Saturday, July 20th, 2024

B Book Excerpts by Jean Loxley-Barnard
The Hope Trap -- May Day


The following is an excerpt from The Hope Trap, Jean Loxley-Barnard's forthcoming book.

May Day was a beautiful day and Jo and I were looking forward to dinner out. Jo would do a restaurant review for The Magazine and we would probably chat for hours.

I could hear her old Z coming a block away. She wasn't embarrassed to drive the thing and that said a lot about her self esteem. Jo was definitely not materialistic.

I watched the blue beast chug to a stop and jump a bit as Jo slammed the driver's door. It worked, with enough force, unlike the passenger door which had to be maneuvered just so or it just would not latch. The hood was tied down with a bungie cord.

Jo would be willing to clear a seat for me if I wanted her to drive, but I didn't. We would take the fancy Olds that Rob had given me for Christmas three years before the successful intervention when he finally went to Tucson for a month of treatment. The next three years we had all believed his sobriety would last. We were wrong. Eve had begun encouraging me to "Get a new car as part of your divorce." But I loved my car, had loved it from the first moment I saw it turning around on the turntable at the Olds lot. It was dark blue with a white fake convertible top. A spoked wheel decorated the back bumper - the classiest car I had ever seen. I was reluctant to part with it.

Rob was home, showering before an evening out, when Jo came. I took the tape from the recorder, eager to listen to the day's catch when Jo and I drove off.Once we were safely out of the neighborhood, I put the tape in. We were both giddy about our Nancy Drew bonanza.

It didn't take long for us to replace our gleefulness with serious expressions.

"After you told her," Kitty was saying hesitantly, "she fell back and started to swallow her tongue. I called 911."

Rob interrupted. "Hysteric," he said.

"She was okay before the rescue squad came, anyway," Kitty continued, "and she wouldn't go to the hospital no matter what they said. Anyway, my Gramma made me call Rev. Weaver."

"Jeez!" Kitty had gotten Rob's attention now. Reverend Jim Weaver, Rob's best friend, now knew. The gig could be up. "So what happened?" Rob prompted.

"He talked to everyone here all afternoon." Even Kitty was aware of how serious this was.

"Did he talk to you?" Rob's voice was anxious.

"Yes." Kitty fell silent.

"What did you tell him?" Rob drew a breath.

"I told him that I loved you. And that you loved me too." Kitty was speaking deliberately.

"Good," Rob stated, "I want everyone to know. I'm tired of trying to hide it."

"Rev told me you could lose your license over this, had I thought about that?" Kitty sounded her age, but her voice had a grown up concern.

Rob wanted to defuse that thought. "Listen to me. There is no way that I will lose my license. It is not illegal to love someone. And that is all it is. That is all anyone can prove. You are the only witness and you aren't going to tell anyone."

By this time, I had pulled into a shopping center parking lot and Jo and I were sitting still, almost leaning into the cassette player. There would be no restaurant review that night.

The Parsonage Meeting

Diane Weaver took a deep breath and Jo and I followed automatically.
Then she got to the point. "Rob launched into this scenario
about putting animals to sleep. He said,
"It can be done so simply by injecting water into the blood stream.
Death is almost instantaneous and no one will ever know
how it was done.' That's just what he said!"

I went through the rest of the evening in slow motion. I walked, I talked, seeming somewhat normal I suppose, but I was in shock. The happenings of the day indicated that nothing would ever be the same. The story was no longer contained. Now, so many people knew about it, it was just a matter of time before Rob and Kitty's affair would be public knowledge.

Life had proceeded so slowly before the fateful Valentine's Day, it had so many endless days. Now it took wrenching turns. Could so much have happened in just ten weeks?

Of course it had been far longer than ten weeks developing. Ten weeks represented only the time when I was aware of what was going on. Would events keep turning for the next ten?

Jo wouldn't leave me. I told her she could go, but she said no way. She's spend the night if I needed her, she offered. I said I wouldn't, but I was very glad for the company now.

I called the parsonage and Diane Weaver answered. When I told her I knew what had transpired during the afternoon, and what was supposed to happen shortly, she confirmed that Rob and Kitty truly were scheduled to come to the parsonage for counseling at 8 p.m. Even knowing beforehand, having the confirmation came as another shock.

None of it seemed real. How could a minister possibly set up a meeting to counsel a 50 year-old-man and a 17-year-old girl as though anything about the situation approached normal?

