Divine Guidance

There is a very thin veil between this life and the hereafter and we should not tear the veil down for personal gain. Those that dance between the veil of this life and the hereafter have a duty of care to protect the souls of the living and the realm of the spirit world.  For some it is a double-edged sword, inspiring love and hate in equal measure – sometimes with deadly results.

Chapter One

Marnie stood in the wings of the auditorium listening intently and with great irritation to the speaker on stage.  She was up next and as she awaited her introduction, she checked her reflection in a full-length mirror the set crew had not yet stored after last night’s performance.  She was happy with what she saw.  She felt confident in her smart black silk suit with a trimming pencil skirt.  The gray, silk camisole she was wearing gave her eyes the soulful look of the empathetic counselor she knew herself to be.  Her understated jewelry completed the look of a confident, no-nonsense professional.

Marnie needed these people to believe everything she was here to say.  She needed them to accept her beliefs and the myriad of truths she would share with them tonight.  She was quite confident though that some most likely weren’t going to be happy to hear the words she would speak. There were in fact quite a few people who weren’t going to like what she had to say, especially those people who had taken center stage here tonight.

As she looked through the side curtains, she saw the audience – close to 200 women and about a dozen men.  Marnie knew that they would prefer her to tell them what they wanted to hear.  Unfortunately, Marnie did not work that way.  Marnie was always blunt in her delivery and most importantly, she was authentic to herself and to the people who sought her counsel.  She would tell them what they needed to hear.

The man who was currently on stage was selling hope.  He was one of many speakers here tonight who made an absolute fortune every year taking people’s money.  He would tell them what they wanted to hear so they would get hooked on his every word — on his every prediction.  He would keep dragging them back into his world filled with half truths and twisted reality based on the hope that someday the fanciful predictions he was making would come true.  This man was what most people would call a psychic.   That’s not what Marnie would call him.  She would call him a charlatan — a low-life, soul-sucking trickster who stole people’s money and left them wanting more.

As the charlatan finished speaking, the crowd rose to their feet in awe of his talent.  This man had just told a battered woman named April that her husband would stop beating her if she sought divine guidance.  If she could just surround herself with white light each time he came home, soon her positive and giving energy would transform her husband into the loving man she truly wanted him to be.   He told her that her positive thoughts would bring positive results and that she had the power to create the relationship she so wanted with this man.  He told her she had work to do and that he would be happy to teach her how to bring positive change to her life.

“You can get my contact details at the front desk before you leave.  Call me and we can set up weekly sessions. I would suggest two appointments each week for a few months.  I’m sure we can put your life in order in no time,” he told her.

The woman nodded, smiled shyly and blinked back tears.  Marnie could see that the woman was hooked.  She was going to buy hope from a man who would sell it to her at $150 per session.

As the man left the stage, the organizer of the evening spoke into the microphone, “Thank you so much, Carl.  What truly insightful readings tonight.  I am sure the good people in the audience were amazed by the way you were able to tell them things no one could possibly know.  I do hope they take away solace in your inspiring predictions for their future.”

Carl nodded his thanks to Serena, turned to his audience, placed his hand over his heart and gave a small bow before exiting the stage.

As Carl walked to wings, he caught his first glance of Marnie readying to go on stage.  He looked shocked to see her standing there and moved cautiously toward her.

The organizer, Serena, was speaking to the audience about upcoming events.  She was telling them that a brilliant group of Angel Intuitives would be available for one-on-one readings and that a well-known medium would feature in two week’s time and that no one should miss the evening.

“Marnie, what a surprise to see you here.  Are you speaking tonight?” Carl tipped his head as he asked the question.

“Carl, I’m sure most of the people performing tonight will be surprised to see me here.  You know me.  I like to pop up from time to time to keep everyone honest,” Marnie replied, looking him straight in the eyes as she spoke.

“Be careful, Marnie.  No one here is performing.  We’re all the real deal and I don’t need to tell you how much you being here will sadden this incredibly talented group of psychics and soul healers.  These people do good work and your interference… well, let’s just say, this is not a group of people you want to upset.  Don’t make enemies of people who are far more powerful and influential than you.”

“Thanks for the warning, Carl.  I am quite aware of the kind of power you’re talking about and please do remember, the truth always comes out.  Powerful and influential?  Seriously?  None of you has any idea with whom you are dealing.  Or, how many people are standing around waiting for me to take you all down,” Marnie whispered loudly. She leaned in closely to Carl, so close that he could feel the heat of her breath on his face.  He pulled back and attempted a laugh.

“You? Take us down?  Come on, Marnie.  You’re a counselor.  You counsel the battered, the dreary and the mundane.  And yes, you have psychic abilities, but you are certainly not someone any of us needs to worry about.  You could have been truly talented.  You gave up too soon.  You didn’t believe in yourself enough.  You doubted yourself too many times and your clients knew it.  Worry?  No.  You don’t worry me.”  Carl shook his head in Marnie’s direction.

“I wasn’t referring to myself, Carl.  I was referring to God.  I was referring to the Universe.  I was referring to the Divine.   To the people, the souls on the other side who are tired of you meddling and taking money from good people who need help of a different kind.  Do you believe in Heaven and Hell, Carl?  Do you?  People like you don’t go to Heaven.  People like you burn.  Get out of my way.  I’m being introduced.”

“Fuck you, Marnie,” Carl hissed, his eyes glowering.

“Not really my type, Carl.  But when I finish tonight, you will definitely feel screwed.  Ciao, ciao.  Must go,” Marnie said sardonically, smiled and gave a little wave.

“Ladies and gentlemen, our final speaker tonight is a leading counselor.  She has spent much of her career donating her time in juvenile detention centers and women’s shelters.  She’s known to many people as an Angel of Mercy, a beacon of light, and yes, a psychic.  Please welcome, Marnie Reilly.”

Marnie walked from the wings and onto the stage.  The crowd clapped and watched Marnie take the microphone from the stand.  The other speakers had worn headsets and were dressed casually in colorful clothing with elaborate crystals around their necks, multiple bracelets and rings.  Marnie in contrast was understated, professional, elegant and not what they were expecting.

“Good evening and thank you so much for the warm welcome.  I see so many hopeful faces in the audience.  So many souls who truly want to believe.  I would like to clear up one thing.  I’m not a psychic.  I really don’t like that word.  It has such a negative connotation.  When you think of psychics, it conjures up thoughts of trickery, charlatans, people who sell hope to good people like you.  I am a counselor and I have actually been trained to help you.  And yes, I am clairvoyant, claircognizance, a clairaudient and a clairsentience.  That means that I see, hear and feel spirit.  An empath picks up other people’s feelings, emotions, worries and physical pain. Essentially, I am very sensitive to other people’s energy.   I’m here tonight to listen and to understand what’s happening in your world and to see if I can help.  I am also here to let you know that there are places where you can go to get help that won’t cost you a ton of money.  Places where hope isn’t sold.  A place where you can talk about where you are now and where you want to be.  A place where you can learn about the steps you can take to turn your life around.”

Marnie turned to look at April, still in the front row, still transfixed after her exchange with Carl.  Marnie smiled and spoke softly, “April, I know that you are going through a difficult time.  I know what it is like to be in an abusive relationship.  I felt that it was my fault for such a long time.  I thought that if I changed, he would change.  I can tell you right here, right now that he is not going to change and that you need to leave the situation.  You need to walk away.  It’s not easy and it will take you some time to come to terms with the steps you need to take.  I don’t need to be clairvoyant to tell you that the situation will not end well for you if you stay.  I only need common sense to tell you that.  I have lived it and I know what I am talking about.  It starts slowly – it may be verbal abuse at first – criticism that hurts to your very core.  And then one day you wake up and you realize that it has gone from verbal abuse to emotional abuse and then physical abuse.  You suddenly realize that there is nothing left of the person you were – you are an empty shell of emotions and hurt – you feel trapped and fearful.  You think if he doesn’t love me then no one else ever will either.  April, it took me two years to get away from the man that abused me.  Two years on an emotional roller coaster.  I lost 30 pounds in that time and didn’t even realize it.  My whole world was falling apart and I couldn’t figure out what had happened.”

April was looking up at Marnie.  She was softly sobbing.  Marnie grabbed a box of tissues off the podium and walked down the steps and handed the box to April.  April took a few tissues and gave the box back to Marnie.  Marnie put the microphone down to her side, gave April her card and quietly said, “Call me tomorrow.  I will not charge you anything.  We can have a chat and if you are comfortable, we can start putting your life back together.”

April managed a small smile, nodded and quietly said, “Thank you.”

