We were in the car heading out of the gravel driveway as I was comparing Jamie’s notes and sketches with the photographs I had from Ruth’s locker. Most of them didn’t add up, but there were some that could be matches.
One picture was of a man with dark black hair and a thick beard. He had a nose ring and what looked like a tattoo on his chubby arm. He was also wearing a black leather vest, like the one Mary had described.
It made me wonder how these men were so different from each other. Some looked like biker guys and others looked like successful business men. If what I think, and what Mary insinuated is going on in that hotel, then I guess it would make sense that all kinds of men used those services. I guess it doesn’t matter what kind of life you lead, you still could have secrets. I learned this from my father.
This reminded me of the odd conversation I had had with my mom. What could she be hiding? And why was she hiding it for dad, if she knew he was cheating on her? She did seem scared; maybe he would find a way to hurt her if she ever told? That would explain why she stuck around for so many years; she was trapped.
Jamie had barely spoken a word since we left the house. I assumed he was also thinking of our mom and her bizarre behaviour. I wanted to ask him what he thought and tell him what she told me, but I also wanted to get the whole story from her first. Or, find it out on our own.
“So where are we heading today?” I asked, even though I probably knew the answer.
“Well, I was thinking we would check out the rest of the hotels. That might take all day, but I think it is worth it. And maybe we will see one of those guys from the pictures. Then we could really find out what is going on…But- Liz?”
“I think it will be dangerous-real dangerous. A part of me wants to back out and go to the police.”
“Me too. I was thinking maybe we should just wait until we know a little bit more then we will contact the police.”
“Ok.” He said with hesitation. I could tell he was just as frightened as I was.
“Should we try talking to Daniel again?”
“I don’t think so. But I have a friend that works for dad and might know Daniel. Maybe he can tell us something.”
“Okay, yeah, sure.” I didn’t think that would get us anywhere but it was worth a try. We were now on a road I have never been on before and it was climbing out of the valley. “Which direction are we going first?”
“Well, we could have gone straight through and head down the coast, but I thought it would be fun to go the scenic route. As you might have noticed, we already passed the other hotel. The other ones are more south-west. Past these mountains there are a few resorts on the other side with an amazing view of the ocean.”
“So the hotels we are going to probably won’t be run down and dirty like that other one right?” I said hopeful.
“Well, I know one of them, is pretty upscale. A lot of rich people and tourists go there because there is a nice view and, there is a pretty good slope there to ski on.”
“Oh I see. Which one is that called?”
“I believe it’s called Michael Riggs Ocean View Lodge.”
“Who is that? His name sounds familiar.”
“Oh, actually now that I think about it, I think he is one of dad’s friends… Yeah! That’s right, he is. I have heard dad mention that he gets good discounts and often has business meetings there.”
“Really? Well, that is interesting.”
“Yeah, sure is. I can’t believe I forgot that. Liz, I feel like we are getting too close to this. I am beginning to not want to know. About Dad or Ruth.” I could hear the little boy in his voice; he was more vulnerable than I thought.
“I know, me too, but I really feel like it is all going to work out now. Please Jamie, you got to stick with me. I wasn’t going to tell you, but, I think mom knows something. That is why she was in my room crying. She wanted to tell me something about dad but, she couldn’t bring herself to do so. She thought I was too young. Maybe we can both talk to her? We can check out these hotels today, and then if we don’t find anything, we will ask her.”
“What? She knows something? Like what Liz? If she knows what I think she does, why hasn’t she left the bastard?! Why hasn’t she got us out of this hell hole?!” His rough manly exterior was back.
“She is really messed up Jamie. And I think she is really scared. He probably threatened her.”
“So? Why couldn’t she go to the police? Or tell me? I am old enough to know. I can protect this family from that jerk, you know, right?”
“Yeah…. But I don’t know. She probably thought nothing would come of it.”
“This really angers me, Liz. Like what the hell? I don’t get her. Maybe that is why she drinks so much, but I don’t know… I just don’t know Liz.”
He was gripping the steering wheel pretty tightly now. I was worried he would start speeding. “Calm down, Jamie. I think she will tell us.”
