“Oh, they believe it all right! But they’re scared. She knows something.”
“What could she know? She seems like a scared little girl to me.”
“Yes, that’s her. Always asking for help.”
“And soaking wet,” Mary interjected.
“But she’s not asking for help from them and she won’t ask anyone in the congregation. That is what scares them.”
“There are lots of theories, of course. But the main one is that she’s afraid of the congregation, that someone in the congregation hurt her.”
“Or murdered her? Maybe drown her in the spring?”
Marydell nodded but the look on her face spoke volumes.
Quietly, Angela asked, “Marydell, what was her name?”
Tears were already running down her cheeks. “Iris,” she managed to choke out.
“Was she one of the outcasts too?”
Mary shook her head. “She was pretty, popular, and… she was the Pastor’s favorite.” Marydell broke into sobs. “She… was… a friend!” She took several deep breaths to get herself under control. “We were friends, her and me and Celia.”
Very quietly Angela asked “How did she die, Mary? Were you there?”
Mary shook her head trying to throw the emotion off, but the sobs started again. It was several minutes before she could speak clearly.
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry!” she sobbed. “I never told anyone before.”
“No! I should have told. But I just ran. It’s been all these years…”
“There wasn’t anything you could do, was there?”
“I could have told! I could have… but they wouldn’t have believed me.”
“Who was it, Marydell?” Adam asked. His voice was gentle but very firm.
She choked and began coughing. Several time she began to speak and couldn’t.
“It was Pastor.” Adam said it in a cold, flat voice. “Wasn’t it!?”
Marydell nodded yes and began crying in relief.
When she could speak again, they were in the Walmart parking lot.
“There’s more,” she managed to say. “More details. And also something really important, Adam.”
They were parked now, the engine shut off. Angela had reached back, holding one of Marydell’s hands. Adam sat in the driver’s seat, looking straight ahead.
“You know who my father is, don’t you.” It as a statement more than a question.
“I do,” said Marydell. “But there’s more than that, even.” She took a deep breath. “I know who your mother is, too.”