Chapter 11 -- All Will Be Revealed
"She’s going back into stasis." Emma cringed on hearing those fateful words again. All the agony Dee suffered came rushing back. Her first impulse was to simply allow Linda to plunge headlong down the masochistic path she had begun, but she did not want to see Angela go through what Dee did if she could help it.
Linda had given Angela one more chance to change her mind then moved out of the apartment and into a hotel. She was not pleased to find Angela and Emma standing in her doorway when she had been expecting room service. The cart arrived behind them. Linda had little choice but to usher them in.
"Why are you here?" Linda asked, when the waiter had been tipped and sent on his way.
"Angela told me you are planning to go into stasis again and I think there are a few things you should know," said Emma.
"I'm truly touched, Em. You're the one person I'd have thought would be happy to see me leave. I doubt there is anything you could say that would change my mind. You don't care if I eat while you talk?" Linda sat and poured dressing over her garden salad without waiting for a response.
"I thought you loved me," Angela whimpered.
The first forkful of salad hung in midair. Linda slowly let it fall to rest amid the lettuce leaves. "Angela, we've been through all of this. I love you, too. I loved Dee, but I didn't let that stop me. I have to do this."
"Did you ever consider that you might be running away from something?" Emma asked.
"Besides you?" Linda remarked.
"I'm talking about your past."
"You're going have to be more specific, Em. My past covers a lot of territory."
"I'm talking about the death of your father."
"You don't know what you're talking about." Linda scowled and resumed her meal.
"I'm afraid this time it's you who doesn't know. Your grandmother told Dee all about it and Dee told me. Now I'm going to tell you and with a little luck you're going to understand yourself better when I'm through."
"By all means, tell me everything you know about my father's death, but I can assure you right now that it won't make any difference."
"Jack Cahalo's death was not an accident. He was murdered." Emma finally had Linda's attention.
"I always figured Gran knew more than she let on. Did the butler do it?" Linda's wit was in sharp contrast to her dower expression and the tension in her body.
"You know who did it. You were there."
"Gran must have been in a very talkative mood." Linda stood and buried her shaking hands deep in the pockets of her robe. "I still don't see the point."
"You can't remember it." Even as she said it, Emma realized that Mrs. Cahalo had been wrong.
Angela took Linda by the shoulders. "Don't you see, Honey. You've been running away from that awful memory. Mom wanted to tell you before you went into stasis the second time, but she got there too late. Now that you know, you can stop running."
Linda cupped Angela's cheek with her hand. "Such sweet innocence." Her hand began to tremble again and she returned it to her pocket. "Emma, please continue. I'm sure there's more to the story. Where did the heinous act take place?"
"In a cabin on a lake."
"Emma, you didn't tell me about the cabin." Angela asked Linda, "Is this the same cabin we went to?"
"Yes, Linda, is it?"
Linda ignored the question. "I'm sure Emma isn't finished with her story. Please continue. Don't keep me in suspense. Who shot J.R.?"
"It was your mother."
A strangled sound issued from Linda's throat. It grew in intensity and volume until Emma and Angela were both staring in horror. Linda was laughing. She removed her hands from her pocket and ran them through her hair. They no longer trembled.
"Linda, what is wrong with you?" Angela cried. "You just learned that your mother killed your father and you think it's funny."
"Of course, it isn't funny." Linda responded. "It's tragic. My whole life has been tragic, but I've learned not to take it seriously. I could try howling and wailing if you think it would make you feel any better, but it wouldn't do a thing for me. It's history. It isn't even my history."
"Because you can't remember it," Emma concluded.
"I was a kid. I'm sure it was very traumatic and anything I might have been aware of at the time has been buried so deep it will never see the light of day. You tell me my mother killed my father. It means no more to me than telling me a soldier was killed in war. It's sad, but that's all. Gran thought she had some secret searchlight into my soul. Gran thought she knew everything. She didn't."
"What was it you grandmother didn't know?" Emma asked.
The smirk vanished. "She thought that knowing the truth would cause some fundamental change in me, just like you did, but it hasn't, has it?"
"That's not what she was wrong about." Emma watched the muscles in Linda's jaw give a fierce twitch.
"I don't know what you're talking about." The words lacked Linda's usual cool confidence. It was a denial and it was a lie. Working with lawyers for so many years had rubbed of on Emma.
"I understand you went to the lake with your dad more than once?"
