I took the longest, hottest, shower of my life. I washed my hair and scrubbed every inch of my body three times. I felt safe and warm in my steamy cocoon and I didn’t want to leave the comfort of my shower for the cold world outside until I remembered that I had a kitten to attend to.  I toweled off, threw on a robe, and quickly dried my hair. On my way to the kitchen I looked out the window and saw that there were still police lights flashing at the harbor. It was almost 6am so it wouldn’t be long before Kodiak residents would be talking about the events of the previous night.

I used a dish pan, a kitchen garbage bag, and the cat litter purchased by Mary Margaret to create a toilet for the kitten. A makeshift barrier blocked the doorway between the kitchen and laundry room to create a private kitten suite while I searched for a real home. I placed the kitten in the dishpan and used her paws to scratch in the litter and it wasn’t long before she scratched the litter and did her business. Potty training a kitten is so much easier than training a puppy.

After she relieved herself I grabbed an unused dog bed, the dog beds in my house go unused because I allow the dogs on my furniture and bed, and placed the bed and her water dish behind the baby gate. The only thing left to do was feed her. I opened a can of tuna, place a couple tablespoons on a saucer, and flaked it with a fork. I presented this feast to the kitten with little response. She sniffed it, backed away, looked up at me and let out a single mew. I tried picking up small pieces to hand feed her but that was unsuccessful as well. I had to get something in her so I poured some milk in another saucer, gave it ten seconds in the microwave, tested it to make sure it wasn’t hot, and then presented my second offering to the feline stranger. She quickly lapped it up while the rat terriers enjoyed the tuna.

I curbed my hunger with a glass of milk and couple oatmeal raisin cookies secured from the repast. With everyone fed and happy, I laid down for some much-needed sleep. I was settling into a comfortable spot when I spied my cell phone. Picking it up, the display lit up and indicated unread messages. They were all from Guy. In the first one he stated that he received a confusing message from me. The next message he he wanted to talk to me about the first message and was adamant I call him back as soon as I get his message. The lass message was Guy telling me that he leaving to find going to look for me. His voice sounded so urgent I considered calling both Guy and Mary Margaret to see how they were doing after last night. It was so early, and I knew they both had late nights, so I resisted the urge.

I slept hard and had vivid dreams although I was unable to recall them. The ratties, having been let out at five in the morning and given their tuna treat, didn’t wake me up at their normal time. They were tired and sleeping in too. If it hadn’t been for something soft and feather-like tickling my face, and a comforting but strange purr in my ear, I believe I could have slept all day. The strange sensations were slowing bringing me to full consciousness. I opened my eyes to find a kitten sleeping on my pillow amd wrapped around my head – so much for the kitty suite.

I checked the clock to learn that it was almost noon. I grabbed my cell phone to call Mary Margaret. I felt a strong desire to talk to her and apologize for getting her involved in all of this. After all, she was almost killed because of me. The message bar was showing again but this time it was a text message. I seldom exchange text messages so I was surprised and quickly unlocked my phone to read it. The message was from Guy. He was on airport run number two seeing off family members and didn’t want to wake me. I was relieved that he was still concerned about me after all the trouble I had caused him.

I hit the speed dial number for Mary Margaret. The phone rang only once before Joe answered.

“Hey Joe, it’s Brinkley. How is Mary Margaret doing this morning?”

“She’s sleeping” he answered in a monotone. I wasn’t sure if I woke him up, if he couldn’t be bothered with such a trivial question, or if this was his attempt at an unfriendly, icy tone.

“Oh OK. I just wanted to check on her after the events of last night” There was silence on the other end of the phone. “Listen, if there is anything I can do, please let me know. Perhaps I can bring over some Chinese food tonight …” I was interrupted by Joe’s response.

“Brinkley, I think it would be best for Mary Margaret if you two did not see each other for a while. She’s already dealing with her infertility issues, as you know, and now this thing…well, it is just too much. If you really care for Mary, please stay away.” He hung up the phone.

