Haunted by a Will for Payback – Extended Epilogue

Six Months Later

“The jury’s back already.”

“What?” Blake turned around to see Sam calling to him from the door of the courthouse. 

“You heard him.” Peter stood at his side, shoving him forward. “The jury’s back. In we go.” 

Blake walked woodenly into the room with Peter at his side. When they entered the courtroom, Sam pulled on his other arm, dragging him to a chair at the back of the room.

Blake’s eyes surveyed the room. He wasn’t sure what he had pictured the courtroom to be like for this trial, but he certainly hadn’t suspected something so minimal. The tall white stone building with grand windows revealed surprisingly little of what was inside.

The courtroom was bare, with but a few wooden seats at the back of the room where Blake sat with Sam and Peter. In front of them were two lines of benches, rather like pews in a church. At front of the room, a space had been allocated for the solicitors to sit and there was a wooden platform in the corner, where a chair was placed for the accused.

Blake had thought so long about seeing Calhoun dead for what he did to Elizabeth that laying his eyes on the man in a courthouse had shaken him. Blake had sat patiently at the back of the room while all the evidence had been spoken of over the last few days. Sam had taken to the stand more than once to testify. Blake had had to step forward, too.

It had dredged up the past in the most unpleasant way. He’d had to talk of exactly what happened to Elizabeth—how Calhoun had stalked her, and how Elizabeth had come to Blake in the evenings, talking of her fears of the man down the road who stared at her so frequently. He talked of the way she used to barricade doors with chairs, and how they had both complained to the sheriff of the town. Without any power beyond scaring Calhoun, there was nothing they could do.

Talking of finding Elizabeth dead was the hardest part. There was one comfort he had in that moment, and that was Melissa, who had come to support him that day. She had stood in the doorway staring straight at him, dressed in a subdued black gown and reassuring him with small smiles every now and then. He had held onto the happiness that the two of them had come to know so well together as he spoke.

Elizabeth would want us to be this happy. She’d be glad to see Sunny with a new mom.

Once, he had struggled to answer one of the lawyer’s questions, for he had been so busy staring at Melissa, finding his imagination wandering. He pictured Elizabeth standing beside her, urging him on, too. He knew well enough what Elizabeth’s ghost would say, had she really been there.

“I like her. It’s good she has the patience to deal with you.”

Her jest would have lightened the air.

“They’re in,” Sam said, elbowing Blake and bringing his thoughts back to the moment. Blake looked up to see the jury had returned. They hobbled into a corner of the room, all looking rather tired after their discussions. Most of the men were older, some walking with canes, but a few were younger, well dressed in fine suits that betrayed their wealthy positions. 

When they had taken their seats, another door opened.

“He’s here,” Peter muttered on Blake’s other side.

Blake turned his head to see Calhoun had entered through the door. His wrists were shackled as he was led by a guard to the platform he’d stood on throughout the trial. With his face downturned, he refused to lift his gaze to look at the jury or anyone else in that room. 

Blake was glad for it. He half-wondered if Calhoun looked at him, whether the fury would return. Blake might be tempted to march across the room and deliver a blow to the man’s face.

He had begun to see over the last six months that the anger over what Calhoun had done would never truly go away. It was more that these days, he could live with that anger. He didn’t wake up every morning longing for Elizabeth at his side and wishing to kill Calhoun for her loss. Instead, he reached toward Melissa and drew her to his side, thinking of all they could do that day instead.

It’s a new life. A good life.

He pushed these thoughts aside as the judge at the head of the bench turned to look at the jury. Some casual words were passed between them before there seemed to be a collective sigh from those watching on, one of impatience that they were not getting to the matter at hand. Blake fidgeted, too, making the chair beneath him creak.

“Why don’t they get on with it?” he muttered in Sam’s ear.

“Be thankful it’s this well ordered,” Sam said, gesturing to the courtroom. “I’ve seen many a trial that’s made a mockery of the process. Be patient.” 

Blake breathed deeply, trying to find that patience. He looked to the empty doorway, thinking of who else could be in that room with him.

That morning, as Melissa had dropped Sunny off at school, she had offered to come with Blake to the courthouse, but he’d politely refused. He wanted her there to look after Sunny when she returned.

After the last few months, Sunny had been told that Calhoun, the man who had killed her mother, was facing a trial. She had coped with it very well, but Blake had noticed once or twice she still suffered from her nightmares. Whenever she was caught up in tears, Melissa was always the best one to calm her down and distract her from such thoughts.

“Well, what is the verdict?” the judge said, turning his gaze on the jury. The leading member stood to his feet.

“We find the accused guilty of the attempted attack on Mrs. Melissa Oakley, guilty of assault on Miss Withers, and assault on his own wife, Mrs. Patty Calhoun. Lastly, we find him guilty of the murder of Mrs. Elizabeth Oakley.”

There was a murmur that emanated across the courtroom. 

At last, hearing the words made Blake sit forward and cover his face, feeling the relief wash over him.

You have justice now, Elizabeth. I am only sorry it took so long.

“Thank you.” The judge nodded, then turned his gaze on Calhoun. “The accused is sentenced to death by hanging.” 

