Missy felt her body shudder once again as she heard the steel door lock behind her for the last time. A bleak and uncertain future lay in front of her. Her spine became prickly as the familiar panic took over her senses. She tried to take a deep breath to calm herself. Jerking upright in a cold sweat, she reached for the bedside lamp in what was now a nightly ritual. Sitting there, in the middle of her bed, in the darkness of early morning hours, she uttered no sound; sounds only brought the attention of others not help or comfort. Prison had not embittered her but it created insecurity for her. Finally daylight arrived and Missy decided it was time to start her day.
Like every morning for the past seven months, Missy rose from bed and greeted her two parakeets as she gently took off their cover. “Good morning Chick, Dee. Well, what do you think I should do first? Exercise or eat?” Thirty minutes later Missy was making oatmeal and still talking to Chic and Dee. “I think Apple juice, toast and Earl Gray Tea should satisfy me till lunch.”
“Chic, Dee, I’ll clean your house and then I need to get to work. I have a very busy day ahead of me. Do you two know how lucky I am to have this job? I never have to leave the apartment, I can buy everything we need on line and have it delivered, including our food. I seldom need to speak to others or have anyone in. Of course the training I received at the state’s expense helped. Still they took seven years of my life…no they took my life. Letting me out of prison didn’t set me free. A deathbed confession that sounds ludicrous is all they have.”
Lifting the birdcage from its stand and walking to the counter where Missy had spread newspaper, she set the cage down.
”They still haven’t found the person who broke into the church, caused Rev. McGuire to have that fatal heart attack, and set me up so perfectly. It’s like Brad and Susan said, “Until they prove it was someone else I live with the label.”
Mentioning Brad and Susan as a couple, caused an unusual amount of anxiety in Missy. When she was released from Prison, they had brought her home. Since then she had only spoken to them twice. It wasn’t jealousy because Susan ended up with Brad. She was over that; after all she was in prison. It was as though she was frightened, either for them, or of them.
“You’ve got mail.” Missy heard the familiar words from her work area. “I’ll get that in a minute.” Hanging Chic and Dee’s cage back on its stand, Missy made a second cup of tea and headed for her PC.
She didn’t recognize the sender of the last e-mail. ‘No attachments’ she thought. She opened it, expecting a new client for her business. A frozen mouse under her right hand, eyes glued to the words in front of her, she tried to swallow to keep it down.
Missy quickly went for a bucket of water and clean cloths. While cleaning up the mess she felt she would vomit again.
Terror kept her from returning to the PC. Sitting at the kitchen table Missy attempted to calm down. Her stomach constricting again as her mind recycled the words in that last email.
Turning to Chic and Dee, she said, “I should call Lieutenant Thomason. Surely who-ever sent that couldn’t be… No, I really don’t want to see anyone and if they think I’m in danger they might insist I leave here. Here is where I feel safe. Here is where no one locks me in. I lock them out. Here is where I have control of my life. But now…
“Lieutenant Thomason, this is Missy Rockingham.”
“Hell-o Missy, how are you?” Came the brisk reply.
“Not very well, I just received an email.” Her voice wavering she couldn’t continue.
The lieutenant asked, “An email, from whom?”
The silence caused him to continue before she answered. “Missy, talk to me? Are you all right? Who sent it? What did it say?”
Her throat parched, she whispered,
“I know where you are
and I’ll make sure you pay.
Bars didn’t keep you in
and locks won’t keep me away.”
Lieutenant Thomason respected Missy immensely. He hadn’t known her during her arrest and trial, but was the officer who had heard the deathbed confession of Rory Cougar. Listening to her now, he instinctively knew she was danger.
“Missy, I know it’s difficult for you to have company, but I must come over, and I’ll bring Sergeant O’Hara.
“OK” Missy sighed.
“Twenty minutes. And remember, don’t touch your computer.” He cautioned.
While waiting, Missy prayed. “Dear God, none of this makes any sense. Who and why would anyone want to hurt me? Wasn’t seven years of my life enough?”
