The car slowed to a stop, and the taxi driver announced that they had arrived at her destination. She didn’t need him to tell that of course; the heaviness in her chest had been building with each mile. He told her the fare, and she paid, stepping out onto the snow-filled sidewalk. It was only October, but the snow had come early this year, providing a blanket of white to adorn the yard. The sun was setting, and it cast a glow on the old house. The autumn air was crisp, and the wind cut through her and hastened her walk towards the front door.
The neighbor placed a key under the potted plant at the end of the porch and turned the heat on in the house; the refrigerator stocked with food and reheating instructions on the fridge door. The house was spotless; it was never this clean and organized when she lived here as a child.
It felt odd to be back, and the ghosts of the house were beginning to haunt her. She was so tired that food was the farthest thing from her mind. No, she wanted to try to rest so to bed it would be. She made her way up the large staircase; the first door was for her parents’ room, and thankfully it was closed. She did not possess the strength to open it; at least not yet. She continued down the hallway to her old bedroom. The room looked exactly like it did the day she left. It was almost as if her parents left it that way to remind them of how things used to be. The Laura Ashley quilt was still on the bed, and the white shaggy rug was still on the floor. She could not help but be transported back to when she would sit on the carpet and listen to music or lose herself in books. There was no way she could sleep in here, at least not tonight. She opted for one of the guest bedrooms instead; there were no memories to haunt her in those rooms.
This trip would not be an easy one and tomorrow would probably be the most difficult day of the entire trip. She needed rest, and amazingly it came quickly once her head hit the pillow.
~ * ~
The smell of coffee and bacon wafted up the stairs and awakened her senses. She jumped out of bed and scrambled to see the time – 7:30 am. She had not bothered to change last night, so she was dressed; albeit a tad wrinkled. She cautiously descended the stairs and tiptoed to the kitchen. Evidently, she had not been quiet enough.
“Good Morning Mallory; I’m sorry if I scared you.”
She took a deep breath to calm her nerves, “Good Morning Mrs. Morgan, did I forget about you coming over this morning? Sorry, I have so much on my mind.”
“Oh no dear; I knew you had quite a lot planned for today, and I thought I would make you breakfast.” That is when she noticed the oatmeal, bacon, toast, and juice on the counter. “You will need your strength, and I figured this would help.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Morgan. I’ve got to admit that’s probably the nicest thing anyone has done for me lately.”
The older woman pulled her into an embrace, “I’m so sorry my dear. I want to help in any way I can.” She stepped back and looked around, a little confused, “Did you make the trip alone?”
“Yes, ma’am. I got on the next flight after I received the call. My best friend and her husband are arriving later today.”
“And will they be bringing your little one?”
She took another deep breath, “Yes ma’am they will. They are driving because the kids do better in a car versus being on a plane. It just made more sense for them to drive.”
“Oh, yes that does make sense,” Mrs. Morgan turned to begin cleaning the mess she made from cooking breakfast, “You better eat before everything gets cold.”
Mallory didn’t have an appetite, but she did not want to offend Mrs. Morgan either. So she sat down and tried to force herself to eat. Mrs. Morgan waited and cleaned up the dishes while Mallory went upstairs to get showered and ready for the start of her day.
~ * ~
The hot shower felt good, but it could not wash away the dread that she felt for the day ahead. She made a mental checklist of the things she had to do and hoped that once out of the shower she could remember them to write them down.
As if on cue, the doorbell rang as she reached the bottom of the stairs. She opened it to find two police detectives. They introduced themselves, although Mallory didn’t pay that much attention to their names and she let them into the house. They seated themselves in the living room and began to ask questions.
“Ms. Turner I am sorry that we need to go through this now, we do understand this must be a difficult time for you,” the first detective offered.
“Please accept our condolences for your loss,” the second detective chimed in.
“I am willing to answer your questions, but you need to know, I have been estranged from my parents. I have not talked to them or seen them in over ten years; they kicked me out when I was nineteen.”
“And you are how old now, Ms. Turner?”
“I am thirty-two; I was in college and living at home. My parents and I had a falling out over a relationship I was in, and they kicked me out. I transferred to a school in Atlanta and lived with my aunt. I was close to her, but she was not very close to her brother, my father. I lived with her and carried on my life there; she died two years ago from cancer.”
“Did your parents go to the funeral?”
She shook her head, “No, they didn’t even send flowers or condolences of any type.”
“So you can’t say if there was anyone here locally who had any disagreement with your parents?”
“I’m confused – I thought my parents were killed in a car accident so why all these questions?”
“We are just exploring all avenues ma’am. The car was severely damaged, and we are looking at the possibility the car was tampered with.”
She stood up like she had been shot out of a cannon, “What? Oh my God who would do that?” She began pacing around the room. “My father was an attorney and my mother was his legal secretary. They didn’t handle criminal cases, so why would anyone want to kill them?” She turned back and looked at the detectives again, “Talk to Mrs. Morgan next door she might know if they had received any threats or anything. She was their best friend.”
The detectives noticed how off-balance Mallory seemed when they mentioned the accident could have been deliberate. The first detective spoke up, “Ms. Turner you know we have to ask; did you have anything to do with the death of your parents?”
She snapped her head in their direction, “Holy shit, you think I did this? Take a good look detectives, do you see any photographs of me in this house? Do you see any pictures of my little boy, the grandchild of these people? Let me save you time – no, there are none. My parents didn’t speak to me, and I didn’t speak to them. Check my phone records, email accounts, whatever you want. And for good measure, I will already tell you I am not in their will. I was a disgrace to them, and they cut me out of their life. The only reason I am here is that they need to be buried and I have to sell this house.”
“We understand, thank you for your time.”
“Can I ask a question,” Mallory said as she walked back towards the detectives, “I don’t want to be here any longer than I have to be. Will there be a delay in needing to bury them because of your investigation? I realize that sounds cold but I would rather this be over very quickly.”
“No ma’am it will not cause a delay. The concern is with the vehicle, and their injuries have been documented, and it is clear they died as a result of the accident.”
She nodded as they detailed this information, “I am sorry to come off as cold and unfeeling. I just had in my mind that my parents died years ago when they kicked me out, and I had accepted life without them. But now that they are gone, the feelings are rushing back, and it is quite painful to be truly alone.”
“We understand and we will see ourselves out Ms. Turner. Thank you for giving us your time.”
Mallory watched as the detectives walked back to their car. She was sure they had some expectation that she was involved in the death of her parents.