Entry 24: Last Visit At Shiflett’s: Monday August 1
Sleep didn’t come easy last night. I miss Donna more than one could imagine. I realize that maybe our life has become a bit disconnected lately, but to have her here with me meant more than I realized. Even on those nights when I’d been late coming to bed or even slept on the couch, at least I knew she was there. But now our little cottage seems to creak and moan from the emptiness of her leaving.
At one point I woke up and went out on the front porch. The dog sat there as if he too were waiting for her to come back. I tried to invite him inside, but he wouldn’t come. It would have been nice just to have another living thing in the house, but the stray just wouldn’t budge.
This morning he was still out there when a visitor came calling. The mutt started barking like crazy and backed up against the screen door as I was coming out to see what was going on.
It was Shaedra, Mrs. Shiflett’s assistant. Funny time for a single beautiful woman to show up, the day after your wife has left you. Automatically I was on guard. I don’t believe in coincidences these days.
She said hello, I said hello, and thankfully she got right to the point. “My employer would like to see you,” she said.
“I’d like to see her, too. She lied to me about the anklet I showed her.”
She said nothing at first, and then commented, “My mistress has a bad memory. Details sometimes run together. She could have been mistaken about whom it belonged to.”
I didn’t say anything, but I thought it strange she already knew what the lie was, before I even gave any specifics. As if she had known from the beginning the anklet wasn’t Mischa’s.
“When does she want to see me?”
“Well,” I hesitated, “I was just getting ready to take my dog for a walk.”
“Nice dog,” she said in a condescending, yet somehow sultry tone.
“Yes, he came with the house. We named him…um…” I thought for a moment and then blurted out the first random name that came to mind. “Samuel, or Sam for short.”
She kind of smiled. “I think your he is really a she.”
“Damn, Samuel won’t do for a name then.” I laughed. “Guess I’ll call her Penny.”
I agreed, but I still wasn’t ready to see Mrs. Shiflett. I needed to do something first. “Tell her I’ll be by later.”
Shaedra smiled politely and replied, “Certainly.” She started walking off and then stopped. “You may bring your wife with you if you wish.”
I hesitated at first, for I had had a sneaky suspicion she already knew somehow Donna was gone. “She’s out of town at the moment,” I finally explained.
“How convenient,” Shaedra said, giving me a knowing smile that would have stopped most men dead in their tracks with desire. Then she got in her car and was gone.
I looked down at the dog, patting her head. “Well Penny, should I trust her?”
The mutt just looked up at me.
“Yeah, I don’t think so either.”
I did a few things around the house, then sat down and called The State Hospital. I identified myself as Roger Blaine and explained I was inquiring about visitor hours so I could visit my brother Tommy. The receptionist told me visiting hours for that wing were between twelve noon and four pm. I thanked her and hung up. I looked at my watch, it was already approaching noon, and I’d already told Mrs. Shiflett I’d be there to see her. Maybe I would go to the hospital tomorrow.
I went over to the church and did a little work, trying more to make her wait than actually clean. It made me feel good that I wasn’t like her assistant. I wasn’t going to come running when she asked. And whatever did she want to see me for anyway? As I cleaned, I asked myself that over and over, but no answer was forthcoming, so around two o’clock I thought I’d waited long enough and drove over to see the old lady.
Shaedra let me in, and made sure to walk in front of me, leading me into the den. I think she wanted me to admire her backside as she walked, and I have to admit her every step seemed to scream sex. But that wasn’t why I was there, and I certainly wasn’t going to cheat on my wife.
Mrs. Shiflett was waiting in her wheelchair in the den and greeted me with a forced smile, as if she was uncertain she wanted me there or not.
“You wanted to see me,” I said as a way of greeting.
She grinned. “Straight to the point. I like that. You seem different than the last time we met.”
“Yes, I’ve changed quite a bit since then.”
“For the better I hope.”
“That remains to be seen.”
She seemed to think on that for a moment and finally replied, “I asked you here because yesterday I received a visit from Mr. Martin, and he was none too happy.”
“He doesn’t seem the jovial sort,” I agreed.
“He told me under no uncertain terms to ever send anyone to his house again asking questions about Mischa.”
“Well, you did have Shaedra give me his number.”
“Yes, but I didn’t know you’d traipse over there and ask all kind of questions about Mischa, and get him upset enough to hit you.”
“He told you that, huh?”
“Yes, and now he is angry at me.”
“Pardon me, but I don’t think you were on his likable list before I got there.”
“In any case, I would hope in the future that our conversation remain with us, and that you don’t go riling others up with your questions. Why can’t you just understand she ran away? And what is she to you, anyway?”
“With all due respect, at first I just wanted to return her anklet. But things just kept getting stranger and stranger. And now I believe that something very bad happened to Mischa.”
She opened her mouth to say something, but I wouldn’t let her.
“And I think the key to whatever happened is this anklet.” I pulled the anklet out of my pocket. “Now, whose anklet is this really?”
“I told you it is Mischa’s. I gave it to her.”
She reached for it, but I wouldn’t let her have it. I put it back in my pocket. “Mr. Martin says it isn’t hers.”
“Fathers don’t always know everything about their daughters.”
“Yes, but these aren’t even her initials on the anklet. Mischa’s initials aren’t ‘MM’, they are ‘MB’, because her last name was Boudreaux.”
The woman shifted in her wheelchair. She looked a might uncomfortable. Finally she burst out, “Are you calling me a liar?”
“No, I just want to know who the anklet belongs to.”
“I don’t know.”
“Then why did you tell me it was Mischa’s?”
Her face turned red and she tried to get out of the chair. “So you would stop asking questions!”
“What’s wrong with my questions?”
Shaedra finally asserted herself between us. I don’t know if she was trying to protect her mistress or me, but I could hear Mrs. Shiflett’s exasperated sigh behind her.
“Mischa was a bad girl. She got pregnant. She ran away. End of story.” The old woman’s anger seemed to be subsiding, replaced with what seemed to me a well-rehearsed explanation.
“How do you know she ran away?” I prodded.
“What else would she do?”
“What if she’s dead?”
“Sinners get what’s coming, I suppose,” she said sarcastically.
“You sound like you want her to be dead.”
She pushed Shaedra out of the way with her wheelchair.
“You don’t know me well enough to know what I sound like. Now get out of my house and don’t you ever come back.”
“Don’t ever invite me,” I returned. Then I headed straight for the door. Shaedra tried to get in front of me to show the way, or shake her rear in my face. I don’t know which. But I walked around her. “I know the way out,” I told her.
She started to protest with a sultry smile, but I stopped her with my next words.
“Don’t come to my house anymore. My wife would not like you coming around, and I don’t think I do either.”
I turned my back and left, but I could feel the anger she was hurling my way. I guess I could count those two out of being my friends. But I was feeling good after the exchange, because I learned a lot from it.
Mrs. Shiflett wanted me to stop asking questions, and she told me what I wanted to hear the first time I visited, in hopes I wouldn’t take my questions elsewhere. She also didn’t like Mischa very much, and the young girl’s alleged pregnancy changed everything where the old woman was concerned. But more than all that, I learned, or at least suspect, that my hunch all along has been right. This anklet is the key to everything. And once I show it to Tommy Blaine maybe the full truth will be known.
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“Resurrection Diaries” by Paul D Aronson.
Original text copyright 2007.
10th Anniversary Edition 2017. All Rights Reserved.