Shades of Twilight (Chapter 15)
"No," she said tonelessly. Her hand was motionless in Webb's grip. Once she would have been clinging to him, but now she didn't hold on to him at all. It wasn't just that she didn't seem to need him anymore, but that she didn't want to even be around him. For a while, when she had been so confused, all the barriers had been down and she had seemed to be comforted by his presence, to need him. But now she was pulling away from him again, putting emotional distance between them even though she made no effort to physically pull away. Because of what had happened between them yesterday, or was it something else, a detail about her injury? Did she remember something after all? Why didn't she want to tell the sheriff?
"What's the last thing you remember?" Beshears asked.
"Going to bed."
"Your folks say you have insomnia. Maybe you were awake, and you heard something and went to see what it was."
"I don't remember," she said. The pinched look was more pronounced.
He sighed and got to his feet.
"Well, don't fret about it. A lot of folks don't remember at first what happened right before they took a bump on the noggin, but sometimes it comes back to them after a while. I'll be checking back with you, Miss Roanna. Webb, come on out in the hall with me, and I'll tell you what we've done so far."
Webb went with him, and Beshears strolled down the hall toward the elevators.
"We followed the trail through the weeds all the way to that pasture road that cuts off from the highway, just past the turnoff going up to Davencourt," he said.
"I figure he left his car parked there, but it's been a couple of weeks since we've had any rain and the ground was too hard for us to get any tread marks. Just to be sure, we brought in a couple of dogs, and they followed the trail as far as the pasture road, too, but nothing after that. It's a good place to hide a car; the brush is so thick anything parked even twenty yards up the road would be damn hard to see even in the daylight, much less at night."
"He got in through the kitchen door?"
"That's what it looks like. We couldn't find any other sign of entry." Beshears snorted.
"I thought he was a fool at first, for not going in through some of those fancy glass doors y'all got all over the house, but maybe he was pretty smart. You think about it, the kitchen is the best place. Everyone should be upstairs in bed at that time of night, so he don't want to risk waking anyone by going through any of the upper veranda doors. The doors on the patio are on the side of the house, visible from the stables. But the kitchen door is on the back, and you can't see it from the driveway, the stables, or anywhere else."
They had reached the elevators, but Beshears didn't stop to punch the button to call it. He and Webb strolled on to the end of the hall, out of earshot of anyone getting off the elevator on that floor.
"Was anything taken?" Webb asked.
"Not that anyone can tell. That lamp's knocked over in the den, but except for that and the lock on the kitchen door nothing looks like it was touched. Don't know what he was doing in the den, unless he got rattled when Miss Roanna screamed. I suppose he ran back downstairs, looking for a quick way out, but the front door has a double lock on it and
he couldn't figure it out in the dark. He ran into the den, saw it doesn't have an outside door, and accidentally blundered into the lamp. Looks like he finally went out the kitchen door, same as he got in."
Webb roughly ran his hand through his hair.
"This won't happen again," he said.
"I'll have a security system installed this week."
"Y'all should already have had one." Beshears gave him a look of disapproval.
"Booley used to go on and on about how easy it would be to break into that house, but he never could talk Miss Lucinda into doing anything about it. You know how old folks are. With the house so far out of town, she felt safe."
"She didn't want to feel like she was in a fortress," Webb said, remembering the comments Lucinda had made over the years.
"This will probably change her mind. Don't bother with one of the systems that automatically call for help, because y'all are so far out of town it would be a waste of money. Put in a loud alarm that'll wake everyone up, if you want, but remember that wires can be cut. Your best bet is to put good locks on the doors and windows, and get a dog. Everybody should have a dog."
"Lucinda's allergic to dogs," Webb said wryly. He wasn't about to get one now and make her miserable for the few remaining months of her life.
"Guess that's why you never had one. Nell, forget that idea." They turned and walked back toward the elevators.
"Miss Lucinda had another spell after y'all left."
"I know. Gloria told me."
"Stubborn old woman," Beshears commented. They reached the elevators, and this time he punched the button.
"Call me if Roanna remembers anything, 'cause otherwise we don't have jack shit.
Roanna rested quietly the remainder of the day, though she was troubled by nausea. The doctor ordered a mild medication to remedy that, and she ate most of her lunch, a light meal of soup and fruit. Lanette was surprisingly good in a sickroom, making sure Roanna had plenty of ice water in the bedside pitcher where she could reach it, and helping her to the bathroom when she needed to go. Otherwise she sat patiently, reading a magazine she'd bought in the gift shop, or watching television with the sound turned low.
