Chapter 10: Finality and Reconstruction
Ten days after Diane's death we held the funeral services and burial. The plot wasn't far from our home. Almost within walking distance, in fact. A lot of tears were shed that day. Diane's parents, my parents, the children, Christie, some of my co-workers, and myself. The service was mercifully short. I sucked it up and managed to say a few words without breaking down completely and Christie followed me to add some final comments about what a wonderful person and friend Diane was.
But hanging over all of us were the questions: Why was she in that motel that night? Who was she meeting? Was she having an affair or was it something entirely different?
I hadn't noticed him earlier, but as I stood at the entrance to the church and thanked those people who had come to the service, I saw him standing near the parking lot. What was Detective Etchevarry doing at her funeral? An hour later at the gravesite, I saw him again. When the service was complete and I had gathered myself sufficiently to think, I walked toward him.
"I didn't expect to see you here today, Detective."
"I hope I didn't intrude, Mr. Hansen. I was looking to see if anyone unusual might have shown up. We still have very little substantive evidence in our investigation."
"I still haven't heard anything about getting my wife's business files. Every day that goes by makes it harder and harder to preserve the business. When am I going to get them?"
"I'm sorry about this, but the District Attorney's office is the problem. They're trying to decide if there's something in the files that would help with the investigation."
"I'm not asking for anything but a copy of the files. How is that going to interfere in any way with your investigation?"
"It won't, of course, but it's not in my hands. I'll go back to them again and see if I can shake them loose."
"Please do that. I don't want to have to go to the media and make their office out to be the bad guys. I've got enough problems without that on top them."
"I understand. Please don't do anything until I can talk to the Assistant District Attorney. I'm sure they won't want any negative publicity like that."
"Thank you. I'll trust your persuasive powers."
We had a gathering of relatives and close friends back at the house after the funeral. I was quite taken with how many people had come to the funeral. It testified to how well-liked Diane was. I was also quite amazed at how controlled and quiet the children were, particularly Billy and Sandy. They were polite when people approached them to offer condolences. I was exceptionally proud of Debbie, who seemed to have matured dramatically over the past ten days.
Christie had been a great help early on but my mother and father contributed as well. They had arrived a week ago and were living in the basement suite. I offered them the master bedroom, but they declined saying they'd be more comfortable downstairs. Diane's parents gracefully accepted the master bedroom while I slept on the hide-a-bed in the basement family room. It was a tight fit, but with three bathrooms and a bed for everyone, we survived.
Two days after the funeral, I received a call from Detective Etchevarry.
"I've finally got an okay to give you a copy of your wife's computer files. I'm sorry it took this long, but homicide investigations tend to be very tightly controlled, and I don't think the D.A.'s office really understood they were doing further damage to your family. I'm glad they finally saw the light."
"Thank you, Detective. I really appreciate your efforts. I'll come and get the files from you."
"If you've got high speed Internet, I can send them to you."
"Yes, we do. I'll give you the address."
He was as good as his word. Christie called me a half-hour later and said we'd received all the files on her computer.
"Actually, Doug, they sent more than just the business files. There's a whole bunch of other stuff as well. Some of it is personal, so I thought you'd want to look at it first."
"Thanks, Christie. I do. How about you come over this afternoon and we can get started on the business files."
"Sure. I'll see you when I get there."
Well, that was a relief. At least I could communicate with Diane's customers and let them know what had happened if they didn't already see it on the news. I could also introduce Christie to the billing customers and get them back on track. I was hopeful they'd be understanding, but since she was now fully qualified for medical billing through the local community college, I was reasonably confident that the business could be handed over without a serious loss of customers.
Diane's parents had left for their home, promising to stay in touch and inviting the children to stay with them any time I needed a break. Summer vacation was coming and that seemed the logical time to have them visit. My parents were still at the house, wanting to help me look for more continuing care for my three offspring, acting as grandparents do when they are called upon.
The children had become used to the idea that their mother was gone. Sandy would talk about missing her mother, but Billy was still very much closed up. He didn't seem to be able to let go yet. He didn't cry or act up or do much of anything. I tried to get him to get out and play with his friends, but he didn't have any enthusiasm for that. I was going to have to watch him carefully for now.
