Chapters 13 – 14  Wherein Carmen primes her memory and Detectives Owen and Garth investigate Janine’s death

Previously in Hold Gently the Shadows: Preface, Chapters 1 – 3, Chapters 4 – 6Chapters 7 – 9, Chapters 10 – 12

 

Chapter Thirteen

Carmen cleared away the supper dishes and turned on the dishwasher while Paisley bounced a fidgety Noah on her lap.

“Let’s go to the living room while I feed him,” said Carmen, taking the baby from her niece. She settled into her favourite leisure chair where Noah lost no time nestling hungrily at his mother’s breast.

“I’m glad Eula suggested I spend a few days with you,” said Paisley. “She knew I was homesick.”

“You’re welcome here anytime, sweetie, and I told Eula that.”

“Eula’s very nice,” said Paisley, “but she tries too hard to please me and I always feel I’m in the way.”

“Does she have house rules?”

“I have to keep my room tidy and do my homework.”

“That sounds reasonable for a boarding arrangement. Give it time, and you and Eula will soon be more at ease with each other.

Paisley nodded uncertainly.

“It was Eula who made it possible for me to keep nursing Noah during my transition from abbey to manor.”

“She bottle fed him when you weren’t there,” said Paisley.

“Yes, and she mothered him while I was struggling to be a mother,” said Carmen.

There was a knock at the door, and Paola entered unbidden with a plate of warm brownies. She was followed by Mavis carrying a small tin of herbs

“Memory tea,” said Mavis, smiling. She handed the tin to Paisley who asked her if she should make the tea right away.

“The sooner the better,” said Mavis.

“Aunt Sasha, I mean Carmen, told me about the memory sessions,” said Paisley. “You’re going to have them every week.”

“Tonight will be the first,” said Paola. “Mavis will be our spirit guide and Alistair will join us when he recovers sufficiently.”

“How is Alistair doing?” asked Carmen.

“He’s happy to be out of the hospital even if it means having Crawford take care of him,” said Paola.

“And Crawford?” asked Carmen. “How is he managing?”

“He’s so funny. He says he’s more rattled by the nurses and therapists coming and going than he is by the hospital bed set up in his tiny living room,” said Paola.

“They’ll be fine,” said Mavis. “Crawford knows he can call on me any time.”

By the time Paisley served tea, Noah had fallen asleep. Gently, so as to not disturb him, Carmen snuggled him in a blanket and laid him in his playpen.”

“Who’s going first?” asked Paisley.

“Your aunt is, because I’ve already talked about my dreams and memories on a few occasions now,” said Paola.

“I don’t know where to start,” said Carmen.

“Let me start it for you,” said Paisley. “After Mommy died, I went to live with Daddy and Nicole, and you took Dorrian with you on your book tour to Nova Scotia. Remember?”

Tell it like one of your stories,” said Mavis. “Talk about the summer leading up to your first stay at Ravensglen. Continue where Paisley left off.”

Carmen let her mind drift back to the summer of the book tour. “Dorrian and I left London and arrived in Creekside in late afternoon,” she said, imagining herself as a character in one of her books. “We unpacked in the carriage house before going to the inn for dinner. Emily told us how sorry she was about Kate’s death. She was wearing a multicolored blouse that picked up the blue of her skirt. Her hair was tied back with a navy ribbon, and as she led the way to the dining room, her long, gauzy skirt swirled about her ankles.

“After dinner, Emily gave Dorrian pencil crayons and paper to help him pass the time while she cut my hair. Before we returned to the carriage house, Dorrian handed Emily a picture he’d drawn of her working on my hair. It was one of his amazingly realistic portraits with eyes that seemed alive. Emily stared at it for the longest time before looking at me with a puzzled look on her face. ‘You didn’t tell me you were one of them,’ she said.

“Late on the following day, I took Dorrian to meet Mavis and Bram as I had promised Mother I would. Although I had been there before, I tried to imagine Briarfeldy through Dorrian’s eyes. Inside the entrance, an elegant staircase curved upward to showcase a magnificent stained-glass window on the second-floor landing. The foyer was large enough to also accommodate three doorways, one opening into a hallway, another into a library lined with old books. The third doorway was the entrance to Owen’s apartment.

“At the back of the building, an elevator ran from the cellar to the upper floors, adjacent to the old servant stairs. We rode it to the third floor where there were two apartments, one occupied by Paola, the other being renovated. Bram told me the unfinished one would be ready for me by the time I returned from my tour. I told him I was still contemplating. At the time, I was still living in the carriage house of Emily’s bed-and-breakfast and Emily didn’t want me to leave.”