We were both silent until we got to the resort. We walked around the hotel checking out the lobby, cafeteria, hallways, and anything else but the rooms. I looked closely at the walls to see if there were any hidden doors but, there was nothing. As we were leaving I saw a familiar face; it was one of the guys in the pictures! And with Daniel! I quickly pulled Jamie aside and asked if he had seen what I did.
“Yeah, it was Daniel. Looked like he was doing business.”
“Yeah, running another errand for Dad. That guy with him- he is in one of the pictures. That is it, I am confronting him!” I stomped over in their direction as they were heading into a board room. “Liz! Wait!” Jamie yelled after me. It didn’t stop me. I needed to know.
When I entered the room, I couldn’t see them anywhere. It was just a large empty room with a bunch of tables and chairs. It also had a projector screen at the front of the room.
Jamie flew through the door. “What are you crazy?” He said and pulled me back into the hallway. “These people could be dangerous, don’t you understand that?” He scolded.
“Yes, but I don’t care, I need to find out.”
“Liz! Are you forgetting that our sister got killed-murdered for probably doing what we are doing?” He was whispering now.
“I know, I know. I think it is time to go to the police now. Give them all of the evidence and tell them what we think we know.”
“Maybe you’re right. Ok. Let’s go home. Maybe we can get something out of mom anyways.” Jamie suggested, sounding relieved that we were leaving.
I remembered now what Ruth said; that it was okay to go to the police. Even coming out here was taking a big risk.
We were about to leave when I saw Daniel and the other guy smoking on the balcony. “Wait! We can’t go out that way. We have to find another way.”
As we turned around I could feel a gust of cool air on my back, then heard Daniel’s voice. We walked faster now turning a quick left down a small hallway. I spun my head around to see if he was following us, or even noticed. His eyes looked straight into mine.
This time his eyes were not full of charm and innocence but malice. He knew! He touched the other man’s shoulder and started to walk faster in our direction. “Jeff! Barbara! I thought I saw you guys earlier. What are you doing here?” We couldn’t run now.
“Uh, we were doing some research for our next article- about this hotel actually. I heard a lot of good things about it so I decided to check it out for myself and do a review.”
“Yeah, this hotel is really nice. I do a lot of business here- you know- for Technikol. That man is one of our biggest clients. He is willing to buy some of our software.” I was beginning to think he didn’t really know who we were, and what we were doing.
“The manager let you meet one of the biggest clients? I thought you just do errands for him.”
His face clenched; I could see I was getting to him. “Well, Barbara- if that is your real name- the manager is in the middle of some family crisis and he asked me to meet with this client for him, since he came up here all the way from California.”
“Well, couldn’t he get someone more qualified to do a job like that?” His face was now turning redder than a stop light.
“Don’t mind her- she likes to make trouble. I apologize.” Jamie said, trying to take the heat off of me.
“Well, maybe you shouldn’t be having such an immature girl tag along on your job. And by the way, I checked the paper today and I didn’t see my article.”
“Oh that was becau-“
“Because what? Don’t try to play me. I know what you two are up to. And if you ever come near me again, you will pay- I will be sure of it. If you will excuse me now, I must be getting back to my client.”
“Of course.” Jamie replied acting as if nothing happened. Daniel then walked away quickly and adjusted his suit in a confident manner-too confident.
“See! I knew we were in too deep. C’mon let’s get out of here.” Jamie scolded me again as he pulled my arm. We then headed out slowly, making sure Daniel was gone.
As we were leaving, I caught a glimpse of the view; it looked like the resort wasn’t lying. The hotel was nestled in between two mountains where the road split them a part. At the back of the hotel there were other little cottages that appeared to be ski rentals, private rooms and things like that. There was only the one hill but, it was long and luxurious. A fresh powdery snow, always ready to be carved by the slick glides of skis, covered the hill. In front of the hotel there was a small dirt road, which lingered slowly down to the ocean front. In the distance, I could see a few large fancy boats, along with a pile of kayaks on a dock.
The sun glimmered on top of the soft waves that rose big enough to see from a distance but, not too big that you couldn’t go out on the water with a boat. It seemed the ocean kept going on forever, the water getting darker and darker as my eyes glided farther out.
I could see some dark clouds building up into a fluffy dark blue smoke. Even though it was colder up in the mountains, I could still feel the moist breeze colliding with the sky and water, soaking it up as it prepared to pour down in a torrent of rain - or up here, most likely snow.
