“Don’t hurt my daddy. Please, don’t hurt my daddy!” The child stared in horror as the terrified man raised his arm and plunged the knife into Paul Winslow’s chest. A pool of blood leached through the front of his white lab coat and dribbled toward the hem. Oblivious of the child, the white-faced assailant ran out of the office as Paul slid to the floor. The child screamed.
“Oh, Daddy, get up. Please get up.” She began to wail, the terror in her voice echoing throughout the house.
Flinging the bedroom door open, Lottie Winslow rushed to her child’s side as she sat in her bed, keening; her body swaying rhythmically side to side.
“Wake up, Linny. You’re dreaming. Wake up, Sweetheart. It’s all right.” She sat on the bed, cradling her child’s body in her arms. “Hush, now. It’s all right.”
Suddenly awake, four-year-old Caroline’s eyes widened. She pushed against her mother’s chest.“The man hurt Daddy.”
“No, Darling. It was just a dream.”
“I saw it, Mommy. I saw it. He hurt Daddy with a knife.” Tears welled in the child’s eyes and spilled down her cheeks.
“Ssh, Daddy’s fine. He’s getting ready to go to the clinic.”
“Are you, hic, sure?” Linny rubbed her eyes with her small fists.
“Yes, I’m sure. Go back to sleep; it’s very early.”
“No, I want to see Daddy.”
“All right. Come downstairs with me. I’m making breakfast.”
“Okay,” she said, still hiccupping.
Lottie helped Linny into her robe and held her hand as they left the bedroom. Her heart continued to race as they descended the stairs. Was this a nightmare, or did Linny have a vision? Oh, God. Let it be a nightmare, please. But, if it’s real– Oh God, no. It mustn’t be real. Wouldn’t I be the first to know? Shaking her head, Lottie swept it from her mind as if not thinking about it would cancel out the possibility.
* * *
He stepped out of the shower, toweled himself off and slipped into his khaki shorts. He poured a cup of black coffee, sat at the table and picked up The Bradenton Herald. The headline grabbed his attention. SLICK RACKS UP NUMBER 4.
AP Chicago -
Sherri Benson - Staff Writer
Mayor Daley demanded action from Chicago Police Chief, Arthur Bonnie; in the apprehension of the man the media has labeled, “Slick.” He seeks out wealthy widows, wines, dines and charms them, gains their trust then swindles them out of their bank accounts. Wanted from Santa Barbara to Chicago, the elusive kissing bandit has left a trail of broken hearts and bankrupt widows. His latest victim is the widow of a former Illinois congressman. Since the first report of his M.O. two other Illinois women have come forward. To protect their privacy, their names have not been released by the police, but insiders leaked the fact that one is the widow of another prominent politico.
Descriptions vary in every case. On one point the women all agree: he’s handsome, charming and fun—fun until they realize he’s bilked them of their life savings and vanished. “He’ll make a mistake. They always do,” Bonnie said.
“Don’t hold your breath, Bonnie,” he muttered. “I don’t make mistakes.” He had more important things on his mind as he flipped through the paper to the Obituaries, his eyes glinting with greed as he found the two-column obit. Pay dirt. He skimmed through the obit mentally circling, St. Armand’s Key, Benefactor—Patron—CEO as he searched for the most important words: “Survived by”- Bingo! “his beloved wife, Rosemary.” Maybe he’d be lucky and this one wouldn’t be too much of a dog.
* * *
Betty Le Breton glanced at the headline in the Paterson Evening News and skimmed through the feature story, shaking her head. “How can women be so foolish? Loneliness I suppose.” Betty knew firsthand about loneliness. Her beloved Alec had been gone four years. If it hadn’t been for Nora and Bridget Delaney coming into her life she might have been susceptible too.
She turned to the Local section and gasped at the photo she saw there. She dropped the newspaper on her lap and leaned her head against the back of the chair. Dick Monroe—dead. Another of her generation gone. Rosemary must be devastated. Betty raised herself from the chair. “I’ll have to go,” she said aloud. The small white Lhasa curled at her feet opened her eyes and whimpered.
“Go where, Betty? You need something from the store? I’ll go for you.” Nora Delaney, Betty’s housemate for the past four years, entered the living room, set her briefcase on the floor and unwound the plaid muffler from her neck. The young woman from Ireland and Betty Le Breton had formed a close bond since that time of mutual desperation four years ago. Betty had just lost her husband of thirty-five years and an abusive husband had abandoned Nora and left her with three-year-old Bridget, innumerable debts and nowhere to turn. Nora thanked God for leading her to the woman who’d taken her in, embraced her and her child. And Betty adored little Bridget. They’d gradually slipped into a comfortable family-like relationship.
“I guess I was thinking out loud. A good friend of mine—mine and Alec’s, died suddenly.”
“A close friend, cara?”
“We used to be close.” Betty sighed.
“And you’re planning to go?”
“They were there for me when Alec died.”
“Do they have a family?”
“Her son lives in Pennsylvania. He’s very ambitious and self-absorbed. She’s closer to her daughter, I think. Angela lives in Sarasota, but she works and has a family of her own. Problem is Rosemary has exhibited bizarre behavior and occasional memory lapses. Dick was very protective of her.”
“That’s sad. May I help you with reservations—flight—hotel?”
“Yes, please, dear. I’ll have to leave tomorrow to be there in time. And I should call Lottie.” The Grandfather clock struck three. “You’re home early, aren’t you?”
“Yes. Frank will be out all week. He said I could work at home while he’s gone.”
“Well, it’s good timing. I wondered what to do about Bridget and little Muffy.” The little dog wagged her tail at the sound of her name.
“How long will you stay, Betty?”
“Three days, I think.” As she headed toward the stairs the Lhasa rose and followed her.
* * *