Love does not delight in evil
but rejoices with the truth
-1 Corinthian's 13:6
Vardy gathered his brother's Howard and Willard at the Hospital and they talked with the Doctor.
Then they sought out the emergency crew and listened to their heart tugging testament of how they had tended to little Levi and witnessed the boy's final struggle for air through his bloody slashed lungs.
After that they went to their mother Gladys' house, knowing she was due back that morning.
They wanted to be the first to tell her.
But the scandalous news of the beautiful young mother slaying her own three children had already spread throughout the horrified town.
Gladys burst through the front door, white faced, red eyed and crying.
She knew immediately upon seeing her sons faces that it was true, "Son?" she managed to utter to Vardy in a scared childlike voice.
When he indeed confirmed her worst fears, she threw up her hands and screamed like they had never heard before.
What remained of Vardy's heart shattered like glass.
They watched fearfully as she marched in a crazy circle, her heels clicking on the hardwood floor while ripping at her apron.
Her three sons were forced to endure her unrelenting anguished howls of sorrow before she finally passed out.
Thomas caught her and put her to bed.
Willard started to wave her smelling salts under her nose to revive her, but Howard stopped him with a hand on his arm, "Let her sleep."
As Gladys slept, they turned on the radio just in time for the news.
"Howdy folks, I'm Loretta Howes and this is channel three's 6:00 evenin news. Hancock County resident, 21-year-old Mrs. Katrina Gowen, has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder. She is accused of murderin her own three childern.
The victims' bodies were found early this mornin by Officer's Eli Bibb and Officer Lester Potts in the Children's blood-spattered home.
The officers are here ta tell us about the horrible carnage that they witnessed upon enterin the house."
Officer Potts spoke first, "It was a heart breakin sight. One I don't reckon I will git out of my mind for a long time ta come. Parents, hug your children."
Officer Bibb added, "I've ne'er seen anythin like this."
The Sheriff joined them and said, "This was an extreme level of violence and we are strugglin to find a motive for the slays. I doubt this family will ever git over this tragedy. We plan to seek the death penalty for the perpetrator."
Loretta Howes thanked them all, and then moved onto other news.
Willard wrapped an arm around his brother's shoulder as he wept uncontrollably.
The chart hanging outside room 13 read:
Female: white: age 21:
The compassion the hospital staff had previously felt had now turned to anger and ill will at the morally reprehensible, vile development of her ugly crime.
No one wanted to believe that it was true. It was too inconceivable.
Mothers simply do not kill their children.
The Police still waited on Doctor's orders for a moment of clear lucidity so they could interview her.
They wanted to ask her some questions. Like did she in fact murder her three small children in cold blood?
All of the surrounding evidence supported that claim.
The Detective had collected evidentiary bloody clothing that had been removed from both boys.
Their finding was that it was in truth, her son’s blood on the nightgown she was wearing.
It had been literally sprayed onto it while she was in the act of various upswing motions, in other words, the stabbing, slicing gestures.
When the autopsy reports came back, they stated that all three of the children appeared to have been suffering from Scarlet fever, which is what ultimately resulted in Hannah Malinda’s death.
Therefore, she had been spared the brutal butchery her two younger brothers had received.
Nathan's autopsy also showed retinal hemorrhages, which are highly suspicious for abuse resulting from shaken-baby syndrome.
Levi's autopsy X rays revealed multiple healing posterior rib fractures from a compression injury of the chest, consistent with violent shaking while holding the child around the chest.
Katrina’s long silky dark hair was parted low on the left side, Veronica lake style, lay splayed out on her pillow in stark contrast to the white sheets.
Needles full of lanzapine and Thorazine jabbed and poked at her soft skin that was as pale as new creme.
She was being fed intravenously and had lost eight lbs. in that first week alone.
Her face had thinned dramatically, hollowing out her cheekbones.
The Doctor had noted on her chart that her vital signs had steadily improved and reduced the dosage of her medicine.
She funneled in and out of consciousness before waking at one point with a screaming, raging, pounding, implosion headache.
Her whole body felt heavy and stiff, and there was an annoying ringing noise in her ears.
She could feel the tension in the air and mentally pictured bulging veins and angry faces.
She wanted a cigarette. She needed a cigarette.
She was about to explode for a cigarette.
When she opened her eyes, they were cloudy, but slowly cleared up, as did her consciousness.
She closed them quickly, not wanting anyone to know she was awake and alert.
She lay on the bed with white in the colorless room, listening to the irritating sounds of the hospital's machines and the annoying voices of the staff that grated at her last nerve.
The children’s funeral was held by the pond where the pussy willows grew, underneath an ashen somber sky, replicating the emotion of the sad and mournful day.
Vardy stood there breathing deeply, letting the silence run over him while he stared at the three small identical white caskets.