I looked over to my left and Jamie was waving to me. I could tell he was in a hurry, and I guess I should have been too, but I just couldn’t help being enthralled by nature’s power. In every shape and form, it seemed to amaze me. I thought I shouldn’t make him wait any longer and, I couldn’t risk Daniel coming out and making another threat-or worse.
I should have been worried and scared but I wasn’t for some reason. I still had the confidence that I had had in the morning. If anything, I was even more relieved. Instead of panicking more, like I usually would have-about mom, then about the encounter with Daniel- I couldn’t help feeling it was all coming together for a reason, a purpose. A purpose that I knew would lead to my ultimate purpose; this realization gave me great comfort.
The drive back reflected how my insides were feeling. The mountains were so large and over protective. They stood with confidence, knowing that no matter what hit them; the winds, rain, snow, and even the constructions of man, its strength and perseverance will always come through. And I know mine will too.
Chapter 30: Necessary Help
I noticed we were coming into town now, and the rain started to fall. The droplets were so small that it created a wet mist on the windshield. It was just enough moisture that Jamie would have to turn on the wipers. “I thought we were going home now?” I asked, noticing we were going in an unfamiliar direction.
“I want to stop at the police station. We have to make this right.” He stared out the window with passion in his eyes. He wanted to find out the truth as badly as I did.
We walked in calmly but, our nerves were stirring about. I didn’t know who we were supposed to speak to, and, what we were supposed to say, when we did speak to them. I hoped Jamie would be able to explain better than I could.
“Okay, Liz- I want you to speak. You know more than I do, and you got me into this. So? Are you up for it?” He asked with his hand on my shoulder and, his eyes filled with anticipation.
Up for it? I didn’t know if I was up for it. I had assumed he would take care of it. This was not the scenario I had hoped for. I couldn’t tell if he was trying to give me a push in the right direction or if he was just too chicken to do it. Either way, I knew it was my job.
I walked to one of the counters and asked the plump woman with puffy short blondish hair, who was smacking on her gum, if I could see who was in charge.
“In charge? We are all in charge here little girl.”
I huffed in irritation. She thought I was a joke, and, I wasn’t going to put up with it. “Listen, ma’am. We have something very serious to report, and I would like to speak with the- um- the Chief of Police, as people usually call it.”
She rolled her eyes at me but then picked up the phone dialling an extension number. I was hoping that even people in a small town like ours would do their jobs properly. “Please have a seat. He will be out when he gets a chance.”
“Thank you.” I replied as politely as I could.
“So?” Jamie asked.
“He will be out ‘when he gets a chance’.” I quoted.
“Gets a chance? We have a serious issue here.”
“I know. But did you expect them to take an eleven-almost twelve year old seriously?”
“Actually, I thought they might be more sensitive and believe you more.”
“Apparently not.” I said as I slumped down in the seat beside him.
We sat there staring at the clock for what seemed like hours. The reflection off of the clock turned so bright I could not see the numbers any more. The light then swirled in circles and began to change colours. First purple, then blue, and green, then yellow, turning into orange and red like the colours of a sunset. It hypnotized me into a trance. I tried not to show any signs that I was seeing something other than a clock.
The colours kept turning in and out of each other like silky cloths dancing in the wind. The colours then began to fade into a grey, then light blue, and soon a soft white. It looked as if I was looking at a television screen now.
I began to see my helpers, one by one, in the order I met them. They all waved to me or blew me a kiss. A familiar warmness filled my heart, knowing they were still with me. I hadn’t noticed their presence around me as I used to, but, I also felt I didn’t need to as much, anymore.
The screen then turned into the image I saw in my last dream; of an elderly version of myself. The glow around her was now even more present and came from the inside out. She smiled more too, not afraid to be herself. She comforted me greatly, like sitting on a cozy couch, with a warm fuzzy blanket wrapped around me, and, holding a creamy cup of hot chocolate, beside a blazing orange fire.
“Are you the little girl that wants to speak to me? Haven’t I met you before?” I heard a gruff but gentle voice. I stood up. “Yes, I am, and yes you have met me before. At the highschool. My name is Elizabeth Murphy.”
