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.
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.
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
Rebecca nearly fell into the officer's arms.
afraid so. Are you his mother?”
I'm Rebecca, officer...”
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,
hesitated for a moment, then gestured towards the inside of the house. “Of
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.
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…”
mean...” Rebecca interrupted her.
Rebecca, I'm sorry to tell you, Timmy committed suicide on that park bench
finally stepped forward. “I'm Timmy's father, Peter.”
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.
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.”
sighed, heavily. “I'm sorry you had to deal with that, Jessica. Yes, I'll speak
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.”
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.”
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.
reached across the table and squeezed Rebecca's hand. “What happened,
Rebecca? Can you tell me?”
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.”
right back.” Jessica stood, and silently slipped out of the room.
hall, James stepped out of the room where he had been questioning Peter,
and nearly ran into Jessica. “Has Rebecca told you what happened?”
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
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.”
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.”
leaned forward in her chair. “Do you have somewhere to go, Rebecca?”
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.”
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.”
struggled to catch her breath. “I don’t know if I can leave Peter behind.
What happens to him, now?”
stand trial. If he’s found guilty, he will go to jail for a long time.” “And
me? What happens to me?”
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.”
will I support myself?” Rebecca asked. “I haven’t worked in fifteen years.
Peter wouldn’t allow me to.”
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.”
Stewart walked back into the interrogation room and sat down across from
Peter. “Tell me what happened, 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!”
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
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
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
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.
It’s Detective Stewart. Is Rebecca still with you?”
she’s here.” Jill glanced over at Rebecca. “I’m taking her to the shelter Sarah
runs. What do you need?”
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.”
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
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?”
What does Timmy coming home have to do with anything?”
answered, “It answers the question of whether or not the fight was a
contributing factor in Timmy’s suicide.”
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.”
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.”
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?”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
and pregnant, she gently smiled. “I’m Amy. Sarah told me about Timmy. I’m
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.”
you. I doubt I’ll sleep much tonight, but I appreciate the gesture.” Amy
nodded her head and left Rebecca to change.
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.
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?”
know. I’m just coming on shift. I came down to check on him and found him
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.”
Stewart nodded. “I’ve got work to do, now. I’ve got to go tell Rebecca about
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?”
his wife, alright.” Detective Stewart accepted the note. “Thanks. I’ll see
that Rebecca gets this.” He turned on his heel and left.
the shelter, Sarah answered the door to find Detective Stewart fidgeting with
an envelope. “What’s wrong?”
shuffled his feet. “I need a word with Rebecca, please. Can I borrow your
office?” “Sure, come on in.”
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.
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
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.
are no words to express how sorry I am for the things I’ve done to you, and
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’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!”
slowly opened the door. “Are you alright, Rebecca?”
reached out to Amy and drew her to the spot beside her on the couch. “Tell
me about your family, honey.”
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.”
withdrew a photograph from her skirt pocket. “Do you recognize him?”
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?”
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
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.