Fiction: Aftermath

By C. Mel Stewart


The house was a fairly non-descript house in an older, inner-city neighbourhood. Just  inside the front door, there were clear signs that there had been a struggle. Peter and Rebecca  were fighting again. Twenty minutes ago, Timmy, bruised and battered, had run out the front  door, to where neither knew. His parents were not even on the same page, as they fought.  


Rebecca, full of fear, wanted to leave but didn't know how. Peter was simply angry about the  fight Timmy had been in at school earlier that day.  


They glared at each other when the doorbell rang. Rebecca numbly moved towards the  door, hoping against hope that Timmy was ringing the doorbell because he'd forgotten his keys.  instead, she found a police officer standing at attention.  


“Timmy!” Rebecca nearly fell into the officer's arms.  

“I'm afraid so. Are you his mother?”  

“Yes, I'm Rebecca, officer...”  


“Jones. Jessica Jones is my name.” In her years of policing, Jessica had never attended a  call like this. She was tall, with short, cropped dark hair, and a heavier build. It was still a shock to feel Rebecca's similar build crash into her with the shock of seeing her at the door. “May I  come in, please?”  

Rebecca hesitated for a moment, then gestured towards the inside of the house. “Of  course.”  


Standing in the front hallway, Jessica's eyes swept the scene. What looked like it might  have been a drop-leaf table was in pieces at the bottom of the stairs, to her left. Peter stood  motionless in the kitchen doorway, at the end of the hall.  


Jessica took a ragged breath. “Rebecca, I found Timmy's body in a heap at the foot of a  park bench a few minutes ago. I was walking past the park when I thought I heard something, so  I turned in just in time to see Timmy pull out a knife. I tried to run to him, but I got there too late.  By the time I got to him, he was already…”  


“You mean...” Rebecca interrupted her. 


“Yes. Rebecca, I'm sorry to tell you, Timmy committed suicide on that park bench this  evening.”  

Peter finally stepped forward. “I'm Timmy's father, Peter.” 


For a brief moment, Jessica saw something that could have been guilt replace the angry  fire in Peter's eyes. “I need you both to come with me down to the station.” Peter hesitated, then  followed Jessica and Rebecca out the door, to the waiting police cruiser.  


At the station, Jessica lead Peter and Rebecca into separate interview rooms. Down the  hall, she spoke with Detective James Stewart. “James, you need to talk to Peter. From the looks  of their house, something happened there, but I'm not sure what.”  


James sighed, heavily. “I'm sorry you had to deal with that, Jessica. Yes, I'll speak with  him.”  

As she approached the room where Rebecca was waiting, Jessica saw her best friend,  Jillian. “Jill, I need you to help me here, please. Rebecca's in rough shape emotionally, and I'm  spent.”  


Slim and short, with dark hair, Jillian had been a social worker for years. “Sure, Jessica.  I'd be happy to talk to her. It will help her if you join me, though, so that she has somebody with  her who is familiar.”  

Jessica nodded, and led the way into the interview room, where Rebecca sat at the table  sobbing, with her head resting on her arms, folded in front of her on the table. The two women  sat down across from her. 


Jillian reached across the table and squeezed Rebecca's hand. “What happened, Rebecca?  Can you tell me?”  


Rebecca sat silently, collecting herself. Then she spoke. “Timmy got into a fight at school  today. When Peter heard about it, he was furious. He's always had anger issues, so when Timmy  didn't give him the answers he wanted, he threw him down the stairs in a fit of rage.”  


“I'll be right back.” Jessica stood, and silently slipped out of the room.  


Down the hall, James stepped out of the room where he had been questioning Peter, and  nearly ran into Jessica. “Has Rebecca told you what happened?”  


“Yes. She said that Peter threw Timmy down the stairs in a fit of rage. What I saw back at  the house seems consistent with her story, as do Timmy's injuries.”  


James rubbed his chin with his thumb and forefinger. “Ok. Peter has clammed up, so I'll  ask him about that. In the meantime, you’ll need to let Rebecca know that her house is a crime  scene, so she can't go home.”  


With a nod, Jessica turned, and headed back to the room where Rebecca waited, sobbing.  “Rebecca, I'm sorry. Your house is a crime scene, so you can't go back there. Peter is being  charged with aggravated assault. Officers will need to search the house, and document  everything, so it all has to be left as it is.” 


Jill leaned forward in her chair. “Do you have somewhere to go, Rebecca?”  


“No. Peter wouldn't allow me to have friends. And my family? We've never been close,  because of Peter. My parents and I can manage for a weekend out at the lake, but I could never  live with them again. When I was a kid, their rules were too strict.”  


Jill nodded. “My best friend, Sarah, runs a shelter not far from here. She’s a social  worker, like me, so she’ll make sure you have everything you need. I’m sorry, everything in the  house must stay exactly as you’ve left it, but Sarah is your size. I’m sure she’s got a nightgown  you can use, and some clean clothes you can wear tomorrow.”  


