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The Mystery of the Easter Colors

The Mystery of the Easter Colors

By Shae Hamrick

 

 

Janet stared at her multicolor, dye-covered hands. They looked like some Easter experiment gone awry. Well, today had gone as far out of normal as she could ever have imagined, that was for sure. Praise God her daughters were home safe. How would she ever explain all this to them again?

"Mrs. Robins."

A voice penetrated her thoughts. Janet glanced up at the young sergeant who had been escorting her though the dimly lit halls of the high school. He motioned to the small room of the teacher's lounge. "If you would wait here, the captain will want to speak with you a moment. He will be along shortly."

Janet nodded and walked in, glancing around the brightly lit room, scrubbed white walls, and polished black floors with small round tables and chairs. No blood anywhere.

A noise clanked behind her and she spun to see the door now closed, the room still empty. Sighing, she turned to the sink. Pulling up the faucet lever and dousing her arms in the warm flood of water, she tried to wash away the stains. Her jeans and her t-shirt were covered as well, but she could change later. She wanted to clean the stains from her hands. She rinsed and rinsed. The yellows and blues and reds remained, as vivid as the memories. Grabbing the soap, she scrubbed vigorously.

"Mrs. Robins," a deep voice called, but she ignored it. She had to get the colors off. She scrubbed even harder and faster despite the pain to her raw flesh.

A large masculine hand shut off the water and another wrapped a towel over her arms and hands, avoiding the water dripping on his brown uniform sleeves. "Mrs. Robins. Come sit down."

She looked into the round flushed face of a man with graying hairline and pug nose that held a wire-rimmed pair of glasses.

"Janet isn't it?"

He guided her to a chair nearby and patted her arms with the towel.

"My name is Captain Jefferson. I know you have been through a lot tonight, but I need to ask you some questions real quick and then I’ll have this officer drive you home."

The captain nodded toward a second policeman standing by the door.

Janet stared at Captain Jefferson as she eased into the chair and took a deep breath, letting it out slowly. She had panicked. She knew better. She had seen death before, just not cold blooded murder. The look of that man's grinning face would haunt her forever.

"Now Janet, if you could just tell me what happened in there? What were you doing before all this happened?"

Janet sighed inwardly. She didn't really want to tell this again. Yet, she was certain they were simply being thorough in asking once more.

"We were experimenting with natural dyes," she started.

The captain was writing on a sheet of paper on a clipboard and glanced up. "We?"

Janet rocked her head right and left a little. "My after school science club."

"And who all knew about this club meeting tonight?"

Huffing, Janet rolled her eyes to the ceiling. "Anyone with Internet I suppose. It's posted on the school calendar and in the newspaper."

Captain Jefferson nodded. "Okay, continue."

Janet closed her eyes to remember the kids' faces as she began the after school science class earlier today.

#

 

Closing the front lab door after the second bell rang, Janet pointed toward the twin teens. "Johnnie, what herb or spice would we use for yellow?"

Johnnie glanced up from the magazine in his hand that read 'Hot Rods Aficionado'. That was the name of the magazine she had taken from her daughter’s hands this morning when they were running behind again as usual. Janet wasn’t certain why so many teens in this small town had become so infatuated with that particular work of hype and advertising but it seemed quite popular lately.

Johnnie stared with wide eyes and open mouth for several moments. "Uh, sulfur?"

Tim, his mirror image, laughed and punched Johnnie in the arm. "Orange peel, you car nut. I told you to read the pamphlet before we came to school today."

"I did," Johnnie said and hit Tim's arm. "I was just testing you is all."

"Alright. That's enough." Janet slapped a wooden spoon on the table while suppressing a grin. "Let's get back to topic. I assume you all read the pamphlet on natural dyes and dying methods?"

Several heads nodded and murmurs of agreement floated around as another student slipped in the still open door in the back of the classroom. The after-school class was small today. No doubt due to the school holiday tomorrow for Good Friday. She had hoped for a better turn out. Maybe dying Easter Eggs was not as great an idea as she had thought. Next year she would go back to t-shirts and tennis shoes. The kids always showed in mass for a chance to make the weirdest tie-dye designs at her last school.

"As you should have read, nature dye's have been used until recently and can produce both more vibrant and more varied coloring. However, not all dye's, whether natural or not, are safe. Since we are dying eggs today, we will be sticking to the edible dyes. Unless you like them to taste and smell like rotten eggs."