Marnie was back on stage and spoke earnestly to the audience, “Listen, folks, I’m not saying readings aren’t fun or helpful because they can be.  I give readings to my friends.  I do think that readings can be useful, but I do not believe that readings are appropriate for people who are going through critical life choices.  You need a professional for the really tough stuff.  Let me ask you all a question.  Would you go to a psychic for a cure if you had cancer?  No?  Then why would you go to a psychic when you’re depressed or in an abusive relationship?  Critical situations need serious consideration.   If you can’t find work, don’t call a psychic and spend money you don’t have.  Call a center that helps you find a job. Talk to a career counselor.  There are many free services out there.  Pick up the phone and find one.  If you can’t find one, call my office and my people will refer you to a place that will help you get on the right track.  Folks, don’t go to someone who sells hope.  Go to someone who actually has the skills to help you. Hope is a wonderful thing.  Hope can help us through the darkest hours.  However, you have to work toward finding a solution. A psychic isn’t going to help with that unless they are skilled in specialized areas like career counseling, psychology, relationship counseling, and services of this ilk.”

Marnie could hear hushed conversations in the audience.  She stepped away from the podium and walked to the front of the stage and said, “Okay.  Who has questions? Throw your hands up. Let’s see if we can find some solutions tonight.  You’ve paid for the evening.  Let’s see if we can deliver some positive results for a few people.”

A tired looking women six rows back in the middle aisle put her hand up.  Marnie walked up the aisle and gave the woman a microphone.

Marnie asked, “Can you please tell me your name?”

The woman stood up and said, “My name is Helen.  I have been raising my hand all night and no one would call on me.”  As tears started to flow down Helen’s cheeks, she took a tissue out of the sleeve of her faded cardigan and wiped her nose.

“Helen, let’s be thankful that I am the person you get to speak with then and ask away when you are ready,” Marnie said with a warm smile.

Helen choked up and through her tears she spoke. “My husband died two days ago.  There was nothing wrong.  He just died and no one can tell me why.  They did an autopsy and all they can tell me is that his heart stopped beating and that he died of natural causes.  We’d just come home from having a few drinks with friends.  I went upstairs to get ready for bed.  He went out to the yard to check that everything was locked up for the night and he died.  I was so tired that I fell asleep before he came upstairs.  He always checks the grounds and the house at night before coming to bed.  I must have fallen asleep. I woke up and he wasn’t next to me, so I went downstairs.  All of the lights were still on.  I found him just lying on the patio.  He was all crumpled up in a heap.  I’ve had a few readings and one woman told me he was poisoned.  One man told me that my husband took his own life by chewing Oleander leaves and then another man told me that he had just given up on life and died.  I don’t understand and I want you to talk to him.  Can you please ask him what happened?”

Marnie looked into Helen’s face.  The hurt and grief she could see in this woman’s face was heart-wrenching.  So much pain and suffering.  Tears were stinging Marnie’s eyes and she had a lump in her throat and her chest ached.  She could feel the pain this woman was going through and she wanted to do everything she could to help.

Marnie reached across the aisle and took the woman’s hand and spoke calmly, “Helen, I will do everything I can to help you work through your grief. Please understand, while speaking with the people we love who have crossed over is certainly possible, it is important that we don’t disturb them.  If they want to talk to us, they find a way.  It is, however, inappropriate for us to seek them out.”

Helen dropped Marnie’s hand and between sobs she shouted, “I was told that someone here tonight would be able to speak to my husband!  I was told that my husband would come through to someone!  You’re the last speaker!  You have to talk to my husband!”

“Helen, I don’t know who told you that but let me assure you, I would never make a promise like that,” Marnie spoke calmly and with great empathy.  “Helen, my mother once told me that there is a very thin veil between this life and the hereafter and we shouldn’t mess with it.  I have always believed that to be true and I never seek out those who have past.   I am so sorry that someone made that promise to you.”

Marnie turned around and searched for Serena in the wings.  She spotted her walking in the wings backstage.  She called out to her, “Serena, can you please come here for a moment?”

Serena peered out and looked anxiously at Marnie.  Marnie glared in her direction and made a request bluntly. “Serena, I would like you to find out who made such a ridiculous promise to Helen.”

Marnie turned back to Helen and spoke soothingly, “Helen, I’m going to ask you not to spend any more money on psychics or mediums to contact your husband.  I am going to go with you tomorrow to the coroner’s office and we are going to have a chat with the people there.  They know me there and I am sure we can find out what happened to your husband if we ask the right questions.  Helen, can you tell me your husband’s first name and how old he was?”

Helen looked up at Marnie and said, “His name is Ralph.  He is such a loving man.  He is tall and handsome and a wonderful father.”

“Helen, how old is Ralph?” Marnie asked again changing the tense to match Helen.

“He will be 92 next week,” said Helen.

Marnie smiled, reached out and took Helen’s hand again and asked, “And he’s had a good life? You’ve had a good life together?”

Helen smiled wistfully and replied, “Oh yes.  We’ve had an incredible life.  Married 70 years last week.  All of our family was with us.  We had a lovely party with our family.  Such a nice party.  Our children, the grandchildren and some friends.  We danced and sang and danced some more.  Oh, it was so lovely.  So very lovely.”

“That sounds wonderful, Helen.  Now, if you’ll wait for me to finish up, I will make time to meet you tomorrow and we’ll work together to find out what happened to Ralph.  Does that sound okay?” asked Marnie.

“Well, I did come here to talk to Ralph.  What about that?” Helen responded, standing her ground.

“You can talk to Ralph any time you like, Helen.  I’m sure he’s listening to you.  He’ll give you signs that you can understand.  You don’t need me or anyone else to talk to the people you love.  You know that.  You know in your heart that Ralph is listening and he always will be,” Marnie said looking into Helen’s eyes.

Helen nodded her head slowly and started to take her seat.  The man next to Helen put a hand on her shoulder and comforted her back into to her chair.  He smiled at Marnie and mouthed the words “thank you”.

Marnie smiled and nodded to the man, put one hand in her pocket and then reached out handing him her card.  The man took the card and gently placed his hands around Marnie’s hand and said, “We’ll call you in the morning.  Would that be okay?”

Marnie nodded her head and smiled and said, “Yes.  That would be fine.”

Marnie turned around and walked back to the stage.  Climbing the stairs, she felt a presence in the wings and turned to see Carl and a few of the other psychics staring at her.  She flashed them a smile and turned back to the audience and said, “Okay.  Does anyone else have a question?”

As hands shot up in the audience, Marnie looked up into the lights and smiled.  She had them.  They were right there in front of her and they bought what she was selling.  Not hope, but truth and the chance to make their lives better.    This is what it’s all about.  Helping people help themselves.  Helping people find their own hope.  That’s the stuff.  Hope is a wonderful elixir if it’s the right kind of hope.

Chapter Two

Marnie pulled into her garage and sat quietly with her head resting on the steering wheel for just a few minutes.  Nights like this are why I do what I do.  These are the times when I know that I have made the right decisions.  Chosen the best path for me right now.  Yup.  I’m happy.  I am really, really happy, she thought to herself.

Walking to the front door she could hear familiar sounds in the darkness and the low thumping of raccoons scampering off her front porch — the raccoons were no doubt trying to break in again.  What a mess they had made the last time.  The dog door was sealed now.  Tater had to wait now for her to get home to go outside and do his business.  As she unlocked the door, she could hear him sniffing on the other side.

“Hello, my little man!  How has your evening been?” Marnie spoke to Tater as if he was her best friend.  And, of course, he was. He had been her savior many years earlier.  It seemed a long time since she left that horrible man and within days had found this little ball of fur in a burlap bag while she was out for a run.  The bag was moving and Marnie thought someone had tossed kittens out of a car.  She was pleasantly surprised to find a black and white Border Collie no bigger than an Idaho potato, hence, his name.

Tater sat for a pat and then ran to get his lead.  Dragging the lead back to the front door, he sat and looked up at Marnie.  “Okay.  Give me a second to get out of these clothes and we’ll go for a quick run.  A quick run, Tater.  No faffing about tonight.  Understand me?” Marnie scolded softly.

Tater looked up at her, dropped his lead at the front door and with his tail wagging followed her upstairs.  This was his thing.  He would follow and wait for her to put her running shoes on and then they would run.

Dressed in her sweats, a t-shirt and running shoes, Marnie bounded down the stairs with Tater on her heels.  Tater hit the rug at the bottom of the stairs, the rug and Tater slid across the timber floors and ran into the wall.  Marnie giggled, gave him a pat and put his lead on him. “Tater, are you ever going to learn that the rug moves?  Silly boy.”

As Marnie opened the door to head off for their run, the phone rang.  She stopped for a second and then decided whoever it was could leave a message.  She and Tater headed out and as an afterthought, Marnie ducked back in and set the alarm.  Tater looked up at her quizzically and giving him a gentle pat on the head Marnie said, “I know.  I know.  Nothing to worry about out here. Not with my big fierce protector right here, hey buddy.  Let’s just say, the alarm makes me feel safe.  Let’s go.”

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As Marnie and Tater ran down the path, he moved out of the woods and walked quietly to the porch.  He had heard her say that the alarm makes her feel safe.  She must have turned it on and that would complicate matters.  Not to worry.  He could always improvise.