Diane didn't want to be at the parsonage during this strange counseling session and Jim had told the couple that she had a meeting elsewhere, so Diane came to my home. Jo, Diane and I sat around my sun room table going over the whole bazaar situation and waiting for Jason to call.

"I made Jim promise to call as soon as they leave," Diane told us.

I was curious to hear what had gone on at the Densmore home from Jim's view point. Diane seemed to need to share it.

"Jim talked to everyone," Diane explained. "Kitty, her mother, the grandmother - he talked to each one individually. Kitty swears that there has been no sex. Jim asked her specifically about that," Diane emphasized.

"She's lying," I inserted. "I can prove it."

"No doubt," Diane agreed, "but that is what she is telling Jim."

"What else would she say?" Jo groaned sarcastically. "Lying is her modus operandi!"

Diane nodded and continued. "Jim asked her if she thought her relationship was worth Rob's career. That seemed to shake her up some."

I was relieved to hear someone had said that to Kitty. Could it be that she had never asked herself that question? Perhaps at 17 those kind of thoughts never flickered into a young mind. At 17, even the thought of death seems foreign - something that only happens to others. A career is something unknown.

How long and hard Rob and I had worked to build that career, from the poverty stricken years in undergraduate school through the years of building the practice. Three decades had gone into the success that Rob enjoyed. Would he throw it all away for an affair with a teenager?

As the evening lengthened, we wondered just how long the counseling session could possibly last. It had begun at 8 and as 10 o'clock approached, the wait became unbearable. Jim had promised to call Diane as soon as it was over, so we dared not call the parsonage.

I was beginning to think Jim wasn't calling because he didn't want to answer any questions. Diane took my mind in another direction, however.

"You need to be very careful, Julie," she said.

"Careful?" I asked.

"Yes. Jim and I both think you need to be very careful. You need to think about your security." I could tell Diane was concerned.

"I will be okay financially," I assured her. "Rob has always been generous."

"I'm not referring to your financial security," Diane replied. "Jim and I think you need to focus on your physical security."

She had my full attention. "I've thought of that from time to time, but I don't really think Rob will try to harm me. Why do you say that?"

Diane shifted in her chair and then leaned forward. "You know that Rob comes over each month for breakfast with Jim?" she inquired.

"I do." I turned to Jo to explain. "As lay leader in the church," we all snickered about the aptness of that title for Rob, "he worked closely with Reverend Weaver." Jo nodded.

Diane continued. "At the last breakfast, I happened to look out in the driveway at 7:30 to see if Rob had arrived and noticed him sitting in the Cadillac, talking on the phone. I watched him for a few minutes, and then he got out of the car with the strangest expression. I didn't think too much of it at the time, but what followed made me remember that expression."

Jo and I sat totally still, absorbed by Diane's tale. I was taking long breaths and hanging on every word.

"This Friday morning was different from any other we had experienced with Rob," Diane explained. "He was different in a way that I can't explain."

She seemed to be laboring to figure it out still. Diane shook her head and repeated, "I just can't explain it. It was as if Rob's body were there, but there was someone different inside."

That made my hair stand up. I knew that feeling.

Jo leaned back in her chair. "Oh, brother!" she exclaimed.

Diane lowered her voice, as if what she was about to say shouldn't be overheard. Jo and I leaned forward, anxious to hear a secret.

"This is the scary part," Diane confided, as if we didn't know that by her demeanor. "Rob looked at our cat and asked how she was. Tabby had been sick and Rob knew that. We told him Tabby was fine now, but Rob went on as if he hadn't heard us."

Diane took a deep breath and Jo and I followed automatically. Then she got to the point. "Rob launched into this scenario about putting animals to sleep. He said, "It can be done so simply by injecting water into the blood stream. Death is almost instantaneous and no one will ever know how it was done.' That's just what he said!"

"No one will ever know?" Jo and I almost shouted in unison. "No one will ever know!" Jo got up and started to pace. Diane shook her head, knowing that we got it. Did we ever!

Jo rubbed her arms, signaling that her hair was standing up. "Good God," was all she said.

"About an animal?" I exclaimed. "No one would ever know about an animal?"

"Exactly," Diane replied. Jim and I were very concerned. We've discussed it many times. Rob went on and on, almost gleeful. It was as if he was talking to himself that morning, unaware that we were there. It was eerie, like no other breakfast we had ever had. Now you know why we are so concerned for your physical safety."

We were startled by the ring of the phone.