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Dearly Departed

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Catherine Louise Moultry plopped her feet on the ottoman and picked up her wine glass. The television was playing softly, so as not to wake up her two grandchildren sleeping upstairs. Her daughter was staying on to visit with her great aunt after the funeral, and wouldn’t be in until tomorrow morning. Catherine was determined those two would sleep undisturbed or she’d know the reason why. At five and seven years old, those two little girls made Catherine feel every day of her fifty years and then some.

The wine was cold and slightly sweet, with just enough of a bite to keep it interesting. She keyed the remote, looking for something to watch that did not involve cartoon sponges or mindless comedies. She found a program on one of the documentary channels that interested her, and sat back awaiting elucidation.

The funeral was yesterday. Her daughter and son had driven north to lay their father to rest. As far as Catherine was concerned, it wasn’t soon enough. She had been married for over twenty years when he had tried to kill her. His mental faculties had been on the wane for quite some time, and one day he simply snapped, with neither rhyme nor reason. His failing acuity was sufficient to have him committed for two weeks. While he was in the care of the county, Catherine had filed for divorce. Two months later, the judge had declared them divorced. She never saw him again.

Catherine didn’t hate her ex. In reality, she felt sorry for him. But she knew she had to protect herself, and divorce was the only way. His siblings had immediately stepped in and took him home with them, calling Catherine “heartless”, along with several other, choicer epithets. The family’s vilification lasted only a few days, until her ex had put his hands on his sister’s teenaged daughter. Suddenly, they arranged for him to go into a nursing home.

Their children corresponded with their father, and spoke to him occasionally on the phone, but he had been so abusive to them when they were home, the kids had little desire to initiate communications on their own. The grandchildren didn’t even know him.

Catherine was started to nod. She caught herself, and jerked awake just before she dropped her glass. She took the last swallow then carried the glass to the kitchen. She put the glass in the sink, returned to the living room and turned the television off. She headed to the stairs and switched off the downstairs light. Her right foot was on the fifth step when she heard the front door rattle.

She paused in mid-step, her bare foot poised above the riser. Who the hell could that be at this ungodly hour of the night? She looked back downstairs. Her purse was on the hall table. Inside was the .38 Smith & Wesson she had bought when she first filed for divorce and she had learned that her husband was trying to walk away from the home to get at her. It only took a short time for her to qualify and get her carry permit. With the rash of home invasions, she had gotten in the habit of carrying the weapon.

The doorknob rattled again. Catherine dashed for her purse and the gun inside. She didn’t know who it was, but she wasn’t about to have whoever it was inside her house. Particularly with her two grandchildren upstairs.

The gun, for all the company’s claim that it was a “ladies” piece, felt heavy in her hand. She checked the load, released the safety, and held it pointed down at the floor. Just in case her nocturnal visitor was just a neighborhood kid coming home late from a party, the last thing she wanted was to shoot an innocent person.

Catherine stood to the side of the door. “Who’s there?” She spoke firmly, trying not to let the fear that gripped her show in her voice.

The intruder rattled the doorknob again. Stronger this time. “Weezy. Let me in.”

Weezy? Only one person ever called her that. Only one person knew how badly she despised that bastardization of her middle name, and he used it every chance he got, as if it was an endearment. Catherine knew better.

She knew too that it could not possibly be James at that door. She had talked to her daughter just a few hours ago. He was well and truly dead and in the ground and three counties away.

“Weezy!. You open this door. Now!” The door shook harder, the knob twisting and vibrating as something slammed into the oaken panel.

Catherine’s first thought was to fire one single round, right through the door. She tamped down the urge, just in case her visitor was some idiot with a peculiar sense of humor. Besides, it couldn’t be James. It couldn’t.

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