He unzipped the gym bag he was carrying and set it on the deck.  He took a mini flashlight out of his pocket, turned it on and held it between his teeth.  One by one he took the crystals out and set them down next to the bag.  He picked up the amethyst and studied it.  The amethyst point was brilliant.  He tucked it behind the big potted geranium near the front door.  He took the turquoise and placed it in one of the flower boxes and tucked a piece of agate on the opposite end of the flower box.  He placed a clear quartz crystal on the sill of the door and hoped that it wouldn’t fall when she closed it.  Finally, he put an Archangel Michael coin under her front doormat.

He stood back and assessed what he had done.

“Just one more thing, Marnie.  Just one more thing,” he said as he took an Archangel Raphael coin out of his pocket and placed it under the mat next to Archangel Michael.  He went back up the steps, gathered his bag, kissed the palm of his hand and placed it against the front door.

He stepped off the front porch, looked up at the sky and said, “Keep her safe.  Please keep her safe.  I’ve done what I can do.  She’s in your hands now.  Thank you for keeping watch over her.  She’s precious to me.  To a lot of people.”

He stood back and assessed what he had done.  There, Collective, do your worst.  She has so much good on her side.

As he wandered off into the woods, he could just hear Marnie’s phone ringing and quietly said, “It starts.”

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Marnie and Tater ran around the corner of the house.  Tater barked, pulled at his lead and looked deep into the trees.  Marnie bent down, scratched his left ear and said, “No chasing bunnies tonight, buddy.  It’s time for dinner and then bedtime.”

Marnie unlocked the front door, stepped in, turned off the alarm, took Tater’s lead off and laid it in a basket, stepped back out onto the porch and stared off into the trees. It was one of those nights when it felt like the woods had eyes.  She shivered, rubbed her arms and backed into the house and locked the front door.

She could hear Tater rummaging in his empty bowl.   She called out, “Come on, boy.  Let’s get you and me some dinner.  How about we share an omelet?  Sound good, buddy?”

Tater was staring out the windows of the back door.  The hair on his scruff was standing up and he wasn’t smiling.  Tater usually smiled, but right now his eyes were focused on the shed at the back of the house.  A low growl started to build and then he was barking. Not his usual bark.  This was the bark he voiced when Marnie’s ex turned up in one of his drunken rants.

Marnie hit the light switch and watched.  She couldn’t see anything, but Tater could.  She had sensed something out front too, but thought she was imagining things.   Maybe not.  Maybe she wasn’t imagining things.  She stood looking out the back door with Tater standing next to her.  He calmed down in a few minutes and lay down in front of the door, looked up at Marnie and smiled.

“Okay.  Suppertime, little dude.  Suppertime,” Marnie said as she walked into the kitchen to make the omelet.

As Marnie cracked the first egg into a bowl, the phone rang again. She looked toward the hall where the phone sat in its cradle, looked at Tater sitting patiently waiting for his dinner and decided whoever it was could leave a message. It was late, she and Tater were hungry and she would call back tomorrow.

She placed half of the omelet into Tater’s bowl and put it aside to cool.  Tater wasn’t terribly patient when it came to food.  He would gobble it up steaming hot and she didn’t want him to burn his mouth again.  Lesson learned.

Marnie poured herself a glass of juice, buttered some toast and plated up her half of the omelet.  Tater was getting impatient, so she poured a bit of milk over his omelet to cool it off and set his bowl on his mat with some fresh water.  Tater ate quickly, drank his water and turned to wait for Marnie to finish so he could have her leftovers.  There were always leftovers and he knew his bowl would have more in it in just a minute.

Marnie stood at the counter picking at her eggs and nibbling bits of her toast.  She took a drink of juice, pushed the plate away and looked out the window.  She took her plate, scraped the rest of the omelet and toast into Tater’s bowl, rinsed the plate and popped it in the dishwasher just as the phone rang again.  She wondered who could be calling at this hour.  It’s late.  None of my friends would call me this late.

She let the phone go to message bank and then picked up the phone, dialed into message bank and listened.  What she heard made all color drain from her face.  Hair stood up on the back of her neck and her arms.  She hung up the phone, rested her head and back against the wall.  She breathed out, pushed herself off the wall, and walked back to the kitchen and turned out the light. She stood for a moment in the darkness – the memories that phone call brought back unnerved her.

She hugged herself tightly and let out a sigh and called out to Tater as she walked to the stairs. “C’mon, Tater.  It’s bedtime.”

Tater ran to the stairs, slid across the hall on the rug, got his bearings and ran up the stairs behind Marnie.

Marnie stopped at the top of stairs, raced back down, set the downstairs alarm and ran back upstairs.  Walking down the hall to her room she stopped, looked out the window and thought to herself, Shit.  What have I started?

Chapter Three

The 5:00 am alarm was going off.  Time for a run.  Tater sat next to Marnie’s bed staring into her face.  Marnie opened one eye and then the other; she put her arm over her eyes and said, “Tater, that is the creepiest thing in the world.  Waking up with someone staring at you.  You little freak.  Come here.  Give me a cuddle.”

Marnie rolled to the side of the bed, put both arms around Tater’s neck and gave him a hug.  When she let him go, Tater sat back and flashed her smile.

Pulling on her slippers and bathrobe, Marnie got out of bed, looked at Tater and said, “C’mon, buddy.  I’ll let you out and then we’ll go for a run.”

When she came down the stairs, she reached to turn off the alarm, but it was already disarmed.  She thought for a minute and distinctly remembered turning it on before going to bed.  She had in fact gone back downstairs to set it.  Strange.  Tater didn’t bark in the night, so everything must be secure.  Marnie made a note in her head to call the security company today to have it checked just in case.

It was still quite dark as Marnie opened the back door for Tater.  She switched on the light in the backyard, stepped out onto the porch and looked around.  All seemed quiet, but she noticed the shed door was ajar.  Tater ran straight for the shed without stopping to pee.  He sniffed around the patch of grass just outside the door.  The hair on his scruff was standing up again.  He lifted his leg on the patch and then kicked some grass away, but didn’t wander off to his other favorite spots.  He continued sniffing around the door.

Marnie looked around for something sturdy and spotted an empty beer bottle at the side of the house.  Strange again.  Marnie didn’t drink beer and no one that did drink beer had been around in weeks.  She shrugged, picked it up and carried it by the neck across the yard to the shed.  Tater was still sniffing and when he saw her getting closer, he stood his ground and growled softly.  Every step she took toward the shed, Tater’s growl got louder and deeper.

“Shush, shush, Tater.  It’s okay.  What’s wrong, buddy?” Marnie said, quietly staring at the shed door.

Tater growled a bit louder and stood between Marnie and the door.   Marnie stopped, turned to head back to the house, and feeling just a little nervous, quickened her pace so that she raced through the door to grab the phone.  As she dialed 911, she heard Tater yip.  Carrying the portable phone, she ran back to the yard and saw a man climbing over the fence with Tater limping after him barking ferociously.  She dropped the phone and ran to Tater.  She ran her hands over him to see if anything was broken or if he was bleeding, but he seemed okay.   She retrieved the phone in time to hear the 911 operator asking for a location.  Marnie heard a car start in the distance and quickly walked back toward the house.

“My name is Marnie Reilly.  I’ve had an intruder in my backyard and my house alarm was disarmed.  My address is 404 Creek Road, about two miles west of the Grand Pass turn-off,” Marnie said as she walked through the back door with Tater limping ahead of her.

“Are you under threat, Ms. Reilly? Is the intruder in a position to harm you?” queried the operator.

“What? No, but the bastard kicked my dog.  I think he kicked my dog.  My dog’s limping and he yipped, so he must have been kicked or something.  The shed door was open and it’s always locked. How could someone have gotten in there?  I guess the same way someone could have disarmed my alarm.  Sorry.  Sorry.  Listen.  Look… I need someone to come here.  Not just someone.  The police.  Can you have an officer come to my house, please?  Now!” Marnie knew she wasn’t making much sense as she rambled to the operator.

“Yes, ma’am.  We will have an officer with you right away.  I would like you to stay on the phone with me while you wait for the patrol car.  Is that okay, Ms. Reilly?  My name is Jo by the way.  Short for Joanne,” responded the operator.

“Yes, that’s fine.  Wait — I think I heard a car out front,” said Marnie as she walked through the house to the front door.

“I don’t think a patrol car would have gotten there that quickly.  No.  I don’t see it on the screen.  Don’t open the door yet, Marnie.  Can I call you “Marnie”?” asked Jo.

“Uh… yes, of course. Of course, you can call me Marnie.  I’m just going to peek out the window to see who it is,” Marnie said as she pulled the curtain aside.  “Son of a bitch.  Son of a freaking bitch!  What the hell is he doing here at this hour?” Exasperation filled her voice.

“Marnie, who is it? Are you all right?” asked Jo.

“Yeah.  I’m fine,” Marnie sighed.  “It’s just someone that I would rather not see this morning…never mind.  Just what I needed this morning.  Bloody, freakin’ Carl Parkins knocking on my door.  Shit! And there’s the patrol car pulling up right behind him.”

“Okay, Marnie.  I’m going to stay on the line with you until the officer gets to your door,” said Jo.

