Well, we are going to get much settled over the next few chapters, although we are by no means reaching the end. The next few weeks are happy times. There are many things to plan and Jo has to seriously get back to her medical practice. The national publicity they received was not expected and this will affect Jo and her family for the rest of her and her children's lives. She will deal with it fine. Then with less than a month to go before the wedding, on a cold drizzly day, the unthinkable happens. Mindy shows up. Mindy gives a rather poignant and lengthy speech (please forgive me) and her life will never be the same. Jo has some rather rambling philosophical digressions too. I think the title of this part says it all.
Chapter 29: They Go Public
When Dorothy and Ed arrived, a celebration was in full swing. Several neighbors who had thought they had lost their special doctor were there and a number of folks had already come and gone. Andy was producing margaritas at an unprecedented rate. Maureen and Lazarus had long ago retreated to the dark recesses under the master bedroom bed where they found it quiet enough to go back to sleep.
Dr. Arneson had dropped in with his wife to just say how glad he was that everything had worked out. He was in big trouble for not telling his wife that Jo had not been shot after all. His wife, Bess, was in tears of happiness for most of the time they were there. It had been a dirty trick because Bess thought they were just coming over to express their condolences to the family and Mike. When she came in and Jo greeted her at the door, she almost lost it completely. She was so overjoyed and so pissed at her husband at the same time for not telling her, that she wanted to hit him. Her happiness prevailed and eventually, she forgave him. He was secretly proud that he had not given in to her tears, yet at the same time was very sorry that they'd had to put her through the agony that he had.
Ed and Dorothy couldn’t stay too late because they needed to get home to their family. He would be back the next day for the news conference. There would be plenty of time for getting together over the years. Dorothy had known a lot about Mike even though Mike knew nothing about her. Ed came home after that afternoon that Mike had stopped by the recruiting office talking about the high school student that he’d met that day that shown something he had seldom seen.
As the weeks went by and Mike had taken the tests and applied for the ROTC scholarship, Ed kept filling her in on the progress of his protégé. Dorothy had never seen Ed so enthused about someone. When Ed gave up his undercover work eight years later to go back into a combat role so he could see if his faith was justified, Dorothy was not surprised. When Mike saved Ed’s life and she found out about the circumstances involved, she realized for sure what Ed had known all along. Mike was an exceptional leader and person. In the two days that she’d known Jo in person, she came to realize what an amazing relationship her husband had helped secure. She would cherish their friendship for the rest of her life.
A number of the visitors wanted to know what had been going on and Jo and the others had to tell them to wait for the news conference when everything would be explained. All they could say was that it was beyond anything their imaginations could conjure up.
Things finally started winding down and only the two families were left. It would be a long time before the euphoria would wear off. Arnold and Marcia had to get back to the printing business, but felt they could at least stay for a couple of days. Pat and MK realized that there was no room in the inn and thought that maybe the best thing to do would be to find a motel for the night. They both had to get to Pasadena because school would be starting the next week. Pat had not yet had time to even review the curricula, but he felt he would be able to stay well enough ahead. He’d found while working on his Masters and PhD that the occasional stints as a stand-in for one of the professors was very enjoyable. This exposure to teaching was one of the things that had helped him in his decision.
During a lull, MK grabbed Pat and pulled him outside.
“Pat, I need to know something. As much as I love you, and I do love you, I don’t want to be a convenient escape for you just during the trauma of your career change. What sort of assurance can you give me that you are not going to run away to the woods for months at a time to pursue some sort of academic puzzle? You know I love the wilds; however, I have no desire to spend months at a time away from civilization. Nor am I going to sit at home wondering how you are and whether or not you’ve been eaten by a grizzly bear or drowned in some icy cascade. I want a full time relationship. I want children and I would prefer that they be our children. I want children who will graduate from high school before our heads are gray. I want them to come home at night and know that their father will be eating dinner with them. You say you have a teaching position, but what if that doesn’t work out? What will you do?”
“Mary Katherine, I can see I didn’t do a very good job of selling myself. My emotions are at a high level and I’m sure I haven’t said everything I intended to say or have said what I meant to say in the right way.
“Wait right here. I want to show you something.”
Pat walked around the side of the house and went to his car. He rummaged around for a minute or two and returned with a folder filled with papers.
“When I said earlier today that I had just talked to the Pasadena School District, it was to tell them that I was accepting their offer. I had sent everything to them back in June. I was hired back then based on my Master’s Degree and postgraduate work. They weren’t concerned that much about whether or not I had a PhD. It wasn’t an easy decision for me, but the longer I thought about it, the better it sounded to me. Take a look at this file. These are copies of my correspondence and theirs in return.”
MK took the file and started looking through it.
“My little walkabout was my farewell of sorts to a previous life and with every step I took I felt more and more I was making the right decision. Let’s go inside. There’s something else I need to show you.”
MK had glanced over the papers and it was obvious to her that Pat had been working on this career change for some time.
Pat opened the door and motioned MK to follow him inside. He led her to the family room where everyone else was winding down.
“Folks, MK and I have been having a little discussion about what to do with the rest of our lives. She’s a bit worried that at 28 she is becoming an old maid and won’t be marketable much longer. She has expressed affection for me but seems to doubt my sincerity. I think she believes, that like the ducks, geese and swans, I will return to the north every spring never to return until the next fall.
Jo turned to Mike and whispered into his ear, “Here it comes.”
Mike turned and looked at her and Jo just raised her eyebrows.
“Well, this duck’s wings are clipped. He will never fly far away from the pond again. Marcia, Arnie, it would do me a great honor if you would grant me permission to ask Mary Katherine for her hand in marriage.”
It hadn’t dawned on MK right away where Pat was going. All of a sudden, her lips started quivering and she felt weak in the knees. She sat rather quickly in a convenient chair.
“You know you have it, dear,” said Marcia.
Pat knelt in front of MK and took her hand in his and at the same time reached into his shirt pocket retrieving the ring he’d put there earlier.
“Mary Katherine O’Donnell, would you please consent to marry me? I want to grow old with you and watch our children grow and have children of their own. I want to be at your side for the rest of our lives. Eloquence is not my forte; however, if you want something in writing, I would be willing to do that also.”
He slipped the diamond ring onto her finger and continued to look into her eyes, which were brimming with tears.
“Of course I’ll marry you. I am clearly desperate in my old age and can’t afford to wait any longer, you silly twit.” MK launched herself out of the chair and grabbed Pat around the chest, in the process fastening a passionate kiss on his lips.
“Get a room,” said Jo in a loud voice.
Mike stood up and muttered, “Shit!” and went to the stairs and up to the bedroom.
“What’s with him?” asked Andy. “I thought everything was fine.”
Mike returned in a minute and everyone watched him with a look of concern. He walked over to and knelt in front of Jo.
“Since I already have approval on this, I don’t think it is necessary to ask for permission.
“Josephine Andrea Beebe, I love you with all my heart and have for longer than I ever realized until I had some time to think about it in the hospital. I kept going back further and further in my mind trying to figure out when it happened. I would take a step back in time and examine what happened and realized that I already loved you. So I would go back a little further and take a look around and find that I loved you then. I discovered that my heart knew long before I did. Needless to say I was a little confused, because little boys aren’t supposed to love little boys. But you weren’t a little boy, and at that age it really didn’t matter. It was just that we didn’t know it. My heart knew it and that day when we went to the hospital for the second time and you told me you were a girl, my mind was saying, of course she is you fool, haven’t you been listening to what your heart is saying? I realized then I had been in love with you since the fifth grade and it was okay. When you asked me to kiss you before you went to sleep, it was the most natural thing in the world. All I could think of was wanting you to get well.
