A Second Chance -- Chapter 1


A Second Chance

By Dawn Natelle

In summary, the inquest into the death of Michaela Stoner finds the death of this 14-year-old girl to be suicide, through the consumption of an overdose amount of Tylenol 3 pills. The deceased had been in severe depression due to the suicide death of a close friend nearly a year earlier. Staff at Ainsborough Middle School were aware of her depression and had taken all appropriate steps to notify the parents and other authorities of the possibility of problems. The Tylenol pills were in the deceased’s household to treat Andrea Stoner, mother of the deceased, for migraine headaches. The deceased apparently had been harvesting one or two pills a week from the bottle and hoarding them. Her diary claimed that she had collected 120 pills in this manner in the last entry. There were 23 pills left in the hoard, leading this inquiry to assume that 97 pills were ingested, well above the lethal amount for a person of the weight and age of the deceased. This inquiry ends with no recommendation of charges, and no recommendation for preventing future incidents. Sometimes when persons are committed to taking their life, there is nothing that the state can do to prevent it.

Dr. W. B. Amjay, MD, Coroner
June 14, 2017
+ + +

Middlesex Children’s Aid Society
May 9, 2017

Robert Cartwright, Age 9

Robert has been returned from care from a fourth foster family. In the past year Robert has been placed for a total of 10 months, with none of the placements lasting more that 3 months. Robert has been non-communicative with all foster parents (the number of placements was in hopes of finding that he would make a connection with one of them). Robert has been in CAS care since the suicide death of his sister in late March, 2104. Since that time he has been non-communicative, other than repeated mention of his late sister’s first name. He suffers nightmares nearly every night, and wakes screaming his sister’s name loudly, disrupting the foster households. His mother died several weeks ago by suicide. This fact has not been relayed to the boy on the grounds that it can only worsen his condition. It is recommended that he be placed in a psychiatric hospital and provided medication as needed until he is able to re-entry society.

+ + +

July 6, 2017

WCB report
Arnold Keirhauff

Claimant, aged 53, has been off work for nearly three weeks, since being in an accident with a fatality. Claimant was not physically injured in the accident, caused when a suicide jumped off an overpass, striking his truck as he drove down the 401 expressway. The person died immediately, but claimant has been affected by the event, and no longer feels capable of driving. He finds that even driving his personal vehicle on the expressway is traumatic, and he pulls over at each overpass and slowly creeps through. Of course, this behaviour would not allow him to drive a semi truck, his livelihood for the past 32 years. Claimant is approved for workman’s compensation, so long as he sees a therapist regularly to seek treatment for his mental trauma. Compensation to continue for three years or less, after which time retraining to another profession will be recommended.

Marilyn Cornish
WCB agent

April 25, 2017
8:14 a.m.

Constable Steve Winslow, 34, jerked out of his sleep, with adrenalin racing through his body. The accident scene he had faced earlier this morning had happened again in a nightmare. The woman who had jumped off the bridge … the beautiful blonde, was just as pretty in the dream. Except this time she wasn’t dead yet. Her body was broken and bleeding, but now she was able to lift her head sharply and open those beautiful blue eyes and look at him.

“Help me,” she begged. That was the point he jolted into consciousness.

Steve sat in his bed for two hours unable to fall back asleep. He had never had nightmares like this before. Perhaps he should apply to the department for a work-related leave of absence.

+ + +

Woodstock Police Department
Incident Report, Constable Steve Winslow
April 25, 2017

2:15 a.m. Culloden Road overpass, over Highway 401

Call received of person jumping from bridge over Highway 401. Deceased, Maria Cartwright, age 31, apparently walked four miles to reach the overpass, and jumped soon after arriving. She landed in the middle lane, and was struck by a transport truck almost immediately. Driver of the semi claims that the body didn’t seem to hit the ground before being struck, and physical damage to the grill of the truck corroborates this. To whit, the grill of the truck showed signs of impact several feet above the height of the woman. Investigation shows that the deceased was known to police, having been arrested, but not charged eight months earlier at a custody hearing for her son, who was then, and remains, in the custody of the Middlesex CAS. Deceased was terminated from her job at a local restaurant two months prior, on the basis that she was depressed and not able to perform waitress duties. No criminal charges laid or anticipated.