Webb was restless. He wandered in and out of the room, moodily watching Roanna's face whenever he was there. Something about her manner bothered him more and more. She was too quiet. She had reason to be upset and alarmed, but instead she was showing very little response to anything. She avoided meeting his gaze and pleaded a headache when he tried to talk to her. The nurses checked on her regularly and said she was doing okay, her pupil responses were normal, but still he was uneasy.
He called back twice to check on Lucinda, but both times Lucinda answered the phone herself and wouldn't let him talk to Gloria.
"I'm fine," she said crossly.
"Don't you think the doctor would have put me in the hospital if anything serious was wrong? I'm old, I have cancer, and my heart isn't what it used to be. What else do you think could be wrong? Frankly, I can't think why I'd bother even taking medicine for a cold."
Both times she asked to talk to Roanna, and both times Roanna insisted that she felt well enough to talk. Webb listened to her side of the conversation and realized how guarded she sounded, as if she were trying to hide something.
Had she seen her assailant after all?
If so, why hadn't she told Beshears? There was no reason he could think of for her to -keep something like that secret, no one she would be protecting. She was definitely hiding something, though, and he was determined to find out what. Not right now, not while she was still rocky, but as soon as she was home, he was going to sit her down in a private place for a little talk.
Lanette said she would stay overnight, and Webb finally 271
left at nine that night. He was back at six-thirty the next morning, though, ready to take Roanna home as soon as she was released. She was ready, already dressed in street clothes and looking much better than she had the day before. Twenty-four hours of enforced rest had done her a lot of good, even under the circumstances.
"Did you sleep any?" he asked.
"As much as anyone does in a hospital, I suppose."
Behind her, Lanette met his eyes and shook her head.
It was after eight when the doctor came in and checked her pupil responses, then smiled and told her to go home.
"Take it easy for about a week," he said, "then see your family doctor for a checkup."
Webb drove them home then, easing over every bump and railroad track in an effort not to jar her head. Everyone at home at the time came out to meet her, and his plan to have a private talk with her was soon demolished. He didn't have a chance to be alone with her all day long. She was promptly put to bed, though she complained a bit irritably that she would rather be in her chair, but nothing would satisfy Lucinda except bed rest. Lucinda and Gloria fussed over her, Bessie was in and out at least ten times asking if she was comfortable, and Tansy left her kitchen domain to personally bring up the meal trays she had prepared with Roanna's favorites. Even Corliss stirred herself to visit and uncomfortably ask if she was all right.
Webb kept watch, knowing he'd get his chance.
It didn't come until late that night, when everyone else had gone to bed. He waited in the darkness, watching the veranda, and as he had expected, it wasn't long before a light came on in the next room.
He knew her veranda doors were locked, because he'd locked them himself before leaving her room the last time. He went out into the hallway, where the lights had been left burning at night since Roanna had been hurt, and quietly entered her room.
She had gotten out of bed and was once again ensconced
in that huge, soft-looking chair, though she wasn't reading. He supposed her head still hurt too much for her to do any reading. Instead she'd turned on her television, with the sound so low he could barely hear it.
She looked around with a guilty expression when the door opened. "Caught you," he said softly, shutting the door behind him.
Immediately he caught a hint of uneasiness in her face, before she smoothed her expression to blankness.
"I'm tired of being in bed," she explained.
"I've rested so much I'm not in the least bit sleepy."
"I understand," he said. She'd been in bed for two days, no wonder she was sick of it.
"That isn't what I wanted to talk about."
"I know." She looked down at her hands.
"I made a fool of myself day before yesterday. It won't happen again."
So much had happened since then that for a moment he stared blankly at her, then realized she was talking about what had happened when they were riding. He'd been a clumsy idiot, and typically, Roanna was taking the blame for it.
"You didn't make a fool of yourself," he said harshly, walking over to the veranda doors to check them again, just to make certain they were locked.
"I didn't want to take advantage of you, and I handled it all wrong." He stood there, watching her reflection in the glass.
"But that's something we'll talk about later. Right now, I want to know what it is you aren't telling the sheriff."
She kept her gaze on her hands, but he saw how still she went.
"Nothing." He could see the guilt, the discomfort, even in the reflection.
"Roanna." He turned around and went over to her, squatting down in front of the chair and taking her hands in his. She was sitting in what was evidently her favorite position, with her feet pulled up onto the seat and tucked her under nightgown. He looked at the bandage on her head rather than the shadowy peaks of her nipples poking against the white cloth, because he didn't want anything to distract
him from what he wanted to find out, and just being close to her was bad enough.