“I guess it was only appropriate that I proposed to you from a hospital bed. I’m just sorry it took me sixteen years to say it. Right now, I want to make it official. Jo, will you please accept this ring as an affirmation of my love for you? Please marry me.”
Mike slipped the 1.5-carat, emerald cut diamond onto her finger.
Jo’s attack was similar to MK’s.
Moderate chaos reigned after that.
Mike spoke up, “I’m sorry about walking out like I did earlier. I didn’t think Pat would upstage me when I bought the ring several weeks ago and all of a sudden there he was proposing to my sister. I was going to wait for a more romantic setting; however, if Pat can do it, I certainly can do it.”
“You bought the ring several weeks ago?” asked Jo.
“Yes. Remember my little grocery-shopping trip to Sacramento? My whole purpose of going there was to find the ring. It took three jewelers before I found the one that said what I wanted it to say. And now that I think about it, this was the right time to do this when all our parents are still here.
“I think all the major participants are here and I have a question. Is there going to be a double wedding, or not?” asked Andy. “I have a five dollar bet riding on the answer.”
Jo spoke up first, “MK has been my best friend throughout all these years and I would like nothing better than to be married at the same time as she is. It does mean that she can’t be my maid of honor, nor can I be hers. I do have a second choice and that would be Kate DeMoss. What do you think, MK?”
“Likewise, I would want you. My best friend at home is Elise Manchester and I know she would do it.”
“I think Pat and I have similar problems,” said Mike. “If Pat couldn’t be my best man, it will have to be Ed Stephens. If Ed couldn’t make it, and that would be disobeying a direct order, then Tony Salcedo would be my choice. Pat, do you have any problems with getting this over in one fell swoop?”
“Not at all, I have a couple of good friends from school, and Stan West would be the man if I can get him to do it.”
Linda spoke up next. “Is a double wedding what you really want?”
The girls looked at each other and nodded.
“Okay, Andy, here’s your five dollars. I think more important questions are when and where do you want this to take place.”
Jo responded, “I don’t want to dampen anyone’s spirits, but what I said at the beginning still stands. I can’t get married until Richard is where he can’t do anything.”
“I don’t think we will have to worry,” said Mike. “I received a call from the Chief a while ago. The judge refused to grant bail to Richard. The bail for Earl and Al was set at one million dollars each and they can’t raise that. The bail was also the same for the other two. They might be able to get it, but they are not the motivators in this thing and I don’t think we have much to worry about with them posting bail. What I am saying is that Richard, Earl and Al will never see sunlight again unless it is passing through prison bars or over a prison wall. They will never be free men.
“Jo and I have a lot of friends here. The baseball season is almost over, so Tony and Cindy and their brood will be able to come to any place we decide to have the wedding. I don’t have that many friends in Loma Sierra who would be on my list to attend. Of course, Matt and Roger would have to come. Ed and I have a number of associates from the Air Force. Most of the folks at the hospital would be on Jo’s list, I would imagine. MK what do you think?”
“I have my friends from school and a few college friends. The latter are scattered all over the country. From a logistics point of view and the fact we are dealing with police and hospital personnel, I think the logical choice is to have the wedding here.”
“Since Arnie and I are going to have to foot the bill, we need to know where you would hold a wedding in this town. I don’t think an outdoor wedding would be a good idea if we are going to do it late in the fall. Where and when would you want it to be?”
“Dad, you and Arnie are footing the bill. The choices are mine and MK's, with inputs from our mothers. We will tell you where and when. Just get the checkbooks handy. Right now it’s late and we need to get some sleep. What are we going to do with Pat and MK? We’ve run out of beds.”
“Pat and I discussed it and think the easiest thing would be for us to go to a motel. Pat hasn’t unpacked and I don’t have that much and I can get it in the morning. We have to get back to Pasadena because school starts a week from tomorrow and I’ll ride with him if he will have me.”
Labor Day, September 4, 2005
When Pat and MK showed up for an early breakfast, Jo’s first words were, “Hey MK, smile if you got any.”
“Jo, I’m going to be smiling for a long time. By the way, I think I detect a rather deeply engraved smile on your face too. Isn’t love wonderful?”
“Fabulous! Did you see the paper this morning? The phones have been ringing off the hook, figuratively speaking.”
“We haven’t had a chance to.”
“Take a look at this,” said Jo as she handed the morning paper to MK.
The Headlines screamed:
CALIFORNIA ASSEMBLYMAN JAILED IN
MURDER FOR HIRE PLOT
Riverside, California. Assemblyman, Richard O’Donnell, noted for his right wing politics, was jailed yesterday in Riverside, California along with three alleged co-conspirators for the attempted murder of prominent Redding, California doctor and musician, Josephine Beebe. In a sting operation that led Redding residents and others to believe Dr. Beebe had been murdered Saturday morning, state law enforcement officers, with the assistance of the FBI and retired Air Force hero, Edward Stephens of Chico, have arrested, along with Assemblyman O’Donnell, Albert Conklin of Tustin, and Gary Anderson and Dennis Alexander, both of Riverside. Also arrested and being held in the Redding, California jail is Earl Scroggins of Riverside. Alexander is the husband of Assemblyman O’Donnell’s stepdaughter. Anderson is O’Donnell’s current campaign manager and was expected to be spearheading O’Donnell’s upcoming campaign for the Republican nomination for Governor of California in 2006.
The presiding judge refused to set bail for O’Donnell. The bail for the four alleged co-conspirators was set at one million dollars each. The four remain in the Riverside County Jail, as does Scroggins in the Redding jail. Unnamed sources suggest that there may be additional charges for at least one more murder as well as charges relating to federal campaign fund violations. Solicitation for murder resulting in murder is a capital crime in California and any deaths to participants incurred during the commission of a crime may also be considered as capital offenses.
This was the second recent attempt on Dr. Beebe’s life. Authorities now believe that the two individuals killed on July 11th in what then appeared to be a kidnapping/rape attempt were involved with Assemblyman O’Donnell. Albert Conklin was the father of William Conklin who was killed in the previous attempt on Dr. Beebe’s life.
Assemblyman O’Donnell is also the father of Captain Michael O’Donnell, the Division Commander of Field Operations of the Redding Police Department. Captain O’Donnell was seriously wounded in the first attack on Dr. Beebe. Although not officially announced, it is well known that Dr. Beebe and Captain O’Donnell are engaged.
The police and other agencies are not releasing further information at this time; however, a press conference will be held at the Orpheum Theater in Redding at 2:00 PM this afternoon.
Mike came up and gave his sister a good morning kiss. “Glad to see you are smiling. I know I am.
“Are you sure you don’t want to stay for the news conference? It should get very interesting. I understand that several of the networks are sending crews. They are at the theater already setting things up.”
Mike then turned to Jo, “Are you sure you want to go through with this? The questions are liable to be pretty penetrating. Knowing how sleazy some of these reporters can be, I suspect they may want to go places that you don’t want to.”
“Mike, I am through hiding. I told you that. I am going to receive their questions with open arms and handle it like we did in seventh grade. We have absolutely nothing to hide. Chief Krewzewski is going to handle things up front along with Dr. Arneson and an FBI representative. With Ed backing them up, the reporters are going to have to watch their step. Besides, you will be sitting next to me.”
Pat and MK grabbed a quick breakfast and hit the road for the long journey back to Southern California. They had the keys to both houses in Loma Sierra and decided they would stay at the Beebe’s house after stopping by to see Elise and get the kitten. They were going to have to find a place of their own soon.
