Alibi, p.4
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       Alibi, p.4

           Teri Woods
 
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  “Momma, where’s that man taking Abigail?” asked Tildie as her mother covered her mouth and ran inside the house crying. Tildie just stood to the side, watching a screaming Abigail being led away by some stranger as her father stood alone, patting his pocket, daydreaming about a horse, a rich, smooth, brown horse with a white patch between his eyes. He had already seen her, she was a mare, so she could birth. He’d pick her up tomorrow, just in case the draft came through. Once Mr. Fothergill and Abigail were out of sight he turned to Tildie. “All right now, ain’t no need standing out here all night long, might as well go on inside. What’s done is done, cain’t go back, cain’t go back, Tildie.”

  It would be two years before Abigail saw her family again. And the only reason she returned home then was that her father had been killed in the war. Ray Fothergill made the trip back to Murfreesboro so Abigail could pay her final respects.

  “What you looking all confused for, Abigail, come on, let’s get going on now,” ordered Ray in his usual casual tone. “Just standing around going nowhere,” he muttered.

  “I want to see my pa laid to rest and all, it’s just that, I don’t think the baby can take no carriage ride that long, that’s all,” said Abigail rolling her hands around her expanded belly.

  “Aww… shucks, are you really serious?” He began to laugh at her. “Dagnabbit, that’s what’s in that brain of yours,” he said, plucking at the side of her head. “Well, a few bumps here and there sure ain’t hurting you or no baby. Baby, baby, baby, Abigail, I sure will be happy when that thing gets here so I don’t have to hear about it no more.”

  Abigail stood quietly as she blocked Rayford Fothergill’s nerve-wracking babbling out of her head. She remembered the day her daddy had sold her, sold her like a slave and didn’t think twice, didn’t even blink. She remembered her mother’s face, her sorrowful eyes and her pain-filled smile. The dirt path led up to the farmhouse from the main road and Abigail remembered the last time she saw it. She was being dragged away by the meanest man in the whole wide world. As soon as the horse-drawn carriage stopped moving Abigail could see Matilda. She was eleven years old, running up the hill to the front of the house so that she could greet her.

  “Oh, my God, wait till Momma sees you. Wow, look at your belly. I almost didn’t know who I was looking at.” Tildie hugged her sister, and Abigail kissed her face a thousand times. Neither sister paid much attention to the funeral or the pastor; instead they sat in the pew talking as if they hadn’t talked in a lifetime.

  “I got to run away, and far, far away, where cain’t nobody find me.”

  “Well, if cain’t nobody find you, how will I?” asked Matilda.

  “Well, I don’t know. I guess I’ll have to send you a postcard. One of them postcards with a big fancy city on it so you’ll know where I am and that I’m okay.”

  “I sure do miss you, Abigail. Nothing’s been the same since you been gone. Everything sort of changed, you know. Nothing’s been the same.”

  “Really?”

  “Yeah even Ma and Pa stopped speaking after you left.”

  “They did?”

  “Yup, sure did.”

  Knowing that made Abigail feel all the better. She reached over and patted her mother on her back. She was so glad to be back in the company of her family that she didn’t know what to do. She was even happier to be away from evil-ass Ray Fothergill. And the fact that her father was gone was a wonderful excuse to see Momma and Tildie again. It had been so long. The only time she began to cry that day was when it was time to go back home.

  “Let’s go, Abigail,” said mean man Ray.

  “Cain’t I just visit with Momma and my sister just a little longer?”

  “No, come on, we best be getting on down the road before it gets too dark out here,” he ordered.

  “I got to go,” said Abigail, lowering her head and hugging her sister.

  “Don’t cry, Abigail, don’t cry,” said Tildie as she let her sister go. “Here, I picked these from our garden for you,” said Tildie, passing her sister a tiny bouquet of daisies.

  “You know I love these; they’re the happiest flower in the world.”

  “Hey, we’re gonna make a trip to see you once you have that baby, you hear now?” added her momma, watching her two girls say good-bye.