With that, the judge and jury stood, and they left the room.

Blake lifted his head from his hands and looked over at Calhoun. The man shuddered where he stood with his shackled hands in front of him shaking so much that the metal rang out audibly.

“You did it, Blake,” Peter whispered in his ear. “The man will pay now.”

“Thank god for that.” 

Blake had no wish to stay in this room any longer. It had been the last few weeks of his life and he was done with it. Moving to his feet, he left as quickly as he could, with Sam and Peter hurrying on at his heels.

As they stepped outside, Blake paused, turning his head up to the sun that shone down on them. The sun’s rays were warm today, basking his face in their heat.

“It may have taken a long time,” Sam said with a sigh, “but at last, that man will not hurt anyone again.”

“Zounds,” Peter muttered. “What will you do now, Blake?”

“What will I do?” Blake found himself smiling as he looked at his friends. “I know exactly what I’m going to do. I’m going home, and with a little luck, I’ll never have to hear Calhoun’s name again.”

***

“Sunny? Sunny! How are we supposed to get this pie done now?” Melissa laughed as she turned in a circle, revealing just how much flour covered her apron and her gown. Sunny laughed, too, and delved her hands back into the flour bowl before tossing some more at Melissa. “That’s it! My turn now.” 

Melissa grabbed some of the flour and began to chase Sunny around the room. In the last few months, they had finished their renovation project on the house, and it was quite transformed from when she had arrived. Full of light and color, Melissa could see clearly just how much flour she and Sunny were shedding on the tablecloth and the clean floor as they ran.

The girl squealed and ran in the other direction around the dining table, doing her best to escape. Melissa didn’t even try to catch up with her, finding the moment too funny to be able to run at full speed. Instead, when Sunny least expected it, she doubled back around the other way.

“No!” Sunny giggled as Melissa planted the flour in her hair. “I’m covered in it.”

“Snap,” Melissa pointed out, holding her skirt aloft for Sunny to see. Sunny grabbed some of the flour off her hair and planted it on Melissa’s skirt. “Oh, there will be none left for the pie at this rate. What are we to give your father to eat then when he comes home?”

“That was going to be my question.” The deep voice made both Sunny and Melissa stop what they were doing, turning to face the open door of the kitchen. Blake was standing there with an easy smile on his face as he watched the two of them. Tilting his head to the side, he seemed to be restraining a laugh. “By ginger, what happened to the two of you?”

“She started it,” Sunny said, pointing at Melissa. 

“Hardly!” Melissa made another dive for Sunny, tickling the girl under the arms. Sunny’s giggles filled the air before Melissa stopped and straightened out Sunny’s gown. “As fun as that was, Sunny, I really do have to make dinner now.”

“Oh.” She looked disappointed, jutting out her bottom lip. 

“No need to look so sad. We have plenty to do this evening,” Melissa assured her, scraping some of the flour out of Sunny’s dark hair. “Why don’t you go wash up? When you come back, I have some good news to share with you.”

“Okay.” Sunny smiled and hurried from the room. 

The moment she was gone, Melissa moved to the door and closed it behind Sunny, looking at Blake with wide eyes.

“Well? How did it go?” she asked, holding her breath. Blake walked further into the room, still smiling.

“You realize it is very hard to be serious with you when you are this covered in flour?” He gestured to her face.

“Well, you’ll have to put up with me.” Melissa teased, then her smile fell away. She stepped toward Blake, needing to hear from him how the day had gone. “Tell me, please, what happened.”

Blake sighed deeply and tipped his head to the ceiling, with an apparent calm that washed over his body. 

“It’s over, Mel. All over,” he said, his voice gentle. “Calhoun was found guilty, and they have sentenced him to death.”

“Really?” Melissa felt her own smile return. For so long, Calhoun had cast a darkness over Blake’s life. She couldn’t help being excited for this moment now, to know he would soon be gone from this world. 

“Really.”

“Thank God.”

“Thank God, indeed!” Blake moved toward her and kissed her. Melissa’s hands curled around the lapels of the smart jacket he was wearing for the courthouse. When they came apart, their heads still bent together, he chuckled deeply.

“You’re laughing.”

“It’s rather funny when you taste like flour.”

“Ha! Blame Sunny for that.” Melissa tapped him on the arm and stepped away, returning to her station at the kitchen counter where she was preparing dinner. “Do you want to go take off your suit? Dinner will be ready soon.”

“I’m tempted to take you with me,” he whispered in her ear flirtatiously, placing another kiss to her neck.

“Very tempted, but we’ll never get dinner if I do.”

“I know. I’ll be back soon.” He kissed her one last time before hurrying out of the room.

With him gone, Melissa returned to her attention to making the dough for the pie lid, kneading the flour and butter together. As she worked, she kept glancing to a letter she had placed at the side of the counter. The next day, she was going to walk into town and post it to her mother.

Inside, she had talked of much. She had thanked Lily for the latest gifts that she sent for Sunny. Lily and Sunny had met a couple of times, and not only was Lily delighted with the young woman Sunny was growing into, but Sunny quite adored her step-grandmother. The two got along wonderfully.