The nerves were a little bit tense as the time for the conference drew near. Mike was pacing the floor and Andy was channel surfing. Finally Jo'd had enough and grabbed Mike.
“Mike, I need your help upstairs. Could you come up for a minute?”
She pulled him up the stairs and into the bedroom closing the door behind her.
“What do you need?” asked Mike before he heard the sound of clothing hitting the floor.
The next hour was one of the more passionate they had enjoyed up to then. Mike wasn’t sure how he lasted, but Jo managed to reach peaks she’d never reached before and she did it three times. Mike worshipped every square inch of her body, paying special attention to her most sensitive areas. They cuddled briefly as they came down off their high and headed for the shower.
Jo chose a lightweight A-line skirt and blouse that accentuated her figure. She knew where the questions were going to go and she didn’t want any doubt as to her gender. Mike wore his summer weight dress police uniform.
As they left the bedroom Jo said, “I thought you looked a bit on edge and figured you needed to be calmed down.”
“I am not sure calmed down describes it. My legs are like rubber and I feel all warm and fuzzy. I’m afraid if I sit down, I’ll go to sleep. How about you?”
“Mmmmmm, you were just what the doctor ordered, big boy. Let’s go get them.”
The police controlled access to the rear alley of the theater and they had plenty of room for all the participants to park. The news people and other attendees were relegated to parking on the street or in the parking lot down the street. Traffic was not much of a problem as it was Labor Day, and most of the stores in the old part of town were closed.
The stage was set up so that there was a long table in front of the curtain. Two lecterns flanked the sides of the table. The television networks agreed to share the signals from the cameras as well as the sound from the stage. They had a number of wireless microphones that could be passed among the personnel on the floor.
Behind the curtains, Jo and Mike were showing their parents where the first shootings had taken place. The staff of the theater had scheduled having the floors refinished; however, they had not gotten around to it and it was very easy to see the blood stains on the floor.
“Billy had me over there and Freddy was in that corner. Mike came in around that curtain and I tried to warn him, but it was too late. That’s Mike’s blood over there. That big stain closer to the wall is Freddy’s. The one I’m standing on is Billy’s. The stain on the wall is his, too and there’s where the bullet that went through Billy’s head went into the wall. I think the police removed it. Sgt Braun was lucky. The bullet that got him only nicked the femoral artery and he was able to slow the bleeding. I had to keep Mike breathing and hold the patch over the holes in his chest cavity. I was finally able to let go of him when the ambulance got here and they were able to get a ventilator on him.
“I wasn’t sure I could go through this, but I’m alright. Everything that happened here is in the past, and we don’t have to worry about it. It’s over.
“Well the sharks are waiting and I have a feeling this may be a long affair.”
By this time, everyone was there and ready to go. Mike and Jo’s parents took seats in the front row to one side, and the rest filed in to take seats behind the table. Chief Krewzewski stood behind one lectern and Special Agent Steve Birnbaum stood behind the other. At precisely 2:00 PM, Chief Krewzewski started the conference. He went into some detail about how Billy and Freddy had shown up after faking a knife fight and suffering self inflicted injuries, when all they were doing was locating Dr. Beebe. He explained how Mike had been involved and that he had followed Dr. Beebe but lost her and thought she might have been at the theater. He described the subsequent events and invited the media up to the stage after the conference to take pictures if they wanted to.
He then described the evidence found in the car, including the fact that they found Earl Scroggins and Al Conklin’s prints and some unknown prints that had since turned out to be those of Richard O’Donnell. He talked about the money trail and the fact it could be traced back to Richard O’Donnell’s campaign fund account.
Steve Birnbaum then joined the briefing, revealing how Ed Stephens, who had worked with the FBI while in the Air Force, went under cover and how he sold himself as a sniper and a hired killer. He mentioned they had many recorded conversations and much photo and video evidence. He discussed the payments to Ed and the attempt on his life just before the arrest.
He had pictures of the rifle Ed used and showed how the tiny transmitter sent a signal to the apparatus that Jo was wearing that simulated the impact of the bullet. He mentioned that if a 50-caliber bullet had actually struck her she would have been knocked 10-15 feet backwards, or more. Fortunately the bad guys didn’t understand that. He then ran a brief power point video showing the actual simulated shooting. Investigators had salvaged the targets Ed had used to demonstrate his shooting prowess.
“You might find the following two images interesting. Note the ruler for scale. These are the two targets Ed Stephens used to sell his skills. Correct me if I’m wrong, I believe the range was about 1000 yards.”
A number in the crowd gasped in awe as the two pictures were put up on the screen.
He couldn’t help but praise the outstanding acting job that Jo did and he thanked all of those in the media, who knew about it, for going along with the ruse. He then thanked Ed for the professionalism that he exhibited while carrying out a difficult task. The two then turned the conference over to the media.
The first question was directed to Mike.
“Captain O’Donnell, I notice that after being shot, you weren’t playing much of a role in these activities. These people were trying to kill your fiancé. Why weren’t you involved more in the investigation?”
“Sir, as you should be aware, Richard O’Donnell is my father. I severed relations with him almost 10 years ago. I obviously feel very strongly about the fact he has apparently tried to kill Dr. Beebe at least twice. As much as I wanted him put away for life, I couldn’t afford to have any of my actions prejudice the case. We have an outstanding police force, and with the help of the FBI and Ed Stephens, I knew he would be brought to justice.
The mike was passed to another reporter.
“Captain O’Donnell, it seems a little strange that you would be here for only a little more than a month and would be engaged to a prominent member of the community after seeing her for only two weeks. This, in the light that your father is the accused mastermind, doesn’t make sense.”
“It doesn’t make much sense at all unless you do a little research. I have known Dr. Beebe for 16 years. Do the math. We went to school together, but we became separated for a long time due to the evil intentions of my father. Some people went to a lot of trouble to get us together, and due to their love and concern, here we are.”
The mike went to a reporter next in line.
“I have a question for Mr. Stephens. Sir, what is your interest in this? You seem to have gone to a lot of trouble.”
“I don’t think we have enough time to go into all the details. I’ve known Captain O’Donnell since he was in high school. I was his Air Force recruiter. When his father refused to fund his college expenses so that he could go to the same school as the woman he loved, I helped him get a scholarship so that he could. When he went to Afghanistan, I made sure I would be there with him. We did some good things there. I lost my leg and he saved my life and the life of another soldier. If you weren’t aware of it, he has the Air Force Cross, and that is the second highest recognition for heroism in the military: just below the Medal of Honor. He is a fine human being and the finest officer I ever worked with. By the way, I will not answer any questions concerning the conflicts we are currently involved in over there.”
The questions went on for quite a while and stuck to the story at hand. Finally, the question came that most of them expected.
A reporter claiming to represent FOX News had the mike.
“Dr. Beebe, I understand you were once a boy and had sex change surgery to get the way you are now. I have records that indicate you used to be Joseph Andrew Beebe.”
Dr. Arneson jumped in, “I don’t know where you got that nonsense; however, I can assure you Dr. Beebe is a female in every way.”
Jo stood up. “It’s okay Dr. Arneson. I can handle this.”
She walked down the stairs leading off the stage, then walked up the aisle to where the reporter was standing. She took his microphone from him. She was loving it. In her low heels she was considerably taller than the reporter.
“Hi. How are you?”
“I see you are married, Jim.” She was looking at his ID badge and the wedding ring on his finger. “Is your wife pretty? You had better say yes if you know what’s good for you. Jim, what do you see when you look at me?”