“Why didn’t Emily want you to leave?” asked Paisley, forgetting herself. “Sorry, Aunt Sasha” she said contritely.

“It’s okay, sweetie,” said Carmen. “When Dorrian asked the same question, Mavis explained that Emily probably heard the Galvinstons referred to as Sensos. Townsfolk liked to regale newcomers to Creekside about the strange powers that some of the original families possessed.”

Carmen sipped her cooling tea. “I don’t have any problem remembering events of the summer leading up to that first summer at Ravensglen,” she said. “Should I go on?”

“Definitely,” said Mavis. “Reviewing what you readily recall will open your mind to deeper memories.”

As a clinical psychologist, Carmen knew this. She also knew she needed an experienced guide to accompany her into the depths of her buried fears. Grateful for Mavis’s serene presence, she picked up her narrative.

“Inside their charming apartment, the Galvinstons gave Dorrian a brief introduction to our bloodline. Bram began with a brief history of Creekside’s earliest days. Prosper Station hit its first gusher in 1866 producing two-hundred-and-sixty-five barrels a day. More than forty years of prosperity followed. At one point, the town had the highest per capita income in Canada. During this time, the town became steeped in oil and its by-products resulting in frequent fires, nitroglycerine explosions and gas vapors everywhere.

“Explosions, fires and vapors led to the development of mutations including the sensointuitive gene. Sensos are gifted with acute sensory aptitudes as well as highly developed intuitive abilities. Others, like Bram and me, are carriers of the mutant genes. Mavis told Dorrian his grandmother believed he had other abilities besides artistic genius. To assist him in exploring his giftedness, she lent him a discernment feather for the duration of the book tour.

“I’ve taken enough of your time for one evening,” said Carmen.

“Don’t stop now, Aunt Sasha,” said Paisley. “Keep going until you get to the part where I joined you and Dorrian at The Pinery Provincial Park.”

“Yes, keep going,” said Mavis with an encouraging smile.

“Okay,” said Carmen. “When the book tour ended, we went to The Pinery to relax. Shortly after our arrival Dorrian went exploring with a couple of boys from a nearby campsite. Walking along, he noticed a silver Mustang convertible slowly circling the campground. It was the same car that had bumped us on the Cabot Trail while we were touring Nova Scotia. As it crept closer, he handed his cellphone to one of the boys, asked him to take a picture of the convertible’s occupants, and hid behind a tree. When the car reached them, the boy stepped forward and held up the phone. The car sped off in a crunch of gravel.

“When the boy handed over the phone, Dorrian was shocked to see the startled face of the car’s passenger. In the background, the driver was minimally visible. Dorrian dashed back to the motorhome to find the door unlocked and me out. Wondering how the car was able to locate them, he remembered the feather, pressed it to his pounding heart, and sent a few prayers heavenward as backup. As he related later, the mystery became suddenly clear.

“Dorrian scrambled for his journal on the motorhome dash and began to carefully examine it. On the inside of the back cover, he felt a bulge beneath the paper backing. He peeled it back to reveal a tracking device. When Thol and I came through the door, Dorrian told us it was his fault we were being followed. He held out the device, then opened his phone. I looked at the photo taken by the boy and gasped. Dorrian identified the person in the photo as his classroom volunteer, Mrs. Hanes. I told him I knew the woman as someone else, and thought I also recognized the driver.

“We quickly locked up the RV and went searching in Thol’s car. The three of us drove carefully up and down every road in Riverside Campground, our anxiety rising with each passing minute. On a hunch, we headed for a one-way road on the far side of the park with trails, beaches and picnic areas. We knew our quarry didn’t have a campsite, so they might have gone there. When we reached the one-way road, we cautiously drove through the first three picnic areas without sighting the culprits. However, our fortune changed in the fourth one. Dorrian spotted them first. The pair we sought were at a picnic table, their silver convertible partially concealed behind a nearby van. Thol pulled to a stop and the three of us jumped out. The picnickers looked up in shock.

“Struggling to regain her equanimity, the woman asked Dorrian what he was doing there along with his aunt and her Professor friend. Dorrian told her accusingly that he had trusted her, and she insisted he had every reason to do so. Meanwhile, the woman’s companion rose and walked over to me. It was Eric Jamieson, an old high school friend. Eric pleaded with me to hear him out, but I was too indignant over being stalked by him and his mother. I asked the woman, whom I’d known since childhood as Mrs. Jamieson, when she had become Mrs. Hanes. She said she’d remarried after Eric’s father died and that her second husband was now deceased as well. She explained how, when she learned Dorrian was accompanying his aunt on her book tour, she saw it as a wonderful opportunity to track me discreetly on her smart phone. If things had gone as planned, Eric and I would have casually bumped into each other somewhere along the way. But then Thol appeared on the scene, pursuing me constantly, as she put it.