Monarch butterflies came and settled around the water to get the moisture.
Gladys's sister, Eileen and their two oldest and dearest church friends', Jeanette and Ida, walked to the front of the small crowd of family and friends, and stood together near the children’s flower covered coffins.
Gladys looked at them with red, tear filled eyes and pressed her wadded tissue to her mouth.
Standing beside her were her three sons, behind them Officer's Lester Potts and Eli Bibb.
Vardy’s friend, Shikoba stepped forward and played his violin, while the women sang a church hymn meant to lift them up.
Gladys suddenly recalled an incident when Nathan had been just a newborn and she was changing his diaper and noticed a large purple bruise on his abdomen.
When she had asked Katrina about it, she claimed that he had rolled off the bed and fell to the floor and landed on one of Levi's toys.
It didn’t fit seem to fit then, and sure don’t fit now.
The violin’s haunting melody and the forlorn singing of the women resounded in Vardy's heart like a melancholy echo.
He sobbed hysterically into his big calloused hands.
Howard, Willard and Gladys were at his side, the only thing holding him up.
Unable to help him self or be strong for his mother, he trembled uncontrollably and wailed and moaned and wept throughout the whole service.
Gladys was crushed and beside herself with grief.
She loved her grand babies more than life itself.
In addition, to witness the suffering her own child was enduring in which she could do nothing to lessen his pain, hurt her even more deeply.
She seemed to have aged ten years since the tragic event and looked older than the slate rock banks.
Barnsworth Jeremiah Tuttle, the preacher who would perform the Gowen children's funeral service stepped forward.
With his hands pressed together like a steeple, he said to the crowd, "Folks, we gather today ta mourn the loss, an celebrate the life of Hannah Malinda, Levi an Nathan Gowen.
We seek ta comfort each other in our loss an encourage each other in our faith. Today we grieve...but not without hope.
There is real loss...but there is no despair. Today we look ta Jesus.
The Apostle Paul tells us that everyone who has a genuine faith in Jesus Christ will live beyond the grave. Friends let me tell ya, death is not the end, it is just a transition."
Then he asked everyone to bow their heads in prayer.
But Vardy did not hear. He could not.
He was elsewhere in his mind, with his babies.
After they prayed the preacher said, "Ashes ta ashes…dust ta dust."
Gladys did not now how they were going to get through this event which was the most awful thing any one of them had experienced.
She had a mind to go down to where Katrina was and kill her with her own two bare hands.
The Gowen children were laid to rest beneath the ground as the robins sang on the little grassy knoll out behind the church, put away for all eternity, along with a colossal chunk of Gladys heart.
Lastly, the people walked by tossing flowers onto the graves, and began saying their goodbyes to the Gowen clan, still shaking their heads in disbelief, wondering how Vardy would survive the tragedy that had befallen him.
Talk started to spread, people whispered things like;
"I knew this would happen one day."
"I always knew that gal was crazy."
"That middle boy of hers never talked a'tall."
"The litl'est one was cross-eyed, wasn't he?"
"She always did seem odd."
"Eccentric some might say."
"How 'bouts just plain dang crazy?"
In all the time she was in the hospital, only one Gowen family member came to see her.
It was Vardy, and even he had come only once.
He entered her hospital room quietly as she slept and stood motionless at the foot of the bed, drained of life.
He stared down at the face of the woman he had once so desperately loved, the mother of his three children, as well as the monster who had taken their lives.
Vardy had gotten used to living life on the edge and being subjected to her constant criticism, always waiting for the other shoe to drop.
She had drained him of his energy and eroded his self-esteem.
However, he had naively believed that she taken it all out on him, not the children.
Then he harked back to her appalling flashes of rage and he remembered the terrifying growl that Kat would give rise to when she got frustrated with the children.
Vardy got lost in his memories.
He remembered one roof raiser when Levi was just a baby and she had literally pinned him to his chair and attempted to force-feed him, before finally dumping him on the floor and screaming, "Go ta yer fuckin father!"
What was wrong with me?
He felt ashamed and disgusted with his own self, hating himself for not listening to his gut, or his mother.
He despised her for what she had done to the children and to his family.
Why didn't I do somethin?
He felt it was his fault too, because he knew he was the only one close enough to her to have been truly aware of her intense emotional roller coaster personality.
Katrina felt his presence and muttered several unmentionable words under her breath, then reluctantly opened her eyes.
Let's git dis over wit.
When she saw him, she barely recognized his face.
The blue fedora was gone, his long dark hair was disheveled, he had grown a full beard and there were dark, heavy bags under his eyes.
Why didn't I do somethin 'bout her temper?
He envisioned Hannah Malinda, the huge red bump and bruises on her forehead.
Kat said she fell.
Nathan and his broken arm, Kat said he fell.
