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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Cool Waters Run Deep

The waving plains of the valley covered in reds, gold and greens wake every morning when the sun peeks just over the horizon. Elroy calls it the dragon’s eye because the colors are so vibrant and vary so much, only a dragon could shine like that. He walked out to the barn where his horse, Samies, waited patiently for his master to feed him and set him loose. He fed the tall beautiful creature his food, cleaned the stall then loaded Samies up with a saddle and reins. The horse, a beautiful brown stallion, was gentle by nature. He didn’t scare easily, which is good, otherwise there wouldn’t be a story to tell.

Elroy was a widower who lived alone on his small ranch in the middle of Marion county. He didn’t have any children of his own since his wife died of pneumonia when they were young. He often thought about meeting someone else but Elroy didn’t have the heart to. He had known Linda his entire life. His mama used to say they were destined since the day they were born. When Linda died, it took a part of him he was never able to get back.

He managed to keep his place together when all the other properties around him had to sell. He had a small herd of cattle in the east field ready to be brought in and taken to auction. The three shelties, Larry, Moe and Curly-named after The Three Stooges, ran around the outside of the cattle to round them up. The cattle fed on the green grass, ignoring the dogs. Their attention got diverted from an odd sound coming just over the hill. Larry, Moe and Curly raced over to see what made the high pitched noise foreign to the field. Wrapped in a pink blanket, with a hat on, placed in a box along with what looked to be a small baggie of jewelry was a tiny newborn baby girl. Confused, Elroy got off his horse to pick her up. Pinned to her blanket was a small note.

“Well, what d’ya know Samies?” Elroy said to his horse.

Samies nodded a little.

Elroy Leven,

Please take care of Julia. She is all I have. I’m dying soon, so I can’t be here for her. I’ve given her all I have. If you need to sell any of the jewelry to take care of her, I’m sure I’ll understand. I’m giving her to you because you are known as a kind gentle man. Tell her I loved her and wished with all my heart I could have raised her. Her father doesn’t know she exists, and for her sake, it must stay that way. I just didn’t have anything left to take her any farther. If you should find my body around here, please give me the proper burial. Tell God I’m sorry for all I have done. You should know, in the end I did the right thing. I left him. He is just too dangerous.

All my love,


‘Nina. Dear lord, you’re Mrs. Flannery’s granddaughter. This is gonna be trouble.’ Elroy thought.

Elroy held Julia close, to see if she would stop crying. He walked a few steps over the hill and saw Nina’s body lying face down on the ground. The heartache that was her life was now over. He took a blanket he always had packed on Samies and covered her up Then climbed back on the horse with Julia in tow. ‘I’ll come back for the box later.’ He thought.

He rode back to the house with the screaming baby curled in his arms. It was the first time in his life he had ever held a newborn baby. Her tiny body began to warm a little, sending warm shivers to his heart. She was so tiny, he fit her in his coat with it buttoned. Julia screamed at the top of her lungs all the way back to the house. Elroy was sure she was hungry and needed a diaper change. The problem was he didn’t have anything for a baby. Why would he? Helen, his cook came running when he walked into the house with the screaming newborn baby. She had her hair up in a silver bun and still had her apron on.

“Elroy, what have you gone and brought home?” She asked, taking the tiny girl from him. She looked at the little girl and smiled. “Well, don’t just stand there, go fetch me a hand towel in the center drawer by the sink.”

A little shocked by her order, Elroy rushed to the kitchen to fetch the towel. ‘Why on earth would she want a hand towel?’ he thought to himself. He knew better than to ask her any questions when she was on a mission. In this case, he felt it was better to follow orders and watch. Turned out, he was right. She laid Julia down on the sofa and took the cotton diaper she had on then cleaned her up and used the hand towel as a temporary diaper. She took a moment to pin the sides. “I haven’t done this in years. I don’t want to pin you sweet little one,” she said.

“Now, hold her while I get her some milk. I believe I have an old bottle we used for the kittens. I even bought some new nipples just in case we ended up with more. That will work for now, but we have to get her what she needs. When I finished calmin’ her down, you can tell me all about it,” Helen said.

