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.
They huddled together, glaring at a woman preening in a mirror. Their faces pinched with anger—their eyes seething with hate.
“Pfft! She is going to ruin everything!” A member of the audience wearing a navy-blue baseball cap scowled, stamping a foot.
Another from the audience, who wore a knitted green tuque, glared at the woman in the mirror. “Going to? She already has! Everything we’ve worked for is down the toilet if we don’t put an end to her!”
“Do you have a plan?” Baseball Cap’s eyebrows shot up.
Green Tuque smirked, lifting a heavy backpack as evidence. “Of course I have a plan. You won’t like it, but yeah, I’ve got a plan.”
They rested their backs against the wall, plotting the end of Marnie Reilly’s life.
Marnie Reilly raced through the back door of Station Hall, a redbrick Federal-style structure built in 1831. Her office hours ended at 5:00, but a client had delayed her. She wasn’t due on stage for 20 minutes, but she hated to be behind schedule.
“I am so sorry I’m late.” She shook hands with Serena, the organizer of the event.
“You’re fine. You arrived in plenty of time.” Serena glanced toward the stage, checking her watch.
The speaker on stage raised Marnie’s hackles. She knew him well, but his belief system and ethics were questionable more often than not these days.
She stood in the wings wondering how crumpled her suit was after a day of appointments. A full-length mirror backstage offered her the chance to check her reflection. Her smart black silk suit and trim pencil skirt were presentable. The gray, silk camisole that she was wearing gave her eyes the soulful look of the empathetic counselor she knew herself to be. Her understated jewelry and makeup completed the look of a confident, no-nonsense professional.
She peeked through the red velvet side curtains to see the audience. There were close to 200 women and about a dozen men. Marnie knew that many of them would bristle at her frank delivery of facts. She was always authentic to herself and to the people who sought her counsel. She would tell them what they needed to hear—not what they wanted to hear.
Marnie hoped the people in the audience would trust her candid guidance and consider her beliefs and the myriad of truths that she would share with them tonight. Some people would be unhappy with what she would say. The people who had taken center stage here tonight would be livid.
The man onstage was selling hope. He was one of many speakers here tonight who made an absolute fortune every year taking people’s money—telling them what they wanted to hear so that they would get hooked on his every word. He would keep dragging them back into his world filled with half-truths and twisted reality based on the hope that someday the fanciful nonsense he was spewing would come true. This man was what most people would call a sensitive and spiritual healer. That’s not what Marnie would call him. She would call Carl Parkins a charlatan—a low-life, soul-sucking trickster who stole people’s money and left them wanting more.
As the Carl finished speaking, the crowd rose to their feet in awe of his talent. He 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 that 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. 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.
Carl’s reassuring smile held warmth and confidence. “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.”
The woman nodded, smiled shyly and blinked back tears. Marnie knew that the woman was hooked. She would buy hope from a man who would sell it to her at $150 per session.
The man left the stage, and Serena went to the microphone. “Thank you so much, Carl. What truly insightful readings tonight. I am sure your natural gift amazed the good people in the audience. I know I am! You told them things that no one outside of their circle could know. I 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 he walked to the wings, he caught his first glance of Marnie readying to go onstage. He bristled and eased toward her.
The organizer, Serena, told the audience about upcoming events, including a brilliant group of Angel Intuitives who would be available for one-on-one readings and a well-known medium featuring in two weeks’ time.
“Check our schedule online. You won’t want to miss these events,” said Serena with pasted-on smile.
Marnie sensed Carl Parkins sidling up beside her. The faint but familiar aroma of Versace Dylan Blue with its citrus, bergamot and woody undertones crept under her nose as the charlatan slunk up behind her.
“Surprised to see me? I’m sure most of the people performing tonight will be. You know me. I like to pop up from time to time to keep everyone honest,” said Marnie, her eyes locking on to his.
“Ooh! Be careful with your snide comments. No one here is performing. We’re all the spiritualists who want to help. I don’t need to tell you how much you being here will sadden this 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 those who are far more powerful than you.”
She leaned in—he felt the heat of her breath on his face. “Thanks for the warning. I am quite aware of the power you’re talking about, and please remember, the truth always comes out. Powerful? Ha! None of you have any idea who you are dealing with or how many people are standing around waiting for me to take you all down.”