Then there was poor little silent Levi.
I could have prevented this.
When his tear filled eyes finally connected with hers, bile rose in his throat recalling the horrifying brutal way in which his children were killed.
He stretched out his hands and asked, "Kat why?" Vardy stood there and waited for her answer, carrying upon his shoulders his dead weight sadness.
Her eyes held his but they were blank and devoid of emotion and she did not say a word.
Her cold silence crushed him to the core, making him feel faint.
He was very let down that the floodgates of her soul did not open up.
With a hardened heart, Vardy bared his teeth and growled, "I’ll ne'er forgive ya Katrina Scruggs. I hope yew rot in the darkest pits of hell!"
She simply shut her eyes and blocked him out.
She would never see his face again.
Years later she would learn that he himself had died only a few weeks after his hospital visit, when the car he was riding in had gone off the ridge into the river.
His family buried him one dismal snowy day on the knoll beside his three children. Poor old Gladys buried yet another piece of her heart with him on that sad day.
After a several more weeks in the hospital, the injections changed to oral tablets.
Katrina heard them talking about her while they thought she was asleep.
She was sweating profusely, there was tightness in her chest and she alternated from a runny nose, to severe nasal congestion.
She had headaches and a nagging cough from her body still trying to clean itself from the much-desired poison.
Yet the craving for nicotine was nearly unbearable and the indignity of the bedpans had her incensed.
Though the Police were still waiting to question her, she had already been charged with two counts of aggravated murder and she overheard they were soon going to transfer her to the jail.
She did not accept, nor did she recognize their reality.
To her, reality was but a shadow cast by the fire, the fire that burned inside of her.
She was not suffering any great angst over her dirty deed.
In fact, she was relieved.
She had answered the call and done God's will and knew that one day she would be rewarded.
Katrina decided she would leave before they could take her to jail.
She remained motionless, but observant, biding her time in her bed as if semi-comatose and unconditionally harmless.
But she was very much awake.
With an animal like cunning, she instinctively knew when she was being watched and by whom.
She lay rigid in bed with her hands clenched so hard into tight fists she drew blood.
Katrina kept her eyes closed the whole time and pretended to be heavily medicated.
She listened to the sounds around her, always taking careful note of the nurses scheduling.
She needed them to believe she was still heavily medicated because she was certain they would eventually be inattentive around her.
Late one night, taking her by surprise, she felt the baby stir in her for the first time.
Tragedy awaited her elderly night nurse who was alone with her on the fateful night of her planned escape.
The nurse thought her patient was sleeping and had her back turned to her reading a book in the rocking chair.
Kat crept stealthily out of the bed without making a sound, and snuck up behind her.
With pillowcases she had been hoarding and braiding, she slipped a noose like device around the woman’s neck and twisted with all of her might.
She’s half-dead any how.
The nurse dropped her book onto the floor, grabbed at the rope with her bony liver-spotted hands and tried desperately to pull it away.
She kicked her feet while gasping frantically for air, her black eyes went wide and her spectacles slid off her face and fell to the floor.
Unmoved, Kat squeezed harder until the woman was still.
At that point in time, she stripped off her green hospital gown and quickly disrobed the old nurse.
She put on her blue and white striped dress with its starched collar and cuffs.
She tossed the white apron and bib aside, and slipped on the nurse’s white shoes.
She laid the naked nurse in her bed and covered her up to make it look as if she were still there.
After that, she wound her long dark hair into a bun, and put the nurses pointed lined muffin cap on her head.
Confident, she opened the door and peered into the hallway.
The halls were empty. She turned back and got the nurses ashy smelling, blue wool sweater and slipped it on over the uniform.
She slipped her hand in the pocket and pulled out a pack of Lucky Strikes and a box of matches, and smiled a smile familiar to the devil himself.
In the other one there was a pack of Wrigley juicy fruit chewing gum, a dirty wadded up tissue and a little change purse with a ten-dollar bill inside.
She threw the tissue to the ground, reopened the door and slipped out into the silent hall.
It was well past midnight by then, and the timely desk duty nurse was on her nightly bathroom visit.
She walked nimbly past the desk, down the hall, right past the bathroom door and brazenly hoofed it out the front door.
Katrina Gowen, an undiagnosed schizophrenic suffering from posttraumatic stress, as well as post-partum depression, left the hospital that night as a ticking time bomb.
The darkness swallowed her whole as she slipped into the shadows that greedily wrapped her up in their protective cloak.
Inside she laughed about how brainless people were and how easy it was to deceive them.
She pulled the pack of cigarettes out as if they were gold and threw one into her mouth,lit it and inhaled deeply, breathing the welcome toxic fumes deep into her lungs and then back out again.
By now you are HOOKED. There is no turning back. You must have more. You MUST know what happens next...
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