Picket Fences

As midday approaches, Payton finally musters up the courage to finish listening to his mother’s session.

He sits down at the screen, takes a deep breath, and continues listening. He picks up where his mother left off, recounting the story, and he sees the story playing out in his mind’s eye like a movie: 

Connie and Angela are both looking at the balcony. Angela looks at Connie and pleads, “It’s not too late, please call the police.” They look at each other for a few seconds that feel like hours. Connie breaks the silence and says, “They have to see the tragedy happen. It’s the only way we are going to get him out of the house, and all of this goes away.” Sarah gets a grasp on what the two are talking about and declares, “Wait, are we talking about throwing Henry over the balcony? Henry, the coach’s son? This is nuts.” Angela agrees, “Do you have any other ideas? People saw us come up here, and we’ve been up here a long time. Look, if we all stick to the same story that we tried to talk him down, but he was too high and we saw him jump, that’s our story. It works… it works.” Connie says. Sarah looks at Henry’s lifeless body. “Look, Angela, she’s right, we’ve come too far,” she says, taking Angela’s hand. The three girls carry Henry’s body out onto the balcony, getting no help from Derrick who is balled up by the bed with tears running from his eyes. “Alright girls, on three,” Connie commands. When Connie hits three, they lift with all their strength and push Henry’s body over the railing. Then there is a silence which seems to last forever until it is broken by the sound of Henry hitting the pavement with a thud. The three girls freeze, all of them thinking the same thing, “It’s done.” Connie lets out a loud rehearsed scream and runs out of the room to make a scene. The other students gather in the street in the aftermath of the tragedy.

Payton takes off his headphones, tears rolling down his face. He doesn’t know what to think. But he isn’t the only one hearing a story.

Meanwhile, at the police station, Sarah is telling her own kind of tale.

Detective Benning leads Sarah back to his office. He’s surprised to see her there, and so he is going into the interview skeptical and a little suspicious. He offers Sarah a seat and a chair for her bag. “Thank you so much. Now, what did you want to know and how can I help?” Sarah asks while crossing her legs to the side. Detective Benning pulls a folder from his desk drawer and shows her a picture. “Are you aware your house is a crime scene and that a woman by the name of Connie Spalding was attacked in the home on the day she sold it?” Sarah is careful with her answer. “No, I didn’t know that until today. I never knew the woman. I only had contact with her realtor, Angela Wingate,” she says, looking at the pictures of her ex-friend and wondering who could have done this. “Do you know anything about the home’s history? A few years ago, a man was found dead in the home. His name was Shane Baxter, and his wife Carol Baxter disappeared. Had you heard about this before you purchased the house?” Detective Benning asked. “No, I didn’t. But one doesn’t think to ask about the dead when buying a home, at least I don’t,” Sarah replies, wondering why Angela didn’t tell her about the Baxters. 

“Where do you live now?” the detective asks. “I live in Carmel, Carmel-by-the-Sea to be exact. Why?” Sarah asks. “I’m just trying to understand why a woman from Carmel would want to buy a house in Benicia, so far from where she lives, and how she found out about this particular house without knowing its history and without having a personal relationship with the realtor. How do you know Angela Wingate, again?” he asked. “I don’t know her personally. She’s just a realtor to me. I bought the house as an investment, my affairs are going through some changes, and I wanted a safe place—a place that was mine in case things don’t work out. You could say it’s my version of a rainy day fund,” she said. “Well, I don’t have any more questions right now, but I’d like you to be available,” he asked. “Of course, you have my number now,” Sarah said, grabbing her things and getting up to leave. “Mrs. Bennett, would you be able to show me the house? I’d like to walk around it,” the detective asked. Sarah stops and pauses for a split second. “Sure, does tomorrow afternoon work?” she asks. “I’ll be there around 3pm,” he answers. Sarah walks outside and immediately calls Angela. Angela picks up. “We have a problem,” Sarah says as she accelerates away.