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 not someone any of us need to worry about. It saddens me because you could have been truly talented, but you gave up too soon. You didn’t believe in yourself enough. You doubted yourself too many times, and your clients knew it. Worry? I’m not worried.” He shook his head, a mocking grin on his face.
“I wasn’t referring to myself, Carl. I was referring to God, the Universe—the Divine. The souls on the other side of the veil who are tired of you meddling and taking money from good people—people who need help of a different kind. Do you believe in Heaven, Carl? Do you? People like you don’t go to Heaven. People like you wander aimlessly in Purgatory for an eternity. Get out of my way. I’m being introduced.”
His glowering eyes burned into her back as she walked away. “Fuck you, Marnie.”
“You’re not my type, Carl, but when I finish tonight, you will definitely feel screwed. Ciao, ciao. Must go.” She gave a little wave and walked to the stage.
“Ladies and gentlemen, our last speaker tonight is a leading counselor here in Creekwood. She has spent much of her career donating her time in juvenile detention centers and women’s shelters. Many people know her 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 as she adjusted the microphone. The other speakers had worn headsets and dressed casually in colorful clothing with elaborate crystals around their necks. In contrast, she was professional, elegant and not at all 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 that truly want to believe. Please allow me to clear up one thing. I’m not a psychic. I 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.”
She pulled the microphone from its stand and walked to the front of the stage.
“Please allow me to explain. I went to university to be a counselor, and I am trained to help you. I am also a clairvoyant, a clairsentient, a clairaudient and an empath. That means that I see, hear and feel spirits. 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 to you, 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 you can go to get help that won’t cost you a ton of money and where hope is never sold. There are professional environments where you can talk about where you are now and where you want to be. Safe places where you can learn about the steps you can take to turn your life around.”
Marnie turned to April—she was in the front row, still transfixed after her exchange with Carl. “April, I know you are going through a difficult time. I know what it is like to be in an abusive relationship. Do you feel it’s your fault? I blamed myself. And I thought that, if I changed, he would change. I can tell you right here, right now, he will not change. You need to leave the situation. You need to walk away. It isn’t easy, and it will take you time to come to terms with the steps you need to take, but it will be worth it. You don’t need to a psychic to tell you that the situation will not end well if you stay. Common sense is all you need. 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 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. It took me two years to get away from the man who abused me. Two years on an emotional roller coaster was enough. I lost 30 pounds and didn’t even realize it. My entire world was falling apart, and I couldn’t figure out what had happened.”
April looked up and sobbed. Marnie grabbed a box of tissues off the podium, walked down the steps, and handed it to April, who took a few tissues and gave the box back.
Marnie dropped the microphone down to her side and handed April a card. “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 said, “Thank you.”
Marnie was back onstage, speaking earnestly to the audience. “Listen, folks. Readings can be fun and helpful. Heck, I give readings to my friends because readings can be useful, but I do not think 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 assistant, or I will refer you to a place that will help you get on the right track. Please 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, but you have to work toward finding a long-term solution and a psychic can’t help with that unless they are skilled in specialized areas like career counseling, psychology, relationship counseling and services of this ilk.”
Hushed conversations from the audience filled the auditorium. Marnie stepped away from the podium, walked to the front of the stage. “Okay. Who has questions? Throw up your hands. Let’s see if we can find solutions tonight. You’ve paid for the evening. Let’s deliver positive results for a few people.”
A tired-looking woman six rows back in the middle aisle put up her hand. Marnie skipped down the steps and up the aisle and handed the woman a microphone.
“Can you please tell me your name?”
The woman stood up. “My name is Helen. I have been raising my hand all night, and no one would call on me.” As tears flowed 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.”
Helen choked up, struggling to speak through her tears. “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 dinner with friends. I went upstairs to get ready for bed. He went out to the yard to lock up for the night. I was so tired that I fell asleep before he came upstairs. When I woke up, he wasn’t next to me, so I went downstairs. All 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. She said it was at the hands of another—whatever that means. One man told me that my husband took his own life by chewing oleander leaves, and then another man told me he had just given up on life and died. I don’t understand, and I want you to talk to him. Please ask him what happened?”
The heart-wrenching pain on Helen’s face was an angst that Marnie had seen before—in her father’s eyes—in her own, and in clients’. Tears stung her eyes. A lump caught in her throat, and her chest ached. As an empath, she could feel the pain this woman was going through, and she wanted to do everything that she could to help.
