As the dirt hit the casket the sound it made echoed through the cemetery and caused Savannah to flinch. The sound was so final but then so was death. Savannah’s heart was breaking as she listened to the thud of the earth hitting the wood of her aunt’s final resting place. She glanced at the temporary headstone marker. Tears rolled down her cheeks when she read the name on the marker, Donna Marie Kelley.
A voice inside her head screamed at her that the name on the headstone was wrong. It should have read Donna Marie Weston, not Kelley. Donna had been the one person in her young life that protected her after her parents died. She was the one who held Savannah when she was sick or the nightmares got the best of her. Donna had been there to make her laugh and kept her safe all these years. It made Savannah sad that when her aunt needed her the most she wasn’t there for her.
Donna had died four days ago in a car accident. Her car plunged off the road and down into a ravine. The paramedics said she might have lived if help had arrived right after the accident, but Donna wasn’t found for until the next day. She had been all alone and in pain when death came to call.
Tears slid down her cheeks as she thought of how long Donna had suffered. The medical examiner’s report told her that Donna suffered two broken legs and a fractured rib. The rib punctured her lung and eventually her abdomen filled with blood. The coroner had determined she bled to death internally. The police were looking into the accident but she knew there was nothing they could do. There wasn’t anything anyone could do. Donna was gone and now she was alone in the world.
Savannah thought back on her life. They had lived in twelve different cities over the years but when they moved to Seattle Savannah put her foot down and refused to move again. She had been sick of not staying in one place long enough to make friends. She remembered the look on Donna’s face when she refused to move again. Donna seemed scared about something but she would never tell Savannah what frightened her. It had taken Donna a few days to come to terms with not moving again but she had. Savannah was old enough to know they had been running for a long time but when she asked Donna who or what they had been running from Donna wouldn’t tell her. She had made Savannah promise to keep their secret and Savannah would have been willing to promise her the moon at the time.
Savannah glanced at the headstone again. She knew Donna wouldn’t want her real name on her final resting place but she was tempted to put it there. Savannah
George wasn’t her real name either. She had been born Georgia Michelle Corbin, but she hadn’t been called Georgia for a long, long time, almost a life time, her lifetime.
Savannah looked around the cemetery. Green Haven cemetery was located on a slope overlooking Puget Sound, in Seattle, Washington. Donna had brought her here to Seattle seven years ago. Back then Seattle had been just another town. Savannah’s eyes looked past the town to the edge of the water and the gentle lapping sound she could almost hear calmed her. It was one of the things about Seattle she loved. Whenever Savannah got scared or lonely she would go down to the edge of the Sound and gaze out over the sea. The smell of the water and the gentle lapping sound was Savannah’s escape. All of her fears melted away by the sound of the sea.
Glancing toward the sky, Savannah could see the dark gray clouds. It looked as dreary outside as she felt inside. Donna’s death had been the result of a car accident and Savannah hadn’t had time to think about her future yet.
Savannah had turned her head to watch the Sound when she felt someone walk up behind her. Turning her head she saw a man she didn’t know standing there. He was tall and blonde with a full beard. His dark grey eyes were somber as he glanced at the grave in front of him. He turned to look at Savannah before he told her, “Hello, my name is Jack Russell. I’m sorry to disturb you at a time like this but I was your aunt’s attorney.”
Savannah grimaced. She stared at the older, well-dressed man standing in front of her and couldn’t help but wonder why Donna felt the need for an attorney. “I wasn’t aware she had an attorney.” She finally said.
Jack tilted his head. “I haven’t had contact with her for a number of years but she first came to see me nine years ago. She told me she had just moved to Seattle and she wanted me to keep something for her. She gave me this package to give to you upon her death.”
Savannah accepted the package from him and glanced at it. She raised her eyes back to Jack’s face. “Did she tell you what was in this package?”
Jack stared at her for a moment. “She told me to tell you, you would find the answers to all the questions you wanted to know growing up in there. She said you would find out why she had to keep you safe and a mystery only you could solve.” He hesitated and then said, “I didn’t know your aunt very well but I’m sorry she died.”
Savannah watched as he turned and walked away. The package she held was heavy and her curiosity was getting the better of her. She caught her breath as she glanced at the package and saw Donna’s handwriting on the outside. She had written her name on the package.
Savannah felt someone else coming toward her and she looked up to see Seattle policemen Tony Galen and Rick Craig walking toward her. She had spoken to Tony and Rick shortly after her aunt died. They were the policemen that came to tell her about her aunt’s death. They had both been kind to her at the time and she couldn’t help but wonder why they were here now.