Jim was at a loss at what to say.
“Let me help you out, Jim. I am five feet, ten inches tall. I have dark blond hair and very blue eyes. I am not going to tell you my weight other than to say it’s where it should be. My measurements are 38C-27-37. I run eight miles a day and could run a marathon right now. Do you want to try it? I didn’t think so.
“I assure you I am all woman. As I told my friend and co-worker Kate DeMoss I have all the equipment, problems and emotions that come with being a woman. Only two people other than my family and close friends can verify what I’ve told you and they are my doctor, and my lover and fiancé. So, you are going to have to take my word for it. I am going to get technical with you because if I don’t explain everything, something might get misreported and I would hate to have that happen.
“I was born with a condition similar to Gonadal Dysgenesis. It’s a rare but not unheard of condition. In fact, there have been two cases come through my hospital in the last seven years. Basically, my external genitalia appeared to be male, but in reduced size, and not at all functional. As I grew from childhood to puberty I noticed changes that made me believe I was actually a girl. I was at first misdiagnosed by a dear doctor friend; however, I continued to change. It took a vicious attack by Billy Conklin, the man I killed on this stage, by the way, to reveal nature’s little joke. I had some relatively simple corrective and reconstructive surgery, not to these (indicating her breasts), and suddenly I was a normal, pubescent, pre-teenage girl.
“This little accident of nature was why Richard O’Donnell was trying to kill me. He couldn’t stand the fact that his son had fallen for a freak. For some reason he couldn’t accept the evidence. Well I am going to create some evidence. Mike and I are getting married this fall, and I intend to be carrying our child by this time next year. Keep in touch and I’ll let you know how things are progressing. By the way, you need to exercise more.”
Jo handed the microphone back to the stunned reporter and walked back on stage and sat next to Mike. “That was fun.”
The rest of the conference went very well. Everyone was asked to pose for a number of pictures. The media had to see the stage where it all happened and a lot of photos were taken of the bloodstains and the bullet holes. The holes left by the bullets that had struck Mike were also in the wall. They were also told how to get to the site by the river where the staged shooting had taken place.
Everyone thought the day was a success. The parents decided to stay a while longer, if Jo and Mike didn’t mind, as the wedding was a lot closer than they at first realized. They were already late with the invitations, but before the invitations could go out, they needed to know where the wedding was going to be. There was a lot to do and only a few days to do it in.
The six of them decided that they needed to have a nice dinner out somewhere and Jo suggested the Le Mer Francaise. She’d never eaten there, but had heard it was outstanding. They asked Ed and Dorothy if they would like to have dinner with them and by the time all was said and done, Dr. Arneson and his wife, Chief Krewzewski and his wife, Kate DeMoss and her husband and Steve Birnbaum and his wife all decided to have dinner with them. Mike called for reservations and because of the Labor Day holiday, the restaurant had an opening and could take them. Mike set the reservation for 8 o’clock.
It was after 5 o’clock before things calmed down at the news conference; however, it was still early and they decided to take a little drive around the area. Mike suggested they take the short drive up to Shasta Dam. Arnie and Marcia had never seen it and the others knew it was an impressive sight. The views in the whole area could be spectacular, and the occasional glimpses of Mt. Shasta were inspiring.
It was getting close to 7 o’clock when they headed back to Redding. They drove to the park and showed everyone where Jo had ‘met her demise’. A couple of news people were still taking pictures of the scene and they hurried over to ask more questions.
“We are going to dinner in a few minutes and will grant only a couple of questions. If you have any others, in particular about the case, you will have to ask directly through the authorities,” stated Mike.
“We understand,” said the man Jo remembered as being from “People Magazine”
“Captain O’Donnell, if I have my math right, you are only 27. How is it that someone your age is a Division Commander in a police department for a city of nearly 100,000 people?”
“I guess it’s because I applied for the position. I have not had much experience in the public sector and what experience I have had seems to have come all at once. I certainly hope that things slow down a bit.
“As to getting the job here, you will have to ask Chief Krewzewski.”
“I think I can add something,” said Ed. “He got the job because he was the best applicant out there. I followed Mike’s career for more than four years. He worked with dozens of officers, non-commissioned officers and junior airmen and not one of them wouldn’t follow Mike anywhere he led them. A security police or law enforcement outfit in the Air Force is very similar to a civilian police force. Mike was the commander of nearly one hundred people, not much different than the situation now. He is eminently qualified for the job.”
“I do have a question for Dr. Beebe, and I hope she doesn’t mind. I guess the first part is more of a statement. You are an exceptionally attractive woman and how anyone would think anything else is beyond me. In doing some background work, I found that you graduated from high school in two years and from college in three years. You were a practicing physician at 25. I also understand you are an accomplished pianist. How did you do it?
“It was a mix of things. Through high school, I found academics fun. Music was something I was surrounded by and it seemed like the most natural thing in the world. You have to remember something. I may be intelligent; however, I totally lacked the social skills that little girls develop from birth. It was no one’s fault. It was just the results of nature’s little joke. Into college, I was starting to catch up and I realized I loved Mike so much.
Then his father initiated a very cruel scheme that almost destroyed our relationship. We didn’t speak to or see each other for the next nearly eight years. We were both devastated, and the only escape I had was academics, music, running and my reading. Fortunately, Mike was a little more mature than I was and created a more realistic approach to life. We were brought back together because our parents and families, Richard O’Donnell excluded, loved us so much. I know that’s more than you asked, but right now I’m so happy that I tend to run off at the mouth. I guess euphoric would be the right word.
“I think that’s two questions and we need to go to dinner. Thank you for being so cooperative.”
Dinner was wonderful. The restaurant manager prepared one of the small banquet rooms for them and they were waited on hand and foot. The menu was seafood oriented with a French flavor. The menu also listed several steaks and other meat entrees. The wine list was spectacular. There were a number of toasts and Mike delivered the first one.
“I wish my sister and Patrick were here now; however, they are now back in Southern California. So many people helped make this night possible: Mom, Dad, Marcia, Arnie, Dr. Arneson, Kate DeMoss, Chief Krewzewski, Chief Stephens, Matt Cassil, Roger and so many others. Jo and I will be eternally grateful for your kindness, wisdom and love. You knew what was right when Jo and I were torn apart and you put us back together. We will never be apart again. Thank you for letting love work. We offer you our love and friendship in return. To love!”
“Before we continue, I want you to know that in order to secure this room I had to promise the management that there would be no carrier landings* attempted.”
Ed laughed uproariously; however, no one else understood what was so funny. Mike had to explain.
The wine consumption was under control, but Ed begged off.
Dorothy spoke up, “Ed, I think you are allowed to celebrate tonight. I’ll be your designated driver.”
Ed gave up his keys, but no one got drunk.
*Carrier landings are a tradition at many Dining Inns and other military banquets. These affairs tend to get rowdy as the night progresses. There is a ‘grog bowl’ filled with a strong punch and those who offend the rules of the mess must chug a cup of the grog to atone for their sins. As the night descends into drunken revelry, the participants will remove the tablecloths and cover the bare tables with water and ice cubes. The participants will run and dive onto the tabletops and see who can slide the furthest. It is not unusual to have a number of damaged shins and torn dress uniforms by the time the evening is over.
Chapter 30: They Go Nationwide
Marcia and Linda spent the morning trying to find a venue for the wedding. They had several discussions with Jo and MK about the nature of the ceremony they wanted and they determined rather early on that they wanted a secular ceremony. This immediately eliminated a number of locations, including all the churches in the area. Not being that familiar with the city, they were in a bit of a quandary. The wedding would probably have to be in November and that really eliminated any thoughts of an outdoor ceremony. Most everything that they could find in the phone book wasn’t really appropriate for what the two mothers had in mind.
