The Shelter

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic
Rachel has been seduced and then let down by a man who ends up abusing her. She may have good cause to kill him, but did she?

Submitted: December 17, 2009

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Submitted: December 17, 2009

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As Erin passed the young woman with the toddler in the old pram she overheard part of her cell phone conversation.
"You stole my purse," the woman said, "You took it. What are we to do now?"
Erin looked at her in shock, but only for a few moments as the woman's tear-drenched face embarrassed her. As soon as she returned home she told her husband, Arthur, about the episode.
"But did you know her?" he asked. "Who was she?"
"I don't know," Erin said, annoyed at his seemingly lack of understanding. Why wasn't he upset at the awful situation of this woman? When first they met many years ago he had been so very alert to social mishaps and inequalities. Also, everyone who had been abused in some way had had him for a pillar to lean upon. Or so he had pretended. All of a sudden Erin wasn't too sure which it was and that felt very unpleasant to her as she had kept her idealism.
"If you knew her, you might have stopped and talked to her," Arthur said and Erin felt an intense relief at this comment which proved to her that he still had a heart for people outside their own circles of money and influence.

The next day she once more met the woman who had been talking on the cell phone. She noticed that now she had a bad shiner. The small, very quiet child in the pram looked like he hadn't had his clothes changed: The same clothes, the same subdued manners so very unlike a normal toddler.
When she came back home she told Arthur of what she had seen.
"A shiner?" he said. "That doesn't sound too good. I wonder where she has been all night, because if her purse was stolen then she may have lost her keys too."
Erik heaved at deep sigh at the thought. "I never even thought of that," she said, shaking her head at her own silliness. "I wish I knew who she is."
"Yes," Arthur said, "but most likely she has slept over with some friend or another. Unless she has moved into a shelter for abused women ... As you know only too well, by now there only are two of them left in this town."
Erin nodded without speaking, she still was frustrated that the third one which she and some rich friends had started had had to close. - Unfair, she thought.
They had worked so very hard for almost a year. First they had had to find a house, then there were the numerous security problems. It hadn't been easy and she felt frustrated about the failure of the project.

Early on the next day she went to see her friend Annett who helped out at one of the two shelters that were left. Actually, due to her many money contributions she was the superintendent. - Money helps, Erin thought, quoting her late grandmother, but it doesn't pave the road all the way ...
Even before she saw Annett she caught sight of the young woman with the small child and the cell phone. She still had a very visible shiner and looked really down-hearted, her face pinched and aged. Actually, she looked as if she was still crying. When she saw Erin she gave her a feeble smile as if she recognized her from somewhere, but didn't quite remember from where. Erin answered her smile and nodded at her and her small son. The child looked back at her with deep, brown eyes and an unwavering gaze.
Erin, who was childless and a bit shy with very young children, felt quite uncomfortable at this steadfast glaze. Or rather, in some strange way she felt that he saw through her and knew something about her that she didn't know herself.
When she sat in Annett's office, seeping their special Green Tea, she asked her about the young woman. "I think I've seen her before," she said, "she was crying in public ..."
"Rachel? You saw Rachel and she was crying in public?!" Annett exclaimed, "How strange, she seems so very quiet and private in all aspects ..."
- Aha, Erin thought, so she didn't tell you much, maybe she only exhibited that shiner and then you let her in.
"Well, I know her name and such, also that her boyfriend has beaten her up and stolen money from her."
"Didn't he take her purse?" Erin said.
"Well, she said that that was someone in the street, she didn't see his face ... hey, how did you know that someone stole her purse?"
Erin told her and she obviously was very interested in hearing a little more about the three chance meetings they had had.
"Strange," she said, "but then she is a strange girl. First and foremost she is much younger than she looks. Make a guess and I should be very surprised if you have it right."
"I would say she is 24-25 ..."
"Ha! She is 18 years old and she had the child when she was 16 ..."
Erin was quite surprised. "No, that can't be," she exclaimed, "she is so haggard and her teeth are bad like in one of 50."
"18 and her birthday was two days ago ..."
"Gosh! ... And what is going to happen to her now?"
"Either she stays here or I find a sort of "foster home" for her, a place where she can live for some months while we sort out her situation."
"Oh ..."
"Maybe a project for you and Arthur?"
"No, he would never accept that. He doesn't even like young people. Wouldn't it be better to let her stay here?"
"I'm not sure, you see she is the daughter of a family of some means."
"Whatever is she doing here then, she ought to go and see them."
"They fell out when she had the child. No, I want her in a nice private family to make an attempt at bringing them back together."
Erin didn't answer, but as soon as she returned back home to Arthur she told him what had happened. "Couldn't we take them in for some time?" she asked him.
"Have you forgotten that we are going to see my family in Europe in only a month?"
"Of course not!" she exclaimed even though that was exactly what she had done.
The day after Erin had a phone call from Annett. She told her that Rachel and her child were moving in with a couple of their mutual friends, Nancy and John. Erin didn't like the idea as that specific couple were much too deep into a strict religious movement of some sort. To her that spelt danger to a normal, young woman.
Annett, on the other hand, didn't see any problems. To her it was obvious that religion might be the answer as the young woman's family had been so very religious that they had evicted their only daughter for "sinning". That was quite new to Erin. She felt very sorry for Rachel who obviously had fallen out with her family for falling in love with the wrong man, only to be abused and left by him.

