Chapter Twenty Three
“Even though they have new identities, I assume you’ve been seen together in town and elsewhere. What’s to keep them from connecting the dots and tracing them back to you?” asked Caroline, shaken to her marrow, at the very real danger slowly creeping up on her granddaughter and great grandchildren.
She had lain awake until after one rethinking the discussion she’d had with Henry, Myrtle and Angelia yesterday afternoon. She had concluded that Mary was her granddaughter, and Billy and Kimmey her great grandchildren. Just thinking about them filling the void in her life, both frightened and overwhelmed her.
“Let’s see if we can figure out who called the hospital, and who blabbed privileged information,” said Caroline.
“It has to be someone at the hospital who knew Mary was carrying twins?” I’m her Grandmother and I didn’t even know that tidbit of information! But, someone did, so all we have to do is figure out who would have that information?”
“I haven’t the slightest idea,” said Michael frowning. “I trust everyone on the staff, if I didn’t, they wouldn’t be working there! Besides, no one knew about the twins, except Mom, Dad and Aunt Angelia! I even confiscated the hospital records, locking them in the safe in Mary’s bedroom. So, they were never at the hospital for anyone to find in the first place.”
“It doesn’t make any sense, Dad! The staff would assume she’d been treated then released. Only a handful of people actually know Mary’s staying in the Gilfords Suite. They also know their jobs depend on them being completely discreet at all times.
Nicole Clark, Wanda-Ann, Jackie and Rose-Marie are the only ones besides you that know where she is and I’m positive they wouldn’t tell anyone. So who could have given the information to the man claiming to be Mary’s husband?”
“Okay son, point taken. No one should have known where they are, but someone does. The question is, who would have done such a thing and why?” said Henry. “I’d like to question you as if you were a witness to a crime. Do I have your permission to do so?”
“Of course, you do!” said all three ladies simultaneously crowding around Michael, so they wouldn’t miss anything.
“Humph!” said Henry, “I didn’t ask you three, I asked Michael. Now if you ladies don’t move back and give us some breathing room, I’ll just have to ban you from my office, aah, I mean the kitchen, to the living room.”
Three women pushed three chairs back so fast Henry fancied he saw their chair legs breaking and the women tumbling in bewilderment onto the kitchen floor.
“That’s much better,” said Henry. “Now I need everyone to be quiet, so I can ask Michael the right questions, and he can give me accurate answers in return.”
“Now,” said Henry, “let’s start with the night you took Mary to the Hospital and go from there. Tell me what happened. Start from the time you arrived. Take your time, and don’t leave anything out.”
“Let’s see, said Michael. When we arrived I immediately had Nurse Clark give Mary an IV containing a mild pain reliever and sedative. I then ordered an immediate ultrasound. As I recall our acting technician was on call, but not at the hospital. I waited almost thirty-five minutes for her to arrive. While I was waiting, I had Nurse Clark discretely arrange for Wanda - Ann to sit with Mary. I wanted someone trustworthy to watch out for her and keep her company when I couldn’t be there.”
“When Harriet arrived we did the ultrasound, which showed the twins. I remember Mary’s excitement and worry about taking care of them and the two she already had.”
“Did I just hear you say Harriet knew about the twins?” asked his father.
“Yes! I almost forgotten an incident that happened that morning in my office,” said Michael. “She came in with the ultrasound results and the morning reports, as I was on the phone with Mom. You know dad, I never gave it another thought until now, but Harriet, really overstepped her boundaries when she viciously attacked Mary’s character. She went so far as to accuse me of having an affair with Mary! She then had the audacity, the nerve to ask if I was the father of her unborn twins! I told her in no uncertain terms I could only wish I were their father! Let me tell you that really set her off.”
“That’s when she glowered at me and said do you take me for stupid, Michael? Don’t think for one minute that I don’t know what you’re up to! Don’t you think I’m smart enough to remember what I read in the papers? I’m not stupid. I know Mary and her brats are the runaways in that news article. You never should have cheated on me Michael, now I’m going to make you all wish you’d never been born!”
