached over and touched Fanny’s hand. “We’re going to step outside now so you can get ready, Fanny. This will all be over soon. The police are going to catch the guy that’s responsible and then you and Harold can get back to living a normal life.”

The men left the room. Harold left with them. Fanny looked down at the words on her computer screen – the ones she had just read to Harold a few minutes earlier. I am overwhelmed with a sense of peace.

She closed her computer. Everything and everyone was strange to her. She had no reality to grasp. No certainty. She had not choice but to let go. Even as the phrase “let go” came to her mind she felt strangely secure.

When Harold returned to the room ten minutes later he found his wife sitting in a chair by the window still dressed in her gown and robe.

“I’m not leaving, Harold. This is the safest place for me. Jacoby and the rest of them say they can’t protect me here but they’re wrong. Think about it. If they’re right they know exactly who they have to watch for. I think he’d be crazy to show up here again after being practically chased from the lobby. If he does, they’ll catch him. They’re really underestimating the nurses on this floor. Those women don’t miss a thing.”

Harold marveled at his wife’s ability remain rational and calm in the face of all she had been through. But then why should he be surprised? This was the woman who had coolly and competently steered their lives for twenty-five years. Why had he thought for a moment that a little thing like losing her memory, being arrested for murder and being marked for murder by killer would take away her spirit?

“Fanny, darling, it’s Jacoby’s business to know how to handle things like this. Shouldn’t we let him do his job?”

“It may be his job, Harold, but it’s my life. Right now all I can recall of my life is the last two and a half days and I’ve spent more than half of that in this room. This is all I know. I feel safe here. I AM safe here. I’m not going anywhere.” She folded her arms and stuck out her bottom lip.

Harold recognized that posture. He mind was made up. She wasn’t going anywhere. Harold had to admire her tenacity. He left her sitting by the window and went back out to let Jacoby know that it was a done deal. Fanny was going to be staying right where she was.

At first Jacoby reacted just like Harold had expected him to. “Your wife is in no condition to call the shots here, Britt. We’re moving her and that’s final.”

“You’re underestimating Fanny, Detective. The only way she’s leaving that room is if you carry her out.”

“Maybe there’s another way, Jacoby.” Next to Harold, Jerry Benson probably knew Fanny better than anyone. “I think we can protect her here. You can add a second guard. Mosby and I can watch the lobby entrance. How many other access points are there?”

“I’ve seen him. I can help. Just tell me what to do.” Mosby Ellis wanted the bastard who had killed Lilly behind bars.

“Okay. I know when I’m outnumbered. Let’s do this thing.” Jacoby looked at his watch. “But let’s step on it.”

“You got a hot date, Jacoby?

“You might say that, Benson. I’m going to be surprise guest at the Senator’s fund raiser tonight.”



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