Bob Pritchett of the North Carolina State Police sat across the desk from Amanda and her mother. Amanda’s mother and grandmother had arrived at the hospital in Clyde in the early hours following Amanda’s admission. For three days attempts at any communication beyond strained politeness had proven to be a legion of false starts that intensified the awkwardness for all involved.
As a member of law enforcement, Bob Pritchett had experienced the human failure to communicate on several occasions. The mother-daughter anguish in front of him aroused both sympathy and irritation. The victim, Amanda Carmichael, slumped in the upholstered chair barely making eye contact with him and not at all with her mother. The mother—he looked at his paperwork—Virginia Carmichael sat rod upright with the merest portion of her bottom on the edge of a chair identical to her daughter’s. Their body language spoke volumes.
The mom’s eyes flitted from Amanda to the trooper; several times he noticed she started to speak, but buried the urge as quickly as it emerged. Being a parent, he recognized in Mrs. Carmichael’s behavior the burning desire to tell her daughter to sit up straight and act right—to somehow take control of the situation—but with obvious restraint she sucked them inward and held her silence.
Given the attitudes of the pair and the information he had obtained, he chose to balance his tone on a narrow ledge somewhere between stern law enforcer and compassionate friend. He elected to share first the status of the two truckers. Dave and Ray had been apprehended at a weigh station near Charlotte; currently both were in the custody of the local sheriff’s department. Both men had records; Ray’s ex-wife had a restraining order against him, because of his violent tendencies. Trooper Pritchett lumbered through the information before pausing with his finger on the report. He looked up and waited until Amanda lifted her head and locked eyes with him before continuing. This concerned her and by golly he wasn’t going to deliver another ounce of information to the air above her head.
“The hole we found in Ray’s forearm matches the chunk of flesh we found in your teeth; he’s being treated for a nasty infection. Just for future information the human mouth is packed with bacteria; bites often lead to infection. The two of them will probably be out on bail before you get back to Oklahoma, but that’s one of the things I need to talk to you about. The District Attorney wants to get a deposition from you before you leave and you will need to come back if there is a trial.”
“You mean they’ll just go free? What do you mean if there is a trial? They kidnapped my daughter!” Virginia Carmichael’s voice provided a sharp interjection into the conversation. She reached to take Amanda’s hand as she plunged in. Amanda snatched her hand back without a glance at her mother. She locked eyes with Bob. The reaction was not lost on Bob Pritchett and he made a mental note that the difficulties that had sent this child fleeing would continue to deepen unless resolution happened soon.
He curbed his own reaction tendency. His upbringing—including the occasional peach switch applied to his skinny legs and the department’s rigorous communication training—compelled him to be polite. He moved his head and eyes to the child’s mother.
“No, ma’m they will not just go free, but it might be in everyone’s best interest if they plead out. And, Mrs. Carmichael, technically they did not kidnap your daughter. They have been arraigned on their treatment of her after she entered their truck. Her deposition will help with the process to make them responsible for their actions.” He turned back to Amanda noticing the tint of her face pale while her lower lip quivered.
“Can I do it right now?”
“No, we will set up an appointment for tomorrow. . .”
“No, I want to do it today, now. I have to get to Asheville to check on Max.”
“Amanda!” Ginny Carmichael popped, her voice a good deal sharper than she had intended. Amanda straightened from her slumped sitting position and faced her mother full on for the first time since their arrival. The look bordered on contemptuous, but her voice leveled as she directed her response to Bob Pritchett and her mother.
“Max and Lily have taken care of me for days now. I was hiding out from another scumbag like Ray and Dave when I first ran into them. I have to talk to Max. I know they say he is going to be okay, but I have to talk to him. I want to do the deposition today and go on to Asheville!” Her voice trembled, but she worked to control it. Bob Pritchett made a note, took the phone number at the Holiday Inn Express and Ginny’s cell phone number.
“I will see what I can do.” He shut the folder and stood. Ginny and Amanda followed his example and exited the office in silence. Nancy Mayes met them in the lobby, but the sullen silence that infested the group of three held their tongues to the floor. Bob Pritchett shook his head as the three females exited.
With some cajoling the deposition was arranged for 2 pm in a small conference room at the station. All parties arrived on time and an hour later it concluded. Amanda had shared her account of the incident. The court reporter and the legal counselors packed up and left. For all intent and purpose the business was concluded until further notice, but the three sat. An atmosphere of ice prevailed in spite of the bright sunlight that bathed the room. Mrs. Carmichael and Mrs. Mayes dabbed at their eyes, while Amanda sat like a slab of marble next to them.
Bob knew his limitations—family counseling was way over his head—but someone needed to say something to this family. His gut—not always as reliable in situations like these as it was to signal hunger—told him that these ladies and that little girl needed to square off with each other and let the punches fly. Mrs. Pritchett’s baby boy Bob decided with his gut.
“I have two daughters at home myself.” The heads all turned his way with identical expressions of confusion. He continued. “Doreen is 17 and Ellen is 12. I don’t know what I would do if one of them took off over some piddling bit of teenage angst.” He watched Amanda as her expression suggested protest. He raised the palm of his hand to silence her. “I do know if either of them ever did, I would want to get it all out on the table when I found them. Packing stuff up inside—well, it doesn’t solve a thing. Now” Bob Pritchett stood. “I am going to go get a cup of coffee and I am going to close that door behind me and leave you ladies to get the matter settled.”The three sputtered in protest, but Bob strode to the door pulling it closed behind him leaving the ring. He’d check periodically to see if anyone had drawn blood.
Amanda spoke first after Bob exited reciting the Lord’s Prayer as her mother and Granny Nan gaped at her. At the conclusion, they echoed her “amen”. She pulled two crumpled pieces of paper from her jeans pockets; with care she spread them out on the table, smoothing the creases as best she could with her hands. All eyes studied the objects, the page of a journal and a fifty-dollar bill.