Suddenly, a light bulb went off in Linda’s head.
“Marcia, I have an idea that may seem a bit strange; however, I think it will work very nicely if we can get it. It has plenty of seating, the décor is very nice and I’m not sure it would be available. It may have ghosts; however, if there aren’t any, it may be exactly what we need.”
“What do you have in mind?
“You were there yesterday. And, I don’t mean Shasta Dam.”
“I think that’s a wonderful idea, if Jo and Mike would accept it. Jo told me that the pipe organ has been restored and is fabulous.”
Linda called Jo once again. “Jo, how do you feel about ghosts?”
Jo was silent for a moment. “Are you saying what I think you are saying? I don’t have any problems with that at all. In a sense my life was reborn there. If they clean up and refinish the floors it might work very nicely. Let me call the manager and see if it’s available around the time we have been talking about and I’ll get back to you.”
Jo called them back five minutes later. She was sniffling back tears.
“Jo, what’s wrong? You sound as if you are crying.”
“I am. I just got off the phone with Ron Alfaro, the manager, and he says it’s available Thanksgiving weekend. Mom, he’s giving it to us! He said it was the least they could do. All we have to do is pay for the utilities. I have a key and we can go over there after I get off. I’m going to call Mike and see if it’s okay with him.
“Fine, Marcia can call MK and see what she thinks. I don’t think those two would have the same feelings that you and Mike might have about the place.”
Ten minutes later two major items had been solidified. The location and the date of the wedding had been determined. The invitations had to go out almost immediately and they didn’t even know who was on the invitation list. Then there was the matter of the caterer and probably most important of all were the wedding dresses. They had eighty days.
Mike didn’t really care that much one way or other about where the wedding was going to be. He trusted his mother and Jo’s mother to make the right decisions. Right now he was reviewing a file that the Chief had brought to him. It was a copy of his father’s military records. The records were pretty slim. The medical records were not included because of the Freedom of Information Act; however, what was included was very revealing.
Mike knew his father had a degree in history and he could remember seeing the diploma. Apparently, he had not gone into college directly from high school, and as a result, was eligible for the draft. He was drafted in 1970 and reported to Fort Ord in Monterey, California for boot camp. He received an Article 15 (Non Judicial Punishment) and was held back in training for fighting. He alleged that another trainee had made homosexual advances toward him in the latrine. His allegations could not be substantiated. The other recruit maintained that he’d done nothing and had been attacked for no reason. While in infantry training, he received a second Article 15 and a loss of one grade in rank for getting into a fight in a civilian bar. Again he claimed someone had made homosexual advances toward him. He’d been assigned to a unit in Fort Hood, Texas. He got into another fight in Killeen, Texas and was thrown in jail for a week. While he was in jail, the Army apparently had enough of him and he was discharged under the General Clause as unfit for duty.
‘What a way to get out of going to Viet Nam,’ thought Mike. ‘He could have been court-martialed and have been given a much more severe penalty. He could have gone to prison and lost many of his rights as a citizen. Obviously, something in his development went awry.’ How Richard planned on avoiding this part of his past in his run for governor was beyond Mike. He probably would never have the answer and frankly didn’t care if he ever did. At least he knew that Richard’s brand of insanity had been around for a long time. Well, the prosecution and the defense could use it in whatever way they wanted to.
The courts took several days to finally decide on Richard’s bail. His attorney successfully argued that Richard would not be a danger to anyone else; however, bail was set at five million dollars, which meant Richard and/or his associates would have to come up with five hundred thousand dollars. Apparently he was not nearly as well off as he wanted people to think. The ranch that was allegedly his, actually belonged to his political backers and could not be used to secure a loan. The house on the hill belonged to his wife. She’d inherited it when her husband died. In addition to the house, she’d received nearly one million dollars from various insurance policies. She refused to come up with the cash, and Richard spent nearly a year in jail before the trial started.
It was a bad week for Richard all the way around. On the Tuesday after his arrest, he was served divorce papers and as it turned out, his stepdaughter also filed for divorce. She and her two children moved back in with her mother. Mindy would eventually remarry. On Wednesday Richard sent a Letter of Resignation to the governor. He knew there would be no reason to continue in office. Officially, there could have been a recall election, but that was pointless.
Indictments started rolling in and the various cities and counties were squabbling over who had jurisdiction. Defense attorneys were saying it would be difficult to find a venue that would not be prejudiced by the pre-trial publicity. It would be many months before a trial location was selected. It would eventually be the decision of a judge on the California Supreme Court and it would be more than a year before the trial would take place.
It was on Thursday when Linda and Marcia showed up at Jo’s office. They had been shopping at one of the local supermarkets and were in the checkout line when they suddenly realized they were staring at a picture of Jo and Mike on the cover of People Magazine. It was a good picture and had been taken on stage at the theater. Jo and Mike were obviously very happy. The headline on the cover read, “Who Would Want to Murder this Beautiful Woman?”
Needless to say, Jo was shocked when Marcia put the magazine on the desk in front her. “Well Jo,” said her mother, “you’re in the big time now. The cat is out of the bag.”
They had purchased several copies of the magazine and sat and read the article. Surprisingly, it was well written and factual. The author was the man they had met in the park on Monday afternoon. The article did not overly emphasize Jo’s early childhood and her physical anomalies; however, it did dwell on Richard’s obsession. It gave an accurate accounting of her academic history and brought out the fact that not only was she a doctor, she was an accomplished pianist and an excellent landscape artist. The author spent some time on her charitable music work and the fact Jo never took compensation for her performances or instruction.
The article also was very complimentary of Mike. It did not dwell on their childhood relationship other than mention they had been friends for many years and became separated due to a misunderstanding. Jo wondered how much he knew about that. It went into some detail about Mike’s military career and the fact he had received, among other things, the nation's second highest recognition for heroism in combat. The article gave a lot of details about the shooting in the theater and there were several graphic photos of the shooting scene. The article also included a photo taken from the video of the staged shooting in the park. Ed Stephens was described as a combat veteran and hero and was praised for his participation that led to the eventual arrests of the conspirators. Somehow, they also had a picture of Jo’s engagement ring.
“Wow!” said Jo. “I don’t think I expected that. Well, you are right. The cat is definitely out of the bag. I must say he did a pretty decent job. There’s not a lot of sensationalism. I wonder why not?”
“It’s because you are a genuine heroine and Mike is a hero. That’s something that no one would want to tamper with. I do think you need to set some ground rules. You have a lot going on and less than eighty days are left before your wedding. You have more than enough to do to without distractions and after this magazine article, many others going to be wanting interviews and TV appearances.” Linda was becoming very motherly and she and Marcia had a wedding to plan. It would turn out that several other national news publications would also have articles about Richard’s arrest and the subsequent news conference.
Most of Jo’s phone calls came through the hospital operator and very few people had access to her direct line, so she knew the hospital could intercept most calls. They decided the best approach would be not to grant any further interviews and tell the media to rely on the news conference and the law enforcement agencies for any additional information. They would of course be welcome to try to get interviews from the accused if they wanted to.
It wasn’t too long before representatives of Good Morning America, The Early Show and the Today Show called and begged and pleaded to be put through. Jo finally weakened and talked to the people in New York and told them they would not do an interview. The networks offered to pay her and Mike’s travel and accommodations in New York and Jo still refused; however, she did say that she might be willing to do something after the wedding if Mike agreed to it.