“Yup.  He’s coming up the walk right now.  I’m opening the door,” Marnie said as she turned the latch and heaved open the large door.  She walked out onto the porch, glared at Carl and welcomed the officer onto the porch.

“Good morning, Ms. Reilly.  I’m Officer Thayer.  I hear you’ve had a bit of excitement around here this morning,” he said as he showed Marnie his badge. He looked over his shoulder at Carl and planted himself between Carl and porch.

Marnie looked at the badge, looked over Officer Thayer’s shoulder to see Carl slowly coming up the walk.  She addressed the officer, “Uh… yes.  Yes, we’ve had an intruder in the backyard.  He kicked Tater and then climbed over the back fence.  Sorry.  I think he kicked Tater.  Sorry… uh… I think it was a man that kicked Tater.”

“Marnie, is everything okay? Are you okay?  I heard you say somebody kicked Tater.  Where is he?” asked Carl as his foot hit the front steps cautiously.

“Not now, Carl!” Marnie shouted and then she stopped, gathered herself together and said calmly,   “Please.  Please just go.  Please, Carl, go home.”

Officer Thayer looked from Marnie to Carl and then addressed Carl, “We got a problem here, buddy?  The lady doesn’t seem too happy to see you.”

Carl shot a look to Marnie, held his arms out, his hands palms up and said, “Marnie, what’s happening? Give me a break here.”

Turning back to the officer, Marnie said, “Please come in, Officer Thayer.  I’ll take you through the house to the backyard. Mr. Parkins is a nuisance, but not someone we need to worry about.”

As Marnie opened the front door, Tater ran out the door and straight to Carl.  His tail was wagging so hard his whole body was moving side-to-side.  When he reached Carl, he sat for a pat and smiled up at him.

“Hey, mister!  How are you?  I hear you got kicked.  You look pretty okay though, huh,” Carl said as roughed Tater’s fur and scratched his ears.

“Tater!  Come! Get in the house!  Now!” Marnie was furious and under her breath she said, “You little traitor.”

Tater ran to the door and squeezed past Officer Thayer and Marnie and made his way to his bowl.   Breakfast was late and with a hit of his paw, his dish went tumbling across the floor.  He sat, smiled and looked to Marnie for food.

“Can you wait just a few minutes, Tater?  You won’t starve,” Marnie said as she walked through the kitchen to the back door.

Carl, who had followed Marnie and Officer Thayer into the house, piped up and volunteered.  “I’ll feed him.  It’s okay.  Take your time with the police.  I’ll keep Tater company while he has his breakfast.  His food still in the same place?” Carl flashed a big smile at Marnie and his eyes danced with mischief.

Marnie’s eyes threw daggers at Carl and she said between gritted teeth, “Fine.  Just fine.  Yes.  His food is where it’s always been. Thank you, Carl.”

Patting Tater’s head Marnie walked out the back door with Officer Thayer following.

Officer Thayer crossed the yard toward the shed, opened the door but backed out quickly.  He turned to face Marnie, but then whirled the other way and threw up on the lawn.  Wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, he spoke quietly into his radio.  Marnie couldn’t hear everything he was saying, but from his reaction and the few words she did hear, she knew it wasn’t good.

Officer Thayer crossed the yard to where Marnie was standing and quietly said, “Ma’am, I would like you to go in the house, please.  This is now a homicide investigation.  I need to seal the perimeter and wait for the detective in charge.”

“Homicide?   No.  No. Homicide?  Is there a body in there?  Are you telling me there’s a body, a dead body, in my shed?” Marnie spoke quickly and took a step toward the shed.

Officer Thayer put his hand up and walked toward Marnie.  Taking her arm, he turned her away and walked her back to the house.  She kept looking back toward the shed shaking her head and wondering who the hell was in there.

Chapter Four

Crime scene tape stretched from a huge maple to the mailbox, to the garage door blocking access to the driveway and the gates.  Officer Thayer stood guard and awaited homicide and forensics to make an appearance.

Marnie stood looking out the side window.  She saw nothing but woods, grass, pavement, yellow tape and Officer Thayer.  The sun was just starting to poke its head up over the horizon. The hues of pink and red spreading across the sky like huge bat wings told Marnie there would be a storm sometime today.  A big, bloody storm.

“Pink sky at night is a sailor’s delight.  Pink sky in morning, sailor’s heed warning,” recited Marnie as she straightened the curtains, turned and walked into the kitchen.  As she turned the corner to the kitchen, she remembered she had a visitor.  Well, more like an uninvited, unwelcome pain in the ass.

Carl stood at the kitchen counter with a cup of coffee in his hands.  He looked at Marnie and asked, “What’s going on out there? “

“There’s a body in the shed, Carl.  A bloody body in the shed,” Marnie said curtly, pointing out the back window. Her face showed anger, confusion and a teeny, tiny bit of fear.  “Why are you here? What are you doing here?” Marnie demanded.

“Hey, I just stopped in to have a calm, rational conversation with you.  The Collective is pissed at you, Marnie.  You never should have turned up last night.  You never should have said the things you said.  And, you should know better than to fuck with the people who supported you when your life was a pile of shit,” Carl said as he held his coffee cup in one hand and karate chopped his points with the other.

“The Collective?  What the hell is The Collective, Carl?  A collective of thieves?  A collective of misguided, soul-sucking, narcissistic phonies with the collective consciousness, decency and intelligence of a… a pea?   Far out!  What do you want?” Marnie’s anger sparked in her eyes.

Carl knew this look too well.  The first time he had seen Marnie angry it had shocked him.  He never knew a person’s anger could take over her entire being.  Well, except in movies and comic books.  Marnie was tall and every single inch of her looked angry.  Her jaw was set, her eyes were like lasers shooting through his soul, her shoulders were straight, her fists were clenched, her calf muscles were taut, and her feet were planted in a stance that resembled a boxer getting ready to take a swing.

Carl put his hands up in surrender. “Okay… okay.  Marnie, calm down.  I didn’t come here to argue and I definitely didn’t come here to have you take another swing at me.  I’m here with a quiet warning.  You know that some of the people in The Coll… uh… the group is very sensitive and can sometimes… have sometimes been known to deal with things in their own way.  So, you and I need to come to an understanding.  You stay away from them and they will stay away from you.  That’s all.  Real easy.  Don’t take their clients.  Don’t call them names.  Don’t speak at events where they are speaking and everything will be fine.  Cross the line though, and you know what they are capable of, don’t you.  Marnie, are you listening to me?”

Marnie was shaking her head.  Her eyes were no longer filled with anger, just pity. Her tone was sad as she spoke, “Carl, you were once an amazing psychoanalyst. You really were truly amazing.  You had the world in the palm of your hands and then you were sucked into a bunch of hoodoo voodoo bullshit.  Last night you told a battered woman to change her behavior so that her husband would love her. What happened to the man who said that it wasn’t me?  You told me to remove myself from the violence and toxicity.  You told me I could be anything if I believed in myself.  Where did that man go?  I have always been thankful that you were there when I needed help.  You were brilliant.  You helped me change unhealthy patterns, my negative beliefs, my…  my life.  You helped me put myself back together and now this.  What the hell happened to you?  You know, back then I would have trusted you with my life.  Hell, I did trust you with my life.  And now you’re here threatening me.  Telling me to fall into line or your friends are going to get me.  Are they going to get my little dog too?”  Shaking her head again, she turned to the back door and looked out.  There was a crowd gathered around the shed now.

Marnie turned back to Carl and frowned. “So which one of The Collective has been hiding bodies in my shed?  Is this their way of getting back at me?”

“For God’s sake, Marnie, no one from the group would do something like that.  Do you honestly think that?  They have other ways of messing with you.  Dumping a body in your shed would be far too easy.  Far too simple.  You and I both know that the collective powers of The Coll…, well, you know, they could scare you, terrorize you and ruin you.  They are far more creative than just dumping a body in your shed.” Carl looked past Marnie into the backyard.  He could see four investigators in white jumpsuits gathering bits and pieces and placing them into evidence bags.  Markers were on the lawn and fingerprints were being gathered.

There was a knock on the back door.  Tater got up and barked as Marnie opened the door.  The detective was a hulk of a man. He was tall, broad, imposing and handsome in a craggy kind of way.  He held up his shield and said, “I’m Detective Daniel Gregg.  Are you Miss Reilly?  Or is it Ms. Reilly?”

“It’s Ms. and Marnie is fine.  Come in, please,” said Marnie and she held out her hand.  She looked up at Detective Gregg’s face as he shook her hand.  His hand was warm and rough, his eyes haunted and his smile surprisingly kind.  Why surprisingly kind?, thought Marnie.

“Ms. Reilly, I’ve spoken to Officer Thayer and he has shared the details of your 911 call with me.  We’ll need you to come to the station this morning so that we can get a formal statement.” Detective Gregg’s tone was professional and aloof – not warm – not kind.

“Okay.  What time would you like me at the station?  I have a few appointments today and I’ll need to move things around,” Marnie replied.