She reached out and took the woman’s hand. “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 speak to us, they find a way, but it is inappropriate for us to seek them out.”
Helen broke down, dropping Marnie’s hand. “I was told that someone here would speak to my husband! I was told that my husband would come through to someone! You’re the last speaker! Why won’t you talk to my husband?”
“I don’t know who told you that, but let me assure you, I would never make a promise like that. Helen, there is a very thin veil between this life and the hereafter and we shouldn’t mess with it. My mother taught me that, and I never attempt contact with people who have passed. Please accept my sincerest apologies that someone made that promise to you.”
She turned around, searching for Serena and spotted her walking in the wings backstage and called out to her. “Serena, can you please come here for a moment?”
Serena peered out—eyes darting. Marnie glared in her direction and made a request bluntly. “Serena, I would like to find out who made this ridiculous promise.”
Turning back to the woman, she did her best to offer sound advice and comfort. “Helen, I’m going to ask you not to spend any more money on psychics or mediums to speak with your husband. I am going to go with you tomorrow to the medical examiner’s office. The medical examiner knows me, and I am sure we can find out what happened to your husband if we ask the right questions. Can you tell me your husband’s first name and how old he was?”
“His name is Ralph. He is such a loving man. He is tall and handsome and a wonderful father.” Helen sniffled and dabbed away tears with a worn tissue.
“How old is Ralph?” Marnie changed tense to match Helen.
“He will be 92 next week.”
Marnie reached out and took Helen’s hand again. “He’s had a good life? You’ve had a good life together?”
A wistful smile appeared on the woman’s face. “Oh, yes. We’ve had a wonderful life. Our platinum anniversary was last week. All of our family was with us. We had a lovely party with our family. Such a lovely party. Our children, the grandchildren, great grandchildren and some friends. We danced and sang and danced some more. Oh, it was so lovely.”
“That sounds wonderful, Helen. If you will wait for me to finish up, I will make a time to meet you tomorrow, and we will work together to find out what happened to Ralph. Does that sound okay?”
“I came here to talk to Ralph. What about that?” Helen stood her ground.
“You can talk to Ralph any time you like. I’m sure he’s listening to you. He’ll give you signs that you can understand. You don’t need me to speak with Ralph. You know in your heart that he’s listening, and he always will be.” Marnie locked eyes with Helen, hopeful she had gotten through to the grieving widow.
Helen half-shrugged, half-nodded. The man next to her put a hand on her shoulder and comforted her into her chair. He looked up at Marnie and mouthed “thank you.”
Marnie put a hand in her pocket and reached out, handing him her card. The man took the card, placing his hands around her hand. “Would it be okay if we call in the morning?”
“Yes. That would be fine.”
She climbed the stairs to the stage and felt a presence in the wings. Carl and his psychic friends stood backstage—glaring at her. She flashed them a cheesy grin, then turned back to the audience.
“Okay. Does anyone else have a question?”
As hands shot up in the audience, she beamed with joy. She had them. They were right there in front of her, and they wanted what she was selling—truth, common sense, and the chance to make their lives better. This is what it’s all about. Hope is a wonderful elixir if it’s the right kind.
Marnie pulled into her garage and sat with her head resting on the steering wheel for a few minutes—thinking and talking to herself.
“Nights like this are why I do what I do. I know I have made the right decision. I have chosen the best path.”
She closed her eyes and grinned, thankful for where she was now.
The familiar sounds of night and the low thumping of raccoons scampering off her front veranda greeted her. Raccoons are excellent lock-pickers and were no doubt trying to break in again. What a mess they had made the last time. Her dog door was now sealed and her Border collie Tater had a dog walker who visited him twice a day. She could hear the dog sniffing on the other side as she unlocked the door.
“Hello, my little man! How has your evening been?” Tater was her best friend, and had been her savior a few years ago.
It seemed a long time since she left the horrible man and within days, had found this little ball of fur while out for a run one morning. She spotted a burlap bag squeaking and squirming at the side of the road. The thought of someone tossing kittens out of a car disgusted her, but to her surprise, she opened the bag to discover a black and white Border collie puppy no bigger than an Idaho potato, hence his name.
Tater sat for a pat and then raced to get his lead. He dragged it back to the front door, sat, and stared up at her.
