Katherine’s love for her father ran deeper than for her mother, and with his death, an ultra-deep chasm had formed within her heart’s emotions.
She found herself insulated in a timeless travel as she stared at the outside world, while seated in the rear of her mother’s car. What came and went she failed to see. Her brain had become preoccupied with images of her father, alive and laughing. As a young child she remembered watching him as he shaved, his face covered in a mass of white foam, Santa Clause like.
His pretence of wanting to rub his foamy face onto mine as he chased me from room to room was an enjoyable game. I hope he enjoyed it, too. No, it was more than a game. It was his way of showing me how much he loved me. I will always remember and cherish it.
In her mind’s eye, she could see herself standing beside him in the bathroom as he shaved, looking up as a child of four or five, with him clad only in his pyjama pants. He seemed tall; his head appeared to touch the ceiling. I miss him, his love, and his mental strength. He was the ultimate father, and the near perfect husband for my mother.
Turning under the archway and passing walls of stone signalled their arrival, her father’s new but final home.
Barbara had been thinking of her late beloved husband as she drove the half hour or so to the cemetery.
I have to remain strong, at least for Katherine’s sake. She tried to convince herself she was capable, but her deep-rooted feelings suggested otherwise.
The bare grave was as she remembered. The earth was still settling, and it awaited the stonemason’s creative masterpiece. The book cover to JM’s life story.
Barbara’s thoughts proved correct. The sight of the fresh earth, JM lying underneath, alone, and cold, brought her feelings gushing to the surface, volcanic like.
She dropped to her knees unwillingly, beside the grave, onto the wet soiled grass, her hands embedding into the roof of JM’s last abode. To bring his lifeless body from its darkness, to breathe into him new life, to hold and make him warm, never to let him go, Barbara clutched and clawed at the damp earth. Calling his name as if to bid his return, as a mother would call her child.
“JM, I love you. Please, don’t leave me.”
Sophia had been thinking of him, too, as a son, when Barbara collapsed. The display of emotion and wailing coming from Barbara she wasn’t prepared for.
“Barbara, Stop it! Get up! Have some pride and stand up!” she commanded, her displeasure was also on display. With Katherine’s assistance, they helped her to stand, but she was trembling.
“Do you think you’re the only one who’s ever lost a loved one? Get a hold of yourself!” Sophia considered Barbara’s outbursts unbecoming.
In silence, Katherine stood beside her mother, right arm resting across her shoulders.
“We’re going home. I will drive. Put your mother on the rear seat, and take care of her. If she wants to be sick, I’ll pull over.” It was a no-nonsense statement.
“Could you get me a washcloth and a towel from the bathroom and I’ll put her into bed,” Sophia quietly asked Katherine.
Katherine hurried to the bathroom, but on her return, her mother was void of her dirty dress. She watched as her grandmother wiped from her mother the soil of her father’s grave.
When that task was complete, she watched as Sophia covered her mother with a blanket.
During her cleansing, with eyes shut tight, Barbara thought, why did I embarrass myself? It wasn’t necessary.
“Let her rest. You can give her something to eat, later.” Still annoyed, Sophia held the washcloth and towel out for Katherine. “Take these. I’m going into the living room and have a glass of red. I need it!”
Katherine took the towel into the bathroom, but chose to keep the washcloth as it was, soiled.
With the soiled cloth clutched in her hand, she walked into the kitchen and stood at the bench near the sink. She placed the cloth onto a small piece of plastic wrap she had taken from the cupboard, then folded it. With the memento in hand, she proceeded to her bedroom, and to have to have it near she placed it under her mattress. Mom and Nan will probably think it macabre, but I don’t care.
Katherine had asked her grandmother to deliver the painting to the rapist’s apartment and leave it at his front door. She was hoping his next of kin would take possession of it, and it be one of intrigue. Who delivered it, and what does the painting mean? They were questions she hoped the curious would ask.
Sophia was aware of the risk when asked to be its courier, but she considered it worthy. Foremost for Katherine the painting represented justice, and for that alone Sophia knew it had to be on display, not locked away in a bedroom.
On Monday morning, Detective Andretta, still convinced the two paintings were associated with Bruno, decided to use it as an excuse to ring Barbara’s office.
“She’s not at work today, but you could contact her at home.”
“Good morning, Mrs. Harris. I apologise for the phone call, but I was wondering if you could tell me who the artist is, the one near your office door, or where you bought it from?”
“I didn’t buy it. My daughter painted it.”
“She certainly is talented.” He smiled broadly. Barbara had confirmed his suspicion.
“Why do you want to know about the painting? Has it anything to do with my daughter’s case?”
“I was impressed by it and wanted to know the artist’s name. Are any for sale?”
“My daughter’s paintings aren’t for sale. I wanted to hang one in my office. Do you have any further questions? I’m not feeling well.”
“No, that’s all. Thanks again for the information. I hope you’re well soon.”
He leaned back in his chair, placed his cupped hands behind his head, and thought of the painting in Stan’s apartment.
“What did she say? My daughter’s paintings aren’t for sale. If they’re not for sale, then how in the hell did Stan Bobek come to have one? Maybe what he said was true, but why was it left in the hall? Why would someone do that? Is it possible Bruno stole it after he had raped Katherine? If Stan knew Bruno was missing, before we spoke to him, he may have taken the painting.
A colleague suddenly appeared and leaned on his desk. “Michael, the boss wants to see you. What’ve you been up to?”
“Trying to stay out of trouble. Did he say what it’s about?”
“No. He just said that if I saw you to tell you to go to his office.”
Shit, what have I done now? he thought, as he walked the corridor.
Knocking on the slightly ajar office door, he said, “You wanted to see me?”
“Come in. Won’t be a minute,” his boss replied, with his hand over the phone’s receiver.
Michael listened to the end of the conversation, but it did not involve him.
“Michael, you know Leah is having trouble with her pregnancy, so she’s been advised to take some time off. Any cases you two are on, another team will handle. I’m re-assigning you to Detective Inspector Hollaway. His partner has a busted knee and will be off work for some time. Any questions?”
“What about the Harris rape case? The suspect is possibly a missing person.”
“Bruno Novak? Has he been reported missing? His car’s been parked somewhere other than at his address. That doesn’t mean anything. He could be shacked up with some bird and having a great time for all we know. Don’t worry about him. We’ve got other matters to clear up.”
“He’s definitely missing and highly dangerous.”
“I don’t care! Go and introduce yourself to Hollaway. If Leah comes back, I’ll see about putting you two together again. Got me?”
The case had slipped from his hands. Reluctantly, he replied, “Okay.”
He walked back from where he came, swearing angrily in a low tone. “Fucking hell! What fucking now?” He was frustrated, but did as instructed.