“Oh yes, that is right. We have actually been trying to get a hold of you or one of your other family members. Remember, we wanted to speak with you that day?”
“Yes, I remember. And now I-we- need to tell you some very important information.”
“What about, dear?”
“About our sister, Ruth.”
“Good. I have some questions for you about her. Let’s head back to my office.” We followed him through a long corridor. His office was the last one on the left. The room was very small and cluttered. There was only one extra chair and a pile of files and papers on it.
“Sorry for the mess. Here let me get that.” He said as he quickly grabbed the files and placed them on the floor. “Oh, you might need chair eh? And sorry I didn’t catch your name?”
“Jamie.” He replied as the police officer held out his hand. “Nice to meet you Jamie. You are one of the oldest, are you?”
“Yes, sir, the oldest actually.” The officer didn’t look surprised. He then left the room for a moment and came back holding an old wooden chair. He wiggled it around the mess on the floor, to make sure it was stable. “May I ask, why is it that the youngest and the oldest are the only ones that have come down here today?”
“Well- it is difficult to explain Mr.-?”
“You can call me Jimmy.”
“Jimmy- The thing is that we know more than the others.” Jamie announced.
“Know more about what?” He asked raising his brow curiously.
“Actually, I think we’d appreciate it if you told us first, what you wanted to talk to us about.” I said firmly.
“Ok- but I am not trying to make trouble here. But I found some things fishy about your sister’s death. She had a number of bruises on her arms and legs and they were injuries I don’t think she would be able to impose on herself.”
“You think someone hurt her?”
“Yes, I do. Now I am not saying someone murdered her but, it could be the reason she killed herself. If she was being beaten and it was happening on a regular basis then I could see why she would have been depressed.”
“I hate to be blunt Jimmy but….”
“But we know she was murdered.” I said matter-of-factly.
“No, no Elizabeth, that can’t be. I don’t think anyone in this small town would be capable of something so horrendous. I know the people well.” He said as he shook his head, and his voice heightened, trying to deny the truth.
“But, you think someone is capable of physical abuse?” I pointed out. I didn’t mean to be rude, but I wanted him to realize we were telling the truth.
“Well, yes. There are actually a number of cases of domestic violence. I thought she just might have been dating the wrong guy or something. I heard about her outburst at the restaurant.”
“Yes. She was dating the wrong guy but, there is so much more to the story than just that. We can’t exactly prove anything yet but, we do have evidence.”
“Well, I wish you came to me earlier. Your sister is already buried- we can’t do a proper autopsy now, especially with no one knowing.” He replied, irritated. I could see in his eyes he didn’t believe us- or didn’t want to.
“I know this is very inconvenient and may not sound realistic, but please we really need your help. We think we might be in danger, and we can’t do this alone.” I said in desperation.
He stood up, turned around and stared out the window for what seemed like a long time. I could tell he was taking his time to think about it. “Okay. I will help but, only on one condition.”
“Anything, anything you need sir.” Jamie said without hesitation.
“First of all, don’t call me sir, it makes me feel old. Second, you have to tell me everything you know. Then I will see if it needs further investigation. Sometimes family members of a person who committed suicide, like to think there is some other explanation. That way, they don’t have to feel guilty for ignoring the signs. You know what I mean?”
“Yes, we do, but that is not the case. After you hear us out you will understand.” He nodded in agreement and sat back in his chair, crossing his arms, ready to listen, “Go on.”
From there, I started explaining how it got started. Of course, I didn’t mention any of my dreams but I did state I had a strong gut feeling that something was wrong. I showed him all of the pictures from the locker, the necklaces, and the letter. Jamie then explained how he had seen our father at the hotel, and how we went back there. He also explained our interview with Daniel, and how he worked for our father. He then gave him all of our notes that we gathered from the hotels and the descriptions from Mary. Finally, I told him about our experience this afternoon at the Michael Riggs hotel.
The whole time, he was in the same position, as he was when I started, nodding his head at appropriate times. His brows were now lowered and his lips pursed. He intimidated me for the first time, since I had met him. My chest pulsated nervously and, I could feel the sweat collecting on my forehead. I was beginning to regret telling him, when he stood up from his chair, looked out the window again, and then moved some papers off of his desk. He then clunked right on top of his desk. “So what is it that you need me for? It seems like you have everything in order. In fact, we are looking for someone to hire in the investigations department, are you guys interested?” His face was still serious.