“Then I suggest you move things around quickly, Ms. Reilly.  I’m heading back to the station in ten minutes and I would like you to meet me there,” Gregg replied with deliberate authority in his tone.

Irritated with his tone, Marnie responded, “Okay… I’ll get dressed and meet you there shortly.  Would you like copies of the video from my security cameras as well?” Marnie didn’t mask her sarcasm. “I’m assuming you all noticed the security cameras around the house and grounds.  There’s an alarm system too that’s linked to the local police station.”

“We did, in fact, see the cameras and we have a warrant on the way to search the house.  My people will gather everything up and bring it to the station,” Detective Gregg replied, matching Marnie’s sarcastic tone and delivering his statement about the search warrant with deliberate authority once again.

“Right.  Well, I’ll just go get dressed then shall I?” Marnie headed for the stairs with Tater following on her heels.  She trudged up the stairs wondering what the hell the detective’s problem was – she was the one with the dead body in her shed.  She wasn’t a victim, but she certainly wasn’t a suspect.  She stopped on the stairs and thought, Am I a suspect?

Detective Gregg turned and looked at Carl.  “Are you the boyfriend? Lover? Ex-husband perhaps?”

Carl laughed, held up his hands and replied with a hint of humor, “God no!  Marnie and me? Me and Marnie? That woman would be the death of me, any man actually.  Oh… uh, poor choice of words.  Ummm… no, Marnie is just a… well, a colleague.  She’s a colleague and a friend and I dropped by this morning to discuss a business proposition.”

“Which is it? Colleague or friend?  Officer Thayer told me she didn’t seem terribly happy to see you.  Colleague or friend, Mr. Parkins?  Which is it?” Gregg narrowed his eyes at Carl and waiting impatiently for an answer.

“Both.” Carl did a little double-take and asked, “How do you know my name?” He shifted uncomfortably and commented, “We weren’t introduced.”

“I know everything, Mr. Parkins.” Detective Gregg leaned in close and enunciated every syllable as he spoke, “I know everything.”

Chapter Five

Twenty minutes later, Marnie appeared in the doorway.  Both men turned and looked at her in a navy blue, v-neck t-shirt, a white and blue checked scarf, a pair of faded jeans, a brown belt, brown boots and a brown leather jacket was draped over her arm.  Her blond hair was pulled into a ponytail and, as usual, her makeup was flawless and understated.

As Marnie walked by Detective Gregg, he took in her perfume.  Not overpowering.  Not flowery.  Not spicy.  Clean.  She smelled like sheets that had been hanging out on the line on the first warm day of spring.   He breathed in and realized he was staring at her as she walked through to the kitchen.

Carl moved closer to him and spoke quietly, “She’s like a breath of fresh air, isn’t she, Detective?  Bet you’re glad she isn’t my girlfriend.  Oh, but wait.  Not really anything you can do about it, is there?  That body out there is in her shed and she’s either a suspect or a witness.  What a shame,” Carl added mockingly.

Detective Gregg ignored Carl’s taunting and turned to Marnie and asked, “Do you need a ride to the station, Ms. Reilly, or can you make your way there? “

Marnie looked up and responded, “Yes, Detective, my car is in the garage.  May I take my car or is it part of the crime scene, too.”  Her sarcasm was back.

“Uh, no.  The car remains here.  Forensics will want to have a look through and run some tests.  They’ll have it towed to the forensics dock.  Looks like you’re riding with me, Ms. Reilly.”

“Actually Detective, I’ll get a lift from Mr. Parkins. He’s going that way anyway, aren’t you, Carl?  We can finish our conversation in the car,” Marnie said turning to Carl and raising her left eyebrow.

Carl knew that look and decided it best not to argue.  “Sure.  I’ll drop you at the station on my way.”

“On your way where, Mr. Parkins?” Detective Gregg queried.

“Nowhere in particular, Detective.  Just going to get on with my day,” Carl said and then looked at Marnie. “Let’s go, kid.  You ready?”

“Yup.  I really need to lock up first though.  Detective, when will they be done out there.  I don’t want to leave the house unlocked.”

“They’ll be here a while yet. They can lock up for you.”

“I’m really not comfort…” Marnie started to say but was interrupted by Detective Gregg.

“Ms. Reilly, your house is surrounded by the police.  Do you really think there’s going to be a problem?  I will ask Officer Thayer to personally lock up your house,” Detective Gregg said curtly.  He shot her a steely look that made her think twice about arguing the point.

Marnie conceded, “Fine.  Officer Thayer can lock up for me.” And then she remembered her dog. “Hang on. What about Tater?  I’m not leaving him here.  I need him to come with me.”

Tater was sitting next to Marnie and was bumping her hand with his nose. When he heard his name, he picked up his paw and placed it on her leg.  Marnie looked down into Tater’s smiling face.

Marnie touched Carl’s arm lightly and asked, “Carl, can Tater come in your truck?” She turned to Detective Gregg and announced, “Detective, I’m bringing Tater to the station with me.  He’s no trouble.  He’ll sit quietly.  I just don’t want to leave him here alone.”

Gregg shook his head in disbelief. “What? You want to bring your dog with you to the station?  Ms. Reilly, dogs aren’t allowed in the station.”

“Really?  Don’t you have a canine unit?” Marnie inquired sarcastically.

“You know what I meant, Ms. Reilly.  The dog can’t come with you,” Gregg snapped.

Marnie looked at the detective and then to Carl.  Carl looked at Marnie and said, “Look, Tater can come with me.  Call me when you’re done and we’ll pick you up and take you wherever you need to go.”

Marnie looked at Tater, then at Carl and then at Detective Gregg.  She put on her jacket, grabbed her handbag and walked to the door.  Looking over her shoulder she said, “Well, let’s get this over with.”

Tater jumped into the back seat of Carl’s pickup and rested his head on the console.   Marnie got into the front passenger seat and slammed the door.  Detective Gregg looked back at her with his icy stare and motioned forward with his hand.   Marnie rolled her eyes and watched as Carl got into the truck.

“And the story of the damsel in distress continues as I, the handsome and daring prince, takes you off to meet with the evil sheriff on my trusty steed,” Carl teased.

Marnie looked at him out of the corner of her eye and then turned to face him. “Shut up, Carl.”  She shifted in her seat and looked out the window.

Carl grinned, started the engine and drove off into the sunrise.

Chapter Six

Marnie got out of the truck at the station, gave Tater a pat on the head and told Carl she would call as soon as she was done.  As she closed the door, Tater barked and Marnie looked back.  Carl turned around in his seat to pat the dog’s head with reassurance and Marnie saw Tater settle again on the back seat.

The station was an older sandstone walk-up with huge, blue double doors with the police shield on each window.  Marnie checked her watch and glanced up and down the street.  There weren’t many people on the street yet, but at 7:30 on a Saturday morning, you wouldn’t expect there to be.

Marnie trudged up the steps, opened the big door and walked into the station.  The duty sergeant was sitting behind a big desk, engaged in a chat with a man in a filthy coat.  The policeman looked up when he heard the door, acknowledged Marnie with a nod and continued his conversation with a man who seemed to totter on his heels.  Marnie approached the desk and it was confirmed.  The smell of alcohol hung on the man and he was weaving back and forth.  She was certain he was going to tip over at any minute.  The duty sergeant asked the man to have a seat and said that someone would be with him in a minute.

“Yes, ma’am, what can I do to help?” the sergeant spoke to Marnie.

“Ummm… Sergeant Beaumont,” Marnie read his desk tag. “My name is Marnie Reilly and I’m here to see Detective Gregg.”

“Yeah.  Just a minute.  He’s up in the squad room.  Have a seat.” The sergeant eyed the drunk weaving in his seat and said, “Actually, wait right there.  I’ll call up for you.”  As he picked up the phone, another detective walked into the station. Marnie recognized him instantly.  Detective Tom Keller was a childhood friend.

“Marnie, what are you doin’ here?” Tom asked with a broad smile on his face.

“Hi, Tom. It is so good to see you!” Marnie gave Tom’s hand a warm shake with both of hers and he pulled her in for a hug. “It’s a long story. I’m waiting for Detective Gregg so that I can make a statement.”

“Hey Beau, I’ll take Ms. Reilly up.  She’s an old friend of mine,” Tom said, nodding to Sergeant Beaumont.  He grabbed Marnie’s sleeve and pulled her gently toward the stairs.  Sergeant Beaumont waved them on and answered another call.

“What the hell, Marnie?  A homicide?  One of your clients?” Tom asked.

“No.  Nope. A body was found in my shed this morning.  I don’t know who. I don’t know when, but yeah.   They’re gathering the security tapes and searching my house.  I don’t know why they got a warrant.  I would have been happy to let them look around,” Marnie rambled on again.

Tom smiled at Marnie and laughed. “No, you wouldn’t have.  If they had asked if they could look around, you would have told them no.  Who are you trying to kid?”

Marnie laughed in agreement and said, “Yeah.  Okay.  You’re probably right.  I would have told them to fuck off.  Well, maybe not quite like that, but yeah.  You’re right.”  They were still laughing as they walked into the squad room.