The doorbell rang, Missy jumped, then rose and spoke into the intercom,” Who is it?”
“And Officer O’Hara.”
Buzz. They walked up the two flights of stairs and knocked on number 22. The knock wasn’t necessary; Missy had been peeking through the peephole since she rang the buzzer. Reaching for the doorknob she noticed her hand was sweaty and shaking, it froze, one…two…three…seconds she turned the knob and they where in.
Missy pointed to the PC, they walked over to it and read the email. Thomason looked at Missy, then at O’Hara, shrugged his shoulders and spoke as much to himself as anyone else. “Well, we’ll need Jamison over here, he can figure out where this came from.”
They both noticed Missy stiffen at the mention of someone else coming into the apartment.
“Missy, we need to trace this.” O’Hara said gently.
Missy nodded and sat down again.
The rain was beating heavily against the windows when Missy woke to the ringing of the telephone several days later.
“Rockingham’s Transcript and Billing Service, how may I help you?”
“Good morning Missy, Lieutenant Thomason here, we have a lead.”
Missy listened for a moment then responded, “A library? Are you sure? Of course I only received one email. I would have told you otherwise. Yes, 11:00 will be fine.” Hanging up Missy spoke to Chic and Dee,
“You know right now I wish I could share your house. You would have me wouldn’t you? I know…I won’t fit. Well, I better get dressed; company’s coming again today.” She complained.
Thomason and O’Hara arrived exactly at eleven. Explaining again that the email was sent from the main library down town. O’Hara asked, “Do you know anyone who works at that library?”
“Not now. But yes, before I was sent to prison, my former boy friend, Brad Yardley was a librarian there and so was Sue Jenkins the choir director and secretary at Rev. McGuire’s church. But neither one of them couldn’t…or could they?”
“Missy,” Lieutenant Thomason interrupted, “Could Brad have wanted to get rid of you instead of marry you?”
“No, of course not. Things weren’t always hunky dory, but he never said or did anything that made me think that. Why?”
“We know from Cougar’s confession that he and some un-named accomplice purposely freighted Rev. McGuire until he had a heart attack. We know that someone pretending to act on behalf of the Reverend, called you, asked you to come to the church and then called the police. You were called from the church office, and the police from the phone outside. Brad’s alibi was Sue Jenkins. Four years after you where imprisoned they married. The one thing that we never figured out is why the church was ransacked, nothing was missing.”
“But why get rid of me? Why not just break off the engagement? Why kill the Reverend?” Missy asked.
O’Hara spoke up, “That’s what’s missing, motive. We’re hoping you can help us there. Tell us about Brad, his likes and his interests.
“One thing for sure, he didn’t do this. He was controlling. But, Brad didn’t control by violence. He never hurt me or demanded me to do anything I didn’t want too. But he was charismatic and people easily gave him what he wanted. He liked money and the best of everything. Cars, restaurants, clothes, neither of us made that kind of money. Occasionally I did wonder why he had asked me to marry him.”
“Why?” Inquired Thomason.
“Sometimes I had this feeling that I was more what his family wanted, than what he wanted. They spoiled him terribly, and they controlled him almost completely. When I asked him about it he assured me that he loved me, and I loved him.”
“What about Susan?” Asked O’Hara.
“If you’re asking if I’m surprised she ended up with Brad, no. She had eyes for him long before we were an item. And Susan always managed to get what she wanted. When Brad proposed to me it was a major slap to her ego.”
Thomason and O’Hara spoke simultaneously, “Then Susan had a reason to want you out of the way?”
“Well, yes, but she wouldn’t…”
Two days later Thomason called Missy to tell her they had caught the killer.
She had confessed. Susan Jenkins-Yardley had wanted two things, Brad Yardley, and Reverend McGuire’s life savings he kept hidden in the church.
Missy now understood her foreboding feelings toward Brad and Susan. She had been frightened for one and frightened of one.
She hung up the phone, walked over and checked the lock on her door, and then speaking eagerly to Chic and Dee she said, “Hey you two, its just the three of us once again.”