  “Yeah, Momma, that would be nice. I just don’t know if I can wait to see you until then.”

  “Look at me,” said her mother, taking her face and holding it in her hands. “We’ll be together again, and I’m always with you, Abigail, always. You’ll be fine, just stay strong. God has a plan for you, Abigail, God has a plan.”

  Abigail, with the help of Rayford, pulled herself up into the carriage.

  “Goodness, Lord of mine, you are getting heavy, Abigail,” said Rayford, catching his breath. “My leg almost buckled out, and I swear I thought I was going to fall.”

  Wish you had fallen down, thought Abigail as she waved goodbye. God has a plan, just be strong.

  * * *

  God had a plan all right, a plan for Abigail to run away in the middle of the night, and that’s exactly what she did. When Ray-ford Fothergill got up looking for breakfast the next day, he found a note that had two words written on it: “good riddance.” He never saw or heard from Abigail again.

  She made her way through the dark, lonely, deserted night, moonlight shining through the pines and the tall oaks as she made her way to town. She hopped on the coal train with nothing but twenty-two dollars and fifteen cents. Back then, that was a small fortune, considering a gallon of gas was only twelve cents. She headed north, all the way to Philadelphia.

  The year was 1944, and one month later, she gave birth to a baby girl, at Pennsylvania Hospital. The baby was stillborn. Doctors said the umbilical cord had choked the baby through the passageway. There was nothing they could do. The afterbirth remained, and they performed a surgery, which caused complications, and the outcome was that she would never be able to have children, ever again. Or at least that’s what she was told by the doctors.

  Once again, God always has his own plan, and twenty years later, she found herself, at thirty-six years old, sitting in a doctor’s office in downtown Philadelphia, words ringing through her ears like sirens.

  “You’re pregnant!”

  She was speechless, to say the least, and kept thinking of all the years that had passed by. She always thought the doctors had been right, as she hadn’t used protection and had never conceived. It was a miracle, an act of God, truly it was. She was happy, so happy she began to cry. But her tears of joy quickly turned to tears of sorrow.

  “What do you mean, pregnant?” The look on Gilbert Taylor’s face said it all.

  I should have never told him. Look at him, what is he thinking?

  Gilbert Taylor didn’t know what to say. He had a wife and a family. Yes, he cheated, but so did all his friends.

  “You said you couldn’t get pregnant.”

  “I can’t, I mean, I did… it’s like a miracle.”

  It wasn’t a miracle for Gilbert and he didn’t share her joy. The funland express had just reached its final destination. He wasn’t sure how to handle her, but he knew he had to handle the situation with caution. She needed to understand that he couldn’t leave his wife, and he couldn’t be a father to her baby either. The best he could do was to help her financially. She had served a lot of years at his carpet warehouse.

  “I just don’t know what to say. I don’t want a baby with you. It’s just too complicated for me.”

  Abigail was devastated, and the thought of raising a baby without a husband in 1964 was even more devastating. If Gilbert Taylor didn’t want to be a father to her baby, he didn’t have to be, but he would have to pay. Gilbert would simply cut a check and live his life with his wife, living a lie, keeping Abigail and her baby a secret.

  Deep down Abigail was tortured. She had always believed Gilbert would leave his wife for her and they would be together. A baby was nothing mor
e than the perfect reason to act now. Instead, he shunned her, wanted her to disappear, and the next thing she knew Gilbert had laid her off, claiming lack of business. He still, however, paid her. The entire time she was pregnant, he just paid her to stay away. Abigail got through the nine months like a breeze. The pregnancy was easy and trouble-free. The day her water broke she immediately called a cab to come take her to the hospital. She went in her bedroom, got the hospital bag she had prepacked and had waiting and ready to go, then called Gilbert. She dialed his number and listened as the phone rang.

  “Hello,” he said.