The next few weeks were relatively quiet. They found a caterer, Sang’s Inn, who would do a mix of Chinese and American dishes. They also determined the stage area would be perfect, once cleaned up, for the reception. The rehearsal dinner would be held at Le Mer Francaise. Jo had found a very nice bridal shop and after looking at only a few dresses, thought she’d found one that was perfect. She showed the photo to Kate and was really surprised when Kate approved. Maybe she had learned something over these last few months.
Chapter 31: November, Maybe She’s Not Evil After All
Regardless of how well things were going, Jo was not prepared for what happened in early November. It had been quite cool and the winter rains had started falling every few days. The patient load was down, but Jo knew that the ski injuries, slips on ice, winter colds and flu weren’t far off. Her office was pleasantly warm and she was working on some paper work and catching up on reading some medical journals. There was a knock on her door and Kate stuck her head in.
“Jo, there’s a woman in reception who would like to talk to you. She doesn’t have an appointment, but says it’s very important that she sees you. She seems to be very upset. She’s been crying and is close to crying now.”
“Bring her down, things are slow and I can certainly see someone who is having troubles.”
Kate returned shortly and escorted the woman into Jo’s Office. “Dr. Beebe, this is Mrs. Alexander. She says it is very important that she talks to you. Just call me if you need anything.”
Jo looked up at the woman being escorted into her office. She was shocked. It was Mindy. Kate saw Jo go pale and waited at the door. Suddenly, she had a very good idea who this woman was.
“Dr. Beebe, do you want me to stay?”
Jo looked at Mindy and noted the red and swollen eyes. She was pretty certain that there was nothing hostile in Mindy’s intentions.
“I think it’s okay, Kate. We’ll be fine.
“Mindy, why don’t you have a seat on the couch?”
Kate left, closing the door behind her.
“To say that I am surprised to see you is an understatement. Why would you come here? Surely, you don’t think I’m going to alter any testimony I might give in the trials of your husband and stepfather. After what you did to Mike and me, you will be lucky if I don’t have security throw you out.”
“Dr. Beebe, please hear me out.” Jo nodded her assent. “This has not been easy for me. Many times during my drive up here I was close to turning around. There are things I must say; things you must know.
“At one time I thought I was a good Christian. Now I find that part of my life is being torn apart. If the way I’ve been living these past years is what it takes to be a good Christian, then I’m certain that is not what I want to be.
“Shortly after Momma and Richard got married, he started talking about how his son was being corrupted by you and your family. I had been brought up to believe that whatever the father/husband in a family said was the law. The wife’s duty was to submit to the husband and obey his wishes.
“He told me it was my duty to help destroy any relationship that my stepbrother had that was against God’s wishes. He said that when Michael had seen the true light he would return to the fold. He concocted a plan where I would gain Michael’s confidence and then destroy your relationship with him. At the time that seemed to be the proper thing to do; after all you were an ‘evil and corrupting influence and were an abomination in God’s eye’. I went along with all of that because ‘it was the will of God’.
“He found a place for me to stay and associates of his told me how to get on the campus and act like a student. The student body was so big that no one would notice me. I had a picture of Mike and it wasn’t hard to find him. I convinced him I wanted to go out with him and he asked me out. He was the perfect gentleman and I don’t think he really liked me very much. I’m not very worldly and he was intellectually far above me.
“I convinced him that I wanted to go out with him again. Then, as instructed, I started asking about you. I had seen you two talking, and to be quite honest, I may have been a bit jealous. That didn’t really matter, though. I was sent to do my father’s bidding and you know what the results were. That’s when the conflicts started. I was supposed to rejoice in seeing that God’s word was being carried out. I should have basked in God’s blessing. Instead, I felt dirty. When I saw your and Mike’s reaction to what I said I doubted the whole premise of what my actions had been based on.
“I married a man of my stepfather’s choosing and have given him two beautiful little girls. They are all I have left. For a number of years things were quiet. My stepfather knew that Mike would be returning from overseas and had somehow found out that you were practicing medicine here in Redding. He worried that you and Mike would get together and now that I look at it, he was obsessed. He thought this relationship would affect his re-election campaign and his run for governor in two years.
“He had numerous meetings in his office with Mr. Scroggins, Mr. Conklin, his son, Mr. Smith, my husband and Mr. Anderson. Momma and I were only in there if we were taking beer or food to them. We were told to stay away the rest of the time.
“Last June was the last time I saw William Conklin and Fred Smith. I worked in my stepfather’s campaign headquarters and had access to the bank account for the campaign funds. I was told to withdraw several thousand dollars and when I brought it back to the office, those two were there. My stepfather gave them money and wished them good luck.
“I didn’t find out until September what they were doing. I withdrew a very large sum in August and took it to a coin dealer in town and converted it into gold coins. My stepfather had me deliver it to the man whom I found out later was responsible for his and my husband’s arrest.
“I didn’t know until several days later what had actually happened. I felt so much anger and I wasn’t sure where to direct it. If everything I had been taught was true, there had been a terrible injustice. The heathen society had interfered with the desires of God.
“Then I turned on the television and they were running a portion of your news conference. Something was wrong. What I was hearing was a story of two people who did nothing but good things, one of whom had been shot and nearly killed some weeks before. Here were two good people so obviously in love and all I had done was to try and destroy their happiness and I had almost succeeded. Then I discovered I was involved in this second attempt on your life. By the way, the police know all about it. All the questions I had about the events of eight years ago came roaring back to the front. What had I been a part of?
“I called momma and asked her what was going on and how much did she know about the attempts on your life. Apparently, she knew even less than I did and was equally shocked. I didn’t realize it until then that my mother’s marriage was a travesty. Richard abused her both mentally and physically. As my marriage wasn’t any better, there never had been any love, we went to a phone book and found a lawyer and both of us have filed for divorce. The divorces should be final shortly. I moved in with momma and put our house on the market. Half of it is my husband’s and he needs the money. I don’t have much money, as he wouldn’t let me have anything beyond household expenses.
“It was later that week when we were shopping for groceries that I saw your picture on the cover of People Magazine. Momma didn’t pay any attention to it because she had no idea what you looked like. I saw your two faces and you were so obviously and radiantly happy. Then I saw the caption ‘Who Would Want to Murder this Beautiful Woman?’ and I broke down in the middle of the checkout aisle. I still had the magazine in my hand when they took me back to the manager’s office. Momma was about to call for an ambulance and I shoved the magazine in her face. I was shouting, 'This is the woman your husband wanted to kill. This is the man who was shot trying to protect her. This is the couple he sent me up to destroy. God didn’t want these people hurt. Richard did. God, what have I done?'
“I have been involved with so much evil. God will forgive me in his time and in his way. I can wait for God’s forgiveness. He will grant it when he is ready to. Dr. Beebe, what I did to you and Mike was an evil, evil thing and I am going to have to live with it for the rest of my life. The prosecutors have said they are not going to press any charges against my mother, or me, but that doesn’t lessen the guilt. For the last two months, I haven’t been able to stop crying. My little girls know something is wrong and they ask about their father. I can’t tell them much. They wouldn’t understand if I told them he was a murderer. I just tell them he has gone away because he has to. They may start to forget him after a while. I am one person they can’t forget. They ask why I keep crying all the time and why am I unhappy and all I can say is that I don’t feel well. That’s not something I can keep saying for much longer. I love my little girls so much and I can’t bear having them grow up with so much sadness around them.
