by BK Davis
Rated: 18+ · Novel · Young Adult · #647521
Jadean McCoy comes face to face with the man she helped put away
|CHAPTER 12 When the past meets the future|
I couldn’t see spending the night when driving home would take less than a half hour to do. And it was pointless for either of them to drive me. If they had, they would have had to make the return trip home, or else spend the night at my aunt’s. So, what was the point of offering? I thought, but Sara and Jordan continued to insist.
"Are you sure," Sara asked as Jordan said, "it wouldn’t be a bother" if I stayed. Nonetheless, I continued to resist.
If the truth be known, I didn’t want to get either of them into trouble. We all had been drinking heavily that night, courtesy of an unknown benefactor. I knew I would have had a difficult time explaining myself to Aunt Jean and Joe, but it would have been twice as difficult for them. They were from around here; they knew the laws that were in place.
I, on the other hand, was from Nebraska and already had a prior rap with underage drinking. Additionally, I had little or no contact with either of their parents prior to that evening. Surely, they would have blamed me for their child’s indiscretion.
"It would be better if I go my own way," I blurted, my words slurring. "I don’t want to cause any additional problems than you’re already getting yourself into, by being around me."
"But Jadean," Jordan pleaded. "We’ve all been drinking. Each of us by my own regard; you didn’t force us to," Sara reminded me. "Therefore, if any of us is going to get in trouble, it will be by own accord. Not yours.
"And, besides, you shouldn’t try to drink and drive. You know how tough the laws are here, especially after John’s Law was enacted in 2002; it’s not like we’re in Nebraska."
Yeah, I knew. I went through the riot act once before with Joe. That time, however, it was over a mere speeding ticket. The ticket itself, along with the court fees, cost Joe nearly $200. I also faced jail time, but Joe convinced the judge to reduce it to just community service.
"Let this be a lesson to you, Jadean," he said as we left the courtroom. "How would you think your folks or Aunt Jean would feel if they found out about this?"
"So, tell them!" I said, challenging him. "See if I care."
"You should, Jadean. The road you were traveling on, back home, brought you here. Remember?"
How could I forget? Every time I looked around, I saw either Joe’s or Peyton’s face. Even tonight, Sara thought she saw Joe at the bar. She even wondered if he had been our anonymous benefactor. But when I turned to see, it was Peyton’s face that I saw.
"What’s the matter, Jade," Sara asked, noticing my face had gone pale. "You look as though you’ve seen a ghost."
"Maybe I have," I said, looking at her a moment before turning back toward the bar. By then, he was gone.
"Where’d he go?"
"Who?" Sara asked. "Joe?"
I shook my head vehemently. "No. Not Joe. Peyton. He was just there, at the bar. Didn’t either one of you see him?"
"Jadean, calm down. You’re getting yourself so worked up over nothing."
"Besides, it was Joe Sara saw at the bar, not this Peyton fellow you’re talking about.
"I don’t understand. He was just there," I replied. "He was sitting right there, at the edge of the bar."
"Well, there’s no one there now, Jade. Whoever it was must have left, or else he never existed."
"Like you seeing Joe," Jordan asked.
"Exactly! Why else would either of these men be here?" Sara asked. "It’s not like we’re children needing to be babysat, do we?"
Even though she had a point, I still worried. If Joe had indeed been here, it wouldn’t have been the first time he’d follow me some place, lurking in the shadows a few feet away.
Once, I confronted him on this. He always denied it, stating it was just coincidence that he was at the college my first day there. As for the times I caught him at my job, he said he was there shopping for himself or Aunt Jean. I doubted it, and told him so directly.
"For once in your life, why can’t you be honest with me, Joe?" I asked. "You’re always saying how I need to trust you. How I can trust you, but how can I when I know you’re lying!"
"You need to have more faith in people, Jadean, and less suspicion," he replied sharply. "People aren’t always out to pull a fast one on you."
"Don’t they?" I countered. "How else would you explain my coming here? I didn’t get on that bus all by myself."
"You wouldn’t been forced to, Jadean, if you stayed away from Peyton Hatfield," Joe shot back. "But if you’d care to go back, and put yourself back into harm’s way, don’t let the door hit you on the way out."
That was only one of the few times I had seen Joe angry, or resentful of me living with him and Aunt Jean. Nonetheless, it didn’t change the way I felt about him.
Three hours later, I knew I had to go. My body ached for sleep.
"I’ll be all right. I know what I’m doing," I said.
"At least, let us walk out with you. If you did see whoever it was that you believed you did, at least it would be safer traveling in numbers."
Again, I said ‘no.’ "I’ll be fine. I was probably just seeing things...The beer, you know?!"
They both smiled.
"I’ll see you both in class on Monday," I added, and headed for the door.
Confident I wasn’t nearly as drunk as they were, I kept telling myself to stay cool. Keep my eyes on the door ahead of me. But the moment I stepped out onto the front balcony, I realized I had forgotten about the restaurant’s front steps. I stumbled down them, and prepared to fall flat on my face by extending my hands out to embrace myself for the fall. Instead, I felt my fingers extend out and wrap around one of the handrails. The action prevented me from falling all together.
