Friday, November 05, 2004

The Second Wife

Chapter One

I am an old woman, named after my mother
and my old man is another, child that's grown old.
If dreams were thunder, and lightnin' was desire
this old house would have burnt down a long time ago.

(Angel From Montgomery, by John Prine)

"I want a lawyer."

Martha looked up, squinting, into the blinding overhead light, behind which, stood two tired detectives from the Fairbanks Police Department.

They had been trying to interrogate her all night long, since this morning when they brought her in. It was getting late and both detectives had had a long day, starting with this call to go pick up an 80 year old woman from a small border town named Moose Creek, about a ninety-minute drive down the highway.

Martha was tired too. She had not slept hardly at all the night before and they had kept her in this room all day long. They were very nice to her, polite, making sure she had plenty to drink and snacks to eat, but the hard-backed chair was becoming agony on her arthritic spine and the lacey osteoporosic bones of her hips.

She was so tired. She just wanted to go home and go to bed.

The detectives sighed, and silently left the room, closing the door carefully behind them.

"Well, that's it. She wants a lawyer. We're not going to get anything more out of her now. I think her son has finally arrived. Maybe he can make the arrangements." Detective Bronson let out a big, long sigh, leaning back against the wall to take some of the strain off his huge frame, wide girth, and pinched feet.

Detective Arnold was a smaller, nervous man, his eyes flitting between the two-way glass, peering in at Martha and outside the tiny listening room, into the main lobby of the precinct, all in glass. He whistled. "Would you get a load of that guy. What a piker. Not sure what he is going to be able to do for his mom."

Abe was thin and short, 35 years old and still wearing a pony-tail and a tie-dyed T-shirt that could have been his same uniform for the last 20 years. He had full facial hair, a Reggae knit cap and wore lots of necklaces. He looked worried and was pacing.

He saw the dectives through the glass and started yelling so they could hear him. "Can I see my mom yet? I've been here for an hour already and nobody's telling me anything. What the hell happened?"

"Sir, your mother has requested an attorney," said Det. Bronson. "Do you have a family attorney or would you like us to put you in touch with the Public Defender's office?"

"No, we don't have a lawyer. I ... guess -- look what the hell is going on here? Why do you have my mother locked up? What are the charges against her?"

"Son, your mother has confessed to trying to kill her husband, which I understand is her second husband, which would make the victim, George Bernard your step-father, correct?"

Abe's eyes grew big and he exploded. "KILL! Are you crazy? My mother wouldn't hurt a fly! What evidence do you have? How did this happen? I want to see my mother, now! You can see she's old, she must be worried sick! How long have you had her locked up? Why won't you let me see her? Is she alright?"

"Calm down, Son," Detective Bronson said, sincerely. "We got a phone call this morning from Trooper Dan Johns stationed down in Moose Creek. He stated he was at your mother's and step-father's residence and that your step-father, George, had called his office earlier saying that he'd been attacked late last night in his sleep. He suspected his wife ... uh, that is, your mother."

Abe narrowed his eyes and became very intense, silent, breathing deep, long, slow breaths, as if to still a storm in his chest. As if he already knew what was coming.

Detective Bronson made note of the change in the young man and became alert, his years of experience teaching him to display a poker face, unemotionally he continued, "When Trooper Dan, er, Johns, arrived at the residence, he found your step-father, George, to be seriously injured and called immediately for an ambulance to bring him in to town to the hospital, so he could receive proper medical treatment.

"He stayed with your mother, talking with her for several hours until we could arrive on the scene. During that time, your mother, who I guess has personally known the trooper for some time ..."

"Yeah, we know Danny. I worked with him a few summers during my breaks at college. It was after he got out of high school and he still didn't know what he wanted to do yet. We worked at that tourist trap, Alaska Salmon Bake. We became good friends. We rented a room together so he didn't have to drive back down to Moose Creek every day. Those were long days we put in, cleaning and filleting halibut and salmon for the grill. He was my first friend and Mom even got to meet him a few times and we all spent time together. She liked him a lot."

"Well, your mother felt comfortable enough with him to explain her side of the story. She confessed to having injured her husband. And since she confessed, we had to take her in." Detective Bronson seemed almost apologetic.

Abe looked down at the ground during the detective's story. His eye twitched. He looked back up into the face of the man standing before him. With a small voice he said "I have been expecting something like this."