The story so far… Old Wives’ Tale
I looked around the sunny, and welcoming atrium, and thought I’d like to live at Shady Grove one day. I would enjoy the peace and quiet. Forget placing my mother there, she would try to redecorate the comfortable room into another velvet-lined parlor.
Marshall paced while I admired the view from the leaded windows as we waited as Cindy, the Center’s Head Nurse, checked on Amelia.
He tossed the hitch pin between his hands, and I could hear him running through a litany of questions in preparation for questioning Amelia. I wasn’t sure what to expect, wondering if she would be as senile as Roger claimed, or if she was as clearheaded as Marshal suspected.
We turned in unison when we heard the whoosh of the solarium doors opening. Cindy was pushing a wheelchair. The occupant, a 93-year-old woman, her snow-white hair styled in an elegant undo and her checks dusted a pale pink, carried herself with a regal air.
She fixed her gaze on me, a beatific smile on her face.
“You must be Roxie,” she said, her voice soft and melodic. “You favor your grandmother, Olivia, but you’re the spitting image of your momma.”
“Mrs. Parker?” Marshall moved toward Amelia, with one last toss of the hitch.
“No,” she said, her eyes following the arc of the pin. “It is Mrs. Branch.”
“My apologies,” he said.
“I remember your granddaddy too, Sheriff, and your daddy,” Amelia said. “It’s ironic that any kin of Waylon Mason would turn out to be a law officer, let alone his grandson.”
The light in Amelia’s eyes was bright and mischievous.
“Roger tells me you’re moving back into your family home,” she said, turning again to me. “Fixing up the old place.”
“Yes, Miss Amelia,” I said, taking a seat near her wheelchair. “That’s the reason we’re here.”
She held out her hand to Marshall, who dropped the iron hitch pin into her palm.
“And this?” She caressed the bolt, rolling it over to examine it more closely before handing it back to Marshall.
“Among other things,” Marshall stood over her, so Amelia would have to look up at him.
Ignoring Marshall, she frowned at me. “You found my babies.”
It wasn’t a question, but a statement of fact.
“Yes, ma’am,” I whispered.
“Where are they now?” She leaned in, her hands trembling in her lap.
“They’re with Dr. Simon, the county coroner,” I said, reaching out to take her hand. “He had to perform an autopsy.”
She made a soft, choking noise, squeezing my hand with a surprisingly strong grip.
I dropped to my knees on the floor in front of her.
“Please, Miss Amelia, it’s all right,” I said. “He was very careful and respectful.”
She looked away, a fist to her lips, chewing on one knuckle.
“Miss Amelia?” I stayed on the floor, holding her other hand. “Marshall is here so you call tell your story. So you can finally say what happened to your beautiful baby girls.”
Covering my hand with hers, she regained her composure.
“They were beautiful,” she said. “They deserved better than they got.”
“Yes, ma’am, they did,” I kept holding her hands, but got off the floor so I could look directly at her. “Miss Amelia, please tell me what happened to them.”
She lifted her chin, her jaw set.
“You want to know about Charles too, don’t you Sheriff?” She cocked her head to look up at Marshall.
“That would be in your best interest,” he said.
“I’m sure he is a good man, but right now, darlin,” she said, “I don’t like your boyfriend much.”
“He is a good man, and he will be fair,” I said, stifling a laugh. “He just wants to know the truth.”
Amelia pointed towards a sunny spot near the windows.
“Darlin’, wheel me over there where it’s warm,” she said. “I’ll tell you everything.”
I unlocked the brakes on her wheelchair, and began pushing her across the room.
“You coming Sheriff?” Amelia called over her shoulder. “You better get your pen and paper out, this might take a while.”