The reaction, however, short-winded me; shaken, I sat down. I closed my eyes in every effort to calm my quivering nerves, but what seemed liked a couple of minutes, I was abruptly awakened to a womanly voice, saying, "Are you all right?"
An elderly couple was standing on the top step, staring down at me with curiosity and concern.
"Yes, yes. I’m sorry. I must have dozed off for a moment," I said. Utterly embarrassed by the situation, I stood up and smiled at the couple. "I’m so embarrassed. I’ve never done this before, really."
"Don’t be. You probably miss stepped," the man said as his wife offered to call me a cab. "Or, we’d gladly take you if it’s nearby."
"We don’t live far," the woman explained.
But I quickly declined. "I appreciate your concern," I said. "Who knows how long I would have sat there if you didn’t come along, but I’ll be fine. Really!"
With another "thank you," I started off toward the rear parking lot before further conversation could be made.
I didn’t know how long I had been asleep, but however long it was was just enough to make me feel rejuvenated. I was given my second wind, and I was now looking forward to the drive home. I even considered putting the top down, and letting the night air blow through my hair.
It brought a small smile to my lips, and I chuckled to myself. I didn’t recall ever feeling as happy as I had that night. I was finally adjusting to life here in the Garden State. I was making friends, had just begun college and was about to embark on a career I had hoped to have for a lifetime.
But as I turn toward the rear of the building, a small gasp emerged from my mouth; then, everything went silent. A hand slipped across my mouth, preventing me from screaming further, and a muscular arm tightly wrapped itself around my waist to keep me from fleeing. For the moment, all I could do was to allow myself to be pulled further behind the building to an area secluded from sight. Although the area was as narrowly lit as it was secluded from visibility, I had been taken into the area I knew the restaurant had set aside for trash and recyclables; the area reeked of beer and fish. The mere smell of it made my stomach churn. I had to swallow hard just to keep from regurgitating my own vomit.
"You damn bitch," a voice bellowed from behind me as I was pushed into the trashcans and tumbled through them. They clanked and rolled as they struck the asphalt-paved ground below.
I felt light headed, and dazed, as I fumbled through the broken glass, wrappers and other discarded food products that spilled. I searched for something to lean on to, something that would bear the brunt of my weight. When I had and pulled myself up right, I wished I had remained buried beneath the rubbish.
The person standing above me now — the one who had thrown me into the receptacle — was the last person I ever imagined seeing again. I thought I left him behind the day I left Nebraska. But here he was, standing before me now.
He relished the anguish that flowed into my face the moment I saw him. A small smile emerged into a full-fledged grin that showed his pearly whites. "Hello, J.D. How’ve you been?"
I could hear the joy of seeing me flounder in his voice. I heard that tone in his voice before, a time not too long ago. Believing someone had double-crossed him, Peyton went on the prowl. And when he found the guy, he left him so severely beaten, plastic surgery was required to allow him to breathe and see properly.
I knew I was about to endure the same fate; it would only be a matter of time before the first blow came. But I had to at least try to escape. Fight back. I just couldn’t think; the alcohol altered my thought process. All I could think to say was "I don’t understand. Why aren’t you..."
"Still behind bars," he asked. Peyton laughed, but it wasn’t the kind from responding to a funny story or a good joke. It came from the bellows of his inner soul, ripen with every inch of evil that any one person could possess. "Do you really believe that county, or any jail for that matter, would keep me from coming after you, Jadean? For, it was you who put me away in the first place, wasn’t it?"
"But how...how did you..."
"Find you? He laughed again. "There are always ways, J.D. There are people who are willing to say, or even watch, for a price. How do you think the bus broke down on the way here? Or your shadow showing up at the laundry mat?"
"No!" I cried, running toward him.
My intentions were good. They were to push by him hard enough to make him stumble. I thought doing so would give me time to get to my car and drive away. But I heard him laugh again, and felt his hand wrap itself around my arm. He swung me around, and threw me back against the brick wall of the restaurant. He held his hand firmly around my throat. His middle and index fingers were pressed snugly against the flesh just below the chin I found it difficult to swallow or speak.
I could feel his breath against my cheek between the tears that flowed from behind my closed eyelids.
"Please. Just let me go," I begged, which only broaden the smile on his face, and another long and hearty laugh.
"And miss all of the fun I’m going to have with you," he asked. "I don’t think I can," he added, whispering, "How I see it, Jadean, you owe me some restitution. And, believe me, I am going to make you pay for every moment I spent in jail!"
He held his mouth to my neck, tracing the nape of it with his tongue as his fingers made their way up under my shirt and up the side of my stomach. His eyes widened as his fingers found its way to my breast. He laughed again, mistaking the hardening of the nipple as arousal than from sheer fear.
"What’s the matter, J.D.," he said, again shortening my name as he usually had in the past. "You used to enjoy this."
