Jessa Meets Her Match
Chapter 13: All In For Cathers
Both Brent and Nick were gone when I got up the next day. After relieving myself, brushing my hair and teeth, and splashing the sleep from my eyes, I made my way out to the kitchen. Catherine was there, a cup of coffee and a donut in front of her on the bar-height counter that separated the kitchen from the dining room.
“Look at you!” I exclaimed in delight. “Already on your second cup?”
“Third,” she quipped. “Kim is taking care of me. Extremely nice of her, right?”
“Right! But the donuts?”
“Nick brought them,” Kim said, walking in from her adjoining office. Unlike Catherine and I, she was fully dressed.
She poured me a cup, setting it down on the counter so I could take the stool next to Catherine. She then offered me cream and sugar.
“I’m good,” I said, also refusing to take a donut when she extended the box toward me. “Alright, just one,” I said, changing my mind. “Unlike someone I know, I need to watch my weight.”
I was delighted that Kim had served Catherine while I was still in bed. Everyone else seemed to ignore her. I knew that they couldn’t see her, but neither could Kim. It was a subtle gesture, but the message was clear. Not only was Kim acknowledging Catherine, but she was letting her know that she was welcome in their home.
“I’ve got a busy day ahead of me. So many irons in the fire,” she said, wandering back in the direction of her home office. “But let me know if you ladies need anything.”
As it was already getting warm, Catherine and I went out onto the back deck, taking our coffee and donuts with us. The morning sun felt truly luxurious on my bare skin. Nudity certainly did have its advantages.
A couple of hours later, Kim fixed the three of us a light lunch and brought it out on a tray. “I don’t think we’ll ever succeed at getting Brent to give Nick a blowjob, but I sure loved watching him squirm,” she said as she transferred the plates onto the table.
I laughed that she was still thinking about that. “Turnabout’s fair play, right?”
“Have you really done that?” she asked. “Actually gotten a guy to do that?”
“Not saying,” I replied, not wanting to encourage her. It didn’t seem like a good direction for their relationship. I’d seen the look on Brent’s face.
“You two are evil,” Catherine remarked. “Back in the day, that never even occurred to us … trying to get guys to do such things.”
“What did Catherine say?” Kim asked, noticing that I’d been listening to her speak.
“That we’re evil.”
“Yeah, maybe. But it’ll never happen,” Kim said. She looked wistfully sad.
After lunch, Catherine and I ended up lounging on air mattresses in a wide part of the stream. It seemed like quite the life. I imagined myself spending day after day there, never once putting on a single article of clothing, and yet I sensed that we were living on borrowed time. I knew to savor every moment with Cathers. It wouldn’t always be summer and she wouldn’t always be there. I tried to keep those thoughts buried deep in the recesses of my mind.
Late that afternoon, Kim wanted to talk. Cathers and I were again on the back deck which was by then, fortunately, in the shade. “I’ve made a lot of calls and I’ve got so many ideas,” she started off. “Bottom line. You and I. I want to team up. I know you’re thinking about changing your name, entering a witness protection program … to disappear off the face of the earth.”
“Yep,” I replied. “This kind of notoriety. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.”
“But it’s such an opportunity.”
“Not for me.”
“Just hear me out.”
“Okay, listening.” We were sipping iced tea that Kim had made. She was quite attentive when it came to keeping us all hydrated.
“I spoke to a Mr. Alfred Winters. He happens to be the grandson of Augustus Winters, the man who invented the candy necklace. Well, Alfred now owns and operates Winters Candy Company. They make the necklaces and ship them worldwide. There are companies producing knockoffs, but his company makes and markets the original.
“In the last couple of days, they’ve been inundated with orders. They were running just a couple of shifts a week making the necklaces, so they had lots of excess capacity. Not now. Suddenly, they’re cranking them out 24/7 … full overtime … hiring like crazy … busing in temporaries. In short, they are doing everything they can to ramp up production to levels they thought they’d never see.
I shrugged. “Good for them. They’ll have to send me a commission check,” I added with a laugh.
