Tuesday, January 1, 2013
Chapter Thirty Seven
The morning after Julianna's encounter with Yolanda, she woke up feeling the effects of a fitful night.
“You didn't sleep well, did you, Julianna?” Rick asked.
“I'm sorry if I disturbed you dear. No, I didn't sleep well, I couldn't stop thinking of Yolanda and what she said yesterday. Her story seems a bit farfetched, but I can't imagine what she wants from me.”
“You didn't disturb me, Yolanda was on my mind too. I'm wondering if we should talk to Jack Crowley this morning. He knows investigators that could check into her story. I know you always wondered about your birth family.”
“You are my family, Rick. You and the girls. I accepted, years ago, that I would never know where I came from. If Yolanda is my sister, I get the feeling her life hasn't been easy. I was so surprised at her visit yesterday I never asked her about herself. I told her I'd stop by the hotel this morning. I'll invite her to have a cup of coffee with me, but first, I think it's a good idea to visit with Jack. I'll call his office to see if he has some time to see us.”
“Julianna, good morning.” said an apprehensive Jack Crowley. “I hope all is well with you and the family.” It wasn't like Julianna to call him at his office.
She explained that she was calling regarding her visitor yesterday. “She could be my sister, Jack. I just get an odd feeling about the whole thing. Why, after all these years, would she seek me out? Rick suggested you may know of someone who could check into her story.”
“Why don't you and Jack stop by my office. I have some ideas on how we can verify the story. I'll let Mary know I want to see you as soon as you get here.”
“Thanks, Jack. We will be there shortly.”
They arrived at the law office where Jack was waiting for them. “I called Tracy. She has no more information about Yolanda Colby than she was given by you last night. She did mention that the woman requested her suite be exchanged for a cabin. She mentioned she liked the sound of the water. Tracy thought that was odd, but she admitted she has had a number of odd requests through the years.”
“I told Yolanda I would meet her this morning. Do you think I should tell her I'm busy and can't make it?” said Julianna.
“No, go ahead with your plans. Eat at the hotel though and don't offer to drive her anywhere. She will probably hint at what it is she wants from you. It could be she is really your sister and wants nothing from you but friendship. Rick, if you have a few minutes, I'm going to ask Ben to send over a sketch artist. Do you think you could describe the woman to him?”
“Yes, she resembled Julianna, but in a hardened way.”
Julianna left the men, assuring them she would not take any unnecessary chances.
She met Holly in the lobby. “Hi Julianna, Tracy said you were concerned about our guest in cabin one. Would you like Troy to walk down there with you?”
“Oh, I will be fine. I'm sure nothing will happen in the broad daylight. Yolanda and I will be back for breakfast. I think I'll find out soon if she is genuine or just after my millions,” she laughed. As Julianna walked through the lobby, once again she was drawn to the photo of the Bloom sisters. There was definitely fear in their faces. I'm being ridiculous Julianna thought to herself. My imagination is getting the better of me. She ignored her instincts and walked out the door to the cabin on the far right of the resort.
She knocked on the door. “Yolanda, it's Julianna. Are you hungry for breakfast?” Before she could finish the sentence, she felt herself being pulled into the room. Her mouth was being taped shut and her wrists were bound tightly. She heard Yolanda's voice saying “Don't hurt her Vinny.” She was blindfolded and taken out the back door of the cabin and practically dragged up the side of the hill. She was pushed none too gently into what she guessed was the bed of a truck. Julianna was in shock. She felt her ankles being taped together. She felt as though she was going to pass out but knew she had to keep herself together as much as she could. She feared this person was going to kill her. She heard a man shout at a woman to get in the truck. She could only assume the woman was Yolanda. She could hear whimpering as the door opened and closed. The engine started and the truck took off down a bumpy road. She could hear the sea gulls and knew they weren't too far from the lake. She wondered if they were going to throw her in the water. She had never gotten over her fear of drowning. She recalled the day she met Rick. He saved her from certain death after she had slipped into the water from the pier while she was photographing the scenery.
The truck stopped. She was dragged out of the it and the tape was torn from her ankles. She didn't feel a thing. She was numb with fear.
