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My Sister's Keeper By Bill Benners Characters: 14176

Updated: 2018-05-28 11:03


FROM THE MOMENT Ashleigh stepped out of that storm into my home, anything having to do with her seemed to happen in a Twilight Zone atmosphere. Things around her just did not look, act, or add up the same way they did in the normal world. It was as if some kind of spell had been cast on me.

"Who? The old man?" I asked.

"Both. Jackson and his wife."

I wanted to get the hell out of there. To go out and look for "Rachel's Diamond." To work on characters, blocking, and set designs. I wanted to run to my sister and scream.

"Jesus!" I said, still trying to comprehend what he'd said. "I can't believe it." He didn't answer, or even look up. I drew a slow breath to calm myself as he reached for my notes. "We need to tell them all that stuff I found out today. They need to know it."

"Quiet, Richard. Please."

I touched his arm. "All we did was go out there to talk to Ashleigh's brother."

Scott looked up. "We who?"

"Sydney Deagan was with me."

Scott's eyes narrowed. "Is…that your girlfriend?"

"No. She owns the dance school where Ashleigh used to study dance. Deagan Dance and something, " I said.

"Deagan Dance Center."

"She knew David from the past and thought he might talk to her quicker than me."

He sighed. "So, was it just you and Miss Deagan?"

"Yes."

"Where did you go after you left Jackson's place?"

"We came back to my house so I could clean up and change clothes. Then I took her back to her car."

"Then what did you do?"

"I went back home and went to bed."

"Alone?"

"Yes. Do I need an alibi for that, too?"

Scott dropped the notepad in his briefcase, snapped it shut, and stood. "Sure. The D.A.'s going to say that you went back out there after you dropped her off and killed them."

"But I didn't."

"Come on. They're not going to hold you. Let's get out of here."

Scott gave me a ride home but didn't say much until he turned onto my street. "How do you know Sydney Deagan?"

"I dated her sister, Jewell, a few times back in high school and I'm shooting her students' recital photos this year. Why?"

He pulled in the drive, moved the gearshift to neutral, and turned to face me. "She's a potential witness and I don't want any surprises coming up. Are you two romantically involved?"

I exhaled. "No. Not really."

His eyes hardened. "And what exactly does not really mean?"

"It means we're not involved. I kissed her once, that's all."

"When?"

I looked at Scott. His jaw pulsed and the color had faded from his face. "Is this important?"

He spoke without emotion, but his hand gripped the gearshift so tightly that his knuckles had turned white. "When?" he asked again.

I unclipped my seatbelt and opened the door, pushing it out with my foot. "I'm sorry. I think I've misled you. It was a peck on the cheek—a thank you. Nothing more."

Stepping out of the car, I leaned down into the opening. He faced forward, looking out. "Women like Sydney Deagan don't find me very attractive, Mr. McGillikin. I can only dream about women like her."

He jammed the gearshift into reverse and I scarcely had time to shut the door before the car shot backward into the street and burned rubber as it sped away.

What the hell was that about?

It was nearly 6 p.m. when I lifted the bottle of scotch from the wet cardboard box and breezed out the back door. The cool, evening air penetrated the damp clothes I still wore. My eyelids weighed heavily and my limbs ached. I dropped onto a lounge chair, threw my legs up, and closed my eyes allowing the bottle to rest against the deck floor. No matter what I did, no matter how much new evidence I turned up, things just kept getting worse. The whole world seemed to have turned on me. Even my lawyer had gone weird. I raised the bottle to my lips and as I tilted it to drink, the phone rang in the house. Damn! Didn't I turn that thing off?

I jumped up, burst into the house, and snapped the phone off its cradle. "Hello?"

"I need a ride to the hospital." It was Martha. She sounded anxious.

"What's wrong?"

"Daddy's had another heart attack."

THE RECEPTIONIST IN THE EMERGENCY ROOM at New Hanover Regional Medical Center was an older woman with an exaggerated limp. Lifting her hip,

y in about fifteen minutes ending with my father lying in Cardiac Care. Sydney got excited about Darla and the boat people, offered sincere condolences about my father, and said nothing at all when I told her about the Jacksons and the DNA. She remained silent.

"Sydney?"

"Yes?"

"Are you okay?"

"I—" She didn't finish.

"What?"

"Why would anyone kill the Jacksons?"

"Could be the people she stole the money from trying to find her just like we were."

"But, how would they have known about the Jacksons?"

"I don't know. Is it that big of a secret?"

She exhaled softly. "I guess not."

"So how was your day?"

"Long. Very long. I was up at daybreak."

"Doing what?"

"Thinking."

"And what were you thinking?"

"For one thing, I wondered if you noticed how beautiful the sun looked coming up this morning."

I smiled. "Actually, I did. What else were you thinking?"

"Well…nothing in particular."

"Oh, yes you were. Tell me or I'm going to hang up."

"No you won't."

"Well, tell me anyway."

"I was thinking about you, actually."

"Sydney Deagan, don't you tease me like that."

I could hear her smiling. "Well, that's part of what I was thinking about, " she whispered. "But…I know you must be exhausted, so I'd better let you go."

"Are you kidding? I'm wide awake now."

There was another pause then she asked, "Well, how are your cuts today?"

"I think some of them are infected and gangrene might be setting in. Could you rush over and look at them?"

She giggled and it felt like someone had just strummed my heartstrings. I couldn't help myself. I was in love with the sound of that laughter.

"I think we'd better say goodnight, " she chuckled. "Before we—"

I heard the phone banging around. "Hello? Sydney?"

Then came a man's voice at the other end. "What the hell are you doing in here?"

I heard Sydney reply. "I'm just…sitting here."

"Doing what?"

"Talking to my girlfriend. Do you mind?" A door slammed, the phone rattled, and she whispered, "I better go."

"Are you sure you're going to be okay?"

"I'll be fine."

"Maybe you need to stay somewhere else tonight."

She sighed. "I don't have anyplace to go."

"You sure as hell do. You can come over here."

"I'll be fine."

I was trembling. I closed my eyes, leaned back, and sighed. "Where do you live? What's your address?"

"I'll be fine." Then her voice dropped and she whispered, "I've got to go."

The phone banged against something, then rattled around as if someone was trying to hang it up.

"Sydney?" I whispered.

I heard movement in the background, a TV far off in the distance, white noise. Silence. A commode flushed, followed by the sound of a man's footsteps approaching rapidly and a loud slap before the line clicked off.

"Sydney?"

Damn it!

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