“Yep, they owe it all to you. Or you and Catherine. But Mr. Winters, he’s worried. He’s sure it will run its course in a matter of weeks.”
“It probably will. Actually, I hope it does. I want this all to be forgotten.”
“Maybe you do, but I sense an opportunity. I want to put some very deserving kids through college. Sadly, there are thousands of these kids across the country. I so badly want to help them. The children of fallen law enforcement officers. You’ve met a few, little Ollie and his big sister, Madeline.”
“And the redhead, Allie,” I said to save her the effort.
She nodded. “So, you and I … let’s team up! Let’s put some kids through college. I know you believe in higher education.”
“I do,” I said, trying to figure out what she had in mind.
“Okay. I still have no idea exactly how this works, but our fundraising efforts have been falling short, drastically short. And it’s gotten worse. The police are currently out of favor … it’s like we’ve become the bad guys. Donations have been trending down … it started years ago. I offered Mr. Winters the candy necklace, the one that you were wearing during the raid. Offered it to him for $50,000 dollars. You know what he said?”
“He said he wanted to pay $100,000. He wants to buy it and then donate it to the National Law Enforcement Museum in Washington, D.C.”
“He does? Why?”
“He wants the headline. He says, all I have to do is to get the museum to agree to put it on display, permanent display. Again, he’s worried this will all blow over. He wants his candy necklace to become indelibly associated with helping the children of fallen police officers.”
“Good for him,” I said. I knew there was likely a tax write-off in it for him, but even so, it was admirable, certainly a noble cause. “What he needs to do, in addition to that, is to give your charity a percentage of future revenue.”
“He’s willing to do that. We talked about Winters Candy being an ongoing sponsor. He wants to print that on every wrapper … that a portion of the proceeds goes to Heroes Everlasting … for the children of fallen law enforcement officers. And he’s willing to include our website. For donations.”
“Perfect. Sounds like you’ve got it all worked out.”
“Only, you’re the key to it all, Jessa.”
“Here’s the first piece of the puzzle,” she said, spinning her laptop around on the table. “Mr. Winters had his marketing department whip this up. It’s a proposal for a page on our website, the Heroes Everlasting website.”
I leaned forward to study what was on her screen. There was an image of me. Fortunately, it wasn’t a nude photo. It was one of those in which I was wearing Nick’s blue police officer’s shirt. It was tastefully done; my bare legs were cropped out of the shot. My collar was wide open, the candy necklace glowing brightly on my neck.
Kim walked me through the options visible on the page. She said the prices hadn’t been finalized, but that for $15 someone could order a single necklace.
“That’s a lot,” I told her. The pack I’d bought worked out to little more than fifty-cents each.
“It is,” she agreed, “…but it’s a donation. It comes with a certificate of authenticity.”
Kim went on to describe the ‘certificate.’ It would include an image of me, likely the one shown on the mocked-up webpage. There would be a quote – something that they wanted me to say. As well as a little blurb thanking the purchaser for helping the children of fallen officers.
She showed me other options. For a $75 donation, the person would receive a deluxe certificate plus a box of 40 necklaces. And then – at the top – the person could order the special edition, a framed and numbered version. That option was tentatively listed at $250. Inside the frame, would be a single special-edition candy necklace as well as a hand-signed certificate. “So similar to the deluxe certificate,” she said, “…only with an actual signature, your signature, in place of what will be printed on the mass-produced versions.”
“Hold on a second, Kim. You do recall that I was naked. Why would a reputable charity want to be associated with that … with what I did?”
“Pardon me, Jessa, but you’re a national hero! Famous for capturing a serial killer that preyed upon young women. If that doesn’t dovetail nicely with helping young people go to college, then I don’t know what does. You happened to be naked at the time … certainly unusual. But in a way, that’s what makes it perfect. Focus on all the free publicity for a moment! That’s the opportunity I’m talking about. We piggyback our message onto what is already being broadcast. And from there, farther down the road, the Winters Candy Company helps drive people to our site.”
