Tag Archive | Florida

Sidetracked by Dellani Oakes Part 12

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Cover image from Free Stock Photos: Railroad Track On A Fall Day by Curtis Dean Wilson

After making arrangements with Aiden, Detective Weinstein speaks to Deidre again. The police officer reveals that there was evidence of sexual assault, and she hopes it will help them bring the guilty party to justice. In the morning, Aiden tells his mother a little bit more about Wendy, and how sweet and smart she was.

“You really loved her.”

“Yeah. And she loved me. She told me—that night.” His lips trembled and he had to set his coffee down, his hands were shaking too much. “I wish we’d gotten together sooner, but she had this creep of a boyfriend.”

“What was his name?”

“I’ve been trying to remember. Troy, something. He was a couple years older than her, at least. So I didn’t know him from school. He was a real low life son-of-a-bitch. I can see the bastard’s face.”

“Did he go to school here?”

“Yeah. Why?”

“You know they post all yearbook pictures now?”

“Shit? Really?” He snorted, shaking his head. “So my uber-goof expression from my freshman picture is immortalized?”

“For all to see, yes. And it was cute!”

“Boys aren’t cute past the age of ten,” he corrected her, sounding just like his father.

“My point, Mr. Uber-Goof, is that we might be able to track down his picture. Do you have any idea when he graduated?”

Aiden closed his eyes, inhaling slowly, trying to center himself. “He had a shirt that said Class of 2011. It was signed by all the class on the back. They do one every year.”

“So, we begin with that and then work our way out. You’re sure it was Troy?”

“Yes. He wanted her to get a tattoo of his name, but she refused. She finally broke down and got a henna one on her ass. She showed me. She said she wanted to sit on it every chance she got.” Blushing, he ducked his head. “Sorry. More information than you want.”

“Maybe so, but it’s helpful.” She booted the computer.

Once it was ready, they took seats and accessed the yearbook site. It took some digging to find Troy. He hadn’t been in any extra curricular clubs, wasn’t on any teams, and seemed to be completely unexceptional in every way. Finally, they hit pay-dirt with the auto shop class.

“That’s him,” Aiden pointed to the screen. His lip curled in disgust. “I can’t forget that face.”

Deirdre could understand that. Though he was very handsome, there was a cruelty and hardness in Troy’s eyes. He was about six feet tall, with bulging muscles. Curly, black hair fell to his shoulders, slicked back from his face. He had open gauges in both ears, at least the size of a silver dollar. He was the only one in the picture not smiling. In fact, he stood with his arms folded, glaring at the camera.

“Looks like a real piece of work,” she said.

“He used to hit her.”

“And you didn’t report it?”

“I wanted to, Mom. She said it would only make it worse. He seemed to have some magic pill, he never stayed in long.”

“And she stayed with this creep of nature? Why?”

“You’ve been really lucky with Dad. He’s a great guy, he’d never hurt any of us. Some people—they get into something, and they’re too scared to leave. She was using the move to Gainesville to get away from him. I think one reason she left so fast, and cut off her phone, was because of him. We need to tell Detective Weinstein. I’d have said something before, but I couldn’t remember his name.”

“Right away.” She pulled out Vanessa’s card and called.

The detective answered with a smile in her voice. “Deidre, hi. I was just about to call you.”

“Did you have more questions?”

“I did, for Aiden. I didn’t want to disturb him at school, so I thought I’d leave a message with you. I hate voice mail.”

“So do I. As a matter of fact, he’s here. I let him stay home.”

“Of course. May I speak to him?”

“Yes.” She handed the phone to her son.

Nodding his thanks, he took it. “Hello, Detective. Before you ask any questions, I wanted to tell you something.” He told her about Troy, giving her his last name, Intriago.

“Oooh, I know him,” her voice held a chilly malice. “Yeah, on more than one occasion, he’s graced our holding cell. Nasty piece of work. She was dating that—man?”

Aiden chuckled. “Detective Weinstein, my daddy was a Marine. He’s said so many curse words, he’s made up a few. Troy was an abusive bastard. I wanted to report him, but Wendy said he never was held long. She was afraid of retaliation.”

“And well she should be. He’s connected, or he was. A highly placed relative, maybe. More than that, I don’t know. Thank you. I was wondering if I could get you to drive along with me to the house? I want identification before I go talk to the residents.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Sidetracked by Dellani Oakes Part 11

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Cover image from Free Stock Photos: Railroad Track On A Fall Day by Curtis Dean Wilson

Aiden and Deirdre have a heart to heart about Wendy, and both decide to turn in. As she’s getting ready for bed, Deirdre’s phone rings. It’s Detective Weinstein, who wants to speak to Aiden. She asks him to go with her, to identify the house where Wendy lived.