"You can fool the others, but they don't know you the way I do. I can tell when you're hiding something. Did you see who hit you? Do you remember more than you're telling?"
"No," she said miserably.
"Then what is it?"
"Ro," he said warningly. "Don't lie to me. I know you too well. What are you hiding?"
She bit her lip, worrying it between her teeth, and her golden brown eyes lifted to him, filled with a distress so intense he almost reached out for her in comfort.
"I walk in my sleep," she said.
He stared at her, astounded. Whatever he'd been expecting, that wasn't it.
"I'm a sleepwalker. I guess that's part of the reason I have insomnia," she explained in a soft tone, looking down again.
"I hate waking up in strange places, not knowing how I got there, what I've done, if anyone has seen me. I only do it when I'm in a deep sleep, so-" "So you don't sleep," he finished. He felt himself shattering inside as he realized the sheer enormity of the burden she carried, the pressure under which she lived. God, how did she stand it? How did she function? For the first time, he sensed the slender core of pure steel in her. She wasn't little, needy, insecure Roanna any longer. She was a woman, a Davenport, Lucinda's granddaughter, with her share of the Davenport strength.
"You were sleepwalking night before last."
She inhaled deeply.
"I must have been. I was so tired, I went to sleep as soon as I got in bed. I don't remember anything until I woke up in the hall with a splitting headache and you and Lucinda leaning over me. I thought I had fallen, though I've never had any accidents before when I was sleepwalking."
"Jesus." He stared at her, shaken by the image that came to mind. She had walked up to the burglar like a lamb to slaughter, not seeing him even though her eyes had been open. Sleepwalkers looked awake, but they weren't. Possibly the burglar even thought she could identify him. Attempted burglary and assault weren't crimes that warranted murder to avoid arrest, but she could be in danger anyway. Not only were new locks going on everywhere, as well as an alarm system that would wake the dead if there was an unauthorized intrusion, but he would make damn certain everyone in the county knew she had a concussion and didn't remember anything about the incident. An article about the attempted burglary had been in the paper, and as a follow-up, he would have that information printed as well.
"Why didn't you tell the sheriff that you walk in your sleep?"
"Lanette was there," she said, as if that were reason enough, It was, but it took him a moment to think it through.
"No one knows, do they?"
She gave a slight shake of her head, then winced and stopped the motion. "It's embarrassing, knowing that I wander around in my nightgown, but it's more than that. If anyone knew.. ."
Again, it didn't take a genius to follow her thoughts.
"Corliss," he said grimly.
"You're afraid the little bitch would play nasty tricks on you." He rubbed his thumbs over the backs of her hands, feeling the slender, elegant bones just under the skin.
She didn't respond to that, just said, "It's better if no one knows."
"She won't be here much longer." He was glad he could make that promise.
Roanna looked startled.
"She won't? Why?"
"Because I told her she'd have to move out. She can stay until Lucinda … She can stay for a few more months if she behaves herself. If she doesn't, she'll have to leave before then. Lanette and Greg will have to find another place to live, too. Greg makes good money, there's no excuse for them to be sponging off Lucinda the way they have."
"I think living here was Lanette's decision, hers and Gloria's."
"Probably, but Greg could have said no. I don't know about Brock. I've always liked him, but I didn't expect him to be a moocher."
"Brock has a plan," Roanna explained, and unexpectedly a faint smile touched her pale lips.
"He's living here so he can save as much money as possible before he gets married. He's going to build his own house. He and his fianc�e have already had an architect draw up the blueprints."
Webb stared at her mouth, enchanted by that tiny, spontaneous smile. He hadn't had to coax that one out of her.
"Well, at least that's a plan," he grumbled to hide his reaction.
"Gloria and Harlan are in their seventies; I'm not going to make them move. They can live here the rest of their lives if they want."
"I know you don't want the house crammed with relatives," she said.
"I'll be moving out, too-" "You aren't going anywhere," he interrupted harshly, rising to his feet.
She looked at him in bewilderment.
"This is your home, damn it. Did you think I was trying to tell you to get out?" He couldn't keep the anger out of his voice, not just at the thought of her leaving, but that she had thought he would want her to.
"I'm just a distant cousin, too," she reminded him. "How would it look for us to be living here together, even with Gloria and Harlan here? It's different now, because the house is so full, but when the others move out people will gossip if I don't, too. You'll want to get married again someday, and-" "This is your home," he repeated, grinding his teeth together in an effort to keep his voice down.
"If one of us has to move out, I will."
"You can't do that," she said, shocked.
