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Authors: Gayle Hayes

The Sunset Witness

BOOK: The Sunset Witness
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The Sunset Witness




Gayle Hayes


Amazon Kindle Edition




The Sunset Witness


Published by Gayle Hayes on Amazon Kindle


© 2012 by Gayle Hayes



All rights reserved.  Without limiting the rights
under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced,
stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form,
or by any means (electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording,
or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner
and the above publisher of this book.

This is a work of fiction.  Names, characters,
brands, media, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's
imagination or are used fictitiously.  The author acknowledges the trademarked
status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of
fiction, which have been used without permission.  The publication/use of these
trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark

This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment
only. This eBook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would
like to share this book with another person please purchase an additional copy
for each recipient. If you're reading this book and did not purchase it, or it
was not purchased for your use only, then please return to and
purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.





Both the photograph and graphic design used on the cover are
the creations of the author.





This novel is dedicated to my mother, Edna, from whom I
inherited my imagination and the need to entertain others with storytelling. 
At 92 she still enjoys “pulling your leg” with a tale that is both spontaneous
and inventive.







TO:  Agate County District Attorney

FROM:  Det. Josie Gannon

DATE:  30 June 2011

SUBJECT:  Disappearance of Rachel Douglas

On 18 June 2011, the Agate County Sheriff's
Department was notified by Twyla Taylor that Rachel Douglas had been missing
for two days.  The department also received a flash drive on 18 June 2011.  The
postmark was for Hoquarten, Oregon on 16 June 2011, the day Rachel Douglas went
missing.  The flash drive contains only one document, and it was written by
Rachel Douglas.  For the most part, it is her eyewitness account of events. 
The document is somewhat detailed, but it is included verbatim here because of
the insight it provides into the murders at Sunset, Oregon.  Unless she
contacts us again, her written statement is as close as we are likely to get to
Rachel's deposition of the events she witnessed.  The department has
investigated all but the most intimate moments, is satisfied Rachel's account
is true to the facts, and is submitting her account as its report instead of
merely paraphrasing.  This department's investigation of the events not
included in Rachel's account is summarized at the end.

Subject Rachel Douglas was an aspiring author and
working on a novel at the time she disappeared.  The style of her writing
suggests she might have written this document as practice for, or even as the
foundation of, her proposed novel.

The department has summarized an old criminal case
out of Philadelphia.  The case appears to be the foundation for the events at

An article in the
Philadelphia Inquirer
1996 concerns the murder of a city councilman named Jacob Gregory.  During the
trial of Salvatore De Luca, evidence was presented that Gregory had ties to the
mob.  The prosecutor's chief witness against De Luca was Dennis Wojohowitz.  He
told the jury he saw De Luca shoot Gregory and helped him dump Gregory in the
Schuylkill River.  The defense attorney, Robert Douglas, discredited the
character and testimony of Wojohowitz.  De Luca was acquitted.  It was widely
speculated that the jury thought De Luca had done the city a favor by disposing
of a corrupt councilman.  Wojohowitz disappeared after his testimony.



*   *   *




Thursday, June 16, 2011


My name is Rachel Douglas.  If you didn't get this
from me, my life might be in danger.  Please show this to Detective Josie
Gannon of the Agate County Oregon Sheriff's Department.


Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Frank sat at a table a few feet away with his back
turned to me.  He couldn't or didn't want to sit up straight.  He wore a beige
cardigan that was covered with pills—those annoying fuzzy snags that are bred
by polyester.  I could see only the top and right side of Frank's head.  His
hair was gone except for a fine, even layer like fuzz on a peach.  His
cheekbone was high and his eye deep set.  A cane was hooked on the thigh of his
right leg.  Frank was having soup for lunch.  Hunched over as he was, the spoon
had only a short distance to travel between the bowl and his mouth.  It was
obvious that Frank was a regular customer.  The waitress knew his name and
asked about his meal in a way his wife might have done.  I took an interest in
Frank because he looked so much like my father.

After Frank had finished the soup, a waitress asked
if he would like something else.  He thought he would.  The waitress gave Frank
a little time to look at a menu.  Frank had no idea what he was looking for,
but he knew his daughter had ordered it sometimes.  I imagined he would have
liked his daughter there to help him order.  The waitress tried to help, but
Frank could sense her impatience and groped for words.

"I think it has eggs all scrabbled up," he

"Scrambled eggs and ham?"  The waitress
tapped her pencil on the pad of meal tickets.

No, that wasn't it.  The waitress tried again. 
"How about an egg salad sandwich?"

Frank nodded his head and mumbled something that
sounded encouraging.

"What kind of bread, Frank?" she asked,
turning up the volume.  Perhaps if she had to strain to hear him, he wasn't
hearing her.

"I don't know if it comes with bread." 
Frank's tone indicated he didn't want to take something to which he wasn't

"It comes with bread, Frank.  It's a sandwich,"
the waitress said.

"Okay, then," Frank said.  He was relieved
and sighed as the waitress walked away, his eyes fixed on some distant point as
if trying to remember a time when ordering a sandwich didn't require the same
deliberation as doing his taxes.