“I was so worried about Mary that I shoved the incident to the back of my mind and forgot about it. I was shocked at her rage. Until that moment I had no idea that she thought I was more than a friend. I told her so and none too kindly either, I‘m afraid!”
“Why, you aren’t talking about Harriet Mitchem by any chance, are you Michael?” asked Caroline skeptically.
“Caroline, I’m questioning a witness, please do not interrupt!” said Henry, all puffed up with importance as he gave her one of his I’m in charge looks.
“Dad, aren’t you even a little curious about how Caroline knew I was talking about Harriet Mitchem? Think about it dad? How could Caroline possibly know Harriet?” he asked.
“I don’t know Harriet,” she said. “I only heard her voice on the phone when she’d call to talk to Jedidiah. But, I do know her parents, her mother is Jedidiah’s half-sister on his mother’s side.”
“I’m excusing Michael from the witness stand, Henry said. I mean, this chair, which I’ll now refer to as the witness chair. I’d like to ask you a few questions, Caroline, if you don‘t mind? Okay now, you take Michael’s place, and Michael can take yours,” said Henry.
“Did Harriet call Jedidiah often?” asked Henry.
“Well, let’s see,” said Caroline thoughtfully. “You know, come to think of it, I’d never even heard of Harriet, until just before coming here. What I do remember is the phone call, and this excited sounding voice asking, “Where’s Jedidiah?”
“I told her he wasn’t there. She seemed really disappointed, then perked right up and said, “Well it doesn’t matter none, I win. Tell him Harriet Mitchem said, the prize is here and that there’s two in the oven. Then she laughed, saying, “That alone should be worth a couple hundred thou when the old bat croaks, and he inherits!”
I told Jedidiah about the call. He just laughed and said she was his half-sister’s daughter and just as loony as her mother! I didn’t think anything more about it at the time. Now I realize it was Harriet he’d talked to for over an hour, after I went to bed that night.”
“How do you know he was talking to her and not someone else?” asked Henry.
"I’d gone up stairs to bed around nine thirty, after asking Jedidiah to let himself out, after he’d finished whatever he was doing in the study. I’d only slept a couple of hours when something awoke me at around eleven. It was at that point I noticed the stairs light was still on bright and got up to dim them. The downstairs lights were also on, so I went down to turn them off.”
“That’s when Jedidiah said something about a date changing, and for her to be patient, because things were finally falling into place."
"He also told her to keep her big mouth shut or someone would end up six feet under, before he ended up in jail, and if that happened he’d make sure that her brats and she got hers, before the door clanged shut behind him. He then said, I haven’t wasted all these years to lose the biggest prize yet.”
“She must have sassed him, because he said, don’t get too smart mouthed. Have you forgotten what I have of yours that might suffer if you ever call here again?"
"That’s when he saw me, slammed the phone down, and ordered me back to bed. He then stormed out of the house muttering obscenities under his breath.”
“When I asked about the call, he angrily denied even being at my place. If I didn’t believe him, Caleb or Jeremiah would confirm their whereabouts as being at his Burns Avenue office all night."
"He then sneeringly said I was off my rocker, and needed a keeper. Then he moved our wedding date up to this Thanksgiving weekend. That’s when I called Angelia. I told her I was coming for a visit because Jedidiah informed me that if I didn't marry him he‘d find three doctors to swear that I was incompetent!”
“Really! Hum! Do you know the last name of either Jeremiah or Caleb and can you describe them as well," asked Henry.
“That’s easy,” said Caroline, “Caleb is a Mitchem and Harriet’s uncle. Zachariah, Zachadiah and Jeremiah are Snippet’s, as for a description, I think this Caleb resembles the man that built Mary’s Garden, as for the others, I’ve never been inclined to meet them so I’m afraid I can’t help you there.”