“Dr. Beebe, I am begging you for your forgiveness. I have thought about killing myself. I even thought once about taking my daughters with me, but somehow, that seems such a foolish act. If you can see it in your heart to forgive me, I might be able to make it and watch my daughters grow up in a better life than the one I’ve had.”
Mindy buried her face in her hands and quietly sobbed.
Jo was deeply moved and she was very concerned. Mindy was obviously in a deep depression and needed help. She got up and came over and sat next to Mindy and gave her a hug and held her close. “Of course I forgive you. Everything is going to be all right. We need to get you calmed down so that you can go home to those little girls of yours. I have seen their picture and they are beautiful.”
“Thank you, Dr. Beebe, I was not too sure whether I was going to make it through this or not. Now maybe I can. I need to get my girls and start for home.”
“Your girls are here?”
“Yes, we drove up this morning. Your nice nurse took them to the play area. If we start back now, we should be able to get home in the morning.”
“You will do nothing of the kind, Mindy. You are going to spend tonight at my home. You need to rest and you need to have a good meal or three before you make that long trip back to Southern California. I want you to go to the play area and wait for me. I’m going to close up things here, then you can follow me home. Let me make a few phone calls first and then I will come and get you.”
Jo decided instead to first walk with her to the nursery area and two beautiful little girls ran up to greet their mother.
“Dr. Beebe, these are my daughters. This is Rebecca. She will be five early next year and Susan will be three next month.”
“I am so happy to meet you,” said Jo, “and you may call me Aunt Jo. Do you like kittens? I hope you do because you are going to stay with two for a while. I’ll be right back Mindy. Why don’t you wait here with your girls?”
Jo walked back to the nurse’s station.
“Kate, keep an eye on her and if you can, don’t let her leave. She is severely depressed and close to being suicidal. I think I can ease her out of this deep depression, but she needs counseling and I am not going to turn her loose until I’m sure she is over this present crisis. Now I have to call Mike. We may be divorced before we are married.”
Jo went back to her office and called Mike. “Mike, are you in a forgiving mood?”
“Certainly. What did you do, wreck the car? It’s your car and insurance.”
“Mike, this is serious. I hope you will forgive me, but more importantly there is someone else that needs forgiveness. Mindy showed up a little more than an hour ago. She is devastated by what has happened and what her involvement has been. She is acutely depressed and close to being suicidal. I didn’t realize it when we were talking that she had brought her daughters with her. I think if I had rejected her she might have killed herself and taken them with her. She is so unhappy about what your father made her do and she is having problems reconciling her remorse with the religious beliefs she was brought up with.
“I’ve already told her that I forgive her and if you could do the same, it would help a very unhappy woman get her life back.”
“Jo, I don’t hate Mindy. I hate what he made her do. Of course I’ll forgive her.”
“There’s one more thing. I’ve asked her to stay with us and she doesn’t know we are living together. I’m going to have her follow me home. Kate’s watching her right now. I know a psychiatrist in Riverside and I’m going to give her a call. Mindy needs some long-term counseling. I can do the short-term stuff and get her a mild anti-depressant and I think I can tell in a day or so if she can be alone with the children on a trip back home. I can always put them on a plane and have her mother pick her up.
“I’ll call Amanda in Riverside and see what she recommends. By the way, did I tell you how much I love you?”
“Not since this morning.”
“See you tonight.”
Jo searched briefly until she found Amanda Brenner’s phone number. They’d gone to medical school together and had been pretty good friends. She dialed the number.
“Hi, this is Dr. Jo Beebe. May I please speak to Dr. Brenner? It’s pretty important.”
“Yes, doctor. She doesn’t have any patients at the moment.”
“Jo! Aren’t you the celebrity? I saw your picture on the cover of People and couldn’t believe it was you. Then I saw the eyes and knew immediately it was you. That guy you were with is quite the hunk.”
“Mandy, I haven’t time to talk, but you will be on the invitation list. I have a young woman here who is about 30 and I’m sure she is borderline suicidal.”
Jo proceeded to describe the situation.
“I think you hit the nail on the head, Jo. Watch her for a few days. If your welcoming her into your home appears to ease things, she can probably make the trip in the next week, or so. Prescribe a mild mood-altering drug like Prozac. It will take a while to kick in; however, I think we need to attack this now. Keep me up on what’s going on. You have my home and cell phone numbers.”
“Thanks, Mandy. We’ll give her a lot of TLC.”
Jo checked through her pharmaceutical samples and found what she was looking for. She could write a prescription later.
“Mindy, let’s go to our house. Your brother will be there shortly and I know you will want to see him. He does not bear any animosity about the past and I think it’s time you two got to know each other as brother and sister. We have two nieces we need to get to know too.”
Jo led them to her home, keeping her eye on the car behind her making sure that Mindy didn’t change her mind. When she got her through the gate, she breathed a sigh of relief. She took them through the garage and noticed that although the girls had their miniature luggage, Mindy had none. Jo realized then how close she had come. Mindy hadn’t planned on spending the night anywhere.
“You can have the guest bedroom downstairs. The couch opens up into a bed for the girls or they can have the room upstairs. You would probably want them to stay with you at least for tonight. Why don’t you take a shower? I have some things that you can wear until we find you some clothes.”
“Thank you, I seem to have forgotten my suitcase.”
“Mindy, does your mother know you are here? You should probably call her and let her know you are alright.”
“Oh my god, she doesn’t know where we are.”
“Here,” said Jo handing her the phone, “talk as long as you want.”
Mindy took the phone and dialed the number. Jo knew that the number would be retained if she needed it later on.
“Momma, it’s Mindy …
“I’m sorry Momma. I had a lot on my mind and wasn’t sure what I was going to do …
“They’re fine. I think they found some kittens to play with …
I’m with Dr. Beebe. She is putting us up for the night …
“Everything is okay …
“I didn’t mean to scare you. I was very confused …
Jo broke in, “Mindy, let me talk to your mother. Why don’t you go take a shower and you can call her back later.”
“Momma, Dr. Beebe would like to talk to you for a minute. I’ll call later. I love you.”
“Mrs. O’Donnell, this is Jo Beebe. I think she is going to be alright. She had me scared, but I think the worst is past. I want her to stay with me for a while until she gets her feet on the ground. I’m going to send her to someone I know there who can help her.”
“Dr. Beebe, what’s wrong with her? I got up this morning and she was gone and the girls too. She didn’t leave a note or anything.”
“She is feeling a lot of guilt over the past, and Mike and I are going to do our best to help her get rid of that guilt. Here’s our phone number, and I want you to call any time. Call the hospital if you need me during the day. She’s going to be all right, and Rebecca and Susan are fine. It took them about 20 seconds to find the kittens. We are going to look out for everyone. After all, she is my future sister-in-law and they will be my nieces. We’ll take care of them. Don’t worry.”
“Thank you Doctor. I don’t know what I would have done if I had lost her and the girls.
“May I ask why are you doing this? Haven’t we caused you enough problems?”
“Mrs. O’Donnell, what happened was not your fault and it was not Mindy’s fault. At one time I would have felt a lot differently about it; however, I’ve come to realize that any ill feelings I may have had were wasted energy. Justice will be done, and what happened can’t be erased. You have a lovely daughter and two beautiful grandchildren. They will have a wonderful life ahead of them and you will too.
“I have the name of a counselor in Riverside whom I want Mindy to go to. She is a friend and we went to medical school together. It might help if you talked to her, too. She’s expecting to see Mindy and knows quite a bit about what has been going on.
