July 29th, 1969
My secret is safe! But the price has been high – far too high!
For the first time since my return to the past I wept tears. I broke down and cried like a…child.
I had finally fallen asleep some time after 03h00, but had been rudely awakened at 05h30 by my mother’s shouting from my bedroom.
“Oh, God, no! Claude! Claude! Come quick! Oh, God, Hannah!”
I had rushed to my bedroom and arrived there just as my father had gone in. As I entered, my mother shouted again, “Claude, don’t let Connie in here! Don’t let him see this!”
My father had swiftly grabbed my arm and pulled me out the door. “Go back to Claudia’s room,” he said pointing a shaky finger. Go now, please.”
I obeyed! I obeyed, because in the few moments between entering my bedroom and being led out, my eyes had taken in the whole scene.
The empty bottle of pills. The blue lips. The skin too pale. And, worst of all, the lifeless eyes that stared at the ceiling, but saw nothing!
Yes, I obeyed. I went back to Claudia’s room and wept like never before. Not in this life or any other.
Between my sobs I had heard my mother’s voice again.
“Oh, God, Claude, it’s all my fault! She wouldn’t have known about the pills in the bathroom cabinet if I hadn’t …”
“Stop it, Beth! Pull yourself together now. We need to call an ambulance!”
She started shouting hysterically. “An ambulance? What’s that gonna help? Look at her, Claude? She’s gone! She’s gone, Claude! You hear? She’s dead!”
My father was about to say something. “I…”
“The police, Claude! You have to phone the police!”
“Right,” he said sounding uncertain. “Then with more conviction, “Right, I’ll do it right away!
A few moments later I heard my father talking on the phone, but his conversation was drowned out by my mother’s voice.
“Oh, God, Marta! Marta…Marta…Marta! First Marnie and now Hannah! Oh, God, Marta? What am I going to tell you? What is there to say? I’m so sorry. God, I’m so sorry!” Only then did she also break down and start to sob bitterly.
I had stood on the front lawn and watched as Hannah’s covered form was stretchered into the waiting ambulance. As they pulled out of our drive, the flashing red light ceased calling attention and they calmly and quietly disappeared down the hill. The need for haste had long since passed.
I eyed the curious neighbors with disgust. They had all descended on the front sidewalk like a bunch of eager vultures waiting to pounce.
My parents and Detective Inspector Tallis (I guess a small town has a small police force) exited the house.
My mother started crying again and Tallis held her arms gently and spoke reassuringly and consolingly, but my mother kept shaking her head in denial.
On his way across to the waiting police vehicle, he ruffled my hair and said, “I guess this has been pretty hard on you too?”
“You have no idea!”
“Yeah, what’s your name?”
“No kid should ever have to go through something like that. I’m really sorry!”
“Seems like you always do?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Does Sedgefield only have one Investigating Officer?”
“Yeah, that’s right! Me! How’d you figure that out?”
“I seem to be seeing a lot of you lately.”
“Yeah? Like where?”
“My school, Marnie’s funeral, you brought Hannah over, and now, here you are again to take her away. I’ve seen your name in the paper a few times regarding the Du Maille case too.”
“I don’t know a lot of kids who read the papers? You certainly are a bright young man – very…observant.”
“Well, it’s great to know Sedgefield is safe for us kids again. I sleep better nights knowing he’s safely behind bars now.”
“We don’t just catch bad guys you know. Serve and Protect – that’s our motto! But lately, my wife says she feels like a widow herself with all the time I’m spending on the job.”
“The force didn’t think a quiet little town like Sedgefield justified having more than one Investigating Officer. And now I got my hands pretty full with a whole bunch of…stuff that has hit my desk almost at the same time.”
“You prefer it quiet, hey?”
“Just between you and me, kiddo, I’m lovin’ it!” Then he quickly added. “I don’t mean about what happened here. I mean about being able to do some real detective work for a change.”
“Like Sherlock Holmes?”
“Bingo! It’s the reason I joined up in the first place.”
“Yeah, it’s just unfortunate that before you can catch a murderer – someone has to die?”
“That’s the God’s honest, unfortunate truth! Very clever! You think that one up yourself?” I nodded. “You really are a bright for a youngster.”
“How is Mrs. Marnowijk?”
“Well, sometimes this job has some unavoidable lows. I guess I’m gonna be the one who’ll have to give her the bad news. She’s already in a terrible state as is.”
“I guess you must also be feeling a little responsible for what happened.”
“My mother blames herself too. But you were the one who set this whole thing in motion.”
“Not me! The one who murdered Marnie Marnowijk is the one to blame. Maybe this is just payback for her terrible crime.”
“Her? Are you so certain you’ve arrested the right person?”
“The only other person it could be is…was…” He indicated in the direction the ambulance had disappeared. “But my instincts tell me that it couldn’t have been her. Uh-uh! No way!”
“Well then, good luck with your sleuthing.”
“Thank you. It’s gonna be another long day. I’ll have to check later with the morgue to verify there was no…foul play involved. But I already know the answer.”
There would be an autopsy. It was required by law.
The thought of Hannah’s beautiful body being…defiled and damaged once more, incensed me. But at least this time there would be no pain. Nobody was ever going to hurt Hannah Marnowijk ever again. If there is a heaven and a hell, Hannah would not be seeing her father again either.
Only now, in retrospect, can I see that our relationship was a runaway freight train heading towards disaster. It was always destined to end in tragedy.
Once again, in trying to do right – to right the wrong – I have only brought about more misery and death.
I once said, concerning our relationship, that only time will tell where it will end.
Well, Time has spoken!
And Time is a four-letter word!!!