A few minutes later, Helen came back to the living room with a tiny fresh bottle. Julia quieted down the second the bottle went in her mouth. A warm smile crossed her face when she sat in the rocking chair with the swaddled baby like a grandma. Elroy watched for a moment, still a little distraught from the whole ordeal. He paced the floor while he told Helen about Nina’s body and the box containing Julia. He started to tell her about the box and the note. When he came to the part of the dead woman, he hesitated. The thought of seeing the poor woman dead on the ground sent shivers through him.

His grim face said there was more.

“What is it?” she asked.

“She belongs to Nina, I found her over the hill, just after I found the Julia. We have to call the cops. I don’t know what killed her and there isn’t a notice of a father,” he said.

“Julia? You named her?” she asked.

“No, Nina did. There was a note,” Elroy said.

He walked over to the old Victorian style desk, picked up the phone and explained the situation to officer on the phone. ‘I bet they send office Do-dah,’ he thought.

The sound from his boots echoed off the hard wood floors while he paced, waiting on the police. With a town as small as Marion, it was more than expected for it to take a while for the them to show. By Elroy’s watch, it took an hour for them to make an appearance.

Officer Bowden arrived with his lights blaring and the sirens silenced. He wasn’t much to look at. His stomach protruded over his belt a little like a man who counted the number of beers he put back as arm curls and a tooth pick hung from his mouth. Elroy walked out to meet the officer with a little bit of doubt as to how qualified the man was to handle the death of Julia’s mom.

“I hear there’s a homicide here,” officer Bowden said.

“I don’t know if it’s a homicide, but there’s a dead body lying in my field. Not something you want to find when you’re tending cattle,” Elroy replied.

A small breeze filled the air cooling the air a little from the heat caused by the noon day sun. It didn’t take a lot to make the valley hot. Officer Bowden walked over and shook Elroy’s hand.

“Names Steve Bowden, I have a detective coming. He should be here soon. Can we drive to the field?” Steve asked.

“Nope. We have to ride a horse. Ever ridden a horse?” Elroy asked.

“Nope. Not my thing really,” Steve answered with a belch and a stretch.

Elroy knew he didn’t like the look of the guy. ‘Lazy son of a jackal’

A few minutes later a silver sedan carrying Mrs. Flannery pulled into the drive. The driver of the car got out and opened the back door to let Mrs. Flannery out. She owned too much of Marion to be brushed off, too bad really because she was cold hearted woman with little or no interest in anything accept making life a living hell for all those she could. Rumor had it she had so much ice in her veins her own husband sought comfort with a local hooker in town.

She owned the only plant left open in Marion. That was enough for the whole town to be afraid of her. Mrs. Flannery’s son, Blake was nothing but trouble since the day he was born. When he was a kid, he was arrested for blowing up mailboxes. The local police dropped the charges and a few months later, ground was broke on a new police station. That’s the way it worked here.

Blake was into the darker side of things in Marion. Most of the people in town ignore this fact because he belonged to Mrs. Flannery. It was no secret that Mrs. Flannery cut him out of her will the night he brought Nini home to meet him mamma. Three months later, she disappeared.

“I heard the body you have on your land is Nini. Where is she? I want to make sure she’s dead,” Mrs. Flannery said.

Officer idiot looked at the cold woman, confused and somewhat disgusted by what was said.

“What? She’s not gonna blackmail me at all now,” she said.

“Why on earth would she want to do a thing like that?” Officer Bowden asked.

Mrs. Flannery ignored the idiot cop. “Where’s the baby? Did she bring it? I want to see it, now,” she said.

Elroy looked at Officer Bowden. Nina’s words echoed in his mind. ‘The father doesn’t know she exists. It needs to stay that way.’

“I’m not asking, I’m telling,” she said.

Elroy ushered her into the house where Helen was still rocking Julia with her eyes closed. Helen opened her eyes when Mrs. Flannery cleared her throat. Elroy looked at Julia with tender eyes, the kind a father has when he’s looking at his daughter. Mrs. Flannery began to lose her patience’s. “Let me look at her Helen. Give her here,” she said.

“Now you look here Elsa, I’ve known you your whole life. If you harm a hair on that baby girl’s head, or wake her up, you’re gonna be on the short end of a rat’s tail. You know I mean it,” Helen scolded.

