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Rabbits in the garden, p.5

Rabbits in the Garden, page 5

 

Rabbits in the Garden
 


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  She looked down and saw one of the dead rabbits at her feet and immediately burst into tears.

  “I killed them,” she cried, but when she lifted her hands to wipe away her tears, the dried blood and gore on her palms caused her to scream.

  The officer quieted her down, but the sound of screaming continued from the far corner of the room. She could see several policemen crowded in the corner around someone, and when the group parted, Avery saw her mother sobbing and holding her chest as she panted in grief.

  “Avery can you tell me what happened?” the officer asked, but when he touched her arm, she flinched and started to wail again.

  “I didn’t mean to do it! They were being bad. I had to do it because they were bad.”

  “Who was being bad?”

  “The rabbits. I didn’t mean to hurt them. I didn’t want to.”

  “What about the others, Avery? Why did you kill the others?”

  “Others?” she whimpered.

  Then she understood.

  “Wait, you think I killed those people?”

  “We just want to find out what happened to them.”

  “I didn’t kill anyone. Okay, I did kill the rabbits, but it was an accident. I didn’t have anything to do with those people. They were already here when I came down. Hanging.”

  “Hanging?”

  “On hooks. They were all dead and hanging. I don’t know how they got here,” she replied, but when Avery made eye contact with her mother from across the room, she hissed quietly, “Yes, I do. It was her.”

  “Her?”

  “My mom. She killed them. I saw her last night. She put two dead bodies in her trunk.”

  “You saw her kill them?”

  “No, but they were definitely dead.”

  “I see,” he replied skeptically. “Mrs. Norton, could you come over here please?”

  Two policemen helped Faye walk over as if she was a fragile doll, but when she was within a few feet of Avery, she fell to the floor and wrapped her arms around her.

  “Oh Avery,” she sobbed. “Oh my poor Avery! I hoped this wouldn’t happen. Not again.”

  “Mrs. Norton, your daughter claims that she saw you put two bodies into your trunk last night.”

  “What?” Faye gasped theatrically. “Oh, it really is happening all over again.”

  “What do you mean by that, Mrs. Norton?”

  “I can’t take this. The smell. Oh God, the smell! I have to get out of here,” she said hurriedly.

  “I’ll take them upstairs,” the police chief said as he descended the ladder and helped Faye to her feet, but when he took Avery’s hand, one of the officers whispered,

  “Be careful with that one.”

  Avery and Faye sat down at the kitchen table, as far away from each other as they could be. Avery thought her mother might try to avoid her gaze, but she did the exact opposite. She stared at Avery, unwavering in her confidence.

  “My name is Police Chief Marvin Blake,” the policeman started as he sat down between them. “I’ve been in the Oak Bluffs Police Department for over thirty years, and I’ve never seen anything even close to that mess you’ve got down there. It does explain quite a bit though. All of those missing children over the years…”

  He paced back and forth, frequently wiping sweat from his forehead and mustache and returning his hands to his hips before wiping the sweat away again.

  “Would you care for some water, Chief Blake?”

  “Yes, thank you,” he replied as Faye filled up a glass and handed it to him with a sweet smile. “Now, I’d like to start at the beginning, Mrs. Norton.”

  “Of course. I’m more than willing to help you in any way I can. I’ve been silent about this for far too long.”

  “About what exactly?”

  “It’s my fault. It must be my fault,” she sighed as she looked at Avery. “I’m her mother, Chief Blake. I wanted to protect her. I didn’t want her to know.”

  “Know what, Mrs. Norton?” he pressed.

  “It started when she was four. I’d come into her room and find her dolls torn apart; I didn’t make much of it then but then, there were the animals: a puppy we had, a few birds, and you can see that she’s still fond of rabbits.”

  “So you’re saying that she killed them,” he said and Faye nodded.

  “What? I’ve never done anything like that!” Avery exclaimed in alarm.

