Why is a total stranger wearing my dead mother's watch?
The lady wearing it was of average height and thin, in her late 30's, and she had just finished putting her groceries in her black SUV. She brushed aside her hair from her fine-featured face, which reminded Taylour of a Greek marble statue.
"Where'd you get that watch?"
"That watch. It's a Kenneth Cole, right?"
The owner of the SUV looked Taylour over and saw a woman slightly younger than herself, with strawberry blonde hair and an inquisitive look on her face, her green eyes looking straight at her. She cocked her head to one side. "This was given to me by my husband on our 1st anniversary. Do I know you?" She fingered the watch with her right hand and moved it back and forth around her delicate wrist.
"That same watch was on my mom's wrist when we buried her three years ago. I remember because it seemed like such a waste to have such a beautiful piece go into the ground." Tears welled up, but Taylour forced the memory away. It was hard to stop the heartache, but she managed. "My brother insisted, though, and I really couldn't say otherwise since he was the one who gave it to her."
"I'm sorry about your mom."
Sniffing, Taylour stuck out her hand, "I'm Taylour Dixxon. Sorry, I didn't mean to trouble you as you are obviously in a hurry."
She took her hand, grinned at Taylour, and said, "That's OK. I'm new in town and don't know anyone really. My name's Sarah."
"Are you the ones who bought the old Wharton place, on Oak Avenue?"
"Well, I inherited it. I live by myself now. No kids." Sarah glanced at her watch, took a sharp breath, and said, "Sorry, gotta go. I have a conference call I need to be on in ten minutes and I really need to get these groceries in before they melt."
"Well, it was nice meeting you, Sarah." Taylour wondered if she would see Sarah again, not realizing that their chance encounter in the ALDI's parking lot was just the beginning.
* * * *
Later that same evening, Taylour sat on the porch, sipping some raspberry lemonade, when a black SUV pulled up. It appeared to be the same vehicle that she saw Sarah drive away in earlier. Sure enough, there she was again, on the phone. She stepped out of her vehicle and closed her cell phone after finishing her call.
Taylour stood up, almost spilling her lemonade on her pants in her haste, and said, "Welcome!"
"Taylour, I hope you don't mind me dropping by unannounced like this. I asked around to find out where you lived, because I had to talk with you. Something you said earlier struck me as familiar, and I had to find out if I was right."
Taylour replayed their previous conversation in her head, but came up empty. "Happy to help. Would you like some lemonade?"
"No thanks, I won't be long. I wanted to, er... ask a question about your mother."
Taylour motioned for Sarah to sit on the wicker chair next to hers. Sarah sat on the edge, back straight as a board, and said, "I knew your mother."
Taylour's eyes got big, but she said nothing.
"At least, I think I knew your mother. Her name was Doris Dixxon, right?"
Taylour raised her eyebrows and nodded. "She went by her middle name, which was Victoria, but yeah, that was her name."
"Well, I knew of her because my younger sister was her oncology nurse at St. John's Hospital, and she told me about this lady who always wore her Kenneth Cole watch whenever she came in for her radiation treatments. It only stood out in her mind because it was exactly like my watch. Here, take a look." She pulled off the time piece and handed it to Taylour.
It was gunmetal gray, with ceramic links that were warm on the underside, but cool on the outside. There was a fold-over, two button clasp that snapped in place, and two sub-dials on the classic round mother of pearl face, which was clean and without any visible scratches. Taylour turned it over and noticed that it was inscribed with a date and a personal sentiment. She squinted and held it closer. It said, "June 12, 2005 - May Time Never Stop On Our Love For Each Other."
Chuckling, she handed it back to Sarah, who gave Taylour a blank stare. Taylour fidgeted in her seat and said, "That seems a bit ironic, don't you think? You are single, right?"
Sarah sighed and turned her head. She looked like she wanted to say something, but she didn't. Finally, she looked Taylour in the eyes. "Will you please tell me about your mother and how she died?"
Taylour relaxed her posture. "She died of cancer, as you already know. Lung cancer. Didn't get diagnosed until she was at Stage IV. By then the doctors didn't want to operate on her since it had spread, so they tried radiation and chemotherapy. She was at St. John's for the radiation treatments, which was probably when she met your sister. What was her name?"
"Is your last name Woods as well?"
Sarah blushed, "I'm sorry, I didn't ever tell you my last name. It's Cockrell."
"Nice to meet you, Sarah Cockrell." Taylour swept her left arm up and said, "Welcome to Dixxon Manor, the prettiest place this side of the Brazos River." Taylour took a deep breath through her nose, taking in the aroma of the crisp autumn air. "This is where I grew up. I was the only one in my family that stuck around, so when my mom died, I got the house. My dad passed away several years ago, and my brother lives in Dallas with his wife and kids."
"I bet that's nice, having family only a few hours away."
Taylour dropped her eyes, "Well, I'm awful busy, and so are they, so we really only see each other once or twice a year, usually around Thanksgiving. I've got my law practice that keeps me from going crazy from boredom."
"Oh, you're a lawyer?"
"Yep, mostly land contracts, estate planning, the occasional DUI. Nothing major. Kinda nice to not have too much going on around here."
"My dad was a police officer in Trenton, just retired last year after thirty years. He hates lawyers."
Taylour smirked. "Do you?"
Sarah squirmed in her chair, the creaking audible. "I guess that I have never had much use for them."
