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   Chapter 9 No.9

My Sister's Keeper By Bill Benners Characters: 6894

Updated: 2018-05-28 10:59


THE NEXT MORNING I was dressed and downtown by 7:30. Like my mood, the weather had turned cold and blustery—not the best for Azalea Festival Week. I pulled my collar up against my neck for the short walk to Tripp's Ham and Eggs still stunned by the events of the night before. Inside, I tracked to the same table with the same five other guys I join for breakfast most every morning.

Sappy Talton was doing his customarily splendid job of getting our waitress Sheila flustered and confused. Sappy and I had been best friends since eighth grade when we stole a pack of Lucky Strikes and a can of Miller's Beer from Smith's IGA, which started a summer of wildness that cemented our friendship forever.

A burst of laughter spread through the group as I took a seat. That's what I like about these guys. They're relaxed and fun to be around. No heavy burdens allowed.

Besides Sappy, there was Fred Gorman, a salt and pepper-haired fishing guide who'd lost two fingers off his left hand to a winch. Next to Fred sat Bob Bennett, an accountant with black horn-rimmed trifocals and buckteeth. George Reason, the bald-headed and goateed past-president of the Chamber of Commerce sat next to me. And my attorney, Joe Forrester, sat on the other side of George.

As I took my seat, Sappy reached across the table and slapped my arm. "Hey, that girl they think got murdered day before yesterday? Wasn't that over in your neck of the woods?"

I exhaled. "She lived next door."

Sheila slid a cup of coffee in front of me as she walked past without even slowing down.

"You have anything to do with that?" Sappy asked, his usual smart-alecky smirk plastered across his face.

"Actually, " I tore open a packet of artificial sugar and dumped it in my coffee. "I might have been the last person to see her before it happened."

They all got quiet and turned their attention to me. Fred massaged the nubs of his missing fingers with the heel of his right hand. "You know her?" he asked.

I stirred my coffee. "She came to my house during that storm Sunday night

e done it if she'd let you."

Ouch! The truth hurt. But, thank God I didn't do it. No telling what problems that could have caused. The conversation around the table drifted away from Ashleigh into a debate of why none of the North Carolina teams made the final four in college basketball this year. I sliced my eggs, stirred them into the grits, and wondered why they hadn't found a body. Joe remained quiet the rest of the meal and pulled me aside as we were leaving.

"This thing could turn out to be a serious problem for you, Rich, " he said heaving an overcoat over his shoulders. "If I were you, I'd get an attorney right now."

"Can't you handle it?"

"You need someone that knows criminal law, Rich. That's not what I do."

The look in his eyes and the sound of his voice gave me the jitters. "You think it's that serious, huh?"

"How'd you get the scratch on your face?"

"Swear to God, I don't know."

"Swear to God, I'd get an attorney." He slapped my arm as he walked away.

I trailed after him. "But I didn't do anything."

"You need a good attorney more if you didn't do it than if you did."

"Okay. Then who?"

"Let me check into it. In the meantime, don't talk to anyone else about this. Not a peep! Do you understand?"

"Yes."

"Good. If the cops want anything else from you, make them get a search warrant. I'll call you later."

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