  “I didn’t want to tell you, Avery. You never remembered doing it. When you’d find an animal you’d killed, you’d immediately blame it on me or Natalie or - ” she began and vocally choked back her tears before continuing. “Or your father. Your poor, poor father.”

  “This is ridiculous!” Avery yelled.

  “Why didn’t you tell anyone about what your daughter was doing?” the Chief asked.

  “I know I should have, but I didn’t think it would get so serious. I didn’t know what she was really capable of until - oh God, it’s just too much!”

  “Mrs. Norton, please.”

  “One day when Avery was six, she was playing with a girl in the backyard, one of the tourists’ children. I was in the kitchen making lunch when I heard a scream. I ran outside and Avery was standing there with my garden shears, covered in blood. She’d stabbed the girl in the chest and cut off two of her fingers.”

  “That’s enough!” Avery boomed. “Do you want to hear the truth, Chief Blake? The truth is that yes, I killed the rabbits, but she told me to. She told me that if they got the bad water inside them, they should be put out of their misery.”

  “Bad water?”

  “It’s this thing she says,” Faye replied. “She says that about everything she’s killed. I think it’s how she justifies doing those things. She said the same thing after she - after she - ,” Faye stuttered and then exploded with a scream, “ - after she killed her father!”

  “That's not true!” Avery screeched.

  “Mrs. Norton, we understood that you and Doctor Jason Norton were separated, and that he left the island,” Chief Blake said as he flipped through his notes.

  “That’s what I told everyone. I didn’t want her to get in trouble. She’s my daughter.”

  “Mrs. Norton, if all of this is true, I’m afraid you may be in trouble as well. You withheld this information and you covered up murders.”

  “But it’s not true! I didn’t kill my father or anyone else. She’s the one you want! She put two dead people in her trunk last night!” Avery protested.

  “You see? She always blames someone else. It always happens right after the blackouts. She gets so angry,” Faye said sadly. “I only wanted to help her, Chief Blake. I thought I was helping her.”

  “Chief Blake, you have to believe me. I’m not a killer. I didn’t even know that room was down there or what I would see when I turned on the light: dead people, dozens of them, hanging on hooks.”

  “If you didn’t know, then why were you down there? Why were you in the storage closet in the first place?” her mother countered, but when Avery opened her mouth to answer, she realized that even the truth would condemn her. “You were there to hide the dead rabbits, weren’t you? She’s getting craftier, Chief. She used to just leave her victims out for me to find. My husband was just sitting on the couch with a butcher knife in his throat.”

  She burst into tears and buried her face in her arms as she sobbed.

  “I tried to stop her so many times,” she continued as she wiped her face on her sleeve. “I really tried, but she’s strong, Chief Blake. She’s always been stronger than me.”

  “You seemed pretty strong when you were loading those bodies into your trunk,” Avery snapped.

  “Avery, where do you think you saw your mother do this?”

  “I don’t think I saw it, I know I saw it, and I’m not the only one,” she replied, but when she looked at her mother, she saw the violence in her eyes, and knowing what Faye was capable of, she didn’t want to risk Paul’s safety by bringing him into it.

&n
bsp; “Who else was there?” the chief asked.

  “Lots of people. It was a party or something, up island.”

  “But you don’t know if anyone actually saw the murder or your mother with the bodies.”

  “Someone there must’ve seen something.”

  “No one could have seen more than I’ve seen,” Faye said shakily. “You can’t imagine the things I’ve seen, Chief Blake. I have such horrible nightmares about them. I even have nightmares about her coming after me. That’s why I sent her sister away, to keep her safe.”

  “This is complete bullshit!” Avery screamed.

  “Avery, language!” Faye scolded.

  “What are you going to do: punish me? Hang me on a hook?”

  “Chief Blake, there must be something we can do about all of this. Avery’s not a violent child; she just has these spells. She’s sick, and she needs help. I hate myself for not doing anything sooner.”

  “A mother’s love,” Chief Blake said.

  “No, you can’t really believe her. You can’t,” Avery whimpered, grabbed the police chief’s hand, and looked into his eyes with her own brimming. “Please. I have never hurt another person, and before today, I’ve never hurt another living thing. She lied to me. She set me up.”