“If you would like, why don’t you come up here so that you can be with Mindy on the trip back? You may fly all the way to Redding; however, it’s a lot less expensive if you fly to Sacramento and someone can go there to get you. I think I can find a place for you to stay. We are having a wedding in a few weeks and our home is going to be very busy.”
“Dr. Beebe, may I call you Jo? I’m Donna, please. I think I’ll fly directly to Redding. My daughter needs her mother and I need my daughter and grandchildren.”
“Donna, we can put you up here for a few days. Call me when you know what your schedule is and we will get you. I think I hear my fiancé coming in and I need to talk to him.
“I’m glad we could talk, Donna. Take care. Bye”
“Thank you so much, Jo. I’ll call. Bye.”
Mike was pulling into the garage and Jo wanted to talk with him before Mindy got out of the bath. Jo met him at the door.
“Mike, she is a very distraught woman. She needs a lot of love, something she hasn’t had in many years. Do you think you can make her feel welcome? Wait until you see your nieces. They are beautiful. I think they followed the kittens upstairs.
“Mindy is in the downstairs bedroom getting a shower. I’m going to find something for her to wear. She is close to my size and I have that dress that the cleaners shrunk. She might be able to wear it. She didn’t bring any clothes with her and I think she was going to kill herself and maybe the children too. She was that close. Let me check on her.”
“Jo, bring her out here as soon as you can. I want to let her know that everything is okay.”
Just then the kittens raced down the stairs. They had heard Mike and knew he was a source of food in the evening. They skidded to a stop on the tile floor and were twining themselves around Mike and Jo’s legs. Rebecca and Susan came down the stairs looking for the kittens.
“Auntie Jo, where did Mo and Lazarus go to? They suddenly ran away and we can’t find them.”
“Girls, this is your Uncle Mike and he is going to feed the kittens. Would you like to help?”
“Oh,” said Rebecca, her eyes wide with wonder, “Are you a policeman?”
“Yes, I am, and I am here to make sure you and your mother are safe.”
Mike picked up both girls in his arms and kissed them on their foreheads. He turned to Rebecca asked her what her name was.
“Becca and that’s Suzie. I’m going to be five and she’s almost three. Can we feed the kitties?”
“Sure. Let’s get some Kitten Chow. Get that box over there on the shelf and you may pour some in each dish on the mat over there.”
Mike held Becca close to the box and she grabbed it. He then put the girls down and they poured some of the Kitten Chow into each of the dishes. The kittens rushed in and started crunching the tasty morsels. The girls were fascinated and sat on the floor and watched them eat.
“Mike, Mindy’s coming out and you need to talk to her.”
Mike turned and saw Mindy coming down the hall. She was wearing one of Jo’s robes. She definitely did not appear very sure of herself. Mike felt some butterflies in his stomach. He understood what she’d been through, but he still had feelings about the last time they had seen each other. However, he trusted Jo’s judgment on this.
Mindy looked terrified. Mike walked over to her and smiled, “Hi sis. Welcome to our home.” He hugged her and kissed her cheek. He could feel her shaking and realized she was sobbing. He kissed her again and held her closely until the sobs subsided. “You are welcome here and you have nothing to worry about. Everything is going to be fine. Your little girls are beautiful, and we love all of you. Let’s sit and relax.”
They went to the living room and Mindy sat on the couch. Jo sat next to her and Mike sat on a nearby chair. The silence that followed was not what Jo wanted to hear. She needed to get Mindy to open up
“Mindy, I want you to realize something. Everyone is okay. You were not allowed to know what was going on and you had no control over the events. Being in the position we were, we were better able to analyze the situation. I didn’t realize the enormity of it though until Mike was able to put two and two together. We were lucky that we had help from some outstanding people and you are going to get to meet them. They don’t hate you either.
“Granted, we got off to a rocky start eight years ago, but that is past. If I hadn’t been so foolish, Mike and I would have been together four or five years ago. Who’s to say what might have happened. We don’t know and we never will. What we have is here and now and all we can do is go forward. You and your mother have an excellent opportunity to get away from a life that made you both very unhappy. You are young and may find someone who is a kind and loving father for your girls. You might even want to have more children. That’s your choice. Whatever your choices may be we, want you to know that we will be here for you.”
Mike had been taking this all in and felt he had to make a contribution. He needed to get Mindy to believe she really was wanted. She needed to get back some of her self esteem and he understood Jo’s concern about Mindy’s mental state.
“Mindy, what were you doing before all this mess started? If you would like to take a break from Southern California for a while, I might be able to find a position for you at the police station. We always need some administrative help and, although the pay isn’t great, it would give you something to do and help take your mind off the past. If you find you like it here, maybe you could find a more permanent job. What I’m trying to say is that I don’t want you to feel we are going to get rid of you. That’s not how these families work. As far as I’m concerned, we are family. We may not be technically related; however, we have been through too much together not to be family.
“Now, Jo and I are going to fix dinner for everyone. Let’s move to the kitchen and fix some snacks to have while dinner is cooking. Okay?”
Jo and Mike got up and walked over to Mindy and helped her stand up. They both hugged and kissed her.
Mike headed for the kitchen and Mindy hung back a little.
“Jo, thank you for your kindness. I just realized something and maybe I don’t understand what’s going on. I get the impression Mike lives here with you. You are not married. Forgive me, but are you sleeping with him? I was brought up to believe that was sinful.”
“Mindy, Mike and I have been in love for 16 years. He is the only man I have ever slept with, the only man I have ever made love to and the only man I will ever sleep with. I am the only woman he has ever made love to. After the incident eight years ago we never saw each other again until this summer.
"When we discovered that we were still in love with each other and actually always had been in love, I made the decision that our spiritual marriage started at that moment. Mike had made the same decision. Making love was the natural outcome. We will make the marriage official soon enough. We know we are committed for life and there was nothing else to it.
“Mike moved in here while he was still recovering from being shot. His doctor didn’t want him to be alone because even though he appeared to be recovering very well, there was always the chance that something could happen to the injured area. The only place for him to stay was here. We were so much in love that things progressed very quickly from there. Having sex without love is not a bad thing if both parties are consenting adults. Sex with love is so many times better. It has to be. Mike and I made love for the first time this summer. When you are a mature adult, making love with someone is one of the deepest expressions of love that you can make. It is certainly not the only one.
“Being married is a matter of choice, and is more of a legal function or a matter of religious convention. If your church says it is sinful to make love with someone prior to marriage, then it is sinful. But it is sinful only within the confines of that church. What has gone so wrong in this world is that so many so-called religions feel they have a monopoly on morality and reality. What they don’t realize is that their beliefs apply only to their members. Beliefs are just that. They are not reality, and they are not laws of nature.
"Unfortunately, many religions go 180 degrees from the laws of nature and they are inherently evil in what they do to their members. What you do with your life is your choice. If what you do doesn’t physically or mentally harm other people, and doesn’t prevent other people from pursuing their brand of happiness, it probably isn’t sinful. I can remember what my father told me when I was very young. He said that religion was man’s attempt to explain reality as man understood it. Man is certainly not a perfect being, and his knowledge is increasing but limited. If religion sails against what is proven fact or theory, then that religion is probably faulty.
“Mindy, did you ever love your husband? I know that is a very personal question; however, I think the answer is important.”
“Jo, as far as I can remember, the only people that I ever felt any affection for are my daughters and my mother. I’m not certain what love really is. My marriage was arranged and I was told to submit and obey because it was God’s will.”
Jo hugged Mindy to her. “We are going to find true love for you. It may take a while, but the right person is out there. When you find him or her, you will know it. Life will become much better after that.
“Mike’s slaving over a hot stove and we better go help him.”
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