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"Demons in My Head"


Prologue
The Horror Begins

By Mistydawn

Madeline is busy cleaning her house after a long hectic weekend with her family. If she wasn't breaking up an argument between their girls, she was quarreling with her husband, Stan.

It'd be nice if he'd help me with Katelyn and Katie instead of complaining about their noise. I don't dare suggest that to Stan, she thinks, glancing at her right arm. Her extremity never healed properly after Stan pushed her down the stairs. It's just another battle scar of life, she sighs, plugging in the vacuum. Well, I'd rather him take his anger out on me than our children. She starts thinking about her oldest daughter, Katelyn as she finishes her chore.

~~~~

Katelyn is a troublesome child from the moment she's born, crying nonstop morning, noon and night. When she isn't bawling she's throwing up her formula.

Blaming her for Katelyn's problems, Stan moves his mother into the house, to teach Madeline proper care. This leads to fighting, harsh words and bitter resentment, between Madeline and Stan.

"I've been here nearly two weeks, Stan, and this poor child hasn't improved one little bit." Glancing down at the flailing child the grandmother continues, "I think there's something wrong with her, son, I really do."

"What do you think it is, Mom?" Stan asks, glaring at Madeline

Of course, you would think I did something, Madeline thinks, sinking further into the couch. According to them, she can't do anything right, not even boil hot water.

"I'm not sure."

"What do you suggest we do?"

"I think we should take her to the doctor."

I've been telling him that for weeks, Madeline thinks, watching Stan gather Katelyn's things.

Katelyn is diagnosed with pyloric stenosis, a rare neuromuscular disorder that requires immediate surgery.

Things improve dramatically until she learns how to walk. If Katelyn isn't tearing up things, she's getting into something, climbing on things, or walking around the counters. Trying to get Katelyn to sit in one spot is impossible, making nap, and bedtime a chore. Madeline tries to corral her active child with playpens and baby gates, but neither contains her for long.

Madeline is physically and mentally spent, with no relief in sight. Stan's constant bickering over piddly stuff only heightens her stressful situation.

"I don't know how much more of this I can take, doctor," Madeline cries, pulling Katelyn down from the shelf.

"You've tried everything I've suggested?"

"Yes, but nothing seems to help."

"I was hoping it wouldn't come to this."

"Come to what?"

"I'm afraid Katelyn might be suffering from ADHD."

"What's that?"

"Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a mental illness that causes someone to be extremely active. It can also cause them to act out and have difficulty paying attention."

"That sounds like her, alright. Katelyn no, you get down from there. See what I mean," she groans, grabbing the child again.

Katelyn starts thrashing around in her arms, trying to break free of her grip.

"Katelyn down," the child orders, flogging around in her mom's arms.

"Fine, go."

"I'm going to prescribe Adderall, see if that doesn't help."

"I'm willing to try anything," Madeline says, watching Katelyn climb the bookshelf again.

Adderall helps with her attention span, but other problems start to arise. Katelyn starts having problems pronouncing words, occasionally confusing her words and her hostility reaches a violent level. Her doctor tries a new med, but that doesn't correct her problems.
~~~

Madeline is loading the washer when the phone rings. I hope that's not Katelyn's school again, she thinks. Katelyn's principal calls every other week, wanting Madeline to pick up her disruptive daughter.

"Yes, this is Mrs. Howard. She threatened to hurt her classmates with a knife. Of course, I didn't know she had it. I know she's been disruptive before, but she's never done anything like this. No, don't call the police,  I'll be right over," she sighs. Placing the phone in the cradle, she heads towards the door.

***

"The kids threaten to hurt me and I'm in trouble. That's not fair. Not fair, not fair, not fair," Katelyn screams, angrily pacing back and forth.

"They want to punish me for something, I'll give them something to punish me for. Running to the shelves, Katelyn starts knocking things onto the floor.

"They've always had it out for me, the kids, my teachers, even that snobby principle, Mr. Hensley. I bet they've been trying to get rid of me since I first started. Well, I don't need them, or their stinking school," she screams, running to the door.

She tries opening the heavy barrier, but it wouldn't budge. That won't hold me for long, she smiles, scanning the room for another way out. Grabbing a music stand from the corner, she lugs it across the room.

Here goes nothing,  throwing its thin metal structure through a window, glass scatters all around her. "I'll be long gone before they realize I'm missing." She laughs, carefully making her way through the shattered material.

***

Madeline sees Mr. Hensley's secretary, Betty standing at the door when she pulls up. That's not a good sign, she thinks, hesitantly climbing out of her car.

"I'm so glad you could make it, so soon, Mrs. Howard," Betty says as Madeline makes her way down the sidewalk.

Looking up from the wet pavement, Madeline gives her an evil glare.

"I've seen Katelyn upset before, but never like this."

Stepping into the building, Madeline heads towards the office. I bet her principal will have a lot to say, she wearily thinks, remembering how he threatened to expel her.

"She's not in there, Mrs. Howard."

"Where is she, then?" Madeline asks, spinning around.

"We put her in our music room, away from the other children. We thought it's best to separate her before someone gets hurt."

"How did this get started?" Madeline asks, sprinting towards the room.

Betty is running, trying to keep up with her. "We're not exactly sure how it began."

"What do you mean you're not sure?" Madeline angrily replies, spinning towards her.

The frightened woman jumps back. "The kids said she was running after them with a knife screaming, 'You're never going to hurt me again."

"Were they trying to hurt her like she claims? Let me guess, you don't know that either."

"We have so many students, that it's difficult to keep an eye on everyone."

"So you lock Katelyn away like some animal, not knowing what really happened? I suppose those kids didn't get punished, am I correct?"

"They didn't do anything wrong."

"According to them, did you ask other students what happened?"

"Well, no, but..."

"It's easier to make my daughter a martyr than find out what really happened, right?" she asks, pulling on the door. 

"We have to keep everyone safe," Betty explains, fumbling with her keys.

 Madeline sees Katelyn standing on the windowsill, broken glass all around her when she opens the door.

"Katelyn, no, don't jump," she screams, running towards her.

"Mommy," Katelyn exclaims, falling into her mother's arms.

"She could have killed herself just now," Madeline screams.

"I...I..."

"Wait until the school board hears about this. Come on, Katelyn." Grabbing her child's hand, Madeline drags her across the room.

"I need to speak to you a moment, Mrs. Howard," Mr. Hensley says, blocking the doorway. "We feel that Katlyn would do better in a different school, perhaps a private academy. They have fewer students, less stimulation."

"You're kicking a first grader out of school?"

"I don't believe we can handle her behavioral issues any longer, Mrs. Howard."

"This is the first time she's ever had an outburst like this!"

"Have you forgotten about her playground incident, when she pushed a few of her classmates into a mud puddle?"

"When did this happen?" she questions.

"About a month ago, we sent a note home with Katelyn explaining what took place."

"I never got it," Madeline says, glaring at her daughter. Katelyn smiles.

"I suppose you didn't get our notes about art class or library time either?"

"No, I haven't received any notes from you in quite some time."

"Well, I'm sorry, Mrs. Howard, but my mind is made up. She'll have to attend school somewhere else."

"We'll just see what the school board has to say about that, now won't we," she threatens.

"They're well aware of Katelyn's problems."

"They haven't heard from me yet. Come on, Katelyn," she orders, pushing past him.

"Wait, Mrs. Howard, I need you to sign some papers before you go," Mr. Hensley yells down the hall.

Madeline spins back around, Katelyn trips over her own feet as her body swings sideways. "You know what you can do with your papers, don't you?"

"You can stick them up your a...."

Madeline jerks her child's arm. "Katelyn Rose, that is enough out of you," she scolds, dragging her towards the door.

Turning around, Katelyn gives her principle the bird.

Shaking his head, Mr. Hensley walks to his office, his secretary follows behind him.

"You did your best, sir."

"I just wish I can figure out how to get through to her," he gloomily replies, watching the troubled child fade down the hall.

***

"What am I going to do with you now, Katelyn, huh, what?" Madeline scolds, lifting the child into her car seat.

"The kids were going to hurt me, mommy. They told me so, they told me so," she cries.

Madeline wants to believe Katelyn, but she isn't sure if she should, now that Katelyn's telling lies.

A few nights ago, she tried convincing Madeline that her uncle was touching her in her private place. Her Uncle Jeff hasn't been around in ages. Last night, she said that aliens destroyed her room. This morning she claims her dog told her he doesn't like his new food.

"Your father isn't going to like this one bit, young lady." Grabbing the cell from her purse, she quickly dials Katelyn's doctor. "Liz this is Madeline, Katelyn is acting out again and I could really use your help. You can't see her until Friday. I understand you're busy, but she tried to jump out of a second story window. We'll be right over."

***

"How long has this been going on, Madeline," Liz questions, glancing up from her notes.

"The principal said her first outburst happened a month ago. She's also starting to lie, saying people visit her late at night. First, it was her uncle and then aliens. She says her dog talks to her, too."

"When did this start?"

"Three nights ago."

"I need to run more tests, see if I can figure out what is going on." Glancing at the clock, she continues, "Meet me at the hospital around 6:30, we'll fill out her admission paperwork then."

"Admission paperwork?"

"Yes, it'll be easier to do these tests if we admit her overnight."

"But I can't stay with her," Madeline cries.

"She'll be fine without you for one night."

***

Madeline is at the hospital bright and early the following morning.

"Good morning, Mrs. Howard." A nurse replies.

"Where's Katelyn, is she alright?" she quickly blurts out.

"She's doing fine, see." her nurse says, walking her across the hall.

She sees Katelyn happily playing with other children in the toy room.

"I told you she'll be alright," Liz says, standing alongside Madeline.

"Did you find out what's causing her to act out?"

"Why don't we go in here," Liz says, leading her to an empty room. Grabbing Madeline's shaky hands, the doctor begins. "I know you don't want to hear this, but I believe Katelyn has schizophrenia."

"Schizophrenia, no that can't be, not my Katelyn," Madeline exclaims, bursting into tears. Her family has grievously struggled with her brother's mental illness for years.

"I'm sorry, honey, but that's what our tests show. I've even had another doctor confirm my diagnosis, just to be sure."

"But I didn't think symptoms start until late teens, it didn't with Jeff anyhow."

It usually doesn't, but there have been a few cases where children have shown symptoms.

"What am I going to do now?" Madeline sobs, as her family's horror replays in her mind.

 


Chapter 1
Young Love

By Mistydawn

Katelyn is anxiously sitting in her homeroom class waiting for the bell to ring. Glancing at the clock, she sees the second-hand working around its facing.

I have to be ready to go, she thinks, counting seconds in her head. Four, three, two, one. The thundering bell breaks the silence, Katelyn runs to the door.

"Katelyn Howard," her teacher scolds over the ruckus.

Dashing out of the room, she starts weaving her way through the congestion.

"Walk, don't run," her principal warns, as she sprints out of the building.

Katelyn doesn't like having to rush this way, but she knows her bullies will torment her if she doesn't.

Some of the older kids have been making fun of her since she's been on her new meds. They say she acts weird, spacey, like a freak. Soon, they had all of the kids calling her zombie girl, mocking how she walks and talks. When she starts sobbing, they call her bawl baby, making her cry that much more. Sometimes they'll cover her with dirt, saying they're going to bury her once and for all.

Katelyn knows she should tell someone, but figures tattling will only make things worse. Since she can't stand up to all of them on her own,  she figures the best thing to do is avoid them when she can.

"Watch where you're going," an angry driver yells as she darts across the street.

Waving, Katelyn continues jogging down the block. A little farther down, her muscles begin to cramp. Not now, she begs, trying to ignore the burning sensation coursing through her legs. She realizes her house is only a few blocks away when she glances up.

I'm almost there, she thinks, pushing herself harder. She's just made it across the rusty tracks when she sees a familiar figure up ahead. Frightened, she clumsily skids to a stop, causing dirt to fly all around her. She looks up to see her enemy in front of her, his friend is by his side. I have to get past them, she thinks.

Jeff grabs a hold of her arm as she runs by. "Hey, freak, what's your hurry?" he asks.

"Maybe zombie girl needs to take her medicine." Larry laughs.

"Leave me alone," she yells, trying to break free of his grip.

"Zombie girl is getting mad, Jeff. Do you think she'll turn us into the living dead like you see in movies?"

"She might." He laughs.

"Is this how it's done?" Straightening his arms, Larry walks around real slow.

"Leave me alone," she repeats, trying to pull away.

Jeff squeezes her arm tighter.

Tears fill her eyes as she winces from the pain. Don't cry, don't cry, she wills herself, fighting back her tears. "Please, leave me alone," she begs weakly, trying hard not to bawl.

Her small frail body plummets to the ground when Jeff lets go. Drawing her knees to her chest, she starts to cry.

"Poor little zombie girl fell down." Larry laughs.

"Boo hoo, baby, boo hoo," Jeff says, rubbing his eyes. "Does the baby need her bottle?" They laugh.

"You better leave her alone."

Katelyn sees a short, stocky kid walking towards them when she glances up.

"What are you going to do about it, punk?" Jeff asks, giving their intruder a quick once over.

"This!" John grabs a handful of rocks and starts chucking them at the boys. Some of them whiz past, while a few make contact.

Wiping tears off her face, Katelyn starts slinging rocks at her bullies.

"Look at the babies throwing rocks," Jeff laughs, trying to dodge rubble flying from both sides.

Seeing a large pile of bricks, Katelyn runs over to them. Picking up a large stone, she tosses at her enemy.

"Take that, you creep," she yells, watching debris smack Larry's head.

Noticing a new pile of weaponry, her new found friend runs to her side. Picking up a brick, he chucks it at their bullies. The rock smacks the back of Jeff's head.

"There's more where that came from," the stranger laughs, throwing another brick his way.

"Yeah," Katelyn replies, picking up another stone.

"Get out of there," an older man screams.

Seeing someone running towards them, the four scamper across the field.

When Katelyn and her new friend are a distance away, they stop to catch their breath.

"Thanks for coming to my rescue," she says, gasping for much-needed air.

"No problem."

"I've never seen you around before."

"That's because we just moved here last week. See, my parents were transferred out here to help set up a new store."

"What's your name?"

"John, what's yours?"

"Katelyn."

"Nice to meet you, Katelyn."

She giggles bashfully.

"Do they pick on you all the time?"

"Ever since I started taking this stupid medicine." Kicking a small rock with the tip of her shoe, she continues. "They say I act like a zombie."

"I think you act just fine."

Blushing, she looks towards the ground. She's never had a boy be nice to her, so she isn't sure how to reply.

"Do you want me to carry your backpack for you?" John offers.

"If you want to," she says, slipping the straps off her shoulders.

"I know a great place to get ice cream and it won't cost a dime. Do you want me to show you?"

"Sure."

"You have to keep it a secret," she instructs, strolling down the sidewalk.

"Mum's the word." He pretends to zip his mouth.

She giggles again. "Here we are," she announces, standing outside the ice cream parlor.

The shop is decorated with an array of bright colors, giving it a warm, friendly appeal. Even the tables and chairs are decorated with vivid patterns.

Remembering his manners, John reaches for the door. "Ladies first."

This is just like a grown-up date, she thinks. Giggling, she steps inside.

Hearing bells chime, a short, rounded man turns towards them. His dark complexion and dusky eyes seem to magnify his white hair and his long fluffy beard. "It's so nice to see you again, Miss Howard. How are you, this lovely spring afternoon?"

"Fine, thank you, Mr. Raina. This is my friend, John. He just moved into our neighborhood."

"Welcome, lad."

"Thank you, sir." John solemnly replies.

"I always make a special treat for newcomers," Mr. Raina says, winking at Katelyn.

She giggles.

Sliding a glass door up, he starts scooping ice cream from assorted buckets. When he's satisfied with his colorful creation, he sits it on top of the counter. "What do you think about that?" he asks.

John's mouth starts watering as he eyes the delightful treat. "It looks delicious, sir, but I don't have any money."

"It's my treat. Think of it as a welcome to the neighborhood gift."

"Thank you, sir," John replies, glancing towards his bowl.

"Do you want your usual, Miss Howard?"

"Yes, please." Within a few minutes, he hands her a large chocolate cone.

"Enjoy, kids."

'"Oh, we will, sir." Grabbing his ice cream off the counter, John runs to a table.

"He must be a hungry lad." Mr. Raina replies, watching him shovel ice cream into his mouth.

"He must be." Giggling, Katelyn walks over to the table.

"This is so cool," he mumbles between bites.

"Remember, it's our little secret."

Nodding, he shovels another spoonful in his mouth.

A few minutes later, she glances over at her friend. He's staring at his half melted ice cream remaining in his bowl.

"What's wrong?"

"I can't eat another bite," he sadly replies, looking down at the half empty container.

"Me either," she says, shoving the last bit of cone in her mouth. They both laugh.

"Do you want to meet my parents, Katelyn? They're working a couple of stores down."

"Sure," she says, grabbing her backpack.

"Follow me."

"Your mom and dad own this?" she asks, eyeing the expensive merchandise.

"No, they're just setting it up." Mom, Dad, I'd like you to meet someone."

His mom turns around. "What's your name, honey?"

"Katelyn Howard," she timidly replies.

"Nice to meet you, Katelyn."

"Nice to meet you, ma'am."

His father peeks around the corner. "That's my boy, not even in school a whole day and he already has a girlfriend."

"She's not my girlfriend, Dad."

"You might want to keep an eye on her because she is a cute little thing." Smiling, he winks at his son.

"Oh Bill, stop, you're embarrassing the poor child."

Bill sees Katelyn's face turning red. "I'm sorry if I embarrassed you, sweetheart."

"It's ok, sir. Well, I better get home before my mom starts worrying." Walking around the counter, Bill nudges his son's arm.

"I...I'll walk you home," John says, giving his father an inquisitive look.  

Bill winks again.

"Nice meeting you," Katelyn says, walking to the door.

"You too, honey," Wanda replies.

"Come back anytime," Bill adds, as the kids step outside.

"Your parents are really nice."

"Sometimes they get on my nerves."

"Yeah, mine do too. So what grade are you in?"

"Fourth, you?" he asks.

"I'm in third grade. I have a little sister, she's in first grade."

"I have a little sister in first grade too. She always tells mom and dad everything I do to get me into trouble."

"Katie does too, but when I tell on her, my parents will say, "stop tattling on your sister."

"My parents always tell me no one likes a tattle tale."

"Yeah, mine too," she laughs.

"I'm beginning to think every parent has the same handbook."

"I bet hospital hands the books out with every kid. Here's your baby and here's a how-to guide," she replies. They both laugh.

"Do your parents tell you to eat all your vegetables so you'll grow big and strong?"

"Yeah, and they tell me candy rots my teeth," she answers.

"Mine too, but I don't care, I love candy."

"Me too. Well, this is my house," she says, pointing behind her.

"Can I walk you home tomorrow?"

"Meet me at the water fountain when the last bell rings, ok?"

"See you there," he says, running back down the street.

Turning around, Katelyn sees her mom standing on their front porch.

"Where have you been, young lady?" Madeline scolds, pulling her daughter into the house. "And who's that boy you were talking to?"

"His name is John, he just moved in last week."

"You're too young to have a boyfriend."

"He's only a friend, mom," she says, plopping her backpack on the floor.

"You stop sassing me, Katelyn Rose."

Here we go again, she thinks, rolling her eyes at her mother.

"I want you to go upstairs and clean your room. When you get done with that, I want you to set the table."
.
"Yes, mom," she replies, trudging up the stairs. Walking into her room, she plops down on her bed. I'm back in here, again, she thinks, looking around her dreary room.

Ever since the kids started picking on her, she seldom goes out to play. She occasionally invites friends over, but because of her mother's strict rules, her friends don't stay very long.

Oh, John, I wish every day could be like today, she dreamily thinks. Closing her eyes, she pictures his handsome face smiling at her. She then remembers how he came to her rescue. You're my hero, she sighs, drifting off to sleep.

***

Meeting at the water fountain became a daily ritual. John would use his allowance for sodas and she'd pack extra food in her lunch box so they could have an after-school snack.

Katelyn's parents didn't like the idea of them spending so much time together, at first. When they realized John is a good influence on her, they started encouraging their friendship. He'd often stay after school and visit frequently on the weekends. Before long, the two were practically inseparable.

Their childhood romance continued to flourish through junior high and into high school.
 

Author Notes This book is a bibliography of my friend's life and her struggle with mental illness, a story we started a few years ago.
Although she's no longer with us, I thought it's only right to finish the book in her honor. I can only hope I'll make her proud.
RIP my dear friend.
The names have been altered to protect all parties involved, per publication agreement.


Chapter 2
The Proposal

By Mistydawn

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of sexual content.

John nervously walks up to Katelyn's porch. Straightening his blue tux one last time, he knocks on the door. His stomach tightens in one hard knot as he waits for someone to answer. I can do this. Taking a deep breath, he anxiously knocks again. Tonight is the night he's going to ask Katelyn to marry him.

He has the evening planned out, the candlelight dinner on the patio, the soft music, the best champagne that his budget can afford. It's taken all of his money and countless hours of overtime, but John figures it'll be well worth it if she says yes. Katelyn is his one true love, his soul mate and he doesn't want to spend another day without her by his side.

He realizes her illness is going to make things difficult for them, but he's willing to accept all of its challenges, as long as it's her face he sees first thing in the morning, and the last thing he sees before he drifts off to sleep.

"Honey, John is here," Madeline says, opening the door. Stan steps up beside her.

"Mr. Mrs. Howard," he replies, glancing towards the stairs.

"You'll be calling us Mom and Dad before long, son." Stan winks.

"I hope so, sir." He'd thought it was only proper if he asks her parents for their blessing.

~~~

"I love Katelyn with all my heart and I'll do whatever it takes to make her happy."

"I know you'll do right by her, son," Stan says, patting him on the back. Stan really wasn't concerned about her happiness, he was just glad to get the tyrant out of his house because he believes she's the root of his problems. Stan thinks she's the reason for his faltering marriage, why he hasn't had a raise in years, the reason they're deep in debt. Of course, his wife, being the doting mother she is, doesn't see it that way.

"You've been a blessing to all of us, John. I don't know what we'd do without you," Madeline says, teary eyed. She starts thinking about all of their struggles before John came into their life.

Katelyn was expelled from three different schools and picked up by the police numerous times. If she wasn't locking herself in her room because someone was supposedly after her, she was being hospitalized for her fits of rage. 

It was John who calmed her down, who talked her into taking her meds despite the side effects. He's the one who got her to agree to therapy when no one else could and the one who kept her out of trouble.

"So is that a yes?" he anxiously asks, glancing back and forth between the two.

"Welcome to the family, son," Stan says, shaking the boy's hand.

~~~

Glancing up the staircase, he sees his beautiful bride-to-be gliding elegantly down the stairs. She has on a long blue gown that hangs just off her shoulders, with a dainty pearl necklace dangling around her neck. The gown's lacy waistline expands outward, cascading elegantly to the floor. Her chestnut hair is pulled into a tight bun at the top of her head. Two tiny curls hang down either side of her face. A little whip of bangs hangs delicately across her forehead.

"You look gorgeous, Katelyn," he says, offering his hand. His heart skips a beat when she places her hand in his.

"Thank you," she timidly replies, walking down the remaining steps.

"My baby is all grown up," Madeline sniffles. Taking her handkerchief, she quickly dabs her eyes.

"These are for you," John says, handing Katelyn beautiful long stem roses.

"They're lovely," she says, sniffing the crimson flowers. 

"They're not half as lovely as you."

Her cheeks quickly turn the color of her flowers. Sniffing them again she hands them to her mom.

"You kids have fun, stay out as long as you like," Stan says, winking at John.

"Where are we going?" she asks, walking to the car.

"Someplace very special." He smiles, opening the door for her.

