Valley of Shadows-Chapter Forty-Two

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Harriet wanted to come up with a convincing excuse to get out of visiting Reverend Mother. The last thing she felt up to was being lectured or cross-examined. On the other hand, the longer she put off visiting, the angrier her mother would be. Harriet thought about her fight with Joshua and groaned. She needed to go see their mother and do damage control. Reverend Mother was fiercely protective of him.  She needed to get in front of any phone call from him, tattling about her mean comments.

Harriet cautiously sat up on the side of the bed. So far, so good. She stood and was relieved to find her head was clear. Harriet used the drive to the nursing home to rehearse. It was hard for her to think straight, when her mother gave her the third degree.  Anticipating her questions and coming up with responses ahead of time made her feel a little less panicked.

Harriet arrived and signed in at the front desk and presented the box of her mother’s belongings to be added to her inventory.  As soon as she entered Reverend Mother’s room, she realized all her practice was in vain. The intensity of her mother’s glare made Harriet’s mind go blank.  She wasn’t appeased by the box of things she’d requested.

“So, you finally decided to show your face. Where have you been Harriet?”

“I’ve been busy.”

“Too busy to check on your own mother?”

“I was checking up on you through Joshua. He told me you were fine.”

“Don’t mention that boy to me. It’s his fault I’m trapped in this hell hole! Did you know he was gonna put me in here?”

“What? No, of course not mom. Why would you even believe something like that?”

“Oh, don’t give me the puppy dog eyes. You’re up to no good. I can tell by the way you’ve been so secretive lately. You probably suggested that Joshua put me in here, so I wouldn’t find out what you’ve been doing.”

“I would never do that mom. If it was up to me, you never would have been put in here.”

“Since you failed to keep that from happening, I need you to do something for me.”

“Sure, what do you need?”

“I need you to have your father call in a favor and get rid of Nicole.”

“What do you mean…kill her? No, I can’t…I won’t…”

“Look at what that woman did to me!”

“That wound does look bad. But Joshua said it was caused by…”

“I told you to stop saying his name! It’s my body.  Don’t you think I know what’s going on with it? That boy has never been good at dealing with trouble. I suppose it’s my fault for coddling him. I’m telling you, Nicole injected me with something and she refuses to give me the antidote. I just want someone to apply a little pressure, until she tells me what it is she injected me with, that’s all.”

“You want someone to beat her up? I thought you were asking me to put a contract out on her life.”

“So you’ll get your father to do it?”

“No mom, we have no proof that Nicole has done anything to you. You said yourself the nurse at the hospital didn’t find a needle mark.”

“That woman just didn’t care.  She wouldn’t even admit to seeing the spot of blood on my hospital gown! If you love me, then you’ll do this for me Harriet.”

“Don’t do that mom. You know good and well that I do love you, but I can’t be responsible for harming someone on a hunch.”

“It’s not a hunch. I felt the pinch of the needle! She won’t get hurt, if she gives up the antidote. You act as though I’m asking you to lay hands on her yourself. You would simply be facilitating things.”

“If she refuses to name the antidote?”

“She’ll be responsible for her fate.”

“I can’t believe I’m hearing this from a woman of God.”

“The Lord helps those who help themselves Harriet.”

“This sounds more like revenge to me.”

“I know you’ve heard the scripture relating to an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”

“Josh was right. You’re not yourself. I’ll come back when…when you’ve had some time to really think about what you’re asking me.”

Harriet could tell by the determined look on her mother’s face that she would not be able to talk her out of it. Once her mother made her mind up about something, she could not be moved. Harriet was feeling too emotionally fragile to deal with some long drawn out argument. She stood and turned to leave.

“Samentha would help me,” said Reverend Mother flatly.

Harriet halted, stopped in her tracks by the flat tone of her mother’s voice. She knew from experience that she was in danger. Reverend Mother was about to lash out. Harriet turned around, in time to see her pull an ornately carved spirit whistle from the box of belongings Joshua had sent. The sight of that whistle struck fear into her heart. Her mind instantly flashed back to times throughout her childhood when Reverend Mother had used it to compel her to do things against her will. Like letting a genie out of a bottle. The enchanted whistle freed Samentha from Harriet’s mental control.

The malice on Reverend Mother’s face was alarming. Harriet shook her head, fixing her mother with pleading eyes.  Reverend Mother smiled nastily and blew into the whistle.  Harriet turned towards the door, in a belated attempt to escape. Before she could reach the doorknob, the shrill sound of the whistle pierced her ears and bore its way inside of her head.

Harriet looked back at her mother and was transfixed by the sight of something or someone seeming to materialize behind Reverend Mother’s left shoulder. A trick of the light? The insistent blare of the whistle seemed to be making it grow more distinct.  One look at the being’s misshapen head and distorted features assured Harriet that it wasn’t human. The shock was disorientating. Covering her ears did not blot out the sound.  Harriet was vaguely aware of the sensation of things inside her head shaking loose, as the barrier between her and Samentha shattered. She was unconscious in the next moment.