“Walk!” the gruff voice said as he dragged her by the arm. She could feel sand under her feet. She prayed death would come quickly. She prayed for Rick and the girls and her precious grandchildren. She remembered she had a date with Erin that afternoon to see a movie. She and Lacey were going shopping for a birthday gift for Sammy's birthday party on Saturday. She and Rick had planned a quiet evening to celebrate the completion of his first novel. Now she would never see it in print. Julianna wanted to cry but the tears wouldn't come.
“Vinny, you're hurting her,” she heard Yolanda's voice pleading with her captor.
“Shut up!” he screamed and Julianna heard a slap as Yolanda cried out in pain.
She was pushed into what she thought was a row boat. The seats were hard. She felt her ankles being taped again. She could tell the boat was floating in the water. I can't panic, she told herself.
After her near drowning experience, Julianna had learned to swim. Rick loved boating and she went with him often. She was fine on the water as long as she was wearing a life preserver. She prided herself on overcoming her fear but, at this moment in time, she realized the fear was still with her.
Meanwhile, in Jack's office, his phone rang.
“Hello, Tracy,” he said as he picked up the phone.
Tracy could barely get the words out. “She's gone, Jack. Julianna isn't anywhere to be found and neither is Yolanda. The back door to the cabin is wide open. Julianna's purse is on the front porch. Jack, something terrible has happened to her.”
“We'll be right there! Rick, Julianna is missing. Mary call Ben Murphy and have him meet us at The Merryweather.” Jack told Rick all he knew, which wasn't much.
“Why did I let her go there today. I knew something was not right about that woman.” Rick tried calling Julianna's cell phone. After a few rings, it went directly to voice mail.
As they pulled into the parking lot, Rick spotted Julianna's car parked there. He bolted from Jack's car. He could hear a siren in the distance.
“Looks like they have discovered your cousin is missing,” Vinny said with a smirk. “It's almost time to make our demands known. Get up and follow me, stop that sniveling, Yolanda. You are going to ruin everything.” He pulled on the rope that was tied to the rowboat. “Let's get her in position.”
Vinny dragged the rope behind him as he crossed over the inlet to a small island where he would not be seen from the resort. He didn't want to be anywhere near that place but thanks to Yolanda, he had to use this lake instead of the one twenty miles down the road. He'd planned to hide outside the Marino house and grab Julianna from there. Instead the whole resort would witness his brilliance. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad. While they fished their precious Julianna's body out of the lake, he would be on his way $500,000 richer. Nothing could go wrong. While he was at it, he'd get rid of Yolanda too. Ma always said she was worthless.
Vinny heard Julianna's phone ring, but ignored it until he was just where he wanted to be. He pressed the button that would connect him to Rick.
Rick answered on the first ring. “Julianna?” he said with some relief.
“Guess again, sport,” Vinny laughed into the phone. “Take a look in the lake.”
Rick and most of those watching saw a boat floating in the middle of the lake. It was obvious someone was sitting in it. A birdwatcher with binoculars was walking by.
“It's a woman,” he cried. “It looks like she is gagged.”
He handed his binoculars to Rick. “It's Julianna!” he cried. “She is blindfolded too, hang in there sweetheart. What do you want from me?” he said into his phone.
“How much is the little lady worth to you? I was thinking a half million should do it.”
“I don't have that kind of money.”
Vinny pulled on the rope and the boat started rocking back and forth. “Look at all the people there, I'm sure you can get it.” He ended the call.
“Hah! Those rich folks will be able to get my money in no time. I want you to pick it up, Yolanda. They don't need to see my face. They'll never know it was me and I'll be on my way.”
Without me, Yolanda thought to herself. He's going to leave me here to answer for the crime. I'm such a fool. I didn't want to do this in the first place and now I'm sure he is planning to kill Julianna and probably me too.
She watched as he yanked on the rope making it rock the boat back and forth. Julianna was having a hard time keeping upright. She could feel water under her feet. She was trying her best not to pass out. If she did, she would probably go overboard. She had to stay alert, if she was ever going to see her family again she had to be strong.
“Vinny, stop rocking the boat, you are torturing Julianna.”
“Yeah, and it's fun.”
Yolanda started to walk away from her brother when she spotted a two by four lying on the ground. Without thinking, she picked it up, casually walked up behind her brother and with all her might, struck Vinny on the back of his head. He turned slightly with venom in his eyes. She hit him again and he fell backward into the shallow water causing it to slowly turn pink with Vinny's blood.