A few minutes later they pull up to the elegant restaurant.

"Le Stick Nouveau, this place costs a fortune."

"You are worth every last penny," he says, opening the door for her. The two stroll arm in arm across the parking lot.

"I feel like royalty, being taken to such an elegant restaurant by a handsome prince like you," she says, stepping through the door.

"We've been expecting you, Mr. Logan. If you'll follow me, sir," the owner says.

"He knows you by name?" Katelyn whispers.

John smiles.

"Here's your table sir, on the veranda like you requested."

John quickly glances around." It's perfect, thank you, sir."

"Your waiter will bring your Champagne shortly."

"Champagne, but...."

"It'll be alright, honey, I promise," he says, winking at the owner.

Katelyn glances around. She sees red roses bordering the entire balcony, with white candles in between, white clematis above their head. "It's absolutely gorgeous," she says.

"You haven't seen anything yet." As if on cue the violinist walks over to their table.

"This song was playing when we first kissed," she exclaims.

~~~

Having a day off, the couple decides to go to the state fair. They spend all day eating deep fried foods, playing games, and enjoying the numerous attractions. 

"We have time for one more ride before we have to go," John says, glancing at his watch.

"Let's go on the Ferris wheel again, now that it's dark," she says, grabbing his hand, she drags him towards it.

"Hold on, let me get the tickets." He laughs, reaching in his pocket.

"Come on slow poke," she says. Glancing up, he sees she's already sitting in the seat.

John starts to hand the Carnie his tickets when he sees him shaking his head.

"This one is on the house." Leaning over he continues, "I'll be sure to stop at the top." He winks.

The ride goes around a couple of times before stopping as promised.

"Aren't the stars beautiful, tonight?" she asks.

"They're only half as beautiful as you." Reaching over, he brushes the hair from her face.

"I love you, Katelyn." I can get lost in there forever, John thinks, gazing into her almond eyes.

"I love you," she softly replies. She feels something stir deep in her soul as she stares into his baby blues.

John's heart races, as he leans in closer. "I fell in love with you the day we first met," he says, brushing his lips against hers.

She feels her breath catch in her throat as he presses his lips against hers.

Firecrackers explode in the distance, but the couple is too caught up in their own moment of passion to notice.

~~~

"You and the Carnie had the ride all planned out, didn't you?"

He chuckles. Standing up, he walks to her side. Smiling at Katelyn, he bends down on one knee.

Realizing what he's about to do, she starts tearing up.

Taking her hand into his, he gazes into her eyes. "Katelyn Rose Howard, I love you with my heart, body, and soul. You're my one and only true love, my soulmate. Will you do me the honors, and be my wife?"

"Yes, oh yes," she cries.

The couple enjoys the fine dining and dancing until the wee morning hours.

"This has been the best night of my life," Katelyn says, tottering across the parking lot. Katelyn's been feeling the effects of the Champaign for several hours.

"It's not over yet." He smiles, helping her inside the car.

"There's more?"

"Our celebration is just beginning, my love."

"What about my curfew?" She giggles.

"Your father said we can stay out as long as we want."

"He's in on this too?" 

"Your parents helped put it together."

"That's why she was so teary."

Chuckling, John pulls onto a dirt road.

"Why are we going out here? Wait, this is where you took me on our first date." 

"We're not going to get rained out this time." He smiles, glancing up at the starry sky.

She sees an RV parked off the main road, dim lanterns hanging around the site.

"Someone has a romantic weekend ahead."

"Yeah, us," he says, pulling alongside the camper.

"You did all of this for me?"

"Do you like it?"

"I love it, John." Hopping out of the car, she starts looking around.

"Why don't you change into something more comfortable, while I start a fire?"

"I didn't bring anything with me."

"Check the car."

She sees a few of her outfits folded neatly on the back seat.

"You thought of everything."

"I hope so."

A few minutes later, Katelyn steps out of the RV completely naked.

"Didn't the clothes fit?" he asks, adjusting his growing bulge. He's been wanting to make love to her for quite some time, but after her experience with an overzealous orderly, he didn't push the issue.

"I thought this is more appropriate," she says, lying on the blanket beside him.

"Are you sure, honey?" he asks, now painfully hard.

"I haven't been surer about anything in my life."

"Have I told you how beautiful you are?" he asks, gazing into her eyes.

"I love you, John."

"I love you. You are and always will be my one and only love." He gently kisses her.

"And you're my one and only true love."

 She feels his hardness rub against her inner thigh when they kiss again. This stirs a yearning between her legs, something she's never experienced before.

 Slipping his hand down her sensual body, he starts fondling her V. John feels her area moisten as he continues to play. "Let me show you how a woman is supposed to be treated." He moves his warm lips down her sexy body. She softly whimpers, her body trembles from his touch. He wraps his tongue around her nipple, his finger rubs her slit.

 "Don't stop, oh, please don't stop." She moans, spreading her legs out further. His fingers slip inside, as his thumb massages her button. Sliding her hand inside his pants, she wraps her fingers around his hardness. He groans in delight. She feels his manhood sliding back and forth as his fingers move in and out. 

"Please John, please make love to me," she begs, trying to undo his pants.

~~~

Seeing Katelyn naked beside him, John smiles. That was one passionate night of lovemaking. He feels his bulge spring to life as he recalls the fervent events. Rising up on his elbow, he gently kisses her lips. 

She sees his handsome face staring down at her when she opens her eyes. It wasn't a dream. She smiles, gazing into his deep baby blues.

"Good morning, my love."

"Good morning my handsome prince." 

"Did you enjoy yourself last night?"

She feels her desire build from the mere mention of their sultry night. "Very much so, how about you?" she asks, reaching for him. She feels his body tense up as she slowly moves her hand down his chest.

"What do you think?" he asks, feeling her warm fingers wrap around his manhood he moans.

"I think it's time for another round," she says, pulling him on top of her.


Chapter 3
Falling to Pieces

By Mistydawn

The following weeks are very busy for Katelyn and her mother as they diligently prepare for the wedding. Just when they think they have it all figured out a problem arises and they have to start all over.

A secretary from the wedding chapel was the first to spoil their plans. Apologetically she calls, saying they're overbooked, but can do it the next day. Deciding to postpone their celebration until the following week, they start informing every one of these changes.

Madeline finds that the printers are so backlogged they haven't begun. Hoping her luck continues, she quickly informs her florist.

The owner informs her they can't do it that day, referring her to another business. The second flower shop is willing to do it for twice the cost. This extra expense throws their budget awry. After reworking their disbursal several times, Madeline manages to squeeze it in.

She then calls their caterer who informs her he'll be out of town that week, suggesting another business. Once this is settled and their dinner carefully planned, they discover John's parents are vegans. Something John assumed Katelyn already knew.

"We'll just serve them something different, honey. I'm sure our caterer won't mind."

"I swear if one more thing goes wrong John and I will just elope," she screams, stomping upstairs.

"You're having this wedding whether you like it or not, Katelyn Rose." Madeline wasn't sure which is more exhausting, planning Katlyn's wedding or fighting with her over every detail.

"I can't get a damn thing done with you two cackling like a bunch of old hens," Stan yells from the doorway. Marching back into his study, he slams the door. She hears Katie close her door, followed soon after by Katelyn.

"Why don't we all slam doors," Madeline yells. She hears the girl's door open then slam again.

"Is everything alright, Mrs. H?" John asks, nervously stepping inside.

"Katelyn is having another one of her fits," she says, plopping down on the couch. Her emotions are in such disarray, she feels like crying and screaming at the same time.

"I'll go see if I can calm her down," he says, running upstairs.

Madeline is working on seating arrangements when she sees John and Katelyn laughing as they're walking down the stairs.

"I'm sorry I acted like such a child, mom." Smiling at John she continues, "Do you need help with anything?"

"No, I think I've got it all worked out now."

"Is it alright if I watch a movie at John's house?"

"Go, have fun," Madeline says. She figures she can get more done when Katelyn isn't disputing every little thing she does.

***

Katelyn and John are snuggling on the couch waiting for their favorite movie to start. It's these tranquil times that helps Katelyn get through the tedious weeks.

Although she takes all of her meds, she occasionally hears soft whispers of the voices in her head. Sometimes, she'll see something and wonder if it's real. Every once in a while an irrational thought will creep into her head. It's John's love and support that helps her work through these lingering symptoms.

"We'll be watching TV in our own house soon, Katelyn," John says, cuddling up closer.

"I can't wait."

"Me either." Glancing around, he continues. "Upgrading from my basement apartment is long overdue."

"I like your room." He has the furniture arranged so it looks like two smaller rooms instead of one huge area. The front section contains a worn out sofa, matching recliner, and an older model TV. A partition separates it from the back which holds his bed and dresser.

"My parents won't be back for a couple of hours." Leaning in closer, he moves his hand down her sexy body.

"Whatever do you have in mind?" She smiles, feeling his fingers slide inside her panties.

"This." Leaning over, he starts kissing her as he massages her button.

"I like how you think," she moans, kissing him again.

***

Katelyn is startled awake by a loud bang. Glancing around, she realizes she's still in John's bedroom. She hears someone shuffling around upstairs, followed by a door slamming too. She then sees the kitchen light gleaming down the stairs.

"John, wake up, your parents are home," she whispers.

"Huh, what?" he groggily asks.

"Your parents are home." Scooping her clothes off the floor, she starts throwing them on. Being very religious, his parents will come unglued if they find her naked in his room. She sure doesn't want their marriage to start off with resentment.

"My parents, oh my God, my parents are back." Springing out of bed, he grabs his pants and throws them on. Looking over, he sees Katelyn fumbling with the tiny buttons on her blouse. Good luck with that, he thinks, remembering how he struggled to get them undone. Of course, his excitement and her roaming hands didn't help his fumbling fingers.

"Son, something's come up and we need to talk about it," his father replies, clomping down the stairs.

John sees Katelyn shimmying out of the small window when he nervously glances across the room. I hope she hurries. Looking back, he sees his father walking down the remaining stairs.

***

Climbing through her bedroom window, Katelyn grabs her cell phone and quickly dials John's number.

All the furnishings in her room are antiques, from the vibrant three tiered vanity table to the colorful bed and its matching dresser. Her mother found the set at a flea market when she was little.

 Oh, why isn't he answering? Hanging up, she tries again. He doesn't pick up the second time either. I hope he didn't get into too much trouble. Sighing, connecting the phone to the charger. Hearing her mom walking down the hall, she scrambles to her bed. Mom will come apart if she finds out that I'm just getting home. Katelyn pulls the covers over herself as Madeline opens her door.

"Love you, sweetheart," Madeline replies, gently pulling her door to.

"You too, mom," she whispers. Katelyn starts thinking about how wonderful she and John's lovemaking is. How their bodies, their souls seem to magically intertwine into one. The amazing feeling she gets afterward, a euphoria, like this is the way it's meant to be. Imagining his muscular arms wrapped around her, she drifts off into a deep peaceful sleep.

***

Katelyn wakes up to find the morning sun shining through the window. I need to call John, see if he's alright. She unplugs her cell and quickly dials his number. Her call goes straight to voicemail. Something is definitely wrong.

"You better hurry if you don't want to be late for work," her mother yells through her door.

Grabbing clean clothes out of the closet, she quickly throws them on.

"No time for breakfast," Katelyn says, dashing downstairs.

"At least eat some peanut butter toast." Madeline hands her a piece of bread. Snatching it out of her mother's hands, Katelyn darts outside.

"Have a great day," Madeline yells, watching her daughter rush across their lawn.

"You too, mom."

Running over to John's house, she breathlessly knocks on the door. Come on, come on, someone, anyone, please answer the door, she begs, knocking louder. This isn't like them at all, she thinks, checking to see if it's locked. Feeling the knob turn in her hand, she opens the door just a tad.

"Hello, is anybody home?" There's no reply.

"John, Wanda, Bill?" No one answers.

"Someone, please answer me," she begs. Their house remains perfectly still. She gets this overwhelming feeling of dread like something is terribly wrong. Unable to contain herself any longer, she bursts through the door.

Katelyn first notices an assortment of items scattered across the floor. Looking around, she sees bare walls where pictures used to be. Glancing into the dining room, she discovers their tableware is missing as well. Running to the basement, she darts down the stairs.

It looks like his room was hit by a natural disaster, she concludes. She sees a trail of clothes scattered across the floor. Looking over, she notices his closet doors standing open, nothing remains inside. What is going on? She's trying to make sense of the situation when she sees a piece of paper taped to the window. Snatching it up, she starts to read.

Dearest Katelyn

My Mom and Dad were run off the road last night. The FBI believes it was an attempt on their life, carried out by the same ones that were after us in Chicago. The police think it's best if we move to a safer location with new names, identities like we did before. I begged them to let me bring you too. Believe me, Katelyn, I pleaded relentlessly with them for hours. I even asked them to let me stay, but they wouldn't agree. I promise you, Katelyn, that I'll come back for you, as soon as we get settled.

Until then, I want you to know I've treasured every second we've spent together. It's these precious memories stored deep in my heart that'll help me get through the tough times ahead.

If you ever feel sad, just remember, you have someone who will always love you no matter how far apart we are. You're in my thoughts, hopes, and dreams now and forever. You are and always will be my one and only, my true love, my soul mate for life. Nothing, not even time or distance will ever change how I feel.

Love you forever and always with all my heart.

John

She reads the letter over again, hoping she's misunderstood.  Anger and betrayal flood her senses as she reviews his note.  

"You promised you'd stay with me forever, John, forever! Didn't that mean anything to you, didn't it?" she yells, pacing across the floor. "What about all the nights we spent together making love? Didn't you feel something then? Please, John, please tell me I meant something to you, that I was more than a lay," she sobs, collapsing on his bed.

The voices in her head start laughing.

"Stop that," she screams.

"You should've known better, Katelyn. Letting someone get close to you like that, all the empty promises and the hollow I love you's. John had you falling head over heels, didn't he? You should've realized he's only saying those things to get in your pants."

"No, he didn't."

"Yes, he did. You're nothing more than a pathetic loser, Katelyn, a nobody and that's what you'll always be." The voice chuckles.

"Shut up," Katelyn screams.

"You can deny it all you want, but you know it's true, don't you?"

"You're wrong, John does love me. He does, he does," she bawls. Remembering what she learned in therapy about controlling her voices, she starts concentrating on the memories of her and John. Their walks home from school, picnics in the park, walking hand in hand down by the lake under the starry sky. All the nights they spent cuddling on his couch, watching their favorite shows, his romantic proposal and their hot passionate sex that followed.

"Why did you have to leave me, John, why? How will I ever survive without you? You're my rock, my everything; I can't possibly go on if you're not by my side. I can't, I just can't," she sobs, cuddling his pillow.


 


Chapter 4
Broken Hearts

By Mistydawn

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of sexual content.

Katelyn's world crumbled around her the day John left. Her will to live soon followed. She'd sleep most of the day, only getting up long enough to use the restroom, and get a sip of water. If Madeline is lucky and very persistent she might be able to convince Katelyn to eat a couple of bites. More times than not, the plates are shoved away.

"Get that crap out of here, Mom," Katelyn screams, plopping down on the bed.

"You need to eat a little something, Honey."

"Why should I? I don't have a reason to live now that John is gone."

"He'll be back."

"It's been nearly a month, Mom, a stinking month. He promised he'd be back, he promised me, he promised," she sobs, throwing the covers over her head.

"Starving yourself is not going to bring him back any faster."

Katelyn moves the covers away from her face. "He's not coming back for me, Mom, he's not, he's not. He's probably glad he got away when he did." She'd abandoned all hope that he'll return weeks ago.

"You know better than that, Katelyn."

"Do I, Mom, do I really? Look at me, Mother, look at me. Who'd want to put up with this?" she sobs.

"You're a beautiful young woman with a heart of gold and a lot to give."

"I'm a mental case, that's all I am, a screwed up mental case that no one will ever love. Why was I even born, Mother, why? Why can't I just be normal like everybody else? Oh, why can't I just be normal? I'd give anything to be like everyone else, anything," she bawls.

"It'll be alright, honey, I promise everything will be alright."

"How will it ever be alright again?"

***

Madeline is scraping off the untouched food in the trash as their last argument replays in her mind.

She can't go on like this, she just can't, but I don't know what else to do. She's already called Katelyn's doctor for advice.
 
~~~

"According to the law, she has the right to refuse."

"So she can starve herself to death and we can't do anything about it?" Madeline questions, pacing back and forth across the room.

"We can only intervene if she becomes a threat to herself or others."

"Well, I'm not going to sit idly by and watch her waste away. I can't, Liz, I just can't."

"Forcing her to do anything against her will is illegal," the doctor sternly warns.

"What about slipping medicine in her water?"