When Erin and Arthur returned back home from Europe they had forgotten all about Rachel and her child. However, when they learnt that something very unfortunate had happened they felt genuinely sorry for her: Her boyfriend had been stabbed to death and she was the only suspect.
"Well, she is under investigation for murder," Annett said, "but it looks like self-defence, only there wasn't any witnesses - except the child, that is. However, her parents and her brother have visited her and it seems they are on good terms once again."
"That's wonderful," Erin exclaimed, "it was so sad the way she had to fend for herself."
"Yes, and they even have taken the little one to their hearts."
"I thought they condemned him for being "a product of sin"?"
"Not anymore ... But there is something else. Five of the women in the shelter have been murdered ... stabbed to death, exactly the same way as that boyfriend of Rachel ... Others have been threatened ..."
"What?!" Erin yelled. "That's impossible with the security system!"
"Somehow someone has found a way to get access to the shelters. This "someone" seems to be out to kill off those poor women or make them relent their "sins"."
"But that's impossible, the shelters are so very secure ..."
"Someone from the inside may have let the murderer in."
"No! No, no, no! Can't be, nobody living there would do anything like that."
"If Rachel hadn't been in jail we might actually have suspected her as those women were killed exactly the same way as her boyfriend."

When Annett told Erin that she wanted to see Rachel and bring her some small gifts in jail she volunteered to go too. However, as it turned out Annett got sick, but asked her to go anyway and to give her the stuff she had for her. "It's some books as she wants to resume school," she said.
Erin thought it over and as nobody else had the time she agreed to do it.
When she saw the young woman in her prison uniform she was surprised at how it became her. She looked her real age, or maybe even younger, dressed like that.
Rachel thanked her profusedly for the books. Then she told her that her son was now staying with her family, but that she saw him as often as possble.
"Yes, we felt it to be best for him to live with good, Christian people. Someone with morals ..."
That statement sounded very strange in someone as young as Rachel and with her background.
"After all, my family can give him a safe home, even if I maybe doesn't get out from here for quite some time."
"According to Annett ... Mrs. Jones-Smith ... you plead not guilty ..."
"I didn't do it," Rachel said, looking at her with a steadfast glance. "We didn't meet after I went to the shelter."
"And you don't have any ideas about who it could be? Maybe someone he had offended?"
"Raul offended many people, but not anyone I know ... except my family."
"But now you are on goo terms? That's so wonderful ..."
Rachel just looked at her, but didn't speak. "Well," she said after a while, "I did miss my older brother, Pete, and he has been a great help. Actually, we help each other all the time."
Erin was sky of asking her about her family and she left shortly after, but she noticed something strange when she mentioned the murder victims at the shelter: Rachel flinched and then blushed profusedly.

When Erin went to see Annett at the shelter she saw that she was talking to a young man outside of the building. She introduced him to Erin as the brother of Rachel and she told him of her visit in the jail. He too flinched, but instead of blushing his eyes darkened and for a short time he looked quite threatening. Then he smiled politely at her and told about his little nephew who was living with him and his wife. The conversation moved to more everyday subjects and soon he left.
"What was he doing here?" Erin asked Annett.
"I'm not sure, but he said, that Rachel had some stuff here which he wanted to fetch as most of it was toys for the child. Strangely enough, this is the third time he has come to fetch it and nobody can find it anywhere."
They looked at each other, but didn't speak. "Hmm," Erin said, "is he too deeply religious and also scandalized by women leaving their men or having sex without being married?"
"All of them are, even Rachel, I'm afraid."
"Gosh," Erin exclaimed, "if I were paranoid - and I'm not - then I would think that he or someone else in the family may have killed Rachel's boyfriend and those unfortunate women. However, that happened after Rachel was jailed so there would be nobody to let him in as she was jailed."
"No-no," Annett said, "the women died before the boyfriend of Rachel. He was the last one as there hasn't been any murders efter his death."
"What?!" Erin exclaimed. "But then it could be him ... not that I accuse him or Rachel, but in theory ... also he may have threatened Rachel ..."
"I know," Annett said, "but neither you nor I have any proofs of anything like that, only some farfetched theories."
"That's the frustrating part of it," Erin said, "you may be right about something of great importance, but you don't have any proofs. Nothing whatsoever. All we can do is to look out to protect those women living in the shelter ..."
Both of them felt a deep frustration which they knew would stay with them forever, unless this special murderer was found. Something that most likely would never happen.

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