Independence Day, Book One: The Beginnings
"Something is wrong with this town..."
On the surface, Haven Park seemed to be the perfect picture of Americana. Nestled in the heart of Wyoming, its 517 residents were close knit, hard working and God fearing people. The city had never known major scandal, and the last violent crime committed was over ten years ago. Normal, right and honorable were upheld and all seemed to be quite harmonious ... until the night of July 4, 1966, when the walls came closing in and the secrets could not be kept any longer ...
"Something is wrong with this town..."
On the surface, Haven Park seemed to be the perfect picture of Americana. Nestled in the heart of Wyoming, its 517 residents were close knit, hard working and God fearing people. The city had never known major scandal, and the last violent crime committed was over ten years ago. Normal, right and honorable were upheld and all seemed to be quite harmonious...until the night of July 4, 1966, when the walls came closing in and the secrets could not be kept any longer.
It started with a murder. Carol Mathison, a lifelong resident and the only daughter of retired police chief Stanley Rogers, was found strangled in the park on the morning of July 5, leaving the community stunned. By all accounts, Carol was vibrant, well liked, outgoing and cheerful - making her murder all the more senseless. However, as the days drug by, more and more began to be revealed about Carol's darker side...and the many, many people who might have wanted her dead.
The killer is closer than they know...
July 4, 1966; 9:30 p.m.
"Did you honestly think I wouldn't find out?"
Carol Mathison stood before her fianc?, unable to conceal the fact her entire body was shaking with rage. All this time, all these lies...this was the final straw.
"This town only has about thirty people in it, Jeff!" she continued, struggling to keep her voice down so not to wake the children. "Didn't you realize that eventually someone would find out? That eventually I would hear about it? And don't you know how humiliating that is? Do you? Do you know how hard it is to hold your head up when the entire town knows that your fianc? is sleeping around with that - you're not even listening to me, are you? Damn it! Damn you!"
Jeff Howard took his eyes off the fireworks display on television just long enough to nod in Carol's direction. "I'm listening to ya, babe," he affirmed. "But I don't know what you're talking about."
"Don't you play dumb with me!" Refusing to be ignored any further, Carol positioned herself between Jeff and the television. She could see the disgust in his eyes, and made no effort to hide the fact it gave her pleasure. "I'm tired of your lies! I'm tired of your cheating! I'm tired of you!"
"You smell like a winery, baby," Jeff said softly. He attempted to reach out to her, but Carol violently jerked away before he could touch her.
"No! Don't touch me! Never touch me again!" "Baby..."
"No, I've had it with you, Jeff! I've had it with you!" Carol reached a hand up to her forehead, then stepped back and began to pace. "My God, everything I told Terri today... every single thing. I should listen to my own advice. I should...I should..."
Mutely, Jeff sat there while she wandered around the living room and mumbled to herself. These sorts of outbursts were far from uncommon, especially when she'd been drinking. He saw so many over the past year he could predict (with around 95% accuracy) where each would lead.
In a letter to his brother (one of very few venues where Jeff felt he could truly speak freely), he'd likened Carol's tantrums to a three-act play. Act one: Accuse him of cheating. Pace the house like a mad woman. Scream and threaten him. Act two: Allege that she too was cheating, in an effort to upset him. Throw something when that didn't work. Inevitably bring David into it, saying he would never dream of doing these things to her. Act three: Dramatically storm upstairs, with nary a parting shot, to sleep it all off. Apologize profusely in the morning.
Per his calculations, Act Two was set to begin any second now.
"Well, you know, Jeff," Carol announced, turning back toward him. Her words were slurred, if only slightly, and her balance was a bit off, but her eyes were sharp with fierce anger. "You know what? I have a surprise for you! I - I have a big surprise for you!"
He knew precisely what was coming, so Jeff did little more than sit there and stare at her, all the while wishing he was somewhere else...anywhere else.
"I'm..." Carol paused for a moment, to collect her thoughts, then reached for her overcoat on the rack by the door. "I'm - I'm - I'm leaving you!"
Truly surprised, Jeff jumped out of his chair. "Whoa. Whoa, babe. What? You can't leave me. Not like this."
"What do you care?" Carol shot back. "Consider this a gift. You want that bitch?
Fine. You can have her. See if I care!"
"Baby, come on," Jeff pleaded. "Don't do this. Come on. It's late. Calm down a little bit, get some rest and then we can talk about this in the morning, okay? Don't just... leave."
"There's nothing to talk about. There's nothing. Nothing..." Rather than cry in front of him, Carol hurriedly threw on her overcoat and opened the door.
"Baby..." Not knowing what else to do, Jeff moved in front of her. "Come on. Think about this. Think about what I'm saying. Think about this, okay? Don't leave. Come on. We can talk about this, baby. We can..."
"No, we can't." Carol looked up at him, allowing a solitary tear to fall. "We can't." "Baby..."
"I'll be back for the children in the morning."
"Baby..." Jeff realized he sounded like a broken record, but there was nothing else he could say. My God, she really sounded like she meant it this time!