"There were other weekends." Linda was becoming increasingly agitated. Breath snorted out her nose like a wild animal.
"You remember them, don't you."
Linda's head jerked around and her eyes glared into Emma's. "I remember." She continued to glare. Emma's eyes lock with Linda's and space of the hotel room closed in around them.
"You remember being with your parents in the cabin by the lake."
Linda's eyelids fluttered. Emma was losing her. The endless recounting of the Dee's conversation that afternoon with Mrs. Cahalo came back to her. A snippet drifted into her consciousness.
"You remember being with your father in the cabin by the lake."
"I remember," Linda whispered, gaze fixed – not on Emma, but somewhere beyond. "I remember."
"You were alone in the cabin with your father."
"The clock had a face. It saw. I closed my eyes so I couldn't, but I could still hear, but that didn't matter because I never said a word." Linda closed her eyes and slumped into a chair. "If I tell you, if I tell you everything, will you go away? Will you leave me in peace? Will you let me do what I have to do?"
"Yes," said Emma.
"The seduction was gradual. It may have begun when I was an infant. I was told stories about how he loved to hold me as a baby. They were all so impress. He was such an attentive father. I was so lucky. I thought I was. What little girl wouldn't want to be adored by daddy? What little girl wouldn't want to spend weekends on the lake swimming, hiking, communing with nature?
"It wasn't really all that different, being alone with him, at first. He would pick me up and hug me just like he did at home, but the hugs were longer. At home, sometimes, I slept in the bed with Daddy and Mom, so why not sleep with Daddy at the cabin? He'd put his arm around me and rub my back against his chest. It felt good at first. It felt like security and love. But then it started to feel wrong. He started to whisper things in my ear, and I would crawl out from under his arm when he fell asleep and sit by the edge of the lake wondering about the things he said. It wasn't even the things he said; it was the way he said them. It was the way I'd heard him talk to Mom, but they were the words he used with me.
"One night as he was holding me, whispering to me, I felt something strange pressed against my leg. I brushed at it with my hand and Daddy made a noise like pain and pleasure rolled into one. He took my hand and put it on his erection. He said, 'One day, when you're big enough, I'll put this inside you and we will share something very special.' I didn't touch it, but every night when we were at the cabin I felt it pressed up against me and Daddy would whisper, 'We will share something special inside.'
"One weekend was very much like another until the night Mom arrived unexpectedly. She had been drinking, but she managed to let herself in so quietly that I don't think Daddy noticed until she was standing over us in the dark. 'I knew you didn't come up here to fish. I knew you were with some whore,' she yelled. The lights came on. Daddy jumped out of bed like it was on fire. For the first time I saw the thing that had been pressed up against my leg.
"Mom screamed and hit Daddy with her fists. I never saw her like that before. She was like a freight train baring down on Daddy. At first, he just took it. He started to bleed. He defended himself. She beat on him all the harder. She probably would have beaten him to death if he hadn't gotten his hand around her throat. She tried to pry his hands away from her throat. She went limp, but he still kept strangling her.
"That's when I shot him. I don't remember looking for the gun or finding it. It was just there in my hands. I'd never used a gun before. If the safety had been on I wouldn't have known to release it. I squeezed the trigger and they both fell on the floor. Everything was so quiet after the fighting and the shouting, and the blast of the gun left me deaf. The first thing I heard as the ringing died was the tick-tock of the old clock. It seemed to go on forever as I sat on the floor in front of my motionless parents.
"Then I heard breathing. I saw Mom's chest rising and falling and then she stirred and then her eyes opened. She asked if I was alright. She looked at Daddy and the gun and me and said, 'Never tell anyone,' and until tonight, I never have. You promised you would leave if I told you everything. I've told you everything. I'm very tired, so will you please go?"
"I never agreed to leave," said Angela.
"Have mercy on me, my angel. Let me find peace in the oblivion of sleep."
Angela knew Linda was talking about stasis, not slumber. "You think that if you put enough time between you and what happened that everything will be magically cured, but you're not dealing with the kind of time that heals all wounds. The cabin may crumble to dust, but you will still be inching your way through time. You could sleep for a hundred years, until everyone you ever knew or knows you is gone, but the pain will always follow you, because it isn't in a time or place. It's in here." She placed her hand on Linda's chest.
"It's an interesting theory, unfortunately, there's no way to test it."
"There are two ways. Go or stay. I'm asking you to stay."