Yolanda picked the phone up off the ground and hit redial.
“Don't hurt my wife. We are getting your money now.”
“Rick, this is Yolanda. Vinny is dead. I'm going to start pulling the boat in to shore. Please come.”
They could see the direction the rowboat was moving. Rick jumped into the first boat he could find. Someone threw him the keys. In just a few minutes, he was next to Julianna. He gently took her blindfold off. She squinted and thought she was dreaming. He loosened the tape on her mouth.
“We've got to stop meeting like this,” she said as he lifted her out of the rowboat and into his arms.
Ben caught up with Yolanda. She didn't fight when he put the cuffs on her. Vinny was still breathing and he called an ambulance to pick him up and cart him off to the hospital.
Rick insisted Julianna go to the hospital to be checked. She agreed only because she was too tired to argue. The doctor examined her and warned she would be bruised for awhile, but she had come through the ordeal without any permanent damage.
She went to see Yolanda at the police station. Yolanda told her the true story of her family. “Your mother and father loved you, Julianna. My mother's resentment of the bond the three of you had was very obvious. I am so very sorry for my part in this. I foolishly thought Vinny was just looking for a few dollars, not the exorbitant amount he asked Rick for. I'm so ashamed. I deserve to be sent to jail for a very long time.”
“Yolanda, you do know that Vinny is alive, don't you? He has a head injury, but he is expected to live.”
“Yes, Mr. Crowley told me. The doctor thinks Vinny will need to be sent to a mental hospital. I'm glad I'm in here. When Ma finds out she will be ready to kill me. Vinny was her pride and joy.”
Julianna gave Yolanda a hug. “I'm grateful to you for saving my life, even though we aren't sisters, we are cousins. We don't know each other well, but you are family. I'm hoping we can be friends one day.”
“After all I have done, you want to be friends? I've never had a friend in my life,” Yolanda said with tears running down her cheeks.
After her visit with Yolanda, Julianna went to see Ben Murphy. “Ben I don't want to press charges against Yolanda Colby.”
“Julianna!” he said startled. “The woman kidnapped you. You could have been killed.”
“I don't think she had anything to do with the kidnapping. She was never told the plan and was led to believe they were only going to try to make me pay for information about my family. She has been intimidated by her half brother all her life. I heard her beg him not to hurt me. I'm the one who was left at the doorstep of an orphanage, but she is the one that had the horrible life. I think she has suffered enough. She saved my life in the end. I am convinced Vinny was just waiting to get his hands on the money until he let me drown in the lake,” Julianna shivered when she thought about her ordeal.
“I'll talk to the district attorney. I'm not sure what he will say. If you aren't going to be a cooperative witness, I don't think he will be able to prove a case against Yolanda. From what I've seen, she isn't a violent or dangerous person. She is lucky to have you on her side, Julianna.”
Yolanda was required to stay in Camden Corners while waiting for her brother to regain consciousness. During that time, Julianna, invited her to stay with Rick and her. Rick approved of the arrangement. Julianna and Yolanda became friends. Yolanda commented on how pretty Julianna's hair was. That very afternoon, Julianna made an appointment with the most popular hair stylist in the village. She toned down the color of Yolanda's red hair, trimmed and styled it and helped her with her make up. Julianna took her to some of her favorite clothing stores in Camden Corners and Greensboro. After the transformation, everyone agreed, Yolanda and Julianna looked more like twins than cousins.
It was determined Vinny would not be mentally able to stand trial for his crimes. Arrangements were made for him to be transported back to California where he would be spending the remainder of his days in a mental facility. Yolanda tearfully said goodbye to Julianna and traveled with him and his attendant to his new home. For the first time since Vinny was a toddler, Yolanda felt safe with him. The whack on the head she had given him had mellowed him. He was no longer filled with anger. He thrived in his new life and was perfectly content to live in the mental facility where he had been placed.
Much to Yolanda's relief, Gladys was accepting of her son's fate. She had been diagnosed with lung cancer while her children were in Camden Corners and was trying to mend her ways before she met her maker.