Laughter filled the room as Tim batted Johnnie's arm again.

Janet grinned. "Alright. You have your materials in front of you and the cooked eggs are washed and ready. Pick two colors for each station and lets get started boiling some dyes."

Janet kept a close watch on the students as they ignited burners and chopped ingredients to boil in the water. Safety must be maintained at all times. Parents tended to frown on nasty burns and amputated fingers just before a holiday.

As the waters boiled, the students took samples of the water and charted the progress of each ingredient's color saturation on cotton swabs. Janet continued walking the room and observing. As she drew near the doorway in the back of the room, she noticed a man just outside, looking in. She didn't recognize him as being the parent of any of her students.

Janet turned to face him squarely. "May I help you sir?"

The short skinny man grinned like the devil himself and stepped in through the door. The light bounced off the silver emblem on his baseball cap and forced Janet to glance down. His shoes were muddy and his pants were stained a reddish brown. As she glanced back up, she spotted the revolver tucked in his pants and partially covered by his worn dark brown jacket.

"I was just coming to visit my friend Johnnie and check out the experiments with color. Colors, vibrant colors, have always fascinated me."

Janet glanced at Johnnie. His eyes were wide as saucers and his mouth hung open as he stared at the man. Johnnie put the dropper down on the lab table and turned toward him.

"Mr. Smitty," he called as he slid off the high stool. "I wasn't expecting to see you until the next car show in the summer."

Janet stepped between her students and Mr. Smitty. "I'm sorry Johnnie. You will have to wait until later to see him. I must ask you to leave the school campus Mr. Smitty."

Janet glanced briefly to where she had seen the now concealed gun. Mr. Smitty grinned at her, his one crooked tooth on the side oddly sticking out. As he slicked his thick, curly black hair back, Janet noticed his hands were stained the same reddish brown as his pants.

"I didn't catch your name miss."

"Mrs. Robins," she replied with the emphasis on the Mrs. "Now, if you would kindly excuse us, the class needs to finish the lesson. Although normally I would invite you to stay Mr. Smitty, I am obligated to ask you to leave the school campus or call security."

To Janet’s amazement, Mr. Smitty grinned wider and stepped closer. Janet stepped back a step putting her now just in front of the nearest lab table. Janet maintained eye contact. Mr. Smitty's dark green eyes glowed she could only guess was amusement.

"Why Mrs. Robins. That’s not very nice of you. And you are scaring these fine teens to boot. I just wanted to see all the colors. That is what they say spring and Easter are all about. New life, growth, birth, and all the pretty colors."

Janet held her ground this time as he stepped closer.

"Class, please get up quietly and quickly head out the door in the front. Report to Mr. Alderman now."

She could hear the chairs scooting as the teenagers began moving. The man tilted his head to one side and grimaced.

"Now you shouldn't have done that. I only wanted to watch."

He pulled out the gun and pointed it at her. Janet’s stomach dropped to the floor. Not again.

Several girls screamed and Janet could hear the kids running as the door opened.

"Everybody stop right there!"

The noise continued. Mr. Smitty pointed the gun toward the other door and, with what Janet could only describe as glee, he began to fire.

Janet spun toward the nearest lab table. Two students fell to the floor. Tim and Johnnie still stood at their table, their eyes wide and faces contorted with horror.

Janet completed her jaunt and grabbed two of the boiling pots by the insulated handles. The colored water splashed on her arms, scalding them painfully. Ignoring the pain, she spun as a fourth shot rang out, throwing the pans, water and all at the horrid man.

He screamed as the water splashed on his face and arms. He glanced at them, turning his arms as if examining them and their colors. His eyes lit in a gleeful yet pained way as he glared at Janet and pointed the gun at her. Janet braced for the shot that would end her life just as more water splashed him from the other table beside her.

"Stop it," Johnnie shouted. "Leave her alone!"

The water had not hit him as much but he nearly dropped the gun. The fire alarm went off just then and the sprinklers spewed water everywhere. The cold water hit her as a shock and Janet inhaled sharply.

The man shook and looked back to her from staring at Johnnie. Pointing the gun her direction, Mr. Smitty grinned an evil grin.

"I'll tell your daughters' Happy Easter for you Mrs. Robins."

Janet's heart raced faster as she stared at him in shock. How did he know?