"Not only is that dangerous, it's also illegal and you can face some serious consequences if anyone finds out."

~~~

Madeline decides that any legal problem she may encounter will be worth it if it'll save her daughter's life.

Hearing her door open, Madeline grabs a fresh plate of food from the fridge. I have to get in there before Katelyn does, she concludes, trying not to spill as she hurries down the hall.

Madeline nervously situates herself on the bed waiting for the fireworks to begin. Katelyn's been in a volatile mood all day, so she can only assume this won't turn out well. I have to do this for Katelyn's sake. She glances towards the door. Ready or not, here we go. Madeline takes a deep breath, trying to prepare for their battle.

Seeing her mom sitting on the bed, Katelyn hesitatingly steps into her room. I don't have enough strength to fight her again, Katelyn thinks, slowly trudges towards her bed. "I've already told you I'm not eating, so you might as well give up."

"You're not going to lie in this bed and starve yourself to death if I can help it, Katelyn Rose."

"Why do you care, why does anyone care, for that matter?"

"I do care about you, Katelyn, I've always cared about your well-being."

"Since when, Mom?"

"Since you were conceived."

"Is that why you're so eager to get me out of the house?" she asks, crossing her arms in front of her.

"What makes you think that?"

"I overheard you and dad talking in his study."

"I don't know what you think you heard, but I don't want you to leave. In fact, I'd be thrilled if you decided to stay with me the rest of your life."

"Well, I'm still not eating." She tries to climb in bed, Madeline moves over. She tries the other side; Madeline lies down.

"I'm not moving until you take a few bites, Katelyn."

Katelyn tries to crawl in beside her, Madeline stretches across the bed.

"I'll stay here all night if I have to," she says, spreading out farther.

Realizing she's out of options, Katelyn gives in. "Fine, I'll take a bite." Grabbing the fork off the desk, she shoves food in her mouth. "Are you happy, now?" she asks, clanking the silverware against the plate.

"Take two more bites and then I'll leave you alone."

Grabbing the utensil, she scoops a few bites in her mouth.

"One more," Madeline coaxes.

"That was two, Mom."

"It won't hurt you to eat one more, will it?"

Katelyn picks up the fork again. "Fine, one more, but that's it." Shoveling another bite in her mouth, she turns towards the bed. "Now go," Katelyn grumbles, through a mouthful of food.

"Thank you."

"Whatever." Grabbing a pillow she throws it over her head.

"Sweet dreams, my love." See you at breakfast. Smiling, she steps out of the room. I think you got most of your medicines, Madeline concludes, walking down the steps.

***

Madeline is tidying the kitchen when Katelyn steps in the room.

"Good morning, Mom."

"Well, good morning. I was just about to bring you some breakfast."

"Don't bother, I'll eat it right here," she says, sitting down at the table.

"It looks delicious," she says, digging into the eggs.

Madeline watches as Katelyn finishes her plate. The medicines always have increased your appetite, she smiles.

"You look nice, today."

"Thanks."

"Are you going somewhere special?"

"I'm going to look for a job."

"You are?" she questions, surprised by the change in behavior.

"Yes, I figure it's about time for me to support myself. I am an adult now, and it's about time I start acting like one instead of moping around like some love-sick child." She glances at her watch. "I better go." Taking a sip of coffee, she rushes out the door.

"Good luck, sweetheart," Madeline yells.

"Thanks, Mom."

She was finishing Katelyn's dishes when Stan walks in the room.

"Why's Katie in such a hurry for?" he questions.

"That wasn't Katie that was Katelyn, she's going to look for a job."

My little talk did work.

 It wasn't a talk really, it was more of a lecture, him voicing disapproval of her behavior. He shamed her for putting her family through hell, saying she was being selfish, and childish. He then said he's giving her a week to either find a job or another place to live.

"It's about time she got off her ass, pulled her weight around here," he says, storming out the door. 

According to Stan, his precious Katie can do no wrong, whereas Katelyn couldn't do anything right. He'd praise Katie for every little thing while pushing Katelyn to the side. This has caused resentment between the girls and a lot of bloody battles.

***

Katelyn is reminded of John everywhere she looks. There are times when the memories become so overbearing she doesn't think she can stand it any longer. I can't give up I just can't. She tries to redirect her thoughts. No matter what she does, the flashbacks continue to surface. To make matters worse, the voices in her head have tormented her all day.

"You might as well give up, Katelyn," her voice whispers again. Ignoring the disturbance, she steps into the business.

"Can I help you?" a stuffy older gentleman questions as she steps up to the counter.

"Yes, I'd like to apply for your sales job please."

"I'm sorry miss, but that position has already been filled."

"No, it hasn't, he's just telling you that because he doesn't want to hire a mental case like you." The voice laughs.

"Do you have any job openings?" Katelyn asks.

"That was our last position."

"Liar, liar, pants on fire," the voices begin to chant. Shut up already.

"Thank you." She starts to walk away when the manager replies:

"Fill out this application and then we'll set a time for your interview."

Furious, Katelyn spins back around. She sees he's talking to a thin, busty blonde. She's wearing a short skimpy dress that leaves little to the imagination. Stepping up to the counter, Katelyn pushes the bimbo aside. "You want to see boobs, is that it?" Lifting up her shirt and bra she continues. "I have just as much as she does, only mine are real. Here, feel for yourself." She grabs his hand and places it on her breast, he quickly pulls away. 

"Not used to feeling the real thing?" She laughs.

"We're going to have to ask you to leave, Ma'am."

Katelyn sees two guards standing on either side of her.  She quickly pulls her shirt back down.

"Get this...this woman out of my sight," the man orders, tossing his nose in the air.

Grabbing her arms, the officers lead her towards the back.

"Let me go, let me go," she protests as she's being escorted across the store.

"Don't ever come in here again," the officer warns, shoving her out the door.

Regaining her balance, she spins around. "F you and your damn job," she yells, stomping her foot on the ground.

"You don't want to work for him, anyhow," a deep sultry voice says.

She sees a tall, strapping Latino man leaning against his motorcycle. He has long black hair; is as dark as a starless night. His alluring brown eyes with their lustful gaze makes her quiver. The white T-shirt stretches tightly across his chest with his large brawny arms crossed in front of him. Katelyn feels her knees weaken as she stares at the ravishing man.

"He's a real asshole, canned my sister last week for being a few minutes late." Seeing her start to tear up, he pulls her against him. "Don't cry, honey." 

Her heart melts when he wraps his arms around her. "He was my last hope," she whimpers.

"There'll be other jobs, I promise."

"I'll be living on the streets if I don't find a job soon," she sobs.

"You've had a hard day, huh?"

Katelyn shakes her head.

"I think you need a little pick me up," he says, handing her a joint.

She nervously looks around.

"No one comes back here."

"I don't smoke," she says, pushing his hand away.  When John found out she'd tried it, he came unglued, threatening to leave if she did it again.

"It'll make you feel better.."

I did like it, besides, John's not here anymore. "I guess it won't hurt." 

"Easy there, girl," He laughs, as she's coughing up a lung.

"You're right, I do feel better."

"How about we take this party back to my place?" He gently rubs his finger down her cheek the way John used to do.

Oh, how I miss that. She recalls how John's hand feels when he explores her naked body. The way his hot lips suck on her nipples, as he plunges deep inside her.

"Why don't you let old LB take you away from it all?" he whispers, nibbling her earlobe. His finger moves down her neck to her cleavage. "I can make all your pains go away." He smiles, pinching her hardened nipple. "It'll be pure bliss."  He moves his hand further south.

She feels the wetness between her legs as his fingers travel down her body.

Oh God, what am I doing? What about John?

"John is never coming back," the voice replies.

"You know you want to, baby." Putting her hand on his crotch, he moves it up and down. "Think about how that'd feel inside you."

She feels his magical fingers slip inside her panties. Moaning, she continues to stroke his manhood.

"What do you say, baby, want to take this someplace private?" he asks.

Her breath catches in her throat as he slides his fingers inside her.


Chapter 5
Bad Choices

By Mistydawn

Katelyn stumbles into their house at three in the morning, still strung out from partying the night before. This has been her routine for the last few months. Ever since her dad gave her an ultimatum, to either find a job or another place to live. She's even come up with the perfect cover for her revelry. Katelyn has her parents believing that she works third-shift at the chicken plant, flashing her friend's paycheck stub and a little money when they question her. Cash she's earned from selling her lover's drugs.

I didn't know working at the factory could be so much fun. She giggles, bumping into a small end table. "Who put that there?" She chuckles, staggering towards the stairs.

Lucas, her lover, introduced her to a new line of pharmaceuticals, pills she's never heard of. Although, she enjoys their high, his white powder is her favorite. This, coupled with his wild love making stirs a hunger, a lust deep inside her. A yearning she didn't know existed. Sometimes, it gets so intense; she thinks she's going to lose her mind.

She's halfway up the stairs when the hall light flips on. Squinting from the sudden brightness, she glances up.

"Hi, Daddy," she hiccups, weaving back and forth. Feeling like she's about to fall, she grabs the banister for support.

"What the hell do you think you're doing, coming in so late?"

"I'm just getting home from work," she smirks.

"Your foreman told us that you haven't worked there in weeks."

"Yes I have, Daddy, I even have check stubs to prove it."

"Don't you mean your friend's check stubs?" he asks, holding up a small piece of paper he continues, "I know all about your little con, Katelyn."

"I can explain, Daddy. I ah..."

Stan raises his hand to stop her. "I will not tolerate you lying to me, Katelyn."

"I'll never do it again, Daddy, I promise," she tearfully blurts out.

"Damn right you won't. I want you to pack up your shit and go."

"But, Daddy," she protests.

"You heard me, Katelyn; I want you out of my house by the time I get home tonight."

"Don't you think you're being a little hard on her, Stan?" Madeline questions, stepping up beside him. She's had to be the go-between for years.

He spins around. "I will not tolerate you undermining my authority any longer, Madeline," he furiously states, slapping her across the face.

Turning, Madeline timidly places a hand on her throbbing cheek.

"Do I make myself clear?" he questions, balling up his fist.

Madeline glares at him, tears streaming down her cheeks. "Yes, Stan." Bastard. This isn't the first time he's taken his anger out on her, nor will it be his last.

"I'll go, Daddy, I'll go," Katelyn cries, stumbling back down the stairs.

"You have until tonight to find somewhere to live," he says, marching down the hall.

***

Madeline has been working on the storage area above their garage all day. She figures that if Katelyn is careful, she can live there undetected for a few weeks. That should give her enough time to get a job.

"It's almost 4:00, Katelyn," Madeline says, shaking her slumbering daughter.

"Not now, Lucas."

Lucas? "Honey, it's mom, you need to wake up before your dad gets home."

"Fine." She rolls on her back, exposing her pale naked body.

Shocked by all of the bruises, Madeline shakes her again. "Katelyn, honey, wake up, we need to talk."

Katelyn sees her mom standing over her when she opens her eyes. Realizing she's naked, she pulls the covers around her. "What, mom?"

"How did you get all of those bruises, Honey?"

"I fell."

"Did Lucas do that to you?"

"How do you know about him?" she questions, securing the covers in front of her, she sits up.

Madeline sees bruises running down her spine. "You muttered his name in your sleep."

"Oh." She smiles.

"Who's Lucas?"

"He's just a guy I know." She pictures his well-toned body standing naked in the doorway. A hot sex machine, she smiles, feeling the burning desire between her legs.

"No man has the right to lay his hands on you, Honey."

"You're one to talk."

"What happened between your father and I is different, I shouldn't have misspoken."

"He'd like it if you didn't speak at all."

"Well, he's going to be home soon, so we need to get you out of here."

Katelyn was hoping she'd managed to change his mind. "I don't have anywhere to live," she cries.

"Yes, you do, get dressed and I'll show you."

A few minutes later, the two slip out their back door.

"You want me to stay in the garage?" she alarmingly questions. It started out as a garage but turned into a storage unit through the years.

"No, silly, you'll be staying in the apartment above it."

Grabbing her hand, she pulls Katelyn towards the stairs.

"I'm not living in that clutter."

"For God's sakes, Katelyn, come on." Aggravated, Madeline pulls her up the remaining steps. "Well, what do you think?" she asks, throwing the door open.

"You did this for me?"

"Do you like?"

"I love it, but what will he say about me staying out here?"

"If you're careful, he'll never know."

"I hope you're right."

"I do too." Lifting up her hand, Madeline touches her swollen cheek. "He might let you move back in when you find another job."

"Or maybe I can rent this place," she says, plopping on the couch.

Laughing, Madeline glances at her watch. "You have just enough time to pack a few things and get back here before your father gets home."

"Katie doesn't know about this, does she?"

"Of course not." They found out a long time ago anything they tell her goes straight to Stan.

"You get some clothes together and I'll get you some food," Madeline instructs, walking towards the house.

Katie is sitting at the table when they step inside.

"Hi, Honey, how was school today?"

"It was the usual crap. Isn't she supposed to be gone by now?"

"Don't worry, you'll have Daddy to yourself soon," Katelyn sarcastically replies.

"I can't wait. I think I'll ask him for your room." Seeing Katelyn getting angry she smiles.

"You have to stop her, Mom."

"She won't touch your room, Honey."

"We'll just see what Dad has to say about it." Katie gives her mom a sassy, you can't do anything about it look.

She's right, Stan will give her whatever she asks for, despite my protests. Madeline gloomily concludes. "That's enough, Katie. Katelyn, you better get a move on if you want to get your things packed before Marge gets here." She winks at Katelyn.

"Aunt Marge is coming?"

"Yeah, she's taking me to my new apartment, the one above her garage that you like so well. Have fun with Daddy, squirt." She messes up Katie's hair as she walks past.

"I better make sure she doesn't steal my stuff," she says, jumping up from her chair.

"Don't go causing any trouble," Madeline warns.

Smiling, Katie bolts out the door.

Madeline is bagging up some food when she hears a commotion upstairs. I knew I should've kept them separated.

 When she reaches the landing, Madeline sees Katelyn sitting on top of her sister. "Stop it; Stop it, right now," she screams, running towards her girls.

Katelyn slowly turns towards her mother, an evil look in her eyes.

Seeing her daughter's face, Madeline freezes in mid-step.

"Honey, I'm home," Stan announces, closing the door behind him.

"Help me, Daddy; please help me," Katie begs.

He sees Katelyn sitting on top of Kate's bleeding body when he dashes upstairs. Running over, Stan pushes Katelyn away.

Katelyn starts pounding on her father as he scoops Katie off the floor.

"You should've stopped her, Madeline," Stan hisses, rushing past her.

"I tried, Stan."

"You were standing there watching when I came up," he screams, marching down the stairs.

Reaching the front door, Stan spins back around. "This is the last straw, Madeline, the last straw! I want you and that demonic teenager out of my house," he orders.

"Oh please, don't do this, Stan," she cries, running to the porch. "Please, don't let our marriage end this way," she bawls, watching his tail lights vanish down the road. Madeline starts to turn towards their house when a patrol car pulls into the drive. Not now, she gloomily concludes, wiping tears off her face. Taking a deep breath, she begins.

"Can I help you, officer?"

"We got a disturbance call from one of your neighbors," Rachel explains, walking to the porch.

"The girls got into an argument, but it's over now."

"I'd like to talk to them, please."

"Katie isn't here, she just left with her dad."

"Can I speak to your other daughter?" Glancing at her notebook, she continues, "Katelyn, please?"

"Did dad send you here to escort me off his property?" Katelyn asks, walking down the steps.

Rachel sees blood on her T-shirt and her swollen knuckles. She then notices a red trail leading down their stairway to the front door.

"Where did all this blood come from?" Rachel questions.

"It's mine; I had a nose bleed earlier and must have got some on my shirt," Katelyn says.

"What about your knuckles?" Rachel points to her hand.

"I did that when I punched a wall."

"Did you and your sister get into a fight, earlier?"

"Yeah, she borrowed some of my clothes without asking; I got mad, and started yelling at her."

"Did you hit her?"

"I wanted to, but, I hit a wall instead."

"Can I talk to you a second, Sergeant?" Her partner asks, walking across the lawn. 

"Don't go anywhere," Rachel instructs, following her partner. "What is it, Jerry?"

"Captain just got a call from Stan Howard. Evidently, he's rushing Katie to the hospital because Katelyn beat her up. Kirk is meeting him there to get a formal statement."

"What does our Captain want us to do in the meantime?"

"He wants us to arrest Katelyn for aggravated assault."

"I'll handle it," she says, walking back to the porch.

"Katelyn Howard, you're under arrest for aggravated assault."

"I didn't do anything! Mom, please tell them that I didn't do anything."

"No, don't take her away," Madeline begs, watching the detective secure handcuffs in place.

"Please tell them it wasn't my fault, that I have a condition, please mom, please tell them," Katelyn tearfully begs as she's being escorted out the door.
 


Chapter 6
The Aftermath

By Mistydawn

After finding a lawyer to take Katelyn's case, Madeline rushes to the hospital. She knows Stan won't be happy to see her, but she wants to make sure Katie is alright, before heading to the jail. It'll be quicker if I go through here. She nervously walks through the ambulance bay.

"You can't go through there, lady." A paramedic says, popping his head out of the vehicle.

Madeline jumps from the sudden noise. Try and stop me, she thinks, stepping through the doors. She sees Stan standing in front of a small room in the corner when she scans the halls. Taking a deep breath for courage, she hesitantly walks towards him. Let the fighting begin, she sighs, as she draws nearer.

"You have some nerve showing up here, Madeline," Stan says in a tiff.

"She's my daughter too, Stan," she argues bravely. She sees him ball up his fists. Hit me in public, Stan, do it, I dare you. She glares into his eyes.

Noticing a large group walking around, he reluctantly drops his hands to his side. "You sure didn't act like a loving mother at my house, letting Katelyn beat Katie to a pulp."

"I didn't let her do anything."

"You sure as hell didn't try to stop her, now did you?"

He's right, I didn't do anything, she downheartedly concludes. She's been replaying that horrid scene over and over in her mind, trying to figure out why she did what she did. The only thing she can come up with is that she let her own fears get the best of her. "I...I was scared, Stan I..."

"So you let Katelyn pound on our baby to save your own ass? Some mother you turned out to be. Mom was right about you, you are a poor excuse for a wife and a mother." Stan's mom hated her from the moment they first met, she let Madeline know as much every chance she got.

"Well, no thanks to you, Katie is going to be alright."

"Oh, thank god," she says, breathing a sigh of relief.

"I still expect you and Katelyn out of my house when I take Katie home in the morning."

"Surely, you don't mean that Stan," she cries, glancing up at his reddened face. 

"Damn right I do, I want you both gone by morning."

"Daddy?" a frightened voice murmurs from the room.

"I'll be right there, Princess."

"Hi Katie, honey, I'm so glad you're alright," Madeline says, trying to move around Stan.

"I never want to see you again, mom, ever," Katie tearfully screams.

"Please don't do this to me, Honey," Madeline begs.

"You did this to yourself, Mom, when you chose her over me."

"I didn't choose her over you, I..."

"You heard her, Madeline she doesn't want to see you."

"Please, Honey, let me explain."

"You let Katelyn beat me up, Mom, you let her beat me up," she bawls.

"I think it's best if you leave now, Madeline."

"I want to see my baby," she yells, pushing Stan out of the way. His rounded body stumbles sideways, knocking a tray over as he tries to regain his footing. He tumbles to the shiny white tiled floor, the reciprocal contents clank beside him.

"Is there a problem here?" a security guard questions, stepping up beside them.

"Yes, my daughter doesn't want to see her and she's refusing to leave," Stan says, trying to get off of the floor.

"Is that true, Miss?" he asks, peeking in the doorway.

"I never want to see her again," Katie tearfully blurts out.

The officer turns towards Madeline. "I'm going to have to ask you to leave, Ma'am."

"I want to see my daughter; I want to see my daughter," Madeline cries.

***

Joe, the Berryville Police Captain is walking back and forth in a cold, cement interrogation room, strategically planning his next question. A fluorescent light flickers dimly above him, adding to this unnerving setting. In all of his years on the force, he's found this strategy quickly breaks a suspect. Rachel, the sergeant, and Joe's wife is standing off to the side.

Katelyn watches as a brawny officer paces briskly in front of her. Tears are running down her blood-streaked face as she tries to explain.

"All I wanted was for her to leave me alone, but she wouldn't go away, she wouldn't go away," Katelyn bawls.

"So you threatened her with a ball bat and when that didn't work, you lost your temper and started hitting her with it," Joe says, leaning across the table.

"I didn't use a bat, I used my fists, see." She shows Joe her bloody knuckles.

"Then why did we find a bat in the hallway with her blood and your fingerprints on it?"

"I don't know."

"Why does your dad claim you were hitting Katie with a bat?"

"Dad is lying; he always lies about me, always. To my doctors, my teachers, and everyone else he talks to."

"Why do you think he does that, Katelyn?" Rachel questions. Sitting down beside her, she places her hands on top of Katelyn's shaky ones.

"He hates me. He's hated me from the moment I was born," she bawls. Stan frequently tells her what a huge disappointment she is.

"Does your mom hate you too?" Joe asks.

"No."

"Then why did she say she saw you with a bat?"

"Mom wouldn't do that to me."

"I have her statement right here." holding up a piece of paper he continues, "It says here that you were hitting Katie with a bat when she ran upstairs and that you threatened to hit her with it if she came any closer."

"No, I'd never say that to mom, ever."

"Read it for yourself." He lays the paper down beside her. "I think you started hitting Katie with your fists, she said something that really pissed you off and you grabbed a bat out of the closet and started hitting her with it."

"No, that's not what happened, it's not, it's not." Katelyn bawls.

"Then explain to me how the bat ended up a few feet from where Katie was lying.

"I don't know how it got there, honest," she cries.

"Don't say another word, Katelyn." A well-dressed gentleman says, stepping through the door.

Joe sees his long-time rival when he turns around. It was his enemy's mergers that put a lot of honest, hard-working town-folk out of work. "I'm surprised to see you here, Jack. Are the hostile takeovers a little slow this month?"

"I'm helping out a friend, pro bono, of course."

"How nice of you," Joe says, every syllable dripping with sarcasm.

"Unlike some, I still have a heart. Now if you'll excuse us, my client and I have a lot to discuss." He starts to face his client when a nettling comment comes to mind. "Why don't you be a good little boy and fetch me your DA. Oh, and bring a cup of coffee for my client and lots of sugar."

Joe sees his Detective in the hallway when he storms out of the room.

"Do you need something, Jerry?" he barks.

"I wanted to let you know that Katie Howard has a few minor cuts to her face, and a broken arm, but other than that she's fine."

"That's good."

"They still want to keep her overnight for observation."

"I imagine so."

"Katelyn was screaming about her condition when we arrested her, so I did a little digging and found out she was diagnosed with schizophrenia when she was eight."

"This is turning out to be a lot like my cousin Emma's case," Rachel says. It was the first case she helped Joe and Jerry solve. Her cousin Emma went off her meds and started killing men who'd harmed her when she was little.

"Do you think that's what happened to Katelyn, Rachel, lack of medicine made her lose control?"

"That's what happened to Emma. She said she knew killing all those men was wrong, yet something inside her clicked when she saw them. She said it was an impulse, she just couldn't control." Watching their suspect from the mirror, Rachel continues, "But Katelyn acts differently than what Emma did."

"How's that?"

"Emma walked and talked really fast, barely taking a breath between sentences. She was always moving even when she was sitting and she had these strange, wild looking eyes. When you looked closer it was like no one was there, like she was in a trance, a hypnotic state or something. I didn't see any of that with Katelyn."

"You're right, she doesn't act that way at all. To me, she seems more like a defiant bully whose only remorse is not finishing the job."

Rachel sees Katelyn sobbing at the table. "I don't think she was trying to kill her, Joe. I really don't. I think she was just trying to shut her up like she said. Seeing an inquisitive look on Joe's face, she continues. "I know how annoying little sisters can be. How they seem to pester you at the worst possible times, won't leave you alone no matter what you say or do. It's very easy to lose your temper if you're not careful." Her mind flashes back to all of the time she threatened to pound her two sisters.

"So you think that's what happened, she got mad, and took it too far?"

"I'm not sure what to believe, Joe."

"I've gotten a fair share of whelps from my brothers." Jerry pipes in. He's the youngest of six.

"You and me both," Joe chuckles, feeling his jaw. It never healed right after getting clocked by his brother.

Hearing shuffling behind them, they turn to see who it is.

"Have you questioned our suspect yet, Captain?" the DA asks, stepping up beside them.

"I was trying to, Allen, but the hot-shot mouthpiece shows up and ruins my plan," Joe says.

Allen sees Jack Campbell sitting by their suspect when he glances in the room.

"Did she tell you anything?"

"She denies using a bat on her sister, said she only hit her with her fists."

"I have sworn affidavits from her father and sister that state differently."

"You have one from her mother, right Joe?" Rachel questions.

"A forged statement, no one's been able to locate her since Katelyn's arrest."

"She isn't at the hospital?"

"No, evidently Katie refused to see her. Madeline made such a commotion that she was escorted off the premises."

"Poor lady, she probably doesn't know which way to turn."

Hearing the interrogation door open, they glance towards it.

"My client is ready to give her statement now. You might want to hear this, Allen; it'll explain my rationale for this defense." Smiling, he walks back to his client. Seeing everyone piled in the room, he turns towards Katelyn. "Tell them what you told me."

Katelyn timidly glances up from the table. "I've been off my medication for over a month so I have no control over my thoughts, my actions."

"What medicine is that Katelyn?" Jack prompts.

"Antipsychotics, I was diagnosed with schizophrenia in second grade."

"I have a signed statement from her doctor." Reaching in his briefcase, he pulls out a piece of paper and hands it to Allen. "As you can see she's refused all treatments for nearly two months. This has caused a decline in her mental status which led up to Katie's attack." He hands him another piece of paper. "Judge Carlson wants to see us in her chambers first thing in the morning. In the meantime, I'm having her involuntary committed to a state hospital."

"Commit me, no, don't send me back there; please don't send me there," Katelyn tearfully begs, grabbing a hold of Allen's hands.

"Your mom and I agree that it's in your best interest."

"No, I won't go back, I won't, I won't," she screams, jumping up from her seat. Her chair clatters to the floor.

"I'm not going back there, I'm not, I'm not." She pushes the table over.

"You need to calm down, Katelyn," Jack warns.

"I'll calm down when you say you're not going to send me away."

"Boss, these men are here to pick up Katelyn," Jerry says, stepping into the room.

Katelyn runs towards the door. "Get out of here, get out, get out, get out," she yells, pounding on the EMT's chest.

Running over, Joe grabs a hold of her and drags her away.

"Let me go, let me go," she screams, squirming around, trying to break free of his hold.

Joe looks up to see two men running towards him.

"Hold her still, Sir," one man instructs, uncapping a needle.

"Be sure to get her and not me," Joe says, nervously eyeing the long, sharp object.

"I haven't got the wrong one yet." Smiling, the paramedic plunges it into Katelyn's leg.


 


Chapter 7
The Verdict

By Mistydawn

Discovering that Katelyn is on a 24-hour lockdown at the mental hospital, and Katie refusing to see her, Madeline wasn't sure what to do with herself. One thing for sure, I don't want to be alone in this empty house any longer than I have to, she shoves a few outfits into her suitcase. She thought she could handle being by herself, but every corner, scuff mark, every scar in the wood held a special memory.

After speaking to her Lawyer about Katelyn's case, she asked about what Stan had said. He told her that her husband would have to prove there is an immediate threat to either him or Katie if an ex parte exclusion order isn't granted. He then went on to say, that the only other way to get her out of their house would be a divorce, but since the house is marital property, it and all of their other assets will be divided between them.

Madeline was all set to stay, claim what's rightfully hers. Then her friend Marge calls and ruins her plans. Of course, Madeline's recollections only adds to her friend's already convincing argument.

~~~

"It's my home too, Marge, and I'll be damned if that bastard is going to kick me out without a fight."

"You know how violent he can get, Madeline. A home even one as nice as yours isn't worth risking your life for."

"It's not about the home, it's about principle, besides, I can take care of myself."

"Like you have in the past? If anyone needs an exclusion order it should be you against him."

Madeline recalls all the times he's beaten her. All of the bruises, broken bones that she's suffered through the years. All the lies he forced her to tell about how she acquired her injuries. She then remembers the little boy she miscarried when Stan pushed her down the steps. She tearfully moves her hand down to her empty stomach. "I'll stay in the apartment above the garage."

"Oh, no you're not, I'm not having you live in that filth. You'll stay here with Rob and me."

"The apartment is clean, Marge; I did it for Katelyn when Stan kicked her out."

"Does it have running water and electricity?"

"A stove and refrigerator too."

"I still don't like this idea, Madeline, living so close to that asshole with no protection."

"I'll be fine, really I will."

"I want you to keep your door locked when he's there, and if he even acts like he's going to break it down I want you to call the police, hear me?"

"I will, Marge," she sighs.

"You promise?"

"Yes, Marge, I promise."

"I'm coming over first thing in the morning to check on you. If I feel like you're in any danger you're coming home with me whether you like it or not, understand?"

"Yes, Marge, I understand."

~~~

I know she means well, but sometimes she can be exhausting. Grabbing her suitcase, Madeline slowly trudges to the door. She sees family photos neatly arranged on their walls when she glances up. Her massive collection starts at the far bedroom. It works its way around their circular hallway and down the steps.

We've had some good times in this house, she tearfully concludes. Running her fingertips around the picture's cherry-colored frame she moves to the next. The events of that day start replaying in her mind as she gazes at the picture.

~~~

It was Katelyn's first day of school and she was bubbling with excitement.

"Hurry up, Daddy," Katelyn says. Grabbing the tail of his jacket, she pulls him towards the door.

Stan almost spills coffee on himself from her sudden tug. "I'm coming princess, I'm coming," he says. Taking one last sip, he places his cup in the saucer.

"Wait, guys, I want a picture."

"Oh, mom," Katelyn says, aggravatedly stomping her foot.

"Say cheese." Katelyn makes an ugly face as Madeline snaps the photo.

"Let's go, Daddy."

"You're not going anywhere until I get a good picture of you two."

"Make it quick, Madeline, I have an appointment in twenty minutes."

"Smile." Madeline quickly snaps a photo.

