The next morning, Harriet was in the throes of a nightmare. Richard’s knocking on her bedroom door fell on deaf ears. Not sure if she was in her room, he opened the door. His sister was tossing and turning in bed. Richard walked to Harriet’s bedside and said her name softly.
When that failed to rouse her, he reached down and gently shook her by the shoulder. Harriet’s eyes flew open. She reacted before coming fully awake, snatching his hand from her shoulder and twisting it. Caught off guard, Richard barely responded in time to stop her from spraining his thumb.
“Ouch, what the hell Harriet?”
“Since when do you walk into people’s rooms without knocking?”
“I did knock. You just didn’t hear me. Damn girl, you nearly broke my thumb!”
“Oh, stop being so melodramatic. I’m sorry okay? I was having a bad dream and you startled me.”
“That must have been some nightmare. What was it about?”
“It’s not important,” Harriet said evasively.
“Oh so, now you won’t even share your dreams? Don’t tell me you’re still mad at me. I apologized last night. What do you want me to do, get down on my knees and beg for your forgiveness? You do…don’t you? I’m not even sure what I did wrong.”
“I heard you and Rachel making fun of me.”
“What are you talking about Harriet? We didn’t make fun of you. I would never do that. I know how sensitive you are.”
“I really wish you all would stop acting like you know anything about my feelings.”
‘What are you talking about? We grew up together. I know everything about you Harriet.”
“Wrong again, you know who I was when I first came here. Apparently, that’s the last time any of you paid any real attention to me. I guess on some level I always knew that, but listening to you and Rachel laughing about me being some pathetic sad sack really drove it home.”
Realization dawned on Richard’s face. He shook his head and sat on the bed facing Harriet, patting her folded hands reassuringly.
“Is that what you’re upset about? You know how blunt your sister can be.”
“Rachel is always talking trash about people. What she said didn’t shock me, but hearing you agree really…”
“I didn’t mean anything by it. I certainly never intended to hurt your feelings.”
“See, there you go again assuming you know how I feel. My feelings weren’t hurt. I was pissed off! Where the hell do the two of you get off calling me a gloomy Gus? Did you ever stop to consider that maybe the reason we discuss my problems so much is that the only time you pay attention to me is when I’m upset about something? It has been that way since you were in high school and started spending every waking moment with your so-called friends.”
“That’s not how it was at all. If you felt that way, then why didn’t you say something sooner?”
“And deny you the pleasure of swooping in and rescuing me?”
“Now I know you don’t think I enjoyed fighting your battles for you.”
“That’s exactly what I think. You’ve always enjoyed playing the hero. That way, you can play the martyr and call people ungrateful, whenever they don’t do what you want.”
Thomas glared at his sister. Anger made his voice deepen, “When I came here, I was a kid myself, still trying to come to terms with being dumped into foster care and bouncing around from home to home. The last thing I wanted was to shoulder someone else’s problems. You were always so damn needy, you would have fallen apart without me propping you up.”
Richard instantly regretted the harshness of his words. It didn’t take much to make Harriet cry. He braced himself for tears that never came. Richard did not know how to respond to Harriet’s bitter bark of laughter.
“Propping me up? Is that what you’ve been doing all these years? Well don’t worry, I won’t bother you with my problems anymore.”
“That came out wrong. I shouldn’t have said it like that,” he said placatingly.
“Why not? If that’s the way you felt, then don’t sugar coat it for me.”
“I really do want to know what’s going on with you Harriet.”
“I wouldn’t want to burden you with my problems. You must be exhausted from all those years of propping me up.”
“Fair enough, you’re understandably upset. We don’t have to talk about it right now. It’s just that you haven’t been yourself lately and I…”
“Is that it, or are you finally beginning to realize that I’m not a scared little girl anymore?”
“To tell you the truth, I’m not sure about anything right now. What I do know, is that I’m sorry if you feel like I’ve been babying you.”
