copyright Vicki Talmage 2013
My every breath was labored. I knew my life had changed, hinged like a swinging gate on this moment. I tried to catalog every detail. More vehicles pulled up and men in white lab coats, carrying metal briefcases walked with determination through the front gate. Were they doctors?
“Who are they?” I asked, but again no one answered. I think Afton and Ward were too overwhelmed by the events to speak. The police didn’t want me to go in, yet they didn’t tell me what was happening. What nineteen year-old can live with that?
The thought of my mom fighting for her life kept flashing through my mind.
Were they trying to revive her? I tried to imagine where she was at this moment inside the house. Was she still upstairs getting dressed in her bedroom? Had she come downstairs ready to leave for her appointment with the lawyer? Where were my brothers? Had they gone with her? Were they still home? And where in all of this was my Dad?
It was all I could do to stay in the police car.
More people thronged toward my house, as if they were coming to a big party or celebration. How ironic, I thought. Just when I want no one to be here, I’m bombarded with spectators.
“What has my dad done to attract such a crowd and make us the center of attention?” I said out loud. No answer, but Ward reached his hand onto my shoulder from behind, patting me in a sign that they were there for me. Afton’s eyes were teary, but she nodded as though to give me the same reassurance.
The local television reporters arrived. I recognized most of them even before I saw the cameras’ logos. Once they were set up, I sensed the big cameras periodically zooming in on me, perhaps trying to capture my every expression. I hoped I was hiding how I really felt: pain and shock of the chaos around me. I wanted to appear cool and collected, as I had learned to act from a young age, but the intensity of the attention was something I couldn’t ignore. Every part of my trembling body was on high alert. Time became a blur as I waited . . . waited . . . waited.
Eventually, the first officer re-entered the car. He was throwing out questions when I wanted answers. “Who lived in the front bedroom? Do you have keys to all of the doors that are locked? Can you give us a description of who lived in the family home with you? What animals were kept in the basement closet under the stairs? Why is that door locked? Why are all the doors in the basement locked? Do you have the keys?” I felt overwhelmed with the questions being bulleted at me. Even though I had lived in Dad’s unreasonable drama my whole life, I couldn’t make any sense of it myself.
The sound of my own voice seemed strange after all the quiet. “My mom and brothers’ bedrooms are at the top of the stairs . . . there are keys to everything in the basement in my dad’s desk. . . Are my brothers home?” I reached out toward his arm hoping for an answer but he gave no response; just asked a few more questions, took my house key and then left.
I turned to look toward the house and the crowd that had gathered around it, in the yard and on the street. How bizarre that our home was now abuzz with a myriad of curiosity seekers.
Why now? How many times had I called the police to protect us and they’d simply swept my pleas under the carpet? Why was today different?
Because this time, Mom was dead. No! I couldn’t let myself think it. That would make it true.
I forced my mind back onto the scene in front of me. I noticed that the crowd of police officers had gathered from out of the trees, off the upstairs porches and from their stations around the entrances to my house, in a huddle at the front gate.
Time stopped in the seconds it took the one officer chosen to come around the front of the police car before opening the drivers seat door and getting in.
Those suspended seconds stretched out as I felt a warm, deep, peaceful feeling start at the crown of my head and travel slowly down my body like honey – calming and quieting my shaking frame everywhere it touched – filling my soul. I noticed how every cell of my body seemed to reach out in effort to be touched by that peace. A slow, grounded clarity broke through the shackles of confusion hanging helplessly in my mind.
Unexpectedly I heard a distinct, soft, quiet voice whisper in my left ear. “Vicki, everything’s going to be all right.”
I turned to see where the voice had come from. It was my mother’s voice, but she was not there. Her words penetrated the core of my soul like a deep relieving sigh and suddenly I was not afraid. Certainty and truthfulness laced every word. My heart beat more slowly, and the panic and fear began to subside.
I felt stronger than ever before, confident I could handle what was about to unfold. This profound experience, as ethereal as it was, began healing me in that moment; permanently, at a deep, core level.
I turned around in the front seat so I could see Afton behind the driver’s seat and repeated the same words to her. “Everything’s going to be all right.” I didn’t wait to see the expression on her face, the fearful pain as I turned to face forward. Yet my deep inner knowing told me in my own mind and in my own voice,
“Vicki, hang on. You don’t know what all right is.”
I took a deep, cleansing breath and prepared to face the officer.
Timidly this time, he opened the car door and sat down. Why did he suddenly seem afraid? Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that all movement outside had ceased. Every eye was on me, filled with concern and compassion, and this time I gleaned strength from them. The officer stared at me for a long time, seemingly searching for the right words. Then he broke his gaze and his eyes darted back and forth. He dropped his head and a rush of air came from his mouth. I felt his agony and for some strange reason, I wanted to comfort him.
He took my hand in his and looked deeply into my eyes again.
“Vicki, I have bad news for you.”
I responded, my voice surprisingly calm. “I know.”
There was another long pause as I noticed that people were lining up right by the window where I sat. Some of the faces were familiar, many of them neighborhood mothers with children and friends I had grown up with. Tears streamed from their hollow eyes as they held each other, appearing desperate and forlorn, yet their expressions seemed to reach out to me. Did they already know?
I drew my attention back to the officer. He too, had tears in his eyes and there was such kindness and sympathy in his expression when he finally said what I already knew.”
Your mother . . .”
I nodded, not needing to hear him say it. And because my brother’s car was parked on the street, I couldn’t stop myself from asking, “what about Geoffrey and Steve?”
The officer took another deep breath and bowed his head before speaking,
“He’s killed them all.”
copyright Vicki Talmage 2013
here is the book trailer for those interested in watching it: