In The Victim's Shadow

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If Katherine had been God up in the sky, she could not have given a better day for a final farewell to her mother. She and Peter had promised each other they would bury her ashes in the rose garden once justice was served. Now it was time.

Standing in the rose garden, she added a final touch to the makeshift altar—the addition of her garnet cross, and two pink hair ribbons.

Greasy Charlie brought the box to her after Spencer’s funeral. Spencer’s last request when he’d enlisted Charlie’s help had been to see to it that Katherine received the box. With it had also been a small photo album with pictures of Katherine growing up. He had somehow added her mother to each of the photos, making it look as though he were trying to give her back to her, or perhaps pretending it had never happened, her therapist had suggested.

Now Spencer was dead, and Chad was going away for a long time. Detective Steele had shot him in the leg when he tried to flee, and he went down without a fuss. He spent a week in the hospital before they transferred him to Folsom prison. There was no trial, Chad hadn’t seen the point in it and laid out a full confession—against the strong advice of his public defender.

Peter was packed and ready for his first retirement trip, but he had promised to be back long before the baby arrived.

Beth and Timmy visited Jack on a regular basis, despite his protest not to let Timmy see him in prison. “No more hiding,” Beth had warned, and he had succumbed.

Austin had stepped into the role of father better than anyone had expected. It even served to settle him down some, and he took on a more active role in the running of the company. According to Chandler Reynolds, Austin should be ready to “take over the reins” within the next two years. His wife had made him promise, and even booked them on a retirement cruise, locking him into his commitment. Austin still wrote in his spare time but found satisfaction in running the company, at least until Timmy was old enough to take over. He teased that someday he would write the next corporate thriller. His agent made him promise.

Katherine’s youth mentoring program was coming along nicely, and the phone calls were slowly coming under control. They had even managed to snag a couple of sharp interns to join the firm, earning her some brownie points with the board.

Mary was going gung ho on decorating the nursery, driving Katherine and John crazy with all the decisions she was begging. Still, Katherine was glad she was there to direct all the work crews. She patted her little “baby bump” and smiled. “Your nursery’s going to be done long before you’re here,” she said.

John came up and joined her, encircling her from behind, his hands resting over the place where their baby grew. “I can’t wait,” he said.

“Patience, Daddy,” she said and smiled.

“You know how hard it is?”

She laughed, said with sarcasm, “No, I have no clue. Why don’t you tell me?”

They gathered in a circle, as they had done for so many years. This year was different. This year they had no questions, only a sense of completion.

As Pastor Reyes opened them in prayer, Katherine thought about her mother. She had missed growing up with her by her side, but she had always been in her heart, and in this rose garden. In her memory, she saw her mother trimming the roses, reading to her from her favorite book, playing hide-and-seek, tickling her on the soft grass. She felt warmth spread throughout her body and knew her mother was smiling down on her. She squeezed her father’s hand on her left, and her husband’s hand on her right, closing her eyes as she turned her face to the sun—feeling her mother’s kiss.

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