“But the nudity?” I reminded her.
She shrugged. “You’re already selling candy necklaces … tons of them. If we can translate that into donations, I’m good with it. Unconventional, maybe, but money is money … especially if it is for a good cause.”
I wrinkled up my nose, trying to decide if what she was saying made sense. Kim continued by reverting to speaking about the certificates for the $250 option.
“So, actually signed by me?” I asked.
“That’s what we’re thinking. And why not? It currently costs about $25,000 for a year of college … varies widely, but on average. So every hundred of these that are sold, equals a year of college. Could you sign your name a hundred times if it meant that a deserving kid could study at the college of his or her choosing for a year?”
“I’ll get writer’s cramp,” I said, half-jokingly.
“God, I hope you do!”
“Nice of you,” I quipped.
“The original necklace … if Mr. Winters pays $100,000 for it. That’s four years of college. In other words, a college education for one deserving young person. Do you know how hard we have to work … normally … to raise just $1000?”
“So, if I say ‘yes’ what do we do?”
“Well, I already have a draft of an agreement for you to read and hopefully sign. We can make changes, but time is of the essence. Mr. Winters is likely right. This will probably run its course quickly if we don’t get after it. I already have my former Captain calling the Law Enforcement Museum. Their buy-in is important. And Brent, bless his heart, has agreed to print the certificates … no charge. But his company name will appear in small print along the bottom edge. He wants to be associated with this as well. And the Winters Candy Company, they’ll process the orders and handle fulfillment.”
“So that’s it? I just sign the certificates, but only the super deluxe ones?”
“First, read the agreement. Basically, you are lending your name, your celebrity status, to a good cause. That’s what it comes down to. And yes, you’ll have to sign the certificates, but I expect that can be compensated. It might end up being a little time consuming. Fingers crossed.”
Kim was very businesslike. But I could also tell how excited she was. The mission of her charity, Heroes Everlasting, was one that she was wholeheartedly committed to.
“I don’t know, Kim. I want to, but I also want my life back. It’s my sense that my life can’t be as it was. But somehow, there’s a normal existence for me out there … somewhere.”
“Weren’t you just yesterday telling me how good it felt to play a pivotal role in something entirely selfless … something for the public good?”
“I suppose I did.”
“You told me that you are sure there are young women out there … they’ll never know it … but they are there. That they’ll be able to live full lives … husbands, careers, children. All because of what you and Cathers miraculously managed to pull off in Hammonton.”
“Don’t get me wrong. I’m thinking about it.”
“And to what you said, I’ll add this … you risked your life.”
“I guess I did,” I said in a meek voice. It wasn’t something I had given a lot of thought to in the moment. With Catherine directing things, I’d felt invincible.
She continued, “You most certainly might have been killed. Well, that’s what law enforcement officers face every day. And sadly, some of them are killed … every year. They give their last full measure of devotion … leaving their offspring behind. And, unfortunately, the police have gotten a bad rap. I’m not exactly sure why … so many good men and women. But, as you know, George Floyd back in 2020. There have been other instances as well. The police clearly aren’t saints, bad apples in with the good, and on top of that, accidents happen. But these children! They don’t deserve to pay a price. You and me, Jessa. Let’s do this! Let’s put some kids through college!”
I looked over at Cathers. She had tears in her eyes. That wasn’t something I recalled having seen before. I wiped my own eyes, nodding. “I’m not sure we’ll sell many candy necklaces,” I said. “But count me in.”
“Jessa,” said Catherine, her brimming-with-tears eyes looking deep into mine.
“Yes?” I asked when she didn’t continue.
“I want to go see Dirk.”
I nodded. Is that what she’d been thinking about – Dirk? “You can. You should. But I can’t. You know that.”
“You can’t what?” Kim asked.
“It’s Cathers. She wants to go see Dirk, her fiancé. He’s confined in a mental institution. In Montpelier.”
“Can’t she just float over there and visit him?”
“Well, she did before. The time I was first here … when she was missing. That’s where she was.”