“Thanks. I might…. Please, find who did this and take them down, Ms. Weinstein.”

“That is my intention. Thank you for your help.”

“You’re welcome. Goodnight.”

“Goodnight. Let me speak to Mom again?”

He handed the phone to his mother. Giving her a hug, he closed the bedroom door.

“He was very helpful. I told him if he needs to see someone, I have names of very good therapists, who are reasonably priced.”

“Thank you. My boy is strong, but even a hardened man would find that difficult.”

“Agreed. First love, huh? In every sense, I gather.”

“Yes. He said she left soon after, for college. I did a little digging. I know it’s not my job…. I was curious. Why would such a talented girl leave school? She was involved with her college professor. They got caught and she got thrown out of school about five months ago. As far as I can tell, nothing happened to him,” her voice got tight with anger. “Bastard!”

“That’s low. Why can men get away with that shit? Just because we have boobs, it’s our fault?” Weinstein snorted, then chuckled softly. “Sorry. Stepping off the soapbox.”

“Rant away, sister. I agree!” She paused, forming her sentence with care. “I saw the condition of her clothing. I hope Aiden didn’t. Was she—She was—assaulted….”

“Yes. He was sloppy. We got some specimens, but unless he’s in the system, it won’t help us track him. It will help us nail him when he’s caught.”

“My husband and I will claim the body if no one else does,” Deirdre said. “I didn’t want to say that in front of my son. If she has no family, we will do that for her. I wish I’d known her before. No one should have to live like that, unloved. Unwanted. My husband says I’d adopt the world if I could.”

“It’s an admirable trait. My mother is the same way. She was always pulling in loners and strays, all our friends call her Mom. Biggest heart. Loves all of her babies, whether she gave birth to them or not.”

“She and I sound a lot a like. Thank you…. I can’t keep calling you Ms. Weinstein.”

“Vanessa. I’ll find this guy, Deirdre. Like you, I’ve taken this case personally. I don’t know why, but I think when I saw the grief in your son’s face….” She sniffled. “Sorry. I don’t usually get this emotional.”

“But you’re pregnant.”

“How did you know?”

“I worked as a lactation consultant for five years, I’ve had three kids, and I’m a La Leche League leader. I know from pregnant. Three months?”

“Eleven and a half weeks. My first. My husband and I are very excited.”

“Best of luck to you. If you need any advice, call me. You’ve got my number.”

“Thank you. I’ll let you get to bed now, I’ve taken up enough time.”

“If it helps find Wendy’s killer, take all the time you want. Goodnight, Vanessa. Thank you.”

“Goodnight. Thank me when this is over.”

They hung up. Deirdre was too wound up to sleep, so she sat at her computer and wrote more at her book. It wasn’t turning out at all as she’d intended, but she found that the liked the direction it was going. Around 2:00, she finally shut it down and went to bed.

After dropping off the boys, Deidre stopped at Dunkin’ Donuts and picked up a dozen glazed donuts and two large cups of coffee. Her boys all had a caffeine habit, though Aiden was the only one who really liked coffee. He was awake when she walked in, and helped her carry the food to the table.

“You didn’t have to do this, Mom.”

“Yes, I did. Have as many as you want. I get two,” she clarified, because he could eat all twelve, given the chance.

Sipping coffee and eating their donuts, they sat in comfortable silence. Where Corin had to chatter, and Burl sat sullenly, grumping, Aiden was her cozy companion. Since he was small, he’d been the cuddler, climbing on her lap just to snuggle. It had nearly broken her heart when he decided he was too big for that. However, when they spent time together, it was like he was her other half. Their birthdays only ten days apart, they shared a star sign. Some people told her that would cause friction, but it never had between them.

“Wendy was super smart,” he said softly. “Straight A’s. She did the dual enrollment and graduated with a weighted GPA of 4.8. She was valedictorian. And crazy good at golf. She got snapped up by UF, they couldn’t wait to get her. She had schools all over the country trying to recruit her, but she wanted to stay in Florida. It was her home.”

“Was she born here?”

