The story of the rape and abduction of the two women was all over town. Sheriff deputies found the other woman dead about a mile from where Jason had found Willow. Jason visited with Willow every day until she was ready to be released. He was sitting with her as she readied herself to go when the Sheriff walked into the room.
“Afternoon Willow, Jason,” said Sheriff Fletcher. He stood in the doorway.
“Hello Sheriff,” said Willow. She had on jeans, a heavy sweater and was trying to wrap a scarf around her head. It was awkward as she still had stitches in her arm and in two places on her scalp.
“Wanted to let you know that we found the men that did it,” he said quietly.
“You… you what?” stuttered Willow.
“We found them. Had a tip. Bunch a drunks bragging about having some hippy chicks at a saloon about twenty miles south of here,” Sheriff Fletcher said.
“Are… are they in jail?” asked Willow. She was going pale under her skin.
“Yes. They had your wallet and the other woman’s handbag in their car. Stupid idiots. Lucky for us though. Trial ought to be by the end of the month. You will testify won’t you?” the Sheriff asked.
“Damn right I will,” said Willow. “I’ve been wronged and they deserve to pay.”
“You realize that they’ll make it rough on you. Say you wanted it and things like that,” said the Sheriff. He hated rape cases, because they always made the victim pay twice.
“Yyes. I do. I realize they’ll try to make me out a whore and all of that,” said Willow.
Jason stood there listening to all of this not sure whether he wanted to protect Willow or head to the jail to kill the men. Over the time he’d spent with Willow, he’d gotten to know her and realized that she wasn’t an empty headed fool. In fact, she wasn’t much different than he was. They both liked the outdoors, reading, working with their hands and such. She just lived in a community where everyone thought like that and he lived on his ranch.
“Well, I’ll get in touch with you come trial time,” said the Sheriff. “Keep safe.” With that, he left the room.
Jason helped Willow pick up her things and then the two of them left the hospital. He put her stuff in the back of his truck and they climbed in. Jason had promised to take her to Liberty, where she lived. Only two of her friends had come up to see her the entire time she’d been in hospital, which Jason thought was a bit weird, but didn’t mention.
They chatted on the drive and when they pulled up in front of Willow’s little house, she gave him a quick kiss and was gone. It was a long quiet drive home. Jason wasn’t sure what to think of any of the last few weeks. Especially the rapid goodbye that Willow made.
A month later, the trial began. As the Sheriff expected, the lawyer for the defendants tried to say that Willow had offered herself to them and that the business of her being tied to the tree was just a sex game gone wrong. That she was suppose to be able to get free. That they’d even left the car there for her. Jason had testified how he’d found her. He explained the abandoned car and the cruel way Willow had been left to die.
The jury didn’t buy the men’s story and the men were convicted of murder, kidnapping, assault, rape and car theft. The lightest sentence was thirty five years. Jason still wanted to kill each and every one of them. Especially the one who described what a sweet piece of ass Willow was when they’d raped her.
Willow sat there quietly. She’d worn the same sweater and jeans almost every day of the trial. After the verdict was read, she melted into the crowd and disappeared before Jason could say anything to her. He headed home, feeling like he’d lost something.
Betsy dropped Willow off at the end of the driveway. She watched Willow walk up the road and then headed home. The two of them had become good friends between the hospital stay and the trial. Unbeknownst to Jason, Willow had stayed with Betsy during the trial.
Willow watched as Betsy drove off. She wasn’t sure about this, but she knew that her whole life had changed, and not for the better. Back in Liberty, she couldn’t settle down. Couldn’t get back into the routines that had been so logical and relaxing. Pretty soon, she felt as if she didn’t belong. So, when Betsy had offered to house her during the trial, she grabbed at the chance. Now she was taking another risk. Walking up in the dusk of the evening, she could see the green and black pickup. It was parked under a shed roof. The ranch house was two stories and there were lights on in a couple of rooms. Willow walked up to the door and knocked. She wasn’t sure what was louder. Her knocking or her heart.
Jason heard a knock on his door and almost ignored it. No one came up this way in the winter. Not unless there was an accident on the road or someone’s livestock got out. He headed to the door and peered out. He didn’t see anyone at first and almost walked away when there was another knock on the door. He opened it to see Willow standing there.
“Willow?” he said.
“Hi Jason. Can… can I come in?” she asked.
“Sure. Geeze. I… I don’t know what I was thinking. Please come in,” he said.
Willow walked into the hallway and Jason shut the door behind her. That’s when he realized that she had a backpack and a big handbag with her.
“You going somewhere?” Jason asked.
“Yeah. I’m leaving Liberty. I… I don’t fit any more,” she said. She set the pack and the bag down. “I wanted to come talk to you. The doctor said I needed to figure things out and I need to start with you,” she said.
“Me? I don’t understand,” said Jason.
“Well, I’m broken inside. Shattered and I don’t know what I want or where I want to go, but it isn’t Liberty and it isn’t where I was,” she said.
“Well, I was just about to eat. You want some dinner?” he asked.
“Sure,” said Willow.
“It isn’t anything fancy. Just stew and biscuits. Oh shit, you do eat meat don’t you?” he asked as he began to ladle up a bowl of stew.
“Yeah. Can’t do the vegetarian thing. Just makes me sick,” she said.
“Oh. Okay,” he said and handed her a bowl of stew. “Biscuits on the table in the basket.”
The two of them sat down to eat. Willow began to open up about how she’d been and where her head was taking her. After dinner, they washed up and sat down with tea for her and coffee for him.
“So, that’s where my head is. I don’t feel safe in Liberty. I don’t feel safe at my brother’s house either. In fact, the best I’ve felt in weeks was staying with Betsy,” said Willow.
“Betsy?” asked Jason.
“Yeah. She’s the one who suggested I come see you. Said maybe I have my head all screwed up because I got raped and because you were the one who found me,” said Willow. She wasn’t sure if she believed Betsy or her therapist who’d said the same thing, but she was willing to give it a try.
“Oh, okay,” said Jason who was trying to think this out as quickly as he could. He had to admit that he’d missed Willow, but didn’t tell anyone. Partially because he wasn’t sure how Willow would feel about men after being raped and left for dead. “I’ve got a couple of spare rooms. You’re welcome to stay. You’ll have to help out though. I’ve got too much to do even in winter to just sit around,” he said.
“Okay. I don’t mind. Just understand that I have bad days and my arm still isn’t very strong, so I’m not bucking bales or anything like that,” she said trying to inject a bit of humor.
“Not a problem. Let’s go see what room suits you,” he said.
Ten minutes later, she was settling into his sister’s old room. It was in the attic, a floor above his room and at the opposite end of the house. He was startled to realize how little she had. Just clothes, a laptop, and a couple of books. He made sure she knew where things were and then headed to bed.