“But I want to go together. You and me … we should both go.” Catherine said, looking deep into my eyes.
“Oh, Cathers. I’d like to. But I can’t. I’m not going within ten miles of that place. They’ll lock me up. You were there. So embarrassing. My goal in life … never see the inside of a straitjacket.”
“Why would they lock you up? What was so embarrassing?” Kim asked.
It wasn’t fun, but I took a minute to tell her the story. How I’d been caught naked in Dirk’s room. The things I’d been accused of and the names I’d been called.
“What if I can get you in? What if I can guarantee your safety?” Kim asked.
I shook my head. “I’m sorry, Cathers. I love you. But that’s asking too much.” I blinked. Suddenly, I was wishing I could take my words back. Had I really just said that? To Cathers?
She looked away. “Maybe Nick will take me,” she said, disappointment in her voice. “I don’t want to go alone. I always have to go alone.”
“What did she say?” Kim asked.
“That she doesn’t want to go alone.”
Looking back at me, Catherine continued, concern in her eyes, “I want to tell Dirk. We should tell him together. Maybe he already knows, but I want him to hear it from me … from us … about what we did. That my killer’s in jail. Because of us.”
Suddenly, I couldn’t believe how selfish I was being. More than forty-eight hours had elapsed, and all I’d thought of was myself – how much my life had changed. Not a single thought about Dirk and his situation.
Catherine continued, “I expect they’ll let him out … eventually. But why not now? Today? They’ve got their guy. He’s behind bars. Dirk’s always been innocent, only now they know it. Help me, Jessa. Help me get him out. He doesn’t belong there. My life’s over, but Dirk’s isn’t. Won’t you help me? Please.”
Tears were streaming down my cheeks. What she was saying was one-hundred percent true. Dirk was still in that infernal institution. He didn’t deserve to be there. He’d never been convicted, but even so, he’d never been set free – some justification relating to public safety, supported by his delusions – because he’d talked about communicating with the dead. But what really hurt, was that Catherine had said, ‘please.’ In my heart, I knew I’d do anything for her. Only I’d just told her ‘no,’ that I wasn’t going within ten miles of that place. And now she was begging me, politely begging me. Saying ‘please’ because she felt she had to. Some friend I was.
I again wiped my tears and started explaining the situation to Kim in some detail.
“Okay,” she said. “Let’s do this. I’ll make some calls. You get dressed, and we’ll go.”
After Kim had left, I turned to Catherine. “Thank you. And you’re right. I’m sorry, so sorry. I should have realized. You shouldn’t have needed to bring Dirk up. I should have thought of him without any prompting. We’re going.” I raised my voice, “Dirk, we’re coming for you. Cathers and I, we’re coming for you!”
“And he needs to know … about the bad guy. And about what we accomplished … you and me … that his fiancée is a hero. Both of us. We’re heroes, right? Just like we told my sister Patty. I want Dirk to know.”
“I do too. He deserves to know.” I leaned in to hug her. “We’ll go. We’ll go together,” I added softly.
As I went looking for my suitcase, I couldn’t believe what was happening. Was I really on my way back to the mental hospital? I’d tried to block the place out of my mind, but suddenly all my memories came flooding back. Being accused of being a whore. Being called ‘Ms. Jessa Prostitute.’ My ego had taken quite a hit that day. And, they’d kept my underwear. My bra and panties had been on a desk there as I’d been shamefully escorted out. For some reason, having to leave them behind had added significantly to the emotional damage I’d sustained.
Considering what lay ahead, I realized that Cathers and I simply weren’t done. There were still things that needed to be set right. Our crusade continued. And then another thought occurred to me. Was this why Cathers was still on planet earth? Might she disappear as soon as Dirk was free? I decided to do my best to not think about that. Even if that was the case, it certainly wasn’t a reason to not do right by Dirk.
Less than an hour later, there were two police cars in Kim’s driveway. Brent was also home. Kim introduced me to her former Captain, Captain Milliman. I’d also spoken with Nick. He was in Stonefield, but hoping to meet up with us at the institution in Montpelier.