Elroy tried to contain his laughter. Helen, never one to mince words, meant what she said when she said it. It didn’t matter what the person’s name was. Helen handed Julia over to her. “Gentle now, I mean it,” she told her.

“Now Helen, you should know by now that I wouldn’t do anything to hurt a baby. She’s beautiful. Does Blake know?” Mrs. Flannery asked.

“There was a note. Here,” Elroy said, handing her the wrinkled hand written note.

Mrs. Flannery’s face never changed when she read the note. She looked at Julia, shaking her head. “What are we going to do with you?” she said in a small sweet voice.

Mrs. Flannery sat down on the sofa, “Could I have a glass of water?”

“Absolutely,” Helen said.

“Better yet, how ‘bout a scotch? I know you have some here somewhere,” Mrs. Flannery said.

“Scotch and water it is,” Helen said.

Before she left the room, Helen looked at Elroy to make sure he wouldn’t leave her alone with baby Julia. Helen didn’t trust Elsa, too much had past between the two of them for even the slightest spark of trust. Mrs. Flannery looked down at Julia with a look combined of love and worry. “She is beautiful,” she said.

“Yes, and her mom died in my field. Any idea as to why?” Elroy asked.

“I sent her away when she came to me the night she found out she was pregnant. I thought she wanted money. I look back now, and know she didn’t. She had a bruise on her face. It covered the entire right side,” Mrs. Flannery motioned her own face on the right side. “She wanted to leave him, but she was pregnant and wanted my help. I told her to get rid of it.”

Helen returned with a Scotch and water in hand. She handed it to Mrs. Flannery, whose hand shook a little now. Tears formed just inside her eyes. “I just didn’t want the girl to come back and blackmail me, that’s all. I didn’t really mean I wanted her dead. Now that she is, I don’t know what to do. I can’t let Blake get his hands on this little, what’s her name?” Mrs. Flannery asked.

“Julia,” Elroy and Helen said in stereo.

Another car pulled up in the drive. “That must be the detective from across the bridge,” Elroy said. “I left deputy do dog out there to wait for him. He isn’t the brightest one of the bunch, I’ll tell ya that,” Elroy said.

Helen walked to the door to peek out the window. Sure enough, the only detective known in Marion had pulled up. His name, Daron Mays, he solved one of the only real murders that had happened in the small town of Marion about seven years ago.

“What’s he doing Helen?” Elroy asked.

“It looks like he’s talking to officer idiot out there,” Elroy said.

He shook his head and walked out onto the wooden porch. He waited for the Detective to finish talking to officer idiot. He could tell he was walking into the middle of an ass chewing. “What d’ya mean you haven’t looked at the body, and you called Mrs. Flannery before you called me? What the hell is your problem, do you even know who signs your checks?” Detective Mays asked.

Elroy stood silent, enjoying the ass chewing he felt Officer Barlow needed. If there was one thing in life he hated, it was laziness. He spotted it a mile away and avoided it at all cost. A slight breeze kicked up a little dust in the drive. Samies, still tied to the porch made one of his noises to let Elroy know he was not too happy about the situation. Elroy walked over to Samies, “That makes two of us,” he said, rubbing his hand along Samies face.

Elroy stepped off the porch to officer idiot and Detective Mays, cleared his throat and said, “Daron, sorry you had to be here on such a hot day and under such circumstances. There’s a lot more to the whole story than you know. See, I found a newborn baby in a box out there along with a note,” Elroy said.

“Is the baby alive?” Detective Mays asked.

“Yes, she is alive and appears to be healthy. We’ve done what we could for her, but Nini, there was nothing I could do. I found her dead in the field,” Elroy said.

“Can we drive to the body?” Detective Mays asked.

“Well, no you can’t. Ever ride a horse?”

Detective Mays raised his eyebrows just over his sunglasses. He looked at officer idiot who had a hesitated look on his lazy face. “Do I hafta go?” he asked in a voice that screamed winy teen.

Elroy shook his head on his way to the barn to get Sheba, his painted horse. She had the right temperament for detective Mays. He saddled her up, walked her out and handed the reins to Mays. Elroy laughed a little when the man watched how to climb aboard a horse. Sheba was gentle, she didn’t move while Mays fumbled his way into the saddle. They rode to the east field where the cattle still grazed. Larry, Moe and Curly still guarded the cattle like soldiers on watch. If they hadn’t been going to see the body of Nini, the ride would have been nice and easy.