He nodded. “At Halifax, just like me. Her birthday is on the Twenty-sixth of September, two days before mine. I took her to lunch the day between, to celebrate.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Sidetracked by Dellani Oakes Part 10

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Cover image from Free Stock Photos: Railroad Track On A Fall Day by Curtis Dean Wilson

Deirdre calls Fred to see if he can come home, but he’s fairly sure he can’t get away. Aiden tells her about his night with Wendy. Afterward, he asks if he can stay home from school the next day.

“Since when do you use lurid in a sentence?”

“I guess I started today. Is it okay if I stay home?”

“Yes. I’ll see if they can give your work to Burl.”

“Thanks. I don’t want to be the guy who identified the dead body.”

Deirdre could understand that. He’d either be shunned, or attract all the creepy girls who got off on death.

“You don’t think it will be a problem for your brothers?”

“They didn’t know her. Burl will let it roll, Corin—who knows? They’ll be fine.”

“I hope you’re right.”

“We aren’t little kids anymore, Mom.”

“You’ll always be my baby,” she said softly, touching his cheek. “Even when you’re old and gray, you’ll be my baby boy.”

“I love you, Mama,” he said, tears falling again.

“I love you too, Sugar Plum. Even if you aren’t going to school, I am. I’d better get my happy ass to bed.”

Aiden grinned through his tears. “You’ve always said that, even when we were kids. Didn’t you worry about cussing in front of us?”

“With Daddy’s mouth? F**k, no. You were the first kid in kindergarten to say shit in class. I thought your teacher would have apoplexy. I told her she should be glad you didn’t say something worse.”

Aiden chuckled. “And the first kid to learn all the words to Fade to Black and Iron Man.”

“I taught you well.” She gave him a kiss on the forehead. “Try to sleep. If you can’t, have a couple Benadryl. That will make you sleepy.”

“I’m gonna stay up and play guitar for a little while. I won’t use the amp. I just need to unwind.”

“Okay. I’m gonna lock up. Goodnight, son. Each day gets better, I promise.”

Nodding, he shuffled off to his room. She heard him start to play his acoustic guitar as she made the rounds, locking up and setting the alarm. Since it was one of Fred’s jobs, she sometimes forgot. Finding Wendy’s body had spooked her, though. She felt vulnerable, on edge. She wasn’t tired, but 6:00 came awfully early. She had finally decided to start sleeping in, once she felt that Aiden was able to drive his brothers to school. They could find a secondhand car for him, or he could drive his father’s heap. Fred could use hers to go to work, or she could drop him off and pick him up.

Planning and plotting, she got ready for bed. It was barely 10:00 when her phone rang. She was getting into bed and hadn’t turned it off yet. She didn’t recognize the number, but had a feeling it was important.

“Mrs. Partridge? Detective Weinstein.”

“Oh, hello!”

“I apologize for calling so late. I wondered if I might speak to Aiden.”

“I’ll see if he’s still awake. This really shook him up. The young lady, Wendy, was his first love.”

“Oh, wow. Poor kid! I had a couple questions to ask him, if he’s available?”

“I’m looking now.” She tapped on Aiden’s door.

The guitar music stopped and he answered. He looked like he’d been crying again. “Yeah?”

“Detective Weinstein to speak to you.”

His face full of questions, Aiden took the phone. “Hello?”

“Hi, Aiden. I’m sorry to bother you, but I wondered if you knew where Wendy lived before she graduated?”

“Um…isn’t there a record of it? I thought the foster system kept track of those things.”

“Normally, yes. But it seems that she wasn’t in the system the last year she was in school. She had been assigned a home, but left.”

“I don’t know their names, but I remember where she lived. I saw her there a couple times. I didn’t ever meet anyone, but she showed me the house. It was over on Lime. The far end, north side of the Boulevard. I don’t know the number, but it was a ratty looking place, second house on the left in the first block after the intersection. At the time, it was that white cinder block with brown trim, but that’s been a few years.”

“I think I know the house you described. Thank you. Do you remember anything else?”

“Not really. She wouldn’t invite me in. I remember seeing someone peering out of the window. There weren’t drapes, or they were open. A fat lady with her hair in rollers, smoking. That’s all I remember. I’m sorry.”

“No need to be. That’s more than I had earlier. I’m very sorry for your loss, Aiden. I know this must be really hard. If you feel you want to—talk to someone, I can recommend a couple people.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Sidetracked by Dellani Oakes Part 9

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Cover image from Free Stock Photos: Railroad Track On A Fall Day by Curtis Dean Wilson

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?”