“Okay. Give me a second to get out of these clothes, and we’ll go for a quick run. It’s late—no faffing about tonight. Understand me?” She scratched under his chin.
He looked up at her, dropped his lead at the front door and, with his tail wagging, followed her upstairs. They had a routine—something that Border collies love. Every day, he would follow and wait for her to put on her running shoes, and then they would run.
Dressed in her sweats, a T-shirt and running shoes, Marnie bounded down the stairs with her dog on her heels. Tater hit the rug at the bottom of the stairs, then the rug and the dog slid across the timber floors before running into the wall. She giggled, gave him a pat and put his lead on him.
“Tater, are you ever going to learn that the rug moves? Silly boy.”
The phone rang as she pulled a sweatshirt over her head. She stopped for a second and then decided that whoever it was could leave a message. She heaved open the large front door, and they stepped out onto the veranda. As an afterthought, she ducked back in and set the alarm. Tater looked up at her quizzically. She gave him a pat.
“I know. I know. There’s nothing to worry about with my big fierce protector looking out for me. Let’s just say the alarm makes me feel safe. Let’s go.”
As they ran down the path, he moved out of the forest, jogging across the street to the Marnie’s house. He had overheard 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 of the veranda, retrieving a mini-flashlight. He turned it on and held it between his teeth. Next, he removed crystals and set them down next to the bag. He picked up the amethyst, admiring the brilliance of the crystal point. He tucked it behind the big potted geranium near the front door. An exquisite blue turquoise he nestled in one of the flower boxes and he tucked a piece of moss agate on the opposite end of the flower box. A clear quartz crystal balanced on the sill over the door, and he hoped it wouldn’t fall when she closed it. Finally, he placed an Archangel Michael coin under her front doormat. He stood back, recalling an item in his pocket.
“Just one more thing, Marnie. Just one more thing.” He pulled an Archangel Raphael coin from his pocket and placed it under the mat next to Archangel Michael. He gathered his bag, kissed the palm of his hand, and placed it against the front door.
He looked up at the sky as he stepped off the veranda. “Please keep her safe. I’ve done what I can. She’s in your hands now. Thank you for keeping watch over her. You may not realize it, but she is precious to me.”
He stood back and assessed what he had done.
“There, Collective, do your worst. She has the angels on her side.”
He wandered off into the forest to the ringing of Marnie’s phone. He closed his eyes and grimaced.
“Hmm… It starts.”
Marnie and Tater ran around the corner of the house. The dog barked, pulled at his lead, and stared deep into the trees. Marnie bent down, scratched his left ear, and ruffled his long coat. “There will be no chasing bunnies tonight, buddy. It’s time for dinner and then bedtime.”
She unlocked the front door, stepped in, turned off the alarm, took off the dog’s lead, and laid it in a basket. She had a strange feeling that she couldn’t shake, and stepped back out onto the veranda, scanning the edge of the forest—her thoughts racing. It was one of those nights when it feels like the forest has eyes. She rubbed her arms to chase away a shiver and backed into the house, locking the front door.
The familiar shuffle of Tater rummaging in his empty bowl echoed down the hall. She laughed, but scolded herself for being late to feed him.
“Okay, boy. Let’s get some dinner. How about if we share an omelet? Sound good, buddy?”
Tater stood at the back door, staring out the windows, when she entered the kitchen. The hair on his scruff stood up, and his mouth was closed tight—a clear indicator that he was feeling stressed or fearful. He usually smiled, but right now, his eyes locked onto the shed at the back of the house. A low, grumbling growl crescendoed into a fierce bark. Marnie flinched. This was Tater’s warning bark. The one he always used to alert that her drunk ex had arrived for an abusive visit.
Marnie hit the light switch and peered out the window of the back door. She couldn’t see anything, but Tater could. She had sensed something out front, but thought that she was being paranoid.
“Hmm… Maybe I’m not imaging things.”
She stood, peering out the back door with her dog standing next to her. He calmed down after a few minutes, lay down in front of the door, looked up at her and smiled.
“Okay. Suppertime, little dude. How about that omelet?”
The phone rang again as she cracked the first egg. She glanced toward the hall where the phone sat in its cradle, looked at Tater sitting patiently waiting for his dinner and decided that whoever it was could leave a message. It was late, and they were hungry—she could call back tomorrow.
