Lyle is captivated by the same idea that fascinates me—whether Rosie’s comments in group contributed to her demise. If so, then someone in the group killed Ashley. That is not something I want to think about, but it’s not something I can ignore, either. If someone is a murderer in the group, then I need to know who it is. I do not want to be part of a dangerous situation again. I close my eyes, not wanting to deal for a moment. Just as I am getting over the last murders, it’s starting again. I am just beginning to sleep through the night—this could be a set-back for my progress. I curse under my breath, but Lyle and Paris catch me. They flash looks at each other before turning their focus on me. Their sympathy is more than I can bear.
“Stop it, you guys,” I say crossly. “Don’t start treating me like a child again.” We finish our dinner, and I do the dishes while the guys go into the living room and turn on the news. I can hear it through the door, and they boys are still watching when I join them.
“Sheldon, it’s been established that Rosalita Chavez was the housecleaner of Ashley Stevenson when she died. She had been for more than a year. The police are not saying whether that connection is the principle one, or if the fact that they both belong to the group was the principle connection. Most of the people involved in the murders are willing to say off the record that the latter is more likely the case than the former.” Dee-Dee Reynolds, another thin, blond anchor woman blinks vapidly at the camera. It is clear that she is reading from cue cards and not very well. She has to move her lips slightly before she actually says what she’s supposed to. She lowers her voice before adding, “The board of A Ray of Hope is seriously considering closing down the group because of the murders. Carol Sayers, the group leader has this to say about it.” Cut to Carol. I can’t believe she’s talking about it again.
“Dee-Dee, I stood up to the board today. I told them that this group is the last hope for some of these women who cannot afford to individual therapy. I have nothing but admiration for the women who have gone through difficult times but are making it to the other side. If there is one thing I want to get across to the public, it’s that these women are not victims but survivors. I know that sounds trite, but it’s true.” Carol is facing the camera with her serious face on. She is dressed professionally in a skirt, heels, blouse and jacket. “Many people wonder how I can work with posttraumatic women for so long without getting burnt-out, but they are my inspiration. I challenge the public to imagine living through what some of these women have gone through and not crumbling under the pressure.” I click off the television before the guys can protest.
Of course, they demand to know why I turned off the television, so I am forced to tell that that the woman being interviewed is the leader of my trauma group. I had told Paris about this earlier, of course, but he’d never seen her before. He and Lyle are properly appalled that she is on television telling our business to the entire Bay Area. I explain that she claims it’s to make sure the group has good publicity so the board won’t shut it down, but I’m not so sure about that. Lyle wonders about the confidentiality issue and if she’s breaching it. In my opinion, she is breaching confidentiality, and I’m not so sure she isn’t doing it for her own benefit. Paris, however, plays devil’s advocate and points out that there probably is great pressure by the board to close the group down, if not the whole clinic. It may be selfish of me, but I don’t care. I don’t want Carol on television talking about me, no matter how tangentially. I resolve to talk to her about it again. I shake my head as the phone ring. Without thinking about it, I pick up.
“Rayne? It’s Mrs. Jenson, Paris’s mother.” There is a strain in her tone. Mrs. Jenson is a deeply religious woman who disapproves of Paris’s lifestyle, but lost the moral high ground because during the last murder investigation, it was uncovered that she and Paris’s father had adopted Paris when he was a baby and never told him about it. Paris has always had a rocky relationship with his mother and rarely talks to her. The only thing they can agree on is that they both care about Paris’s baby half-sister, Mary, though he’s only seen her once since she was born besides the time she was born. It was a short trip as Paris argued with his mother the whole time he was there with his stepfather getting in the way. Actually, Mary isn’t blood-related to Paris at all as he’s adopted, but he didn’t find that out until fairly recently and still thinks of Mary as his half-sister.
“Mrs. Jenson, how are you?” I turn to look at Paris and raise my eyebrow inquiringly. He shakes his head vehemently. Even though she and Mary are his only two living relatives in the world, he refuses to talk to his mother for the most part.
“Fine, dear. May I please talk to Paris?” Mrs. Jenson has always liked me, though I don’t know why. I think she has high hopes for me turning her son around.
“He’s not here right now.” Lyle is massaging Paris’s neck to keep him calm. “May I take a message.”
“Yes, dear. Please let him know that Mary is very ill and may not have long to live.” Mrs. Jenson’s tone breaks, and she is weeping in my ear. “I’m sorry, Rayne, but I’m so afraid. I’m calling from the hospital, and the doctors won’t tell me anything. God only knows where my husband is. He can’t deal with a crisis like this.”
“That’s awful, Mrs. Jenson,” I say, clutching the phone. “Hold on a minute, please.” I place my hand over the receiver and turn to Paris. “Paris, I think you should talk to her. Your sister’s very sick.” He jumps up from the couch and races over. I wave him off before returning to Mrs. Jenson. “He just walked in the door, Mrs. Jenson. I’m very sorry about Mary.” I hand the phone over to Paris and sit across from Lyle who is looking concerned.
“Mom? What’s the matter?” Paris paces as he listens to his mother. Lyle and I glance at each other then look away. It’s too intimate a moment to share with each other as much as we get along. We both focus on Paris instead. Paris isn’t saying much more than ‘uh huh’ and ‘oh my god.’ Lyle and I wait in silence until he hangs up the phone.
Paris turns to us, his face frozen. He sits down next to Lyle and buries his face in Lyle’s shoulder. We let him sob. After a few minutes, he pokes his head up again. Mary is in the hospital with a fever of a hundred and three. She can’t keep anything down, and she screams when anyone tries to pick her up. She’s not even two yet, the poor thing. Paris’s voice is numb as he recites the symptoms. He concludes by saying he has to go there. To Memphis. Land of Elvis. Lyle offers to go with him, but Paris declines with a regretful sigh. His mother has never accepted his male lovers, and this isn’t the best time to try to break that pattern. Lyle looks as if he’s about to argue, but asks about tickets instead. Money is apparently no object as his mother will pay for his ticket. We troop in to my room to check online.
Orbitz.com has the best flights, as usual. The flight is eight-hundred dollars for a one stop, which makes me wince, but Paris is beyond caring about such trifling matters. He instructs me to book a return ticket for a week from now, telling me he’ll deal with it later if he stays longer. He wants to leave tomorrow if possible. He gives me the pertinent information such as credit card number, and I book him a ticket for tomorrow morning. He might get to take half off the price if he feels like haggling with the airline about flying to see a gravely-ill relative. Lyle generously offers to drive Paris to the airport. Paris simply nods before grabbing his cell phone and calling his mother back. I get my email confirmation that he has his e-ticket, and I print out his itinerary. We return to the kitchen to eat the apple cobbler that Lyle brought over even though none of us has much of an appetite any more. Paris doesn’t want to talk about his sister, so we return to the topic of the murders.
“I think it’s the father,” Lyle says, spooning up a bite of cobbler. “I think he offed his daughter for whatever reason and the maid saw him do it.”
“I disagree,” Paris protests. “I bet it’s the religious woman in Rayne’s group. Religious mania and all that.”
“I don’t know,” I say thoughtfully. “I have the feeling we’re all missing something.” We finish our desserts without further discussion. I discreetly go to my room after cleaning up the dishes. I want to give Lyle and Paris some privacy before their weeklong separation. I remember to put my earplugs in so I won’t be bothered in my sleep. I’m able to make it through the night yet again.