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Chapter 15

When Ginny stepped off the elevator, Dr. Sizemore—the hospitalist at Summerfield Memorial—Charles and Roger were in the hall outside of Ruth’s hospital room. From the doctor’s facial expression and the other men’s bowed heads and stooped shoulders, Ginny suspected that Ruth had taken a turn for the worse. She hesitated to approach the men, so she waited by the elevators. Seconds later, Dr. Sizemore placed his hand on Roger’s shoulder, shook Charles’ hand, then walked away. Charles glanced her way and motioned for her to join them.

“It’s not good news, is it?”

Roger looked down and shook his head.

Charles eyes were red, but his voice was steady. “She was awake and alert when I stopped by the hospital earlier today. An hour ago, she stopped breathing, and the doctor’s efforts to resuscitate her were futile. Dr. Sizemore thinks that the cause of death was a blood clot.”

Ginny blinked back the tears that threatened. “Will there be an autopsy?”


Roger was noticeably uncomfortable. “If you’ll excuse me, I need to inform Christine and Gwen. Charles, I’ll call you later. Ginny, I realize that Ruth’s death puts you in the middle of an unfortunate family situation. I apologize.”

Ginny watched him walk away, then turned to Charles. “What did he mean by that, Charles?”

“We need to talk, but we need privacy. Why don’t we go down to the cafeteria and find a table away from the diners?”

He didn’t speak again until they were seated in the cafeteria. “Where to begin . . .”

“For a lawyer who’s known as being verbally articulate, you seen at a loss for words. Don’t sugarcoat whatever it is that you need to tell me.”

“The police were questioning Ruth when I was here earlier today.”

Ginny’s eyes widened. “The police? Why? You told me that she didn’t remember the accident.”

“She didn’t, but they weren’t willing to let the matter drop.”

“When did they begin investigating the accident?”

“When she was admitted to the hospital. There was a small injury on her check that she didn’t sustain in the fall, and the other injuries were caused by a person falling backwards, not forward. I didn’t tell you because I wanted to spare you and Molly the ugliness of the situation. What happened to Ruth, accident or otherwise, is tragic. Unfortunately, the seeds for a tragedy were sowed years ago.”

“I don't understand. I appreciate your concern for Molly and me, Charles, but not knowing what I’m dealing with is far worse than knowing. Who called in the police?”

“Her medical team. By law, accidents that are suspicious are reported to the police. Officers responded quickly. Two officers questioned Nancy, Grace, and Grace's housekeeper Callie the day after Ruth’s injuries. My guess is that they would have classified the fall as a tragic accident if all three women hadn’t questioned the circumstances of the fall. They were adamant that she hadn’t attempted to go down the steps in two years, with or without help. The question then became who knew her schedule and habits, and who among family and friends, wished her harm.

“The officers followed up by checking her phone messages and interviewing Ruth’s neighbors. Gayle Cassell, her neighbor across the street, saw Christine enter the house at eight o’clock, exactly one hour and fifteen minutes before Nancy found Ruth.”

“Christine? That’s not good. Is that why she’s been conspicuously absent from Ruth’s bedside? Where has she been? Did the police try to locate her?”

“I don’t know where she was on the day of the accident. When the officers finally questioned her, she was affronted that her integrity was questioned. Her story was that she stopped by to tell her mother that she was going out of town for the day, an obvious lie to us who know Christine. She never drops by to say hello and she is secretive about where she goes and who her companions are.”

“Are the police aware that Christine and her mother had a troubled history?”

“I’m sure they are. Some of the older officers probably remember the rape case, and anyone who knew Ruth was aware of their complicated relationship.”

“Did they question you?”

“They did. I was questioned about Ruth’s will and Molly’s relationship to Ruth. Missing relatives who turn up unexpectedly are suspect. Inheritance questions arise. I was able to assure the police that Ruth had known about Molly since she was born.

“Christine will probably face more intense questioning if the officers are told that she feared a will change. They could consider her concerns a motive. The irony is, Ruth added Molly to her will when Molly was born.”

Ginny protested. “What Molly needs is a home, not money. Anyone who considers adopting her won’t care a twit about money. She is an amazing child.”

“I agree, and so did Ruth. You’ve had enough on your plate without being questioned, so I explained that you couldn’t have been involved. Distance and your schedule made it impossible. Now with Ruth’s death, they might want to get a statement from you.”

“I don’t need any more trauma in my life, Charles. I agreed to introduce Molly to her great grandmother because I admired Julie. I'm a coward. If I’d know what I was getting into, I would have run for my life.

"This past year has been nightmare for me, and I really, really don’t want to get more involved than I already am. Would it be possible for me to give my written statement to Nick and let him talk to the Summerfield police.”

“It certainly wouldn’t hurt to have a statement available, but my guess is that the police’s focus will be on Christine. Any interaction you had with her brief.”

“I don't know the particulars about Ruth and Christine's relationship. What I do know is that when I met Christine at Ruth’s, the tension between the two women was palpable. Does she really hate her mom, or is it contrariness on Christine’s part?”

“Maybe hate is too strong a word. Whatever her feelings, they go back to old grievances. Unfortunately, Christine holds grudges. What I’m about to tell you, is not information that was widely circulated, but there were persistent rumors during the trial that Christine was involved with her rapist long before he was investigated. If true, his influence could have contributed to the warped sense of right and wrong that she developed.”

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