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   Chapter 18 No.18

My Sister's Keeper By Bill Benners Characters: 5995

Updated: 2018-05-28 11:01


AFTER DARK, I slipped into the laundry room and lifted a slat in the blind to get a look at Ashleigh's house. The place was dark. I visualized the inside and tried to recall anything she'd said that might be a clue, but nothing came to mind. I located another flashlight, slipped into a dark windbreaker, and stepped out into the night. It was cave black.

The darkness was alive with a thousand sounds. Endless rhythms and patterns of drumming, chirping, buzzing, rustling. Nature's symphony. The sounds of life. Sounds one would rarely hear locked away in prison.

I squeezed into the row of bushes at the back of the lot and emerged about thirty feet from Ashleigh's steps. There was a large seal on the door that hadn't been there Sunday night. Otherwise, it looked exactly the same; potted plants hanging along the edges of the porch and a pair of dirty tennis shoes sitting by the entrance.

I moved forward, lifted the police tape, and started to step under it when the backyard floodlights burst on around me. My heart leapt into my throat and I dove back into the bushes from where I saw Mrs. Hardesty at her kitchen window looking left and right. She disappeared briefly, then reappeared at the sliding door. The outside lights went off and she stepped out onto her back porch.

Holding her robe off the ground with one hand and carrying a flashlight in the other, she tiptoed across the yard to the pool house and under the police tape. Inching farther back into the shrubs, I watched her peel back the seal on the door and—with a key—enter the house.

Jumping the police tape, I crept around to the back of the house and, through a window, saw Mrs. Hardesty standing at the foot of Ashleigh's bed, her light slowly moving over the blood-splattered walls. It looked like someon

ho went into that house Sunday night?"

"I seen you."

"Did you see anyone else go in there?"

"Didn't see nobody else."

"But somebody must have gone in after me."

"Didn't see nobody."

"Did you see me when I left there?"

"I seen you laying in the yard."

"Do you know how long I was there?"

"Least an hour."

"Did you see how I got there?"

"Only other thing I seen was the girl leaving."

"What girl?"

"The girl. Her."

"She left? What time was that?"

"While you was layin' outside. She just walked away carryin' some kind of bag."

"Walked?"

"Just walked off."

"Did you tell the police?"

"They didn't ask me that."

"What time did she come back?"

"Didn't."

"Where do you suppose she would have gone at that time of the night? On foot?" Mrs. Winslow shook her head, then closed the door. "Wait!" I whispered tapping on the door.

She didn't answer and despite my determined knocking, she didn't open the door again. I finally made my way around my house and entered through the front door. I was wet, cold, and trembling. It took another double scotch to settle me down. Could Mrs. Winslow be mistaken? Could it have been another woman?

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