All About the Money (A Jesse Watson Mystery Series Book 7) (27 page)

BOOK: All About the Money (A Jesse Watson Mystery Series Book 7)
6.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

“I told your mom that they could take on the case of that
body shop guy when they return from their honeymoon. She sounded excited about
the prospect.”

“Have you talked about the case with Lila? Do you even know
any of the particulars?”

“I haven’t had time, but how involved could it be? It’s a
body shop. Can’t be too much excitement there.”

“Yeah, I guess you’re right,” I said, laying my head on his
shoulder. “This is nice. It’s so peaceful out here. I could sit in this swing
all night.”

“Enjoy it, because tomorrow we start on our Winnebago trip.”

“You hurt your knee, and I got shot in the chest. We deserve
a little fun. Have you thought about where we’re going?”

“Who cares?” Billy said, kissing me on the forehead.
“Sometimes last minute plans can turn out to be the best laid plans.”

“Yeah, right,” I snickered. “And everyone in jail is


                                      … to be continued.

No More

Roger and Denise Sutton lived the fairy tale life. They had
everything going for them, something everyone wants—a nice home, lots of money,
and a good relationship. He worked at a law firm in
as a paralegal, and she was a
reporter for the Stanardsville Gazette. Both loved their jobs, and they loved
each other. They were happier than either thought possible.

But somewhere along the line, in those days of floating on
air, things started to change. Going into their second year of marital bliss,
Roger’s bad side started to emerge. First, there were small changes in his
behavior. He would get mad over the slightest thing, and then start yelling at
Denise. Then came the night he slapped her for spilling a glass of milk. A
month later, he kicked her in the stomach. That was after he’d knocked her to
the floor. It went downhill from there. A month after that, he was yelling,
hitting, or kicking her on a regular basis. Their life together got ugly fast.

No one ever suspected a problem at
6120 Red Hills Road

Vacation time rolled around, so they set out on their trip
like they had last year by arguing about how long they were going to stay at
his folks’ house—and why they couldn’t spend more time with her sister.

Furious to no end, but with no way to vent, Denise knew she’d
have to reign in her emotions if she wanted to avoid another scene like the one
last night. She had pushed him too far, and he had retaliated by screaming at
her for a solid hour, before he delivered the first blow. Most of the time,
he’d beat and yell at her at the same time. Last night had been one of his
long, drawn-out episodes.

You see, Roger Sutton was an abuser.

Denise didn’t know that when she married him, or she would’ve
run the other way… and real fast. But that was then, and this is now. Now she
was stuck in a relationship with a man whose new mission in life was to hurt
her.  She shared this secret with no one, except her sister.

Why didn’t she leave him, you ask?  Fear and control. Through
physical violence, he controlled her every move, her every thought, and because
of this, she was too scared to go against him. Plus, she still loved him, even
after all the terrible things he’d done to her. She might be able to forgive
him and love him the way she used to, if he’d change, but that wasn’t going to
happen. She’d finally resigned herself to the fact.

During one of their many arguments, Roger told Denise he’d
kill her if she ever tried to leave him. It’s a story everyone’s heard a
thousand times. She leaves; he comes after her, drags her home, and then beats
her worse than the time before. Like a hawk, he’d swoop in with his razor-sharp
talons and snatch his prey by the neck. For his final show of victory, he gives
one last squeeze with his powerful claws. The prey is beaten.

Abusive relationships never end well. In the end, someone’s
going to die. That’s the way it is.

Denise was smart enough to know she had to get away from
Roger, but she was scared to leave, and scared to stay. So she did the only
thing she knew to do… she played the waiting game. She did nothing and kept
quiet, waiting for him to be the husband she had married. Eventually, things
would get better. What else could she do? She thought about going to church to
ask God for guidance, but Roger would never allow her to go anywhere. She
prayed in silence… but found no answers.
Go with the flow
, she told
herself. It’ll get better.
I have to do better

Eight glorious days! They could do whatever they wanted, but
Roger wanted to spend five of those days with his mom and dad, Barbara and
Winston. They were going to drive down, a ride that should be beautiful this
time of year he had told her, and stay at his folks’ fabulous beach house in
Nag’s Head. The other three days they would spend with Denise’s sister,
Bernice, back in her tiny apartment in
Newport News
. Roger hated the place, but he hated Bernice more.