"Yeah, most people don't need us until they do. It's a noble profession, and I can handle the jokes thrown my way." Taylour leaned forward and placed her glass on the floorboard. "What I can't stand are the clients that dismiss what I do for them, as if they could do it themselves. Most don't have a clue what's involved. And being a woman. Pfft!" Taylour shrugged and said, "I'm not some feminist or anything, but I do like it when I get the better of my male colleagues who underestimate me."
She stood up from her rocking chair, and then motioned for Sarah to follow.
"I was just about to make some spaghetti and meatballs. Would you like to join me for dinner?"
Sarah smiled. Looking around, she nodded her head. "Spaghetti and meatballs sounds good right now. What can I do to help?"
Taylour opened the screen door and they walked through to the kitchen. Taylour quickly kicked aside a dirty pair of work boots, picked up some pink socks and tossed them in a corner. "Sorry for the mess. I don't usually have company." Seeing a dark blue t-shirt, she giggled, and caught herself. She scrambled to cover it up with the latest Better Homes & Gardens issue. Taylour scooped up a pile of legal papers that were strewn all over the kitchen counter and set those aside, and then grabbed a pile of tissues and tossed those in the trash can under the sink.
She pulled out the hamburger from the refrigerator, tore the plastic wrapping off, sniffed a frying pan to see if it was clean, and then dumped the meat into it after being reasonably assured that there was no mold or bacteria growing on the surface.
Opening up the refrigerator again, Taylour took out the ingredients and got started. She glanced at Sarah watching in amusement at the whirl of action, and when Taylour turned her back to the stove, Sarah jumped up and grabbed a fork to separate the pasta in the water. She asked Taylour where the olive oil was, and then poured in about one or two tablespoons when the pasta started to boil. The foamy, frothy mixture went down instantly.
They talked as they worked, and Taylour found out that Sarah's parents were still living in Trenton, how she loved to go to a local farm in New Jersey and pick nectarines and raspberries and corn, and how much she missed going into the city. Sarah loved acting and had been in a number of plays when she was in prep school. She also mentioned that she enjoyed going to musicals - her favorite was Miss Saigon, but she didn't care too much for Cats - as well as to the museums, especially the ones focused on art. Her favorite was the Met.
Taylour showed Sarah where the clean dishes were, and Sarah set the table like a pro. She placed the knife on the inside of the spoon on the right, and a napkin folded diagonally and neatly on the left, under the fork, with the folded edge out and the open edge to the right. They took turns putting the food on the table, Taylour asked her if lemonade was OK to drink, and then they sat down.
Just as Taylour was about to pick up her fork and dive in, Sarah asked if she could say grace. Taylour's ears turned red as she nodded her head and closed her eyes. Sarah grabbed Taylour's left hand and started to pray.
"Lord, we thank thee for this meal that thou hast provided, and the hands that have helped prepare it. We thank thee, Father, for all that thou hast given us this day. For old friendships, and new." She squeezed Taylour's hand, and continued.
"Lord, we now ask thee to watch over us, to protect us from evil, and to keep us always on the path of righteousness." Taylour cleared her throat and swallowed. Sarah continued.
"Finally, Lord, we ask thee to--"
The front door slammed open. It rocked the foundation with such force that it nearly broke off the hinges. Men in black streamed in, guns pointing and sweeping the corners. Yells of "Texas Rangers, don't move!" reverberated off the walls. Taylour dived under the table, but Sarah remained seated, unmoving. The lead shooter aimed his weapon squarely at Taylour's head, and then shouted, "Get up! Get up off the floor! Now!"
Taylour hastened to comply, her hands behind her head. "What is going on?"
Sounds of "Clear!" throughout the house, but no one answered Taylour's question, which seemed to hang in the air.
"I demand to know what is going on here!"
"All clear!" yelled the lead shooter, and then a tall man with thick gray hair emerged. He was wearing a non-descript suit and tie, with a slight bump under his right arm. He had a small but distinctive scar on his right temple. He replaced his Glock 17 into his chest holster with his left hand and marched towards Taylour with his badge in his right hand, which he promptly put back in his pocket. Taylour's blood boiled, and just as she was about to let out another protest, he stopped her with his index finger. "Are you Sarah Baines?" he asked.
"What? There's no Sarah Baines--"
"How did you find me?"
They both turned to see Sarah, still seated. Her hands were flat on the table, and she sat unmoving, not from fear, but from acceptance of her fate. She finally pushed herself away and asked again, "How did you find me so quickly?"
The tall man stared at her intently, as if trying to coax some kind of recognition from her, and pulled a photo from his suit pocket. He squinted at the photo, then back at Sarah.
"You changed your hair. It used to be platinum blond, if this picture is accurate." Sarah's hair was black, jet black, and she had it cut to the length of her shoulders. Taylour could see the tiny hints of dryness and dullness, which can come from coloring from a bottle. A feeling of dread came over her. Who is this person?
The tall man motioned for Taylour to sit down. "Philip Davidson, Texas Rangers. We have been looking for a fugitive, someone by the name of Sarah Baines, a.k.a. Sarah Cockrell. She is sitting at this table, and I am here to arrest her."
"On what charges, Mr. Davidson?" Taylour said.
"Are you her lawyer?" he smirked.
"As a matter of fact, I am."
Sarah looked at Taylour with pleading in her eyes. Taylour gave her a curt nod, set her jaw, and leaned towards Philip Davidson, staring him straight in the eye.
He squinted right back at Taylour and gave her a hard smile. Without looking in Sarah's direction, he said crisply, "Sarah Cockrell Baines, you are under arrest for the murder of Neal Baines, your husband."