Authors: Katherine Mariaca-Sullivan
Tags: #contemporary fiction, #parents and children, #romantic suspense, #family life, #contemporary women's fiction, #domestic life, #mothers & children
WATER FROM STONE. Copyright ©2013 Katherine Mariaca-Sullivan.
This book is copyrighted. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. No parts of it may be copied or shared without the express written permission of the author. For more information, contact
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any person, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Please note that the author has taken some liberties with mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). Because people are not cows, they cannot actually get mad cow disease. Instead, they can develop a similar disease called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, or vCJD. vCJD is a rare degenerative disease that is always fatal in humans. It is thought that it can be caused by eating beef products containing infected nervous system tissue. Any misinformation about mad cow disease presented in this book (such as it being transferable to humans through drinking infected blood) is included solely for story purposes.
ISBN: 978-0-9892514-9-5 (mobi)
ISBN: 978-0-9892514-4-0 (epub)
ISBN: 978-0-9892514-8-8 (Paperback)
Madaket Lane Publishers.
Lizzie shifts, sending the water bed rolling, and Mar’s body flows around her daughter’s so that the two remain molded together. The five-year-old has not slept well these past months and has become increasingly withdrawn as interest in her legal case has swelled into obsession. Even now, over the gentle burble of aquarium pumps, the swish of the ceiling fan, and the
of the overweight hamster’s wheel, Mar hears the ebb and flow of the reporters who have taken up positions on the front lawn and dammed the street.
She smooths a wisp of Lizzie’s white-blond hair from her face and tucks it behind her seashell ear. Though, spooning her from behind, Mar can only see the downy curve of Lizzie’s right cheek and the scalloped tip of her eyebrow, she imagines how the little girl’s troubled dreams must be playing across her face. She has studied Lizzie, at sleep, at play, in deep concentration. She has sketched her and drawn her and painted her hundreds, if not thousands, of times these past four-plus years. She knows how Lizzie’s skin flushes a dappled pink when she dances and how, caught in a fib, her eyes turn down and to the left while the right side of her mouth, the exact color of a conch shell’s inner curve, quirks upward. Mar knows how the late afternoon sun plays shadow games with Lizzie’s thick lashes and how there is one thin line of new-leaf green that teases from the otherwise cerulean blue of her left eye.
The room is hot. In summer Mar keeps the bedroom windows open but ever since a photographer set up a ladder in the street and aimed his camera at Lizzie’s window, she has kept the windows shut and the blinds drawn. The ceiling fan, newly installed, tosses the over-warm air about but does nothing to relieve the stifling heat. Sweat trickles between her breasts but Mar does not let go of her daughter. She cannot let her go.
On the dresser, the thick violet goo of the lava lamp globs and falls, forms and rises and, watching it, Mar wishes she’d never bought it because it makes her think of deep-sea mud roiling and spewing on thermal vents. Of pale, blind creatures scrabbling along the ocean floor gobbling up the bits of flesh that have fallen, sometimes for miles, from the razor mouths of the large fish above. A band of panic tightens around her chest and she has to force herself to suck in steadying lungfuls of air. She should have put Lizzie down for her nap in her own bedroom down the hall. Not here. Not inside the coral reef world that she’d painted on her daughter’s walls. In the purple haze light, fish dart from rock to coral and hover above the bed. The moray eel’s jaws gnash and snap and the once-playful dolphins that look into the room from the east wall grin savagely at her. Mar only realizes that she is moaning when Lizzie begins to moan too. She shuts her eyes against the onslaught and tempers her breathing to Lizzie’s. In, out, they breathe together. In, out. Skimming her fingertips across the little girl’s forehead and down between her eyes, Mar gentles the frown she’d known would be there until Lizzie’s features are once again untroubled.
How many more days will we have? Fourteen? Seven? One? Will they take Lizzie away today? Every time her attorney explains the process to her, Mar’s mind shuts down, refuses to consider the possibility that she might lose her daughter forever.
