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   Chapter 28 No.28

My Sister's Keeper By Bill Benners Characters: 6652

Updated: 2018-05-28 11:06

I WASN'T SURE I'D HEARD the waitress correctly. "She was here? You saw her?"

"I was outside on break smoking a cigarette when she and the guy she was with pulled up." She popped her gum again.

"Are you sure it was the same girl?"

She held the newspaper farther away and squinted. "I might not know it was her from that picture alone, but she had those hair beads."

"What kind of boat was it?"

"It was small—just a workboat." She pointed out the window. "Like that one down there." She pointed to my rental and goose bumps broke out on my arms.

"There was a man with her?"

"I didn't see him very well. He stayed in the boat. They were having motor trouble. Somebody else passing through was trying to help them."

"How old was he?"

"The man? I don't know. Young, I think."

"Do you remember anything about the helper?"

"An older couple. Gray-haired."

"What kind of boat did they have?"

"It was nice. Fairly big. I can't remember what it was, but it had an unusual name—something different. You want some pie?"

I took a pencil from her apron pocket. "What's your name?"

"Darla Pridgeon." She spelled it out for me as I wrote it along the side of the newspaper, then went and returned with a generous wedge of homemade blueberry cheesecake that I savored slowly with the coffee while waiting for the weather to clear up.

Who could have been with Ashleigh? Could it have been a boyfriend? Or David? He was supposed to be at his aunt and uncle's house. But was he?

It was now after 11 a.m. and I had a four o'clock rehearsal. My clothes had dried and the warmth had come back into my legs and feet. The rain didn't appear to be slacking off anytime soon, so I donned the poncho, paid the bill, and thanked Darla again pressing a hundred-dollar bill into her hand. When she unfolded it, her gum fell out of her mouth.

"You have no idea how much you've helped me, " I told her.

Pulling the hood over my head, I reluctantly stepped back out into the

xt to the seat. Another wave washed more seawater into the boat and as the ship bore down on me, I grabbed the wheel, pulled myself to my knees, and reeled it to the left. But the boat, heavy with water and sitting low in the river, was slow to move and, although the engine was running full throttle, brushed the side of the freighter before it pulled away.

The boat was moving too slowly to pull the plug, so with the salt spray stinging my eyes, I jockeyed the boat around the river traffic and finally made it back into the narrower Intracoastal Waterway. Using my shoe, I bailed the boat while keeping it on course, and when the boat finally planed-off, I pulled the plug and let the rest of the seawater out.

As I neared the entrance to Bradley Creek, the rain ended, the winds calmed, and the sun broke through the clouds. The final leg back to the old timer's dock turned out to be the most comfortable part of the trip. I turned in the key, loaded the car, and headed for home with barely a half-hour to slip into some dry clothes and get downtown.

As I pulled into my driveway, I was met by Detective Jones and two other officers who handcuffed me, read me my rights for the second time, and hauled me, yet again, to the police station. I didn't even get the opportunity to change clothes.

I was furious.

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