Detective Gregg was standing just inside the door and greeted them with an icy tone. “Good to see you can laugh, Ms. Reilly.  You’ve got a body in your shed and you’re having a good chuckle.”

Tom put his hand on Marnie’s shoulder protectively and said, “C’mon, Danny.  Marnie and I go way back.   We were talking about old times.  Give her a break.  She’s had a rough morning.”

Detective Gregg looked at Tom and nodded. “Yes.  It has been a rough morning and not to sound cliché, but it’s about to get a whole lot rougher.  The body we found in Ms. Reilly’s shed is that of Ken Wilder.  He’s an old friend of yours, isn’t he, Ms. Reilly?”

“Ken…” Marnie started to speak, but her face went gray; she looked left and then right.  Tom grabbed her arm and led her to the lady’s room door, though too late.  Marnie threw up in a waste basket. Tom stood next to her with his hand on her back looking over his shoulder at Detective Gregg.

“Ms. Reilly, go to the ladies’ room and pull yourself together.  We’ll get your statement when you’re ready,” Gregg said sternly, walked toward his desk, turned, sat and looked at Marnie expectantly.

Marnie grabbed the handkerchief Tom was handing her, wiped her mouth and made her way to the ladies’ room.  Tom went to his desk, grabbed a tube of toothpaste and a bottle of mouthwash, walked to the ladies’ room door and knocked.  He then peeked in quickly, handed the items to Marnie and walked out.

Gregg followed Tom’s movements and was looking at him with amusement when he was walking toward his desk. Tom caught the smugness and gave Gregg a look of disdain.

“You seem to be enjoying Marnie’s situation, Danny.  What’s up?” Tom asked.

“Are you telling me that you don’t remember the saga of Ms. Reilly and the vic?” Gregg queried.

“Yeah.  I remember.  Look, Marnie and I grew up together.  She is as honest as the day is long.  She says Wilder beat her, I believe her.  I saw the bruises.  I saw them out together when they first started seeing each other.  A few months later she’s telling me they’re moving in together.  She drops out of sight for months.  Her friends didn’t see her, she quit work.  Twelve months later I run into her at the diner up the street and don’t recognize her.  I watched her fade away to nothing when she was with him.  The guy was sick and twisted.  He gaslighted her and beat her.” Tom’s voice grew more angry and defensive of his friend with every word.

Not the story he told, Tommy.  He said she went into a deep depression after her father died and became reclusive.  He says he couldn’t speak to her and that she would sit in the dark and cry for days.  Said he couldn’t take it anymore.  She was accusing him of cheating on her and she would call him over and over again throughout the day.  Finally, he had to throw her out of his house because he couldn’t deal with it anymore. Says she made it all up to get attention and ruin him,” Gregg commented matter-of-factly.

“No way, Danny.  That’s not how it happened.  She walked out on him, moved into her father’s house and tried to put her life back together.  He stalked her.  I caught him stalking her.  He turned up at her house one night and beat the hell out of her.  I pulled up just as he was driving off.  Her hand was broken because she finally got a swing in.  She was covered in bruises, her lip was split and her eye was swelling up from where he slapped her around.  But she broke his nose.  He tried to press charges until I got involved,” Tom replied, his voice was getting louder.   Gregg motioned down with his hand telling his colleague to calm down.  Tom lowered his voice, “She was trying to hide from him.  He didn’t know about her inheriting her father’s place because she didn’t tell him.  She was attempting to find a way out for months.  He went off on a business trip; she packed everything up, called me and a few other friends; we filled up our cars with her stuff, and we helped her disappear from Wilder’s life.  A few weeks later, I was going over to help her install security cameras, I drive up and he’s racing off.  He kicked in her front door and beat her and terrorized poor Tater.  There is no way anyone can say it didn’t happen – he’s a liar. I saw him speed off.  I saw the kicked-in door.  I saw the bruises. I saw the cuts.  Wilder is…was a low-life woman basher!”

“Why didn’t she press charges?” Gregg asked smugly.

“She did.  Wilder’s uncle is…was a dirty judge.  He started threatening Marnie.  I tried to protect her, but he came after me too.  Then when the judge retired there was no point worrying about it.  Wilder hadn’t been in touch for a long time,” Tom said as he nodded toward the ladies’ room door.  “Here she comes.  Be nice, Danny.”

Chapter Seven

Detective Gregg held the interview room door open. Marnie entered, but stood waiting.  The room was the bland institutional gray one would expect in a police station.  A chipped metal table filled most of the space.  Four metal, straight back chairs surrounded the table.  Marnie followed Gregg’s eyes and noted which chair he wanted her to take.  She chose the opposite side of the table.  Gregg looked at her, shook his head and went to the other side, put a pad and pen down on the table, turned the chair sideways, sat, loosened his tie and stretched his long legs toward the door.

Marnie sat with her back straight, her hands on the table looking intently at the detective. “Where do you want me to start?”

“Actually, I think we should start with some questions,” Gregg said matching Marnie’s intense gaze.

“Okay.  Do you know how long he’s been dead?”

“I’ll ask the questions, Ms. Reilly.  You can give me answers.” Detective Gregg’s authoritative tone was back.

“No problem.  What do you want to know?”

“When was the last time you saw Mr. Wilder?”

“It’s been a few months.  We ran into each other at the deli near my office.  I was with a client and Ken was alone.  He kept staring at me.  I kept ignoring him.  When my client got up to leave, Ken came over to my table and asked if he could sit down.  I told him no and got up to leave.  He grabbed my arm, I pulled away.  He grabbed my arm again.  I stomped on his foot and walked away.  He called me a bitch.  I paid my bill and walked out the door.  He followed me to my office.  I called Tom,” Marnie rattled off the details looking directly into Gregg’s eyes.

“You don’t sound like a woman whose ex was found dead on her property this morning.  Not a whole lot of emotion there at all, Ms. Reilly,” Gregg said, staring back into her eyes looking for some emotion.

“Well, you spend two years with a man who isolates you, insults you, beats you and tells everyone you’re crazy and you tend to stop feeling.  You get numb and protect yourself from the pain.  From what’s coming next, which was usually him throwing me across a room or slapping me.  He used to grab my arms so tightly that I would have bruises for weeks.  He hit me so hard once for putting the wrong mustard on his sandwich that I was concussed.  Had ringing in my ears for a week.  Vomited for two days.  You tell me, Detective, how would you be feeling right now?” Marnie raised her left eyebrow and lifted her chin.

“Why aren’t there any reports in the system, Ms. Reilly?  Nothing.  There’s not one domestic abuse filing anywhere.” Gregg raised his right eyebrow and let her know he could play the same game.

“Actually, Detective, there are reports.  Call and ask for Judge Wilder’s archived files.  Talk to Tom.  He’ll tell you everything.  And just a note, many of the occasions when I tried to get help I was told that it was a domestic issue and the police didn’t want to get involved.  Keep digging, Detective.  You’ll find the reports. You’ll find proof.  Contact the hospital and ask them for my records.  Call my friends. Call my doctor.  I’ll give you his name and permission to take copies of the files and x-rays.” Marnie sat back in her chair, stretched her back and then looked to the ceiling before then turning back to face Gregg.

“I’ll do that, Ms. Reilly.  Now, tell me where you were yesterday.”

“When yesterday?”

“All day.”

Marnie rolled her eyes, breathed out and started from the top. “I got up at 5:00, went for a run, got home around 5:30, made a cup of tea, had my shower and got ready for work.  Left the house around 6:30.  Arrived at the office at 7:00.  Ordered some breakfast from the deli.  They delivered it around 7:15.  I read and answered emails until 8:00.  My assistant arrived around 8:00. We had a quick meeting.  My diary was full most of the day.  I had lunch at my desk and I left the office around 7:00, went to Station Hall to speak at an event.  Left there at around 10:00 and got home around 10:30.  I took Tater out for a run and we were back by 11:00.  We had some dinner and I had a shower and went to bed around 12:00.”

“Can anyone else confirm your whereabouts during those hours?”

“Okay.  You know, I think this is a little more than giving you a statement, Detective.  Before I answer anything else, I’m going to give my lawyer a call.  I would normally be happy to answer questions, but something about this stinks.”

“You’re not under arrest, Ms. Reilly.  We’re just having a chat.” Gregg sat up and moved the pad around the table.

“Hmmm… yes, well then you won’t mind if my lawyer sits in will you?” Marnie watched him carefully.

“That’s not a problem.  I thought you were happy to cooperate.” Gregg shrugged and spread his hands out.

“I was and then I remembered the search warrant and now the language you’re using isn’t really you asking me a few questions or us just having a chat.  It’s an interrogation,” Marnie said accusingly.  She put her hands flat on the table and stared at him.

“Suit yourself.  Lawyer-up.” Gregg grabbed the pad and pen and stood up.

He left the room leaving the door open.  Marnie took her phone out of her pocket.  Eight missed calls.  She listened to the messages and saved the important ones, deleted the rest.  Helen’s grandson had called 10 minutes ago.  April had called 30 minutes ago.  She would call David and then return the two calls.

