Saturday, July 20th, 2024

B Book Excerpts by Jean Loxley-Barnard
The Hope Trap -- The Rifle


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

I had given Rob two hours to get out. Afraid to chance what my "or else" might be, he left.

Eve had called my sister Lee, who drove four hours knowing I would need her.

The three of us decided to follow Rob, starting at Kitty's, where his Cadillac was parked. Driving out of the neighborhood, we parked where we could see him pass without him seeing us. Then we followed him to the Comfort Inn. It was close to 11:00 p.m.

Our plan was to see inside the briefcase in Rob's trunk. He had told Kitty he kept her things in it. We were nervous and felt like criminals, but had a plan to find out what that briefcase held.

We parked by the Caddy, where Lee would be the distraction. She would open her trunk, and remove Matt's golf clubs, making herself obvious. If anyone noticed us, it would look like we were late arrivals. I was to open Rob's trunk. Eve stayed in the car.

Lee put on a straw hat, wide brimmed with a plaid ribbon and was wearing brightly colored casual clothes. The ultimate preppy in dress, Lee was now ostensibly in disguise!

She went to the golf clubs as I went to open Rob's trunk with a little button in his glove compartment. Holding my breath, I unlocked the car door and slipped inside. Of course the light in the car went on and I felt like a spotlight was on me.

Finally, I heard the trunk pop and I hurried back to look inside. The trunk was fairly full. A bag of dirty laundry, grocery bags of clothes â€" but no briefcase.

Then I saw it. A rifle! I felt like a target.

"Hurry up!" we heard Eve whisper, "I think he's coming out!" Lee had already begun replacing the golf clubs and I had just shut the trunk. We could see Rob come out the side door and look in our direction. He stepped past the light at the doorway which would interfere with his being able to see well into the darker parking area.

Lee stepped quickly to the driver's seat. She simply started the car and drove deliberately past Rob while he was walking toward his car.

"He showed no signs of recognizing me," Lee said. "And he wouldn't recognize Matt's car. I think he was just puzzled and jumpy."

We were all three excited, having had a real adventure. But seeing the rifle made us aware that this was no game.

When we returned home, we went immediately to the closet where he kept his hand gun and, sure enough, it was missing. We stood looking at one another.

"I don't think he's going to shoot you," Lee said, speaking our worst thought. "He'd be the number one suspect and he'd go to jail and not be able to be with his honey."

"She's right. I agree with Lee,"  Eve added. "He may be more afraid of you than you are of him." I was relieved to hear what they had to say. 

By now it was midnight, time to sleep.  "You're both coming home with me, right?" Eve asked.  "Right,"  Lee replied.  I said nothing.  Both looked at me.

"You're not thinking of staying here," Lee asked, her alarm showing.

"Yes I am," I replied quietly.  "This is my home.  If I leave it tonight, I don't know that I'll ever be able to come back.  I need to stay in my own home tonight." 
"Matt made me promise not to stay in this house," Lee began, "He is convinced Rob is crazy."

"I don't expect you to stay here.  Go home with Eve," I urged.  "I'll be fine.  You aren't going to live here anyway.  I'll have to be alone and may as well do it now."

"I'm not going to leave you.  We'll just lock up tight."  My sister had made up her mind, just as I had. I was grateful that she was going to stay, but I had been prepared to stay alone.

Eve left, and Lee and I checked all door and window locks.  She turned lights on all over the house and, once inside my bedroom, she pushed a chest up against the bedroom door.  I saw that Lee agreed with Matt's view of Rob, even though she wasn't keeping her promise not to stay at the house.  She reasoned that Matt might feel differently now that I had thrown Rob out of the house, but she knew in her heart he'd be adamant anyway.  Watching her secure our fortress, I knew she was every bit as concerned as her husband. 

We slept well once we got into bed, and were ever so relieved to wake and find light.  It was strange to wake and know this was the first day of the rest of my life without Rob.  Such a drastic change in life is difficult to adjust to, even when it is something one chooses and something that has to happen.

Lee was planning to return to her family that day and I did something uncharacteristic for me.  I asked her to stay one more day.  She readily agreed.

When Lee left that Monday, both of us were teary-eyed.  It was often hard to part, never quite so difficult as this day.  My sister was going back to live happily ever after with her prince of a husband.  I was glad for her, even as I went back into my empty house.  At least it was my house.  I had not had to flee.  I was here to stay.  It was time for me to build a new life, one day at a time.

This particular day was an unusual time to do that.  It was our wedding anniversary.

The Call

I went to bed that night about eleven, knowing that my phone would ring before midnight.  When it did, it woke me up.  I reached for the receiver in the dark, fumbling.  When I picked it up and said hello, there was no reply.  I said hello again.  No response.  Then silence.  We were both on the line but there was nothing left to say. 

I looked at the clock.  Five before midnight.  "Happy Anniversary, Rob,"  I said, "I love you, too."

After a moment, he hung up.