She placed half of the omelet into the dog’s bowl and put it aside to cool. He wasn’t terribly patient about food. He would gobble it up steaming hot, and she didn’t want him to burn his mouth again.
Marnie poured herself a glass of juice, buttered some toast and plated up her half of the omelet. Tater whined impatiently, 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. The dog ate quickly, drank his water and turned to wait for his mistress to finish so that he could have her leftovers.
She stood at the counter, picking at her eggs and nibbling bits of her toast. A gulp of of juice filled her up, and she pushed away the plate away and looked out the window. She picked up 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. A frown creased her forehead as she side-eyed the offensive ringing.
“Who would be rude enough to call at this hour?” She scowled at the phone and rolled her eyes at the ceiling. “I’m not answering it. They can leave a message.”
Her curiosity got the better of her—she picked up the phone, dialed into the voice mail and listened. What she heard made all color drain from her face. Hair stood up on the back of her neck and her arms, and she slammed down the phone, resting her head and back against the wall. A deep breath in through her nose and out through her mouth calmed her senses. With a huff, she pushed herself off the wall, went 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, let out a sigh and called out to Tater as she walked to the stairs. “C’mon, knucklehead. It’s bedtime.”
He ran to the stairs, slid across the hall on the rug, got his bearings, and raced up the stairs behind her. Marnie stopped at the top of stairs, skipped back down, set the downstairs alarm and ran back up. On her way down the hall to her room, she stopped and looked out the window—her forehead pressed to the cool glass.
“Shit. What have I started?”
The 5:00 AM alarm buzzed. Marnie opened one eye and then the other; she put her arm over her eyes and giggled. Her Border collie sat at the side of the bed staring into her face.
“God, Tater, that is the creepiest thing in the world. Stop staring at me, you little freak. Come here and give me a cuddle.”
She rolled to the side of the bed, put both arms around the Border collie’s neck and gave him a hug. When she let him go, he sat back and flashed her a smile.
“Ha-ha! You’re a cheeky boy!”
A glance out the window revealed ice crystals glistening in the streetlight on the tree branches outside her bedroom. She pulled on a pair of slippers, and her bathrobe, and headed for the stairs.
“Brace yourself! It’s going to be a chilly morning, Tater. C’mon, 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 off. She distinctly remembered turning it on before going to bed. In fact, she went back downstairs to set it. Strange. Tater hadn’t barked in the night, so everything must be secure. She made a mental note to call the security company today to have it checked, just in case.
It was still dark when she opened the back door for the dog to go outside. She switched on the backyard floodlight, stepped out onto the porch and looked around. All seemed quiet, but she noticed that the shed door was ajar. She wrapped her robe tighter as a shiver ran down her spine. Tater ran straight for the shed without stopping to pee. He sniffed around the patch of grass just outside the door and lifted his leg. He continued sniffing around the door—the hair on his scruff bristling.
Eyes darting, Marnie searched for a makeshift weapon, and spotted an empty long-neck beer bottle at the side of the house. A wrinkle creased the center of her forehead.
“Hmm… That’s odd. I didn’t leave that there. Hmm… And no one who drinks beer has been around in weeks.”
She shrugged, picked up the bottle and carried it by the neck across the yard to the shed. Tater grumbled, his nose pressed to the ground, sniffing outside of the shed. The closer she got, the deeper his growl.
“Shush, shush, Tater. It’s okay. What’s wrong, buddy?”
The Border collie planted himself between her and the shed door—his growl intensifying. A prickle of fear rose on her neck—she turned and started walking back to the house before she quickened her pace—racing through the door to grab the phone. Tatter yipped as she dialed 911, and she ran to the backyard carrying the portable phone. The Border collie, teeth bared, limped after a man in a dark hoodie climbing over the fence. She raced to Tater’s side, dropping the phone in the damp grass.
“Come here, buddy!” Bent over with her arms out, she called her dog to her side. She ran her hands over him to see if he was bleeding or broken, but he seemed okay other than the frightened look in his eyes. The 911 operator asked for her location as Marnie scooped up the phone. The rumble of an engine starting made her stop before racing back to the house.
“My name is Marnie Reilly and I’ve had an intruder in my backyard, and someone, other than me, disarmed my home alarm. My address is 404 Creek Road, about two miles west of the Grand Pass turnoff.”
