“Welcome back,” Carol smiles at us warmly, though with a tinge of sadness. “As you all have most likely read, we are one less in number. Let’s have a moment of silence.” As we dutifully quiet down, I look around the room. Everyone else has shown up, but no one looks too happy about being here, me included. I see the distrust in each woman’s eyes. How are we going to deal with this? This is a trauma group, after all, and what is more traumatic than dealing with the aftermaths of a murder?
“I think this is crazy,” Jennifer bursts out as soon as Carol indicates that the minute is over. “I think the group should be disbanded. We have a lunatic running around. Who knows who he will kill next?” She quickly crosses herself which causes more than one woman to roll her eyes.
“We don’t know her death has anything to do with this group,” Carol points out reasonably. “The police have thoroughly question me about the group, and I think they’re satisfied that no one here had motive to kill Ashley.” From what I’ve read in the papers, I wouldn’t be too sure about that. The papers imply that the police are hot on the trail of the killer who is a part of this group. I look around the room again, scrutinizing the faces. To my consternation, Maria is looking back at me. She smiles and winks. I look her over more carefully. She has thick, black hair pulled back in a simple braid. Her face is devoid of makeup, but she doesn’t need any. Her dark brown eyes are wide-set, and her skin is a chestnut brown. Her lips curve generously when she smiles, which seems to be often. I can see the tops of her full breasts as they peek out from beneath her low-cut t-shirt. I realize that I’m staring and quickly look away.
“I think we should have police protection,” Jennifer says. “I don’t feel safe here.”
“Girl, the police don’t have no time for protecting nobody,” Sharise, the cop’s ‘widow’ says with a snort. “They too busy catching dope dealers and busting up the ‘hood for stupid shit like that.” It’s clear that she’s no fan of the police, even if her dead boyfriend had been on the force. Or perhaps, because of it.
“We are perfectly safe,” Carol says, raising her voice slightly. “As I said, there is no evidence that Ashley’s murder had anything to do with this group.” She glances at her watch before saying, “Since this is a trauma group, let’s explore how we feel about Ashley’s death. Who would like to start?” The ubiquitous pen is in one hand, the pad of paper in the other. I have to give her credit, however; she’s discreet. I rarely think about her taking notes unless I happen to glance over at her while someone is talking.
“Shouldn’t have happened,” Tudd says gruffly, her eyes fixed firmly on something in front of her. “So young. So much life left. Shame.” She subsides after her terse eulogy.
“She was so spirited,” Astarte begins, spreading her hands to the side. “I may not have been on her wave-length all the time, but I appreciated her perspective.” I look at her hard. I don’t trust someone who is so forgiving of someone who made a pretty horrible accusation about one’s husband.
“She’s in hell,” Jennifer says fiercely, daring anyone to contradict her. “She laughed at the church and fornicated with other women.”
“Jennifer, that is inappropriate,” Carol says firmly, pausing in her scribbling. A few heads bobble in agreement.