In sharp contrast to the beauty surrounding him, Nina’s rotting corpse laid just over the hill a few feet away from the box Julia was placed in. Her head was face down, like she had passed out and had nothing left to give the world. Detective Mays rolled her over and looked at her body. There weren’t any bruises or marks of any kind. “Sure is ashamed to be knocked down in the prime of life. What a waste. She was beautiful,” Mays observed.

Careful in the way he moved around Nini, every move he made was done with respect for the dead. “I’m not sure if this is a homicide. We’ll find out,” Mays murmured.

He walked over to the box where the jewelry still laid, untouched. It was symbolic in a way since baby Julia was also alone and untouched when he found her.

The poignant message to Elroy echoed in his mind. It touched his heart in a place long left empty by his wife’s passing. He thought about it again, going over what she had said about knowing he was a kind man. The nagging question of how she ended up out the middle of his field, gnawed at him.

“I called the coroner, I told that to Officer Bowden. He should be heading out here soon. He said something about bringing his own horse. He said the two of you know each other. Is that correct?” Detective Mays asked.

“It is, we grew up together. He usually deals with the old folks of this town. Not crime scenes, but he’s competent. I’m sure he’ll get the job done,” Elroy said.

Elroy climbed on Samies, strolled around for a moment, then remembered a shack about a half a mile away. He never used it, and even thought of tearing it down a time or two. “I just thought of something. Wanna get back on Sheba and I’ll show it to ya?” Elroy asked.

Mays nodded, happy to be relieved from the prickly brush of the field, that made his skin itch. He climbed back onto Sheba with a little more ease this time. He pulled the reins to the left to turn her round. Even from atop of Sheba the smell from the body lingered in the sheltered valley. Mays followed Elroy to the shack. Beside the shack laid an old scooter, and a small pile of wood. A bloody blanket shoved behind the wood pile stuck out a little. The door creaked when it opened. Inside, it looked like Nina had created a small home where no one could find her. There was a make shift wood stove. A cot and a small stack of diapers. Beside the diapers, was small pink box with some baby clothes.

“She wasn’t planning on leaving. If she was, there sure isn’t any sign of it,” Mays said. “I bet the coroner says it was natural death. It looks like she lost a lot of blood. The one thing I can’t figure out is why she didn’t just leave town?”

Elroy picked up the clothes Nina left for Julia. Beneath the stack was a small worn and withered journal. He opened it and began reading. Her beautiful handwriting slanted to the right a little with a lot of gracious curves. He began reading from the journal out loud. He could picture her sitting on the cot, with the fire going in the makeshift wood stove, scared out of her mind about all she was going through. For the most part, it looked like she had stocked up for the last three months of her pregnancy.

‘Why didn’t you just knock on my door Nina?’ Elroy thought.

October 22 2009

Dear Diary,

It seems strange that I would start writing in a diary again after all these years. I just don’t have anyone else to talk to. I’m alone in a shack on Elroy’s land. He never comes out here and I thought I would be safe here for now. I have taken my life savings out of the bank and sold all my belongings accept the small scooter. I like to call her old reliable. I didn’t have a choice. I could have left town I suppose, but it’s just too hard to be that far away from Blake, but he’s too dangerous to live with.

The truth is I just need a little time to figure out what I’m going to do and where I’m going to go. I don’t have to spend too much money staying here. Daddy always said make sure you have a car incase you need to get out of town. I sure wish I would have listened to him.

According to my first doctor’s appointment, I’m about three months along. It sure is strange to have something growing inside of me. I know without a doubt it’s going to be a girl. I have another appointment in a month in Plainville. Thank the good lord above that it’s only about a twenty minute drive from here. Most of the people don’t know me so there’s not much chance of running into anyone I know.