“It’s not entirely your fault. Coming back home is like entering a time machine. I catch myself falling back into old ways of thinking and acting all the time. I’ve been so preoccupied with my problems that I forgot how much everyone else around here leans on you. What can I do to lighten your burden?”
“How about you get dressed and come have breakfast with us. We’re going to put our heads together and decide what to do about mother’s situation.”
Harriet wasn’t hungry, but Richard wouldn’t take no for an answer. She reluctantly agreed to get dressed and join the rest of the family in the kitchen. Thirty minutes later, Harriet strode into the kitchen and instantly regretted having allowed her brother to rope her into coming down for breakfast. Any other time, her family’s scrutiny would make her wish the floor would open up and swallow her whole. This morning, Harriet was past the point of caring about what anyone had to say. She ignored Rachel’s jealous glare and brazenly met Reverend Mother’s penetrating stare.
“Don’t let me interrupt. What were you all talking about?”
Reverend Mother handed her a plate. Harriet filled it with small portions of scrambled eggs, hash browns and bacon, from platters in front of her on the table, while Richard brought her up to speed. Harriet’s ears perked up when he mentioned finding immunosuppressant medications at the warehouse. She blurted out the names and quantities of the medications stolen from Stryker’s stash house and it was Richard’s turn to be surprised.
“How did you know what I saw?”
“Let’s just say a little bird told me that those medications were stolen. Finish what you were saying,” replied Harriet cryptically.
“There’s not much more than that to tell.”
“Oh yeah? What was so fascinating that you cut our conversation short last night?”
“Huh? Oh that, Josh was able to do a quick title search and found out that Nicole actually owns that warehouse.”
Harriet looked at her brother so keenly that everyone leaned forward expectantly.
“What is it,” Richard asked.
“Nothing, I’m just listening,” Harriet said guardedly.
“Harriet you obviously know something. If we’re going to get to the bottom of this, we’ve all got to do our part. Any bit of information could help.”
Before she could respond, Rachel sniped, “What could Harriet possibly have to contribute? While we’ve all been busting our asses to save momma, she has been off somewhere moping. She’s just trying to make it seem like she knows something with that stupid little birdie nonsense. I don’t know why you wanted to include her Richard. We’ve been doing just fine without her.”
Thomas shot Harriet a worried look, ready to step in and protect her from Rachel. Rather than her usual wounded expression, Harriet glared at her sister. He held his tongue and waited to see what she would say. Harriet laughed.
“You stay sober for one night and all of a sudden, you think you’re onto something. Don’t speak on what you don’t know Rachel. You have no idea what I’ve been up to while you’ve been tagging along with Richard.”
“Listen to miss thing over here. Well, enlighten us Harriet. What have you been up to?”
“That’s none of your business…”
“Like I said, she doesn’t know anything,” crowed Rachel.
“I happen to know that those medications that Richard saw in Nicole’s warehouse were stolen from a stash house, by a dealer who destroyed his kidneys abusing the drugs he sells.”
“What does that have to do with our investigation?”
“If you stopped interrupting me, I could get to the point faster. The man was not going through legal channels for the kidney transplant. He is a member of the Palo Mayombe cult and so is Nicole.”
“Are you saying that some cult is trafficking in illegal internal organs,” asked Joshua incredulously.
“I am simply repeating what I was told.”
“Some stranger volunteered that information? How do you know he wasn’t just screwing with you? I don’t believe it.”
“I don’t either,” snapped Rachel.
Richard remained silent, but his expression made it clear that he was having trouble believing Harriet. The previous night had been traumatic for her. She was still having flashbacks of what those thugs had done to the dealer, in order to extract the information she had just shared. It would take a long time for her to come to terms with the guilt she felt for the part she had played in that incident. The last thing she needed was her own family accusing her of being a liar. Harriet stood angrily, prepared to storm out of the kitchen and pack her bags. Reverend Mother spoke up.
“I believe her.”
Categories: Valley of Shadows (Novel)