Kim, Brent, and I piled into one of the cars. I knew that Cathers would be in the car with us – somehow – there wasn’t an empty seat – two officers up front, Kim, Brent and I in the back.
It was supposedly a forty minute drive. I still couldn’t believe I was heading back to that godforsaken place. It felt surreal, but I also knew that I’d survive. Based on snippets of conversations that I’d overheard, I imagined there was about to be a show of force at the mental institution.
As soon as we were underway, Kim took a call. While she was talking, I answered questions. Brent was still not up to speed.
After hanging up, Kim announced, “He’s going to meet us there … the governor.”
Brent’s jaw dropped. “Governor Adams?” he asked.
Kim was nodding.
“Governor Adams? Who’s that?” I asked.
Kim shrugged. “The governor … the actual governor … of Vermont,” she explained. “But it’s not out of his way. Montpelier’s the capital. Where he lives.”
“Why’s he coming?” Brent asked.
“Exactly,” I agreed.
“This is big, I tell you,” Kim said. “And it’s an election year. Vermont and New Hampshire. The only two states … where the governor serves just a two-year term. Adams … he’s always campaigning.”
Tuning Kim out, I looked out the window, trying to think ahead to what was about to go down. Cathers had requested that we do this together. And I’d agreed. The only problem was that she and I were only truly together when I was naked. Could I? Should I? It seemed so reckless – maybe I really did belong in a mental institution. For some reason, I was again picturing myself in a straitjacket. If they did that to me, put me in one of those, I wouldn’t be able to talk to Cathers. They could take her from me.
But I wouldn’t have to be naked. Catherine would understand. We’d still be together – sort of. And we’d succeed in getting Dirk out. Indeed, she and I wouldn’t be doing that. The authorities that were meeting us there – they would take care of that. So it wasn’t at all like what she and I had engineered in Hammonton. Then my nudity had been instrumental in capturing the killer. This was different – similar maybe – but different.
“Kim, I’ve got to talk to Cathers,” I told her, unhooking my seatbelt and pulling my shirt off over my head.
“Umm … really? Now?” she asked, shifting uncomfortably in her seat.
But as I continued to undress, she spoke with the two officers in the front seat. She explained to them that they were not to talk about whatever they were about to see or hear. There was some chuckling. They both had already realized that I was disrobing. And, even though I was trying not to think about it, I knew that they had seen the photos from Hammonton – probably even the Bulletproof Breasts video.
I didn’t imagine that Kim had any authority to tell either of them what to do, and yet I could tell that she had rapport with them. They’d all served together for many years working for the same Municipal Police Department.
As soon as my panties fell from my ankle, I saw that Cathers was indeed in the car with us. She was up front, more or less between the two officers, but facing back. There wasn’t exactly a seat there, just a console. But somehow, she was making it work.
She reached over the seat as if to hug me. That didn’t quite work, but we did manage to clasp hands.
“I love you for doing this, Jessa,” she said. “I love Dirk. I love you. You two are my world.”
I gave her my warmest, most understanding smile. “And I love you. We’re doing this. One way, or another, we’re doing this.”
Turning to Kim, I asked, “If I go in there naked, how does that affect things? I mean, our plans to put kids through college? I don’t want to jeopardize that.”
“I don’t know. I honestly don’t know. But you have to do right by Cathers. And you are wearing a candy necklace.”
I reached up, feeling for it. I’d almost forgotten that I’d put a fresh one on. My supply was dwindling, but I still had a few. As I imagined it, I was wearing them as a show of support – support for Cathers.
Considering things, I decided that Kim was right. I had to do right by Cathers. I decided to ask for her opinion.
“You should put your clothes back on,” Catherine replied. “I like being able to talk. It means something to me, that you take chances … so that we can be together. But definitely get dressed. What’s important is that we get Dirk out.”
