“If Paul Morris is Annette’s stepfather, why does she have his last name? Did he adopt her?” The detective had a head full of questions and he wanted answers to them all.
“I’m not sure.” Sandy wondered how much she should tell the detective. She had probably said too much already. “I just met Annette, and when she told me her stepfather’s name was Paul Morris, I remembered him living here years ago.”
Kat jumped in with a question. “I understand Jennifer and Annette’s father died when Jennifer was eleven and Annette was eight. Did Annette tell you when her mother remarried?”
“No, but I got the idea it wasn’t long after she lost her father. She doesn’t mention him very much, but I do know one thing, she adored Paul and was devastated when he left. I’ve got to go back to work. The cook didn’t show, so I have to wait tables and do all the cooking.”
Annette hesitated a moment before knocking on the door of the room belonging to Paul Morris…a man she hadn’t seen since she was seventeen. She had to know why he left and why he came back.
The door opened just a crack at first, and then swung open when Paul Morris saw that it was Annette standing there.
“Hello Pop,” she said. “May I come in?”
“Of course you can, sugar. It’s so good to see you. Come in. We can sit over here. Would you like some coffee?”
“No thank you.” Annette sat down and took a deep breath before she began to speak what was on her heart.
“I’m not going to ask you why you left us, I’m going to ask… how could you? How could you leave a seventeen year old girl who had just graduated from high school with honors. I was ready to move on to college and secure a good future for myself. I wanted to have a career, get married, and have a family. But I couldn’t. You left and Jennifer was gone. I was all Mother had left and even though she was mentally abusive, and was full of resentment and hatred for me, I had to stay.”
Annette looked at the man she had trusted and loved. “How could you, Pop?”
Paul Morris’ eyes filled with stinging tears. Realizing he could never fully explain because the answers would be too painful for her, he took her hand in his.
“I want you to know the proudest day of my life was the day I adopted you. I love you, sugar and I have to ask you to trust me when I say that leaving was the only thing I could do. I was a broken man who had to heal.”
“Why did you come back, Pops? Why now?”
“I had to give you the chance you should have had years ago. I’ve kept a close eye on you, sugar, and I could no longer stand to see what your mother was doing to you.”
“Did you come here to end my mother’s life?”
“I would have done whatever I had to…but I didn’t kill her.”