  She heard his voice but remained silent. He said hello once again. It was the one chance she had to have him by her side. Instead of telling him her water had broken and she was in labor, she hung up the phone. A weight suddenly lifted, and a voice told her everything would be all right. And it was. The nurse handed Abigail a tiny baby wrapped in a bundle. She looked down at her newborn, eyes barely open. It was as if she were smiling. And for the first time in a long time, ever since the day her daddy sold her away, Abigail felt she had something to truly smile about. Daisy, your name is gonna be Daisy. And so it was, Daisy Mae Fothergill. Fothergill after Ray, the married name Abigail still carried, and Daisy because everything was happy now. She thought of her sister and her mother and the last time they were together. God does have a plan for us, baby. Don’t you worry, Momma’s gonna take good care of you.

  “Please, Momma, please, tell me what to do. Please don’t leave me. I can’t make it out here without you. I can’t, I don’t have nobody that cares about me, I don’t have nobody, Momma. Please god, give her back. Please give her back to me.”

  She finally called 911 and reported that her mother had passed away to the 911 operator. She answered a hundred questions, and of course, it would be hours before anyone came to remove the body. So Daisy prepared. She combed her mother’s hair and dressed her up, put a little makeup on her, and gave her some perfume so she’d smell sweet.

  “See, Momma, you look so pretty. So, pretty, Momma. I’m just going to miss you so much, I wish you was here right now. I wish you was here. I love you, Momma, I love you. I just don’t know what I’m going to do without you. I just don’t know.”

  Daisy sat quietly holding her mother’s hand, as she waited for the paramedics to arrive. Her mother had left suddenly and without warning, leaving her feeling uncertain about life, uncertain about tomorrow, and scared to face it alone. Now with the passing of her mother, she realized she had no one in the world, no one who cared. A tear fell from her face and landed on her mother’s palm. “I miss you already,” she said as she wiped the tear away.

  The sky had turned from a burnt orange to a dark blue. Stars twinkled in the distance and hovered over the tattered city streets. The night air felt brisk, even though winter was months away. Saunta looked down at her son, who was clutching his book bag.

  “How was school today?”

  “Okay,” he quickly responded.

  “How was after care?”

  “Okay,” he again responded. Every day when his mother picked him up from after care, they would walk home together. She would ask him the same questions. Thank goodness, they only lived around the corner.

  “I’m gonna make you some fried chicken wings and rice for dinner, you hear.”

  “Mmm, that sounds good. Mommy, can I go down the street to Malcolm’s?”

  “Yeah, for a minute, but take your book bag upstairs first and then you can go, okay?”

  “Okay.”

  Saunta held the door for her son and followed him inside the apartment row home on the 2500 block of Somerset Street. They walked through the vestibule and up the flight of stairs. Just as Saunta reached in her purse and began to feel for her keys, a dark man, wearing dark clothing and a dark ski mask and dark gloves, jumped her from behind.

  “Oh, my god, heellpp!” Saunta screamed as the dark figure pulled a gun and shot her in the chest.

  “Mommy, no. Don’t hurt my mommy.” The young fellow charged the dark figure after seeing his mother gunned down and ran into him, almost knocking him down. He kicked and punched the dark figure, unafraid of the chrome barrel pointed at his head.

  “POW!”

  Another gunshot rang out as the little boy fell backward and lay silently still next to his mother.

  The assailant grabbed Saunta’s purse and ran back down the stairs, through the vestibule, and out the front door. After he was safely away from the crime scene, he pulled off his ski mask and put it in his pocket. He rummaged through the purse, pulling out Saunta’s wallet. He took her ID and her keys and threw the purse in the trash.

  “What’s going on, Nard?”

  He heard a voice call out to him as he turned around.

  “Yo, what’s happening, man, been a long time, my brother,” he said, extending his hand.

  “Sure has, how’s it going?”

  “I’m good, I’m good,” said Nard as he shook an old acquaintance’s hand.

  “Take it easy, brother.”

  “Yeah, you too, man, take it easy,” said Nard as he walked down the block, hopped in his car, and kept it moving.

  UP SIDE IS DOWN

  Hey, Ross, ballistics in on the Three Musketeers, yet?”