A car door slams. Mar hears the surge of reporters as they rush whoever has arrived. She holds her breath. In his cage, the hamster stops running. Mar glances up at the wide aquarium headboard she made for the bed. Mr. Shrimp and the lobster are about, deceived, no doubt, by the murky light of the room. A clown fish, Nemo or Moby or Fudge, burrows in an anemone. The pirate chest fills with pumped air. There. There. There. It is full, and opens. Bubbled pearls of air rise to the surface. The front door slams.
, the hamster runs. Mar breathes.
She tries to distract herself with the
What if we had run?
It would have been so easy to pack up Lizzie and the dog and point her car south.
What if they had made it to Mexico?
She imagines handing their documents off to a border guard who waves them silently through. After all, no one smuggles someone
What if we were now living on a beach somewhere in Central America?
No one who knows Mar would ever look for her near the ocean.
What if Jack Westfield had never found them?
She swallows the bile that rises hotly to her throat. This is where the game ends. Where it always ends. Jack Westfield had found them.
Lizzie draws her knees up and Mar once again flows to accommodate and envelop her. “Mama,” Lizzie’s voice is a velvet sigh and Mar wraps her arms around her tucked body.
“I’m here, baby.
Awash in the sensations of Lizzie, it is difficult for Mar to imagine a force strong enough to insert itself between her and her daughter and wrench them apart. Still, she knows that there are such forces alive in the world. They have visited her before.
Mar tells herself to pay attention, to drink in every detail, the little hums and sighs of Lizzie asleep, the accordion rise and fall of her shoulder, how her knobbed back curls perfectly to Mar’s stomach and warms her. She forces herself to take note. Years from now, when all that she might have left are these memories, she’ll need details. She runs her hand down Lizzie’s body, pausing to memorize. She rounds Lizzie’s shoulder, her stomach and hip. She measures the length of the girl’s thigh bone against her own forearm and examines the box-like structure of her knee. She admires the seal-pelt down on Lizzie’s legs and the bones of her small feet. Separating each toe, Mar slips her finger in and out of the hollows and runs a fingertip over the moon sliver curves of her toenails.
Who will clip your nails? Who will paint them?
Mar palms the hard knob of Lizzie’s heel, testing, and then traces Lizzie’s body back up.
I am losing you,
Mar thinks. She lifts Lizzie’s hair from the back of her neck and nuzzles her daughter’s damp skin. She inhales, desperate, and again, separating and identifying the smells. Sunshine and syrup and oatmeal. She presses her nose to her daughter’s scalp. Baby shampoo. Sweat. Playdoh. Mar is drowning.
I am drowning.
“Mar? Honey?” Don Bloom parts the pearl bead curtain in Lizzie’s doorway and steps into the room. Mar freezes. The waterfall clack of the beads slows. “Mar?”
Mar’s teeth clench and the frown between her brows deepens. She shakes her head, once, and follows Lizzie’s arm to the tight “v” of her elbow and then trickles her fingers to her tiny wrist. Lizzie’s hand is balled inside Boosie, one-time Mar’s blanket and now Lizzie’s. She works her fingers under the fabric until her hand enfolds her daughter’s.
“Mar, it’s time to go.”
She wills her father away. Doesn’t he understand what she is doing? But the bed tilts under Don’s weight and she slips down the back of the wave he has created. Mar anchors her right arm around Lizzie and stretches her left hand out to grip the far side of the bed.
“Sorry.” Don shifts again, putting more of his weight on the bed frame. The mattress tide reverses direction and Mar holds on as she and Lizzie crest each swell until, finally, the rocking stops.
Don clears his throat. He is a quiet, deliberate man and he has not spoken much these past weeks, but Mar, who spent her childhood patiently crouched beside him in the marshes and tide pools of the Keys waiting for the wildlife he would sketch to appear, does not need her father to speak to know his thoughts. Now she wishes he would say nothing as, really, there is nothing to say.