I knew that was true, what she was saying, but there was more to it. For her, it went deeper than that – much deeper. Not only had the State of Vermont, taken Dirk’s freedom, they’d taken his dignity. No court of law had found him guilty, but in the court of public opinion, he’d lost. His innocence needed to be restored – fully restored – with the good citizens of Vermont, particularly those of Stonefield, watching.
I turned to Kim. “You’re right. For Cathers! I’m going all in.”
“Jessa, don’t. Please, don’t,” Catherine pleaded.
“Okay. Not for you then,” I said facing her. “For Dirk.”
We drove in through the ominous-looking gate and parked close to the front entrance. I took a deep breath, hopping out in one motion. Fortunately, it was late enough in the day that the asphalt was not hot against the soles of my feet. A moment later, Cathers was next to me. She was smiling. I loved that she was smiling. My stomach was in knots, what I was doing seemed foolhardy, but it helped that she was happy. More than anything, I wanted to do right by her.
Kim was there as well, but she turned and walked toward several dark vehicles that had just arrived. A minute later, she was back, two men and a woman in tow. She introduced a tall, balding man in a dark suit as Governor Butch Adams. He and his entourage were all attempting, somewhat unsuccessfully, to hide their shock and astonishment stemming from my lack of clothing. I knew that Kim had surely prepared them, but even so, they looked as uncomfortable as I felt. Not only was I naked, but I could tell that my cheeks were bright red.
Attempting to get a grip on my emotions, I shook the Governor’s hand. While I was doing that, a pair of media vans rolled in through the gates. They were driving straight toward us.
“Oh, shit. Who called them?” I asked aloud.
“I did,” the Governor said. “Well, not personally. But I had them notified.”
Kim leaned over. “All publicity is good publicity,” she said quietly into my ear.
“It goes beyond that, young lady,” he said, addressing Kim. “As the Chief Executive Officer of the State of Vermont, the State Police report to me. They are the premier law-enforcement agency in Vermont.” He winked. “Capturing bad guys, seeing that the innocent go free. That’s what it’s all about.”
“So it’s not about publicity?” Cathers asked. I decided it was best to not respond to her question.
The Director of the State Police was there as well. The Governor introduced him as Colonel Robert Thompson. I shook his hand as well, glad that I’d finally learned that, unlike most states, Vermont did not have a law against public nudity, at least not per se. Lewd and lascivious conduct, on the other hand, that was not permitted. I’d been guilty of assuming that public nudity was just as illegal in Vermont as I knew it to be in Arizona.
But even if public nudity was not illegal, I still felt naked, embarrassingly naked. It helped to concentrate on the fact that I wasn’t the only nude person present, and I wasn’t. Cathers was by my side.
“Okay, what are we waiting for?” I asked.
“Nothing,” the governor replied.
“Well, then,” I said, turning and marching toward the imposingly wide cement stairway that led up to the front door. I was ready to get this over with. I was also optimistic that I would not be detained and locked away in a padded cell deep in the basement of the institution, given that I had Governor Adams and the Director of the Vermont State Police accompanying me.
Hoping that they didn’t yet have the TV cameras switched on, I charged up the front steps. I was mindful of the fact that I’d been first through the front door in Hammonton. For whatever reason, I wanted that to be the case here as well. But after opening the door, I waved with my hand, allowing Cathers to step through first. That seemed fitting; Dirk was her guy. But, as I considered that, I realized that Cathers had actually been the first to enter the house in Hammonton as well.
There was a woman behind the reception desk. She stood up and stared at us as we approached. I imagined that the institution had been called and that she might have been given advance notice of our arrival. By the look on her face, I was guessing that she had in fact not been informed.
“Lead on Cathers,” I said quietly. As if muttering to myself to help me remember the way, I continued, “Now, which hall was it?”
As Catherine pointed to the left, I saw the two orderlies who had escorted me out on my prior visit. They were headed right for us, walking fast. My heart skipped a beat, but I continued defiantly toward them. If they were going to stop me, it needed to happen – so that we could get it over with.
To my surprise, they stopped as I approached. They then stepped to the side. Either they knew what was going on, or they were intimidated by the sight of the Governor and the column of police officers that Cathers and I were leading.
