As the detective, or Nick as he had requested I call him, navigated morning drive time traffic, I pondered Maggie’s ability to embrace each moment as it presented itself. To see her now, head wind-surfing out the back window, tongue lolling to one side, an unmistakable smile spread from ear to ear, it was as if none of the previous evenings events had ever happened. I envied her that. Wished I could just turn off the ticker tape of gruesome visuals that kept playing in my head.
Forget all about finding Mabel’s lifeless body. The bluing thumbprints on her throat. Unsee the rugged footprints that could only have belonged to Mabel’s killer, before they disappeared into the water soaked pile of her hall carpet and the viciousness with which the same faceless intruder had slashed to ribbons my Maggie’s doggie bed in the sanctity of my own living room. But I couldn’t.
Lost in thought, I picked loose a bit of cuticle from my thumbnail, caught it between my teeth, and plucked it out. A thin line of red blood quickly filled the crevice where the nail-bed met the flesh and trickled down my thumb. It reminded me of the way the spray painted death threat dripped like blood down the wall behind my couch, and my need to be home in my own bed, despite all that had happened earlier, nearly overwhelmed me.
“I can’t do this.” I blurted out as if woken by the silence that had blanketed the air between us since we got into the car.
“What do you mean, you can’t do this? Do what?”
“I mean, I can’t do this!” A wave of panic threatened to overtake me if I didn’t get out of the car- now. “Pull over! Please stop the car. I can’t do this! I have to go home. I totally forgot my mother is counting on me to take her to her doctor’s appointment this morning, and I cannot just not show up.” A little white lie.
“Stop here, Maggie and I can catch a cab. I don’t want to put you out any more, you’ve already been so kind.”
Nick steered the car camly into the parking lot of a Seven Eleven before turning to me, “This is crazy. You can’t go home. Your home is a crime scene. It’s going to take hours to process. Call your mother, she’ll understand.”
“It’s not my mother,” I stammered, “It’s Daniel, her caregiver.” I was really flying by the seat of my pants now. “Daniel has no idea Mother even has this appointment. He specifically asked for today off, and if I don’t take her, he will have to and it will conflict with the plans he has made. He is already hypercritical of my lack of presence in my mother’s life. I can’t bow out now.”
“Ok. Okay. Whatever you want. But promise me you will not go back to your apartment afterward. Lemme work on this a bit. I’ll give you my number. You can call me when you’re through, I’ll let you know then, if it’s safe to go home.”
“I will. I’ll call you.” I promised as I took the slip of paper he held out to me with his number. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be. You’ve had a helluva night. I understand.” Nick assured me as he opened the car door, stepped outside, raised his arm and hailed a cab.
Maggie appeared over the seatback, her head tilted at that weird angel she always used when she was puzzled.
“I don’t know either girl.” I responded to her unspoken question before I realized, it was something outside of the car that was puzzling her, and not me at all.
I followed her gaze. Across the parking lot a guy leaned against the side of an older model ford truck. When he saw me looking at him shifted his weight uneasily, and nodding in my direction, walked casually toward the door of the truck.
It was then that I noticed his boots. Camel colored construction style boots with thick rugged soles, and dark stains that ran up past the stitching and splashed onto the toes.
The kind of stains I recognised immediately as being consistent with those sustained by a person who walks through standing water.
This is yet another chapter of Maggie’s Mid-Night Adventures. The saga can be read in its entirety by following the Category, Maggie’s Story.
- plucked it out
- Daniel has no idea
- I can’t do this
- outside, he raised his arm and hailed a cab
- A little white lie
- woken by the silence