+ + +

August 12, 2016

Justice Elizabeth Morgan sat in her judicial robes as she listened to the case. In her 20 years as a justice of the peace she hadn’t felt so moved by a case. The case in point was a request by a 31-year-old woman for custody of her 9 year old son. The boy had been taken from her by the CAS immediately following the suicide death of her other child, a 13-year-old girl. The boy apparently found the body of his sister hanging from a rafter in the garage of their rented home in a successful suicide. He became hysterical, and had to be taken to hospital for treatment. The CAS caseworker testified she not feel that the boy could be cared for by his mother, who worked long hours in a local café. He maintains that the woman’s emotional state is still not conducive to the level of care the boy needs. There is no doubt that the woman loves and cares for her son, but it was clear to Justice Morgan that the woman was still in grief for her daughter, and not capable of caring for a boy so troubled.

“I have considered this case thoroughly and completely,” she said. “The lawyers for the CAS have made a clear case why the custody of Robert Cartwright cannot be returned to his mother, Maria Cartwright, at this time.”

“Nooooo,” screamed the woman, who had pled her case without a lawyer. She jumped up and tried to get to the Justice. “You have to help me,” she cried, before being tackled to the floor by a police officer. She continued screaming, almost incoherently as she was handcuffed and led out of the chambers.

Convinced that she had made the correct decision, Justice Morgan continued reading her summary and decision into the court records once the woman had left the room and order was restored. She decided as she got up to leave that she would recommend that police not charge the woman for any further crimes. The poor thing did not need any additional pressures in her life.

+ + +

April 25, 2016

It was nearly 7:30 when Maria Cartwright trudged home after a long shift at the café. It was not a lucrative living, but a woman who had gotten pregnant at 16 couldn’t expect much. Especially when her husband left her five years later, while she was pregnant with a second child. Her meagre, minimum-wage salary barely covered rent and food money for the three of them, and they depended on her tips for everything else. And tips at a café, often dimes and quarters, didn’t add up to much.

As soon as she opened the door to the house, she knew something was wrong. She could hear Bobby in his room, crying about something. Usually he was at the babysitters until she picked him up, but when she had walked past the babysitter’s house she had found it dark and no one answered the door. She felt relieved that Bobby was home, but wondered why he was crying. If that girl had hurt him …

She opened the door to his tiny room, and found it was empty. The sobbing was coming from the closet. She could make out the words now. He was sobbing and crying the name of his sister, Rachael. Maria pulled the boy, trying to get him to come out into the room, but he refused to move, and had wedged himself into the tiny closet so she couldn’t lift him out. She checked to make sure he wasn’t physically hurt, and then decided to leave him there. She stormed off to find her daughter, and learn what she had done to the boy.

The house was not big: only three bedrooms, all fairly small, and a bath, with a combined living/dining room and a kitchen. The attached garage was used by the landlord for storage, since Maria didn’t own a car. She saw Rachael’s backpack lying next to the little-used doorway to the garage. Why would she leave it there? Normally she dumped it on the floor inside the front door.

Maria opened the door, and noticed that the light was on. She screamed an ungodly screech as she looked in and saw the lifeless body of her daughter, dangling at the end of a rope tied to the rafter. Rachael’s face was deathly white, and her tongue stuck out of her mouth, blackened. She had defecated and urinated after death, leaving a strong stench. Maria ran up to her, hoping she was still alive, but when her hand touched her daughter’s cold, dry arm, she knew. She backed off in panic, called 911 and went to her son.

+ + +

April 25, 2016
EMS call report
239 Pine Ave, Ingersoll
8:13 p.m.

Ambulance call received from distraught woman who failed to remain on the phone with 911. Door to residence was open, town police within. Police directed EMTs to two locations. A young woman and boy were found huddled in a closet while the other EMT found the body of a deceased hanging from a rafter in the garage. With assistance of the police the body was lowered and placed in the first ambulance for conveyance to the morgue in Woodstock. A second ambulance was called when it became clear that the other two patients were incoherent and unable to communicate. Both were taken to London University Hospital for psychiatric evaluation.

+ + +

April 25, 2016

Rachael dropped her book bag at the door leading into the garage. Everything she needed had been in the garage last night. She had left school at noon, without permission of course, now it was nearly 1. Mom and Bobby wouldn’t be home for hours. She shook a bit, and then steeled herself. She had to do this. Life just sucked too much. When that bitch Glenda Moore had teased her about her hair at lunch today it was the last straw. The perky cheerleader with her big boobs thought she owned the place. Well, Rachael was checking out today.

She got the landlord’s stepladder out and set it up near the middle of the garage, the only uncluttered place left. There was about a fifteen-foot long piece of half-inch rope. Rachael had looked up how to create a noose online, but it seemed way too complicated. Another article showed a simpler slip knot, and she tied that instead. Then she climbed halfway up the ladder, and tried to toss the loop over the beam. She missed, and the rope dropped to the cement floor. She tossed again, and missed again. If I miss a third time, I’ll cancel the whole thing, she muttered to herself.