A moment later, with Catherine pointing the way, we turned yet another corner. She and I marched boldly along, side by side, heading ever deeper into the daunting labyrinth. I was doing my best to stay calm. The situation was unlike anything else I’d ever experienced. We were busting Dirk out!
I found myself smiling. There was definitely pride in what we were doing, and we were again a team – boldly going where no woman had gone before. I held my head up and my shoulders back, feeling my breasts, my bulletproof breasts, bounce jauntily on my chest with each strike of a bare heel on the shabby-looking vinyl tile floor.
“Cathers, I’m so glad you suggested this. I should have thought of it myself,” I said, again trying to keep my voice low. “We should have been here yesterday!”
“Thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart,” she said in an excited, but emotion-choked voice. I was striding; she almost seemed to be skipping.
A minute later, we were nearing Dirk’s room. His door, as expected, was wide open. I stopped short, turning to address our entourage.
“Governor Adams, Colonel Thompson,” I said, my cheeks burning with embarrassment. “I’m not sure how this is going to look, but if you don’t mind, I’d like a minute alone with Mr. Landers. I imagine we might be catching him by surprise. Could you and everyone else wait here … while I break the news to him?”
The governor was in an agreeable mood. “Certainly, Ms. Wilson. I’ll be right here if you need me.”
I nodded my thanks, and Cathers and I went on into Dirk’s room. As expected, we did catch him completely unawares. Catherine ran to hug him, while I stayed back to close the door.
“Jessa, don’t,” he said, pointing at me, his index finger bobbing. “The doors have sensors. They’ll come.”
“Let them come,” I said.
Dirk’s eyes grew wide. He looked from me to Cathers and back again, acting as if he didn’t know how to take what I’d just said.
“Dirk! This is the day!” Catherine squealed, jumping into his arms. She started smothering him with kisses. I was beside myself. I’d never seen her so full of joy. I didn’t think I’d ever seen anyone behave so affectionately.
“What day?” he asked.
“Get your things. We’re leaving!” Catherine chirped.
“Oh, Lover. You know I want to. You also know what will happen. I won’t even make it to the front door. And if by chance I do…”
“Not anymore,” she said. “Your nightmare is over! You’re a free man.”
Dirk glanced over at me. I attempted a smile. But then he looked back at Cathers. He was staring into her eyes. I could tell that he wanted to believe what he was hearing, that he was trying to believe what he was hearing.
Suddenly I was tearing up. It was a beautiful moment. I felt blessed to be there. No two lovers that I’d ever heard of had been challenged by circumstance like this pair. And yet their feelings for one another were entirely intact. It was wonderful to witness, certainly heart-rending.
As I stood there trying to breathe, Catherine started racing through an explanation. Telling Dirk how the killer was behind bars, and how she and I had done it – done it together. It was very interesting to hear her talk. This was the first time I’d heard the tale from her point of view. Always, I had been the one doing the talking.
She then told him that the Governor of Vermont was in the hall, just on the other side of his door. He looked at me in disbelief. I nodded.
Wearing a robe and slippers, Dirk tentatively made his way to the door. “Go ahead,” I encouraged him.
He opened it a crack and peered out. “That’s the Governor?” he asked, looking back at me.
I nodded as a few of the men in the hallway started laughing. Dirk closed the door. It clicked shut as he leaned against it. Cathers was there. She had a hand on his back, up between his shoulder blades, comforting him while whispering softly into his ear. It appeared as if he was on the verge of collapsing where he stood. As I imagined it, it was a moment that he’d completely given up on ever happening.
A minute later, he pulled himself up straight, his strength seemingly returning. He went straight to his closet and began yanking things out. Shortly thereafter, the orderlies showed up with some carts. To Dirk’s utter amazement, they started helping. The woman who had walked in, catching me naked – she was fortunately nowhere to be seen.