"Have a good day, Honey," Madeline says as Katelyn bolts out their back door.

~~~

She was your little princess, the apple of your eye until you realized she was mentally ill. Madeline pictures all the time they spent playing in their backyard. How Stan used to chase her around, the way he acted like an overgrown kid. Madeline moves on to the next photo. It was taken on their family vacation. We were so happy then, so happy, she concludes as she continues to scan their pictures. "Where did I go wrong, Oh, where did I go wrong?" she bawls, trudging down the stairs. "I tried to keep peace in our family, I really did, but I failed, I failed. I'm a failure as a mother and a wife. Everything I've ever tried to do has been a big catastrophe. I'm a flop, a disappointment to everyone around me. Oh Lord, why do you let me go on, why? Why was I even born? Maybe I should go somewhere far away from here, from them; from everyone, so I won't screw up any more lives." Grabbing her keys off the table, she heads out the door.

***

Stan was happy to see that neither Madeline nor Katelyn was at their house when he arrived the next morning. He was settling Katie on their couch when someone pounded on the front door. They better not bust it down, he grumbles, quickly walking towards it. He finds Madeline's bothersome friend impatiently tapping her foot when he opens the door.

"Where is she, Stan, is she alright?" Marge asks, rushing past him.

"Where's who?"

"Madeline, where is she?" Realizing the room is empty, she spins back around. "You better not have hurt her Stan," she warns, poking her finger into his hairy chest.

"I didn't do a damn thing to her, Marge."

She starts scanning the house as she pushes past him. "Madeline, honey where are you?" she calls out.

"She's not here, Marge."

"What do you mean she's not here? What did you do to her, Stan, what?" she demands.

"I didn't do anything to her. I haven't seen her since she left the hospital yesterday."

"I better not find out that you hurt her, Stan," she says, glaring into his eyes.

"Aunt Marge," Katie exclaims, running towards her.

"Hi, Honey, how are you feeling?"

"Much better now that daddy gave me some medicine."

"That's good, Honey." Giving Stan an evil eye she continues. "Have you seen your mother today?"

"She wasn't here when we got home."

"Maybe she's visiting Katelyn at the jail." He grins.

"Katelyn didn't go to jail, asshole, she went to the state hospital."

"I hope they keep her forever."

"That's an awful thing to say about your sister, Katie, just awful," Marge scolds.

"Well, that's where she belongs, on a ward with all of the other crazies."

"Maybe they'll lock Madeline in there too." Stan chuckles.

"I hope so, Daddy."

Marge gasps at their response. "I can't believe you two are saying this, after everything that Madeline's done for you. All the sacrifices she's had to make to keep you two ingrates happy. Personally, I don't think either of you deserves someone as wonderful as her." She stomps towards the door, turning back around at the entranceway.

"If I find out you did anything to her, Stan, so help me God..."

"I didn't do anything to that psycho, I swear."

"Then why are the police coming to your door?"

Stan glances up to see two officers stepping onto their porch.

"Mr. Howard, can we talk to you a minute, please?"

"What's this concerning?" he asks, walking towards them.

"Have you spoken to your wife lately?"

"I haven't seen her since she visited Katie at the hospital yesterday, why?"

"We discovered her car at the bottom of a ravine early this morning but she wasn't inside."

"Oh my God, you did hurt her, you did," Marge tearfully blurts out.

"Can I speak to you a minute, Ma'am?" Rachel asks, pulling her onto the porch.

Jerry, Rachel's partner finishes questioning Stan.
 

"Do you have an alibi for last night, someone who will say they saw you?" Jerry asks.

"I've been at the hospital with my daughter all night. So, I imagine any of the staff will say they saw me."

"Daddy slept in a chair right beside my bed." Katie smiles, clinging onto her father's arm.

"You didn't leave the room at all last night?" Jerry questions suspiciously.

"I'd never leave my princess's side." He smiles, glancing lovingly at his daughter.

Jerry's all for the father-daughter bond, but their relationship seems a little bit too cozy for his comfort. "Well, if you hear from her call me," Jerry says, handing him a card.

~~~

"Why do you think he hurt her?" Rachel begins.

"He's very abusive to her and the girls. Well to Madeline and Katelyn, he wouldn't lay a hand on his precious Katie."

"You've seen him hit her?"

"No, but I've witnessed him busting things to pieces when he's angry. I've also seen the bruises, broken bones afterward. Check her hospital records you'll see I'm not lying to you."

"Did she ever tell you he hit her?"

"She always makes up excuses on how she got hurt, but I've worked with a lot of battered women, I know all of their excuses, the signs."

"What is your name?" Rachel questions, glancing up from her notebook.

"'I'm Marge Tucker, Madeline's best friend."

"I'll be sure to look into it, Marge. If you hear from her, please have her call the station."

"I will, Officer."


***

Rachel is skimming through page after page of hospital reports as she walks towards her desk. I wonder why we weren't notified? She wonders as she continues to read.

The hospital has a legal obligation to report suspected abuse, yet many don't get reported because of the confusion between the HIPPA laws, the patient's right to confidentiality, and state laws.

"Marge is right, Jerry, Madeline has been in the ER numerous times this year."

"I've talked to the hospital staff and they all claim that Stan didn't leave Katie's side for a minute."

"I still believe he has something to do with her disappearance."

"I do too, Sergeant, but unless we can find something to dispute his alibis, or find evidence to support our opinion there's nothing we can do."

"I know Jerry, I know," she gloomily replies, plopping down at her desk.

***

Katie is healing nicely, but strangely enough, she doesn't seem a bit concerned about her mom's disappearance, or the fact that her sister's trial is going sideways.

Many believe that Katelyn's lawyer botched up her case. For every expert witness her attorney called, the DA had two that conflicted their findings. The one solid piece of evidence Jack was relying on to support Katelyn's case wouldn't pass the Frye standard, that it's generally accepted, which makes it inadmissible.

"All rise, the court is now in session."

Katelyn glances at her lawyer as she nervously stands up.

"I'll file an appeal as soon as this is over," Jack whispers, already certain of the outcome.

"You may be seated. Has the jury reached a verdict?"

"Yes, your Honor."

Taking a piece of paper out of the forelady's hand, the bailiff hands it to the judge. Reading it, the judge hands it back.

"What say ye?"

"We the people find Katelyn Rose Howard guilty of aggravated assault."

"No, please don't do this to me, please. I can't go to prison I just can't. Can't you see I'm sick, that I need help? I need help, I need help," Katelyn cries.

"Bailiff, remove her from my courtroom," the judge orders.

Two officers grab a hold of Katelyn.

"Leave me alone, leave me alone," she screams as they're leading her towards the door. Glancing over, Katelyn sees a smile on Katie's face as she clings onto her father's arm.

"I hope you're happy Katie, I hope you're fucking happy," Katelyn screams as she's shoved through the door.



 


Chapter 8
Taking a Stand

By Mistydawn

Marge is rushing around her house trying to get to her shop on time. She owns a craft store on the square. She's usually there by now, but Rob woke up feeling a little frisky. One thing led to another and now she's running late. It'll be at least 9:30 before I get there, she thinks, glancing up at the small clock. Grabbing her purse off the kitchen table, she rushes through the house. She runs into Madeline when she steps onto the porch.

"Oh, my gosh, Honey, where in the world have you been? We've all been worried sick about you," Marge says, pulling her friend in from the rain.

"I went to see my aunt in Georgia," Madeline weakly explains.

"I wish you would've called and let me know where you were and that you're alright."

"You're right, Marge, I should have called and told you."

"Darn right you should've and If you ever do that to me again, so help me God..."

"Oh Marge," Madeline cries, falling into her friend's arms.

Feeling her best friend sobbing against her, Marge's anger quickly melts away. "It'll be alright, Honey. You'll see, everything will be alright," she soothingly replies, hugging her friend.

"I almost did it, Marge, I almost did it?" she bawls. Madeline's body starts trembling as she relives that horrid night. She remembers the cold darkness hovering all around her, enclosing her heart, her being, making it difficult to breathe. The way feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness soon follow, strongly reinforced by her inner voice. 

"You almost did what, honey?"

"I almost killed myself, I almost killed myself," Madeline sobs.

***

Joe, the Berryville Police Captain, and his three detectives are gathered around his desk. They're hoping that reviewing their case will help them come up with a new lead.

Joe has been with the department twenty-five years. His first five were spent on the street, ten years as a detective and the last ten as their Captain.

"So, we know that Madeline Howard was driving her car out of Berryville around 8:30 that night. Approximately twenty minutes later, her car takes a nose dive off of the bridge," Joe begins.

"Right, and our team confirms that her car didn't malfunction," Kirk says. He's been with the department twelve years. He spent five in their lab, two as a beat cop and the remaining five as a detective.

"Was she drinking?" Joe asks.

"Her friend Marge says she doesn't touch the stuff, and there isn't any evidence to prove otherwise," Jerry replies. He's been with the department twenty years, fifteen as a detective. He was Sergeant for nearly a year, but health issues forced him to step down.

"Since we didn't find her, we can assume that she hitched a ride out of town. The tip line didn't give us a single lead, so, we don't know who, or to where." the Sergeant states. Rachel has been with the police force twelve years, the last two as a Sergeant. She's married to Joe and they have two children together, Joe Jr. who will be five and Lizzy who turned two last month.

"We do know that she didn't use public transportation," Jerry says.

"What about her phone records, her social media accounts?" Joe questions.

"She doesn't have a social media account, but her cell phone shows the last call she made was to her lawyer and her last incoming call was by her friend, Marge. Both took place right before she left the house. When I asked them about their conversations, her lawyer said Madeline asked about Katelyn's case then about Stan kicking her out of their house. Her friend, Marge said that Madeline was planning on staying in the apartment above the garage. She said Madeline was originally planning on staying at their house but she talked Madeline out of it because of Stan's violent nature. Stan confirms that Madeline's suitcase and a few of her outfits are missing." Kirk explains.

Joe scratches his head. This is something both he and Jerry do when they're in deep thought. "Stan's alibi is solid?"

"Yes, Sir."

"So maybe she thought about her situation and decided to stay somewhere else. Does she have any family?"

"She's an only child and both of her parents are deceased, Boss," Jerry says.

"Does she have any distant relatives?"

"I'll look into it, Sir," Kirk says, running to his desk.

"Jerry, see if forensics has anything. Rachel, check on our tip line and our APB," Joe orders.

***

After twenty minutes of sobbing in her doorway, Marge was able to coax Madeline over to the couch.

"So, you've been at your cousin's in Georgia all this time?" Marge questions.

"I had to get away from it all, from them," Madeline cries, remembering the horrid things that her family had said. She understands why Katie said what she did. Her child felt hurt, betrayed, by the one person who's supposed to be there for her, to love and protect her. Stan, on the other hand, had no right to say what he did.

"You know that you can stay with me anytime you want."

"I know Marge, and I appreciate it, really, I do. It's just that with everything going on, I felt like I'd  suffocate if I stayed a moment longer."

"I understand, Honey. I'm just glad you're alright."

"Thanks, Marge," she says, over her growling stomach.

"Let's see about getting you into some dry clothes and get you something to eat."

"I am kind of hungry." Madeline's stomach rumbles again.

"I'd say you're more than a little hungry. You go upstairs and take a hot bath, I'll see about getting us some lunch."

Madeline starts to leave when she sees keys dangling from her friend's hand. "Oh Marge, I'm keeping you from something."

"It can wait."

"Are you sure?"

"I'm positive, now go."

"Do you think I should call Stan and let him know I'm alright?"

"Let asshole worry. Oh, but I do need to call the police and let them know you're here."

"The police?" Madeline gasps.

"Yeah, they've been searching for you for weeks."

"We can't tell them I'm back, we just can't," Madeline anxiously exclaims.

"Why not, Honey?"

"They'll want to know where I've been."

"Just tell them the truth, that you were visiting your family."

"How will I explain my car?" she nervously questions.

"You were upset and lost control."

"Do you think they'll believe it?"

Marge sees the worried look on her friends face. "Tell you what, we'll hold off on notifying them, alright."

"Thanks, Marge."

"Now go take a bath before you freeze to death."

***

"Katie honey, you better hurry if you don't want to be late for school," Stan yells, quickly piling breakfast dishes into the overflowing sink. This house has gone to pot since Madeline left. He scans the disaster area that vaguely resembles a kitchen.

He's tried hiring domestic help, but they always seem to quit within a few days. One lady stated that no amount of money is worth putting up with him and his unruly daughter.

Stan didn't think he's that bad. He has orders to follow, a list of things that need to be done, but what employer doesn't? Besides, his directions aren't too demanding, it certainly isn't anything Madeline wouldn't do herself.

"Come on Katie, you're making me late," he yells, glancing at his watch.

"I decided I'm not going today," she says, walking into their kitchen. Seeing that she's still in pajamas angers him even more.

"What do you mean, you're not going to school?"

"I just don't feel like it, alright?"

"No, it's not alright. You're going to march yourself back up those stairs and get dressed right now."

"I don't want to," she says, plopping down in a chair.

"Katherine Elizabeth Howard!"

"That's my name, don't wear it out."

Furious, Stan storms towards her. Grabbing a handful of golden hair, he tries pulling her out of her seat. Katie wraps her feet around its legs, hoping to hang on. Stan tugs as hard as he can. Katie and the chair fall to the floor.

"You're going to school, young lady," he says, dragging her out their back door.

"Help me, somebody, please, help me. Daddy's hurting me, he's hurting me," she screams, as Stan drags her across the back porch.

"What's going on over there?" a scratchy voice asks.

Stan glances up to see Mrs. Jones, the neighborhood gossip, standing on her back porch. That's all I need, miss busy-body calling the police. "You want to stay home, fine, stay home, flunk out of school, and be a loser like your sister." He splashes mud on his clean suit as he stomps towards his car.

"I knew I'd get my way." Smiling, Katie picks herself up. "Thanks, Mrs. Jones," she says, walking back inside.

***

Marge is warming up some soup when Madeline bolts through the door. Turning, she sees her friend is completely naked.

"Marge, Marge, something is wrong with Katie, I just know it. I have to go see her, I just have to," she quickly blurts out.

"You certainly can't go like that." Marge laughs.

"I'll get the car you get dressed, I mean..."

"I know what you mean, Honey. Why don't we just call her instead?" Chuckling, Marge picks up her phone and dials Madeline's house. Hearing it ring, she hands it to her friend.

"Katie honey its mom, how are you? He what? When? I'm coming right over."

"What was all that about?" Marge asks, removing their soup from the stove.

"Stan hurt my baby, he hurt my Katie," she exclaims.

***

Madeline sees Katie sitting on the couch when she storms into their house.

"Are you alright, do you need to go to the hospital?" she asks, quickly checking her over. Not seeing any injuries, she sits down beside her.

"It was awful, Mommy, just awful," Katie cries, falling into Madeline's arms. She's learned how to manipulate her mom by watching her sister, Katelyn.

"There, there, honey, it'll be alright. I'm here now and I'll make sure that he never hurts you again."

"I'm so glad you're back, Mommy, I'm so glad you're home," she sobs.

A few weeks ago you were hoping your mom would be locked up with your sister. I guess being daddy's little princess isn't as glamorous as you thought it'd be, Marge concludes, watching the two weep in each other's arms. "Are you ready to get a restraining order now, Madeline?"

"A restraining order?" Katie asks, pushing away from her mom.

"Yeah, it'll keep your father away from you two," Marge explains, sitting down beside them.

"I don't want to do that. It'd just kill daddy, I'd kill him," Katie sobs.

"He certainly can't go on hitting you guys either."

"Marge is right, Honey, we can't let him keep getting away with it."

"No, I won't do it, I won't."

"What if he hurts you worse next time?" Marge asks.

"There won't be a next time I know there won't."

"That's what I thought too, Katie, but there will always be a next time, and each time he'll be more violent than the last."

"I don't care, I'm not doing it."

"You can put a restraining order on him, Madeline," Marge suggests.

"I don't have any proof."

"Hospital records are all the proof you need."

"But I lied to everyone about my injuries."

"Any judge will see right through it."

"Please mama, please don't do this," Katie begs.

Madeline looks into her child's pleading eyes.

"Everything will be alright again if you come home, you'll see."

"It'll be alright for her, but what about you, Madeline? You have to consider your well-being too."

"You stay out of this, Marge. This is a family matter and it doesn't concern you," Katie yells.

"It most certainly does concern me, little missy. Did you know that your mom almost...."

"That is enough," Madeline screams. She sees Stan walking through the door when she glances up. All of his abuse, his harsh words comes flooding back, immobilizing her for a second.

"What the hell are you doing in my house, Madeline?"

"It's our house, Stan, and don't you forget it," she yells, stomping towards him.

"How dare you speak to me like that," he screams, bawling up his fist.

"Go ahead and hit me so I can claim self-defense." Smiling, she pulls a black revolver out of her pocket.

"No, don't do it," Marge yells, leaping off the couch.
 


Chapter 9
Free at Last

By Mistydawn

Katelyn spent three years in prison, with frequent trips to the mental hospital for med readjustment. On her last visit, her doctors fought to keep her longer, knowing what going back would do to her declining mental status.

After reviewing her records and finding that her condition is stable, the board of managers annulled her doctor's conclusion, forcing them to release her back to Arkansas Department of Correction's care.

Wanting to do what is best for their patient, her doctors refused to sign the proper forms. The board threatened to fire all of their staff if they didn't return her to jail immediately. Left with no other alternative, the workers sadly watch as an officer drags her to his car.

"Please don't let them take me, please! I'll be good, I promise I will," Katelyn cries, reaching out for them.

"That's, enough," an officer scolds, pushing her away.

"I'll die if I go back there, please don't let me die, please, I beg you, don't let me die," Katelyn bawls.

Not being able to stand her heartbreaking pleas a second longer, the staff tearfully walks back inside.

"Don't worry, Betty, she'll visit again soon."

"I sure hope so," she cries. She's attended to Katelyn during each of her visits. Although she can be a handful at times, Betty has grown very fond of her and worries about what jail will do to her both mentally and physically.

Betty knows that Katelyn is only one of thousands that should be in a mental institution instead of prison. She also realizes that with their limited funding and bed space the hospital can't possibly house everyone who needs their assistance. It's a broken system, with no plausible solution in sight. Betty figures the only thing she can do is take care of her patients, for the duration of their stay and pray for their safety when they're forced to leave.

"I just hope she'll be alright," Betty sobs, stepping into their day-room.

"We all do, Betty," the doctor agrees, slowly walking away.

Katelyn didn't return, despite the obvious need for medical assistance. When her actions become out of control, the warden orders her to solitary confinement, until her release. Being enclosed in a cold, empty cell twenty-three hours a day only advances her depleting mental status.

Katelyn is sleeping on a worn out mattress in the far corner of her room when she's woken by keys rattling outside her door.

It's not free time already, is it? No, it can't be I haven't eaten breakfast yet. Sitting on the edge of her bed, she gazes around her damp, dreary room.

Katelyn knows she would've gone completely insane months ago if the guards didn't allow her to wander outside this depressing hole in the wall an hour a day. She still isn't allowed to see anyone during her free time, but at least she's able to get out of her small enclosure, move around a bit. Every four days, her time is extended long enough for her to take a quick shower if she's behaved.

Curious about her irregular visit, she swings her legs over her bed. Her feet land on something wet and soggy. Disgusted by the squishy substance under her toes, she pulls her feet back up and starts rummaging for her shoes.

She learned in school that harmful bacteria grow in conditions like these, but she figures, even hardy microorganisms wouldn't thrive in these surroundings.

She's still searching for her shoes when a bright light fills her small cell. Squinting, she glances across her room; she spots a large gray rat scurry into the hallway. See you later, George, she thinks, watching the rodent dart out of sight.

She was frightened of the furry creature in the beginning, but after the first month of being locked down by herself, she started looking forward to his visits. Soon after, she started giving him scraps of food, hoping that'd entice him to return.

"Miss Howard, you're free to go."

"I....I don't understand," she stutters.

"What's to understand? You served your time and now you're free to go."

Katelyn sat at the edge of her bed in disbelief. Can it be true; am I really out of this hell hole for good? She looks back at the guard, expecting to see him laugh, but his face remains sober.

"Hurry up, I don't have all day," he gruffly orders, stepping into her room.

"What about my clothes?"

"I'll give you five minutes to shower and change."

I really am free, she thinks, feeling giddy inside. Suddenly, a sobering thought comes to mind. "I don't have anywhere to go."

"Sorry, that's not my problem," he says, slapping cuffs on her wrists.

Hurried through their exiting process, Katelyn is given a $50 check and a bus ticket before she's rushed out the back door.

"The bus will be here in a few minutes to pick you up. So let me be the first to congratulate you on your release and wish you the best of luck." A guard says, opening the remaining gate.

I'm going to need all the luck I can get. She turns back around. Although the prison's conditions leave a lot to be desired, at least she has a roof over her head and food in her stomach. Now, she isn't certain where she'll go, or when she'll eat next.

Noticing her hesitate, the guard curiously asks. "Don't you want to leave?"

"I don't have anywhere to go," she cries.

"Your family won't take you in?"

"No, they disowned me when I was arrested and I'm sure all my friends have moved away."

"Hold on," he says, running back inside. A few minutes later, he comes back with a business card in his hand.

"I called a halfway house; they said they'll take you, for a little while."

"Oh, thank you, thank you so much," she cries, hugging him.

He pushes her away. Seeing the hurt look on her face, he quietly explains. "I don't want them to think I've gone soft." He nervously glances around.

"I understand," she whispers. Grabbing the business card out of his hand, she continues. "I will report to my PO first thing in the morning, Sir," she yells.

"See to it that you do." Leaning over, he whispers, "My ass is on the line here, so you better not screw it up, got it, Miss Howard?"

"I won't, I promise." She winks.

"You better get down there, because he won't stop if he doesn't see anyone."

"Thanks again," she whispers, running towards the highway.

 He knows he shouldn't get personally involved with prisoners, but there is something different about that girl, a special quality that tugs at his heartstrings.

***

She's dropped off at an unfamiliar corner on the outskirts of town. Looking around, she sees abandoned buildings on either side of the street. Newspaper and other debris are blowing wildly in the wind.

This can't possibly be the right place. She looks at her card, then back at the road sign. Maybe conditions will improve in a block or two. Carefully stepping around rubbish, she continues down the blighted sidewalk. The ruins seem to worsen the further she travels. At least I'm free, besides, it's only temporary, she reasons.

The address ends up being a rundown motel on the corner of fifth and main. She feels her stomach tighten into a large hard knot when she stops in front of the building. Don't be ungrateful, Katelyn. It's a roof over your head and food in your stomach and that's all that really matters at this point, her inner voice scolds. She takes a deep breath to calm her nerves before stepping inside.

Noticing a group of odd-looking people sitting in the corner, Katelyn nervously hurries past them. The group starts laughing as she rushes by. Angry, she spins back around. She sees the youngest member pointing and chuckling at her. As she stares in disbelief, teasing she received from her classmates starts replaying in her mind.

~~~

"Zombie girl, zombie girl, Katelyn is a zombie girl," the children chant, shoving six-year-old Katelyn from one bully to another.

~~~

"I'm not a zombie girl, I'm not, I'm not," she screams. The noisy room suddenly grows quiet. Realizing what she just did, Katelyn dolefully turns around. Seeing a guy standing behind a desk, she hurries towards him.

"Can I help you?" he asks, glancing up from his newspapers.

"Yes, my name is Katelyn Howard, I was told to come see you."

"Who sent you, honey?" he questions, searching through a list of names.

"The warden, he said you have a room for me."

"Actually, you'll be sharing a room with three other girls."

"I figured I might."

"We have house rules you have to follow," he says, handing her a piece of paper he continues, "if you break any of these rules you're out on the street, got it."

"Yes, Sir."

"The doors are locked at ten. If you're not inside by then, you'll find your stuff on the sidewalk in the morning. There will be no drinking or drug use. You'll find employment within the first two weeks and housing in 60 days."

"If I can't?"

"You'll be living on the streets. Since I'm not getting government funding for you, I expect you to do a few extra things to earn your keep around here. In fact, you can start right now." Grabbing her arm, he pulls her down a set of concrete stairs.

"You'll love my man cave." He smiles. Quickly unlocking the door, he shoves her inside.

"What do you think, honey?"

