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Before the Sun Went Down (Caitlin’s Story Continued, 5)

Randi Turkin 1 month ago

“I had a lot to do before the sun went down; Nicole had already filled Caitlin in on our plan to hide her in a tent in the woods behind my property.”

Editor’s note: Caitlin’s journal ended abruptly on the evening of Sunday, May 24, the night before George Floyd was murdered. Now it’s over two months later, the beginning of August, and obviously a lot of things have happened in the time that’s elapsed since we started posting Caitlin’s journal entries. It was an editorial decision on our part to let the journal run to completion before jumping in to say what had happened to Caitlin. You can start at “Caitlin’s Story Continued, 1” to catch up.

***

Approaching my house, I spotted Nicole’s Honda parked at the curb under the large mulberry tree out front. She and Caitlin climbed out of the car at the same time as John and me, and we exchanged awkward pleasantries in the driveway. I thanked John profusely for his help. As he walked across the street to his house, he called over his shoulder, “Y’all be safe now. If you need anything, you know where to find me.”

I turned back to the two women, motioning for them to sit at a small table on my front porch, all of us wearing masks to protect against Covid. Poor Caitin looked wretched. The last time I’d seen her (only three days earlier), she’d appeared frail and sick with worry over her missing husband. Now her arms, and what I could see of her face behind the mask, were covered in scratches, and her pants were stained with dried blood over her left knee; she must have fallen in the woods as she ran from the two men who’d chased her out of my client’s house that morning. Her eyes were so bloodshot and swollen that I could tell she’d been crying. Comforting an emotional person is more Nicole’s territory than mine, so while she ran to her car for her first aid kit and began tending Caitlin’s wounds, I busied myself unloading Lola from my Mazda. “Can you please just leave her with me right now?” Caitlin said as I passed by her with the travel cage.

I had a lot to do before the sun went down, so I was only too happy to let Caitlin deal with Lola for the moment. “I’ll get you guys some water before putting all the gear together,” I said, hurrying into the house. Nicole had already filled Caitlin in on our plan to hide her in a tent in the woods behind my property.

On my trips back and forth from car to house, I heard the parrot sweet-talking Caitlin: “I love you.” “Don’t cry.” “Let’s dance.” Of course this only made Caitlin start crying all over again. And while the bird’s sweetness softened me toward her, I couldn’t forget the harsh bite she’d given me while I was trying to shift her from one cage to another (a deep bruise had risen near my wrist and was still throbbing). I was uber wary of the bird and would fuss with moving her back into her brass cage later. By now I was in a hurry. It was after four o’clock and I still had to pack up all the camping gear before we could hike into the greenbelt. I knew I was the one who would be doing setup: neither Nicole nor Caitlin had the remotest idea how to pitch a tent, and by the time I finished, the mosquitos would be eating us alive. I made a mental note to pack bug spray.

About forty-five minutes later I had everything packed — tent, blankets and pillows, air mattress and pump, flashlight, my son’s beach shovel, bug spray, wet wipes, a change of clothes, several water bottles, a couple peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and various snacks to get Caitlin through the night. I was pretty sure I’d thought of everything and walked back outside to collect Lola, who was now out of her cage and cuddling in Caitlin’s lap. I watched fascinated as Caitlin gently stroked the bird’s belly with her forefinger. Before returning her to her travel cage, she gave Lola a tender hug and kissed her gently on the beak, promising she’d see her soon. I could have sworn I heard Lola choke back a sob.

It irked me that Lola was so sweet to Caitlin and so mean to me. Inside the house, with my dog, Puppa, sniffing at my heels, I decided the only safe place for the bird was on top of the fridge. “Sorry Lola, I’ll make you more comfortable when I get back,” I said. Then I hoisted the heavy, overstuffed backpack to my shoulders and walked out the front door. “Ya’ll ready?” I called to Nicole and Caitlin.

“Let’s do it,” said Nicole, standing up. Caitlin simply nodded, rising unsteadily to her feet.

“Let me just grab a few last things,” I said, reaching into the backseat of my car for Caitlin’s journal. I removed the storied key fob from the center console along with my phone, and that was when I remembered the strange call I’d received earlier from a friend of Caitlin’s, asking how she was. “Caitlin,” I said over my shoulder, “do you have a friend with an odd raspy voice that could be either male or female?”

Caitlin’s eyes widened. “Yes, my personal shopper V. Why?”

“Well, I don’t know how she got my phone number, but she called me earlier, saying she was worried about you. When I told her our plan with the tent and asked if maybe you could stay with her instead, the phone suddenly went dead. I’m pretty sure she hung up on me and I wasn’t able to call her back since she’d called from an unknown number.”

Caitlin managed to whisper, “That’s not good,” before her body went limp and she collapsed to the ground.

***

We’ll be publishing this story on Mondays and Wednesdays until it’s told in its entirety. We highly recommend starting at the beginning with our series of videos, when we first announced that Caitlin was missing til when we finally found her and met in person for the first time. If you’d like to start in the middle with her journal entries, click here

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