Valley of Shadows-Chapter Twenty-Nine

Richard and Rachel returned home from the hospital at midnight, crept up to their rooms and crawled into their beds. Carl was still in intensive care but stable for the moment.  His mother had been distraught and looking to vent her impotent anger when they arrived.  Rachel caught the brunt of it.

Richard shook his head, recalling the turbulent scene in the waiting room. Guilt was still whipping him.  How could he have been so careless?  Isolating himself for all those years had made him lose his edge.  It felt as though he had aged ten years overnight.  All he wanted to do was go to sleep and blot out the memory for a while.

After a few hours of fitful sleep, he got up, took a hot shower and emerged feeling a little less despondent.  Walking back to his room, Richard closed his eyes against the pulse in his left temple and nearly collided with Harriet crossing the hall from the staircase.

“Oh hey, Harry I almost walked right into you.  Good morning.  Are you just getting in?”

“Yes, how is Carl?”

“It’s going to be touch and go for a while, but he should pull through.”

“That’s good news.  Rachel must be relieved.  I know how close they are.”

“Listen sis, I hope I didn’t hurt your feelings last night.  You seemed like you were trying to say something but we were in a hurry to get to Carl.  Do you want to talk now?”

“No, it’s fine.”

“Are you sure?  Hey, where are you going?”

“I’m going to lay down for a while.”

Harriet turned and strode to her room.  Richard read anger in the set of her shoulders.  He could always tell when his sister was upset with him.  Richard reached out for her and she sidestepped him, moving to close her door.  He pushed the door open.

“What’s wrong with you Harry?”

“Nothing Richard, will you get out so I can lay down?”

“Not until you tell me what’s going on with you.”

“It’s a little late to play the concerned brother.  I needed to talk last night.”

“And last night, I explained that Carl got shot.  Why are you shutting me out?”

“Guess I’m just returning the favor.  Now you know how it feels.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?  Don’t tell me you’re mad because you didn’t get to go to the hospital with us.   I figured there would be an ugly scene at there and I was right.  You didn’t need to be in the middle of that.”

“Who asked you to decide what I need Richard?  It’s not just the trip to the hospital.  You asked me to keep an eye on Rachel for you and then you decide to babysit her yourself, like you didn’t think I could handle it. Stop treating me like a child!”

“That’s not why she wound up with me.  I just happened to run into Rachel at the store with Carl.  He was drunk and pawing at her, so I decided to bring her back home.”

“Nice try Richard.  Joshua told me how you took her on surveillance with you.  She’s a loose cannon but apparently you trust her to have your back.  You didn’t even ask me.”

“I’m telling you, it’s not like that at all.  Wait a minute…is your face swollen?”

“Don’t try to change the subject.”

“Your jaw is definitely swollen.  What the hell happened to you last night?  Or should I say this morning?”

“Alright, that’s it.  If you don’t want to tell me why you and Rachel are suddenly as thick as thieves then get out.  I’m too tired to play games with you.”

“I’m not leaving until you…”

“Get out!”

The fierceness of her tone startled Richard into compliance.  He had never seen Harriet that irritated before.  Richard stepped out into the hallway, turned to make one last attempt to question her, and got the door slammed in his face.  Something was definitely up with that woman.

Richard remained where he was.  In his mind, he replayed their brief conversation from the night before.  Maybe there was some clue that he had overlooked.  He gave up after a few moments.  It was no use.  Richard had been so stressed and distracted that everything leading up to the incident at the hospital was a blur.

It occurred to him that Joshua might know what was going on with Harriet.  He went and knocked on his brother’s door.  When no response came, Richard opened the door.  Joshua’s bed hadn’t been slept in.  Richard stood staring at it in bewildered silence.  Josh is always at home.  He even works from home.  Where the hell could he be?  The only other place he would be early in the morning was at the church.  I know he’s not there because there aren’t any meetings this early and ma is downstairs.

Richard closed his brother’s door and walked back to his own room, still puzzling things over.  His cell phone buzzed.  He scooped it up and looked at the screen.  Someone was calling from the precinct.  For one irrational moment, he thought it might be Summer calling to see how his investigation was progressing.  Richard realized he was being silly and chuckled.  I must be more tired than I thought.  Summer has better things to do with her time than call me.  Besides, she works the night shift.  She’s probably sound asleep right now.  That could only mean one thing; it’s that sonofabitch Foster!  What does he want now?

Richard decided to let the call go to voicemail.  The pulse in his temple became a more insistent throbbing.  He laid down and closed his eyes for a few moments before replaying the voicemail message.  Richard listened and cursed under his breath.  The shooter had told them they were ordered to shoot the driver of Carl’s car.  Officer Foster recalled Richard telling him that he had just borrowed the car.  Now, he wanted another interview.  There was an implied threat of arrest in the tone of his voice if Richard failed to get in contact with him soon.

They have the shooter in custody.  What the hell does he need to talk to me for?  Even if I knew the dude and had a beef with him, that’s none of Foster’s business!  All that fool wants to do is harass me again, just because he can! Still hiding behind his badge I see.  He was an asshole to me when I was on the force.  Now that I’m no longer a cop, he acts like I somehow betrayed him.  How far is he going to go with this grudge?  What if he decides to frame me for something just to get even for some perceived slight?

Richard felt the weight of despair settling on his shoulders.  It was all becoming too much.  Too many problems coming at him from too many different directions.