Denise and Bernice are twins, and as much as he hated to
admit it, Roger resented the fact they had such a strong bond. He claims when
they all get together, they snub him, and make him feel small. He told her this
many times. Three days was his limit. Be thankful for that.

Feeling small is a pet peeve of Roger’s—one of many. He hates
being made to feel inept so much that he lashes out. He yells and curses, and
when that doesn’t satisfy his appetite for retaliation, he hits. But he
wouldn’t do any of this in front of other people. He would save his anger and
punishment for later, when he could get his wife home. It always ended that way
now, no matter where they went.

A stay at Mom and Pop Sutton’s, a few days with Bernice, and
then the nightmare ride home would begin. You see, the ride home is when Roger
starts to release his pent-up anger and frustration. The ride wouldn’t be
pleasant, and once they got home, the real terror would begin. The trip would
end with a knock-down-drag-out battle that would leave a lot of aches and pains
for someone—and it wouldn’t be Roger. No. He would walk away feeling elated,
with visions of his crying wife lying on the floor, bruised and bloody. He
loved that part of the vacation best. He felt rejuvenated, almost euphoric.

As always, he would say she started it. It was her fault. She
never should’ve accused him of being selfish, jealous and petty. She didn’t
actually say that, but he took it that way when she told him that he knew
Bernice was all the family she had left. Then he would accuse her of saying he
wasn’t family. And the war would begin.

Denise’s parents had been dead for many years. A tragic car
crash had ended both their lives on a warm, sunny day in June back when she and
her sister were just teenagers. After their deaths, Denise and Bernice were
taken in by an aunt who cared only about the money she would receive for their
support. When both girls reached the age of eighteen, they promptly up and
moved out of their loveless home. The aunt passed away less than a year after
the sisters left.

“Spite makes you an ugly person,” Denise said, fed up with
his prodding. She knew better than to say anything, but sometimes, enough is
enough. She had some dignity left—a trait that always worked against her in
their relationship.  But she didn’t care. He’d hurt her feelings, and she had
to say something. “Where’s your compassion?”

But the truth is, any compassion he had, and it wasn’t much,
went out the window after being around Bernice for even a few hours. He would
feel left out of everything. They would laugh at him—not with him, mind you—but
at him. Together, they made him crazier than he already was. That’s what he
would tell Denise later.

But this time, Denise had all she could stand. She was
determined to get her way about something. She had reached her limit. She went
along with Roger in the beginning because she loved him so much, but now it was
time for a change. All she could think about, besides surviving the beating she
would get when they got back home, was that it was time to take a stand. She
was tired of being bullied and beaten. Maybe she could talk some sense into

Go with the flow.

Staying with his parents was barely tolerable for Denise.
They fawned over Roger as if he was the only person left on earth. His mother
babied him, even to the point of cutting his meat—and the worst part of all—he
would let her do it. His father agreed with every word that came out of Roger’s
mouth. She thought the man was spineless.

“I’ll go with you to your parents’ house, but I want to leave
after four days. It’s only fair,” she said. “If you won’t leave when I want to,
I’ll call Bernice and have her come pick me up.”

“That’s totally out of the question,” Roger spat back. “What
would my parents say?”

She avoided his stare by keeping her eyes glued in the
direction of the passing scenery. She didn’t want a heated argument right off
the bat. They’d been on the road less than twenty minutes.

“I’m sorry, Roger,” she said. “But I’m not happy about
visiting Barbara and Winston. They talk down to me and treat me like an
outsider. I’ve told you before, but you say I’m just being silly. You say your
folks adore me, but they don’t.”

“They do!” Roger’s voice rose. His hands tightened on the
steering wheel until his knuckles turned white. “They’ve been good to us. They
gave us the money to put down on our house, and they’ve always been there when
we needed something.”