“How does Jedidiah know them?" Henry asked.
“That’s another easy one, said Caroline. They’re Jedidiah’s half-brothers on his mother’s side. Just like Henrietta, Harriet for short, is his half-sister’s daughter on his mother’s side. Jedidiah’s mother Harrietta married several times and had a slew of kids, including Jeremiah, who is also Jedidiah’s doctor."
“I think we should all take a break to digest and discuss this information said Henry, absently rubbing his chin. “Angelia, you got any more coffee in that pot?” He asked waving his hand in the direction of the stove.
“Probably,” said Angelia, “but, I’ll bet it’s strong enough to kill a bear. It won’t take but a minute to make another pot.”
“I should call Mary and the young’uns just to make sure they’re safe," said Michael, excusing himself from the group and going into the living room for a little privacy.
Caroline also excused herself in order to retrieve the medicine she'd obediently brought with her, but hadn’t taken since her arrival.
While Angelia made coffee, Myrtle bustled around making assorted sandwiches and a fruit and vegetable tray, with plenty of dip. Ten minutes later, everyone was back at the table enjoying the snacks and fresh cups of coffee.
“How are Mary and the children?” asked Myrtle.
“Hopefully she’s not alone, and Wanda-Ann made it to work!” said Myrtle.
“Not to worry,” said Michael. “Jackie and Rose-Marie missed Billy and Kimmey so much that they threw together a care package and came to the hospital to visit them. They brought enough food, toys, books, homework, clothes and I don’t know what else, to last a month or more!"
"Jackie told me their last customer had left the store at around seven but they’d stayed opened until nine, before deciding to close up early so they could visit Mary and the children. Anyway, because I was already there, I sent Wanda-Ann home early, so I could have some time alone with Mary and the children."
"It wasn’t ten minutes later that the man called demanding to talk to Mary. Thankfully she’d already fallen asleep. Then to top everything off the phone had no sooner died, when Jackie and Rose-Marie knocked on the door."
"It’s a good thing they arrived when they did, otherwise they would have been caught in the storm. They’re at the hospital right now and could care less about being stranded, they’re having so much fun.”
“Jackie said Mary and the kids had never seen a deck of cards, so Rose-Marie is teaching them card games. They said not to worry, they’d guard Mary and the children with their very lives if need be!”
Caroline watched Michael closely as he talked. She’d seen his face light up at the mere mention of Mary’s name, and had no doubts that he loved her. The knowledge gave her great pleasure.
“Michael, when you have the time, would you take a look at these for me?” Caroline asked, handing him three extra-large medicine bottles filled to the top with pills.
“Sure,” said Michael, taking them from her. “I didn’t know you were in poor health, Caroline,” he said, shaking a pill from each container into his hand to examine them.
He frowned, then looked at Caroline. “How many of these have you taken?” he asked.
“Well, I didn’t like the way they made me feel, all dizzy, fuddle minded, and confused, so I haven’t taken any since I arrived at Angelia’s,” she told him.
“Jedidiah insisted I take a double dosage of that bluish green one, before I left for the airport to catch my flight to Canada, then moments before I was to board the plane, he had me paged so he could inform me that he’d found Mary and the other children’s bodies rotting in the desert, but he was lying, wasn’t he?"
"I was in such a fog after that, that I almost forgot where I was going when the plane landed. I don’t know what they are or what’s in them, but I feel one hundred percent better without them."
“If I’m right about what these are Caroline, you definitely don’t need to be taking them. In fact, I’d like to keep them. If you need something to help you sleep or for pain, I’ll be only too happy to give you a checkup and if necessary prescribe a mild medication for you.”
“I’ve already decided not to take them as long as I’m here, Michael, so you are more than welcome to keep them. I can’t promise you I won’t take them once I return to Alaska, Jedidiah’s just too strong and I’m just too old and tired to fight him anymore.”