She first sees a red glowing bulb hanging from a chain in the center of the room. She then notices his large assortment of medieval-looking devices scattered haphazardly along the wall. Frightened by the room's chivalric decor, she tries to leave.

He grabs a hold of her arms and spins her back around. "Welcome to my chamber of love, darling." He laughs, locking the door behind him.

***

"Please, no more," Katelyn begs through teary eyes. He's had her in just about every sexual position known to man over the last few hours.

"I guess you've had enough fun for one night." He laughs, tossing Katelyn her clothes.

"Thank you," she timidly replies, pulling her shirt around her cold body.

He hungrily watches as she finishes getting dressed. That girl can make anything look sexy, he thinks, continuing to pleasure himself. He could've easily gone a couple more hours, but he didn't want to wear her out the first day. "Go on, get out of here. You better not tell a soul what happened down here, or else, understand?" he asks, unlocking the door.

She shakes her head.

"Good, I expect more of the same tomorrow," he says, slapping her behind.

"Which room is mine?"

"It's upstairs, second door on your right."

Nodding, she weakly climbs the stairs.


 


Chapter 10
Small Ray of Hope

By Mistydawn


"Put that thing away before you hurt yourself, Madeline." Stan laughs, walking towards her.

"I mean it, Stan, I'll do it this time," she warns, shakily holding the gun out in front of her. She's threatened bodily harm a few times before but has always chickened out in the end.

"No, don't do it, Madeline," Marge screams.

Stan reaches out and takes her gun away. "Get me some lunch, woman, before I use this gun on you." Inspecting her weapon he continues, "How are you going to shoot me without any bullets?" Chuckling, he continues, "You can be a real idiot sometimes," he gives her a cold, degrading look, the way her daddy did when she was a young child. Like Katelyn, she too couldn't live up to her daddy's high standards and was often told as much.

Lowering her head, Madeline slowly trudges towards their kitchen.

"No Madeline, don't do it, let asshole fix his own lunch. It'd serve him right for treating you and Katie like crap," Marge says, stepping in front of her.

"I've had just about enough of your meddling, Marge. I want you to get out of my house and stay out, you got that?" Stan yells.

"It's Madeline's home too and she wants me to stay, right, Honey?"

Madeline looks up at her, tears in her eyes. "Please, just go." Madeline quietly replies. Frightened, she glances back at Stan.

"You got your answer, so go."

"If he even threatens to harm you, or Katie you call me, alright?"

Madeline shakes her head.

"You hurt one hair on their heads and I'll be back, Stan, whether you like it or not. I guarantee that my gun will be fully loaded and ready to go." Leaning over, she kisses her friend's cheek. "You and Katie are always welcome at my house," she whispers. Straightening up, she continues. "I want you to call me if he even threatens to harm you." Glaring at Stan, she stomps towards the door, spinning back around in their entryway. "I meant what I said Stan, one hair, just one little hair and I'll become your worst nightmare!"

"You don't scare me," Stan laughs.

Angry, Marge storms over to where he's standing. Pinning his plump body against the wall, she glares into his eyes. "Don't think for a second that I won't pull the trigger on your sorry ass, the way I did your friend, Jimmy."

Jimmy was Marge's first husband. Like Stan, he was very abusive. A little under a month into their marriage, Jimmy suddenly disappears. Marge told the police he went on a hunting trip and never returned. They didn't believe one word of her story, but couldn't find anything to dispute it.

Shoving him a second time, Marge walks out their door. I'm going to take care of you, the same way I did Jimmy, you just wait and see. Smiling, she strolls to her car.

***

Katie decides to move in with her fiancee soon after graduating from high school, leaving Madeline a lot of free time. She finds most of her day is spent wandering aimlessly around their house, trying to find something to do.

Her friend Marge says she's suffering from the empty nest syndrome and that she needs to find a hobby. Something that'll occupy her time, take her mind off the girls. She suggests finding something she's always dreamed of doing but didn't have time for when Katie and Katelyn were home.

Madeline still hasn't figured out what that might be. She did adopt a few stray kittens hoping that'd help fill the nurturing she missed so badly. It did help a little, but she still wishes her daughters were by her side.

I know, I'll clean our basement. God knows it needs tending to, she concludes. Happy she's found something to fill her time, she rushes down the steps. "Oh look, Katie's school work." As she's sorting through papers she realizes they're all marked A's. You've always been a bright one, she thinks, recalling all the awards she's received through the years. Her mind starts thinking back to when Katie was a toddler.

~~~

She was a short chunky baby, with big blue eyes and bright red hair. She had a pale complexion and a trail of freckles running from the bridge of her nose across her chubby cheeks. She can still picture her waddling across the yard, trying to keep up with her tall, thin sister.

"Wait me, sissy," Katie would yell, chasing her around the yard. Katelyn would pretend to trip and fall. The toddler would run over and plop down on top of her sister.

"Giddy up horsey," Katie would say, hopping up and down on top of her sibling.

"Hang on." Getting on all fours, Katelyn would trot her sister around their yard.

~~~

I miss those happier days, Madeline sadly concludes, shuffling through the box. Maybe this isn't a good idea after all. Sniffling, she puts the container on the shelf. She sees a stack of paintings in the far corner when she turns around. Rushing to them, she starts looking through the assortment.

Katelyn's psychiatrist suggested art therapy, hoping it'd help her express herself, give her an outlet for her emotions. Katelyn was all for the idea at first but tired of their project after a few months.

Katelyn and I spent hours creating these pictures, I really enjoyed it too. These are actually pretty good if I say so myself. 

She remembers selling her art to a few college professors. The money she made wasn't enough to pay for tuition, but it helped cover some of her other expenses.

Maybe that's what I should do, yeah, why not? Happy she's finally found something to fill her time, she bolts up the steps.

***

Stan is sitting on the couch when Madeline walks through their front door. Her arms are loaded down with shopping bags from various stores.

"What the hell is in all those bags?"

"Art supplies, Stan."

"Why did you buy all that junk for?"

"I'm going to take up painting, again."

"When did you ever paint?"

"When I was in college."

"That was years ago, Madeline." Stan laughs.

"I know it was, but I enjoyed it so much I thought I'd get back into it again. I figure it'll give me something to do in my spare time, now that Katie is gone."

"If you want something to do, why don't you get a job, earn your keep around here?"

"I do earn my keep, Stan! I cook, clean, do the shopping, laundry and..."

"Speaking of cooking, where's my dinner, woman?"

"I have it right here. It came from your favorite Italian restaurant."

"Well, this better not become a habit with you. I work hard and expect my supper on the table when I get home."

Their first year of marriage, Madeline discovers that if she keeps the house the way he likes, have supper on the table and does as she's told, he's less likely to hit her.

"I know you work hard dear, and it'll never happen again." He hasn't struck her since Marge's threat, but she doesn't want to push her luck.

"It better not," he yells, slamming his fist on the table.

She jumps backward. "It won't, I promise."

She's as scared as ever, he smiles. "So how much did all of this cost me?"

"Not a dime, I used my allowance for all of it including your supper."

"I'd like to eat my dinner before it gets too cold. Bring me a scotch too," he orders.

***

With Stan sleeping in his recliner and housework complete, Madeline tiptoes to their back porch. She's hoping to organize her art supplies, so she can start painting first thing in the morning. Once she gets the beast off to work.

How dare he say I haven't earned my keep around here. I've worked my butt off cooking and cleaning for this family, keeping it organized the way he likes. I even gave up my hopes and dreams for him. I quit a high paying job, just so I can stay home and be the wife and mother he expects me to be. I've done a lot for him over the years, put up with a lot too. Now the kids are grown, I deserve a chance at my dreams. Glancing into their front room, she sees the big tub-of-lard snoring peacefully in his recliner. This angers her more. "I know you think this is all a waste of time, but you just wait, Stan. One day my paintings will make it across the globe."

***

It's been nearly two weeks since Katelyn's release. When she isn't pounding the pavement looking for a job, she's in his dungeon pleasuring him. She hates the idea of being his sex slave, doing all the kinky stuff he's into, but it has perks too. Besides giving her a roof over her head and food in her stomach, he gives her a little spending money. Of course, she has to allow the pervert to perform various BDSM techniques on her. Although these acts are humiliating and often degrading, she needs money for basic necessities. She's even managed to buy some nice clothes at a local thrift store.

I only have a few days left, so I better make every interview count. She nervously steps into a convenience store.

"Hi, can I help you?" the manager asks.

"Yes, my name is Katelyn Howard and I'd like to apply for a job, please."

"Fill out an application and bring it back." he informs her.

"Can I fill it out here?"

"I suppose," he says, turning to his next customer. Within a few minutes, she's back at the counter.

"That was fast," he says, grabbing the piece of paper out of her hand.

"I couldn't tell you how many of these I've filled out in the past two weeks." She smiles.

He continues to scan her application. "You didn't put down anything in the work history section."

"I haven't been employed before."

"You've never had a job and you're twenty-six?" he asks suspiciously.

"I had a fiancee who wouldn't allow me to work." She knew it was a lame excuse, but it's the only plausible lie she can think of.

"I take it you're no longer together?"

"No, I caught him cheating on me with my best friend."

"Well, I'm sorry honey, but I need to hire someone who has experience."

"I'm a hard worker and I learn fast," she quickly blurts out.

"I wish I could hire you, I really do, but I don't have time to train someone new. See our night cashier walked out in the middle of her shift, so everyone is pulling doubles until I can replace her."

"Thank you, anyhow," she solemnly replies. She thinks about all of the others who've turned her down as she trudges across the store. Rage builds inside her the closer she gets to the door. No, I'm not leaving without a fight. Turning towards the manager, she yells; "For two damn weeks, I've been looking for work, but was refused because I don't have experience. How in the hell is someone supposed to get experience if no one is willing to give them a chance? I bet you didn't have experience either," she says, pointing at him. Glancing around, she sees his customers are watching. This is your chance, Katelyn, don't blow it now. With every bit of inner-courage she can muster, she continues, "I bet none of you had experience, first starting out, but your boss gave you an opportunity to prove yourself. That's all I'm asking for, one damn chance to prove that I can do it." The crowd claps.

"You tell'em sister," an older gentleman states.

Seeing the situation is getting out of control, the manager picks up his phone.

"Don't bother calling the cops, I'm leaving." Shoving the glass door open Katelyn storms outside. Her hostility turns to grief as she steps into the warm afternoon sun. "Why won't anyone give me a chance, why?" she bawls, plopping down on the wooden bench.
 


Chapter 11
One Step Forward

By Mistydawn


Katelyn is sobbing on an old wooden bench when she hears footsteps walking towards her. Thinking it's the cops coming to escort her away, she springs up from her seat. "I'm just about to..." Realizing it's her old friend Carlos, she stops.

"I heard what you said in there, Katelyn and I think I can help."

"I'm not hooking for you, Carlos." Pulling the thin jacket around herself, she quickly backs away. 

"No, no, it's nothing like that, but now that you mention it." Reaching over, he gently strokes the side of her face.

She slaps his hand away. "Touch me again and see what happens."

"I always did like that feistiness in you." Chuckling, he continues."The fuzz is watching me real close so I need to get rid of as much product as I can." Seeing her hesitate, he decides to sweeten his deal. "I'll even split the profit with you fifty, fifty."

"You'll give me half, huh." I really could use the money, get me out of that hellhole I'm in, but I'd be doing something illegal. "I don't know about this, Carlos. I mean I'm really trying to do right this time, go straight, play by their rules and all." She thinks about what happened at the store. That's not working out too well.

"Well, I thought I'd offer, see you around." He walks away.

 I don't want to go back to prison, but what other choice do I have? "Hey, wait."

He turns back around.

"If I do this it'll only be temporary, until I find something legal, ok?"

"Meet me at the park in an hour," he says, stepping off the curb.

"Thanks, Carlos."

"Hey, Katelyn."

"Yeah?"

"Think about my other offer too." He winks.

"You wish."

Don't we all? Smiling, he walks away.

***

Madeline is busy in the kitchen when Stan storms into the room. Taking a deep breath for courage, she turns to face him.

"Good morning, Stan. Your breakfast will be ready in a minute. Fresh orange juice and a pot of coffee are already on the table."

"Are you going to paint today?" he asks, pouring himself a cup of Java.

"I was planning to, why?"

"I'm tired of coming home to that repulsive smell every night."

"I didn't realize it bothers you so much, Stan."

"Well, it does, besides you're too old to start a new career."

"If you remember correctly, Grandma Moses wasn't famous until she was 78."

"Well, you're no Grandma Moses and I don't want to smell paint when I get home, understand?" He shuffles towards their door.

"Yes, Stan. Aren't you going to eat breakfast before you go?"

"I'll eat at my office, where I can have an intelligent conversation with my meal."

***

Kately thinks about her agreement with Carlos as she waits for her first customer to show. I didn't want to do anything illegal this time, but if I don't do something soon, I'll be living on the streets like all the others.

Katelyn's nurse told her a lot of homeless use a system that'll give them shelter a couple weeks at a time. If they time it right, they won't be on the streets when a blizzard or heat wave hits. She said it's become a way of life for many since the government closed several hospitals and reduced funding on others. It's either this or the streets, she thinks, watching a bum scrounging through the trash.

***

Madeline is finishing her coffee at their kitchen table, thinking about what Stan had said.

"Who does he think he is, talking to me like I'm a brainless twit? Telling me I can't hold an intelligent conversation. I'm the one who was class valedictorian in college, not him. I could've had a great career too, but I gave it all up to please him. For thirty stinking years I've bent over backward trying to make him happy then he goes and treats me this way, acting like I'm a burden to him, a hindrance, someone he's forced to put up with, support." She thinks back to all the hateful things he's ever said to her. "How did our marriage come to this, how?" she sobs. "We were so happy in the beginning, so happy." She recalls all the fun times they had when their children were little. "Where did I go wrong, oh, where did I go wrong?" she bawls.

Hearing a light tap on the back door, she quickly glances up. Her friend Marge is standing on their porch. "I can't let her see me like this, I just can't." Using her apron tail, she quickly wipes her face. Be brave Madeline. She pastes on a fake smile as she opens the door.

"I'm so glad you're here," Madeline blubbers, pulling her friend inside.

"Why, what's going on, Honey?"

"It's Stan," she cries, falling into her friend's arms.

"He hurt you again, didn't he? I warned him what would happen if he laid his hands on you."

"No, no, he didn't touch me, Marge."

"What is it then?" she questions, feeling her friend's body trembling against her.

"Stan said I should stop wasting my time painting and get a job, earn my keep around here."

"Earn your keep? Honey, I bet you work harder on this house than he does at his job."

"I could do more," she sobs.

Marge glances around Madeline's immaculate kitchen. "You do plenty. Besides, you're not wasting your time painting, and I'll prove it."

"How?" she asks, wiping her teary face again.

"We're going to sell your paintings at the fall festival."

"I don't have a booth."

"Yes you do, mine," Marge hands her a receipt from her purse.

Madeline looks at the ticket, then back at her friend. "I...I don't know what to say?"

"The excitement on your face says it all."

"Oh Marge, thank you, thank you so much," she says, hugging her dear friend.

***

"You did really well today, Katelyn, sold double what Jimmy did." Handing her a wad of cash Carlos continues. "I have a young couple who is willing to rent you a room for a hundred bucks a month if you're interested."

"I won't have to do anything extra like I do at the halfway house, will I?"

"I doubt either of them is into all of that bondage stuff. Me, on the other hand." He reaches for her.

She grabs ahold of his wrist. "Touch me again and you'll be eating dirt," she warns.

Chuckling, he brings his hand to his side. "Do you want to see it?" Noticing her evil glare he nervously clears his throat. "The room I mean?"

Seeing him fidget, Katelyn smiles. "Sure."

The two pull up to a beautiful Victorian home a few minutes later.

"Their house is gorgeous."

"Keep working for me and you'll be able to afford a fancy house too."

"He works for you?"

"He helps me run another part of my business, making everything look legit. You'll love his wife Mariela, she's a sweet little thing."

Hearing someone yell, they both turn towards the house. A tall, thin man is running through his yard, a petite Italian lady is yelling at him from the porch.

"Well, most of the time." He laughs.

Noticing his boss's car Felice runs to it. "Hi, Carlos," he says, trying to catch his breath.

"What's going on?"

"Mariela is mad because I didn't pick up milk for our baby. I'll be right back."

"Do you think it's safe to go in?"

"Ah, she's fine."

"Maybe we should come back another time when things calm down," Katelyn says. She sees the lady walking towards them, lugging a chubby toddler on her hip.

"You can't back out now." Carlos laughs, climbing out of his car.

Katelyn hesitantly follows suit.

"You must be Katelyn, come in, come in," Putting her arm around her shoulders, Mariela guides her to their house.

Carlos hears laughter as they're walking up the stairs. I knew they'd hit it off.

***

"I can't believe I sold all of my pictures," Madeline says, excitedly walking back to Marge's car.

"I told you that your paintings are beautiful. So, where do you want to celebrate?"

"I can't Marge. I need to get back, do some housework and start Stan's supper," she says, glancing at her watch.

"The housework can wait, and I'll get you back in plenty of time to make asshole's supper. No, we're going to do something for you for a change, and I know just the place." She smiles, making a quick right turn.

"I really need to save my money for art supplies."

"This will be my treat," she says, pulling into a small strip mall on the edge of town.

"What is this place?" Madeline asks, looking around.

"It's a day spa."

"I've never been to one of them before."

"You're going to love it, Honey."

***

"Do you think you'll like living there?" Carlo's asks, pulling up to the halfway house.

"I love it already." She turns towards the building. "Do you think I should tell him that I'm leaving?"

"I'd just pack up my stuff and go."

"I hope I can sneak past him."

"Don't worry, I've got it all planned out. Gina is going to go in and distract him while you grab your stuff."

"Do you think she can keep his attention long enough?"

"Believe me, Gina will have him drooling so bad he won't know what to do with himself. Here she comes now."

An attractive blond is walking towards the building. She's wearing a tight, skimpy ensemble that exhibited her slim busty figure nicely.

"Oh yeah, he'll want to hit that." She laughs. She notices a strange look on Carlos' face.

"Don't worry, I'm straight."

"It's none of my business what team you play for. Although, that would explain a lot."

"Just because I don't find you irresistible doesn't mean I'm gay."

"You couldn't handle this anyhow," he says, grabbing his package.

Laughing, she shakes her head.

"Ok, go."

"Are you sure?"

"Go, go."

Katelyn is throwing her belongings into a duffle bag when she hears a loud commotion downstairs.

"This is a raid! I want everyone to put their hands where I can see them."

Scooping up her bag, she runs across the room.

"Freeze, police."

Katelyn sees an officer standing in the doorway, his gun pointing at her. You're not taking me back, she thinks, swinging her legs through the window.

 


Chapter 12
The Takedown

By Mistydawn

Madeline is rushing around her kitchen trying to get Stan's supper ready, thinking about her wonderful day. All the praise she received, the money she took in from selling her paintings. One gentleman even suggested she display her pictures at different shops around town. "I'm on my way to the top, Stan, whether you like it or not." Smiling, she scoops mashed potatoes into a bowl. "I might even have someone cooking and cleaning for me before long." She imagines how wonderful it'd be to have someone help with household chores when Stan's annoying voice echoes through their house.

"Honey, I'm home," he announces, slamming the door behind him.

Madeline jumps when the door thuds to.

"He would be home early," she grumbles, glancing at the clock. Grabbing dishes off the counter, she dashes through the door.

"Good evening, Stan." she nervously sets the dishes on the table. He's yet to hit her, but that could quickly change.

"That's much better," he says, plopping down in his chair.

"The house smells a lot better too. Guess you took my advice and gave up painting." He smiles smugly.

I'd like to knock that smile right off your face, Madeline thinks through gritted teeth.

"So how was your day?"

"I had a great day. Marg and I..."

"I'm glad honey, make yourself useful and get me a scotch."

"Yes, Stan."

"Bring me another fork too, this one is dirty. You haven't been using the dishwasher again, right? Because you know how I feel about that machine."

"Of course not, Honey." Grabbing the silver she heads to her kitchen. "I guess I didn't clean it well enough to satisfy the almighty king," she mumbles under her breath.

"What was that?"

"Nothing, Stan, nothing," she sighs, pushing through the door. "When I become famous things will be a lot different around here, you just wait and see."

***

Katelyn pushes herself off of the ledge, landing inside a large smelly dumpster. Hoisting herself over the top, she takes off down the alley. She notices a pricey sports car idling at the cross section when she gets a little further.

Looking back, she sees cops running towards her. She anxiously glances at the car again. I'd much rather take a chance with the driver than cops. She runs towards the vehicle.

She's only a few feet away when the driver door flies open. Katelyn slides to a stop causing a small dust storm to erupt around her.

"Come on, come on," Gina orders, motioning Katelyn to her car.

Opening the door, Katelyn jumps inside. Her door slams closed as they skid away.

"That was close," Gina says, speeding down the road.

"How did you get away?"

"I snuck out the back, how about you?"

"I jumped out a window and landed in their dumpster."

"I can tell." Gina coughs, rolling down the windows. "Where are your things?"

"They're by the dumpster. Do you think we can pick them up later?"

"It'll have to be a lot later because I have a feeling the place will be crawling with police for a long, long time," she says, watching cop cars zoom past them.

"What happened to Carlos?"

"He probably took off when the feds rolled up. I hope Mariela can find something for you to put on," she says, fanning her face.

"Do I smell that bad?"

"You sure don't smell like roses, Honey." She coughs.

****

Madeline is finishing up the dishes when Stan walks into their kitchen.

"You forgot a glass," he says, plopping it on the counter.

"Thanks, Stan."

"Our porch looks a lot nicer now that your art supplies aren't scattered all over the place. I'm glad you came to your senses and gave the whole thing up."

"Actually Stan, I sold all of my paintings at the fall festival this afternoon."

"All of them? I guess there are a lot of idiots in the world." Chuckling, he walks to the door. Having another thought, he turns back around. "Maybe they bought them out of pity." Laughing, he walks through the door.

"Out of pity my ass, everyone loved my paintings." She recalls how her customers tried to outbid each other on her two remaining pictures. I doubled my money on them. She smiles. Madeline remembers how they encouraged her to increase her prices, saying she's practically giving beautiful artwork away. She then thinks about the list of people who want her to paint for them. "One picture ended up in a fancy art gallery," she says, tossing the glass in the dishwater.

***

The ladies see police cars lined up on either side of the block when they pull onto Mariela's street.

"What's going on?" Katelyn questions, nervously scanning the scene. She notices yellow police tape strung around Mariela's yard when they get closer.

Frightened, Gina pushes the pedal to the floor.

"We have to stop," Katelyn says, glancing back at the scene.

"I can't, I have a warrant." Looking over at Katelyn she continues. "It'd be wise if you stay away too, at least until we figure out what's going on. Otherwise, the cops will think you're their partner and haul you off with them. You sure don't need that, not being fresh out of the slammer."

"What are we going to do?" Katelyn asks as she continues to watch the scene.

"I'll call Carlos, see if he knows what's going on," Picking up her cell, she quickly dials his number.

"He's not answering. Do you want to hang out at my house for a bit, until we hear from him?"

"I guess so," she says, turning back around.

"There's one condition and it's a big one."

"What?" Katelyn sighs.

"You'll take a shower and do something with those clothes."

"I can agree to that." Katelyn laughs.

***

The Berryville detectives have been watching Carlos Rodrigues for quite some time and after today's surveillance, they have enough evidence for a warrant.

"This is how I want it to go, men. I want you three to go around back. You two cover the sides. The remaining crew will cover the front with me and Jerry, understand?" Joe asks. Seeing his crew nod he continues, "Suit up and let's go guys."