"Davencourt will be yours. It wouldn't be right for you to leave just so I'll have a place to stay."
"Haven't you ever thought that it should be yours?" he snapped, goaded beyond endurance.
"You're the Davenport. Don't you resent the hell out of me for being here?"
"No. Yes." She watched him for a moment, her eyes shadowed and unreadable as the words lay between them.
"I don't resent you, but I envy you, because Davencourt is going to be yours. You were raised with that promise. You shaped your life around taking care of this family, this house. Because of that, you've earned it, and it should be yours. I knew when I went to find you in Arizona that Lucinda would change her will, giving everything to you again; we discussed it beforehand. But even though I envy you, I've never thought of Davencourt as mine. It's been home since I was seven years old, but it wasn't mine. It was Lucinda's, and soon it'll be yours."
She sighed, and gingerly rested her head back against the chair.
"I have a degree in business administration, but I got it only because Lucinda needed help. I've never been interested in business and finance, while you thrive on it. The only kind of work I've ever wanted to do is train horses. I don't want to spend the rest of my life in business meetings; you take that part of it, and welcome to it. I won't be left destitute, and you know it. I have my own inheritance."
He opened his mouth and she held up her hand to stop him.
"I'm not finished. When I'm no longer needed here" She paused, and he knew she was thinking of Lucinda's death, as he did. It was always there, looming in their future whether they could bring themselves to speak openly of it or not.
"When it's over, I'm going to set up my own stables, my own house. For the first time something will belong to me, and no one else will ever be able to take it away."
Webb's fists clenched. Her gaze was very clear, yet somehow distant, as if she, looked back at all the things and people that had been taken from her when she'd been too young and helpless to have any control over her life: her parents, her home, the very center of her existence. Her self-esteem had been systematically stripped from her by Jessie, with Lucinda's unknowing assistance. But she had had him 277 as her bulwark until he, too, had turned from her, and since then Roanna had allowed herself to have no one, to care for nothing. She had in effect put herself in dormancy. While her life was on hold she had devoted herself to Lucinda, but that time was coming to an end.
When Lucinda died, Roanna planned to leave.
He glued down at her. Everyone else wanted Davencourt, and they weren't entitled to it. Roanna was legitimately entitled to it, and she didn't want it. She wanted to leave.
He was so pissed off that he decided he'd better go back to his room before he really lost his temper, something she wasn't in any shape to endure and that he didn't want to do anyway, He stalked to the door, but paused there for the last word.
"We'll work all that out later," he said.
"But you are not moving out of this house." It was the day of Lucinda's welcome-home party for him, and as Webb drove home he wondered how big of a disaster it would be. He didn't care, but it would disturb Lucinda a great deal if things didn't go exactly as she had planned. From what he'd experienced that afternoon, things weren't looking good.
It hadn't been much, not even a confrontation, but as a barometer of public sentiment it had been fairly accurate. He'd had lunch at the Painted Lady with the chairman of the agricultural commission, and the comments of the two women behind him had been easily overheard.
"He certainly has a lot of brass on his face," one of the women had said. She hadn't raised her voice, but neither had she lowered it enough to ensure she couldn't be heard.
"If he thinks ten years is long enough for us to forget what happened … Well, he has another think coming."
"Lucinda Davenport never could see any fault in her favorites," the other woman commented.
Webb had looked across at the commissioner's face, which was turning dark red as the man studiously applied himself to his lunch and pretended he couldn't hear a thing.
"You'd think even the Davenports would balk at trying to force a murderer down our throats," the first woman said.
Webb's eyes had narrowed, but he hadn't turned around and confronted the women. Suspected murderer or not, he'd been raised to be a southern gentleman, and that meant he wouldn't deliberately embarrass the ladies in public. If men had been saying the same things he would have reacted differently, but not only were the two verbal snipers female, they were rather elderly, from the sound of their voices. Let them talk; his hide was tough enough to take it.
But the social matriarchs wielded a lot of power, and if they all felt the same way, Lucinda's party would be ruined. He didn't care for himself; if people didn't want to do business with him, fine, he'd find someone who did. But Lucinda would be both hurt and disappointed, and blame herself for not defending him ten years ago. For her sake, he hoped–
The windshield shattered, spraying Webb with tiny bits of glass. Something hot hummed by his ear, but he didn't have time to worry about it. His reflexive dodge had jerked the steering wheel in his hand, and the right wheels of the car bumped violently as the car veered onto the shoulder of the road. Grimly he fought for control, trying to ease the car back onto the pavement before he hit a hole or a culvert that would send him careening into the ditch. He was effectively blinded by the shattered windshield, which had held together but turned white with a thick webbing of fractures. A rock, he thought, though the truck in front of him had been far enough away that he wouldn't have expected the tires to throw a rock that far. Maybe a bird, but he would have seen something that big.