Rebecca struggled to catch her breath. “I don’t know if I can leave Peter behind. What  happens to him, now?”  


“He’ll stand trial. If he’s found guilty, he will go to jail for a long time.”  “And me? What happens to me?”  


“You start over. Sarah and I will help you. You can move back to your family if you  would like. Or you can move someplace else. It’s entirely up to you.” 


“How will I support myself?” Rebecca asked. “I haven’t worked in fifteen years. Peter  wouldn’t allow me to.”  


“That is something else that Sarah can help you with. She has a few connections. Don’t  worry about that just now, though. Take some time to get your bearings. Find out who you are on  your own.”  

Detective Stewart walked back into the interrogation room and sat down across from  Peter. “Tell me what happened, Peter.”  


Peter lowered his gaze for a moment, then leaned across the table and snarled, “I didn’t  kill my son! What he did in that park he did of his own free will, and good riddance!”  


Detective Stewart slammed his hand down on the table. “You may not have stabbed your  son, but throwing Timmy down the stairs is still aggravated assault. The jury will see that and  might see it as a mitigating factor in his death. It may not be enough to put you away for murder,  but those two together won’t earn you any sympathy. The assault charge alone will result in a  long time in jail if you’re found guilty. If I were you, I’d get a lawyer.”  


Peter stiffened. “I’ve never needed a lawyer before. I don’t need one now.” He  wavered, trying to find a way out. “If Timmy hadn’t started that fight at school today…” 


Detective Stewart saw an opportunity and grabbed ahold. “That’s not the way it works,  and you know it. Besides, John talked. He admitted to starting the fight. I was talking with him  when the call about Timmy came over the radio.”  


“Let’s go. It’s getting late.” Detective Stewart forced Peter to his feet. “You’ll spend the  night in a cell. In the morning, you will appear in court to answer to the charges against you.”  Once Detective Stewart had locked Peter in a cell for the night, he called Jill.  


“Jill speaking.”  

“Jill, It’s Detective Stewart. Is Rebecca still with you?”  


“Yes, she’s here.” Jill glanced over at Rebecca. “I’m taking her to the shelter Sarah runs.  What do you need?”  


“I thought she would like to know that John admitted to starting the fight. He plans to  plead guilty to assault in exchange for a lighter sentence.”  


“Thank you. I’ll let her know.” Jill clicked off her phone and relayed the message.  Rebecca shook her head. “What does that mean? Does it change anything?” 


Jill glanced at Rebecca, considering her answer for a moment. “It means that Peter was  wrong to accuse Timmy of starting the fight. It also means the jury will have less sympathy for  him. They will no longer see an act of discipline that went too far. They will see a violent act  committed in cold blood. I must ask you something, Rebecca. When Timmy came home from  school, how did he seem?”  

“Why? What does Timmy coming home have to do with anything?”  


Jill answered, “It answers the question of whether or not the fight was a contributing  factor in Timmy’s suicide.”  


“Timmy always seemed well adjusted on the surface. At least, I thought so. Looking  back, I see now that he has been troubled for a long time.” Tears streamed down Rebecca’s face.  “Oh, God. If I’d seen it before, if I’d been willing to admit that Timmy was troubled, I could  have done something to help him. He would still be alive, today.”  


“You can’t know that, Rebecca. True, maybe you would have done some things  differently, but the result might have been the same. Besides, if you had tried to leave Peter, he  would have come after you.”  


Jill pulled the car over to the curb in front of a low brick building with dormer windows  staring out of a mansard roof. “We’re here. Are you ready?” 


Rebecca started as Jill reached for the door handle. “I guess so.” She stared at the  building without seeing it. “Let’s get it over with.”  


Jill walked around to the passenger side of the car and placed her open palm on the small  of Rebecca’s back as she eased herself to her feet. “I think you’ll like Sarah. She’s a lot like  you.”  


A tall, slim woman with wavy blond hair past her shoulders opened the front door.  “Hello, Jill. And you must be Rebecca. I’m Sarah, the operator of this place. This is your home  for as long as you need it.”  


She led Rebecca upstairs and showed her to a cozy room. The walls were painted a pale,  warm yellow. The pine hardwood floor gleamed with a light stain and varnish. A large window,  centered on the opposite wall, was graced by stained woodwork and dark green drapes. One side  of the room was a double bed with a colourful patchwork quilt. On the other side of the window  was an overstuffed armchair. “I’ll be back in a little while. I have some things I need to tend to  before I bring you a nightgown.” She lightly touched Rebecca’s shoulder and slipped out.  