Deirdre explained.

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

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Sidetracked by Dellani Oakes Part 8

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Cover image from Free Stock Photos: Railroad Track On A Fall Day by Curtis Dean Wilson

As they drive by the railroad track, Corin spots something, telling his mother to stop. They are horrified to find that what the buzzards are feasting on, is a dead person. They stop the car and call the police. Detective Vanessa Weinstein responds to the call.

Weinstein’s phone chirped. “I do now. I’m sorry, Mrs Partridge. It’s grim.”

“I can vomit later,” Deirdre said. “That young woman deserves her dignity and identity.”

Weinstein handed her the phone. Deirdre looked carefully at it, imagining it without the ravages of death. She shook her head.

“Boys? I hate to ask….” Weinstein said, handing it to Burl, who was closest.

“I know her,” Corin said. “I don’t know her name, my friends and I just call her the Running Girl.”

The detective frowned. “What? Why?”

“Because she runs all the time,” Corin replied, with fifteen year old logic.

“Her name is Wendy Hamilton,” Aiden said, choking on the name a little. “She was a senior when I was a freshman. She did girl’s golf and I was on the boy’s team. She was team captain. I had a huge crush. She kissed me once—when I got—I got a hole in one.” Fighting tears, he handed the phone back. His fingers went numb and he dropped it.

Corin caught it, handing it to the police detective.

“You’re sure?” Weinstein made a note.

“Yes. She always wore that necklace. And the earrings…. I gave her those for graduation.”

“When did you last see her?”

“I saw her a few times after her graduation night, three years ago. She went away to school a month or so later. If the birds didn’t get to it….” He swallowed hard, looking like he would vomit. “She has—a heart shaped mole….” He pointed to his left chest. “Under her breast.”

No one asked how he knew. It was obvious that he’d been intimate with the girl.

“She was really sweet. She had a tough life. She liked me because…I was—I was—nice.” He burst into tears.

His brothers hugged him, but he pushed them aside, reaching for his mother. Sobbing, he held her in a death grip. The boys joined them, adding their comfort.

Detective Weinstein put her hand on his shoulder, comfortingly. “I know this is hard for you. I’m sorry I had to ask. Thank you for giving us her identity.” She went to the body, putting on booties and gloves. Taking the crop top in one hand, she lifted gently, pulling the sports bra away from the left breast. Closing her eyes, she dropped her head. “We have positive identification. We need to notify next of kin.” She walked back to Aiden. “Do you know if she had any family?”

He shook his head, wiping his face with his fists. “No. She was an orphan, in the system. She went to away to college, she wanted to be a doctor. I don’t know why she’d be back. I didn’t know she was in town.”

“It’s okay, Aiden. If I have anymore questions, I’ll call you. Meanwhile, if you think of anything else, please call me.” She handed over her card. Turning away, she stopped and came back to Corin. “You said you all called her the Running Girl. How long have you done that?”

“Maybe four months?” Corin thought a moment. “Yeah, she started running right before summer. Every day, early and late, she was out. She was really hot…pretty,” he corrected. “Me and my friends used to wonder why she ran so much. Like she was running away from something. Does that make sense?”

“Yes,” she said quietly. “Did you ever speak to her?”

“Yeah. She looked really hot one day, I mean overheated. We’d been to the skate park and stopped for drinks. She was in the store and didn’t have enough money for a bottle of water, so we pitched in and bought it. Me, Danny and Mike. They live down the street from us. She gave each of us a kiss on the head, even if we were sweaty.” He blushed slightly, remembering.

“Thank you.”

“You think that’s important?” Corin asked.

“I don’t know yet. Maybe. Thank you. Burl, did you know her?”

“No, ma’am. I’m two years younger than Aiden. By the time I got to school, she had graduated. I did see her out running sometimes, but I never spoke to her. I’m sorry.”

“No reason to be sorry. Thank you all for your help. If you’d like to go, Sergeant Waters will let you out up at Twenty-sixth.”

When they got back in the Jeep, Aiden looked green. “Can we go home, Mom? I can’t. I—I can’t….”

“Of course. I don’t suppose the place will fall down without you there.”

“Thank you.” Leaning back, he closed his eyes. Silent tears ran down his cheeks. “She was my first,” he whispered. “And it was beautiful.” Biting his lip, he fought the tears.