I barely managed to emit a crippling wail; I prayed that someone from within the restaurant’s kitchen would have heard me, but my pleas had again fallen on deaf ears. I was beginning to lose hope that anyone would come to my aid, which Peyton saw as an added incentive to thrust himself on me further. I could feel his mouth go from my neck to parallel to my own. Forcefully, he thrust his tongue into my mouth, prying my lips apart until it was whirling around inside.
His hand was also gone from under my blouse. It traveled south until it reached the edge of my skirt, lifting it just high enough above my waist for him to rip off my panties.
The sound of the material ripping tore into me; triggering an unconscious mechanism that resulted in a blow to his most sensitive of places with my fist. He doubled over, allowing me an opportunity to try and flee. But again, as I attempted to run past him, he grabbed hold of me; this time the tail end of my shirt. The reaction made me fall to my hands and knees. I kicked and screamed as he lunged for my ankles in order to drag me back into the trash receptacles.
"Shut up! Shut up," he shouted as he brought me to my knees and pushed me aside; his hand immediately went to my mouth.
"Hey! What’s going on back there?"
Peyton turned toward the side of the building. A figure was standing there looking toward us.
"Don’t even think about calling out to him" Peyton advised vehemently. " I am not afraid to kill you right here and now, Jadean. I mean that!"
"Hey! I know someone’s out here," we heard the individual say again, and, by the sound of his voice, the restaurant patron was approaching, and rather quickly at that. His voice was louder and more audible as he called out once more.
Through my tears, I could see Peyton’s mouth trembling. It was something he did whenever he had a heavy decision to make. He was weighing the options, but I knew the one he would make. I knew him too well.
"Don’t think this is over, Jadean," he said. "Because, it isn’t, and, next time, I will finish the job I started. I promise you that! And that goes double for Aunt Jean!"
And to ensure that I took him seriously, Peyton cast two last blows. One was to the stomach, and the other to the head and face.
His words and someone rushing toward me, calling my name, were the last things I heard as I crumbled to the ground, flat on my face after all.
"Jadean. Jadean." My eyelids fluttered to the sound of my name being called. But a heavy burden hovered over me, fighting against my will to see the world once more. "Jadean, please. Open your eyes. I know you can hear me, deary." My aunt’s voice. It was her voice that I was hearing, but why was she here. Who called her?
"Yes, dear. It’s Aunt Jean."
I opened my eyes and tried to focus them on her face. "My head," I said, realizing that it, as well as my entire body, was in serious pain. It was difficult to look at her, not to mention trying to sit up. And it was only then that I realized that I wasn’t at home, or still at the restaurant. I was dressed in a white gown. "Where am I?"
"It’s all right dear; just lie back. You’re in the hospital," she replied. Her hand ran through my hair. "Do you recall how you got here, dear?"
"I would like to know that myself." We both turned toward the door. A man dressed in a law enforcement uniform was in the doorway leading into my room. "I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you both, or appear so bluntly just now," he said, entering the room further. "I’m Det. Thomas Risley, of the Somers Point Police Department" he said, extending his hand to my aunt. "You must be Mrs. Westcoat.
"I was just speaking to your husband outside. He said you were in here with your niece," he added as he turned to me. "How are you feeling?"
"All right, I guess," I replied, shrugging. "Ow."
"Just take it easy, dear," Aunt Jean said, explaining to the detective that the doctor’s diagnosis was that I broke a couple of ribs besides some bruising and lacerations from being struck and dragged.
"Are you up to talking to the officer," Aunt Jean asked, her voice showing her concern.
I don’t know how much help I can be," I admitted, hoping simultaneously that my aunt, but more so the detective, wouldn’t see through the lies. "Everything seems like a blur."
"Then, just tell me what you do remember," he said before asking Aunt Jean, "would you please excuse us?"
"Yes, of course." She smiled graciously. She then turned to me. "Don’t you worry, dear. I’ll be just outside the door. If you need me, just holler."
"Okay, Aunt Jean. Thank you."
She patted my arm and then walked by the cop before exiting into the hallway. I could see Joe sitting in a seat just down the hall when the door swung open. He looked up the moment it had, and, for a few seconds, our eyes meet. I couldn’t help but wonder if he had anything to do with last night. No one but my immediate family knew I was coming here. Yet, Peyton had said, "There are always ways, Jadean. There are people who are willing to say, or even watch, for a price." But it was more what he had said next that reminded me of something Joe had said when I first arrived here. Joe told Aunt Jean I had to switch buses, and, last night, Peyton said, "How do you think the bus broke down on the way here? Or your shadow showing up at the laundry mat?" Why would he say a thing like that unless someone had told him? Could that have been Joe?
But before I could ponder the thought further, my attention averted back to Det. Risley when the door closed. He was now sitting by the bed with a notepad in his hand and a pen in the other. The sound of the pen tapping against the notepad drew me back to the moment at hand.
"I really don’t know if I can be of any help," I began, but the officer believed otherwise.
"I’m sure you can be of help more than you know," he said. "You have nothing to fear, Jadean," he added. "We’re going to get this guy who did this to you."