He got all four wheels back onto the pavement, and the car's handling smoothed. Automatically he braked, looking out the relatively undamaged right side of the windshield in an effort to judge his distance to the shoulder of the road and whether or not he would have enough room to pull off. He was almost to the side road that led to Davencourt's private road. If he could reach the turn off, there wouldn't be as much traffic The windshield shattered again, this time further to the right. Part of the broken glass sagged from the frame, little diamond bits held together by the safety film that prevented the glass from splintering. Rock, hell, he thought violently. Someone was shooting at him. Quickly he leaned forward and punch with his fist, tearing it down so he could see in front of him, then he pushed the gas pedal to the floor. The car rocketed forward, the force jerking him back in the seat. If he stopped and gave the shooter a stationary target, he'd be dead, but it was damn hard to make an accurate shot at someone going eighty-five miles an hour.
Remembering that hot humming he'd heard just beside his right ear after the first shot, he made a rough estimate of the trajectory of the first bullet and mentally placed the gunman on a high bank just past the cutoff for the side road. He was almost to the road now, and if he turned onto it, the gunman would have a broadside shot at him. Webb kept the gas pedal down and roared past the cutoff, then past the thickly wooded pasture road where Beshears thought the burglar had hidden his car Webb narrowed his eyes against the whistling wind and stood on the brakes, spinning the steering wheel as he threw the car into a state-trooper-turnaround, a maneuver he'd mastered when he'd been a wild-ass teenager running this same road, with its long, flat straightaway. Smoke boiled from his tires as they left rubber on the pavement. Another car blew past him, horn blaring. His car rocked and skidded, then straightened out with its hood pointing back in the direction from which he'd come. This was a four-lane divided highway, so that meant he was going the wrong way, against traffic. Two cars were headed straight toward him. He hit the gas again.
He reached the pasture road just before he would have collided head-on with one of those cars, and took the turn on two wheels. He braked immediately and threw the
transmission into park. He jumped out of the car before it stopped rocking, dodging into the thick cover to the side and leaving the car to block the exit from the pasture road, just in ease this was where the shooter had left his car. Was it the same man who had broken into the house, or coincidence? Anyone who used this highway on a regular basis, which was thousands of people, could have noticed the pasture road. It looked like it was a hunting road leading up into the woods, but the trees and bushes cleared out after about a quarter of a mile and opened up onto a wide field that butted up against Davencourt land.
"Fuck coincidence," he whispered to himself as he weaved his way silently through the trees, taking advantage of the natural cover to keep anyone from getting a clear shot at him.
He didn't know what he'd do if he came face-to-face with someone carrying a hunting rifle while he himself was barehanded, but he didn't intend for that to happen. His had been a fairly typical rural upbringing in spite of, or perhaps because of, the advantage of living at Davencourt. Lucinda and Yvonne had made certain he fit in with his classmates, and the people he'd be dealing with the rest of his life. He'd hunted squirrel and deer and possum, learning early how to slip through thick woods without making a sound, how to stalk game that had eyes and ears a lot better than his. The rustlers who had taken his cattle and hightailed it into Mexico had found out how good he was at tracking and at not being seen if he didn't want to be. If the gunman was in here, he'd find him, and the man wouldn't know he was anywhere around until it was too late.
There was no other vehicle parked on the pasture road. Once he'd established that, Webb hunkered down and listened to the sounds around him. Five minutes later, he knew that he was stalking the wind. No one was there. If he'd figured the trajectory correctly, then the shooter had taken another route off that high bank.
He stood up and walked back to his car. He looked at the demolished windshield, with those two small holes punched in it, and got seriously pissed off. Those had been good shots; either one or both of them could have killed him if the angle of fire had been corrected just a hair. He opened the door and leaned in, examining the seats. There was a ragged hole in the back of the driver's headrest, just about an inch from where his right ear had been. The bullet had had enough power, even after going through the windshield, to completely pierce the seat and make an exit hole in the back windshield. The second bullet had torn a hole in the back seat where it entered.
He picked up the cellular phone, flipped it open, and called Carl Beshears.
Carl drove out without lights or sirens, at Webb's request. He didn't even bring a deputy with him.
"Keep it quiet," Webb had said.
"The fewer people who know about this, the better."
Now Carl walked around the car, looking at every detail.