“Help me get convicted.”
“You don’t feel I need to go to jail?”
Ruby groaned. “Being a defense attorney shouldn’t be this complex.”
“I will die if they put me back on that ship. How would that make you feel?” Ishmael’s plump face projected patience and interest, rather than fear and hope.
“I know you are innocent, and if I prove you are in court I’ll never forgive myself.”
“I agree. You can’t tell them what I’ve told you. You have to get me convicted.”
She threw her pile of legal documents across the room, spreading papers and breaking tablets. “I hate you! I’ll be disbarred for this! I hate you!” She glanced up to see the prison guard looking through the observation window inquisitively. Ruby discreetly wiped her eye, careful not to smear any makeup. Satisfied that he did not need to intervene, the guard disappeared from the small window.
Ishmael leaned back in his aluminum chair, crossing his arms with a broad smile. “Thank you.”
I didn’t want her to hear me. I didn’t want to disturb her.
Jayleen was kneeling with her back to me. This was the wrong setting for her. I’d tried to make the house look cheerful for Christmas. Tinsel braided the mantle. The few cards I’d received were displayed—robin and holly bright.
But Jayleen should’ve be kneeling on a rush mat, she should have been screened by paper doors as she worked on her shodō. I’d met Jayleen just a few months after Mother’s death. In that grey hopeless fog she’d reached out to me. She was so different from any woman I’d ever known. I could spend hours just watching her.
“I can sense you, Dave,” she said.
Gusting face-freezing wind displaced Sister Wendy Riley’s bonnet, pushing it nearly off her dirty brown hair. No matter how many steps Wendy made toward Zion in the Great Salt Lake Valley, the wind seemed determine to blow her back to Liverpool. The annoying and ill timed gust that finally dislodged her bonnet came as she pulled her handcart up a rise. Releasing one hand from the crossbar to fix the errant bonnet meant losing the cart and her few belongings to the hill. With hair whipping her face, she prayed the tie string kept the bonnet around her neck until she reached flat ground ahead.
Wendy stood to one side while pulling the handcart, as though her husband still might join her on his side of the cart. She turned down offers, even from the Wilson boys, to help her pull the handcart. She did not want anyone in his spot. It was silly, but a week was still too soon.
The window is smashed but nobody is brave enough to go in and fix it. The town is not filled with cowards, just ordinary people, but ordinary people know better than to go inside. The house, as you are looking at it, stands by itself and was once a good house on a good street. Some hundred years have passed since then, and it is now an empty house on a bad street. It has a creaking mouth with rusty hinges, and a soot-black face and wrought-iron claws and, now, one broken glass eye. It watches you as you walk past. You think perhaps there is another way through this part of town but you never look for it. You are on a bad street, but that does not make it a bad house, after all. It is just empty, and while it is empty nothing bad can happen. Sometimes you walk past the house when the sky is dark and the streetlamps are on, and once you thought you saw a light in one of the windows—a light like a lit candle in a darkened room. You know you can’t have seen it because the house is empty.
Thomas sat in his truck, glad to be out of the cold rain blowing in sheets against his windshield. He drummed his fingers on the steering wheel, and as he glanced over to the right at the trees and brush, thought he saw a flash of movement. Sitting up now on full alert, he watched carefully through the rivulets of rain pouring down the window. A woman burst out into the clearing and started lurching forward, her arms extended towards him, her expression one of terror.
He threw his truck door open, and as he got out, just for an instant, looked down to where he was stepping. By the time he raised his eyes again to the approaching figure, she was gone.
He thought she must have collapsed into the long grass, until he reached the empty spot where he last saw her.