"Captain, that was dispatch. There's been a shooting at the Carbone's, two people are dead," Kirk advises, hanging up the phone.

"I'll go, so you and Jerry can finish your bust." Rachel volunteers. She knows how long the guys have waited for this and doesn't want anything to spoil their plans.

"Take Kirk with you and be sure to keep me posted, Sergeant."

"We will." Grabbing their equipment, they head to the door.

A few minutes later the two pull up to see their crime lab diligently working the scene.

"You taught your team well, Kirk," Rachel smiles.

"They're a good group of people. They're all very smart, really hard workers."

"Do you miss them?"

"Sometimes, but I like working with you and Grumpa a lot more." That's a nickname he's given Jerry. He says it's a mix between grumpy and grandpa.

"Whether he shows it or not, Jerry likes having you on our team too."

"I know." He smiles.

Jeff walks towards them as they step out of their car.

Jeff began working in the lab five years ago as Kirk's replacement. Although he's not as good as Kirk, he shows a lot of promise.

"What do you have for me?" Rachel questions.

"The owners were lying on their couch when the intruder broke into their house. Felice Carbone took a bullet to the back of his head. His wife Mariela took one in the chest."

"Are there any signs of forced entry?"

"It looks like our killer used a screwdriver to pry their back door open. There are no signs of a struggle, and nothing appears to be missing."

"Did you find any evidence?"

"We found two spent shells. We also found mud tracks from their kitchen to the front room. We're not sure whose they are yet."

"Are there any witnesses?"

"Their next-door neighbor said he ran to his window when he heard gunshots and that's when he saw someone leaving their house. He couldn't give me a good description of the driver but said the vehicle is a small black sports car."

"I'd like to talk to him, please."

"I'll be right back."

"I'll go check on the house," Kirk says, walking across the lawn.

A few minutes later, Jeff returns with a short, stocky Latino man in tow.

"I didn't see anything." The man protests as he's being dragged towards the sergeant.

"Thanks, Jeff." Rachel waits until Jeff leaves before she begins. "Ok, Antonio, spill it," she orders.

He's been their informant over the past eighteen months. Six months ago the captain decided to move him into the house next door, hoping they can collect enough Intel to put Carlos and his crew away for good.

"Not here, you never know who's watching," he whispers, nervously glancing around.

"I know you saw something, so you better tell me before I lock your ass up for hindering prosecution," Rachel yells.

"You don't have enough to put me away." Laughing, he walks towards his house.

"Hey, get back here, I'm not through with you," Rachel yells, chasing after him.

Stepping into his house, Rachel closes the door behind her. "Why didn't you go after the shooter?" she begins.

"And blow my cover, the one I've been working on for nearly two years?"

"Why does it matter, now we have Carlos?"

"I thought I'd work the rest of his crew see what else I can come up with. Our killer is Mario Abruzzi, he has a rap sheet a mile long. Spent a few years upstate," he says, handing her a piece of paper.

"Thanks." Hearing someone walk into the house, she stuffs the paper in her jacket. "Follow my lead," she whispers.

"If I find out you know more I'll personally come back and arrest you, do you understand me?" she yells, lifting up her hand, she pretends to hit him.

"I swear I didn't see anything else."

Grabbing a hold of his shirt she pulls him towards her. "If I find out you're lying to me, I'll be back, only next time you'll be carried out on a gurney, do you understand?"

"I understand."

"Good."

"Is everything alright in here, Rachel?" Kirk questions.

"We're fine, aren't we?"

The guy nods his head. "Yes, fine."

"He's not telling us anything, so we might as well go." Pushing Antonio onto his couch she leans over top of him. "I meant what I said." Shoving him again, she steps outside.

"Do you have something for me detective?"

"Yes, the muddy footprint doesn't match either victim. So I'm having Jeff compare patterns to try and narrow down the type, and shoe size." Realizing they're away from everyone, Kirk leans in and whispers, "Did our informant tell you anything useful?" Seeing a puzzled look on her face, he laughs. "Jerry already filled me in."

"I guess we can trust you." Smiling, she continues, "He gave me his name, and address."

"Let's go pay him a visit."

***

Joe watches as his men get into their assigned positions.

"Are you ready, guys?"

"Let's take care of this scum bag once and for all, Boss," Jerry says. He's seen Carlos elude numerous charges through the years, so he wants him locked away as bad as Joe does.

A few seconds later, Joe and his crew burst through Carlos' door.

"Berryville PD, come out with your hands up," Joe announces as his officers scatter through the house.

"He's in here, Captain," an officer yells from the back of the house.

The Captain sees Carlos being escorted down his hall. His jeans and underwear are down around his ankles.

"A guy can't even take a shit in his own bathroom without someone busting in on him," he complains. Noticing a female officer eyeing him, Carlos smiles. "Like what you see, don't you baby?" He winks at the young rookie.

Blushing, she quickly turns away.

"Pull up your pants, Carlos."

"Why, are you jealous?" he asks, throwing his pelvis out further, he swings his manhood around.

"My four-year-old has a bigger one than that." Joe chuckles. "So, how much were you able to flush before my officer found you?" The captain inquires, walking towards the bathroom. Joe sees a plastic bag floating inside the toilet. Using a plunger he carefully scoops it out.

"I don't know what you're talking about, Captain."

"Sure, you don't Carlos. Search his house," Joe orders.

"No one is touching a thing until I see a warrant."

Pulling out a piece of paper, the captain slaps it against Carlos' chest.

"Read it and weep, asshole." Joe smiles.

"Go ahead, search all you want, but you won't find anything." Carlos laughs.

Joe sees a bright red dot in the middle of their suspect's forehead. "Take cover," he screams, pulling Carlos to the ground.
 


Chapter 13
Taking the Fall

By Mistydawn

"Take cover, men!" Joe yells, pulling Carlos to the floor.

Seeing a small red beam piercing through the darkness, the team drops to the ground. A slew of bullets whiz just above their heads.

"Shots fired, shots fired, be advised shooter's location is unknown. Shooter's location is unknown," Jerry yells into his radio.

A horrifying thought runs through the captain's head, he quickly reaches for his radio. "Jameson, Lewinski, can you read me?"

"We read you loud and clear, Captain."

Relieved to hear their voices, Joe continues. "Can you tell where the shots are coming from?"

There's a nerve-wracking break in their communication, sending Joe's already frazzled nerves on edge.

I hope they're not doing something stupid. Fear getting the best of him, the captain grabs his radio again.

"Jameson, Lewinski?" His radio remains completely still. "Jameson, Lewinski, answer me, damn it."

"It seems to be coming from the rooftop across the street, Sir."

"Shooter located at 744 Oak," Jerry advises.

"Backup is on the way." The dispatcher responds.

Seeing the beam pointing at Carlos again, Joe drags him behind the couch. "You sure pissed somebody off," Joe says, loading his gun.

"It comes with the territory."

"Not on my watch, it doesn't," he says, locking his magazine in place.

"Ah, Captain, I'm touched that you care," Carlos sarcastically replies.

"Don't get all broken up over it. I only saved you so I can watch your ass rot in prison. I figure a pretty boy like you is bound to be popular with the Big Bubbas of the world."

"You haven't found anything yet, Captain."

"Oh, we will." Once we get out of this mess.

"Woods, stay with Carlos, everyone else, follow me." His team crawls to a safe location at the back of Carlos' house.

"What do you want us to do, Boss?" Jerry asks as the last of their team steps out the door.

"We're going to split up, surround the building. You guys go left, we'll go right. Be sure to follow proper procedure like you were taught at the academy. Ok guys, let's go, let's go!"

***

The Sergeant is typing away on her computer as she and Kirk drive to Mario Abruzzi's residence.

"I ran our suspect's name through the system and it looks like his life of crime started when he was a Juvenile."

"A juvenile? Wait, shouldn't his record be expunged?"

"States don't automatically do that anymore. Now, you have to petition the court to have it sealed. I imagine a judge would look at these serious offenses, his continued life of crime and deny his request if he did try."

"How serious, Sergeant?"

"He was charged with robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, and rape before he turned fourteen. His most recent charges are possession with intent to sell, illegal possession of a firearm, and running a prostitution ring. Wait, I remember him now, he turned state's evidence, got himself a sweet deal."

"If he's out this soon I'd say it was too sweet of a deal."

"Joe and Jerry thought so too."

"So there's a good chance he and Carlos are business rivals and the Carbone's shootings is a way to even up the competition."

"That's very possible."

"Shots fired, shots fired." Someone blares over their radio.

"That's Jerry's voice, we've got to help them," Rachel says, grabbing the microphone off the dash.

"Unit SR2 responding," she says.

"Hold on," Kirk warns, making a quick U-turn. "This is turning out to be an all-out turf war, Sergeant."

"I just hope innocent civilians don't get killed in the crossfire."

***

Joe and his team are carefully maneuvering their way towards the shooter's location, all apprehensive about the pending outcome. Living in a small community, situations like this don't happen often, so they're not sure they can handle this rare occurrence.

The team makes it behind the apartment's dumpsters when they notice a tall, lanky figure running across the field.

"Stop, police," Jameson yells, lifting up his revolver.

Looking back, the suspect sees four officers giving chase. Darting around a tall stack of boxes, he makes a quick right.

"The suspect is heading west on Freeman, west on Freeman. He's wearing a light blue shirt and jeans, officers in pursuit." Jameson yells into his radio. He hears the dispatcher repeat what he said as he's chasing after him.

Rachel sees a blue blur running towards them when she glances up. "Isn't that him, Kirk?" she questions, pointing straight ahead.

"Hold on, Sergeant," Kirk warns, pushing the pedal to the floor.

"What happened to your granny driving?" she asks, holding onto the dash for dear life.

"Those days are long gone." He chuckles.

"Wonderful," she says, tossing side to side.

Seeing a cop car a few feet ahead, the suspect darts down a small path.

Holding on with one hand, Rachel fumbles for the mic with the other. "Be advised the suspect is heading north on Dale, north on Dale. SR2 is in pursuit."

"Are you ready to do a little mudding, Sergeant?" Smiling, Kirk glances at his passenger.

"What?"

"Hold on tight." He laughs. Kicking his jeep into four-wheel drive, he makes a quick right turn. Their vehicle bumps along the rugged alley that runs alongside Dale. They see their suspect a few feet ahead when they look through the clearing.

"I'm going to beat you for scaring me when this is all over," Rachel warns.

Seeing her death grip on the dash Kirk laughs. "I've got this, Sergeant," he says, as their jeep bounces along the rugged terrain.

"Oh, crap," Rachel screams, bracing herself for the impact.

Kirk sees huge piles of trash when he looks at the road. "I've got this." Smiling, he makes a quick left turn. Their vehicle's back end slides around colliding with the large assortment. Trash and other debris fly around them as they skid to a stop across Dale.

"Hold it right there," Kirk yells, pointing his gun through the open window.

Sliding to a stop, the suspect looks behind him. He sees two more officers are only a few feet away.

"On the ground, now," Kirk yells.

The suspect glances to his right, then his left, hoping to come up with a plan.

"Do it, now," Kirk yells.

The suspect sees cops coming from every direction when he looks around. Realizing that he's been defeated, the perp drops to the ground.

Running around to the side of their car, Rachel handcuffs the victim. Looking up, she sees Kirk standing alongside her. "Nice work, Detective."

"Thank you, Sergeant."

"That was a ballsy move cutting across like that, but good work, quick thinking."

"So does this capture get me off the hook?"

"Oh no, you're still going to pay for scaring the snot out of me," she warns.

Jerry is right, Rachel is cute when she's mad, Kirk chuckles.

"Mario Abruzzi, you are under arrest for the murder of Felipe and Marina Carbone and the attempted murder of Carlos Rodriguez. You have the right to remain silent, anything you say..."

"I know my rights."

"Well, you're going to hear them again." Pushing him towards their car she continues.

"Good work, Kirk," Joe says, patting him on the back.

"Thank you, Captain."

"Where did you learn how to drive like that?"

"I picked up a few pointers from an old cop buddy of mine."

"Jerry costs this city enough money with all of his damages, so let's not make this a habit, alright?"

"Yes, Sir."

***

"I love your car, Gina," Katelyn says, glancing around her luxury vehicle.

"Carlos had it custom made just for me. Thanks to him, I'm able to afford fancy things like this."

"You work for Carlos?"

"Yeah, I guess you can say I'm his financial adviser. Not that he ever takes my advice." Laughing, she continues, "He has a terrible spending habit, worse than any woman I know."

"He did have on some nice clothes."

"That's his everyday outfit. His formal wear is twice as fancy. That man has three walk-in closets full, most of which he's never worn."

"Really?"

"You could probably feed a third world country for months with the money he spends on his attire."

"Wow."

"He does give generously to a few local charities, I will give him that."

"That's nice of him."

"He says he wants to give back to the ones who helped him. You have to understand, Katelyn, Carlos has never had an easy life. His father was shot in a drive-by when he was eight. His mama tried to take care of them the best she could, but she was too sickly to hold down a job. Being the oldest, Carlos stepped up, did whatever was necessary to put food on their table, clothes on their backs."

"He supported his family when he was only eight?"

"He had to use illegal means to do it, but yeah. He still sends money to his family and he made sure that his mama received the best care until her dying day."

"That's sweet of him."

"He's a sweet man, once you get to know him." Seeing the inquisitive look on her face Gina laughs. "I know he acts like a sex-crazed pervert, but that's just a persona, an act he puts on, to protect himself from being hurt. Deep down inside he's just a scared little boy wanting love and acceptance like the rest of us. Once you prove you're loyal to him, he'll treat you like a queen."

"It sounds like you care a lot about him."

"I don't know what I'd do without him. This is it," Gina announces, pulling up to the curb.

"You own this?" Katelyn asks, admiring the beautiful two-story Victorian.

"This baby is paid in full."

"Wow," Katelyn reaches for the handle, excited to see the inside.

"Stick around and you'll be able to afford a fancy home too."

"I hope so," she dreamily replies. Katelyn notices four police cars speeding towards them when she climbs out of the car. "Cops," she warns, nervously glancing back and forth.

Gina sees red and blue lights barreling down the road when she looks into her mirror. "Run," Gina screams, peeling away.

Katelyn looks back to see her friend speeding down the road.

"Hold it right there," an officer instructs, stepping towards her.

Katelyn sees cops standing on either side of her with their weapons drawn. "I didn't do anything. I swear I didn't," she cries, glancing at the red blur pulling onto the highway.
 


Chapter 14
Out of Options

By Mistydawn

Joe anxiously walks towards the interrogation room. He's been waiting for years to get a crack at Carlos and today is his lucky day. Ten years he's been trying to nail this creep, ten long years and tonight he has a chance to send him to the slammer for good. I'm going to enjoy this more than you know.

Their DA told him to offer Carlos a deal in exchange for information on Esposito. Not wanting his suspect to skate on reduced charges, the Captain has a plan, one that's guaranteed to keep Carlos from talking. He's going down for a long, long time if I have anything to do with it. Taking a deep breath Joe throws the door open.

Carlos springs back in his seat; his metal chair scrapes across the concrete floor.

That attempt on his life has him more shook up than I thought. I can use that against him. Joe strategically plans his next move.

"Going somewhere?" Joe laughs, stomping across the room. Being large in size and stature this move usually intimidates whoever is in the chair.

"You just startled me, busting in like that." He scoots his seat back to its original position.

Slamming his fist on the table, Joe glares into his suspect's eyes. He can see Carlos's fear, feel his tension rise the longer he stares. Just like I'd hoped.

The overhead light continues to flicker, adding to his high tension.

Sitting back in his chair, Carlos stretches his legs in front of him.

Your shrewd act doesn't fool me. Smiling, Joe begins. "Everything we found in your house, and this being your third strike, you're going down for a long, long time. You probably won't see these streets again until you're in your late seventies. That's if you don't die in prison."

"You're talking out your ass, Captain. My lawyer will get me off like he has before."

"Not this time," Joe says, slowly walking around him. Like a lion circling his prey waiting for the right time to strike. 

"You'd like to see me rot in prison, wouldn't you?"

Joe strolls around him again. "Damn straight, I would. Unfortunately, our DA told me to offer you a deal, one that will shave a lot of time off your sentence."

"I'm listening." Carlos smiles.

"He said if you help us get Esposito, he'll reduce your charges."

"Esposito, oh no, I ain't telling you shit about him."

"I told our DA you wouldn't do it because you're too scared of what he might do." Joe circles around him again.

"I ain't scared of that stupid Dominican," Carlos yells, springing up from his chair.

We'll just see about that. Joe lays photographs down in front of him. "He's killed three of your men and put a hit out on you."

"Esposito shot up my house?"

"One of his men did. Said he was paid serious money to take your ass out. You can get even with him by telling us what we want to know. Of course, you realize that when Esposito finds out you squealed there will be an all-out war. It'll probably end up looking something like this." Joe shows him gruesome pictures of bloody young men lying dead in the streets. Seeing the fear in his eyes, Joe continues. "I'm sure a tough guy like you can handle it, right?" Joe smacks his back. Carlos's body falls forward.

"What about your family?" Joe lays pictures of Carlos's relatives on top of the horrifying photos. "It'd be a shame for your nieces and nephews to die at such a young age before their life really begins."

Carlos picks up a picture of his beautiful niece, then his nephews. "No, I won't do it, I won't. I'd rather spend an eternity in prison than risk their precious lives," he says, tears rolling down his cheeks.

Satisfied, Joe walks to the door. Wanting to make sure his plan worked he turns back around. "This is your last chance, Carlos," Joe says.

"Go to hell, Captain." Holding the pictures against his chest, he sobs like a baby.

"That's all I wanted to hear." Smiling, Joe flings the door open.

***

After hours of brutal interrogation, the police let Katelyn go. Grabbing her backpack from alongside the dumpster, she slowly trudges down the street.

My worst nightmare came true after all. Katelyn remembers the sexual acts she had to perform on that creep. Shivering at her thought she continues down the road. "What am I going to do?" she cries, glancing at the desolate street ahead.

Pleasant memories come flooding back as she looks around. Katelyn first imagines a time when she and her friends went shopping at the mall. She pictures them laughing as they stroll arm in arm across the busy parking lot.

Katelyn then notices the cheerful ice-cream parlor alongside it. John and I spent many afternoons sharing a sugary treat. Tears stream down her cheeks as she relives her past. Katelyn has never felt so alone, so isolated in her entire life. "I don't have the strength to go on, I just don't," wearily plopping down on a bench. "Oh, why can't I get a break, why?" she sobs, glancing down the cold empty road.

Remembering the money Carlos gave her; she anxiously reaches in her bag. Relieved it's still there, she counts it out. Two hundred bucks, that'll get me a motel room for at least a week. Drying her eyes, she quickly stands up.

"Hey, pretty lady do you wanna join our party, the party in my pants that is?" Laughing, he grabs his family jewels.

Katelyn quickly spins around. She sees a white cargo van pulled to the side of the road, its side door slid open. Its dome light is shining brightly, making it easy to gaze inside. That van is a reject from the 70's she thinks, eyeing its psychedelic patterns.

Katelyn sees three slovenly looking characters residing inside. Two are sitting in back and the third is in the driver's seat. She then notices their large assortment of weaponry scattered haphazardly across their table. Rigs and other paraphernalia are lying amongst it. That's enough ammo to wipe out an entire city and with that many drugs in their system, they'd be dumb enough to do it. Frightened, she darts down the road.

"Don't be such a buzzkill," one man yells after her.

"I know you'll have fun if you join us," a second man says. Hopping out of their van, he runs to her side. Grabbing her shoulder, he turns her around. "I guarantee it'll be a night you'll never forget."

"I'm not interested," Katelyn says, walking faster.

"We're interested in you, aren't we, Bart?"

"Very interested," he says, grabbing his hardness he continues, "I haven't had a pretty girl like you in a long while."