The days here pass by slow and steady. The only real issue I have is the heat. I stay cool by wading in the creek. I really should talk to Elroy and let him know I’m here. I’m just so scared it will get out. I wish I had someone to turn to. God I miss my mamma right now. If you can hear me up there, I’m scared. I’m alone and I did the one thing you told me not to. I got pregnant. I’m not sorry though. She may be the very thing that saves my soul. I saw Blake kill a man a few weeks ago, and I didn’t do a thing about it. I can’t think about that right now, but the whole thing is so surreal, almost like it didn‘t happen. I wasn’t suppose to see it, but I did. I can’t change that now. What he did to that poor man, I can’t even come to terms with enough to describe it.

Well, I should save the blank pages in the journal. I need all the money I have for after I have my baby.

Tears formed in Elroy’s eyes. He would have helped her if he would have known she was in the shack. He didn’t usually travel out that way. The east field is for cattle grazing and he never went as far as the shack. Elroy sat on the rickety cot and put his head in his head. He handed the journal to Mays.

“The only murder we’ve had in the county in the last twelve months was some crack head. No one knew who he was. I still don’t know. Elroy, you don’t want to know the things that were done to the body. It’s the worst thing I’ve ever seen. His hands were cut off, and half his jaw was missing. If that wasn’t enough, there was a single bullet hole in the middle of his forehead,” Mays said.

“She was here because she needed to disappear. Mrs. Flannery said something about her showing up at her door step for help,” Elroy said.

“Well, I knew I was going to have to talk to the old biddy sooner or later,” Mays said.

They climbed back on their horses, heading back to Nina’s body. The ride back to her body took longer for some strange reason. Perhaps it was the haunting words left behind by Nina. She was a girl left alone in the world and it had swallowed her whole. Perhaps it was the thought of having to tell Mrs. Flannery about the murder she witnessed.

The evening star glittered in the sky, she shines brighter than all the others. She is a warning to the world that it was time for the sun to set. Shadow covered the valley, hiding all the beautiful colors the sun allowed to show during the day. When they arrived at Nina’s body, the coroner was already there. Elroy climbed off of Samies, walked over and shook the coroner’s hand. Detective Mays climbed off then stretched. Elroy grinned a little. He could tell Mays didn’t ride horses.

Rick stood a few inches shorter then Elroy and had a little more around the midsection.

“Rick, sorry t’ hafta see ya under such circumstance. What happened to her, do you know?” Elroy asked.

“Detective Mays,” Rick said, shaking his hand. “She died of natural causes. My guess is that she gave birth and lost too much blood. Anyone care to tell me why she was out here by herself?”

“We found a journal. Apparently she witnessed the John Doe murder we have yet to solve,” Detective Mays said.

“Well, until I get her back to the lab, I can’t determine the real cause of death,” Rick said.

“I have thought about having the van come out, but I don’t think it would make it. Either of you have a truck?” Rick asked.

Elroy shook his head a little. “Rick, we’ve known each other since diapers. Do you need to ask that?” he asked him.

“I just thought I’d ask,” Rick said.

“Well, I need to get back to the house and talk to Mrs. Flannery. My guess is she’s still trying to figure out what to do with the unclaimed little one. If she’s even half as cold as people say, my guess is she has suggested putting her on e-bay,” Mays said.

Elroy and Rick looked at one another in a silent agreement that Mays might be right. Twilight settled across the sky, it covered the valley in a blanket of darkness. Elroy didn’t mind though, he knew the way. Each one of the men lost in their own thoughts about the happenings of the day, made their way through the brush to the house. The greatest of all things is love. The love Nina had for Julia, the bond of mother and daughter, cost Nina her life. She lived in fear during the entire pregnancy. That much was certain. The tiny soul she had growing in her stomach was more important than anything else in her life, why else would she put herself through so much hell?

The three of them emerged from the valley, echoes of thunder followed close behind. They dismounted from the horses, handed the reins to Elroy who tied them to a post in front of the porch. For a moment, it felt like a scene from a older simpler times. Snapped back into the present by a screaming baby, Elroy walked into his home with the two other men. He walked over to his desk, right next to the phone, he picked up his keys and tossed them to Rick. “It’s outside by the barn. Take it easy will ya?” Elroy said.

“Will do. Thanks. I went ahead and called ahead for the van so she can be transported the right way. Such a shame, what a waste of a beautiful life,” Rick said in a soft voice.