“Are you joking?” Jamie asked. Out of nowhere Jimmy started laughing hysterically. I quickly looked at Jamie, who had a stricken look in his eyes. I had no idea what to think. Did he think we were joking? And if not, this was no laughing matter! I could see all over Jamie’s face that he wasn’t impressed either.
“Well, as a matter of fact I’m not. Elizabeth- Obviously you are too young but I think you-“ He turned his attention to Jamie, “Jamie should definitely consider it. Have you been to college yet?”
“No, I am saving up.”
“Well, how about I give you kind of- uh- let’s say an apprenticeship. And you can work your way up to a scholarship. Although…you will have to quit your present job- where are you working?”
We exchanged stunned glances. Jamie then smiled bigger than I had ever seen him. He ignored the question and asked, “So, you believe us then? We handled this well?”
“To be honest, I would have liked you guys to come forward with this sooner, but, I am glad you finally did at this point. And a cop might not have been able to get this kind of information from the people. I am proud of you kids; that was very brave. And Jamie, really, I am very serious about this. I would like you to help continue this investigation. You will be undercover until it is safe for you not to be, and, it will be hard work. And remember, you might find out even more unsettling things - things that might be a little closer to home base. I just want you to know that.”
“But what about Liz?”
“She is far too young to be involved in this but, I do appreciate her ambition and determination thus far. Elizabeth-please forgive me but I can’t allow you to be a part of this anymore. Your brother will be close to the investigation, so you will be first to find out anything, and we will have someone keep an eye on you since you have already put yourself in danger. We don’t know what this Daniel person, or any of the others, are capable of.”
“Okay, I understand.” I said in disappointment.
“I just have one question. What about your father? Are you certain he is involved in this?” Jimmy asked apprehensively.
“We probably should tell him everything… I mean everything about our father Jamie.”
“What do you mean?” Jimmy asked intrigued.
“I don’t think that is a good idea. We can’t even go home if he finds out about this then.” Jamie insisted.
“I know but we have to tell him or he won’t understand why he is involved.”
“Well, you think he cheated on your mother right?” Jimmy asked.
“Yeah, but there is more.” I replied quietly.
“More? What do you mean? You guys are going to have to come clean now.” Jimmy demanded in a snappy manner.
I stood up; tugged on the bottom my shirt, gave a big sigh, and then began. At first, I was afraid he might not believe us but, then I realized how much he already trusted us. I knew he was a good and honest man. I could feel it my bones when I was around him. An overwhelming safety, the kind of feeling one should get when protected by their father, came over me. He listened intently, and patiently waiting for a pause in my ramblings, to comment. By the end of it, I was in tears. It pained me greatly just how much negativity my father has caused in my life, and in all of my family member’s lives.
Jimmy stood up, and came over to me to give me a hug. He then patted my back, and said, “There, there. Everything will work out now.” He grabbed my shoulders and pulled me back from him, looked me straight in the eye then said, “He will get what is coming to him, I will promise you that.” He then released his hands from my shoulders. I could tell he was angry, mortified and determined to get justice; not just for Ruth but everyone who had been hurt in the storm. I deeply appreciated that.
Conflictions began to build up inside of me. Did I really want my father to be punished? Did I really want him to suffer? Maybe he was suffering already and we just had no idea. I know he does deserve to be punished for his horrific actions, but is that really for us to decide? Now, that I know there really isn’t one true God that will judge us, is it right for us to judge each other?
Do the Guides judge us? I thought of my helpers and what they had shown and taught me. I have to do right by them, and myself, but, is this the right direction? They did say to go to the police. Do they already know what is going to happen? Can my sister rest now, or does she have to see the whole truth revealed and justice being served?
I felt relieved, yet puzzled. Maybe it was over for me now. Maybe I am just a passenger. No. There was more, there was so much more, but not here, somewhere else. I was needed somewhere else. I could feel a pull, stronger than gravity, for me to be elsewhere.
“So what now?” I asked as I placed more physical evidence before him; the beer bottle and handkerchief with blood on it.