By the time she reached the outskirts of Rawlings, Anna was beginning to feel a little nervous. After she had driven a few blocks from Dr. Sherman’s street, she noticed a van following her car very closely. At first, she hoped she was imagining it. However, after making a few turns, she was sure that the van was tailing her. Finally, she pulled off the street and into a strip mall parking lot. The van continued down the street and she breathed a sigh of relief. She stayed in the parking lot for a few minutes and then drove out. Then, soon after she was back on the street, the van appeared in her rear view mirror again. Now Anna was very frightened and began to fumble for her cell phone. As she groped in her purse, the van slammed into her car’s rear bumper. Her purse went flying onto the floor and out of reach. She speeded up and the van stayed right behind her. By now, she was beyond the main residential and commercial districts of Rawlings.
Anna decided to try slowing down, hoping that the van would pass her. She dropped her speed and it looked as if this did the trick. The van pulled out from behind her and began to pass. Then suddenly it swerved into her lane, forcing her off the road. She fought to maintain control of her car, as its wheels left the pavement. The car skidded and swerved sideways, coming to a sudden stop and throwing Anna’s body up against the driver’s side door. The force of the impact jerked her head to the side and into the doorframe. As she was losing consciousness, Anna saw someone walking toward her car.
Detective Mark Kovacs was talking to the medical examiner, in the bedroom at Doctor Sherman’s house, “Well, what’s the verdict doc?”
“Natural causes, I’m nearly certain. Looks like a heart attack. He died in his sleep sometime early this morning. Probably didn’t know what hit him. Not such a bad way to go, I’ve seen lots worse. You’ll get my official report in a few days.”
Detective Kovacs went out into the living room just as Officer Jeff Henley came through the front door. “What have you got for me Jeff?”
“A lot, we’re in luck. There are some old geezers living close by. They got nothing better to do than spy on their neighbors. We were right about the stuff in the bedroom. Sherman had some chick living with him.”
“Did they know for how long? Did anyone get a good look at her?”
“Not long, a couple of months and according to one old bird; she was young. I mean real young; like maybe eighteen or nineteen and quite the looker too. The woman who lives across the street said the girl left around seven-thirty this morning. She said she saw her get in a cab and she was carrying a suitcase.”
“That fits. The 911 call came in around eight. Must have been the girl calling.”
“So what did the M.E. have to say?”
“Natural causes, most likely a heart attack.”
“Hey, do you think he was banging the chick when he croaked? What a hell of a way to go!”
“No. The M.E. said he probably died in his sleep early this morning.”
Just then, Officer Dick James came in. He was holding Anna’s note and Samantha’s picture. “Hey Mark check this out!”
Mark Kovacs glanced at the picture and read the note. “Where in the hell did you get this?”
“Some bystanders say a girl was hanging around out there. She showed this picture to a Mrs. Rogers. The Rogers woman said she confirmed that this was the girl who was living with Sherman. The other girl went back to her car for a while. She came back and dropped this note into one of the cruisers and took off again.”
“So what did this girl look like?”
Officer James consulted his notes and said, “Young, around seventeen or eighteen, attractive, dark hair, pale complexion, tall and on the slim side. One of the old guys out there said she had a cute little ass. She left about fiftteen minutes ago. She was driving a silver colored car. They think it was a Nissan, but no one got the license number.”
“Well that gives us a lot to go on. Tall attractive teen with a cute little ass. That narrows it down into the thousands. Seems like this chick, whoever she was, had it in for this Samantha Parker. I remember the deal with her old man down in Bentlyville. He was screwing some teenies at a McDonalds he managed. He was left town with one of them. I don’t know anything about the mother’s death. We’ll have to contact the Bentlyville PD. The girl is likely a runaway, but I doubt if she murdered anyone. This is some kind of a jealously thing. Maybe they were both after the doc and this Samantha won. Anyway, you two take this picture and haul ass down to the bus station. If Samantha Parker was there, someone will rmember her. From this picture, I’ll bet she’s not the kind of chick that’s easy to forget. I envy the doc. He had damned good taste.”
After the officers left, Detective Kovacs got on the phone to the Bentlyville PD. After a couple of rings, a voice came on the line, “Hello, Bentlyville Police Department. How can I help you?”
“This is Detective Kovacs in Rawlings. We may have a line on a missing person you’re looking for.”
Samantha was lying on the bed in a hotel room in downtown Rawlings. Tears were streaming down her face. She’d been in a state of shock and abject misery since she found John Sherman dead. When the alarm clock began to beep early this morning, she glanced over and was surprised to see him just lying there. She smiled and gave him a little kick with her foot saying, “Come on, get up sleepy head.” Samantha got out of bed, turned off the alarm and started to go into the kitchen to make coffee. Then she saw that John still wasn’t moving. She walked back to the bed and bent down over him. It took some time for her brain to register what she was seeing. Oh God no! He was lying too still and he wasn’t breathing. Suddenly, Samantha’s screams of despair resounded throughout the house. She refused to believe it was true. John couldn’t be dead. It wasn’t possible. She climbed onto the bed and shook his body screaming John! John! Oh God please wake up, but it was no use. It looked as if he’d had a heart attack or maybe a stroke. When the reality of the situation finally sank in, Samantha got off the bed and lay on the floor sobbing. After a while, her sorrow turned to anger. Why her? Why did so many bad things happen in her life? She’d lost the only person who loved her. She began to scream again and pound the floor with her fists. Suddenly, a wave of nausea struck her and she rushed into the bathroom to be sick.
Samantha pulled herself together and stumbled to the sink. She wiped her face with a cool damp cloth and rinsed her mouth. During her initial bout of despair, she thought of taking her mom’s way out. She didn’t want to go on living without John. But the bout of morning sickness reminded her that she had another life to think of and part of that life was John Sherman. She was carrying his baby and with that child, a part of him would live on. For her baby’s sake, Samantha steadied her nerves and began to think about what she was going to do. She couldn’t just stay here. She’d have to go away. But where could she go? She had no home now and no one to turn to. Then she realized she was thinking too far ahead. For now, the most she could deal with was immediate needs.
Samantha washed and got dressed. She got her suitcase and began to pack. She had an extensive selection of clothes now, but she chose carefully. She took only things that were practical for traveling. She stuffed in a couple of pairs of good shoes and then she took the jewlry John had given her. Samantha knew that some of it was very expensive and if worse came to worse she could pawn some of it. She hoped it wouldn’t come to that. She had the six-hundred dollars Burt Hilbish had paid her and then Samantha did something that went against her principles, but she had no choice. She took John’s wallet up fr
om the dresser. There was almost three-hundred dollars in it and she took that money too. Her plan was
to get away from the house and call 911. Then find a place to stay for at least a day or two. She needed time to think and to give herself over to the grief she was fighting to hold in now.
Samantha turned toward the bed and the sight of John lying there started her sobbing again. She walked over, bent down and kissed his forehead. Choking back tears she said, “Oh my darling, I don’t know how I can go on without you. I’m so afraid. I needed you and loved you so much. I swear I’ll take care of our child. It’s the only reason that I have to go on without you.” Samantha took one last look at the man she’d loved so dearly and left the room. Samantha called a cab and had the driver drop her on King Street. She made the 911 call and then waited for a local bus. She took the bus into downtown Rawlings and checked into a hotel.