That’s what I was afraid of, I said silently. I would be killed for sure if Peyton knew I was talking to a cop about him, again. He already tried once, last night behind the Bayfront.
I knew he would try again. When or how, I didn’t know. When it did, though, he would be swift and thorough. That was just the way Peyton did things, and I knew it first hand.
"Jadean," the officer said, placing his hand on mine, "I know you’re afraid. But, rest assured. We’ll get this guy, and he’ll never hurt anyone again."
‘He’ll never hurt anyone again.’ The statement made me laugh, even though it hurt to laugh. The blow to the stomach must have broken a rib or two, I thought.
Those thoughts weren’t allowed to wander. The moment I laughed, and regretted doing do, the detective asked why I was. "He already hurt me once, Detective. How can you be so sure that he won’t be back?"
"Are you saying that you knew your attacker?"
Damn, my big mouth! Why didn’t I think before I spoke? He would, of course, think I had known my attacker with a comment like that.
I knew I had to reply, and quickly. Any sign of hesitation would convict me of lying.
"No. All I’m saying is that if this guy could after me again, especially if he reads about it in today’s paper."
"I can assure you that only happens in the movies. But, if that doesn’t settle your fears, I could request that a detail be placed outside your door."
"Can that really be done," I asked astounded.
He nodded, and indicated he’d make the request before returning to the precinct. "I don’t see it as a problem. But let’s start with what happened last night, shall we?"
He went through a shopping list of questions, ranging from who I was with last night, their names and phone numbers, to what time I left and why I had chosen to drive home after an evening of heavy drinking. Didn’t I know I could be charged on that alone, especially since I hadn’t yet turned 21, the drinking age for New Jersey?
I could have been charged with under aged drinking. I would have also faced DWI charged if I had, indeed, drove.
But, of course, that never happened. Much to Peyton’s thanks, I suppose, he prevented that from happening. Nonetheless, it was exhausting answering the detective’s questions. To each, I had to think of an appropriate reply to avoid being caught lying.
It had to be so painstakingly obvious that I was lying, I thought. If it was, the officer never let on. He continued with his questions and writing down my replies.
After nearly an hour, the detective paused, announcing he needed a break. He rose from the chair and crossed the room to where a pitcher of water and some glasses were placed by a nurse about 15 minutes after the detective arrived.
"Would you like some water?" When I nodded, he began to pour the water into two glasses and brought them over. As he did so, he continued to talk. It wasn’t like he had previously, when he was interrogating me about the attack last night. His tone changed, as did his mannerisms.
"Your uncle —"
"I prefer step uncle," I corrected. "My aunt was married once before. Her first husband, J.D., I consider my ‘true’ uncle."
"Yes, well he tells me that you’re from the Midwest?"
I nodded, indicating, "Nebraska."
"I bet it’s beautiful country out there," which was something I couldn’t deny. "There are wheat fields as far as you can see," I said, acknowledging that life there was so unlike it is here. "It’s like they’re two different worlds."
"But you do like it here with your aunt and...step-uncle?" Seeing my hesitation, he tilted his head and asked what the problem was. "Your aunt isn’t as good of a cook as you thought she was?"
"No. Nothing like that" I said. "I love being here, and getting to know my Aunt Jean."
"Your uncle, excuse me, step-uncle was telling me something about that. That she moved East some time ago...?"
"About the time I was born," I acknowledged, adding, "It’s often been said that she didn’t care for the life farming can produce. But it’s not so bad, really. You just to have like that kind of lifestyle, and Aunt Jean didn’t. That’s all. She just wanted something different."
"And your step uncle?"
"He’s okay, I guess," I said. A part of me wanted to elaborate my suspensions, but a small voice inside my head warned me not to.
Det. Risley caught wind of my hesitation, and responded with a "just okay?"
"You’re misconstruing what I’m saying," I quickly replied, hearing that inner voice shouting that the officer was on a fishing expedition instead of being sincere about his concern. But the intensity in my voice prompted the officer to raise an eyebrow as if he was actually saying aloud, "Am I?"
"Are you aware that your uncle was at the restaurant last night," he announced. "We have confirmation that he was there. In fact, he was the one who called 911."
"What?!" I asked, as memories of a conversation I had with my friends last night. One of them swore they saw Joe at the bar, and wondered if he had been the one supplying us with the drinks. The waiter couldn’t supply us with a name of our benefactor last night. Nor could he describe what the person looked like.
"You weren’t aware of that?"
"No," I said while shaking my head in disbelief. What was he doing there, I wondered which turned out to be the next question the officer raised.
"Were the two of you having some kind of fling that you hoped to end last night. But he didn’t want to accept that so he took it out on you, but then felt guilty for it; so, he called 911?"
"No. That’s not how it happened," I said vehemently, shaking my head harder that it throbbed at the temples. I couldn’t believe that the officer was trying to put those words in my mouth. No matter how much I despised Joe, and was suspicious of him, something within me knew I couldn’t pin this attack on him. Something more was going on here than can be explained. I just have to figure out how I could get him to do so, and not have Peyton come after me again to kill me.