Katelyn feels herself being pulled back as a damp cloth covers her face. She fights to break free, but the more she struggles the dizzier she becomes. She tries to scream, but her voice is too muffled for anyone to hear. She tries to come up with another way out, but her thoughts become a jumbled mess. "I'm not going, I'm not going," she screams before she passes out.

~~~

Katelyn wakes up a short time later to find herself strapped to a bed. Seeing the colorful patterns around her, she concludes that she's inside their van. Looking over, she sees her shredded clothes a few feet from her head. They raped me, she concludes, tearfully glancing around. Sharp pains shoot from between her legs into her lower abdomen. This is soon followed by warm fluid running along her inner thigh. Looking down, she sees bright red blood pooling all around her. I've got to get help before I bleed to death. She looks over to see a gentleman at the table. "Please, let me go, I promise not to tell anyone if you do," she begs, watching him pour white powder onto a mirror.

"Our party hasn't even begun," Bart says. Snorting a line, he staggers towards her. "Do you want some?" he asks, showing her a half-filled syringe, a bent needle sitting on top.

"Get that away from me," she yells, trying to sit up. Ropes pull her back onto the bed.

"It'll help ease some of your tension." He laughs.

"I don't want any," she screams.

"Cops," the driver yells.

"Go, man, go!" Bart says, quickly hiding his stuff.

"Hold on," the driver warns, giving the van more gas.

***

Stan tried everything he could think of to get Madeline to give up her dream, but nothing seemed to work. He considered using his older, violent methods but was scared what her psychotic friend might do. She successfully carried out one murder, so what's stopping her from committing another? He reasoned.

Stan soon realizes that his tactics only increases her passion, her drive to succeed. Later discovering that his house is cleaner and his meals have improved. Stan enjoys these changes, but the smell still bothers him. He decides to revamp their porch, install a ventilation system.

Madeline loves her little hideaway, with its large windows and ample floor space.

She's putting the finishing touches on a painting when her phone rings. I'll let our answering machine get it. A horrible feeling suddenly comes over her. Something's happened to one of my girls, she races for her phone. Art supplies tumble to the floor as she runs to answer it.

"Hello," she shakily blurts into the receiver.

"Mrs. Howard?"

"Yes." She sees her normally steady hands are trembling uncontrollably.

"This is Malinda from Cox Hospital. Your daughter Katelyn was in a terrible car accident a few minutes ago."

Hearing the horrifying news, Madeline collapses into a chair. "Accident, oh my God is she alright?"

"She's in critical condition. The doctors are performing emergency surgery on her now."

"I'm on my way." Madeline hears Stan walk into their house as she hangs up her phone. The nurse's words echo in Madeline's head as she rushes to the door.

"Katelyn's been in a terrible car accident. She's in critical condition," Madeline blurts out.

"I imagine it's either drug or alcohol related," Stan offhandedly states, hanging his coat in the closet.

"Don't you understand that our daughter might die?"

"This is probably all a ploy, a way to swindle us out of more money."

"I doubt that, Stan, since they're doing emergency surgery on her now."

"Yeah, well, we have a business dinner in half an hour, so get ready."

"How can you even think of such a thing when our child is fighting for her life?"

"She's not my kid, I disowned her the night she nearly killed Katie, remember?"

"That was over 10 years ago. She's served her time for that."

"I don't care. That little bitch wrecked our lives when she was younger and I'll be damned if she'll ruin my chance for a promotion too."

Madeline gasps. How can he be so cruel, so merciless towards his own flesh and blood? She then remembers all the hateful things he's said to her. Because he's a cold, heartless bastard like his father. This realization nearly knocks her over. With hate pouring from her eyes, she firmly states, "You can go to your fancy dinner if you want, Stan, I'm going to see our child." She snatches her coat out of the closet.

"No, you're having supper with me, so get ready," he orders, pushing his wife towards the stairs.

Furious, she spins back around. With her fist clenched tightly she screams, "I'm going to see my daughter, whether you like it or not." Using every bit of strength and courage she possesses, she swings. Her fist thwacks the center of his face.

He falls backward, landing inside the closet. Coats fall on top of him as his body crashes against the back wall. He starts to climb out when the top shelf collapses, smacking Stan's head. Losing his balance, he falls again.

"I chose you over her once, something I swore I'd never do again," she states, slamming the door behind her.
 


Chapter 15
Brief Reunion

By Mistydawn

Madeline is anxiously sitting in the hospital lobby, waiting for some news about Katelyn. It's been over two hours and no one has told her a thing.

Glancing around, she notices tan chairs lined against the walls. In the center is a set of chairs enclosing an elongated table. To her left, she sees a kitchen area supplying basic essentials. Off of that is a smaller room, furnished with a similar style table and chairs.

Madeline notices a family tearfully waiting in the corner, and another is across the room.

No one has talked to them either, and they were here when I arrived. You'd think someone would be kind enough to tell us something. She looks over at the grieving family again. Well, I'm not as patient. Seeing a lady sitting behind a desk, Madeline walks towards her.

The lady looks up from her book as she approaches.

She's an older woman with short white hair and large thick-rimmed glasses. Her makeup is applied with such proficiency that it gives her a young, youthful appearance. Getting closer, Madeline realizes the older volunteer is petite in both size and stature. By the looks of her hands, she's worked hard her entire life. She reminds me of Grandma Betty. Madeline concludes, recalling her sweet, gentle face.

"Can I help you?" the volunteer asks, laying her book beside her.

"My name is Madeline Howard, and I was wondering if you've heard anything about my daughter, Katelyn Howard?"

"I'm just a volunteer here, but I'll try to find someone who can answer your questions." She slowly rises from her chair.

"My arthritis is giving me fits today," she explains, hobbling around her desk.

Madeline feels guilty for making her move, putting her through all of this pain. "That's ok, I can wait," she says, turning back around.

The lady grabs a hold of her arm as Madeline steps away. "Don't be silly, you want to know about your daughter and I'm going to find someone to help you." She gradually works her way to the door. Turning, she smiles at Madeline. "I'll be right back," she says, stepping into the hall.

I wished I hadn't asked now, Madeline gloomily thinks, walking to her chair.

A few minutes later a nurse steps into the room. Her manner and appearance display exemplary professionalism. She's wearing a crisp white uniform, her makeup is minimal and her hair is pulled neatly into a bun at the nape of her neck. "Mrs. Howard?" 

Madeline races to her. "I'm Madeline Howard."

"You were asking about your daughter, Katelyn?"

"Yes, yes, is she alright?"

"The doctors are still in surgery, but they should be finished soon. I'll make sure one of them talks to you as soon as they're done."

"Yes, please do."

"I will." Smiling, she quickly walks away.

"Wait..." Madeline begins as the door closes behind her.

Madeline starts to sit down when she sees her youngest daughter step into the room. 

"I got here as soon as I could," Katie says, eyeing her terrified mother. 

"I'm so glad you're here," Madeline says. Wrapping her arms around Katie, she begins to cry.

"How is she, mom?"

"Your sister is still in surgery, but they should be finished soon."

"Do you know what happened to her?"

"The policeman told me the van she was riding in flipped. I guess the driver tried to outrun the cops, lost control and crashed."

Katie gasps. "She could've been killed." 

"The driver and two passengers were. The officer said if she hadn't been tied down, she probably wouldn't have survived either."

"Tied down, why on earth was she tied down?"

"Those monsters were raping Katelyn, they were raping my poor baby." 

"It's alright, Mom, she's a strong woman, she'll pull through this," Katie says, hugging her again.

"I hope so," Madeline sobs, wearily plopping in a chair.

Sitting down beside her, Katie holds her mom's cold hands. Cold hands, warm heart. Katie smiles lovingly at her mother.

Madeline thinks back to all the letters Katelyn wrote when she was in prison and how she never answered a single one. "I've been such a terrible mom to her, Katie, just awful," she blubbers. "I should've made sure she had food in her stomach and a place to stay when she got out of prison. But I didn't, Katie, I didn't do any of those things, I turned my back on her instead. Only a monster would do that to her child, a cold heartless beast. I'm a terrible mom, Katie, a horrible mother like Stan's mother claims." 

"You're a great mother, a very loving, caring mom and we're lucky to have you."

"Oh, Katie." She cries, laying her head on her daughter's shoulder, she sobs like a baby.

"You're here now and that's all that really matters," Katie says, gently stroking her mom's hair.

"I just hope it's not too late, I hope it's not too late." 

"She'll pull through this, you'll see."

"I need to tell her I love her, that I'll always love her no matter what she does," Madeline blubbers, clinging on to Katie.
***
Stan drunkenly stumbles towards their house after a lengthy celebration. He knows he should be happy that he's received his long-awaited promotion, but he was so angry at his wife that his joyful ceremony quickly turned sour. He tried to drown his anger in a bottle, but that only enhanced his rage.

"How dare she do this to me, have the audacity to storm out on me on my special night. That, that arrogant bitch, she ruined my long-awaited commemoration. After everything I've done for her, all the nice things I've given her, all the support I've shown on her idiotic dream. She has the nerve to choose her demonic child over me." He drops the keys trying to unlock their door. Fumbling around, he finally manages to open it.

"It's that little hellion who's doing it. She's controlling Madeline like she's done before. Why does she let Katelyn dominate her like that, why? Can't she see Katelyn is manipulating her to get even with me? Katelyn has always wanted to destroy us, our family, our marriage. She almost did once, and now she's trying to do it again." He slams their door closed.

"I always pictured us celebrating this night together, the way we used to way back when, before we had the girls. But Katelyn had to ruin it, the way she's demolished everything else in our lives." He drunkenly stumbles into his den.

"You go on, Madeline and be manipulated by that little bitch, I'll just celebrate without you." Walking over to his bar, he pours a glass of scotch. Downing it, he pours another followed by a third. "I'll get you off my mind one way or another," he says. Throwing his glass across the room, he tips the bottle to his lips.
***
"Mrs. Howard?"

They look up to see a tall, thin surgeon dressed in blue standing in the doorway. Jumping up from their chairs, they scramble towards him.

"I'm Madeline Howard," she weakly replies.

"We're able to stop her bleeding and repair all of the damages to her internal organs."

"So Katelyn is going to be ok?" she asks, hopefully.

"As far as her internal bleeding goes, yes, but we've had to resuscitate her twice during surgery. So I'd like to keep her in ICU a few days until she's stable enough to be moved to the floor."

"Can we see her?"

"Yes, but only for a few minutes. She's been through a lot and needs plenty of rest."

"Yes, I understand."

The doctor takes them through a maze of long, sterile hallways before they reach their destination.

"Go to the far end, she's on your right," he informs them, pointing down the hall. He starts to turn toward the entrance when Madeline grabs his arm.

"Thank you for saving my baby," she cries, throwing her arms around him.

Katie could tell by the distressed look on the surgeon's face that he didn't appreciate her kind gesture. "It's ok, Mom, Katelyn is going to be alright," she says, trying to pull her away.

"Yeah, and it's all because of this saint right here," she bawls, hugging him again.

"She loves to hug," Katie explains, trying to separate them.

"Come on Mom, let's go see, Sis."

"Thank you," Madeline replies, finally letting go.

The doctor rushes down the hall before she can hug him again.

Running to the head of Katelyn's bed, Madeline grabs a hold of her hand.

"I'm so glad you're ok, Honey," she cries, gently kissing her daughter's forehead.

Opening her eyes, Katelyn glances up. "Mom?" she asks hoarsely, hoping she isn't hallucinating.

"Yes Honey, it's me." Realizing she's hooked up to numerous machines Madeline bawls again. "I'm sorry I wasn't there for you, so, so sorry, Baby," Madeline sobs. Gently stroking her daughter's face, she continues. "I'm never going to turn my back on you ever again, I promise, Honey I'll never do it again. I love you, Katelyn, I'll always love you no matter what you say or do. You're my precious Baby, my beloved child and nothing will ever change that." 

"I love you so much, Mom." Katelyn bursts into tears.

"Oh Katelyn baby, please don't cry, please don't cry." Madeline sobs, wiping tears from Katelyn's cheeks. Hearing someone sniffle, Madeline glances up to see Katie sobbing at the foot of the bed.

"You guys got me all choked up," she chuckles amongst her tears. Taking a Kleenex out of her purse, she dabs her face.

"Your sister came to see you too, Honey."

"Hi, Sis," Katie nervously replies as she continues to dry her face. They didn't part on good terms ten years ago, so she wasn't sure how Katelyn will react.

Turning her head towards her sister, Katelyn screams. "Get out of here, Katie!"

"Surely, you don't mean that Honey," Madeline says. 

"Get her out of here, right now, Mom!"

"Can't we just let the past be the past?" Madeline interjects.

"Get out, get out, get out!" Katelyn screams, rising up from her bed.

Dismayed by her sister's outburst, Katie tearfully runs down the hall.

Katelyn's frail body falls back on her bed, the alarms begin to scream.

Madeline sees Katelyn's eyes roll towards the back of her head. "Katelyn, honey, please wake up, please, please wake up," Madeline begs, frantically stroking her hair. Looking up, Madeline sees several nurses rushing into Katelyn's room.

"You need to leave," one of them informs her, escorting her to the door.

Madeline grabs the nurse's arm as she turns to leave. "What's happening to my baby?" Madeline fearfully questions.

"She's going into cardiac arrest." Pushing Madeline into the hallway, she closes Katelyn's door.

"No, don't die on me, Katelyn! Please, Baby, please don't die," Madeline sobs, falling to the floor.



 


Chapter 16
Life Goes On

By Mistydawn

Madeline moved in with Marge until she was able to find a place of her own. After weeks of extensive searching, she finally found something she could afford. It's a partially furnished, modest two bedroom apartment close to her friends. It has a tiny kitchen on the left side, an equally sized front room on the right. Its a two small bedrooms are located at either end. Madeline realizes it's going to be crowded, but figures she can manage for a little while.

With an officer by her side, Madeline collects a few belongings from their home.

Stan is wandering aimlessly when she steps through their door. He looks old and haggard like he hasn't slept in weeks. His clothes are wrinkled and stained, a far cry from his usual professional appearance.

I bet you miss me now, she thinks, hauling a box to her car.

Stan wants to talk to her, tell her how he feels but doesn't know where to begin. So he grievously watches as she loads box after box into her car.

"Are you almost finished?" an officer asks.

"This is my last box."

Her last box, I've got to do something quick. Stan grabs a hold of her arm as she walks by. "Please talk to me, honey, please. That's all I want, for us to discuss our problems," he begs.

"You lost that chance when you threw me out of our home."

"I'm sorry, Madeline, I'm so sorry, please forgive me... please... please forgive me." Crying, he falls to his knees.

Madeline glares into the eyes that once melted her heart. "Go to hell," Madeline hisses, quickly pulling away.

Seeing their confrontation, an officer steps in-between them. "Grab her again and I'll haul your ass to jail," he warns.

"I'm not going to hurt her, I just want to talk," Stan cries, hoping she'd hear his desperation and turn back around.

Madeline continues down their sidewalk.

"Evidently, she doesn't want to talk to you."

"I know, I know." Plopping down on his steps he bawls like a baby.

Thirty years of marriage condensed to a few measly boxes, she sadly concludes, slamming her car door closed. Looking back on their porch, she sees her husband sobbing. "You did this to yourself, Stan." Wiping a small tear off her cheek she pulls out of their drive.

Madeline decides to visit her daughter as she's unloading boxes into her apartment.

After resuscitating Katelyn, they moved her to ICU. Katelyn's condition continued to improve and by the third week, she was transferred to the floor.

"I'm so glad you're here, Mom," Katelyn anxiously blurts out, as Madeline steps into her room.

"Why, what's wrong?" Running to her side, Madeline grabs Katelyn's trembling hands.

"The doctor said they're going to release me tomorrow, but I don't have anywhere to go. What am I going to do, Mom, what am I going to do?" 

Madeline hadn't mentioned post-hospital arrangements, afraid she might jinx Katelyn's progress. "You're going to stay with me."

"Dad will never allow that, not after all the trouble I've caused."

"We won't be staying at your dad's; we'll be staying at our own place, just you and me."

"Oh no, I'm not splitting you and dad up, I won't, I just won't."

"We separated a long time ago, Katelyn." 

"It was because of me, wasn't it? It was, it's all my fault, it's all my fault," she bawls.

Madeline scoops her distraught daughter into her arms. "Our separation had nothing to do with you, honey."

"You promise?" she tearfully questions.

"Yes honey, I promise."

"I'm so sorry, Mom."

"Don't be, I'm a lot happier now than I've been in years," Madeline says, trying to put on a brave face. Deep down she secretly wishes things would've turned out differently, but realizes it'll never happen.

"Does Katie know?"

"She helped me collect a few things from our house."

"She blames me for all of this, doesn't she?"

"Katie has grown up a lot since you've been away and now sees what a monster Stan truly is."

"She's not daddy's little princess anymore?"

Madeline chuckles. "Far from it, she moved in with her boyfriend to get away from him."

"I bet that pissed dad off."

"You don't know the half of it. It infuriated him more when Katie told us she's expecting. Of course, your dad insisted that she and Mark get married, but Katie flat out refused, said they weren't ready for such a big step. They now have two babies and still aren't married."

"I didn't realize Katie could be such a rebel." Katelyn laughs.

"Your little incident opened her eyes, made her see Stan for who he really is." Madeline wants to say more but is afraid that if she pushes the subject too hard the animosity between them will only grow. Baby steps, Madeline. Slow steady baby steps. She reminds herself.

Feeling tension build, Katelyn changes the subject. "So tell me about our place."

Madeline glances at her watch. "I'd love to honey, but I have an appointment with an art gallery in twenty minutes."

"An art gallery?"

"Yeah, they might buy a few of my paintings."

"That's terrific mom."

"I know, I know. See you at supper." Grabbing her purse, Madeline rushes into the hall.

"Good luck," Katelyn yells.

Madeline waves in response.


***

Madeline timidly steps into the elegant studio. I can do this, she thinks, trying to calm her nerves. Looking around she sees the owners gazing at her pictures. This is it. Taking a deep breath, she anxiously strolls towards them.

The Harris's charming establishment is shaded in greens and golds. Their gold framed artwork is carefully displayed along the mint green walls. The floor is carpeted with a light green rug, gold trim around its borders. The gold and green tiered chandelier located in the center brings the decor together.

"What do you think?" Madeline asks, nervously fidgeting with her clothes.

"Your pictures are absolutely gorgeous," Ariella says. She and her husband Howard are looking to promote a few new talents in their spring exhibit.

"What do you think, honey?" Ariella asks as he inspects Madeline's painting.

"I believe we can make these work, but I need to have a couple of spring pictures soon."

"I can paint whatever you want." Madeline eagerly replies.

Smiling, Ariella reaches over and squeezes her friend's hand. The women met at the fall festival and have stayed in touch ever since.

"We'll take these three and I expect a few spring paintings real soon," he informs her, walking back to his office.

"I told you he'd love them." Ariella hands her a check.

Madeline's mouth drops when she sees the large sum.

"Is that an agreeable price?" Ariella questions, unsure about her
friend's reaction.

"Yes, yes, how can I ever thank you?" Madeline asks, hugging her.

"Bring me more of your beautiful art."

"I won't disappoint you, I promise," Madeline says, excitedly running out their door.

"I know you won't." Ariella laughs, watching her clumsily stumble outside.

***

Madeline feels like celebrating after making such a huge deal. So she decides to surprise Katelyn by bringing her food from her favorite restaurant.

Bubbling with excitement, Madeline steps into her daughter's room.

"You'll never believe what just happened, Katelyn," she says, running to her bed.

"What, Mom, what?"

"I sold three pictures to an art gallery today."

"That's terrific."

"That's not all they want me to do more. Can you believe it, they want me to do more work for them."

"I knew you could do it."

"I think this calls for a celebration." A mischievous smile inches across Madeline's face as she reaches for her purse.

"What do you have in mind?" Katelyn smiles.

"How about we celebrate with some delicious food from Geraldi's?"

"Geraldi's, that's my all-time favorite."

"I Know, I know." Reaching into her bag, she pulls out a styrofoam container. "I had to sneak it past your nurse," she explains, pulling out another box.

Katelyn quickly opens her container "It looks delicious." She shovels pasta into her mouth. "This is better than I remember." She scoops up another bite.

"I'm glad you like it." Madeline laughs, watching her daughter devour her meal.

The two are so busy eating they didn't see Katelyn's doctor step into her room.

"Now I know why you haven't been eating any of our meals."

Looking up, Katelyn grins sheepishly at her doctor.

"I sold three pictures to a local art studio today and this is our celebration," Madeline explains.

"Congratulations, Mrs. Howard."

"Thank you, Doctor."

He glances at Katelyn's half-empty container. "I can see the medicine hasn't decreased your appetite. Since you're doing so well, I believe you can go home tonight."

"You're releasing me tonight?" Katelyn excitedly mumbles through a mouthful of food.

The doctor laughs. "Yeah, but go ahead and finish eating. It'll take me a few minutes to get all your paperwork ready."

***

Being cooped up for the better part of a month, Katelyn is more than ready to explore her new surroundings. As soon as her mother leaves for the studio, she dashes outside.

Katelyn is extremely nervous at first, jumping at every noise, but after a few blocks, her anxiety calms down. Before too long, she's able to enjoy the bright sunny afternoon.

She sees the leaves have turned to a beautiful burnt orange. It's going to be winter soon. She shuffles through a pile of crisp leaves that's already fallen on the ground.

"Katelyn, wait up." She hears. Turning around, she sees her old friend, Anne running towards her.

"Where in the world have you been, girl?" Anne asks.

"I've been in the hospital."

"Why?"

"I was in a car accident."

"I would've visited if I'd known."

"I know."

"You're doing alright now, right?" Annie questions, a concerned look on her face.

"Yeah, I'm fine."

"I'm glad. There's a party at Bower's tonight, I'm sure the gang would love to see you."

"I have plans, but thanks anyhow." Katelyn starts to walk away.

Annie reaches out and grabs Katelyn's arm. "What's more important than seeing your old buddies?"

It would be nice to see my friends again. "When does it start?"

"Eight, so I'll see you there?"

"I guess I could stop by for a few minutes."

****

Katelyn thought about their party all day. She'd like to see her friends but didn't want to get caught up in the drug scene again.

Now that her doctor has her on different medicines she doesn't need to use street drugs to stop her voices. Katelyn soon realizes that she feels a lot better and can accomplish more without illegal drugs in her system.

I'll go in, say hi and leave, she concludes. She sees her mom watching TV when she opens her bedroom door.

"I'm going out for a while, be back soon," she announces, scurrying through their front room.

"Do you think it's safe to go out at night by yourself?"

"I'm not a child, Mom," she replies dashing towards the entrance.

"I know, I'm just worried about your safety."

Reaching their doorway Katelyn turns back around. "If you're worried about me going out and doing more drugs, don't be. I'm done with that scene. See you in a little bit." She rushes into the cool night air before her mom protests.

"Go in, say hi and leave," she repeats, stepping inside the house. Katelyn realizes her plan is sunk, the moment she steps through the door. The music is blaring, booze is flowing and pot fumes linger in the dark stale air. I can't do this. Katelyn starts to leave when her friend grabs a hold of her hand.

"I'm so glad you're here," Anne replies, dragging her across the crowded room.
 


Chapter 17
Southern Justice

By Mistydawn

Madeline has sold five additional pieces to her friends at the art gallery since Katelyn was released from the hospital. Arellia loved her paintings so much, she begged her for more. She even offered to double her payment if she finishes by the end of the month.

~~~

"You want four pictures in fifteen days?" Madeline anxiously asks, not sure she can meet their deadline.

"I know I'm asking a lot, but one of our prominent clients wants to exhibit your work at his gallery in France."

"My pictures are going to France?" Madeline excitedly questions.

Arellia laughs. "Yes, honey, your pictures are traveling to France."

~~~

Smiling, Madeline glances at her finished piece. You didn't think I have what it takes, did you, Stan? Always telling me my art is a waste of time and your precious money. Well, I just proved you wrong. Chuckling, she puts her third picture on the table to dry.

She's set up a miniature studio in her kitchen since it's the only room in the apartment that provided her enough space. Madeline misses her large workshop, but she figures giving up her fancy area is a small price to pay for happiness.

What should I paint next? Grabbing a new canvas she places it on her easel.

"I'm going to work, Mom," Katelyn replies, walking toward their entryway. Madeline helped her get a job in the cosmetic department at the mall.

Madeline suddenly recalls all the makeup catastrophes Katelyn had growing up. Who knew that all those disasters would turn my troublesome daughter into a makeup artist? She chuckles.

"Will you be home for dinner?"

"No, I'm going to hang out with a few of my friends, since tomorrow is my only day off."

Madeline's stomach tightens into a hard knot, she doubles over in pain. Not wanting Katelyn to become concerned, she plasters a fake smile on her face. "Stay safe, honey." She slowly straightens back up as her pain subsides.

"Don't worry, Mom, I will."

Everything is going really well for her oldest child, but Madeline still worries about her wellbeing. She's afraid that she'll stop taking her medicine; she'll get in with her old crowd, that she'll be raped or worse.

Not being able to stand her inner turmoil any longer, Madeline talks to Katelyn's therapist about her constant apprehensions. Her doctor said that Katelyn is making a lot of progress and deserves a little freedom.

Madeline disagrees with her doctor. She's seen Katelyn do well for months, and then something will happen and she'll slip up again.

Madeline tries to explain this to him. He said that Katelyn is older now and that she understands her consequences if she chooses the wrong path. No matter what anyone says, Madeline's anxiety never goes away.

"I love you, honey."

"Love you too, Mom," she replies, stepping outside.

Madeline tries to imagine her next painting, but no matter how hard she tries, a sinking feeling keeps gnawing away at her.

****

Peeling himself off the couch, Stan glances towards the bright morning sun beaming from the large picture window. I need to close the drapes. Holding his aching head, he stumbles off to the adjoining bathroom, hoping to find relief. Stan sees his haggard image in the mirror. Moving a little closer, he takes a better look. His face is pale and houses more wrinkles than what you'd see on a ninety-year-old man.  Stan then notices bags the size of saucers have taken up residence underneath his eyes. I got to stop this nightly drinking. He stares at the old man looking back at him. 

At sixty-four, he knows he isn't a spring chicken. His thinning hair and achy bones often remind him of that. He sure doesn't want to look like some withered up old prune before his time.

This is all your fault, Madeline. You and that damn daughter of yours. If it wasn't for all the hell you two give me, I wouldn't have to drink every night. Stripping off his clothes, he tosses them on top of the large pile in the corner.

"I'm glad Marie is coming in today," he says, inspecting the mess around him.

He hired Marie to cook and clean three days a week. He first thought her services were a luxury, but soon realized he desperately needs her help.

In our thirty years of marriage housekeeping is the only thing Madeline ever did right, he concludes, adjusting the water.

 Hearing a loud commotion at the front of his house, he glances at the clock. Marie shouldn't be here yet. Throwing his robe around his cold body, he runs towards the noise.

Discovering that nothing has been disturbed, he runs to the front door. It's still locked. Puzzled, he looks around. I bet those damn cats are getting into my garbage, he concludes, walking down the hall. He sees a familiar face standing at the bar when he steps into his den.

"What the hell are you doing here?" he asks, stomping towards his intruder.

****

Madeline is choosing colors for her new creation when she hears someone knocking on her door.

"Just a minute," she yells, busily emptying her hands. Madeline looks up to see Katie walking through the apartment.

"I thought I'd stop by and see how things are going, Mom."

"Everything is great, honey. Yesterday Arellia told me they have a buyer who wants to display my art in Paris. Can you believe it, Katie? My paintings are traveling all the way to France."

"Congratulations, Mother."

"I'd love to rub my news in your dad's face just for spite." Picturing the shock on Stan's face, Madeline chuckles. "How is the old geezer anyhow?"

"He wants you to come home."

"Did he say that?"

"Dad will never admit it, but I can tell by the way he acts that he misses you."

"I sure don't miss him and his constant abuse."

"I understand, Mom, I really do. It's just hard to see you guys split up."

"I know it is, honey." Seeing the grave look on Katie's face, Madeline quickly changes the subject. "Your sister is doing well. She's still working at the department store, taking her medicine."

"Maybe she'll be able to get her own place soon, give you a little extra room." She gestures across the crowded apartment.

The girls haven't spoken since that dreadful night at the hospital. Madeline tries to get them to talk, but they refuse to be in the same room for more than a few seconds.

Katie, being as stubborn as her father, won't allow her two daughters near her apartment if Katelyn is home. When they do visit, Katie's daughters seem cold, distant, always wanting to leave soon after they arrive. This hurts Madeline deeply because those girls were her little angels, her pride, and joy before this new battle began.

"How are the girls?"

"They're doing great."

"Tell Ashley and Abby grandma loves and misses them."

"I will, well, I better go, I have a lot of errands to run. Pay bills, grocery shopping all the fun stuff, you know how it is."

"I remember what it's like." Madeline laughs. "Love you, honey."

"You too, Mother," she replies, closing the door behind her.

Madeline plops down on her worn out sofa feeling emotionally drained. "It's like I don't even know her anymore," she cries.

****

Katelyn walks to the picnic table in the far corner of the park. She'd lost her job at the cosmetic department after her third day. Her boss said he wouldn't tolerate her being rude to his customers and fired her on the spot. She wasn't being rude she was just explaining to the lady the makeup she chose wouldn't look good on an older person. The old hag became offended and reported her to the manager. I should have told that old bat what I was really thinking, that nothing will help her ugly mug. She laughs.

Katelyn met Mario, Carlos's older brother at a coffee shop later that day. After Katelyn explained what had happened, he offered her a job.