Alone with her thoughts at last, Rebecca flopped face down on the bed and wept. She  didn’t know how long she’d been there before she felt a gentle touch on the small of her back.  When she turned to look, expecting to see Sarah back with a nightgown, she found a short, stocky girl with long, red hair pulled back in braids. Stunned at how similar this young girl  looked to herself, Rebecca couldn’t look away.  

Seventeen and pregnant, she gently smiled. “I’m Amy. Sarah told me about Timmy. I’m  so sorry.”  

After a brief hug, Amy slipped out of the room. A moment later she returned, holding a  flannel nightgown. “You’re about the same size as me, so this should fit you. I’ve got another  one that I can wear, so you’re welcome to borrow this one.”  


“Thank you. I doubt I’ll sleep much tonight, but I appreciate the gesture.”  Amy nodded her head and left Rebecca to change.  


As the sun rose the next morning, a guard checked Peter’s cell. There, on the floor, he  found Peter lying in a heap. “I need some help here! Send medics,” he yelled into his radio.  


Down the hall, Detective Stewart broke into a run. He had come down this morning to  question Peter further. When he arrived, he surveyed the scene, and checked Peter for a pulse.  “You don’t need medics. He’s been dead for hours, now. How did this happen?”  


“I don’t know. I’m just coming on shift. I came down to check on him and found him like  this.” 

A moment later, a medic arrived, and checked Peter for a pulse. “You don’t need me.  You need the coroner. This man’s dead, and unless I miss my guess, he died of a massive heart  attack.”  

Detective Stewart nodded. “I’ve got work to do, now. I’ve got to go tell Rebecca about this.”  


The guard handed Detective Stewart the note that he’d found on the bunk. “You might  want to take this with you. It looks like it’s a note to his wife, somebody named Rebecca?” 


“That’s his wife, alright.” Detective Stewart accepted the note. “Thanks. I’ll see that  Rebecca gets this.” He turned on his heel and left.  


At the shelter, Sarah answered the door to find Detective Stewart fidgeting with an envelope. “What’s wrong?”  


He shuffled his feet. “I need a word with Rebecca, please. Can I borrow your office?”  “Sure, come on in.” 


Sarah walked with him to her office, then returned to the dining room. “Rebecca,  Detective Stewart needs a word with you. If you’ll follow me, he’s in my office.” She led  Rebecca to the office, then closed the door gently behind her as she slipped out.  


Detective Stewart looked up from the envelope he was holding. “Rebecca. I’m sorry to  burden you with even more, but I’ve just come from the station. Peter was found dead in his cell,  this morning. They think he died of a massive heart attack.”  


Rebecca’s hands shook as she withdrew a note from the envelope that Detective Stewart handed to her and sank onto the couch that sat against the nearby wall.  


My Dearest Rebecca,  

There are no words to express how sorry I am for the things I’ve done to you, and to Timmy.  

When we met fourteen years ago, you gave up your three-year-old daughter. You were  pregnant with Timmy when we met. Even though I thought I could accept Timmy as my own,  there was no way I could accept your daughter, so I made you give her up. I found her shortly  after we got married. She’d been adopted by my best friend and his wife, one of the guys I work  with. I should have told you about her and brought her back to you. I’m so sorry. I’ve kept in  touch with her over the years. Amy is seventeen, now, and recently moved to a shelter downtown, run by a lady named Sarah. She looks so much like you, and she has your warm, caring  personality.  


I know I’m going to jail for a long time. Before I do, I want you and Amy to be reunited… A sob rose in Rebecca’s throat. “Amy!”  


Amy slowly opened the door. “Are you alright, Rebecca?”  


Rebecca reached out to Amy and drew her to the spot beside her on the couch. “Tell me  about your family, honey.”  


Amy thought for a moment. “I was adopted when I was three. My adoptive parents told  me that my parents didn’t want me. That’s all I know. They never told me anything else.”  


Rebecca withdrew a photograph from her skirt pocket. “Do you recognize him?”  


“Yes, I do. He’s my dad’s best friend. I don’t know who he is, but he has been visiting  dad for years. Who is he?”  


“He’s my husband, Peter. I’m sorry to tell you, Detective Stewart just came to tell me  that he died last night of a massive heart attack.” Rebecca handed Amy the note. “Honey, read  this. I think you’ll find the answers you’ve been looking for.” 


Amy read the note, then looked at Rebecca. “You mean…”  


Rebecca nodded. “Yes. I can only assume, since you recognize Peter, that he is telling the  truth. Fourteen years ago, he forced me to give up a daughter that I wanted very much. According  to this note, that daughter is you.”

C. Mel Stewart grew up in Saskatchewan, Canada. An avid reader, Mel writes fictional short stories based on real life events. He started writing in 2022 because his family history had an untold story that he wanted to share. From there, he decided to use his platform to tell people who struggle with mental health issues that they are not alone. Follow him on Twitter at @cmelstewartyqr.