Emmet Emafo started his day running. Broken branches and shredded herbs told the story of the hail storm that woke him during the night. A thin mist still fell. A canvas of fall leaves swayed in trees. He became one with the morning light and shadow. The slap of his footfalls on the wet cement comforted him.
Van sliced a banana into her bowl of yogurt and acknowledged Emmet’s kiss on her cheek with a distracted nod. “Good run?” her gaze remained on her tablet.
“Cut it short because of rain.” Emmet poured a cup of coffee and picked up a muffin from the plate in the center of the table. “Ana called yesterday. She mentioned Jackson is facing another surgery. Wants to know when you’ll wrap up things with your father’s estate.”
“Oh, I haven’t finished yet.” Van pulled her fingers through her sleep-tangled hair. “I’ll get back to Ana soon.”
“Anything I can help with?” He didn’t tell her he’d looked through the paperwork and saw her excessive executor fees. “Are you waiving admin costs? Jackson’s care is bankrupting her.”
The air filled with a long pause. Van often used silence to drive home anger. “I helped with Jackson those first few months. I stayed with Ana again when she got divorced.”
Emmet tried to square Van’s words with the person he knew. “Ana didn’t cause Jackson’s Cerebral Palsy. And we don’t need the money.” He heard the censure that laced his words.
The murderous glare Van gave Emmet stirred something at his core. He’d seen that look many times before. Aimed at him. Now he understood the toxicity behind it in a new way. In attacking Ana and her nephew Jackson, Van exposed ugly, unchecked greed. It left him feeling cold.
Van spoke in choppy one-word sentences as she rose from the table. “Leave. It. Alone.” Each word held a warning. “It’s my family. I’ll do what I choose.” She’d almost reached the stairs before shouting over her shoulder, “Don’t say anything to Ana. I’ll call her tonight.”
Midday, Emmet stopped at home to grab notes he’d forgotten. As he turned into the alley, he saw Vanessa’s SUV in the drive. Wondered if he could slip in without talking to her.
Lundy/ Executor/ 2
“Emmet, are you home?” Van called from the basement.
“Yes, forgot something. Headed uptown for a meeting.”
“Come down for a minute. I need you.”
Van stood on a ladder, a box in her right hand. Open cartons stretched behind her. “Take this for me so I can get down,” she commanded. “I took the afternoon off to go through the things I had shipped from Dad’s house.”
A calculation flew through Emmet’s mind as he heard himself say, “Sure thing.” Emmet approached the ladder from the left while Van waited for him on the right. He quickly ducked under it. A hum throbbed in his ears.
“Where are you?” Van’s voice was contentious.
Emmet stood behind the aluminum slats. He applied gentle pressure with his shoulder. Pushed the ladder to the tipping point, then he took cover and watched.
Van clung to the side rails as the ladder fell. Colored glass flew up from the box she dropped, then shattered against porcelain tiles. Her head and shoulders landed in the middle of a collection of vintage glassware. She hit with a force that surprised Emmet. It knocked her out. He carefully made his way to her. A fragment of glass cut into her neck. Highlighted curls straightened in the puddle of blood that formed around her.
By the time he reached his car, Emmet knew he’d never make sense of what he’d done. His hand trembled as he put the key in the ignition. He decided to go for drinks after the meeting to extend his alibi.
Cumulonimbus clouds shrouded the mountains as he traveled north. Distant thunder rumbled as the wind picked up. Emmet welcomed the coming storm. And the purification that followed.
A deep weariness lifted from Emmet’s soul as he called 911 to report his wife’s tragic accident.
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