His words shocked me into reality. How stupid of me to think that I could make everything right with a simple offer of Chinese takeout. What was wrong with me? I had already had several encounters with John Sinclair so I knew what he was capable of. Plus, with my ability, I had become desensitized to things that other people found disturbing. Of course Mary Margaret was traumatized – she had been drugged, abducted, beat, restrained, and faced a horrible death. To make matters even worse, it was all my fault. If I hadn’t stuck my nose in police business and agitated John, then Mary Margaret would have simply left the cat litter at the back door with no problem. If I had been smart enough to figure out that the flowers and note weren’t from Guy, then I wouldn’t have even called Mary Margaret for help. The flowers, I forgot about the flowers.

I went into the living room and faced the flowers. I wanted to rip them to shreds. Yet, the flowers were beautiful innocent bystanders in this whole mess. I thought of Libby and all the flowers she had raised and not just for herself, but for the people of Kodiak.  She not only worked at the green houses turning tiny seeds into marvelous hanging flower baskets, she also volunteered through the Gardening Club to maintain several public spaces. The work she and other volunteers did on the hospital grounds earned them a volunteer of the year award last year.

I thought about what Libby might do. I believe she would have seen the beauty in the flowers and would not have destroyed them. It was best to give them to someone else who could appreciate them simply for their beauty and have no other attachment. Since I was going to the Ford dealership today, perhaps I could give them to Sandy.

The phone rangeand I dreaded answering. What if it was an angry Mary Margaret and she wanted to terminate our friendship? I just couldn’t bear that on top of everything else that had happened. It might be the police wanting to ask even more questions and go over everything yet again. There was that one new officer that didn’t want to believe the facts. He seemed to want to create some sort of conspiracy between me, Guy, and Mary Margaret where we set up John, killed him, and made it look like self defense. With an overpowering sense of dread, I looked at the display on my cell to see the words GUY HANSON.

He was on his way back from the airport and wanted to know if I was available for lunch or coffee and to talk. His last relatives were leaving on the 4:14 flight so he had a couple hours of free time. He sounded genuinely concerned for my well being and his concern touched my heart. Previously I was just attracted to Guy Hanson; now I was falling for him. I told him I didn’t want to go out since the details of last night were probably making their rounds around Kodiak so he said he would pick up something and bring it to my house shortly. I rushed to my closet and then the bathroom mirror before I had a reality check; Guy had seen me at my absolute worst last night. Anything would be an improvement over urine soaked pants, mascara running down my face, and blood spatter.

It was a beautiful day so I decided not to light a fire. That decision left the house a little chilly so I threw on a pair of flannel lounging pants and a light sweater. I opened the front door, barricaded off the deck entryway, and placed the big puffy dog bed out on the deck where I could easily see it from the living room. It only took seconds for Daisey to find her way to a good lounging spot in the sunshine. Eddie preferred to hang around me. The kitten was MIA. I saw Guy’s vehicle coming up the hill and hit the start button on the coffee maker. I checked to make sure that Daisey didn’t try to jump through the rails and off the deck when she saw we had a visitor approaching. I noticed the flowers on the table,  grabbed them, and stuck them in the closet just as Guy pulled into my drive way.

I opened the door and was stunned by what I saw. If I hadn’t been expecting Guy, and saw his vehicle under my carport, I might not have recognized him. I had no idea that his face had taken such a beating the night before. His nose was swollen, his eye were blackened, and he had a butterfly bandages on his top lip. His tee-shirt exposed a large bruise and several small cuts on one arm and a large bandage covering his forearm on the other. He looked like a warrior.

I grabbed Guy to hug him and he reminded me to be gentle because he was sore and bruised. Even I, the queen of second guessing motives, couldn’t read anything into that after having heard the fight between Guy and John last night. I grabbed the McDonald’s bags and beverage tray from his hands and led him into the living room while I went into the kitchen to plate the food. Eddie and Daisy did a great job of keeping him company while I was in the kitchen. Still no sign of the feline guest.

“Why are there three milkshakes? Is someone else joining us?” I was thinking that his son might be on the way.

“I wasn’t sure if you preferred chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry so I bought one of each.” I grinned at his statement. “So, which is it? Chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry?”