“I know you’re awake, and I know what you’re feeling.”
Mar shakes her head.
“I know, Sweet Pea, I know. But we can’t keep the judge waiting.”
Mar snorts. Judge McClaine is the same judge she once called “a bigoted, heaping helping of horse droppings” and, while she immediately caught herself and added, “that’s off the record,” the reporter she’d been unloading on had found the comment too quotable to pass up. That her daughter’s future is now in McClaine’s hands terrifies Mar. Her voice catches. “Daddy, no.”
Don shifts again and Mar prays that he is leaving. Instead, he settles and Mar is aware once again of the
of time passing. To drown out the noise inside her head, she sings into Lizzie’s hair, a song she invented long before she was aware of its implications, long before she recognized that she’d claimed Lizzie as her own. “Mama’s baby, little baby, Mama’s sweet baby girl…”
“They dropped the six-year-old Lanski kid in a vat of blood.” Jack Westfield had been in the shower when Elena’s call came through.
“But that’s not the worst of it,” she added.
“Two minutes,” Jack said, punched off and tossed the phone onto the bathroom counter.
Now, with the phone pinched between his shoulder and ear, Jack pulls on the suit pants Lindsey had laid out for him. “Tell me,” he says when Elena answers.
Elena Martinez is Jack’s assistant. She was with him the six-years he worked in the D.A.’s office and she came over with him when he moved to Weisman, Tannenbaum and Carruthers seven years ago. If she says it’s bad, it is.
He glances at the bedside clock and curses himself for hitting the snooze button. He’d returned home from the office after midnight and then had spent more hours honing his opening arguments to the absolute essentials so that the gruesome truth they revealed could not be disputed. Sometime around three, he’d fallen into a troubled sleep. Right before the bloody air had gone off. Again.
“There was a message on the machine when I got in this morning.”
,” Jack says around the plastic clips the dry cleaner put in the collar and cuffs of his shirt. As he pushes his arm through the shirt sleeve, the starch melts against the slick of sweat on his skin. Fine. He’ll change at the office before heading to court.
“He’s gone AWOL.”
“What?” This stops Jack, dead. “Krillov?”
Jack drops to the side of the bed. Lanski is his slam-dunk witness against Grigorly Krillov, the latest, sickest of the crime virtuosos to have spilled like garbage onto U.S. shores since the breakup of the Soviet Union. He’d sauntered away from his criminal trial after every last one of the D.A.’s witnesses had come down with a terminal case of amnesia. Now this, the civil trial, what Lindsey calls his “O.J. case,” is the only way of getting any justice for the families of Krillov’s victims. Without Lanski, Jack’s entire case is screwed.
“Doesn’t that asshole know he’s under subpoena?”
“He skipped town. Took his whole family and got out of Dodge. Said he’d rather spend his life on the run than end up hamburger in his own butcher shop.”
“He was good yesterday. I talked to him.”
“They took his kid, Jack. Stole his little girl right off the school playground.”
“We had guards on the family.”
“Gone.” Pause. “But that’s not the worst of it.”
“Tell me.” Jack knots his shoes and stands. His watch and cufflinks are on the dresser.
“No, no, she’s OK. Well, as can be expected.”
“They got her back?”
“Oh, yeah. That was the point.”
As Jack straps on his watch, he looks around the room for his pager. Because cell phones are not allowed in the courtroom, he has been carrying an old-fashioned pager. With Lindsey just weeks away from giving birth to their first child, he can’t risk being out of touch. He returns to the bathroom. Maybe he left the pager on the counter.
“They covered her in blood. Dropped the poor thing in from head to toe.”
“Ah, Christ.” Jack thinks he knows where this is going. Krillov, known by the nickname Gosha on the streets, is one messed-up psycho with a talent for inventiveness and persuasion that goes light years beyond the run-of-the-mill bullet to the brain or shattered kneecaps.