“Miss George, I’m sorry to disturb you at your aunt’s funeral,” Tony told her. He was the taller of the two. He was slim and dressed in a blazer and jeans. His red shirt stood out against the blue of his blazer and Savannah could see his badge clipped to his belt. “But I think you have the right to know.”
“Know what?” Savannah asked.
“The accident that took your aunt’s life may not have been an accident at all.” Rick blurted out. He was the more volatile of the two officers but they worked well together.
“What?” Savannah was stunned by the news. An accident she could handle but now they were telling her there might have been something more to it. “What do you mean?”
Tony glared at Rick for a moment then turned to Savannah. “We dragged her car out of the ravine two days ago and our mechanic found several things that could have been tampered with. If that’s the case we could be looking at murder not accidental death. We need a few more days to determine the real reason behind your aunt’s death.”
“Do you have any idea who might want to hurt your aunt?” Rick asked.
Savannah thought for a moment then shook her head. “We didn’t get to know anyone well enough for that. My aunt was a very private person and she didn’t socialize much. She was content to stay home.”
Tony reached into his jacket pocket and brought out a business card. Handing it to Savannah he told her, “If you can think of anything you think we might need to know, please call us.”
Savannah glanced at the business card in her hand and watched as they walked away. This was turning out to be a strange and unsettling day. She tucked the card down along the side of the package she’d gotten from Jack Russell. She was about to walk down the hill to her car when she saw him. He was leaning against a tree not too far from where she stood.
She was sure she didn’t know him yet he seemed very familiar to her. She tilted her head and studied him for a moment. Bits and pieces from her past flashed through her mind as she tried to place him but it wasn’t until he smiled she remembered where she’d seen him before. A few years ago when she was coming home from school she’d seen him leaving her aunt’s house.
His smile was as warm then as it was now. He pushed away from the tree and began walking toward her.
Savannah waited until he reached her to hold out her hand. When he took her hand in his she had to say, “I don’t think we’ve met before but I’ve seen you somewhere.”
He smiled. “I’ve known you most of your life. I was a friend of your aunt’s.” He shifted his gaze to the disturbed ground of Donna’s grave. “I’m sorry I didn’t get here in time. I only arrived this morning. When I read the paper I found her obituary. I had to come, at least to say good bye.
Savannah smiled. “I remember you. I’d see you leaving as I was coming home. I asked her about you but she wouldn’t tell me who you were.”
He smiled. “I’m sorry, my name is Charlie Manning.”
Savannah shook his hand. “I’m Savannah George.”
Charlie glanced away for a moment then looked back at her. “If Donna didn’t tell you who I was then she wouldn’t have told you what I am.”
“Excuse me?” Savannah said. “I don’t understand. What should she have told me about you?” Savannah was intrigued now. She was finding her aunt had kept a number of secrets over the years.
Charlie leaned back on his heels. “You may not remember me but I’m a cop from Chicago. We met once when you were three years old.”
Savannah felt a chill run down her spine. She lived in the Chicago area with her parents until she was three years old. Taking a deep breath, she said, “I think we should talk, but not here. Let’s go back to my aunt’s house. I have some questions for you. I think it’s time for me to know the truth.”
Charlie stepped back and allowed her to lead the way down the hill. He got into his car and followed her back to Donna’s house. The drive only took minutes but seemed longer.
When Savannah reach out her hand to shut the car off she looked at the home she’d known for the seven years. She’d been fifteen years old when they moved to Seattle. After moving around since she was three Savannah was tired of not staying in one place very long. She hadn’t understood the fear that drove Donna from place to place. Donna said it was to keep her safe but when Savannah asked her who she was in danger from Donna wouldn’t tell her.
Savannah glanced at the package sitting on the passenger seat. Whatever her past was maybe the answers she’d sought all these years would finally be revealed. She glanced in her rear view mirror as Charlie Manning pulled in the space behind her.
Maybe with his help she would finally understand what happened that was so bad Donna had taken her and run twenty two years ago.
Grabbing the package she opened her door and walked to the front door. Once they were inside Savannah made a pot of coffee. A few minutes later she sat down at the kitchen table and looked at Charlie.
“Ok mister policeman from Chicago, tell me what happened twenty two years ago that caused my aunt to take me and run.” Savannah asked.
Charlie studied her for a moment then decided to tell her the truth. Since there was no easy way to say what had to be said he used the shock approach. “How about the fact that at three years old, you might have been the only witness to the brutal double murders of your parents?”