“Let them fall, son,” Deirdre said when they were home. “Don’t fight the grief, or it fights you. She meant something to you, and that’s important to acknowledge.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Sidetracked by Dellani Oakes Part 7

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Cover image from Free Stock Photos: Railroad Track On A Fall Day by Curtis Dean Wilson

At dinner, the boys get in an argument, because Corin told on Aiden. When Deirdre asks him questions about the fight, he tells her the other boy slapped him, he didn’t throw the first punch. After they eat, the boys clean up, and she is able to relax a little.

Once they were done, they settled in the living room to watch some television show they were interested in. Their noise faded to a muffled rumble and Deirdre went back to her writing. It wasn’t going well and she couldn’t settle into it. Reading over what she’d already written, it didn’t seem too bad, but she knew she could do better. Unfortunately, she wasn’t sure how.

It was late when Fred got home. Deirdre was already in bed, but not sleeping.

“I’m sorry,” he said when he got into bed. “I shouldn’t have kept it from you.”

“No, you shouldn’t. Don’t ever do it again.”

“I won’t. I promise. Got a goodnight kiss for me?”

She rolled over. The kiss turned into more. Afterward, they cuddled up and fell asleep.

Fred had to catch a mid-morning flight, and was being picked up by a co-worker. Deirdre took the boys to school, in a dense fog. She needed gas in her Jeep, so she stopped at the corner store for a quick fill-up. The air felt thick, mucky and full of rain. The fog turned to a misty precipitation, one that she had no name for. As she pumped the gas, she saw something by the railroad track, on the opposite side of the street. Black wings flapped and she realized it was vultures. They had to have found something fairly large, there were a lot of them. Shuddering, she ignored them as best she could, and finished up.

“Mom, you see the vultures?” Corin asked, pointing.

“Yes.” She gagged a little.

“Can we go look?”

“Why do you want to look? That’s gross,” Aiden said.

“Because, I just do. What do they call a bunch of vultures?” he asked his mother.

“No idea. You have a phone, look it up.”

He did so. “A Kettle, Committee or Wake. It’s a Wake when they’re feeding. Can we please?”

Since it was the road she’d intended to take anyway, she decided to do so. As they got close to the birds, Corin yelled.

“Slow down! Mom! Stop, it’s a person!”

“What?” She slammed on the brakes.

“I swear. I saw a tennis shoe and something bright pink. Like running pants. Mom, it’s a person!”

“Oh, dear God. Do you suppose? They can’t be alive?” She gulped hard, pulling out her phone.

“They sometimes start to feed before something is dead,” Burl remarked in a dark tone.

“Hello, Police?” Deirdre said, averting her eyes. “I think there’s a dead body on the side of the railroad track. It’s the intersection of Thirtieth and Hibiscus. Yes. I can stay.”

Gagging again, she hung up and pulled onto the other side of the road to park. Her next call was to the school, excusing her boys for the day. She didn’t give any reason, merely said it was personal family business. Finally, she tried to call Fred, but he didn’t pick up. He probably wasn’t able to, given the fact he was at the airport by now, and probably just going through security.

Don’t they make you turn off phones these days?

A police car pulled up, cutting off the road behind her. Another cordoned off the crossroad a few blocks up. Deirdre was caught between. Had she been a criminal, this would have upset her. As it was, she had to wonder how she would get out when they let her go. That was a later worry. While she’d been distracted, she saw that her boys had gathered outside the Jeep, watching the police officers in action.

Two blond officers were stringing yellow crime tape. A dark haired woman crouched by the body. Deirdre could see that clearly now. The birds had been driven off, but they kept circling, ever hopeful. Corin snapped a few pictures until Aiden took his phone.

“This is personal,” he said softly. “You can’t share that girl’s pain.”

It was clearly a young woman. She wasn’t very tall, but was voluptuous of build, dressed in a skimpy pair of shorts and a cropped tank top, wearing running shoes. Her clothing was torn and bloody. Her long, blonde hair lay in tangles around her head. Fortunately, the vultures must just have found her, because she wasn’t too badly damaged by the carrion birds. It still turned Deirdre’s stomach and she was glad to be upwind.

A tall, dark haired woman got out of a plain, gray car. Carrying a pad and pen, she walked over to Deirdre’s car. Smiling, hand out, she introduced herself.

“I’m Detective Weinstein. You’re the lady who called this in?”

“Deirdre Partridge. My sons, Aiden, Burl and Corin. Corin spotted the girl’s clothing, so we stopped.”

Weinstein nodded, scribbling notes. “Do you know the woman?”