  “Sure are. I got everything right here on my desk. Here you go, big guy,” she said, tossing the folder to Delgado.

  “You were right, you were god damned right.”

  “What?” questioned Ross, dying to know what she was right about again.

  “You said there was another guy and you’re right. The bullets that they took out of this guy, Jeremy Tyler, and Lance Robertson don’t match the weapons at the crime scene. I should have known.”

  “What about the other guy?” asked Merva.

  “The bullet in him matched one of the guns at the scene, but the bullets in the other two guys got a zero match.”

  “So, we got a killer on the loose?”

  “Pretty much.”

  “Captain Dan isn’t going to be happy; not a killer on the loose. Even worse, Mayor Goode is going to have his ass in a sling if we don’t get this guy off the streets, like say in forty-eight hours.”

  “Yeah, yeah, Ross, I know. I know,” said Delgado, realizing that he was just about to have his plate piled real high with tons of shit. Shit that he personally didn’t want to have to eat. Why do I always get the crappy cases? Dammit!

  “Listen, we got to get back out there and if we got to, hit every house and every apartment, until we find someone that knows something.”

  “Honing and his partner are covering the witnesses. I spoke to him earlier, he said no one is talking, no one knows anything. He told the captain in his report that a young kid who lived down the hall seemed to want to say something, but his mother refused, pulled him back in the apartment and shut the door in his face, saying they didn’t know nothing. I think the captain said to bring the kid in for questioning.”

  “Did he?”

  “Yeah, they’re gonna bring him in.”

  Just then the phone rang. Detective Ross answered.

  “What? You got to be kidding me.”

  She hung up the phone. “Come on, we got another homicide,” she said to Detective Delgado, who was still reading the forensic findings folder.

  “Where at?”

  “That’s the thing, you’ll never believe it,” she said looking at him as if an idiot could figure it out.

  “The 2500 block of Somerset Street?”

  “Bingo, come on, let’s go.”

  * * *

  The next morning the coroner from the medical examiner’s office finally showed up to remove Daisy’s mother’s body from the apartment at around five-thirty. It appeared she had suffered a stroke. The coroner’s office sat Daisy down and asked her many questions, filled out some forms, had her sign some papers, and then carried Abigail Fothergill away in a black body bag. The coroner said they were taking her to Temple Hospital where they would perform
an autopsy on the body. Once the autopsy was complete, the body would be released to the funeral home of her choice.

  After the coroner was gone Daisy picked up the phone. She had a short list of people that she knew she would have to notify. The first on her list was Aunt Tildie. Matilda Wright had married three times, but she only had one child, by her last husband, a daughter named Kimmie Sue. It was the strangest thing, but each and every one of her husbands had died from a heart attack, leaving her a widow. After the first husband, Tildie got smart and made sure she had insurance on the others. She made out like a fat little rat. Natural disasters, death, loss, whatever could hurt you financially, you could for the most part be protected against by insurance. Daisy let the phone ring several times before Tildie answered.

  “Auntie Matilda, it’s me, Daisy, I have some bad news…”

  “Oh, no,” said Tildie before she began to cry. “Let me call you back.” It would be some time before Tildie got it together. Her sister Abigail had been the only family she had left, besides her daughter, Kimmie, and the truth was, Tildie had been planning to visit Abigail this summer. It had been so long since she had last seen her sister, sixteen years to be exact.

  When Abigail was younger and more able to get around, they spent the summers together in Murfreesboro where they had grown up. Every year around springtime, Abigail would make her way back down South where she had come from. And each and every time she made her journey and got safely back home to Philadelphia, the South would just keep calling her back. Something about walking in the footprints of lost time just brought back the most bittersweet memories. Her ma and her pa, her fox terriers, the farmhouse they lived in, the farm they had, the chickens, the horses, the pigs, the cows, the goats, the mule, and the rows and rows of corn her daddy minded were like a never-ending picture in a never-ending picture frame that flashed her mind in and out of places she had been in her lifetime. All the memories of her childhood she could always find in her travels back to Murfreesboro.

 
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