Standing in front of Judge Brown, she pleaded with her eyes, trying to get him to pay attention to what they were doing. Her father poked her in the ribs, whispering mean promises if she said anything, as he winked at the Judge. She was married to Arnold Vogel, a tall, skinny man of 70. He put her to work, stacking cord wood, as soon as they arrived at his log cabin. He ordered her around all day and expected her to welcome him into the marriage bed with open arms. She fell asleep, but he had his wedding night anyway. She may as well have been a knothole in a fence. He took one of his little blue pills every night, even if she was on her monthly, it made more sheets to wash. He taught her how to use the chainsaw, making yet another chore for her to do. She missed Joseph with his kind and gentle ways.
Arnold didn’t have a telephone. One day he clutched his chest and keeled over, she couldn’t call for an ambulance. She would have to try to figure out how to drive his truck; she had seen him do it several times. It was up in the woods. Running to get the old pick-up, it bucked toward the house, but by the time she went back inside the house to get him, he was already dead. She emptied out his pockets, pulled off his ring, and packed her big suitcase. The truck jerked down the driveway as she headed for town, grinding the gears. Freedom was so close. Then the motor made a loud knocking sound, dying on the road in a dark cloud of smoke. Managing to pull it over to the side of the road before it quit rolling, she snatched her suitcase from the back. It was still a ways to the bus stop; her feet would have to get her there. That was when Uncle Carl caught up with her. The nosy neighbors must have called the family when she drove noisily out of the yard.
Spending the time in the basement, had given her a lot of time to think. Without chores to have to concentrate on, her mind was free to fantasize. Many delightful scenes played, danced, and frolicked through her head. Her thoughts of revenge, tickled her fancy. Visualizing her parents, splayed out on the floor as Arnold had been, made her smile. It was a great thought, but the mystery was how to make it materialize.
The telephone rang; her father answered it, talking quietly so that she wouldn’t hear the conversation. After he hung up, he talked to her mother, whispering. Then her mother opened the basement door and just stood there with her hands on her hips, her silhouette dark against the bright kitchen light.
“We have to go to the lawyer’s office now, Mallory. He has an opening at two o’clock so you better get up here and make yourself presentable,” she said.
“What are you going to do, if I don’t? Are you going to beat me up some more or kill me? Do what you have to do. I am not going through hell again, to make you rich. That should be my money, not yours,” she said with an attitude.
Her mother slammed the door; the plates on the kitchen wall clattered. Then she stomped across the kitchen floor. The argument that ensued between her parents was loud enough for the neighbors to hear. The argument stopped after Mallory heard a heavy thud on the living room floor.
The door to the basement swung open hard, banging against the kitchen wall and her father clomped down the stairs. She stood there waiting, ready to die. He grabbed the neck of her T-shirt and dragged her up the stairs, as she let herself go limp to become dead weight. She had no plans on helping him out; it was her only defense. Her father was a big man, weighing more than twice, what she did. As he pulled her through to the bathroom, she noticed her mother on the living room floor. Blood was draining out of her ear and nose. Her mother’s eyes were open and lifeless, staring into space.
“Wash yourself,” he demanded.
She stood there, gasping for breath from him hauling her by her shirt. Her neck was raw. Looking in the bathroom mirror, she could tell that washing up would not make her look good, let alone presentable. He stood in the doorway with a crazed look in his eyes. Knowing that he had come completely unhinged, she now was positive he had chosen to kill her if she didn’t comply. She hoped that she would give up the ghost quickly, the way her mother had.
Uncle Carl came into the house, his heavy footsteps seemed to pause in the living room then he stood behind his brother.
“What the hell have you done, Ben?” he asked.
“This little bitch won’t clean herself up to go get our money!”
Even Carl could see that his brother had lost touch with reality when he tried to reason with him. She could tell by the look on his face that the wheels in her uncle’s mind were spinning. He tried to sound sympathetic, telling her clean up and he would take her into town. He said that he would put her on the bus as soon as they got their money. She knew he was lying. Carl didn’t have a compassionate bone in his body.
“No, that’s my money, you didn’t have to sleep with that slimy old man, I did!” she said, and that was the last thing she knew until she saw the officer lean over her, to shut off the cold water in the shower.
“We have a live one in here!” he shouted.