Yolanda applied for and was hired as a cashier for a local bakery. Elroy Poulson, a widowed clockmaker who had a shop two doors down from the bakery, took a liking to the donuts sold in the bakery and to their new cashier. He got into the habit of visiting the shop during his coffee break every morning. He finally worked up the nerve to ask Yolanda if she would like to see a movie or have dinner with him one evening.
“I would love to Elroy,” she said.
They were married three months later.
“Elroy, I am going to visit my mother this morning. She didn't look well the last time I saw her. I'm afraid the end is near.”
“Would you like me to go with you, dear?” he said with compassion Yolanda wasn't accustomed to hearing.
“No, you are busy at the shop. I won't stay long. She sleeps most of the time these days.”
Yolanda was greeted at the door by the Hospice nurse. “Your mother has been asking for you Mrs. Poulson, she will be very happy to see you.”
Yolanda walked into the room. The shades were pulled. Her mother looked so helpless and sick. In spite of the way she was treated by the woman all her life, Yolanda still loved her mother.
“Yolanda, I'm glad you are here. You must find the box,” she said desperately.
“What box is that, Mother?” she asked wondering if she was so doped up on medication she didn't know what she was saying.
“In my closet..under floor..get it..hurry,” she was obviously struggling to get the words out.
Yolanda had always done exactly what her mother ordered her to and now was no exception. She opened the closet door. She felt around the floor and did notice a break in the floorboards. She was able to lift up a panel and hidden in there was a large box. She pulled it out of its hiding place and brought it to her mother's bedside.
“Is this what you wanted, Mother?”
“Yes, open it..read your father's letters..give other to Julianna..” She closed her eyes and was asleep again.
Yolanda opened the box. On the top were a stack of letters with a red ribbon wrapped around them. She took one out of the envelope. My Dear Yolanda, it started, she looked at the signature, it was signed, Father. Her hands were shaking as she carried the box to the living room where the light was bright. The first letter was written on the day she was born. She read one letter after another. Everyone of them professed his love for his daughter. My father loved me. She said aloud, he really did love me. The girl who had always felt as though no one could ever love her was finding out she was loveable after all. Her father loved her, her husband loved her, Julianna loved her and even Vinny loved her now in his own special way. She looked deeper into the box and discovered a photo album containing pictures of a man and woman. It looked like their courtship, their marriage and then photos of them with a baby. The name 'Julianna' was hand written across the top of the page. Picture after picture of a happy baby and a happy family. The photos ended abruptly. Just below the album was a journal. Yolanda read the first few pages. A young woman named Rosemary was telling her diary about meeting Henry Colby and falling in love. She skimmed through the pages. It told the story of the Colby's life together including the birth of their baby daughter, Julianna. The journal entries ended abruptly too.
Yolanda carried the box with her. She walked back into her mother's bedroom. “Mother, thank you for letting me know about these. I do love you, I want you to know that even though you don't feel the same way.”
She heard a faint voice say. “I do love you, Yolanda.” She closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep again.
Yolanda never saw her mother alive again. She rushed home to pack up the album and journal and sent it off to Camden Corners the fastest way possible. She picked up the phone to call Julianna.
“Julianna, I have shipped something to you today. It should be arriving tomorrow. My mother wanted you to have them. They will make you happy but I want you to be surprised.”
“What a strange call, I've never heard Yolanda sound so excited. She said her mother wanted me to have something and she is sending it to me. I can't imagine what good old Gladys would want me to have.”
As promised, the package from Yolanda arrived the next morning. Juliana opened the large box. Rick came running from his study when he heard Julianna cry out. He found her sitting on the floor of the hallway looking through pages of a photo album and crying softly.
“It's my mother and father,” she said through her tears. “These are pictures of my mother and father and me when I was a baby. Oh Rick, look at them. They are so happy and look how much they loved me. I can see it in their faces. There is a journal here too but I can't read it with all these tears. I can't believe Gladys had these things all these years. I guess I should be furious, but I'm so grateful to have them now.”
Rick was fighting the urge to cry himself. He could barely speak without his voice cracking. “I always knew you had been well loved if only for a short time. You were born into a loving family and it shows in everything you do. I'm calling the girls to join us.”
They all sat on the floor looking at the photos together, laughing together, crying together and being happy that Julianna came from a family who loved her is much as everyone else did.