~~~

"Carlos asked me to oversee his investments while he's away. So I could really use your help," Mario explains.

"That's what got me into trouble the last time."

"Carlos shouldn't have brought you in when he did, knowing that he's being watched."

"You're not being investigated, are you?" Katelyn asks, nervously glancing around.

The coffee shop is a quaint little restaurant in the center of town. Its mismatched furnishings and strange decor give it a homey yet peculiar flair. Looking around, Katelyn realizes the business is completely empty.

"I don't give the cops a reason to suspect me." Seeing her hesitate, Marcus continues. "I've been in this business a lot longer than Carlos and I've never been pinched."

Katelyn mulls his idea over. After a few minutes, she hesitantly asks, "So what do I have to do?"

"Sit at the park and look pretty."

"Like I did before?"

"Exactly."

~~~

"You're late," Lucas says, tapping the face of his watch. He's Marcus's tyrannical partner, often referred to as the evil twin.

"I had something I needed to take care of, some unfinished business," Katelyn explains.

"You have five minutes to get cleaned up and get your ass back out here."

Confused by his statement, Katelyn glances down to where he's pointing. She sees small red drops randomly splattered across her shirt.

"There's some on your forehead too."

"I'll be right back." Katelyn runs towards the bathroom.

"Five Minutes," Lucas yells after her.

Good thing he saw my mess before anyone else did. She pulls paper towels out of the dispenser.

****

"Mr. Stan, are you home?" Marie yells. Plopping her purse and keys on the counter, she surveys his huge mess. She's offered to come in five days a week for an additional $25. He said he only wants her to come in three days and that he'll replace her if she can't handle the load. She informs him she can handle the work but thought he'd want her to clean more frequently, so he didn't have to live in such a mess. Thinking she's trying to swindle him out of money, Stan mumbles something about deportation as he storms out of the room. Worried he'd make good on his threat, she decides to never broach the topic again.

She notices a pot of freshly brewed coffee as she glances around. I bet he's overslept again. Stepping across a huge pile of rubbish she heads towards his den. She sees his feet sticking out of his study when she gets down the hall.

"Mr. Stan, are you alright, Sir?" she asks, running towards the room. She sees his half-naked body lying motionless on the floor, a large puddle of blood circling around him. Terrified, Marie runs screaming through the house.
 


Chapter 18
Likely Suspects

By Mistydawn

The quiet little neighborhood is woken by sirens, as patrol cars quickly line the streets. Soon nosy neighbors congregate on their lawns trying to figure out what's going on.

"I'll have patrol canvas the neighborhood for witnesses. Rachel, I want you to talk to his maid, and Jerry I want you to go inside, take a look around," the captain instructs.

"We're on it boss," Jerry says, heading towards the house. Noticing his buddy down the hall, he walks towards him.

"What can you tell me, Kirk?"

"Since there are no signs of forced entry or a struggle I'm assuming Mr. Howard knew them and let them into his house. The perpetrator follows Stan to the den where he smacks him on the back of the head with this." Gesturing to a small bronze statue, he continues, "I checked the weapon for fingerprints and found three different sets. I'll run them when I get back to our lab. I also found this lying beside Stan's head." He holds up a small clear envelope. "According to its pattern and a few stray threads, I'd say it came from a woman's navy blue jacket."

"Where did all this water come from?" Jerry asks, stepping off of the soggy carpet.

"It's an overflow from the tub. Apparently, he was getting ready to take a bath when his visitor shows up."

"When was Stan attacked?"

"Calculating the stream of water coming out of the faucet, then comparing that to the overflow, I'd say it took place within the last few hours. I'm sure our ME can give you a more accurate time of death when she gets him to the morgue."

"Thanks, son."

"No problem, Sir." Smiling, Kirk gets back to work.

~~~

Rachel sees Mr. Howard's housekeeper smoking a cigarette on the porch. Her hands are trembling as she tries to bring the object up to her mouth.

"My name Is Rachel Bower and I'm with the Berryville Police Department. I heard you're the one who found Mr. Howard?"

"Si, Si I found Mr. Stan lying on the floor when I came into work this morning."

"What time was that?"

"9:30, I always start my cleaning at 9:30."

"Did you see anyone else in the house?"

"No, just Mr. Stan." She takes a drag from her cigarette before adjusting her statement.

"Someone could've been hiding."

"Do you know anyone who might want to hurt him?"

"Si, his wife, he kicked her out three months ago. There's been a lot of friction between them ever since."

"Is there anyone else who'd want to hurt your boss?"

"Si, Si, his oldest child Katelyn. Mr. Stan always worries that she'll come back and hurt him. I guess they had a bad fight and haven't spoken in years."

"Is there anyone else you can think of?"

"No, no that is all."

"If you think of anybody else, call us, alright?" Rachel hands Marie her card.

Rachel sees the paramedics wheeling Mr. Howard out on a gurney, Jerry is right behind them.

"How is he doing?" she asks, walking towards her co-workers.

"He's alive. The paramedics said he was mumbling, "I can't believe she'd do this to me."

"Did he say who?"

"The EMT asked him, but he kept mumbling the same phrase over and over."

"His maid said he kicked his wife out of their house three months ago, and that he and his oldest daughter are estranged. So I'm going to talk to them, see what I can find out."

"I'll finish up here."

***

Madeline is painting a beautiful sunset when she hears banging on her front door. Looking out her kitchen window, she sees a squad car parked in her drive.

"Oh, my God, something's happened to Katelyn!" Running to the front door she throws it open.

"I'm Rachel with the Berryville..."

"What happened to Katelyn, is she alright?" Madeline anxiously questions.

"I'm not here about her, I need to talk to you about your husband, Stan. Where were you this morning between eight and ten?"

"I've been here all morning."

"Can anyone verify that?"

"Katelyn was here until she left for work at 8:00. Then my youngest daughter Katie visited after she left. What is all of this about?"

"Your husband was found unconscious, barely breathing in his home this morning."

"Unconscious, oh, my God, I have to get to the hospital," she says, scooping up her keys. Rachel blocks her inside.

"I need to ask you a few more questions first. Where does Katelyn work?"

"At the cosmetic department at Macy's. I really need to be with him," Madeline says, trying to slide past her. Rachel stops her again.

"Give me Katie's home address and you can leave."

"It's 51 Country Court, now am I free to go?" she asks.

"For now, but I might need to ask you a few more questions later."

"I'll be at the hospital." Grabbing her purse, Madeline bolts outside.

Rachel sees Joe pulling behind her car when she walks down the driveway. "I'm going to visit Katelyn and Katie Howard to verify Mrs. Howard's alibi for this morning."

"You don't think she did it?" he asks, pointing to Madeline.

"The way she reacted to the news and spouted off two alibis without even thinking I doubt it. Katelyn has a history of violence and she and Mr. Howard are estranged, so I'm not ruling her out so quickly."

"I'm headed to the station. Keep me informed, alright?"

"Yes, Sir."

***

Jerry is looking for evidence when Jeff approaches him.

"Jerry, his youngest daughter Katie is here. She wants to know what's going on."

"I'll talk to her." He sees a distraught woman screaming when he steps out of the house. "I've got it," Jerry says.

The officers walk away.

Choking back a tear, Katie tearfully asks, "What happened to my father? Is he alright?"

"Your father was found unconscious this morning. Evidently, someone came into the house and hit him in the head."

"I have to go see him," she says, turning towards her car.

Reaching out, Jerry grabs a hold of her arm. "I need to ask you a few questions, first."

"My father could be dying and you want to ask me questions?" She angrily pulls away.

"I understand you wanting to be with your father, so I'll make this brief. Where were you between eight and ten this morning?"

"I dropped my girls off at school, went to the bank, post office, and then visited mom at her apartment. After that, I went to the grocery store, and then came here."

"What time did you visit your mother?"

"It was almost ten."

"Do you know anyone who'd want to hurt your father?"

"No, I really need to go." She rushes to her car.

***

Stepping into the large department store, Rachel looks around. This place hasn't changed a bit. Seeing an older, heavy-set lady at the cosmetic counter, Rachel walks over to her.

"May I help you?" she asks, giving Rachel a quick once-over.

"Yes, I'm here to see Katelyn Howard."

"I'm sorry, but she isn't working today. Perhaps I can help you with something?"

"When will she be back?"

"She won't be coming back today, or any other day."

"She's fired?"

"Quite some time ago. I know just what you need." Pulling out fancy white bottles from underneath the cabinet, she arranges them in front of her.

"Not today, thanks," Rachel replies, walking away.

"I can make you look like a new woman, in just a few minutes."

"That's ok." Rachel hurries towards the door.

****

Wanting to stop his cerebral hemorrhage, and reduce swelling on his brain, the doctors rush Stan into surgery upon his arrival. They later decide to put him in a medically induced coma to increase his chances of survival.

"There's nothing more you can do, so you might as well go home, get some rest." Stan's surgeon strongly suggests.

Madeline and Katie reluctantly take his advice.

After hours of tossing and turning, Madeline decides to watch TV, hoping to bore herself to sleep. She just started watching a classical romance when someone pounds on her front door.

"Who is it?"

"Mom, it's me, Katelyn, can you please let me in?"

"Oh for heaven sakes," Madeline grumbles as she fumbles with the locks. She sees Katelyn standing half-naked on their front porch. Her hair is a tangled mess and she has two streaks of mascara running down either side of her face. Looking a little closer, Madeline notices bruises on her arms and legs.

"Oh my God, honey, are you alright?" she asks.

"I'm sorry, Mom, I'm so sorry," she cries, falling into her mom's arms. Madeline starts to pull her inside when she sees someone standing behind her. His long greasy hair is pulled into a ponytail, his clothes are a filthy mess and he has numerous tattoos on his dirt-smudged face.

Shoving the women inside, he closes the door behind him. This sudden gust of air sends an overwhelming smell of body odor through the room. Madeline gags from his powerful stench.

"What do you think you're doing, barging into my house like this?" Madeline asks, backing away from his rancid odor.

"Your daughter owes Marcus money, and I came to collect."

"Don't listen to him, Mom!"

"Shut up, bitch," he yells, shoving Katelyn to the floor.

"Get out of my house, now!" Madeline screams.

"Give me my money and I will."

"I'm not paying you a damn dime. So get out before I call the cops."

Reaching into his jacket, he pulls out a revolver. "You can either pay up or I'll kill you both," he says, cocking his gun.

Frightened, Madeline glances at her daughter trembling in the corner.

"How much does she owe you?" Madeline reaches for her purse.

"I figure all the blow she snorted comes to at least five hundred bucks."

"Five hundred dollars," Madeline exclaims.

"You're full of shit, Lucas, I don't owe anyone a dime."

"That's what we should've gotten from your sales today."

"I gave my money to Diego."

"That's not what he's claiming. He says he found you lying on a bench all strung out. When he asked for your money you said you hadn't sold a thing and when he asked for our drugs, you ran away."

"Well, he's lying because I gave every last dime I made to him."

"Wait, what's going on?" Madeline asks.

"Your precious little girl has been selling coke and today she snorted up all my profit."

"Is it true?" Madeline asks, looking over at Katelyn.

 Seeing disapproval on her mom's face she starts bawling. "I didn't want to sell for him, I didn't, but Lucas said he'd kill us both if I didn't pay off an old debt."

"Stop lying, you begged Marcus for a job when you lost yours two months ago."

"He's lying; I wouldn't break my promise to you. Not after all you've done for me."

"I don't know what's going on, but I want you to leave, Lucas."

Getting a firm hold on Madeline's housecoat, he shoves his gun against her head.

Madeline winces from the pain. "Please stop, you're hurting me," Madeline begs.

"Pay what your daughter owes or else."

"Ok, ok, just please let me go."

"Do it, now!" Lucas pounds the butt of his gun into Madeline's head. Blood trickles down the side of her face.

"No one hurts my mother," Katelyn screams. Grabbing a knife off of their kitchen counter, Katelyn runs towards them.

"Katelyn no," Madeline warns.

Lifting her weapon above her head, Katelyn plunges the knife into Lucas's back.

Lucas reflexively squeezes the trigger, they tumble to the floor.
 


Chapter 19
Stan's Attacker

By Mistydawn

Rachel slowly trudges into the police station. It's been a long, busy day and she was more than ready to go home. She's hoping that her husband is ready too.
w
Stepping through the door she weaves around rows of empty desks. Looking over, she sees a janitor cleaning up in the far corner.

Poor dude has his work cut out for him, she concludes, eyeing their mess. No matter how bad they leave it,  Henry never complains.

"Evenin, Sarge."

"Good evening, Henry."

Flashing his beautiful smile, he gets back to work.

Joe is on his phone when she steps into his office.

Seeing Rachel in front of him, he puts the device on its cradle. "I was just about to call you."

"Are you ready to go home too?" Rachel laughs.

"More than ready, but it doesn't look like that's going to happen anytime soon."

"Why, what's going on?" Rachel's face turns pale.

"Someone just reported gunshots at Madeline Howard's apartment."

"I'm on my way." She wearily turns towards the door.

***

Jumping up, Katelyn grabs a hold of Lucas' lifeless body and shoves him aside. Seeing Madeline lying unresponsive on the cold hard floor, Katelyn tearfully drops to her knees.

"Mother, Mother, please wake up, please, Mom?"

Madeline didn't respond.

"Please answer me, please," she begs, shaking her. 

Madeline slowly opens her eyes.

"Are you alright, Mom?"

"I... I think so." She slowly lifts up to a sitting position. Seeing a bloody corpse beside her, Madeline screams.

"It's alright, Mother, he can't hurt us anymore."

"Oh Katelyn, what did you do, what did you do?" she frighteningly asks.

"I saved us from being killed."

The front door flies open, officers storm into the room.

"Put your hands up where I can see them," Jerry orders, pointing his gun towards the women.

Terrified, the ladies throw their hands in the air.

"We're unarmed, we're unarmed," Katelyn nervously blurts out as an officer pats her down.

Walking over to the victim, Kirk feels for a pulse. "He's dead, Sir."

"He tried to kill us, he tried to kill us," Katelyn exclaims as officers drag her out of the house.

"She's right, he threatened to shoot us if I didn't pay," Madeline adds.

"We'll sort it out at the station." Jerry escorts her to the door.

Rachel sees officers loading suspects into the car when she pulls up to the scene.

"You missed out on all of the action."

"I see that. So what do we have?"

"We have one dead from an apparent stabbing in the back. Both ladies are claiming that it was done in self-defense."

"How can it be self-defense if they stabbed him in the back?"

"That's what I want to know."

"What about the reported gunfire?"

"It must've been a stray bullet because no one was shot."

"So what do you want me to do?"

"Do a walkthrough of the crime scene, and then meet me at the station."

"Sounds like a plan." She's heading towards the apartment when she's met by one of their lab techs.

"Rachel, we found a gun laying a few feet from the deceased. He has gunpowder residue on his right hand and the only prints on the weapon are his. The knife that was used to stab him matches the ones found in their kitchen. It has two sets of prints. One belongs to Katelyn and I'm assuming the other matches, Madeline. I'll know more when I compare them in the lab."

"Thank you, Kirk."

"There's one more thing. We found a slug in the ceiling. I'll have forensics check to see if it matches his gun."

"Are there any signs of forced entry?"

"No, and there are no signs of a struggle either."

"So they must have let him into their apartment." 

***

Storming into the interrogation room, Jerry plops down in front of Madeline. He's hoping that if he's a little rough on her, she'll cave in and tell him the whole story.

"Ok, Madeline, this is how it is. The DA wants to send you and Katelyn to prison for a very long time."

"Prison, no, I don't want to go to prison. Please, don't send me there," she cries.

"I'm sorry Madeline, but with all the evidence stacked against you, there's not a lot I can do."

"I didn't kill him, Katelyn did, but it was in self-defense." She sobs.

"How can it be self-defense when she stabbed him in the back?"

"He was holding a gun to my head, Katelyn ran up and stabbed him to save my life."

"How did this Lucas dude get into your house to begin with?" Opening his notebook, Jerry glances up at Madeline.

"I was watching TV when Katelyn knocks asking to be let in. A guy pushes her into our house the moment I open the door. He starts threatening to shoot us if I didn't pay him what Katelyn owes. I was scared detective. S.... so terrified, I didn't know what to do," she stutters.

"What happened next?"

"He and my daughter argued and that's when the guy came towards me with a gun." Blowing her nose, she continues, "Katelyn grabs a knife from the kitchen and runs toward us. The next thing I remember, Katelyn is shaking me, telling me to wake up."

Jerry glances up from his notebook. "Do either of you know him?"

"I don't, but I believe she does."

"Let me talk to your daughter, see if she can confirm your story." He sees Rachel standing in the hallway when he opens the door.

"I spoke to Katelyn and she confirms everything Madeline just said. When I asked her whereabouts this morning, she said she was in the park. I asked her if anyone could put her there, and she said Lucas and his buddy Jimmy can. So I'm going to find Jimmy to confirm her story."

Jerry walks back into the room. "I have another question I need to ask you. How did the bullet get in your ceiling?"

"I pushed his arms up, right before we fell."

"Sit tight, let me see what Joe wants to do." He starts to walk to the captain's office when he thinks of a few more questions for Katelyn.

Katelyn is sobbing at the table when Jerry opens the door.

"I've already spoken to your mom. Now I have a few things I need to ask you."

"I told the other detective everything." She sniffles.

"It's not about what happened tonight, it's about this morning's events."

"I told her I was at the park."

"I know, and she's checking on that now, in the meantime, I wanted to ask you if there's anybody who'd want to hurt your father? Anyone with a grudge, maybe someone he owes money to?"

"I can't think of anyone."

"Do you have a grudge against him, Katelyn?"

"No, I love my Father. I just wish he felt the same way." She glances down at the table. Looking up, she continues, tears streaming down her face.

"Dad hates me because of all the things I did when I was younger. I was sick back then, didn't know what I was doing. Of course, refusing to take my medicine only made things worse. Dad doesn't understand that he just doesn't understand," she cries.

"Maybe someday he will."

"He'll never forgive me for what I've done, never! He even blames me for splitting him and mom up. He said I purposely ruined his family, that I'm a psychopath, and he wishes I was never born. I didn't want to do all of those horrible things, I really didn't, but my voices kept telling me to. Why can't anyone understand that, why? Sometimes I wish I was never born then I wouldn't hurt the ones I love. Why was I born this way, why? I don't want to be like this, I don't. I'd give anything to be normal, anything at all. Why can't I be normal, why? Dad is right, I am a mistake, a big, fat, stupid mistake."

The door flies open.

"Oh, honey," Madeline rushes to her daughter's side.

"I'm sorry, Mama, I'm so sorry for everything I've ever done. Please forgive me, please, please forgive me," she cries, leaning her head against Madeline's chest.

"It's alright honey, everything is going to be ok, I promise."

"You still love me, right?"

"I'll always love you, no matter what happens," she says, wrapping her arms around her daughter. Looking up at Joe, Madeline explains.

"She gets like this when she doesn't take her medicine."

"I've had personal experience with this disease so I know how they can get. That's why I allowed you to come in here, before, well, you know how their moods change," Joe replies.

Having a thought, Madeline looks up at the captain. "Have you checked Stan's security cameras yet?"

"What security cameras?"

"The ones he has strung all over his house. I don't know where they're located but I'm sure his maid does."

***

Walking over to the elevator, Rachel pushes the button. Not seeing it light up, she pushes it again. A seedy-looking gentleman steps through the front door as she pushes it a third time.

Stopping, he turns towards her. "That elevator doesn't work. It hasn't for over three years."

"Ok, thanks."

After climbing six flights of stairs, Rachel breathlessly makes it to Jimmy's door.

"Hey, Jimmy, whatcha doing?" Rachel asks as he opens the door. He's one of their frequent flyers, often busted for possession of a controlled substance and public intoxication.

"What do you want, now?"

"I want to ask you a few questions."

"Can't this wait until tomorrow? I sort of have company."

"Well, I sort of have some questions, so we can either do it here or at the station, your choice."

"Ok, what is it?"

"Was Katelyn Howard at the park today?"

"She's at the park almost every day."

"What time?"

"It was ten. I remember thinking she wasn't going to show because she's usually there by nine."

"How did she act?"

"Her normal self. Why?"

"Did you notice anything different about her actions or her appearance?"

"She had some Jelly donut on her shirt and her face."

"You're sure that's what it was?"

"She always picks up breakfast before she comes to the park."

"Do you remember what she was wearing?"

"White shirt, jeans, she had another top under it, light blue tank top I think. Wait, is she alright?"

"Why wouldn't she be?"

"No reason." He nervously looks away.

"Don't play dumb with me."

"I'm not, honest."

"Bullshit!" Getting in his face, she continues. "You know something and if you don't tell me I'll haul your ass in for drug possession."

"What drugs, I don't have any drugs."

"What's that on your table?" Jimmy glances to where she's pointing.

"From here I'd say it's enough for a warrant. God knows what else we'll find when we search your place."

"I know my rights and you can't go snooping around without a warrant."

"Plain sight statute says I can. So you can either start talking or take a ride." She reaches for her handcuffs.

"If I tell you what Lucas said, you'll forget you saw the drugs?"

"What drugs?"

Jimmy studies her for a minute. "Lucas left the park today mad, claiming Katelyn owes him money and she better pay if she knows what's good for her."

"What do you think he meant by that?"

"He'd probably kill her if she refused to pay." His face turns pale.

"Oh my God he did it, he killed Katelyn!"

"Don't worry, she's fine."

"Is Lucas alright?"

"Thanks for your help, Jimmy," she replies, walking down the hallway.

"Wait, you didn't answer my question, is Lucas alright?"

Her cell rings as she's driving away, she puts it on speaker.

"Rachel, we have the surveillance tape of Stan's attack."

"What did it show, Jerry?"

"Katelyn is....."

Rachel's phone loses connection.


 


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