“I can’t really see her,” Deirdre said. “And unless you want your crime scene puked on, I’ll stay here. If you have a picture?”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Sidetracked by Dellani Oakes Part 6

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Cover image from Free Stock Photos: Railroad Track On A Fall Day by Curtis Dean Wilson

After finding out that Aiden had been fighting in school, Deirdre explains to Corin why she hates it so much. Her father was abusive, and she grew up watching him hit her mother and brothers. She also tells him she’s decided to write a book. He tells her she should write about her life in an abusive home.

“The system fails a lot. You should write about that.” He nodded sharply, emphasizing his words.

“I just might. Meanwhile, will you help me get a salad together? I need to start the bread and pasta.”

“Sure.” Corin hopped up, giving her a hand. “It’s gonna be okay, Mom. Dad’s got another setup?”

“In Minnesota. Leaves tomorrow. We thought it was next week.”

“Oh, well.” He shrugged.

“I’ll be glad when you three can get yourselves up and out the door without me.”

“We could, we’re just lazy.”

“Really?” Raising a sarcastic eyebrow, she led him to the kitchen.

“Yeah, we’d be late, and probably kill each other, but we could.”

“Good to know.”

They got dinner finished and called the other two to the table. The older two boys wouldn’t talk to each other. Deirdre got the impression they’d gotten into a text war. They did that, when confined to their rooms. Fortunately, the silence wasn’t too uncomfortable. She and Corin had an interesting conversation, at least to them, about the invasion of the water hyacinth. He was already interested in ecology and marine biology, but wasn’t sure which to focus his attention on. This invasive plant had decidedly caught his interest.

“I have to do a science experiment,” he told his mother. “I want to do it on the water hyacinth. I talked to Mr. Moody about it. He said he has the equipment and can get other stuff that I need. I can set it up there, and monitor it daily after school.”

“What about golf?” Aiden snarled.

“This won’t be until after golf season. I won’t miss.”

“Too bad,” his eldest brother muttered.

“What was that?” Deirdre cupped her ear. “Did I hear you say something nasty about your little brother?”

“He’s the one who told!” Aiden jabbed a finger at Corin. “Worm! Twat! Traitor!”

“Enough!” Deirdre bellowed. “I won’t have this kind of anger in my home. You knew better than to fight. You knew better than to cover it up. You can be sure that your father and I are going to talk more about this. I’m furious! I won’t have you hitting people for no reason.”

“He came at me, Mom,” Aiden said. “And he said all kinds of things. Bad things. I was defending myself.”

“What did he say?”

“He called me a faggot. And said I f**ked boys. I’m not gay!” he yelled. “I don’t do any of that.”

“He said that to get a rise out of you. Did you throw the first punch?”

“He slapped me, Mom. Slapped me! Who the hell does that? So I slugged him in the nuts.”

Deirdre could understand his anger and retaliation, but she’d taken a stand on no fighting. She wouldn’t back down. But being slapped was horribly insulting. Her father used to slap her mother and call her a whore and a slut. She hadn’t know the words, as a child, but knew they were bad.

“Those are words,” she said calmly. “Words can’t hurt you. The slap…I concede the slap. That’s terrible. But son—a nut punch? Risky. Better to hit the solar plexus and hit him on the back of the head when he’s going down. Maybe slam his face into your knee.” She picked up dishes, carrying them to the sink.

“What—did you just…. What?”

“I didn’t stutter. I’m not saying you shouldn’t defend yourself. Sometimes, you have to. But don’t you dare initiate it, or I’ll beat you down myself.”

Aiden snorted. Deirdre grabbed her son, nearly a foot taller than she, and pulled his hand behind his back, pushing his upper body down.

“Tell me you don’t think I can, and I’ll prove it to you.”

“Mom! Shit!” He patted her calf, surrendering.

Deirdre let him up. “I know how to protect myself. I had to learn. But you don’t use your skills in anger. In self-defense, or when protecting someone else, violence is understandable. Never, ever use your skills to bully someone else.”

“No, ma’am,” he responded automatically. “Never.”

“Good. Then I taught you something.”

Aiden hugged her. “You taught me a lot, Mom. Why don’t you go watch Netflix. We’ll clean up.”

“Corin helped prepare.”

“Then Burl and I will.”

His middle brother had already started putting the leftovers away. Working as a team, they took care of things while she went to her computer. Corin pitched in and helped his brothers. She could hear them talking and laughing over the sound of running water and clattering dishes.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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