“Thol shook his head and pursed his mouth derisively. When Eric asked to speak with me privately, Thol moved quickly to my side and took my arm protectively. The two men glared at each other until Dorrian broke the silence by asking Mrs. Hanes how she happened to arrive at his school in the first place. Mrs. Hanes said it was karma, that when she volunteered in the school system, Dorrian’s classroom had an overly high enrollment and she was sent there to assist the teacher. She was thrilled when she learned Dorrian was Kate’s son and heartbroken when she became ill and died. My book tour seemed like the perfect opportunity to address Eric’s concerns about my safety.

“Still positioning himself to block any attempts by Eric to approach me, Thol angrily told him I had friends to keep me safe. He angrily added that it was beyond disturbing that he had tracked them at all. Eric persisted in ignoring the professor while he addressed me. I listened impatiently as he recounted how, when his mother told him about Kate’s funeral, he thought he’d be able to discuss his concerns with me at the visitation. But I was never alone, so the opportunity passed. Then his mother told him about the summer book tour and his hope rekindled. Thol told Eric and his mother they’d wasted enough of our time, and he wanted them out of the park immediately. He said if he ever caught sight of them again, he’d have them both arrested.

“It was then Eric asked Thol if he’d told me about the others. I remember how grim Thol’s face was as he escorted Dorrian and me to his car. Without another look at the thwarted pursuers, he drove back to our campsite and pitched his tent beneath the sprawling branches of a tall spruce tree. At campfire that night, Dorrian asked the Professor why he had let Eric and Mrs. Hanes go free without turning them over to the police. Thol replied that he wanted them out of our lives once and for all, and that we didn’t need the coming weeks wasted on police charges and endless court proceedings. It made sense to me at the time. I certainly had no desire to become involved with legal wrangling.”

“Aunt Sasha, why did Eric ask the Professor if he’d told you about the others?” asked Paisley.

“I don’t know,” said Carmen.

“Who were the others?” asked Paola.

“Thol didn’t give Eric a chance to say,” said Carmen.

“But did you find out who they were?” asked Paisley.

A troubled look crossed Carmen’s face. “I can’t remember,” she said. “I really can’t remember.”

“You’re getting tired,” said Mavis. “Why don’t you finish up with Paisley’s arrival at the park, and call it a day.”

Carmen nodded and continued. “We spent two more days in the park, hiking the trails, swimming in Lake Huron, and relaxing by flickering campfires. Thol drove us to Grand Bend which was teeming with young people eating ice cream, buying souvenirs, and sunbathing. Late on the morning of the third day, he left for Toronto to prepare for the coming university term. An hour later, Andrew and Paisley arrived at the park. Paisley was toting her pink suitcase and I asked her if that was all she was bringing.”

“Dad and I both laughed because there was way more in the car,” said Paisley.

“There sure was,” said Carmen, smiling at the memory.

“Would you like a break, Aunt Sasha, while I tell the next part?” asked Paisley.

“You’re a sweetheart,” said Carmen. “Yes, please go on.”

“Well, after Dad and Dorrian moved all my stuff from the car to the RV, we sat around the picnic table eating lunch and drinking lemonade,” said Paisley. “Aunt Sasha told Dad about the book tour and the adventures she and Dorrian had on their travels. Dad talked about Nicole and the baby, and the struggles we were having at home. He tried to put a positive spin on the situation, like it would all go away soon. Before Dad left for home, Aunt Sasha broke the news that the Professor had invited us to Ravensglen for the remainder of the summer. She hadn’t even told Dorrian yet because she needed Dad’s approval first. I went wild when Dad agreed to the arrangements, and I could see that Dorrian was excited too, even though he tried to act cool.”

As if knowing the story was winding down, Noah began to wail loudly and Carmen rushed to pick him up. Satisfied that the memory sessions were off to a good start, Paola and Mavis said goodnight to Paisley and left for their own places.

 

Chapter Fourteen

Earlier in the day, Owen and Garth drove together in an unmarked police car to interview Maggie and Genevieve.

“How’s Colin enjoying school?” asked Garth.

“He loves it,” said Owen. “He’s a lucky boy to get a place in the academy.”

“Aunt Jane and Mavis look after their own,” said Garth. “Look at Carmen’s niece, Paisley.”