Marnie dialed David’s cell number and listened, “This is David Bennett.  I am unable to take your call at the moment.  Please leave a detailed message after the tone and I will call you back as soon as I am available.”  BEEEEEP.

“David, this is Marnie Reilly. SOS.”

Marnie called April and asked if she could meet with her on Monday morning at 8:00. April confirmed and Marnie said she looked forward to seeing her.  Next she called back Helen’s grandson Michael.  He said that his grandmother had calmed down quite a lot and that he didn’t feel that a trip to the coroner’s office would be necessary.  He thanked Marnie and told her he would call if his grandmother needed anything.

Marnie’s phone rang.  It was David. Marnie answered quickly. “Thank you so much for calling me back.”

“Hi, Marnie.  What’s happening?  SOS?  That’s serious.  You haven’t used that since you left Ken.”

“David, can you meet me at the police station?  There’s a bit of a thing at the moment and I may need some help.”

“Uh…right now?  I’ve got to be back in court in about 10 minutes.  I’ve got an arraignment. I won’t be free until 11:00.  Is that okay or is this urgent?”

“Ken’s body was found in my shed this morning.”

“What? Ken’s body? Marnie are you okay?  What happened?”

“Yeah, I’m okay and no, I didn’t do it.”

“Geez, Marnie, I know you didn’t do it.  If you were going to kill that bastard, you would have done it a long time ago. Let me talk to my assistant and see if he will be okay to handle things.  It’s not a biggy.  Just a mugging. I’ll call you back in five.”

Marnie sat for a moment.  She was supposed to have dinner with Kate tonight.  Kate was her best friend.  They had been friends since second grade when Marnie had gotten glasses.  Everyone picked on her, except Kate.  At recess one day, Kate told everyone that if you had glasses you were really, really smart.  It’s what Kate believed.  Her grandfather had glasses and he was the smartest person in the world.  And so, Marnie was now the smartest kid in second grade and she had a new best friend.

Marnie’s phone rang again.  David.  “Hey.  How’d you go?” Marnie asked.

“I will be there in five.  Case was just dismissed.  See you shortly.” David clicked off.

Marnie hung up and called Kate.  She got Kate’s voicemail. “Hey Sweetness, just me.  I will give you a call back in a bit.  I know we have dinner plans tonight. Just wondering if we could postpone or maybe have lunch tomorrow instead.  Something’s come up and I can’t really tell you over the phone.  Chat soon.”

Detective Gregg was standing in the doorway as Marnie disconnected from leaving the message.  He walked in, sat down and took a deep breath.

“Ms. Reilly, I think I may have been… Look, I… You really don’t need a lawyer.  If you want to just tell me what happened, I’ll take some notes and record your statement and then you are free to go.  I’m sorry about earlier.  Look, Ken gave a lot of money to a charity that has taken care of a lot of people I know.  He’s done a lot of good things with his money and I’ve heard rumors about the two of you.  I shouldn’t believe rumors, but hey, I’m human.  You see a guy who does good things and you expect that he’s a good guy.  It’s not always true and I know that.  I’ve just dug a bit deeper and there do seem to be some reports sitting out there that should have been followed up.  Tommy showed me.  Now, Tommy, he’s a good guy.  He’s had my back a few times and I trust him.   He trusts you, so I gotta open my eyes a bit wider now.  Okay?”

“Tom is a good guy.  Loyal as the day is long and I trust him too.  I already called my lawyer. He’s going to be here in a minute, so if it’s all the same, I’ll let him sit in for moral support if nothing else.”

“Suit yourself.  You wanna coffee?” Gregg smiled as he got up to leave.

“No, thank you.  I don’t think caffeine would be a good idea.  I’m already wound up tighter than a drum today.  Would tea be possible?  If not, water would be appreciated.”

“I’ll check.” Gregg started out the door, turned back around and stood in the door. “I really am sorry.  I was a prick and I apologize.”  He turned and walked out the door.

Marnie shook her head. Just when you think you’ve got one of them pegged, they do an 180.  Impossible! Men are impossible.

Chapter Eight

David arrived at the station and met Marnie and Detective Gregg in the interview room.  David asked for a moment with his client. Detective Gregg was hesitant about leaving but said he would be back in a few minutes.

David glanced at Marnie, got up, closed the door and sat. “Marnie, what is going on? Give me the five-minute breakdown.”

Taking a deep breath, Marnie ran through the events of the last 24 hours.  David listened without comment, then breathed out, put his chin on his chest and looked over the top of his glasses at Marnie.

“Okay.  They just want a statement.  You had a full schedule yesterday with people around you all day except when you were in your car and when you went home.  Let’s find out what they’ve got and then I will work through the statement with you.  Let’s not trip up.” David looked pensively at Marnie.  “Have you told me everything and I mean everything.”

“Yeah.  I think so.  God, David, I wasn’t expecting to have to remember every single detail of my day.  If I was, I would have kept notes.”

“Okay.  Maybe put the smart-ass part of your personality away for the next hour or so.   Let’s get this done.”

David opened the door, looked out into the squad room, got Detective Gregg’s attention and sat down, this time on the opposite side of the table and next to Marnie.

Detective Gregg came back in, shut the door and sat across from them both.   He looked cautiously at Marnie and asked, “Ms. Reilly, do you mind if we record your statement? “

David looked at Marnie and shook his head and responded for Marnie. “No, Detective, I will take notes and my client will sign the document when we have completed the interview. “

“Okay.  Let’s get started then.  Ms. Reilly, can you please recount your movements yesterday?”

“Yes.  I woke up at 5:00, went for a run with Tater, we returned home around 5:30.  I made a cup of tea and took it upstairs and had my shower.  I got ready for work and left the house about 6:30.  I got to the office around 7:00 and then called the deli to order breakfast. The delivery guy dropped it off around 7:15.  From 7:00 to 8:00 I answered emails and that’s when my assistant arrived. Her name is Andrea.  She and I had a meeting, went through my diary and I had meetings in the office most of the day.  We ordered lunch.  Andrea picked it up at the deli and I had lunch at my desk.  I left the office around 7:00, went to Station Hall to speak at an event.  The event finished around 9:45.  I packed up and left there at around 10:00.  I drove home and got there around 10:30.  I changed my clothes, took Tater out for a run and we were back by 11:00.  I made us dinner, had a shower and went to bed around 12:00.”

“That’s it?”

“No.  Some strange things happened last night.”

“Can you tell me about the strange things, Ms. Reilly?”

“Well, when we went out for our run last night, I had a weird feeling.  I never set the alarm when I am only going to be gone a few minutes, but at the last minute I ducked back inside and set it.  When we came home, Tater was pulling at his lead and staring off into the woods.  It was strange because he normally doesn’t tug at his lead.  Anyway, the woods just felt eerie last night.  Like there was someone watching me and my dog.  When we went into the kitchen, Tater was standing on his hind legs looking out the back window.  He was barking a funny bark.  I can’t explain it.  It’s like he used to bark when Ken would show up in a drunken mess.  Tater would panic and the hair would stand up on his scruff.  He was doing that last night.  Then the phone rang a few times.  I ignored it because of the hour and let it go to voicemail.  When I listened to the messages just before I was heading to bed, it was the same message both times.  Someone was playing music down the line.  A haunted song…” Marnie’s voice faded and her eyes looked off into the corner of the room.  She stared as if she was looking into someone’s face – someone’s eyes.  The silence in the room was heavy, like a damp blanket.

“Ms. Reilly, are you okay?” Gregg looked over his shoulder to the corner, saw nothing and looked back at Marnie.  She was still staring and tears had welled up in her green-blue eyes. A moment more and she’s going to cry, he thought to himself.

“Marnie?” David was looking at her, too, and then looking into the corner.  He followed her gaze but didn’t see anything.  He frowned and reached out his hand. “Marnie!” David touched her arm very gently.

Marnie looked back at him suddenly and then to Detective Gregg, remembering where they were “Sorry.  I was just…  I was just thinking about… Sorry.  Where was I? Umm…the song.  Anyway, it rattled me.  I haven’t heard that song since Ken and I were together.  He loved Johnny Cash and he used to play that damn song every time, every damn time… after he would hit me, he’d play that damn song.”  Tears were rolling down Marnie’s cheeks and she wiped them away with the back of her hand.

“Do you want some water, Ms. Reilly?” Gregg asked.  “I’ll get you some water,” he said with compassion.  I need some air, too, he thought. Spooky…

Detective Gregg left the room and David put his hand around Marnie’s, looked into her face and said, “Kiddo, you’re scaring me. You were staring at something in the corner, or more like someone.  What’s going on?”

“Just a ghost, David. Just the past.  I’ll be fine.”

Gregg walked in balancing a glass of water, a cup of tea and a box of tissues.  He placed them on the table in front of Marnie and smiled.  Marnie looked up and noticed how kind his face looked when he smiled.  She nodded her thanks to him and drank the water.