"Then, tell me how it happened, Jadean? Make me understand why you and your uncle were at the same establishment, if you weren’t meeting up there..."
"I can’t explain why my uncle was there, but I can tell you that he didn’t do this to me," I said vehemently, but wondering to myself why I was so vehemently defending Joe, despite my suspicions of him. "He didn’t!"
"Then tell me who did."
"I can’t," I sobbed.
"Jadean," Det. Risley began, but then stopped. After a long paused, he offered an apology. "I don’t mean to badger you like this. I know you’re scared. But you’ve got to realize that this guy...This guy who assaulted you last night is only going to come after you again, and, next time, your uncle isn’t going to be there."
And with that, the officer rose from his post and went out into the hallway. I could see Joe rising from his chair as the officer entered the hall, but couldn’t tell whether or not Aunt Jean was also out there with them. Whether she was or not, the door didn’t shut all the way. This enabled me to listen in to the conversation, even if I could only hear bits and pieces of it. It was enough for me to get the gist of the conversation.
For starters, Det. Risley said I was definitely hiding something, but added that I was too frightened to reveal who or what it was. He also said that he believed I had some major issues with Joe, which prompted Joe to exclaim, "What?!"
"Joe, I’m not here to tell you what to do, but I honestly believe that, sooner or later, you’ve got to come clean with your niece. Tell her the truth about what’s really going on here.
"I mean it, Joe. Your niece currently believes that you had a play in what happened last night."
"You can’t honestly believe that."
"All I know is that I did what you told me, play devil’s advocate with her," he replied. "From what I heard her say, she believes you’re the one who tipped this guy off about her whereabouts.
"Take my advice, Joe. Come clean before she totally mistrusts you."
With that, the detective slapped Joe on the shoulder and, as he moved further down the hallway, said he would assign an officer to my room and then to the house once I was released.
Joe entered my hospital room shortly after the conversation with the detective ended. He asked how I was feeling, which I replied, "Okay," but exhausted from all of the questioning.
"I won’t keep you too long, then. I just wanted to come in and let you know that the doctors believe you could come home tomorrow. They just want to keep you overnight for observation.
"Your aunt went to begin the paperwork," he added, sitting down where the officer had left the chair.
For the longest time, he and I just stared at one another. Finally, not able to take the silence any longer, I had to ask, "What did the detective mean?"
Joe’s eyes widened, realizing I had overheard most of the conversation. I nodded, acknowledging that was what I meant, and then asked him, "Are you some sort of cop? Or is that detective a part of some other scheme?"
"Jadean, this isn’t really the time or the place..."
"When I first came here, you told me that I can trust you, Joe, but everything you’ve done and said indicates that I can’t. And now, you’re telling me that I have to wait?"
"I know, I know," he said, affirming everything I had just said. But he also insisted that "it’s for your own good" that he did everything he had over the past several months. "There is a lot that I am not at liberty to say at this conjuncture," he added, before stating that some time in the not so distant future he would be able to disclosure everything. "Then, you’ll understand why I did what I had to to protect you."
"Jadean, please. Just let this go. For now."
I could see from his face that I wasn’t going to persuade him to tell me who he truly was, or what, if anything, he had to do with Peyton finding me here. So, I said "okay" to appease him, which brought a smile to his face, and, from his lips, "That’s a good girl."
He then let out a small sigh, and indicated that he would leave and allow me to rest. "Tomorrow is going to be a big day, but try not to worry so much, Jadean" Joe said. "Peyton will not get to you again."
My eyes shifted directly to his upon hearing Peyton’s name. That only sealed what I had already known. Joe obviously knew more about my coming here than he first let on to my aunt, or even to myself. But I was still curious as to which side he was truly on.
Patting me on the arm, Joe rose from the chair, and as he crossed the room toward the door, he added, "Just get some rest, and your aunt and I will see you first thing tomorrow. Good night, Jadean."
I tried my best to get some rest, but I couldn’t help but wonder what role Joe had in all of this, and whether or not Peyton would try that night to finish me off. But, as the detective promised, an uniformed officer came by later that evening. After coming in to greet me, he went back out into the hallway and took to his post just outside the door.
The next morning, as Joe had predicted, the doctor who admitted me came by to say that I was being released later that morning. My aunt came in shortly thereafter, carrying in some of my clothes for me to change into.
"Joe will be back later to pick us up," she announced as I changed out of the hospital robe and attempted to dress myself with the garments Aunt Jean had brought with her. I was glad to see that she had brought with her a button down shirt instead of a pullover T-shirt.
My ribs were still throbbing; according to the doctor, they were actually severely bruised and not broken. Nonetheless, it’ll take time for them to heal, the doctor explained.
"That also goes for the bruising and the cut on your forehead," he said, noting that he had given Aunt Jean two separate prescriptions. Both to be taken orally, the first would help me to sleep; and the second should only be taken for any pain or discomfort I may still be experiencing, he said.
"Are you all right in there," Aunt Jean asked from just outside the bathroom door.