Debbie was acting the mother role with Billy and Sandy and strangely, they accepted her. Billy was only sixteen months younger than his sister and I thought he might rebel at her leadership, but I was wrong. He wasn't exactly enthusiastic about her giving him instructions, but he went along with them anyway.
Sandy was still quiet, but had adjusted better than I expected. I got the impression she was happy to have Debbie take charge. She was also responsive to Christie as well. They seemed to get along very well. Billy didn't have any problem with Christie either, so that took a big load off my shoulders.
It was getting to be time for me to go back to work. We had advertised for a live-in nanny for the children and my parents were screening some of the applicants. I would, of course, have the final say, but I thought their input would be very helpful in making sure I didn't make a mistake. They also made it clear to me that they would stay here as long as necessary for me to get the family situation under control. That was another relief. It meant I wouldn't be panicked into making a rush decision I might afterwards regret.
I had contacted the insurance company about Diane's policy and they said they would pay out the policy only when the police department assured them that I was no longer "a person of interest." I was relieved when that assurance came almost immediately and the policy was discharged. One hundred thousand dollars seemed like a lot of money, but it wasn't when I thought about all the additional expenses that we would incur for child care over the next eight or ten years.
It also wouldn't cover my contributions to the children's college fund. That was only three years away for Debbie. There would even be a benefit payment from Social Security to add to the total. However, neither the insurance nor Social Security would solve all our financial challenges.
Within two weeks, Christie had the billing up to date and was confining her work to evenings and weekends, maintaining her day job.
"Christie, you're burning the candle at both ends," I softly admonished her one Saturday afternoon.
"I don't have much choice, Doug. I'm having trouble making ends meet and I'm thinking I might have to sell the house and move to an apartment. Even if I can make a small amount from the sale, I'll have to split it with Paul. But the cost of upkeep and the fact that it's in need of some maintenance is pushing me in that direction."
"Is Paul keeping up with his alimony?"
"He's inconsistent. I have to call and remind him sometimes. It makes trying to keep a budget very difficult."
I thought about what she was facing. The fact was my situation wasn't a lot different. By the time we hired a nanny and paid the bills, we would be stretched pretty thin too. I had become reliant on Diane's income. I could see us dipping into the insurance payout and our savings over the next few years just to keep finances on an even keel.
I began to worry about this more and more, even when I resumed my job. I was caught between two situations. If I took more trips, I would be away from home more often. I didn't see that as a good thing at all, especially with my concerns for the children. But my current income was going to be pushed to the limits between the mortgage, the nanny's salary, the household costs and other expenses. I was going to be squeezed no matter what I did.
"Doug, you look down," my mother said one evening, joining me on the living room couch. What's the matter? Are you still missing Diane that much?"
"Yes, of course I am," I said, not wanting to snap at her. "I'm sorry, Mom. I'm a bit worried about things right now. I'm trying to figure out how to keep the family together and make sure everyone is looked after."
"Including yourself?" she asked.
"No ... it's more how I can keep everything else stable. I think our financial situation is going to be tight for a while. I'm wondering if I should sell the house and move to a less expensive place."
"I don't think that's going to solve your problems, dear. This isn't a luxury home. It's in a safe neighborhood with good schools for the children. I think you should stay right where you are. Maybe there's another way to work this problem out."
"Like what?" I asked, not expecting anything.
"I've been talking to Christie. You know she's been having problems financially too. Apparently her ex-husband isn't very reliable with his alimony."
"She's mentioned it to me."
"She doesn't want you to have any more things to worry about right now. She's a very nice young lady and she and the children get along very well. I was going to suggest ... just suggest mind you ... that maybe she could be the nanny you're looking for. She could maintain her business and contribute to the household at the same time."
I looked at my mother in astonishment. I wouldn't have bet ten cents she would propose such an idea. An attractive single woman, a divorcee, coming to live with us here? Sure, Christie was a good friend, and yes she had a business that could contribute just the way it had when Diane ran it. But what would people think?