He walked out of the house and went on his way to take care of Nina while detective Mays and Elroy stayed in the house. Helen once again had Julia in her arms. She must have sent someone to the store to pick up because a fresh tiny bottle was in her mouth along with fresh clothes. She still wore the hat on her head. He walked over and took Julia out of Helen’s arms. The weight of the day rushed over Elroy’s heart. “I didn’t know she was out there. I don’t know why she didn’t just come to me for help?” He whispered to Julia who had stopped crying. Tears streamed down the old man’s wrinkled, leather face.

Detective Mays pulled the bag of jewelry out of his pocket and tossed it on the sofa next to Mrs. Flannery. “Is any of this familiar to you?” he asked.

Mrs. Flannery broke. That would be the first and last time anyone witnessed a human display of emotion. That is anyone except Helen, who would never speak of it…ever. She picked up the bag to examine it. “This is mine. I gave it to her to sell and get an abortion. I thought she did just that when there weren’t any rumors about her floating around,” Mrs. Flannery said.

Helen let out a sound of disgust.

“What? I know and you know, being attached to that no good bastard of mine is not the kind of life anyone should have. I thought I did the right thing. I can’t claim the baby. That’s all there is to it,” Mrs. Flannery said.

“Can’t or won’t?” Elroy asked.

Eyes glared through a slit, face stiffened to the point her lips pierced, Mrs. Flannery answered the question. “Won’t,” she said.

Elroy hated the sound of Mrs. Flannery’s voice. He hated the way she played with all their lives like it was some sort of little game. He thought back to the time after Linda’s death. Mrs. Flannery asked him out. Her body wasn’t even cold, and here she was, on his porch, wanting him to sell his soul. The thing is, his soul already belonged to someone, she just wasn’t around to enjoy it. Mrs. Flannery never forgave him for that. After that, when rough times came calling, Mrs. Flannery did everything she could to get a hold of his land. Elroy was smart and went to a bank in the city, far out of the reaches for the likes of the bitter old woman. It was just like her not have a heart, she had ice in her veins. The past glistened over her whole body like frozen dew. She carried it like a shield used to protect her from the world and those who would try to get one past her. Even now, while the life of a tiny baby held in the balance, all Mrs. Flannery thought about was her own selfish reasons for not claiming the child. Cool waters run deep in the heart of a woman who has never given anything except hell to all those around her.

“Why the hell not?” Helen scolded.

“What would people think? I can’t have any part of a newborn bastard baby. Genes or not, I will never claim it,” Mrs. Flannery said.

“Mrs. Flannery, where’s your son?” Detective Mays asked.

“I don’t know. I’m not a detective. Isn’t that your job, to find people?” she asked.

“The thing is this Mrs. Flannery, I have a journal here in Nina’s own words. She claims to have witnessed the murder of a John Doe we have on our case load. I’m gonna have to bring him in for questioning, and if you stop me in any way, I will see to it that you be arrested as an accomplice,” Mays said.

“You can’t talk to me like this! Do you know who I am?” Mrs. Flannery asked.

“I do, and I don’t care. Now, where’s Blake?” asked Mays again.

“I want my attorney,” she said. “And another drink, please.”

“Not a problem. Call him on the phone and get him here. It’s either that or I take you back to the station and book you. Either way, you aren’t leaving my sight,” Detective Mays asked.

In a subtle flabbergasted huff, Helen walked over and took Mrs. Flannery’s cup. “Cool waters run deep in you,” she said.

Mrs. Flannery ignored the comment with a, “You aren’t worth the effort,” look on her face. A small glance into Detective Mays eyes told her he wasn’t going to flinch. Elroy and Helen visibly watched the balloon of pride pop. Defeated, she whispered, “He’s in Ellis, probably at the bar or his latest sluts house.”

Detective Mays pulled his cell phone out of his pocket, “You ever thought of getting one of these. They’re quite handy ya know,” Mays said to Elroy.

He walked towards the kitchen, Helen’s domain. She glanced at Elroy who waved his hand, palm down, to tell her to relax-this wasn’t the time to worry about her domain. Helen tightened a little, but remained silent. Elroy pulled the bottle out of Julia’s mouth. “How do you do the rest?” he asked.

