Annalise was the epitome of the facinorous step-mother. She was conniving, mercurial, jealous, vacuous, and insecure. That she was only eight years older than her new husband’s only child, Ashley, made the family dynamic the perfect fodder for a Lifetime Movie, or the lede for the Times Picayune’s Wednesday Police Blotter.
Ashley simply had to outlast the drama another six months, then she’d be off to university. Except, it wasn’t going to be that easy. First, her mother moved out-of-state with her husband when his job relocated, leaving Ashley to decide whether to go with them, or finish her senior year at Daniel Boone High School. Then, she asked her dad about moving in with him and Annalise during the interim between high school and college.
The aging mean girl threw a conniption, giving in to the request only when her husband offered to buy her a Mercedes SLK in Diamond Silver Metallic. Annalise’s self-imposed competition for the older man’s attention and affection could be assuaged with a bit of shiny bling.
The two of women just had to avoid each other for the next six months. School would take up the first few weeks, then if Mr Kaplan down at the Woolworth’s came through with the summer job he promised Ashley, days were covered. Evenings and weekends would be spent with Ashley’s best friend, Nori. If there were no glitches, there could be entire weeks where Ashley would not have seen her step-mother.
All was going well, until the eve of the last Monday of school when Mr. Kaplan announced to the day crew Woolworth’s was closing all their U.S. stores, and that they all needed to find other jobs. The retailer was shuttering its doors in less than a month.
Ashley went through her shift in a fog, unable to concentrate. Mr. Kaplan told her to take a break when, for the third time, she neglected to mix a chocolate malt correctly at the lunch counter.
“What am I gonna do, Nori?” Ashley lamented later that night at her friend’s house.
“Have you considered getting a new job?” Nori tried to be supportive, but she was getting bored with Ashley’s constant complaints about her step-mother.
“NooOoo…” Ashley’s voice took on an annoying sing-song tone that was like nails on a chalkboard. “Every body lined up their summer jobs over Christmas Break. I’ve already tried calling around, there’s nothing.”
“Did you ask your dad?” Nori never understood why her friend didn’t take advantage of having one of the busiest attorneys in town as a father. “I bet Drew’d let you file papers, or something. You’d get out of the house, and drive the Troll crazy being around him every day. You said he wouldn’t let her hang out in the office. If you get to, that’d be the best way to get back at her.”
Ashley stopped her pacing, a sense of Schadenfreude replacing her feelings of despair.
“He did say something the other day about how much he was going to miss me when I leave for school in September,” Ashley said.
“There ya go,” Nori said, hoping that was the end of their discussion.
When Ashley broached the subject of a summer job with her dad, he enthusiastically agreed. His secret wish was for Ashley to attend law school and join the firm one day. Nori’s other suggestion, that the increased time with Drew would irritate Ashley’s step-mother, also proved accurate.
The tension in their house was palpable. Annalise snapped at Drew and Ashley when she wasn’t giving them both the silent treatment. Drew was clueless why his young wife was sullen, and his teenage daughter seemed happier than she had been in weeks.
On the morning Ashley’s old Mustang wouldn’t start, she did what she swore she never would – ask Annalise for a favor. Drew was due in court that afternoon, and Ashley was supposed to help hand him files during the proceedings. She had to get into the office on time. That meant begging Annalise for a ride in her new car.
The explosion came less than five miles from downtown. Arson investigators found remnants of a timer attached to the Mercedes’ gas tank. Since Ashley didn’t typically ride with Annalise, initial reports speculated that Drew’s wife was the only intended target. Ashley was just in the wrong place, at the wrong time.
When officers arrived at Drew’s office to notify him of the deaths of his wife and daughter, his staff thought they were there because of a missing person report they made. Drew didn’t showed up that morning, something that never happened on court day.
With that revelation, investigators had their first suspect in the murders of Annalise and Ashley Ransom. Andrew Ransom was missing, and considered a fugitive.