BY: MARY JANE BRYAN
Bill Ellison returns home from a trip to discover that his wife, Sharon, was killed. He is the prime suspect. He discovers a safety deposit box full of incriminating video tapes, and a hidden bank account. Has Sharon been blackmailing the locals? Is he doomed to be charged with a crime he didn’t commit? Or did he?
TAYLOR JONES SAYS:
REGAN MURPHY SAYS:
Sharon,” Bill said, out loud, but to himself, “we have to talk—damn!”
He beat his right fist on the steering wheel.
As he drove home, he had rehearsed over and over in his mind what he was going to say to Sharon, but “we have to talk” was not part of it.
We have to talk? How wimpy was that? She would jump on that like a chicken on a June bug and take over the “talk.”
Usually, as soon as he stepped in the kitchen, she commanded the conversation with her wheedling and insinuations, in that whiny, manipulative voice of hers. As she started, Bill always walked to Jessie and gave her a greeting and a kiss. It never hurt to miss the first few minutes of Sharon’s kvetching. When had that started? Quite a while back, he knew. Even when he would say, “Sharon, please, that’s enough. Please stop,” she still continued. Continued until he raised his voice then shouted at her.
At that point she always gave a gasp then turned around, put her hands on the cabinet, and hung her head, supposedly sobbing. She played the innocent card. She became the victim. He could well imagine her laughing to herself.
She waited. He always gave in, walked to her, turned her around, wiped away the tears, said he was sorry for shouting at her. Then she got whatever it was she was after.
All this, every time, in front of Jessica, his daughter. He had not missed that. She always made sure Jessica was at the table in the breakfast nook, supposedly doing her homework. Bill saw her with her head hung low over her paper, pretending to write. Her long wavy hair covered the side of her face, so he could not see it. Sharon wanted her to hear the bickering, her dad shouting, as if saying to Jessica, “see what kind of dad he is, shouting like that at me.”
This was unacceptable, especially being played out for Jessica’s sake.
It had to stop. He had made up his mind to ask Sharon for a divorce today. He had thought about it for quite a while. This time, she would be the last one home. When she came into the kitchen, he would start talking, not let her interrupt as she usually did, then she commanded the conversation from then on. Not this time. She would listen until he said what he had to say. Without Jessica around. There would be a divorce. ASAP.
He felt very calm and resolved as the turn to his house was approaching, ahead on the right.
Bill had been out of town on business. He had left the Holiday Inn Express in Batesville early enough this morning to arrive home when Jessica, his daughter, was in school and Sharon was at her salon. He could unpack and relax before they came home.
He lived in the country, the first house on a dirt road with three houses on it, the last being a log cabin used mostly by guests in the summer. It ended at a small lake. He wasn’t sure if anyone was there yet, for the summer season. It was hit or miss with tenants.
Fortunately, the road off the main county road had a small sign, overgrown with vines and bushes, that said “private road,” no doubt put up by one of the other owners. That meant no through traffic.
His house was a secluded paradise.
As Bill turned the last corner to go home, he could barely see the tops of lights flashing in the distance, over a natural knoll that formed part of the road. The kind of lights on top of police or emergency vehicles. He was sure they were just in front of his place.
He increased his speed slightly, but only slightly. It had rained during the night, causing the surface to be slick in spots. He had hydro-planed on this road in the past, so he was cautious as he drove ahead.
They were at his house. There were two county sheriff patrol cars and an ambulance.
His heart fluttered.
What could be the matter?
It had to be something.
He parked the car as quickly as possible and ran to the house. He was stopped at the door by a deputy. It was the new man the sheriff’s department had hired recently. Bill had not met him yet.
When he identified himself, the man let him in.
“What is it? What’s happened? My wife, daughter, who? What?”
He was beside himself as the sheriff, Colton Mitchell, stopped him.
He and Colton had not known each other for very long, but Bill had the feeling that this new sheriff had familiarized himself with all the “important” people in the county and the Town of Yellville. He wondered if Colton considered Bill an “important” person.
“Yes, yes, what is it?”
It seems that was all he could ask.
“There’s been an accident. Your daughter, Jessica, called nine-one-one. We found your wife in the swimming pool. She had been shot, then she fell, or was pushed into the pool. Where have you been?”
Bill barely heard anything beyond the fact that Sharon had been shot and Jessie had called 911.
“Daddy, Daddy,” Jessie called, as she ran down the hall and into his arms. “You’re here, you’re really here. Oh, Daddy, I was so afraid when I found Sharon, but I called nine-one-one like you said to do if anything happened. Then I took Wolf with me down to the end of the driveway and waited there for the police to come. Sharon’s dead, did you know? She’s dead.”
Jessie was so agitated. She was talking so fast that Bill could almost hardly understand her.
“I know, I know, I mean I just found out. That’s what the sheriff just said. Oh, sweetheart, I’m so sorry you had to find your mom like that.”
Bill turned toward the sheriff. “What happened? I don’t understand any of this.”
“Why did you say you knew your wife was dead when Jessica asked you just now? How did you know?” Colton asked.
“I—I—I meant I knew just now, that’s all, when you told me,” Bill answered.
He was flustered. There was no telling what he had said to Jessie. He simply could not remember. This was just too much to absorb in just the few minutes it had been since he had arrived home. The shock of it was still with him. He couldn’t take it all in. But Jessie was safe and that was the most important thing.
“I asked before. Where have you been? Did you just get home?”
“Yes, yes, I’ve been away for work. I had to stay several days in Memphis and decided to drive in this morning. I had planned to start later, because I thought Sharon would be a work and Jessica in school, and I would have time to unpack and change before they came home. I only decided to come earlier this morning.”
“Well, I’ll have to ask you more questions, of course, and verify your alibi of where you were early this morning, so don’t leave home, okay?”
“Of course not,” Bill answered. “Jessie needs me now more than ever before. I’ll be here.”
Where did Colton think he would go?
They stood there, with Jessie hugging her dad, as tightly as she could, not sure what to do next. Nothing like this had ever happened, this only happened in the movies.
He held Jessica even tighter.
She was sobbing, shaking. “Oh, Daddy, I’m glad you’re back, glad you came back. Where did you go after you came back last night? Why weren’t you here when I woke up?”
Her voice was muffled against his jacket as he held her. Both men plainly heard what she said, though.
Colton turned back from where he had started to walk away from them, give them some privacy.
Bill gently pushed Jessica from him so he could look at her. She looked up at him.
“What?” Bill asked. “What do you mean, why didn’t I come back after I was here during the night? I wasn’t here during the night. Baby, I just got here a minute ago.”
Bill looked quickly up at the sheriff. He knew he had heard his daughter, also.
“I think we’d better talk with your daughter, Bill,” Colton said.
“I know, I agree,” Bill said. “But she’s in no state right now.”
He looked down at Jessica. “What do you mean during the night, sweetheart?” he asked, gently.
“I thought I heard you come home,” she said…
©2020 by Mary Jane Bryan