Dirk had very few possessions, and some of what he had, he seemed to have no interest in taking with him – those things, mostly worn out clothes and a few books, ended up in a pile off to the side. I was glad that it looked like it might all be accomplished quickly. I was again feeling my nudity.
I considered slipping something on – Dirk had shirts and robes – but Cathers and I – we’d come this far. This was something we were doing together. But all the men. They were mostly trying to pretend that they weren’t staring, but they were – maybe not when they thought I was looking. I was doing my best to act comfortable in my skin. Everyone had a role to play. I was committed to playing mine to perfection.
I imagined that there would be formalities to take care of at the front desk. At the very least, I was expecting the matronly woman who had introduced herself as the director, but had never actually given me her name, to show up. It didn’t happen.
The Director of the State Police, Colonel Thompson, spent a few moments conferring with a man behind a counter, but then we were allowed to leave.
As we reached the top of the steps just outside the door, I saw Nick pull up and park. He’d missed all the fun. By then, it had gotten late. The sun was about to set. There were trees blocking our view of the horizon, but the clouds straight above had a pink cast to them. Somewhere, there was about to be a splendid sunset.
As everyone started down the wide staircase, I pivoted and looked back at the ugly cement edifice. Cathers was next to me. I hadn’t imagined that I’d ever return and this surely would be my last time there. Emotions of defiance surging up within me, I raised both arms over my head. Catherine regarded me with curiosity, as I extended just the middle finger on each of my raised fists. Maybe it wasn’t my most mature moment, but the adrenaline was surging within me. With every fiber and sinew of my being, I flipped that fucking building off as energetically as I could manage. One of the fingers was for me, for how I had been treated there. The other finger, the important one, was for what they had done to Dirk. That institution and all it stood for had taken forty years of his life. Goddamn them all!
A smile formed on Catherine’s lips. She spun to face the building. A second later she was mirroring my stance. For a brief moment in time, the two of us stood there, aggressively flipping off all that was wrong with the American justice system.
And then, that was that. We’d made our point. We turned and followed everyone else down the stairs to the waiting cars. Just as Nick ran up to greet me, I saw the cameras. I chuckled to myself, wondering if I would have flipped the building off had I realized that I was being photographed. I was laughing hysterically as Nick hugged me.
I pushed him away. “Dirk,” I said pointing. “Make sure he gets on TV. The whole world needs to see him walking out of here a free man.”
“I can’t get him on TV,” he said. “But you can. It’s you they’re interested in. You’re the story.”
I put a thumbnail in between my teeth and bit at it, realizing that he was probably right. After taking a deep breath of courage, I walked over to the Governor and reached for his hand. He smiled. He didn’t resist when I started leading him to where Dirk and Catherine were talking. Taking Dirk by the hand, I led him and the Governor toward the closest news crew.
“Okay, Governor Adams, you’re on,” I said. “Tell the good people of Vermont, specifically those in Dirk’s hometown of Stonefield, what’s going on here. That Dirk Landers is innocent. That he’s always been innocent. And that now that the actual killer is in custody … that he’s a free man.”
I shouldn’t have been at all surprised, but the Governor rose to the occasion. He apologized to Dirk – on behalf of the entire State of Vermont. I managed to step back as he started speaking about his priorities as Governor.
He transitioned smoothly into what sounded like a campaign speech, but the important points (Dirk’s innocence) were well covered. My confidence waning, I managed to fade into the background, doing my best to cover my important points from the viewing public by slipping in behind Nick. I knew the news outlets would provide me with those small black bars. I’d look naked, surely some underboob would show, but at least my nipples wouldn’t. It didn’t make me feel much better, but it was better than nothing.
As the Governor was concluding his remarks, Nick leaned close. “Do you want to get outta here?”
“Your car,” I nodded.
To Be Continued…
Author’s note: If you are reading and enjoying Jessa Meets Her Match, I would love to hear from you! You may comment here on the storyboard (as ‘anonymous’ or register and give yourself a name, any name). Alternately, feel free to send me an email: BPClavel@gmail.com
Very best regards,
Blair P. Clavel
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