Ronan sat at his desk chewing the end of his pen and frowning at the papers in the file on his desk. Nothing yet from forensics, no word from the hospital…he was getting very frustrated. Where had Laura been for all those seven years? Who was her abductor, imprisoner, and why was she place in the river on the lifebuoy? He threw the pen down and swore just as the phone rang. “Hello” he tried not to growl, but failed.
“Hello, Detective Walsh?” a strange voice asked. “This is Doctor Worrall at St. Jude’s hospital. Miss Yarborough is conscious and coherent, and is anxious to speak with you. She says she remembers all that happened and wants to tell you.”
“Oh, great! Thank you Doctor Worrall, I will be there right away.” Ronan was smiling now.
“Right; and please, try not to overstrain her, her emotions are still fragile, and too much strain will delay her recovery.”
“I will remember, and do my best to keep her calm while we talk. Thanks for calling”
“You’re quite welcome, detective. I know how important her information is to you. Goodbye.” They hung up and Ronan grabbed his jacket, called Calvin to come along, and hurried out. When they reached Laura’s room, they slowed down and walked in quietly. She was lying with her eyes closed, and they hesitated, not wanting to wake her, but when she heard their footsteps she opened her eyes and smiled.
“Hello, Miss Yarborough, Dr. Worrall said you wished to talk to me. I’m Detective Ronan Walsh and this is Detective Calvin Wilson. We worked on your case for several years after you disappeared. We are so glad that you are back, and alive. Can you explain what happened, where you’ve been all this time, and why no one was ever able to find a trace of you?”
She smiled again and said “Yes, that is what I want to tell you.” Her voice was weak but steady as she pointed to the chairs near the bed. “Please, sit down and I’ll tell you the story. And please, call me Laura.” They sat, Calvin taking a notebook and pen from his pocket, prepared to take notes.
“Actually, it all started in grade school. We were starting grade six, and a new boy joined the class, Billy Adams. He was slow, and always wore overalls and a plaid shirt. It wasn’t long before he was the brunt of mean jokes and nasty tricks mostly from the other boys, and I saw the hurt in his eyes. I couldn’t stand it, so I talked my group of friends into treating him decently, helping him with his school work, and so on. We kept this up through the rest of grade school, and with our help, he graduated with halfway decent marks.
“He didn’t go on to high school, taking an apprenticeship in auto mechanics instead, and became one of the best in the city. Sometimes we saw him after school, at McDonald’s or Tim Horton’s, and we’d invite him to join us for a chat. Then we moved to a different part of the city, and I changed schools and seldom went back to the old neighbourhood, only maybe once a year to visit my best friend Sally Thompson.
“I didn’t see much of Billy after that, but Sally said he always asked after me when he saw her. She said he called me an angel because of the way I treated him. One time when I was visiting Sally, he caught me alone, and said he loved me, and we should get married. I told him I liked him, but didn’t love him, and I would only marry if I loved the man. He didn’t say anything, just hung his head and walked away. I felt bad, but I thought it only right to let him know he hadn’t a chance.
“The day of the volleyball game, Sally was coming to visit for the weekend, on her way to France to study there; I forget now what it was. I had to stop at the service station where Billy worked.. He was alone, and when I had finished filling the car and went to pay, he took the money and came out of the booth. He hung a ‘closed’ sign up and followed me to the car, where he pushed me into the backseat, got in and drove off.” Laura paused and licked her lips.
Ronan stood up “Do you need a drink Laura?” When she nodded, he took a glass, half-filled it from the carafe on the table, placed a drinking tube in and held it for her. She drank most of the water, and thanked him. Ronan smiled and said “you’re welcome” then sat down and waited.
She took a breath and went on. “I tried to make him stop and take me back, but he just pushed me away. When I tried to climb into the front seat, he stopped the car and hit my head. I blacked out and when regained consciousness he was carrying me into a dilapidated old house. Most of it was falling apart, but he had repaired four rooms at the back. He took me to a bedroom and put me on the bed. I was in that room for most of the seven years. He had prepared it well, with clothing, toiletries and so on, but the only window was heavily barred. I could see out, the window could be opened so I could get fresh breezes, and I had a full bathroom. He kept me semi drugged so I would remain calm after the first week when I cried and shouted that he had to let me go.
“Finally I cried, saying I needed to walk outside, feel the sunshine and see more than the four walls, so he eased up on the drug and took me out to walk around. He acted as though we were husband and wife, though he never approached me sexually. The day you found me, he had left me sitting under a tree near the river to see if there were any duck eggs in the nest by the shore. There was a boat there, and I jumped up and ran for it. I managed to get in when he grabbed my arm and tried to pull me out. I fought, and there was a crack and I felt a terrible pain in my shoulder. I screamed, he let go, and I crumpled on the seat of the boat, crying from the pain.
“He started to cry, went running back to the house, and came back with a hypodermic. He said it would ease the pain, and stabbed my neck. I vaguely remember him lifting me and putting me on something in the water, all the while crying that he hadn’t meant to hurt me, he thought I loved him as he loved me. But he was sending me back to where I would get help, and he wouldn’t ever come near me again.
“I am worried that he might commit suicide, he was so upset that it had all gone wrong. He is not mentally competent and should be helped and not punished for what he did. He just didn’t understand. Please, please, help him.” Her eyes were filled with tears as she implored Ronan’s help for Billy.
“Laura, we will go out to his farm and check on him today. And we will do everything we can to see that he is helped and not punished. I do remember him, and thinking that he should have had someone to care for him. I know where the farm is, and as I recall, he was left an orphan when he was only about fourteen. Society let him down, and I will do all I can to repair the damage. Now you rest, and we’ll let you know what we find.” They said goodbye and left, Laura looking happier and relieved that she’d had the chance to tell her story.
A month later, Laura was out of hospital, her arm healing well, and staying with her friend Sally’s parents, waiting for the trial of Billy. Ronan had assured her that Billy would be placed in a group home where he would be cared for, and could still work as an auto mechanic taking care of the mini bus, staff cars and lawn mower/snow blower belonging to the home.
The trial day arrived, and she sat in the courtroom to give evidence and plead for Billy if necessary. It all went as Ronan had promised, and Billy thanked her, and said he still loved her, but knew that she had a different life to live than his. He added that he was very happy in the group home; he had a lot of friends there.
Ronan and Calvin drove back to the station feeling relieved at the outcome. Laura was safe and well again, and Billy was at last in a place where he could live a useful and happy, and be safe and well cared for.