Lemon Meringue

Kelly’s boyfriend dropped her at Vancouver International; they were off to visit their respective parents for the long weekend. Kelly flew to Sault St. Marie, Aaron drove to Kelowna. On Tuesday evening she would return to the west coast for her next shift as a rookie police officer in the city, a different world from her years growing up in Northern Ontario.

Aaron’s parting comment was, “Enjoy the home cooking!”

Kelly’s mom, Clara, was a wonderful cook. In Kelowna, it would be snacks, Timmy’s coffee and Swiss Chalet for her boyfriend.

 

At lunch, Clara dropped the news. “I was talking with Rachel Newell this morning. They are holding her brother Graham at Second Line. He’s charged with drug use and distribution.”

Second Line, the location of the Sault St. Marie police headquarters. Kelly looked at her mother. More was coming, she could tell.

“The soup is great, mom.”

Her dad laughed. Clara continued, “I promised to support Rachel this afternoon, but Graham’s problem isn’t alcohol. So I was thinking perhaps that you could go with her to see him. With your experience.”

Clara was a recovered alcoholic. She had become very involved in the local Alcoholics Anonymous activity during her sober years. The family had grown accustomed to Clara’s comings and goings, meeting with people and their drink demons.  Rachel Newell was one of her flock, in and out of the battle with booze.

Kelly asked, “Dad, has she set me up?”

“Yes,” he said brightly. “Your mother has volunteered you to talk Graham into asking for treatment. That’s the short version.”

Clara scowled at her husband. “Well, I said I would ask you. He was in your year at school and Rachel has always looked up to you.”

“Of all people!” said Kelly. “You know how useless it is trying to persuade an addict to go into a treatment program if they don’t want it!”

Her mother whispered, “It won’t do any good, short of a miracle. At this stage with Graham, an intervention can’t do any harm, either. Rachel is only three months sober again now and having it rough; she needs the support.”

Kelly used extortion as a saving grace. “A lemon meringue pie tonight; or no deal.”

Clara smiled. “It will mean a lot to Rachel and her mom.”

And to you, Kelly thought; I can see that.

 

They were at the desk in the visitor reception area, losing the battle. Two people waiting behind them shuffled back, away from the argument developing. But others heard.

“Don’t I know you?” asked the senior officer who appeared, looking at Kelly, her voice conveying that she did.

Kelly nodded; she had been Sergeant Matthewman back then. Now she wore an inspector’s uniform.  “Yes, ma’am, I’m Kelly Schreiber.”

‘Ma’am’; as if she was at work. The woman smiled, perhaps at being addressed that way or the memory of their previous contact.

“And what’s the problem?”

The inspector’s gaze was on the desk officer and Rachel, whose eyes were conveying her anger.

He had said, before the flare-up, “You can see him, Ms. Newell, as you are family; but not with your friend. I have told you once.”

Rachel’s voice had risen in volume in response. “Graham knows Kelly from school; he might listen to her, about getting help.”

“I didn’t make the rules. If you want to meet him, your friend can wait here.”

Rachel’s final volley was loud. “She’s a police officer, too; not just anyone.”

The desk officer eyed Kelly as his voice took on a different tone. “You are in the job? Where?”

“The Vancouver Police Department,” she replied.

“You should be familiar with visiting regs,” he spat out. “This isn’t Vancouver. Take a seat.”

Kelly came right back at him. “I do, and about performance standards for communicating with the public. Frankly, you are falling short.”

She regretted it as soon as she spoke; it wouldn’t help.

That was when Inspector Matthewman appeared. She took control, moving on from the minor spat. They were to ask Graham Newell if he wanted a visitor called Kelly Schreiber. If he said yes, she could talk with him alone. Fifteen minutes maximum for her, then his sister could have the rest of the allotted time.

 

Later, as Rachel talked with her brother, Matthewman came to the waiting area.

“Are you leaving?”

Kelly responded, “I’ll hold on; I drove us over here in my dad’s pickup. I’ll take Rachel home.”

Matthewman said, “Come in the back; let me entertain an important visitor from the VPD.”

Kelly laughed. “I’m Constable Schreiber. Hardly important.”

They entered the cafeteria, got their teas and sat down.

“I saw you graduate at St. Mary’s before you left for university. I was there for my nephew; Ian Clarke.”

Kelly recalled the student. She said, “Ian studied at Lakehead.”

Matthewman nodded. “And you chose Queens. Now here you are; one of us. So, why did you become a police officer?”

Kelly had wondered if Matthewman would ask her that.

She replied, “Partly because of you, that night; that’s when I started thinking about it. Outside, at the desk when you appeared, my first thought was that you wouldn’t remember me, but you did.

“When you sat talking with me after dad left to bring my mother home, my world felt so messed up. You knew what to say to help. It hit me; you seemed in control of your life just as mine was falling apart. I guess I wanted to be like you.”

She paused, gauging the older woman’s reaction.

“I enjoyed university life. But in Kingston, I realized I wanted this career. I applied to other forces, but the VPD responded first, so I went there.”

Matthewman smiled. “I was doing my job, but I wondered. You were so angry that night!”

Kelly said, “At least I am not crying today, soaking the front of your uniform this time.”

Matthewman responded lightly, “I had my stab vest on; it was the body armour that got wet.”

Her cellphone rang. She glanced at the screen. “I need to go. Stay here; finish your tea. I will get someone on the desk to tell you when Rachel finishes.”

“Thank you,” said Kelly. For the tea and for everything else, she thought.

 

They were driving back along McNabb Street. Rachel had said, “Graham will ask for treatment. So thank you; whatever you said, it must have got through to him. My mom will cling to that spot of hope.”

Kelly said nothing at first. Her visit had surprised Graham; that she had taken the trouble to bring Rachel. He got emotional, talking about school and people they knew, deflecting the conversation away from his addiction.

Kelly rolled with it for a few minutes. Changing the topic, she told him the bald truth. “Get help or you’ll die soon Graham; you don’t have other choices available.”

He gave a small smile. “I’m not that bad. I screwed up and got caught, that’s all.”

She leaned forward. “You were always a cocky bastard in school, pulling in the girls. Still are, I hear.”

She gave an obvious stare at his groin. “You will be limp on a mortuary table soon because you haven’t the guts to get clean. And your mom and sister, they don’t matter a damn to you, do they?”

She stood up. As she turned to go, surprised by the rapid change in Kelly, Graham responded, “That’s not true! Hey!”

But she was at the door, giving him one dismissive glance before leaving. Intervention, her mother had said; a time for confrontation, not tea and sympathy.

“Rachel, I hope it works, but recovery is a long road to travel; you are on it, right?”

The younger woman nodded. “And if not? Acceptance, your mum keeps telling me.”

Kelly answered, “It’s his journey, not yours.”

As they stopped outside the Newell house, the front door opened. Rachel’s mother stood on the doorstep, waiting.

Kelly called out, “Hello, Mrs. Newell!” She whispered to Rachel, “Go on, you tell her.”

Rachel gave Kelly a quick hug and shot out of the pickup. Kelly drove off wondering if her mom had baked a lemon meringue pie.

 

By Allan Jones