“She’s in class with your girl, Eilidh, isn’t she?” asked Owen.

“Right. My nephew, Tennyson Barkley, is in the same class.”

Owen knew he could count his blessings being drawn into the sensointuitive communities of Briarfeldy Manor and the Abbey Condos. He was an outsider while Garth was one of them. Not only was Garth’s aunt the Abbess of Black Springs Abbey, his wife, Hilma, was Mavis’s younger granddaughter.

It had taken Owen a while to sort out the ones who were gifted Sensos like Mavis and her granddaughters, and those who were carriers of the sensointuitive gene like Bram, Carmen, the Abbess and Garth.

When they reached Maggie Crosby’s modest home, Owen knocked firmly on the front door. A bleary-eyed Genevieve answered.

“Detectives Whelan and Mayfield,” said Owen. “We’d like to ask you a few more questions.”

“I know who you are,” said Genevieve. “Come in.”

Wrapped in a blanket, coffee mug in her hand, Maggie sat on the living room couch. “Haven’t we answered all your questions?” she asked, not bothering to look up from the television show she was watching.

“We have a few more,” said Garth tactfully, refraining from reminding the woman of her previous inability to cooperate. “Perhaps you could tell us a bit about the days leading up to Janine’s death. Was she upset or worried about something.?”

Genevieve said that she hadn’t seen much of her daughter since she took a room elsewhere. Maggie added that she would still be alive if she’d stayed with them. Janine lived in her own little dream world and wasn’t suited for independence.

“Do you have any idea who might have stabbed her?” asked Garth.

“No,” said Genevieve, beginning to cry.

“Why was your daughter with Alistair that night, Genevieve?” asked Owen.

“I don’t know,” said Genevieve through her tears.

“What about you, Maggie?”

“How should I know?” retorted Maggie.

“Might Alistair have been telling Janine about his suspicion that you were his foster mother?”

“That’s absurd!” said Maggie, throwing off her blanket and getting to her feet. “I’ve always been a housewife, caring for my husband, raising Genevieve and helping her when she needed me.”

“Any thoughts on who might want to stab Alistair,” persisted Owen.

“None at all,” said Maggie angrily.

“You’re upsetting Mama,” said Genevieve. “Please leave.”

“We’ll talk again,” said Garth.

The detectives received a warmer welcome at the home of pharmacist, Marcel Greyson, and his partner, Joachim Smythe. Both had come home on their lunch breaks to show them the room they’d recently rented to Janine.

“You’ll join us for lunch, of course,” said Joachim. “Shrimp linguini with fiesta salad.”

“Tempting, but we’re on a tight schedule,” said Owen.

“Jo’s a super chef,” said Marcel.

“And Marcel is a master gardener,” said Joachim, returning the compliment. “Come, we’ll go downstairs to Janine’s room.”

As the four of them descended the stairs, Marcel asked about Janine’s dog and was pleased to hear it was with the detective and his son. “She loved that dog,” he said. “Cared for it like a baby.”

“There’s not much to see in her room,” said Joachim. “She brought very little with her except the dog and some clothes.”

With the exception of the furnishings – bed, dresser, desk, chair – there was little in the room. A half dozen blouses and two skirts hung in the closet. Jeans, tee-shirts and cotton underwear were folded neatly in the dresser. Some basic toiletries had been placed on a bathroom shelf.

“We were trying to get her to brighten up her appearance,” said Marcel. “She was saving up for a shopping spree.”

“She allowed me to make some minor changes to her hair,” said Joachim.

“That’s right. You’re a hairdresser,” said Garth.

“Stylist,” corrected Joachim. “Once you come to ‘Joachim’s Salon and Spa’, you never want to go anywhere else.”

“Not that you’re known to brag,” said Marcel, to which Joachim retorted that in his case, it was an understatement. While the men were bantering, Owen opened the upper desk drawer and discovered a notebook and a stack of library cards held together with a rubber band. Each card had handwritten notations. One notation stated that the addressee was expecting a baby.

Marcel and Joachim went upstairs to have lunch, leaving the detectives to complete their search. While Owen snapped pictures of the cards, Garth leafed through the notebook.

“Anything interesting in the book?” Owen asked him.

“Seems to be research on breastfeeding.”

“Breastfeeding? Was she pregnant?”

“The coroner’s final report hasn’t been turned in yet, but the preliminary one didn’t mention a pregnancy.”

“I suppose a library assistant could be doing research for one reason or another,” said Owen.

