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Starr Gardinier

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Member Since: Jan, 2007

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   Recent stories by Starr Gardinier
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Murderous Retreat
By Starr Gardinier
Thursday, November 04, 2010

Rated "G" by the Author.

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Short story

All she wanted to do was get away—far away from the rat race she called her life; little did she know her retreat would turn into a nightmare. Not once did she expect it to end up like this.
She stopped running, grabbed her aching sides and gasped for breath. She would do almost anything to have her hectic life back rather than to be going through this. She needed to find help and to get away from what she just witnessed. She wasn’t sure if he saw her or not, but Catrina wasn’t taking any chances. Not wanting to stand there for very long in case he was behind her, she ran from the river as fast as she could.
*****
“Honey, I just need to get away. You know how stressed I’ve been.”
Catrina Hollander spoke quietly. She was hoping that Quinten would understand that she needed to flee from her life for just a little while and that it had nothing at all to do with him. She loved her husband beyond measure and she was not leaving him.
They were sitting in the back of their home in the gazebo, shaded from the hot sun. It was where she went to smoke as Quinten quit years before and she hated smoking in the house. She just got home from work and was exhausted after another long day. She hadn’t yet changed from her business suit, but kicked off the high heels she endured all day. She sat with her feet on top of her husband’s legs as he sat across from her. When Quinten was home and not traveling, this time together was something they often shared.
“I do know and I want you to book it. Go on your trip; you’ll feel better when you return.”
“Are you sure? You’re not upset?”
“You’ve had a lot on your plate lately and unfortunately, there has been little I could do to help. Yes, I help with your brothers where I can, but that’s one burden you must handle as you are Brent’s health care agent. You need to get away and revitalize yourself.”
“Thank you for understanding,” she told him.
She figured he would empathize because that was the way he was. At the same time, she didn’t want him to think he was part of her problems; far from it.
“What’s to understand? Sweetheart, you’re nearing melt down and what would I do without you? Please, don’t worry; just go and have a good time.”
Catrina had been under enormous pressure from her job as a paralegal in a busy law firm, was taking care of her brothers, and was still having a hard time dealing with the loss of her mother.
Last year, her mother died leaving her in charge of taking care of both Douglas and Brent Garnell, her mentally-challenged adult brothers. She was close to her mother and when she died, Catrina was crushed. She sought counseling to get past the grief, but it left a hole in her heart that nothing could ever fill.
During the time she was seeing her psychologist, Brent, the eldest, was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. After a two-week stay in the hospital, he came to stay with Catrina and Quinten. He stayed for almost two weeks before Catrina allowed him to go back home. He and Douglas lived only a mile from Catrina and therefore, she felt it was okay for him to be in familiar surroundings again.
From that point on, Catrina was the one responsible for bringing him to his doctor appointments, making sure his many prescriptions were refilled on time, making sure he stayed on his low sodium, low fat diet and the one who tried to get him to quit smoking and exercise; to no avail.
Douglas was younger than Catrina and was not as disabled as Brent, but was very manipulative. When Catrina decided to put Brent in a full-time care facility so that someone could monitor his daily medication and diet regimen, Douglas told Brent that he didn’t have to go because no one could legally force him. The only thing Douglas was concerned about was Brent’s money that he got from social security. Recognizing the fact that she could do little else, Catrina did her best to properly care for Brent while working a full time job. It was too much for her and she was beginning to experience breakdowns, crying over the simplest things.
Quinten’s job often took him out of town for days at a time, so it was equally hard for him to help as much as he wanted to. He did as much as he could for her, but the brunt of the responsibilities lay on Catrina. He worked for the city as a water specialist and his job was that of monitoring the systems and making sure the equipment was running smoothly. He would often be sent out of town to the manufacturers’ plants to attend meetings and inspect their supply to be sure that they were sending quality parts.
Catrina idolized her husband; he was so good to her. When he was home, he would try to pick up the slack by doing laundry and cleaning the house. On occasion, he would even do the grocery shopping. To everyone they seemed the perfect couple; always there for one another. A few times, however, Catrina secretly felt Quinten was glad when he had to leave town on business. She didn’t blame him.