  “Why would your own mother do something like that?” he asked doubtfully.

  “I don’t know,” she replied with her voice wavering and turned her gaze to her mother. “Why are you doing this to me? What did I do to deserve this?”

  “That sounds familiar, doesn’t it?” she replied pointedly with her face as cold and hard as iron, but then her expression softened as she reached out and cradled her daughter’s cheek. “I tried so hard to help you. I tried to guide you down the path of righteousness, but this time you've strayed beyond my reach to pull you back. I never wanted any of this to happen, not to you, but I can’t protect you anymore. You’ve made that perfectly clear.”

  “This is about him, isn’t it?” Avery asked, and the look in her mother’s eyes confirmed her suspicion that this was her punishment for the growing intimacy between her and Paul Dillon.

  “Him? You mean your father?” Chief Blake asked with his eyebrow crooked.

  “I suppose I never really forgave her for what she did. Can you blame me?” Faye replied. “So yes, Avery, it is about him. I am sorry, but I just can’t take it anymore.”

  “I think I’ve heard enough,” Chief Blake said as he stood and called for his officers. “Mrs. Norton, these men will take you to the station for further questioning.”

  “Of course. Anything I can do to help. But what about my poor daughter?”

  “I think it’s best for everyone if she waits elsewhere while we evaluate the evidence.”

  “Where?” Avery asked fearfully.

  “Somewhere where you can be looked after. Somewhere where there are people who can help you.”

  “Where?” she demanded.

  “Taunton.”

  “The crazy people place?”

  “It’s an asylum, Avery. A hospital. It’s really the best place for you right now.”

  “But I’m not crazy. She’s the crazy one. She’s the killer. Please don’t send me there. Don’t send me away,” Avery begged through streaming tears.

  “Just cooperate, Avery. Don’t make it any harder than it has to be,” Faye said.

  A rage that had been simmering in Avery’s belly was suddenly brought to a boil, and she lunged at her mother with a shriek and her arms flailing. She pushed Faye up against the wall and swiped at her face, scratching her cheek and forehead before the policemen could pull her off and slap handcuffs onto her wrists. The cold steel and sudden restraint made Avery’s heart sink so drastically that her knees went with it, but the officer holding onto her wrists wouldn’t allow her to crumple to the floor. He yanked her back, swung her around, and pushed her out the door.

  People were crowded around the house, and why shouldn’t they be? Things like this just didn’t happen on Martha’s Vineyard, so the neighborhood had to get an eyeful while they had the chance. To Avery, every face was blended into one intrusive, glaring eye. Except for Paul's. He screamed her name as he pushed through to the front of the crowd, and when Avery saw him, she wanted to cry more than ever.

  “Avery, what’s going on?”

  “Paul, they think I killed people, but I didn’t do anything. You know I didn’t do anything,” she said as she was dragged toward a police cruiser.

  “No, of course you didn’t.”

  “I tried to tell them about last night, but no one believes me. They think I’m crazy. They’re taking me to Taunton!”

  “Don’t worry, Avery, I’ll get you out of this somehow. I’ll tell them what I saw,” he said.

  “No, Paul, don’t. She killed those people. She’ll kill you too.”

  He dodged the officers controlling the crowd and was able to get his arms around Avery’s neck and give her a hug before a policeman pulled him back.

  “Don’t forget me, Paul,” she sobbed as she was forced into the car.

  “Don’t talk like that. I’m going to get you out. I love you, Avery Norton!” Paul boomed, and the car door slammed shut.

  She stared out at him with her heart breaking, but before the car drove away, Avery’s mother stepped up to the window and looked in at her daughter.

  “I told you you’d be sorry,” Faye said and when she placed her hand on the window, Avery’s chin began to tremble in devastation.

  Cupped in her mother’s palm and pressed against the glass was the brass ring shining almost as brilliantly as Faye’s triumphant grin. As the car sped away, Avery’s eyes clung to Paul for as long as they could, but when it turned the corner, she looked down at the dirty floor and wondered if anything would ever be worth looking at again.