"Yes, Aunt Jean," I replied. ‘"I’ll only be a couple of minutes more. Thank you."
I gazed at myself through the mirror the hospital supplied. I barely recognized myself through the cuts, bruises and swelling, but realized that, in time, each of these inflictions would go away. I also begun to realize that it was the inner scarring, and the inability to trust the right people, that I still had to contend with. But with whom do I begin?
Joe had often said I needed to trust him. I just didn’t know if I could, even though there probably was a logical reason why he had so often appeared at the same places as I had been, like two nights ago. However, my gut instinct, or perhaps it was just my whole experience that resulted in my coming to New Jersey, and my being assaulted, that prevented me from fully trusting the man who indeed had saved my life.
Joe had pulled the car up to the curb the moment the orderly rolled me out by a wheelchair. Although I repeatedly stressed I didn’t need any help getting to the car, both Joe and the orderly took either arm and lead me to the back seat. Joe then returned to the driver’s seat while Aunt Jean took the front passenger’s seat.
The ride home was unbearably quiet, other some small chitchat from Aunt Jean, describing what has happened since the neighbors heard about the incident at the Bayfront.
"No one can believe it," she said. "No one can believe that, you of all people, Jadean, would be so brutally attacked."
"How did they find out so quickly," I asked as a rush of heat rose from just below the collar toward my checks.
"From the local newspapers, I imagine. And the TV news broadcasts," Aunt Jean replied. "Both the Philadelphia stations and the local channel have had reporters on the street and in front of the house."
"Do you really think that’s wise," Joe asked his wife, as his eyes were pivoting back and forth from the roadway before us and into the rearview mirror, toward me.
"It’s not like I called them," she replied, but Joe didn’t seem to hear Aunt Jean. For, he said firmly, "Names and addresses of rape victims aren’t released, unless permission is granted prior to anything being released to the media.
"Did Det. Risley ask you about any of that," he then asked, directing the question toward me. I shook my head ‘no,’ as he said aloud, "I’ll have to get to the bottom of this. Someone remind me to call Det. Risley the moment we get home.
But the drive home was abruptly interrupted. As soon as Joe made the turn onto our street, he applied the brakes. They made a squealing sound as the car slid across the intersection toward the front yard of a neighbor’s property. We barely missed the Bensons’ shrubs as the vehicle finally came to a halt.
Still in the back seat of Joe’s car, I peered out through the front window, toward our home. My mouth literally dropped in disbelief to see the mass number of media vans actually camped out along our street. There was barely enough room to get a car down the 20-foot-wide street with all of the media vans parked along either side.
"I can’t believe this" Joe exclaimed.
"You can’t say that I didn’t warn you, Joe," my aunt said in a voice and manner I’ve never heard her use before. It wasn’t the Aunt Jean I had grown to know from letters and visits with her. "It’d been like this since last night."
But that was the least of my worries at the moment. I knew, from the number of news vans and the reporters lurking around my aunt’s property, that Peyton must now know where to find me. That would explain why he didn’t attempt to get into my hospital room last night, or when I was first admitted into Shore Memorial.
I was sure that he was just waiting, seeing how everything would pan out before making his next move. I was also positive that he was somehow here, among the mass confusion that was looming in front of Aunt Jean’s and Joe’s home in an attempt to get some additional information. Would we be staying at the house, or find a more secluded place to stay?
"Joe, I can’t do this. I can’t speak with reporters."
"Nor will you get the chance to," he replied as he put the car into reverse. The squealing of the wheels made the reporters and photographers to look in our directions. I heard someone shout, "there they are," as we speed away from our street. Looking back at them through the back window, I could see them running toward us but stopping after a few yards, realizing that they wouldn’t ever catch up.
Within moments, we were gone, driving out of the development and down toward the intersection of routes 50 and 40. Joe made the right turn there and headed south. I recognized the route that he was taking as the way we went to the Wildwoods. I have gone this route a thousands of times since we drove there that night Joe brought me the car. Nonetheless, Aunt Jean still asked, "Where are we going?"
"Somewhere that’s safe," he replied.
"Jean, we can’t stay here. This guy. This person who attacked Jadean last night now knows where we live. We need to get her as far away from here, and somewhere she can be safe."
"But where? And what about her meds? We need to get them filled."
For what seemed like an eternity, Joe sat silently as he stared out toward the highway ahead of us. He then looked at Aunt Jean and then into the rear view mirror, toward me. "You’re right. I’m sorry," he said. "We’ll stop somewhere along the way.
"Besides, I want to get a copy of this morning’s paper, and you’ll probably need to call work, don’t you, Jean?"
She nodded as the wheels below us kept turning southbound...
Chapter 11 Nearing the end of the line
It was nearly an hour before Joe stopped the car so that Aunt Jean could take the prescriptions the doctors had given her to be filled at a drug store. We waited for her inside a diner. Joe had the daily newspaper spread out before him, reading the article it printed.
"Here, let me take a look," I said, snapping the newspaper from Joe’s hands, anxious to see what the writer wrote.