I didn’t want to disappoint Guy by telling him that I’m not fond of milkshakes so I came up with an alteration of the truth. “There’s nothing like a good milkshake to help cure a chocolate craving.” That was true; when it was that time of the month I did sometimes use a chocolate shake to cure my craving for chocolate.

“I kinda figured you for a chocolate girl” he said as I returned to the living room with our food artfully arranged on a plate. “Me, myself, give me plain ole vanilla.”

“And I correctly figured you for a vanilla guy” I said in response. “I only see one burger. Did you figure me for a chicken nugget girl too?”

“No, it’s just too hard to eat right now with this thing on my lip so I thought the chicken might be easier than trying to chimp down on a large hamburger.”

“Apparently you can eat French fries because there are three large orders of them” and with those words I popped one of the fries into Guy’s mouth. There was something sexy about feeding another person and, despite all the recent trauma, I could still feel it.

“Yup, I figured fries might be all I can handle right now so I bought extra.”

We ate slowly and quietly. I watched Guy as he struggled to chew the nuggets with a torn lip. I felt overwhelming guilt for his injuries and lost my appetite.

“You aren’t going to finish that?” Guy pointed to my half-eaten burger.

“No, I’m finished” I replied without telling him the whole truth.

“No wonder you stay so trim. You eat like a bird.”

“Oh, I get plenty of calories” and with that I picked up the strawberry shake and began to suck the sweetened milk and ice cream mixture into the straw before it finally hit the taste buds on my tongue. Not bad.

“Do you think I could trouble you for a spoon? You are making that milkshake look awfully appetizing and I’m not sure I can purse my lips to use a straw.”

“I guess smooching is out” I said before I realized my thoughts had actually escaped through my lips.

Guy blushed and he shook his head in agreement. “Yes, unfortunately, I believe that kissing is going to have to wait for a few days. Can I get a rain check though?”

“Absolutely” I replied.

Guy asked about Mary Margaret and I relayed the conversation word by word that I had with Joe. We fed the ratties small bits of cold leftovers to get them to do tricks.  Guy shared stories about the relatives visit. Turns out some of the visitors were his ex-wife’s family. He told me the story about how the two families had been close friends in his small Minnesota hometown and that they attended the same Lutheran church for several generations. It was always assumed that Guy and his ex-wife would grow up and marry. We seemed to be talking freely about everything except last night.

“Oh geez, look at the time. I’ve gotta go” Guy said as he rose from the sofa disrupting me and Eddie’s in our comfortable positions on either side of him. I was so relaxed nestled up against Guy that I found myself fighting to stay awake. His sudden movement brought me back to reality. I walked him to the door, gave him a soft peck on the edge of his mouth, and then he was gone.

I thought about his comments regarding Mary Margaret. He was right; she was traumatized and probably needed a little time to process everything that had happened. We had also discussed the possibility that Joe was speaking on her behalf and that my friend may not even be aware that I was reaching out for her. That was a particularly haunting thought for me. Luckily the phone rang and stopped my mind from going too far in that direction.

“What the hell happened last night? Why didn’t you call me? Are you OK?” It was Ginger. “Did you kill that man?”

Wow, I never expected anyone would ever ask me, in my entire lifetime, a question like that. The words were shocking. Did you kill that man? How do you answer that question truthfully yet tell the entire story as to why and how?

“In self defense” I answered. I was proud of myself for conjuring up the perfect answer on such short notice.

“So, you did kill that man?” Ginger continued, “well congratulations, somebody needed to.” I wanted to scold Ginger for suggesting that someone deserved to be killed but during that scuffle last night when I knew it was me or him, he was the one that deserved to die.

“Oh my God, it just hit me that I am a killer” I suddenly felt queasy with that realization. “I think I better go. I am going to throw up.”

“I will be right over” she said as she hung up the phone. She gave me no opportunity to object. That move was likely a deliberate one.             I used the time before Ginger arrived to hunt down the little feline. My house is not that big so how difficult could it be to find a baby cat? Apparently, it’s impossible because I checked every logical place and then a few hidden spots with no luck. For a moment I felt a flash of fear as I considered that perhaps the little kitten got away through the open door. No, the ratties would have responded if the cat made her way to their deck. I decided to wait and ask Ginger for help when she arrived. The kitten had other plans.


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