Frank and I were the only ones having a late lunch
that day.  His presence was comforting to me, as if my father were more than a
memory again.  I realized I'd not allowed myself to think of him in a long
time.  For several months after he passed away, the slightest mental image of
him or of us together was too painful.  I'd not wept for him.  I knew he'd had a
full life, and I'd been at his side when he left us peacefully.  I'd wept for
me, because it seemed so unfair that we'd just become close, and he was gone.

My father was already fifty-two years old when I was
born.  He met my mother when she hired him to defend her younger brother.  My
father convinced the jury the drugs were planted by the police officers, and he
became mother's knight in shining armor.  She was attractive, twelve years
younger than my father, and on the rebound.  I suppose you could say I was a
love child.  Mother once told me really beautiful children are the product of
intense passion. You might think I am lucky, but I envy girls who are not

My half-brother Paul was already in college by the
time I came along, so mother lavished me with her time and attention.  My
father was rarely home before she tucked me in for the night, but he tried to
make up for it in his own way.  One morning I remember finding a bejeweled
fingerboard on a 14 karat gold chain wrapped in heavy silver paper like a satin
frock with a hot pink ribbon around it.  On occasion, mother and I would meet
him at the firm's private club for an elegant lunch, but he usually entertained
well-to-do clients or people who could enhance his law practice.

When I turned thirteen, my father hired a local
theatrical troupe to present me with my gift.  It was a trip to New York City
to see the revival of
Guys and Dolls
.  He saw the original production in
1950 when he was attending Harvard.  An actor in the troupe knelt at my feet
and serenaded me with
I've Never Been in Love Before
from the musical. 
Each actor performed a little drama apropos of the gift he or she presented me
on behalf of my father, including a reservation at the Plaza Hotel, dinner for
two at 21, a gift certificate for a theater outfit at Bloomingdales, and a
bouquet of thirteen red rose buds and white lilies to signify my coming of age.

I first noticed the tension between my parents after
that trip to New York City.  Mother was radiant in the city, but I noticed the
smell of alcohol about her shortly after we returned.  One night I awoke to
shattering glass, my father's fury, and my mother's plaintive tears.  Then the
house was as quiet as a tomb.  The next morning, the maid hauled the broken
bottles downstairs.  Years later when we were lying in the sun in Florida
talking about the contention between father and me because he was determined to
send me to Harvard, mother told me that she'd swept the collection of expensive
perfumes off her dressing table to show my father his gifts could not mask the
stench created by his practice.  That morning, the
Philadelphia Inquirer
had printed a photo of my father with Salvatore De Luca.  He was acquitted the
day before in the murder of a local politician, Jacob Gregory.

While I was always tense when my parents were
sparring and sometimes fearful when they were fighting (my father's nose was
broken once), I later realized they were attempting to work out their problems
then.  By the time I was in high school, they went weeks without speaking to
each other.  My mother was able to tolerate large amounts of alcohol, and she
rarely went out, saying she had nothing to wear.  Her closet was the size of
most bedrooms.  My father bought a condo closer to his office and only came home
on weekends.  He might as well have stayed away altogether.  He holed up in his
study and took his meals there.  He pilfered one of the signs that were posted
outside the courtroom and positioned it like a sentry outside his study: QUIET
PLEASE!  Once, my friends who had come to our house to play doubles tennis
thought the sign was a joke until their hysterical laughter pried father from
his chair.  The door to his office flew open.  He glowered at us with hands on
his hips, a pipe clenched between his teeth, before slamming the door so hard
the courtroom poster fell from its easel and crashed to the oak flooring in the

My father retired from the law firm when he turned
seventy.  I was starting my first year of college in Montana.  Mother had joined
Alcoholics Anonymous, and they both seemed to mellow.  I saw them only on
holidays and during the summer.

Mother developed cirrhosis and passed away in 2006
during the week I was cramming for the bar exam.  It was probably a good thing
that I had to keep it together for the exam, or I'd have fallen apart.

As she lay dying, I was surprised that my father, who
had built a reputation with his command of the language before a jury, could
not find some words of comfort and love for my mother.  After she died, he
grabbed her left hand and worked her wedding set over her swollen knuckle,
tossing it on the night table before leaving the room.  The ring was worth
thousands of dollars and precious to me because it was my mother's.  My father
didn't care about what it had cost or its sentimental value.  He removed the
ring as if it was the key that would unlock his cell.  Once he had it, he fled
the bedroom and his prison.  He was free of her forever. I looked at them and
realized their lives would have had no purpose unless I could do something
positive with mine.

My father was the happiest I ever saw him on the day
I received notice I'd passed the bar.  He knew I would pass and presented me
with tickets for a Mediterranean cruise.  He thought I might take Sarah Duncan,
who had been my best friend in Villanova.  Instead, I insisted that he go with
me.  Until Nate's funeral the previous fall, Sarah and I hadn't spoken in
years.  My father was tall, suntanned, and very fit.  Now and then, I noticed a
glance in our direction as if we were a May-December romance.  We swam, played
shuffleboard, and danced to big band music in the evenings.  He was a tireless
explorer and always had a reserve of energy when I was ready to return to the
ship.  One night after an especially satisfying day, he spontaneously began to
cry, first with an almost imperceptible whimper, and then a flood of tears.  I
held him until he was spent of tears and then tucked him into his bed.  The
next day he seemed to have been delivered of a great burden.  We never
mentioned the episode.

BOOK: The Sunset Witness
8Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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