After a few minutes, I wish I hadn’t. The words seemed so foreign, the details so accurate but then, in other areas of the article, stunning me. I looked up at Joe who only encouraged me to read on.
‘The manhunt for an escaped inmate from a Nebraska Medium Security Prison has intensified this past week as authorities here have joined the search.
‘State and local law enforcement here have confirmed that they have joined in the search for Peyton "Pay Dirt" Hatfield, a convicted drug dealer and murderer who is believed to be in southern New Jersey.
‘Sources tell this reporter that Hatfield, who was convicted this past July on murder and weapons charges, is believed to be in New Jersey, in search of his former girlfriend, Jadean McCoy, 19. McCoy was the prosecution’s key witness in the trial, and was crucial in persuading the jury in convicting Hatfield on all charges.
‘Hatfield was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole. But, as he was escorted out of the courtroom, following sentencing, he vowed to get even with McCoy. He was heard saying, "I’ll get you J.D. I’ll kill you, even if it’s the last thing I’ll ever do!"
‘Hatfield may be keeping to his word. Three weeks after his conviction, Hatfield escaped when the bus he was on crashed along a Nebraskan highway. The bus had been transporting Hatfield and nearly a dozen others to a maximum-security prison.
‘Authorities confirmed majority of the inmates were eventually captured, but noted that Hatfield is still unaccounted for.
‘He should be regarded as armed and dangerous; anyone who may have seen him, or has any information regarding his whereabouts, should call the local authorities. Do not approach him on your own, authorities advised.
‘They also noted they believe Hatfield came East because of a relative he shares with McCoy. She has been identified as Jean Hatfield Westcoat, a casino employee who resides in the Harding Lakes vicinity of Mays Landing, Hamilton Twp., Atlantic County.
‘McCoy moved in with Mrs. Westcoat and her husband, Joe, about a week after the trial ended.
‘Mrs. Westcoat, formerly Jean McCoy-Hatfield, is McCoy’s mother’s sister, but she was also married to Hatfield’s uncle, James Dean "J.D." Hatfield. After his death, Mrs. Westcoat remarried. Little, if anything, is known about Joe Westcoat. Neighbors say that he is a very nice man, but keeps much to himself.
‘Additionally, it should be known that Mrs. Westcoat isn’t a stranger to the legal system, having had drug and murder charges filed against her. Those charges were later dropped when she agreed to turn state evidence against her former associates. In exchange of her testimony, Westcoat agreed to leave Nebraska, never to return.
‘Sources say that they are unclear whether or not Westcoat has had any contact with her nephew. She declined to comment when a call was made to her residence. Nonetheless, at least two individuals have told police they believe they saw Hayfield near the Bayfront Tavern two nights ago, about the time a female patron was sexually assault and beaten.
‘Police would not confirm the identity of the woman. It’s speculated that it may have been McCoy, but neither police nor Shore Memorial staff would confirm.
‘What has been confirmed is that an individual was admitted to Shore Memorial Hospital last night, and was due to be released this morning.
‘Authorities advised that residents should act with caution should they come into contact with Hatfield. He is to be considered armed and dangerous. Also, it should be noted that Hatfield is not a suspect at this time for the assault on the Bayfront patron. He is wanted for questioning only in this case, as well as his escape from the Nebraska prison bus.
‘Upon his capture, Hatfield does face additional charges for the escape.
‘Anyone with information concerning Hatfield’s whereabouts, or the incident at Bayfront last night, should call their local police department.
‘Callers may also call Crimestoppers; all calls can be made anonymously. A cash reward is being offered to the individual who provides information that leads to the arrest and conviction of those involved in these cases.
Pushing the paper aside, I asked how the writer could make up such lies. But what I was really hoping was that Joe didn’t see what I was truly thinking. I knew what the writer hoped to imply with her article. She hoped to imply that Aunt Jean was the one who told Peyton I was here. She was, as the article clearly pointed out, was once married to Peyton’s father’s brother. But how accurate was that implication? Could she have been the one?
I had to wonder. Something that Peyton said the night he confronted me behind the bar rung true in my ears. "That goes double for Aunt Jean." What did he mean by that? Was it his way of saying that they were in contact with one another after all, or was there a logical explanation for all of this?
Joe had considered the same thing; for, he had vocalized it into a question, asking me, "Could the implication be remotely true? Could Jean have anything to do with Peyton finding you here?"
I never imagined he would raise such a question; his doing so caught me off guard. So much so that I didn’t know how to respond at first. But when I had, I said I couldn’t believe he even had the decency to say something like that, or even think it. "She’s a good woman, Joe. Even though she may have made a few mistakes in her life, this wouldn’t be one of them. She wouldn’t betray me like this."
"How can you be so sure, Jadean. From the way I see it, you didn’t even know she had legal problems, or it was because of these legal problems that she left Nebraska."
"Why would you think that?
"I can see it in your eyes, Jadean. I can see the terror in them, the fear and the questioning of ‘what if.’ ‘Could she really have done it?’"
"I don’t know what you’re talking about..."