The third toss nearly went through the space she was aiming at, but at the last minute it seemed to stop and fall back, as though it was pushed. She stared at the rope lying on the floor. Dammit, two more tries, she said to herself. On the fourth try the rope slid through the hole and dropped several feet. She went up the ladder and gingerly grabbed the loop and pulled it down. The ladder teetered a bit, and Rachael worried that she might fall. She chuckled to herself at the idea of falling instead of killing herself. But it would be a disaster if she hurt herself enough that she couldn’t finish the job.

She pulled the loop down so it hung about seven feet from the floor. At 5’1” that was lots of clearance beneath, she thought. She then took the other end of the rope, and tied it off to a big hook on the back wall. Fittingly, it was the hook the rope had been hanging on. She yanked as hard as she could on the rope, and it seemed secure. She walked over to the ladder and stared at the loop on the other end for a long time. Finally she climbed up the ladder. Reaching over for the loop was tricky, with the ladder swaying a bit. But once she got the loop, and had it around her neck she didn’t have to worry about the ladder tipping. It would just speed things up.

Rachael stood on the ladder for a long time. Probably about 15 minutes. Two or three times she thought about getting down, and many times she thought about jumping. But she didn’t. Yet. Finally she leapt off the ladder, with her feet pushing it to the ground.

And then everything went black.

+ + +

April 24, 2016
3:26 a.m.

Ron sat stunned as he watched the image of the young girl swaying at the end of the rope faded from view. He had just watched the series of vignettes unfold before him in what he was pretty sure was a dream. Except it was the most vivid and horridly real dream he had ever had.

“That is horrible, John,” he said to the angel sitting beside him on the side of his bed, who had shown him one scene after another. “So many lives ruined.”

“That is what we want to prevent,” St. John said. “She can do what she wants to herself. We even gave her one last chance by stopping the rope on her third toss. But she still went ahead. She is young, and didn’t think about it, but we can’t let her mess up the lives of three others too.” St. John didn’t look like an angel, being a bit overweight, and fairly short at 5’4”, wearing a white robe that looked religious. Ron towered over him at nearly 6’2” and was very overweight, although that isn’t unusual for 64-year-old men. He didn’t know how old St. John was. He looked about 40, but had mentioned that he had been doing things like this since the Middle Ages. Ron had been sceptical about the man’s claim that he was an angel until he had walked through an unopened door, and then had hovered several feet above the floor. Ron was not a religious person, but something filled his soul with a confirmation that this was an agent of God.

“What do I do?” Ron asked.

“You agree, or not. If you agree, you will become the girl. Seconds before she jumps. Then you just have to live her life in the best way you can. The better a person you are, the better your life will be. Improve the lives of people around you, and you will gain much more. Not wealth or beauty, or talent, but in health and happiness. And you may even get the talents, beauty and wealth, so long as it is health and happiness that matters most.”

“If you decide not to accept, you will wake from this feeling it had been a dream, and in an hour you will no longer remember it. You will live, but only for another 10 days. A heart attack will end things for you. There is no second chance. We do reincarnations rarely, and seldom into a grown body. If you choose to do it, you will know who you are, who you were, and everything you now know. But you will never be able to tell any of it to anyone else. Not that anyone would believe you.”

“What do you decide?” the angel finally asked.

Ron thought it through. The girl, Rachael, was pretty average-looking. She was chubby with black hair that looked as if it had been recently hacked off with a pair of unsharpened scissors. She had almost no breasts at all, although at 13 that is not completely rare. Her mother in the vignettes was pretty, with a fairly large bust, cute face and long blonde hair. Perhaps the girl took after her father rather than her pretty mother.

Ron’s options were to die, and soon, or to get a second chance, albeit as a girl this time. That may not be a bad thing. He certainly hadn’t done all that great a guy, never marrying, and seldom dating.

“You know I am not all that great of a Christian,” he told the angel. “Maybe you could choose someone better.”

“You did not attend church,” St. John said. “But you were a good person. You donated money to charities and individuals alike. You helped your neighbours without expecting anything in return, and even were good to people you didn’t know. That is the sign of a Christian … not regular church attendance.”

“I didn’t even believe in God,” Ron muttered, “but I guess all this proves that one wrong.”

“I’ll do it,” he said, suddenly wondering if he might wake up too soon and lose the chance.

And she woke up.

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