For the second time that day, I recounted the events that had taken place to the Quinn County police detectives. I sat at my kitchen table across from Norm as we both tried to drink some coffee and settle down. The detective who showed up was Detective Marsh, the one who had called me a few days ago. He didn’t chastise me for not returning his call. Instead, he told me that I was damned lucky this guy hadn’t killed me before tonight.
As it turned out, the creepy guy was Theo Franklin, owner of the white car that had chased Norm and I out to the highway the other night. He and Charlie were not related, it was just a strange coincidence that they were using the same last name. He was working for Rita Gofski who was now in custody at the Quinn
County Women’s Prison. It seems that Charlie had told her about
Janetti’s past during their affair, she freaked out and had thrown
Luther out of the house. She hired this Franklin guy to follow
Delvecchio because she knew he and Luther were friends. The night I met up with Delvecchio at the bar, Franklin had stopped me outside and was trying to get information that he could take back to Rita.
Luckily, Ramone had cut his interrogation short and I was able to avoid injury.
When they were unable to figure out what Delvecchio was doing, Rita had talked Charlie into killing Janetti and then she called me to create an alibi for herself. She figured that if Franklin couldn’t get the dirt from me on why I had met with Delvecchio, she would try to get it herself. Charlie had killed Janetti the night I met with her at the IHOP. This made me feel terrible. If I had been able to find him, he might still be alive.
Charlie had then made himself scarce so that he could sit back and watch me look for Janetti. He had planned to kill me once I figured things out or at least this is what Rita had told the police. She was hoping for a reduced sentence so that she wouldn’t be separated from her baby for too long, but according to Detective Marsh, that wasn’t going to happen. With her prior record, this was going to mean jail time regardless of her condition.
“Detective, how did the police come to arrest Rita?” I asked.
“It’s a funny thing,” he said, smiling. “When I left you that message earlier in the week, I was hoping to talk to you about your friend Charlie. I had an anonymous tip that he had been wrapped up in some identity theft cases I was working on. When I talked to Ms.
Janetti in connection with that investigation, something didn’t sit right with me so I did a little background check on her and found that she and this Charlie character had some plane tickets reserved for this weekend.”
“I see,” I answered, “And it wasn’t a big leap to figure that they were up to no good.”
“Exactly,” he said.
After Rita had heard about Charlie being killed, she had sent
Franklin back over to finish me off. Fortunately, I hadn’t been alone. I looked across the table at Norm. He was still shaken from the night’s events. He wasn’t a violent guy and shooting someone wasn’t sitting well with him. I watched as he put his face in his hands and leaned over the table. I walked around and put my hand on his shoulder.
“It’s okay, Norm,” I said softly, “You did what you had to do. You saved my life.”
Detective Marsh nodded and said, “It’s clear that this was an act of self-defense.”
He nodded to the detective and then reached out to take my hand.
He obviously didn’t feel like talking. The police finished up their interview with us and gave us contact information should we remember any additional details. Detective Marsh also gave Norm the number of a counselor that he could see if he needed someone to talk to about the shooting. I was worried about him. I had never seen him this way.
The police crew removed Franklin’s body from my kitchen and after taking all of the necessary photographs, they finally left. I got out a bucket and started filling it with water and soap. I needed to get the mess cleaned up so that we could get some rest. I told Norm to go and lie down while I took care of things. He got up and went into the bedroom. I turned on the radio in the kitchen and started scrubbing up the bloodstain on the kitchen floor. I was thankful that there wasn’t much to clean. By some miracle, only one chair had been overturned in the struggle and my fish tank remained intact. I tapped the glass and asked Opie and Aunt Bea if they were okay. They swam around happily and gave no indication that they were suffering from any post-traumatic stress.
At around three in the morning, I joined Norm in the bedroom where
he had fallen asleep. I stared at the ceiling until four and then I finally gave up. When I woke up, Norm was gone. He had gotten up, written me a short note and left. I hadn’t felt him kiss me or even heard him say goodbye. The note said, “Rona, I’ve got to go. Take care of yourself. Norm.” I read it several times trying to figure out what this meant. Was he not going to see me again? I showered, dressed and walked down to the parking lot. The jeep was still there. I forgot that he had driven his car to my apartment before picking me up at the hospital last night. I went back up to the apartment and picked up the phone. I dialed his number. The phone rang several times and he didn’t pick up. The answering machine didn’t even pick up. It tried the car lot and was told by his receptionist that he had called in sick. I hung up and sat there frowning at myself. This wasn’t my fault. Norm knew that I dealt with crazy shit from time to time. Why hadn’t he just stopped to talk to me about things? I picked up my purse and keys and headed out to the Jeep. When I arrived at my office, there was a note on the door from my landlord. The water was shut off in the building this morning and wouldn’t be back on until late in the afternoon. Great! Just one more thing. I sat down at my desk and decided I should probably type up some kind of an invoice for Delvecchio. The case was closed and he owed me some money. By the time I itemized expenses, the bill came to $475.76. I decided to call him instead of just sending this out in the mail. He had been through a lot, too and I didn’t want to seem cold. I dialed his number and he picked up.
“Yo,” he said, sounding fairly normal.
“Hey, Delvecchio, it’s Rona,” I said, “How are you?”
“I’m hanging in there,” he said, “How are you?”
“Well, I’m fine,” I said, “We had more trouble last night after I got home.” I explained the story to him and he was at a loss for words. “Damn it,” he said, “I’m sorry for all of this. I should never have involved anyone.”
“It’s no big deal,” I said, realizing how lame that sounded. “I’ll be fine.”
“Don’t I owe you some money or something?” he asked.
“Well, as a matter of fact, I have a bill for you,” I said, “It’s a little over $475. It includes gas and some other incidentals including about eight good hours of work. Sound fair?”
“Sure,” he said, “No problem, I can drop a check off to you this afternoon if you want.”
“That’ll work,” I said. We said our good-byes and he agreed to stop by the office at around three.
I was working away when I heard a knock at the office door. I started to yell, “Come in,” but thought better of it. I walked over and opened the door, cautiously. When it opened, I was looking at a huge bouquet of red roses. The delivery guy said, “Rona Shively?”
“That’s me,” I said. He handed the flowers to me and walked away. I carried them over to my desk and sat the vase down. I found the little white card and quickly opened it. It read, ’Your presence is requested at the Quinn County High School Class of 1984
Reunion…and in my apartment at 6 p.m. tonight. Sorry I ran out this morning. I love you. Norm.’ I held the card to my chest and closed my eyes. Maybe things would work out after all.