"I think you do. You just don’t want to believe your aunt had anything to do with this. I don’t blame you for wanting to think that, but..."
"But what, Joe? Believe my aunt would throw me to the likes of Peyton ‘Pay Dirt’ Hatfield? You must be kidding. My aunt would never do such a thing.
"Why wouldn’t she? She was Peyton’s aunt, too, wasn’t she?"
"I don’t have to sit here and listen to any of this? " I rose from the booth. As I began to walk down the aisle toward the door, Joe called out, asking where I was going. And when I replied, "anywhere other than here," he called out, "Jadean, wait!" But I was already gone. I was halfway to the door when I bumped into Aunt Jean. For a moment, we just stared at each other, eye to eye. Neither one of us spoke until, finally, she asked, "Jadean, dear. What is it? What’s the matter?"
But before I could decide whether or not to respond, Aunt Jean and I both heard Joe’s voice calling out to us. Aunt Jean turned toward him but I continued on toward the door. Within seconds, I was outside and walking down the street.
I didn’t know where I was going. My mind was riddled with conversations I’ve had encountered during my stay here. Who was telling the truth and who wasn’t was no longer clear. I also didn’t know whom I could trust any more.
I always thought I could trust Aunt Jean. She was my aunt, my mother’s sister. My own flesh and blood. But, as the article clearly stated, she was also related to Peyton. Even though it wasn’t by blood, like I was, Aunt Jean was still married to Peyton’s father’s brother for all of those years. Was that enough to bind them to one another, or was blood really thicker than water?
It had to be, I said to myself. I wanted to believe that blood was thicker than water, and that Aunt Jean had nothing to do with what was happening. She was, after all, my mother’s own sister!
But Peyton’s words rang in my ears like church bells on a Sunday morning. There was also the newspaper article. If, indeed, that article was true, I now understood why she would never visit us in Nebraska; we had to go to her. But what I didn’t understand was why she would have invited me to stay with her and Joe. Did she have it prearranged with Peyton? If they had, it would explain all the comments Peyton made at the Bayfront. But if she hadn’t, and was only in contact with him recently, why had she? What gain would she have by telling him?
Blinded by my own emotions and uncertainty, I never even realized that I was approaching a busy intersection. All I heard was car horns blaring and then tires screeching to a halt moments before falling to the ground under the weight of another being.
Opening my eyes, I saw Joe lying on top of me. A small crowd had gathered around us, including Aunt Jean.
"What the hell is wrong with you, Jadean," she asked. "You just got out of the hospital after someone brutally attacked you, and here you are, walking into traffic!"
"Like you really care, Aunt Jean," I replied, my voice trembling from the pain I felt inside.
"She read the article," Joe interjected as he rose from the ground, beside me. Extending his hand toward me, he added, "Here. Let me help you up."
I only shook my head. I wanted time to catch my breathe. Besides the emotional rollercoaster I was on from the newspaper article, the injuries I had sustained in the attack intensified from the fall. "I could do it myself."
"Come on, Jadean. Just let me help you for once?!"
I stared up at Joe. Up to this point, he never had raised his voice.
But before I had a chance to accept or deny Joe’s generosity, a voice rose over the constant flow of traffic. "Is everything all right over there? Or do we need to call the authorities."
The three of us turned, looking at the crowd that was still gathered around us. Joe was the one who spoke first. Shaking his head, he replied, "No. We have it covered.
"Why doesn’t everyone go back to their cars?" He continued, waving the crowd on. "Go back to your lives? There’s nothing more to see here."
Slowly, the crowd dissolved. One by one, the people went back to their cars. They re-entered the restaurant, to their booths and their orders.
We, on the other hand, remained as we were. Aunt Jean and Joe were side by side, towering over me as I laid on the ground.
"Jadean, I’m sorry," Aunt Jean said. "I’m sorry you feel betrayed because of something you read in that news article. But that doesn’t given you the right to act like you are!"
"How can you say that?" I shot back. "You and Mama lied to me all of these years! How could you? Did you really think I couldn’t handle the truth?"
"Jadean, there is a time and place when the entire truth will be known. I promise you that, but this isn’t the time."
"Why is everyone saying that," I screamed, tired of being mislead or having the discussion averted.
I laid back, resting my head against the earth below me. Tears, once held back, now flowed. They felt like little rivers trickling down my cheeks.
Chapter 12 Almost gone; almost there
I didn’t get the answers I wanted. In fact, none were given. Aunt Jean again stressed that the time wasn’t right, and Joe indicated that we really needed to move on. The place we were going to wasn’t much further. He speculated that we would arrive within the half hour.
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"No you don’t, Peyton. I won’t allow you to hurt Jadean. You’ve done enough to that poor girl," Aunt Jean said, placing herself in front of him. "You leave her alone!"
"I should have done this a long time ago, you old wretch!"
Peyton struck Aunt Jean across the face. She faltered, but remained in her place, much to my surprise. For such a petite woman, Aunt Jean was never one was easily pushed around, and she wasn’t about to be so, especially from her own flesh and blood. She shoved him back.