“I feel like an ass. I don’t cry.  I never cry in front of people.  I just don’t.” Marnie looked down at the table, drew in a deep breath, breathed out and lifted her head to look at Detective Gregg. “Okay,” she said and took another deep breath. “I’m good.  Let’s keep going.”

“Okay.  You said there was a song playing down the line.  A Johnny Cash song.  What song was it?” Gregg asked.

Hurt.  Do you know the song?  It’s very…ummm… sad and dark and lonely.  It always makes me feel cold when I hear it,” Marnie responded, looking into Detective Gregg’s eyes as she spoke.

“And you say Ken used to play this song after hitting you?” Gregg was watching her closely, too.

“Yes.  He played a lot of Johnny Cash, but that one he reserved for… well, when…” Marnie looked down at the table and then up into Gregg’s face.  “He played that song every time.  He would put that damn song on the stereo, tidy up the mess he’d made and then go out for hours.”

Marnie held back tears, clenched her jaw, drew in a breath through her nose, and then breathed out and responded, “Last night, I was frightened that he was going to turn up on my doorstep again.  I locked up the house, set the alarm and went upstairs with Tater.  Everything was quiet after I went to bed.  I didn’t hear anything.  Tater didn’t bark and if someone was near the house, he would have. He barks at squirrels and possums and skunks.  He would have barked if someone or something had come near the house.”

“Okay.  And then this morning… what can you tell me about this morning?” Gregg awaited her answer.

“This morning I got up, went downstairs and when I went to turn off the alarm, it was already disarmed.  I clearly remember setting it.  I don’t know.  I’ll have to call the security company and find out what happened.  They have a record every time the alarm is turned on and off.  I know I set it because I went back downstairs specifically to arm it.”

“Has that happened before?  The alarm shutting off?” Gregg looked at Marnie.

“No.  Never.”

“Okay.  Can you continue, please?”

“Tater and I went downstairs and I let him out.  I went out onto the back porch and noticed the shed door was opened.  It was strange because it’s always locked.  I’ve got a lot of my father’s tools in there and the lawn mower.   Anyway, Tater ran to the shed and the hair on his scruff was standing up again.  I walked off the porch, grabbed a bottle someone had left by the back door.  I thought it was odd that there was a beer bottle in the yard – I don’t even drink beer. Anyway, I walked across the yard.  Tater warned me away from the shed and the closer I got the more he growled.  I got scared and ran back to the house, grabbed the phone, called 911; I heard Tater yip, ran back outside and saw a man jumping over the back fence.  My call went through to 911 and I started telling the operator, her name was Jo, short for Joanne, started telling her about the man who had just jumped over the fence.”

“Okay. We have the recording of the 911 call, so we don’t need to cover that.  We will have to check evidence for the beer bottle, though.  I don’t remember seeing it at the scene. What else can you tell me about the man?  The one you saw go over the fence?” Gregg asked, searching for more detail.

Marnie thought for a moment, then spoke, “Dressed in black or navy blue, I think.  I think he must have had on a hat or a hoody pulled over his head.  I couldn’t see his hair.  Not tall, but not short.  About my height I guess.  He favored his left arm.  I noticed that when he tried to jump the fence.  Didn’t use his left arm to pull himself up… well, he did, but not as much as you would think someone trying to get over a fence would.  Does that even make sense?  Ummm… he was not a…  I guess kind of athletically built, but slight.  A distance runner kind of build.”

“Did he speak?”

“No.  I didn’t hear anything.”

“Okay, anything else you want to tell me?  What else happened before Officer Thayer arrived?”

“Nothing.  Carl arrived. Officer Thayer arrived. He went out to the yard with me; he looked in the shed, threw up, made a call on his radio and escorted me back to the house. Carl was in the house feeding Tater when I walked back in.”

“Detective, how about if you share information with us?  Marnie has just told you everything she knows.  How about you tell us what’s happening?” David pushed Gregg for information.

“Counselor, we haven’t got a lot of information yet.  We know it was Ken Wilder’s body in the shed because we all recognized him.  Mr. Wilder has given a lot of money to BPS over the years and has contributed to a number of charities that I work with.  He’s well-known to all of us.  Officer Thayer and many of us had been at a fundraising event with Mr. Wilder last night.  Toys for Tots.  I’m sure you are both aware of it.”

David smiled and said, “Of course we are.  Marnie contributes…”

“David, stop!” Marnie interrupted, looking at him angrily.

“What? You do,” David responded sheepishly.

“That’s private and I make those contributions anonymously.  Always have.”

“Sorry.  I just thought that the Detective should know.”

“No.  That’s my business and no one else’s.  I told you that… Geez, David.  You’re my lawyer.  Stop sharing personal information that isn’t relevant.” Marnie glared at her friend.

“My bad. Sorry,” David replied with confusion.

“Why wouldn’t you want people to know about that, Ms. Reilly?” Detective Gregg looked at her quizzically.

Marnie shook her head and sighed and said, “I helped set up that charity with Ken.  Just because we weren’t together anymore didn’t mean… look, I didn’t want him to know that any of the money was from me.  I didn’t want to be invited to any of the events and I certainly did not wish to associate with him.”

“Okay. Well, thank you.” Gregg looked at Marnie and nodded his head.  Gregg continued, “So… anyway, we all know that the event finished up around 10:00 last night and I know that Mr. Wilder left when I left.  I walked him to his car.  We were discussing the volunteers we would need to shop, wrap and deliver.  Thanksgiving is just a week away and we need to get the ball rolling. Mr. Wilder drove off around 10:15.  I looked at my watch when I was walking back to my car,” Gregg was watching Marnie as he spoke.  She was staring off into the corner again.  He followed her gaze and saw nothing.

David noticed that Gregg was watching Marnie.  Her eyes were fixed and they were both surprised when she spoke suddenly.

“Was he heading home?” Marnie asked.

“I’m not sure.  I didn’t ask.  He headed up Banks Avenue and turned right,” Gregg replied.

“Has anyone checked with security at the gates?” Marnie asked.

“Sorry?” Gregg asked.

“He lives in a gated community.  The guards would know what time he arrived,” Marnie said matter-of-factly still staring.

“I’m heading over there soon.   I need to inform his wife of his death and we can speak to security then.”

“His wife?  I didn’t know he had a wife.  Why wasn’t she at the event last night?” said Marnie, eyes fixed on the corner of the room.

Gregg was looking from Marnie to the corner. “Ms. Reilly?  What’s so interesting in the corner?  You keep looking over there.”

Marnie moved her gaze quickly to Gregg’s face. “Nothing, Detective.  Nothing.  I was just thinking.”

“Detective Gregg,” David interrupted. “Have you found a murder weapon yet?”

“Yes, but you know I can’t answer your questions about that at this stage of the investigation,” Gregg replied as he stood to leave.

Marnie’s head shot sideways and she stared up at Detective Gregg. “I heard Officer Thayer on his radio.  He said the words “garroted” and ‘wire.’  It was piano wire, wasn’t it, Detective?”

Gregg raised his eyebrows and stared at Marnie.

“What? How did you know it was piano wire?”

Marnie untied her scarf, moved the collar of her jacket and showed the detective the scar on her neck.  Unless you were looking closely, you might not notice a thin scar around her neck.  The scarf she wore hid it well, but it was quite obvious once you knew it was there.

“What’s that?” asked the detective.

“Scars from piano wire he wrapped around my neck.  It’s how he tried to kill me when I threatened to leave him.  It happened just before I left him.” Marnie stared back into the corner again.

David stared at Marnie, looked to the corner and back to Marnie again.  The detective looked at Marnie and into the corner again.  A crack of thunder broke through the silence.

“Here comes the storm,” said Marnie, still staring into the corner of the interview room.

8 comments

  1. From the moment I started reading this book, I could feel tension and knew that something ominous was about to happen. It got me hooked early as I wasnt sure what was going to happen…. or when it would happen but I was pretty confident it wasnt going to be pretty.

    I had a soft spot for Detective Gregg who I would describe as a man’s man who has a sensitive side but isnt always comfortable showing it! I loved his mannerisms, his sayings and his general ability to be a typical bloke!. He often made me smile.

    Shari’s descriptive writing allows you to easily visualise what you are reading and yet be on your seat while you do…. knowing that something is about to happen. I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Loved this book from the minute i started reading. The suspense had me hooked and i couldn’t put it down, it definitely didn’t disapoint. Hope there is not too long a wait for the next book.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Definitely a cut above your average murder mystery.
    Murder, romance and a wisecracking heroine with a psychic edge – the suspense hooked me in from the first page. The body count kept rising and I couldn’t put it down.
    Can’t wait for the next book.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. From early on in the book I was hooked and couldn’t put it down. There’s a great mix of suspense, intrigue and mystery. I can’t wait to read the next one…it better come out soon!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. LOVED THIS BOOK. Danny made me smile alot, I told my boyfriend how awesome he was and he laughed.

    It was so easy to visualise what was happening and what the characters looked like.

    Awesome story, characters and a great read.
    Well done Shari,
    I look forward to the next book.

    Like

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