Tater limped through the back door ahead of her, and she raced in behind him, kicking shut the door, and locking it.
“Are you under threat, Ms. Reilly? Is the intruder in a position to harm you?”
“What? No, but the bastard kicked my dog. I think he kicked my dog. He’s limping, and he yipped. 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!” She rubbed a hand across her forehead, knowing that her ramblings weren’t making sense to the operator.
“Yes, ma’am. An officer will be with you immediately. 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.”
“Yes, that’s fine. Wait—I think I heard a car out front.” Marnie went 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. Please don’t open the door yet, Marnie. Can I call you ‘Marnie?’”
“Uh… Yes, of course. Of course. I’m peeking out the window to see who it is.” She pulled aside the curtain and peered out. With a roll of her eyes, she threw back her head. “Son of a bitch. Son of a freaking bitch! What the hell is he doing here at this hour?”
“Who is it? Are you all right?”
“Yeah, I’m fine. It’s just someone who I would rather not see this morning. The last thing I need is bloody freaking Carl Parkins knocking on my door. Shit! Oh, 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.”
“Yes, he’s coming up the walk and I’m opening the door.” She turned the latch, heaved open the large door, and stepped out onto the veranda. She welcomed the officer onto the veranda but offered a scowl to Carl.
“Good morning, Ms. Reilly. I’m Officer Thayer. I hear you’ve had a bit of excitement around here this morning.” He showed Marnie his badge, glanced over his shoulder, and situated himself between Carl and the veranda.
She looked at the badge and then over Officer Thayer’s shoulder to Carl, who was strolling up the cobblestone walk leading to her front steps.
“Uh… yes, sir, we’ve had an intruder in the backyard. He kicked Tater, my dog, then climbed over the back fence and ran away. Sorry. I think he kicked him. Sorry… Uh… I think it was a man who kicked him.”
“Marnie, is everything okay? I heard you say somebody kicked Tater. Where is he?” Carl’s left foot hit the bottom step—his eyebrows knitted together as he eased up the next step.
“Not now, Carl!” She stopped and gathered herself together. “Please, go. Go home, Carl.”
The officer glanced at her, turned and narrowed his eyes at Carl. “We got a problem here, buddy? The lady doesn’t seem too happy to see you.”
“C’mon, Marnie, what’s happening? Give me a break here.” Carl held out his hands, palms up.
Marnie held open the door. “Please come in, Officer Thayer. I’ll take you to the backyard. Don’t worry about Mr. Parkins. He’s a nuisance, but there’s no need to worry about him.”
Tater ran out the door and straight to Carl. The dog’s tail wagged so hard that his whole body moved from side to side.
Marnie rolled her eyes as the dog raced past. “You little traitor.”
“Hey, mister, how are you? I hear you got kicked, but you look pretty okay, though, huh?” Carl roughed the dog’s fur and scratched his ears.
She clapped her hands to get the Border collie’s attention. “Tater! Come! Get in the house! Now!”
He ran to the door, squeezing past Officer Thayer and Marnie, making his way to his bowl. Breakfast was late, and with a hit of his paw, his dish went tumbling across the kitchen floor. He sat, smiled and looked to his mistress for food.
“Can you wait just a few minutes, buddy?” She patted his head on the way to the back door.
Carl had followed them into the house and volunteered. “I’ll feed him. It’s okay. Take your time with the police. I’ll keep him company while he has his breakfast. Is his food in the same cupboard?” He flashed a cheesy smile—his eyes dancing with mischief.
Her eyes threw daggers at him, and she gritted her teeth at his display of kindness. “Fine. Yes. His food is where it’s always been. Thank you.”
She unlatched the backdoor and led the officer into the yard. Officer Thayer crossed the yard, opened the shed door, lurched back and vomited on the lawn. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and made a call on his radio. She couldn’t hear everything that he was saying, but from his reaction and the few words she could hear, she knew it wasn’t good.
The officer crossed the yard to where she stood.
“Ma’am, please go into the house. This is a homicide investigation and I need to protect the integrity of the crime scene and wait for the detective in charge.”
Eyes wide, her knees wobbled. “Homicide? No. No. Homicide? There’s a body in there? Are you telling me there’s a body—a dead body—in my shed?”
She took a step toward the shed, but Officer Thayer took her by the arm and escorted her back to the house. She glanced back—mind racing.
“Who the hell is in my shed?”