Now, she wished Quinten told her not to go. This wasn’t something she expected to happen to her. She wanted a vacation, a retreat; instead, here she was running for her life instead of from it. She rented a cabin in the mountains for four days, calling it her ‘sanity saver.’ Now, however, it wasn’t saving her at all, but was putting her life in danger.
The night she arrived, she called Quinten to tell him she arrived safely. He told her the next day he was scheduled to leave on business and would call her the next night.
On her second day, she decided to go for a walk to clear her mind. She hiked down to a small river not far from where her cabin was situated. She walked slowly, enjoying the pleasant weather, the beautiful surroundings and the peace and quiet. Quinten told her to leave her cell phone at home as she didn’t need it and she wouldn’t be able to relax if it were constantly ringing.
She was sitting on the banks when a woman came running down a hill toward her screaming for help. The woman didn’t see her as she was running blindly; her clothes were torn and her face was bloody.
Catrina stood up and began to walk toward the woman. That was when she saw him. A man came trotting after the woman; he had something in his hand but was too far away at the time for her to see what it was. Catrina quickly ducked behind a large tree and stood there not knowing what to do. Before she had time to act, the man caught up with the woman near the edge of the riverbank. He hit her hard across the head with a shovel. Catrina was barely able to stifle her screams. The force of the strike caused the woman to fall face first into the water. She stood there in shock, unable to believe what she just saw.
The man just laughed, still holding the bloodied shovel. Catrina knew the woman was dead and she couldn’t do anything for her. She was appalled at the scene before her and knew she had to get out of there before the man saw her, lest she end up dead as well.
Catrina moved to crouch down behind the tree. In doing so, she stepped on some dry leaves and the sound seemed to echo loudly around her. The man stopped laughing when he heard the noise and looked in her direction. She held her breath and waited. Catrina closed her eyes and prayed he wouldn’t come over to where she was to investigate the sound. Fortunately, he must have decided he was alone and was hearing things because when she opened her eyes again, she saw him still standing where he was. He took another look at the woman in the river, laughed again and then started walking back up the hill the way he came.
Catrina stayed there a while longer to make sure he was gone. Then she got up and darted towards her cabin. She knew there wasn’t a phone in it, so she cut across through another set of trees toward the office.
After finally arriving, she stood a moment on the porch trying to catch her breath. She then dashed in the door and incessantly rang the little bell that was sitting on the counter. After a few moments, the middle-aged woman who checked her in came out and asked how she could help her.
“I have to use your telephone,” she was still breathing hard and it actually hurt her lungs to get out the few words.
“We have a pay phone…”
“No,” Catrina interrupted trying to calm herself enough to speak again. “I must call the police. Please!”
“What’s this about?”
“Can I explain later? Please let me use your telephone.”
“Okay, we have a phone in here; come this way,” she opened the little gate that led behind the counter and showed Catrina to the back door leading into their living quarters.
“Danny!” the woman yelled out as they entered.
Catrina cried out when the man entered the room. She couldn’t believe her eyes. It was the man she just saw murder a girl. She looked from the woman to Danny with wide eyes. She was terrified.
“What have you done now, Danny?” the woman asked after seeing Catrina’s face.
The man smiled and said, “Just getting rid of some trash. Looks like I have more to deal with.”
Catrina fainted.
When she woke, she was lying on a couch. She looked around her and realized she was in the living quarters of the motel manager’s home. The events of the girl’s murder and the meeting of the man who killed her came rushing back to her.
She got up quickly and ran to the door she entered earlier; it was locked. Catrina noticed it needed a key to open it from the inside. She tried the way out at the back of the living room; no success. She spotted a doorway and went through it only to find herself in the kitchen. There was a back exit, which she checked and found locked as well. Looking around, she spotted a block of knives. Taking one from the holder and brandishing it as a weapon, she walked back into the living room.
She stopped short and the knife fell out of her hand as she saw him sitting on the sofa, smiling.
“Quinten?”
It was the only word she was able to utter before the shovel came crashing down on her head.

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