Detective Weinstein asks them to look at a picture of the body, in case they know the victim. She presents them with a photo of a pretty blonde woman. Corin doesn’t know her name, but has seen her. Aiden identifies her Wendy Hamilton, a girl who was a couple years ahead of him in school, who was on the golf team with him. He reveals that she was his first love.
Nodding, he went to his room and slammed the door. Loud music started playing, not his usual heavy metal with screeching guitars and loud drums. This was sorrowful blues music. Deirdre told the boys to leave their brother alone and occupy themselves. Her book would wait, she had to call Fred again. He should be in Atlanta by now, on his layover.
He answered after three rings, sounding slightly breathless. “Yeah, hi! What’s up?”
“Is there any way you can come home?”
“Honey, I’ve hardly left.” Her flat tone finally registered with him. “What’s wrong?”
Fred got very quiet. “I knew that had happened, not with whom, but he carried himself differently. There’s a set to a man’s shoulders….” Inhaling sharply, he sighed. “I remember that girl. I went to all the matches, you remember. She was a sweet girl, very talented. I thought she’d gone to college on a golf scholarship?”
“I don’t know. I thought I might do some digging.”
“Honey, let it rest. The police….”
“She meant something to our eldest son. The poor child had no family, Fred,” she spoke more sharply than she’d meant to. She felt strongly about this, for some reason she didn’t understand.
He paused, she could hear him breathing.
“You’re right. She might not have had family, but she’s got us. Tell the police, if no one else claims her—her remains, we will. We’ll see she has a funeral.”
“I will. I don’t know why, I feel responsible for that poor child.”
“You’ve got a gentle heart, my love. Oh, crap. They’re boarding. I just got to the gate. Gotta go. Love you!”
“Love you!” She hung up. Holding her phone close to her heart, she said a silent prayer for the poor, dead girl. I may not have known you in life, but I will see that you rest easy, she promised.
When the boys were in bed, she sat at the computer and looked up Wendy Hamilton. She got a lot of hits on golf, both from high school and college. Two and a half years after graduation, those tapered off, disappearing completely.
“What happened to you, honey? Why did you leave?” Scrolling down the Google list, she spotted a college newspaper article. Clicking on it, she saw Wendy’s smiling face with a raucous headline: Female Student Caught in Scandal. Reading quickly through it, Deidre discovered why Wendy had left school. She had been involved with one of her professors, a married man, and their affair was discovered. She was thrown out of school and the man, who was tenured, got a slap on the wrist. “Typical! The man gets away with everything, and they blame the woman. But you weren’t to blame, were you, sweetheart? No. Look at that face.” She touched the screen, tears in her eyes.
“Mom?” Aiden said from the doorway. “Whatcha doing?”
Deirdre jumped, feeling a little guilty about what she’d been doing. “Finding out what happened to Wendy.” She explained.
Aiden closed his eyes, sinking into another chair. “She was always so gullible. She’d fall for a smooth talker. Is there a picture of him?”
Deirdre scrolled down. The man’s picture was lower on the page, with a short blurb about him, his accomplishments and qualifications. He was handsome, in a predictable kind of way. Hair color so bland, there was no way to describe it. Eyes a watery blue, his smile didn’t reach them. There was a hard, hedonistic set to his mouth.
“He looks like a slimy character,” Deirdre said. “Like a snake.”
“Snakes aren’t slimy,” Aiden correct. “But yes. Snake. A man like that should burn from the inside out.”
“I can’t agree more. You okay?” She smoothed his hair from his forehead. Usually, he hated that, but he rested his face on her palm. “I really loved her, Mom. She had a sweet spirit. So gentle, genuine. She said I was the only guy who was nice to her, just because. She was so pleased when I gave her the earrings. No one had ever given her a gift before. And to thank me…just because….”
“She made a man of you.”
He nodded. “It was wonderful. Special. We spent that night together. The next day, she was moved from her foster home. She was eighteen, graduated, they wouldn’t keep her a second longer. I don’t think they even cared what happened to her. She came to see me a few times, but I don’t know where she was living by then. A month later, she moved. I tried calling her after she left, but she never called me back.” He shrugged. “I didn’t know what to think. I still don’t. I really cared for her.”
“I know, sweetheart.”
“Can I…I can’t handle school tomorrow. Everyone will be talking about it, making lurid comments. I can’t face it.”
© 2018 Dellani Oakes