“When you needed something,” Denise said snidely. “Where were
they when I had pneumonia last year?”


“Roger, I was in the hospital for a week, sick as a dog. I
almost died, and did they ever come to visit me? No, not once. They stayed at
our house and took care of you—not me. What kind of family does something like that?”

Roger pressed down on the accelerator, dangerously exceeding
the speed limit. His patience was wearing thin, she could see it in the way his
body stiffened up. Better stop, Denise.

I have to do better.

The long stretch of highway leading to
’s Crossroads is isolated for miles. There are no
houses or businesses, not even a gas station in some areas. Sections of the
drive were without cell phone reception.

Denise was really becoming concerned about Roger’s driving.
If an animal jumped out in front of them, she doubted very seriously that he’d
be able to stop in time. She had to get him to slow down.

“I’m sorry,” she said trying to smooth over the icy tension
in the air. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me today. I guess I’m a little
upset about not getting to stay with my sister longer. Maybe next time.”

But she knew it wouldn’t be any different next time, either.
She stifled her anger and tried to see the good side of this vacation. At least
she would get to see her sister. Ever since she married Roger, it had been a
battle just getting him to agree to a visit.

Roger couldn’t understand why Denise made him lose his temper
all the time. Didn’t she know her place? Now that he thought about it, he was
rather proud that he had maintained control and had slipped only a few times.
She was lucky that he was such a good husband. Compared to what he had seen
from others, he treated his wife like a queen. She had it good. So what if he’d
hit her a few times? She deserved it. Smug to the point of being ridiculous, he
let out a chuckle.

Her anger building, Denise remarked, “Maybe you could share
your joke with me.”

Roger didn’t look at her; instead he kept his eyes glued to
the road as he responded. “I was just thinking about how childish you are. You
have it good, but you don’t appreciate it. What’s your problem?”

Denise didn’t respond. She knew when it was time to shut up.
Instead, she thought about how sweet he used to be.
Go with the flow
Whatever triggered it, the beatings or the cover-up, today was the day that she
finally came to the realization she had to get out of this abusive
relationship. Roger was going to beat her to death eventually. She knew it.

“All I want is to have a nice visit with my folks before I
have to go put up with your stupid sister!” Roger shouted.

Denise clinched her fists and didn’t dare look him in the
eyes. She was angry, but she knew what was coming if this conversation
continued. She just couldn’t help herself when the words slipped out. “My
sister isn’t stupid, Roger.”

“She’s a moron!” he screamed. “She’s not smart enough to be
stupid.” His eyes bulged as he drew his hand back and slapped her hard across
the face, almost losing control of the car.

She was caught off-guard, as usual. When she reacted to his
physical violence by yelling at him, he hit her again. This time he didn’t beg
for her forgiveness as he usually did, instead, he chastised her for provoking
him. Afterwards, she tried to pull herself together and tell herself that she
had to stop giving him a reason to get mad at her.
I have to do better

“Why can’t we split the difference like I suggested?” she
asked. “We’ll stay with your folks for four days, and then…”

“God, would you please just shut up?” he yelled. “We’re not
changing our plans, so stop yapping about it. I’m so sick of your whining. If I
have to listen to your crap the whole time, I’ll go crazy!”

A tear slid down Denise’s cheek.

“Oh, now you’re going to cry,” he hissed. “You’re such a
baby!” Roger gripped the steering wheel even tighter, slammed on the brakes,
and then pulled off to the side of the road. He was like a madman. His eyes
bulged and drool ran out of the corner of his mouth. He got out of the car,
walked over to her side, and jerked open the car door. He grabbed her by the
arm as hard as he could and pulled her out of the car, throwing her to the
ground. He was going to make her pay.

Denise was in shock. He’d been brutal so many times, but this
time was different. The look in his eyes sent shivers down her spine, and made
her mouth go dry. This was the end of the road for her. She knew it the minute
she looked into those dark, menacing, evil eyes. He had snapped. This was going
to be her last beating. Would he really beat her to death and dump her body in
the woods, never to be found?

BOOK: All About the Money (A Jesse Watson Mystery Series Book 7)
6.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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