Helen took Julia and put her over her shoulder to be burped. It looked like she was beating the poor baby the way she pounded on Julia’s back. A few seconds later, she let out a huge burp along with a little spit up. Helen took a small hand towel, wiped her tiny face and handed her back to Elroy.

“Seems to me, the only logical choice here is to sign her over to me. That’s what Nina wanted. You don’t want her, Blake is on his way to prison for the rest of his life. Nina doesn’t have any family. So we’re it,” Elroy said.

Mrs. Flannery scolded for a moment. Elroy was sure it had something to do with being the one to raise her granddaughter. One by all rights, she should take herself.

“But you’re so old. How are you gonna keep up with this child?” Mrs. Flannery asked.

“Old, shoot I’m only 52 years along,” Elroy shot back. “If you’re looking for a reason to keep her, well you don’t really need one. She’s your kin…your flesh and bone. That’s all you’ll need to raise her.”

“A bastard child, never,” Mrs. Flannery said.

“That’s the first honest thing you’ve ever said to me,” Elroy said.

“We’ll get the attorney to draw up the papers in the morning,” she said. “I don’t ever want to see you on my door step wanting something for this child. Got it?”

Helen danced around with Julia in her arms. “Do you hear that little Julia, you’re staying with us,” she said.

Detective Mays walked back to the living room. “They picked Blake up for a DUI. He had a trunk full of drugs. Either way, he’s gone. By all rights, I should call social services and have her taken by the state. It seems to me that it’s all getting worked out though, am I correct?” he asked.

“Yes. Oh yes, she’s going to live here with us,” Helen beamed.

“Alright well, Mrs. Flannery if you want to bail him out-”

“No, he’s ruined enough lives. Let him rot. God knows I never wanted him to begin with,” Mrs. Flannery said.

“Detective Mays, when the coroner releases Nina’s body, I’d like to make sure she receives a proper burial,” Elroy said. “It’s the least I can do.”

He walked Detective Mays to the porch and shook his hand. “Listen, if that Mrs. Flannery gives you any problems with little Miss Julia in there, you let me know,” he said, holding the journal up at him.

“Will do,” Elroy replied with an uh-huh look.

With a tilt of his hat, Detective Mays left to close his case out on the John Doe. It turned out, the arrest of Blake Flannery paved the way for the rest of his career. Blake confessed to three murders. He’s currently sitting on death row. He still doesn’t know about Julia. The trial was all the rage in Marion County. It lasted for three months. Tongues wagged about Mrs. Flannery and her son for a long time. Which was good, it took the focus off of Julia and her adoption.

Either through some sort of twisted sense of right and wrong or fear, Mrs. Flannery was true to her word. She signed the papers granting adoption of Julia to Elroy. She set up a secret trust fund in her name for college. From time to time, she would pass Helen and Elroy on the streets. She never stopped to ask how things were going. She always looked at Julia with sadness in her eyes. Now and again, tongues still wag about her son and what he had become. Some folks blamed Mrs. Flannery and her cruel ways, they say she got what she deserved for holding her money over the town for all those years.

Detective Mays appeared on Elroy’s door step with Nina’s journal, a month after the trial was over. He handed it to Elroy. “Give this to her when she’s old enough. That woman loved Julia with all her heart. She should know that,” Detective Mays said.

Julia did ask from time to time about her mom when she was old enough to understand that her mom wasn’t around. Elroy promised himself he would never lie to the girl. He raised her with love and kindness the same any father would. The last entry in the journal was a letter to Julia. Elroy read it to her the first time she asked about her mom.

Dear Julia,

You’re a day old today. I’m afraid I feel my strength leaving me. I haven’t really done anything good in my life expect to give birth to you. You came so fast, I didn’t have time to get to the doctor’s. You’re so tiny and so innocent to the ways the world can bring you down and your not going to understand this now, but one day you will.

I’m hoping that you know how much you’re loved. I’ll be checking in from time to time to make sure you’re ok. I know you’re going to grow up to be a beautiful woman. No matter where you end up, just know I’m with you in your heart.

There’s so much advice I want to give you, but I’m only going to tell you this, always listen to your little voice inside, it knows the way. Be true to who you are and never give up on yourself.

I love you always,



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