There was some other news Melissa had spoken of in the letter, too. Each time she thought of it, she would lay a hand to her stomach, then pull her hand forward again, remembering that she hadn’t yet told Sunny or Blake of the news she had to share. She had been so nervous about telling them, unsure what they would think, but the longer time had gone on, the clearer it became to Melissa that she had to tell them soon. It wouldn’t be long before she started to show and judging by how much she ate every day, it was a wonder that Blake didn’t suspect something already.

“You look lost in thought.” 

Blake’s words disturbed her. She snatched her hand away from her stomach, hoping he hadn’t seen. 

“I was, rather. I have some news to share with you and Sunny. I was thinking… perhaps now is the right moment.”

“News? You have me intrigued.” He crossed the room and reached for a bottle of wine from the side of the kitchen. “Do we need this, do you think?”

“Perhaps so.” She hoped it would be a reason for celebration. She waited for him to pour out the glasses, then cast a glance to the door and the staircase. With Sunny not yet returned, she decided now was her opportunity to tell Blake. “Blake, have you ever considered whether you want another child?” she asked, making her words quiet and slow.

His lips flickered a little into a smile.

“Of course I have,” he said softly. “You’ve seen how much I love Sunny.”

“I know.”

“Is this your way of telling me you would like a child?” Blake asked with a laugh. “We’ll have to wait until Sunny falls asleep,” he teased her. 

Melissa laughed warmly before shaking her head at Blake.

“That’s not what I meant.” She watched as he took a sip of his wine before she reached for his hand and pressed it to her stomach. “What I was trying to say is that child is already on the way.”

Blake’s eyes widened and his other hand slipped around the glass. He barely managed to catch it again before the glass could shatter on the floor.

“You mean you’re…” He didn’t quite finish the sentence, but she nodded anyway.

“I’m pregnant,” she said, her smile widening. She waited, hoping with everything in her that Blake would be overjoyed.

“I’m to have a sister or a brother?” 

Sunny’s voice startled them both. They turned to see Sunny standing in the doorway. 

“Really?” she asked, her excitement plain.

“Yes.” Melissa nodded.

“Ah!” Sunny threw her arms in the air, so delighted that as she ran across the room, she bolted straight into Melissa, nearly knocking her from her feet.

“Oomph!” 

Melissa struggled to stand straight. Blake barely managed to get the other glass from her before placing it down on the table behind them, along with his own. 

“You’re happy then, Sunny?” Melissa asked, needing to hear the words.

“I’m thrilled,” Sunny said, stepping back and bobbing on her toes. “Can I name him?”

“That’s jumping ahead a little.”

“I wonder if they will be like me? Do you think they’ll have your nice hair?” Sunny reached up and played with a loose lock of Melissa’s hair. 

Melissa was thrilled Sunny was so happy, but she looked to Blake, needing to hear from him what he thought. When her eyes found his, she found him smiling so broadly that he almost laughed.

“You’re happy?” Melissa asked softly.

“I could not be happier, Mel.” He moved toward her, easily side-stepping Sunny before kissing Melissa on the lips. She clung to him, not wanting the moment to end.

“Ergh, yuck,” Sunny said, bemoaning their affection and beginning to pull both on Melissa’s skirt and Blake’s shirt, wanting their notice. “Stop kissing each other, I want to talk about my new brother. Or sister.”

They both laughed as they parted from each other, but Melissa still clung onto Blake. When his hand found hers, she felt comforted. Nothing could have made her happier than to see Blake so pleased by the idea of their child.

“What about Tony? Or Dylan? Or Mabel?” Sunny asked, turning in a circle.

“It’s a bit soon for names yet, Sunny,” Blake said, laughing at Sunny’s reaction. 

“It gives us time to decide,” Sunny insisted.

Melissa was still laughing as Blake lifted her hand to his lips and kissed the back. When Sunny was distracted, wandering across the room and suggesting other names they could choose, Blake moved toward her and whispered in her ear.

“May it be the first of many, Mel.”

Hearing those words, Melissa knew how happy she was with her life. She hadn’t thought it possible to love Blake as much as she did now, and with their little family about to grow, she was excited for what the future held. With Sunny’s back turned, Melissa reached up toward him and kissed him again. 

THE END


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23 thoughts on “Haunted by a Will for Payback – Extended Epilogue”

  1. I enjoyed this story thoroughly. I was glad when Blake’s secret was out in the open. Took long enough. It’s an element in stories that you authors call “suspense.” You certainly had enough of that element in this story.

  2. Again, I am in awe of this wonderful book by Derek Levine. It is wonderful because he writes in a way that includes me, the reader, in every way. I feel and see that I am there in the scene. I would like to think that my wishes for the characters who are entrenched in “finding their ways through this and that and another dilemma. I did it! In My Mind the outcome was what I had envisioned. That makes me proud of me and Derek Levine. Read this book. I would not be surprised if you finished it with concurrence

    -Bob Simpson-

    1. Thank you so much for your comment and support, Bob. I truly appreciate it!

      So glad you enjoyed the story! Make sure to stay tuned because I have more coming!

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