A shot rang out and Janet screamed. She thought it odd she felt no pain. She looked at her front and saw only the multi colors from the water. As she looked back up she saw Mr. Smitty collapse to the ground, a surprised look on his face. Behind him stood a man in a blue uniform, holding a smoking gun with both hands.

Janet dropped to her knees and wept.

#

 

"A blue uniform," Captain Jefferson stated, pulling her back to the present. "He was a school guard then. Do you know his name?"

Janet stared at the captain in disbelief. "He isn't one of yours?"

Captain Jefferson shook his head. "No. My men all wear brown, Mrs. Robins. So I gather you didn't get his name."

Janet closed here eyes a moment, trying to remember if she could recall his nametag. She didn't remember him having one, just a silver shield.

"Mrs. Robins. Are you okay?"

"The school doesn't have a guard captain. He retired last year and hasn't been replaced. I was bluffing. And no, I didn't get his name. He asked me all these questions too and said you would want to talk to me."

Janet inhaled sharply as she suddenly remembered the last thing they had discussed.

"He said he would go check on my daughters for me. I don't remember telling him about them."

"Where do you live Mrs. Robins?"

Janet blinked, clearing the young officers face from her vision, and then stared at the pug-nosed captain.

"Jose lane, just off county road 45. Number 513."

"Fifteen minutes away at best. Do you have a phone?"

"Yes."

"Call them. See if they are all right. Have them go to a neighbors house and stay."

Janet nodded as she took the cell phone the captain handed her. Her hands shook as she dialed and placed it on speakerphone.

It rang.

"Mom?" Amy's terrified voice answered.

"Yes baby, are you all right?"

"Mom! There is a man here with a gun and Katy's ---"

Amy went silent.

"Amy!"

"I'll tell her Happy Easter for you Mrs. Robins," the young man's voice echoed distantly over the phone.

Amy screamed and a shot rang out.

"Amy!"

Janet stared at the captain as tears filled her eyes.

"Momma!" Katy's voice suddenly burst across the line. "Were okay Momma. Are you okay? He said you were dead."

Janet took a deep breath and nodded. "I'm fine Katy. What happened?"

Sobs and crying began on the other end.

"I used Dad's gun. Momma, I think I killed him but he was going to shoot Amy. He would have come looking for me next. I couldn't let him kill Amy!"

"Katy is it," the captain asked. "This is Captain Jefferson. Are you sure he is dead?"

"No but he isn't moving and he isn't awake and there is lots of blood."

"Are either of you hurt?"

"No," they both echoed.

"Okay. Go to a neighbor's house and stay there. I'm sending men now. Your mother and I will be there shortly. Now go!"

"Momma?"

"Go baby. I'll be right there."

The phone clicked and went dead followed by dial tone.

"Come on," the captain said, taking his phone and grabbing her arm. Janet suddenly realized that the second policeman had left. The captain pulled her through the halls and past several uniformed men. Everything passed by her in a dazed flash of time. She watched as the world whizzed past her passenger seat window.

"Where is you husband Mrs. Robins?"

Janet glanced at the captain as he drove, sirens blaring, down the two-lane country road.

"He died just before we moved here."

"How did Katy know to find her Dad's gun?"

Janet gazed back out the window. "Tom was in the Army. He taught us all how to shoot and self defense when we lived on base with him in Texas. He thought we should know how in case something happened. Then it did. But not in combat. We were out at a nice restaurant for dinner with his squad and their spouses when some idiot with a gun opened began shooting. He was firing wildly."

Janet could see the man's face still as she cowered under the table, encircled by her husband's arms.

"My husband's sergeant pulled a gun and shot him in the head. It was after that I found out my husband had been shot. After he died, we moved here, looking for a quiet little town with no trouble. We grew a garden with all Tom's favorite colored flowers and practiced because we knew he would want us too. We never expected to need it here."

Captain Jefferson touched her arm and glanced at her.

"I'm glad he taught you so well. The state troopers have been trying to catch this magazine serial killer for several weeks now. We just didn't know he was working with someone else. You may have just saved countless others from these two madmen."

Janet simple stared numbly at him. Somehow this was no consolation. A red brick house passed by behind him in the window and Janet shouted, "Stop!"

The captain screeched to a halt and Janet bolted out of the car, running to the house. Two young girls, 13 and 10, came running out to her. Janet embraced her crying daughters, tears soaking her face too.

Janet looked at her multicolored arms and was suddenly comforted and gladdened that she could still wrap them around her two daughters. Their kisses had been worth it all.