  CHAPTER FOUR

  “Just about ten minutes left,” the policeman said as he turned onto Tremont Street.

  Ten minutes left. Ten minutes until Avery was in Taunton's keeping and the clutches of its crazies. As the clock counted down to her loss of freedom, her mind couldn’t help but replay all of the things she’d heard about the place. “Curse County” is what people called Bristol, and Taunton was the catalyst for every curse. Kids said that you could see true insanity in the eyes of people in Taunton, and Avery wondered if her eyes already had that look or if it was something she would acquire. When the hospital appeared, Avery shivered for her fate. Even under a clear blue sky and surrounded by a lush lawn, Taunton was a forebodingly harsh and cold place. Then again, it probably could've been ensconced in velvety flowers and happy little bluebirds and she still would’ve found it frightening. The one hundred and twenty year old asylum looked its age, perhaps even older, and as the car got closer, it progressively lost any charm it had possessed from a distance. Broken brick and peeling paint greeted her apathetically, but those unappealing attributes were nothing compared to the wild eyes glaring at her from between the thick, rusted bars in the windows.

  As she was let out of the car, a handful of nurses emerged from the building. They were all wearing their sweetest faces, but Avery could see the syringes in their pockets, surely meant for subduing her if she caused any trouble.

  “Good morning, Avery. Welcome to Taunton,” one of the nurses chirped as she extended her hand.

  Avery shook it cautiously, afraid that the needle might spring out at any minute.

  “Morning.”

  “I understand you’re going to be staying with us for a while.”

  “Just until this whole thing gets sorted out. Just until they realize I’m innocent.”

  “Of course. These things do take time though. Best to familiarize yourself with the grounds just in case.”

  “In case of what?”

  “Thank you, ladies. That will be all,” she said to the other nurses. “Now, Avery, let’s get down to it, shall we? I’m the Head Nurse of the juvenile ward. You may call me Nurse Day or Nurse Meredith, or just Meredith. Whichever
you’d prefer.”

  “Okay,” Avery replied timidly.

  “There’s no need to be frightened. This is the safest place you could possibly be. We’re here to help you,” she said and opened the front door.

  Avery looked up the face of the building, all the way to the large cupola at its peak and back down to Nurse Meredith. Her clean white uniform, round rosy face, and cropped auburn bangs gave Avery no reason to fear, but the simple fact of where she was leading her made the Head Nurse difficult to trust.

  “Come on now, Avery. Like it or not, you’ve nowhere else to go,” Nurse Meredith said, and she was absolutely right.

  She allowed the nurse to wrap her arm around her shoulders and ease her inside, but Meredith quickly ushered her away from the bustling administration area.

  “There's no need for you to spend any time here, and there’s not really any point in showing you any of the other wards either. Juveniles are fairly restricted. We’re not really in the habit of letting the younger patients fraternize with the older ones, nor the boys with the girls. Although, there are some exceptions, some special circumstances.”

  The twisting corridors were disorienting, and judgmental eyes tore Avery down, but her most prominent emotion was fear; especially when the shrill screams sounded from somewhere below her and echoed through the pale green halls.

  “What was that?” she asked, but the nurse didn’t answer.

  Avery could hear voices growing louder and louder, children’s voices that resounded in every facet of youthful communication: laughing, yelling, crying, teasing. But as soon as Nurse Meredith opened the doors to the juvenile ward and nudged Avery through, the varied din fell to a hushed cacophony of speculation.

  “Don’t be afraid,” she said as she squeezed Avery’s hand. “You’re safe now.”

  Why was everyone so adamant about assuring her of her safety? After hearing it so many times, it was already starting to sound like an empty promise and made her feel less and less safe.

  “The girls range from age seven to seventeen and they’re all here for different reasons. You may bond with some of them instantly, some may take time, and some you may never bond with at all,” Nurse Meredith explained as she led her down the cream colored hallway.

 
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