“Listen to this,” said Garth. “The sooner you breastfeed baby after birth, the better. Keeping your new baby skin to skin with you, both naked from the waist up, is of extreme importance. Such close contact between you and baby establishes an essential exchange of sensory information and helps baby adapt to his new environment.

Intrigued, Owen was now reading over Garth’s shoulder. “Some birth mothers are willing to breastfeed the baby for the first few days, thus helping the baby get colostrum while learning how to latch on to the breast. Latching on well is especially important when the mother does not have a full milk supply. A good latch means the baby will get more of your milk, whether your milk supply is plentiful or marginal.

“How would you have milk at all without being pregnant?” wondered Garth aloud. He leafed through a few more pages. “Aha, you’d need a breast pump. It says here, Do not be discouraged by what you may be pumping before baby arrives, because a pump is never as good as a baby who is sucking well. The purpose of pumping before baby arrives is to stimulate milk production and build up a reserve of milk.

“Let’s see what’s in the bottom drawer,” said Owen, pulling it open. He reached to the back of the drawer and pulled out a carefully folded towel. Within the towel package was a glass bottle with a suction cup and a hand lever as well as two alternate-sized suction cups.

“I remember Hilma using one of these when the girls were babies and she wanted to leave a bottle with a babysitter,” said Garth.

Owen rewrapped the pump and returned it to the desk drawer. He and Garth climbed the stairs to have another word with the homeowners. This time they asked whether Janine had ever discussed babies with them.

“Once when Maggie and Genevieve were both absent from our library writing group, Janine let her hair down,” said Marcel. “She told us she often dreamed about having a baby so she’d have someone to love. That’s why she bought a dog without asking their permission.”

“Bet that went over well,” said Garth.

“Janine said that Maggie was livid, and for the first time in her life, Janine stood her ground. ”

“After Oh, yes. She said she was miserable at home and had been emotionally abused her entire life. Her grandmother nagged at her constantly. She told Janine she wasn’t smart enough to attend college and was lucky to get work at the library.”

“Did she comment on her mother?”

“She said her mother was a good mom before her dad left. But after she and her mom moved to Creekside to live with Maggie, life became hell,” said Marcel.

“That’s when Marcel asked me if we could invite her to board with us,” said Joachim.

“She jumped at the invitation,” said Marcel. “She brought the dog with her, but was too afraid to pack her clothes. Nola Grady accompanied her home the following day and they snatched up a few things. Nola said she was almost as nervous as Janine was. Maggie said nothing. She merely sat and scowled.”

“Where was Genevieve?” asked Owen.

“Working,” said Marcel.

“Poor little Janine. I can’t believe she gone,” said Joachim.

The detectives made their final stop of the day at the Quinn apartment in Briarfeldy Manor. From his electric bed, Alistair struggled to answer their questions, his face pinched through effort and frustration.

“What did you and Janine talk about?”

“Not…much,” said Alistair, shaking his head in regret.

“Did you have time to discuss Maggie at all?” asked Owen.

“What…she…like,” said Alistair.

“You asked Janine what Maggie was like as a grandmother,” said Owen.

Alistair nodded affirmatively.

“And Janine said…” prompted Owen.

“Cri…ti…cal,” said Alistair.

“As in always criticizing,” said Owen, writing down Alistair’s words in his pocket notebook.

Alistair nodded in agreement.

“Did you ask if Maggie took in foster kids?” asked Garth.

“Yes.”

“Yes, she took in foster kids?” asked Garth.

“Yes.”

“Did she say what Maggie was like as a foster parent?”

“No…time…” said Alistair.

“She had no time for the children?” asked Garth.

“No…time…to…talk,” said Alistair.

“No time to talk to the children?” asked Garth.

“…to…me.”

“I think he’s telling you he and Janine didn’t have time for further discussion,” said Crawford.

Alistair nodded. Then his eyes closed and his head rolled to the side.

“Is he alright?” asked Owen, concerned.

“He tires easily,” said Crawford.

Garth and Owen thanked them, wished them well, and said they had to report back to the detachment before signing off their shift.

From her car parked in the shadows of the tree-lined street, Robin watched the detectives leave the manor’s driveway for their next destination. She had followed them since spotting them at the fake Maggie’s place. The most enlightening moment of the day came when the detectives stopped in at the house where the murdered woman had boarded. She must find a way to talk to the owners of the house.

Owen had vaguely noticed the grey Ford Fusion driving behind them as they made their way through the town’s side streets earlier in the day. Here it was again, always maintaining most of a block’s distance. He was about to make a U-turn so they could get the license number when the sedan turned a corner and disappeared from sight.