Valley of Shadows (Novel)
Chapter 56: Reality Check

Chapter 56: Reality Check

Joshua parked in front of Gina’s house and waited for his sister Rachel to come out. He had been relieved, when she decided to spend the night with her friend. There would never be enough time to come to grips with his mother’s death, but it was a relief to be able to grieve in peace and quiet the first night without Rachel’s petulant attention seeking. Joshua had called Gina that morning and told her what time he would be arriving to pick up Rachel. So, where was she? Hopefully, she was up and dressed. Five minutes went by with no sign of his sister. Maybe they hadn’t seen him pull up out front. He honked his horn.

Fifteen minutes later, Joshua was annoyed. He had woken up in a foul mood. All this waiting around wasn’t improving it any. Richard had stumbled downstairs and interrupted his little chat with Samentha, before she responded to his proposition. She successfully evaded Joshua, by helping Richard back up the stairs and sitting by his bedside for the rest of the night. Joshua had tried to strike while the iron was hot and get her to agree to his terms, before she had time to think about it. In an attempt to scare her, he had exaggerated how much he actually knew about the spirit whistle. Reverend Mother had not explained how the thing worked. Nor had he ever actually seen her use it. Everyone was asleep, when he left the house to get Rachel. Joshua was hoping to return, before Samentha could slink off somewhere. Joshua wanted to confront her again. If that didn’t work, he would have to improvise with the spirit whistle. It was still a whistle. How hard could it be to use?

Joshua leaned forward, peering through the passenger side window at Gina’s house. There were no signs of any activity inside. He sighed exasperatedly, chastising himself for trusting Gina to have Rachel ready. His sister was always late. He was about to go and knock on Gina’s door, when Rachel finally emerged. Joshua let out a relieved sigh. His emotions were still raw. The last thing he wanted to do was sit around in Gina’s house making small talk. Watching Rachel approach the car with slow, unsteady steps, Joshua’s relief was quickly replaced by irritation. He leaned over and shoved the front passenger side door open. He could barely contain his exasperation as she laboriously lowered herself into the seat. The door was barely closed, before he lit into her.

“Let me see if I’ve got this straight. Mom dies and you go on a bender?”

“I haven’t been drinking…”

“Oh, save it! Do you really think after all these years, I don’t know when you’re hung over?”

“I am not hung over! I may have had one or two sips of something to calm my nerves…”

“Calm your nerves huh, you always have a handy excuse don’t you?”

“What difference does it make to you if I have a little something to drink? I’m a grown ass woman Joshua! Besides, I’m not hurting anybody. Mama is gone and you just dumped me over here yesterday.”

“Somebody had to watch you, after you went off the deep end at the nursing home. I had to make funeral arrangements. Richard nearly had an aneurysm trying to keep you from assaulting the nurse, while he suffered through a migraine. But never mind what everyone else was dealing with, it’s all about you isn’t it? That’s the way it has always been. Well I’m here to tell you that whole parade is done. With mom gone, I’ll be taking over and I’m not going to put up with any more of your temper tantrums!”

“You’re taking over? Was there some sort of a family election that I’m unaware of? Who put you in charge?”

“Mom always said that when she was gone, I would be the head of the family. If you want to stay under my roof…”

“Your roof? I’ve only been gone one night. I know damn well, there hasn’t been a reading of the will yet. So, It’s not your damn house.”

“Mom always said…”

“Mama said a lot of things Joshua. She also took a lot of things back, when she got mad. Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched. She might have left the house to me.”

“Why the hell would she leave anything of value to you, when everything you get goes up your nose?”

“What are you babbling about now?”

“You know exactly what I’m talking about Rachel. Everyone knows about your drug habit. That’s the real reason your husband left you. He got tired of subsidizing your addictions.”

“That’s a lie and you know it! I might have a little drinking problem…”

“A little problem? You can’t go half an hour without a drink. Tell me Rachel, when are you not drunk or high? Thanks to your drunken accusations about mom being murdered, the cops are getting involved.”

“Good, I think they should look into things. I’m telling you Joshua, someone killed mama.”

“Oh shut up! No one loved her more than I did. I’m devastated that she’s gone, but she was old and very ill.”

“She wasn’t dying Joshua. That wound on her stomach was almost completely healed up. Mama was strong as an ox. If somebody hadn’t killed her, she would probably have out lived us all.”

“Do you hear how ridiculous you sound? Don’t tell me you think the nurse did it. She is in the business of helping people. I’m pretty sure that nursing home doesn’t hire murderers. If the staff went around killing off their clients, that place would have closed up a long time ago. Besides, they don’t benefit from her death. No, the only thing you did with all your off the wall accusations is put us in jeopardy.”

“What are you talking about?”

“If the medical examiner decides that mom’s death was suspicious in any way, then a police detective will interrogate each one of us.”

“So what, I’m not worried about it. Let them interview me. I haven’t done anything wrong.”

“Don’t be so naïve Rachel. When somebody dies, who do the police automatically suspect? I’ll tell you who, first they look at the spouse. Since dad is dead, we automatically become suspects. With so many of us to choose from, how hard do you think the detective is going to look for alternative suspects? They’re all overworked and underpaid. He’ll probably just single one of us out. With your criminal record…don’t even bother denying it Rachel. I know about mom hiring that lawyer to get you out of trouble a couple of years ago. As I was saying, with your criminal record and the way you became unhinged and tried to choke the nurse, I’d say you make a pretty strong suspect. Still think you’ve got nothing to worry about?”

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