Shirley Collier watched the continuous local news coverage as she lay in bed in a thick haze. With the curtains drawn and the lights dim, she retreated into a far-off zone one zip code east of oblivion. The brushing of teeth, the washing of hands, the simple act of getting dressed, no longer mattered. She had no desire to leave this somber catacomb, and she resented her body when it forced her to get out of bed and traipse to the toilet.
Over and over, she imagined the startling, brutal sensation of that first stab, the sheer physical pain of the blade penetrating the skin. Then she visualized the second stab and the third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh, wondering if it had taken all seven incisions to take her daughter’s life.
Shirley generally used her cell phone, and the land line in her bedroom hardly ever rang. So when it blasted like a deafening fire alarm that evening, she covered her ears to muffle the startling sound. By the seventh sadistic ring, it seemed like the caller wasn’t giving up, so Shirley reluctantly reached over. “Hello,” she said, annoyed.
It was Detective Flanagan. “We got him!” he exclaimed with cheer. “We found the guy, and he’s in custody.”
Shirley nodded solemnly. “That’s good,” she said.
“I thought you’d want to know immediately,” he told her, voice sounding with glee. The man was probably grinning ear to ear, proud of the work he had done. It seemed as if he was ready to take his team out to celebrate with drinks, hor d’oeuvres, music, and maybe even some dancing. Shirley wondered if Hallmark had a card to fit the occasion: Congrats on the Capture!
“Thank you, Detective,” Shirley said quietly before hanging up. The murderer was going to jail, but her daughter wasn’t coming home. Shirley didn’t feel motivated to call the immediate world and share the news. She wanted no cake, no laughter, no socializing. She didn’t even want to know the guy’s name. What did it matter? Her daughter wasn’t coming home.
It wasn’t difficult for Shirley to accept the fact that the major accomplishments
of her life had faded into nothingness. It didn’t matter that she had a long, successful marriage and gave birth to four children. It made no difference that she’d been a dedicated, respected nurse. The status of Shirley Collier had changed; now she was the woman whose teenage daughter was stabbed to death. She could see herself standing on a crowded street corner as strangers whispered to one another: She’s the gal whose daughter was killed by some maniac in a motel room. But it didn’t matter. Shirley was consumed with images of her daughter as a child: the fear on her face the first day of school, the joy in her eyes at a surprise birthday party. She thought of nothing else.
Everyone had been so polite, so sympathetic. But it was obvious they were ignoring the elephant standing smack in the middle of the situation: What was the girl doing in that motel room in the first place? Shirley didn’t have the answer. She didn’t know if her daughter went there voluntarily or had been forced by gunpoint. But even if she’d been the one to suggest the rendezvous, did she deserve to die? Some people acted as if the answer was yes. But what did it matter? Her daughter wasn’t coming home.
Shirley realized the phone call had shaken her up; her heart pounded furiously. A few deep breaths and shots of whiskey later, her head found its way back to the warm pillow. Twenty minutes after that, she was asleep and dreaming vividly: She was naked, standing in the middle of a magnificent forest, when a strong gust of wind whipped the trees, causing the leaves to move like manes of thick hair being blow-dried. After a deafening burst of thunder, it began raining blood, causing the lush green leaves to turn a glittering crimson. The blood felt warm and comforting on her nude body, and when it stopped coming down, she was bitterly disappointed. Then she woke up with a jolt.
For a split second she wondered if she dreamed the entire scenario, starting with the murder. When reality set in, she closed her eyes, shut the world out once again and tried to fall asleep.
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