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My Sister's Keeper By Bill Benners Characters: 15114

Updated: 2018-05-28 11:04


THE NURSES GOT DAD STABILIZED and sedated while the four of us waited down the hall. Mom, Martha, me, and Winston. I had a thousand questions running through my mind, but for the first time in my life, I felt whole. And for the first time ever I felt a closeness to Dad. He said I was perfect. I broke down and wept like a grief-stricken mother mourning the death of her child. My God! I was Charlie's son. Why hadn't someone told me? Quivering uncontrollably, I sat there in front of the three of them and bawled. They cried, too. Even Winston.

It felt so good, so liberating—like I'd been used my whole life to mop the floor and someone had finally rinsed me clean and wrung me out.

Dad had certainly given me a lot to think about. He may technically be my uncle, but on that day he was my dad. And all at once, I wanted him to live. For the first time I understood him and wanted to know the rest of the story. I wanted more time with him.

Mom took Martha home, but I hung around the waiting room until a nurse reminded me for the third time that he would not be conscious until much later that day.

I went to my office and sat alone speculating on how it could possibly have happened that Uncle Charles was my dad and no one had spoken about it. Ever. I could hardly remember anyone even uttering his name all these years. What had Uncle Charles been like? Who was he? Who am I? Is Martha my sister or my half-sister? I had a lot of questions and I wanted some answers.

Lizzy interrupted my thoughts to tell me that Mrs. Sophia Wadsworth was there to see me. She was my staunchest supporter on the Board of Directors of Thalian Hall and I had a feeling why she might be there. I greeted her warmly in the lobby and escorted her to my office where she refused a seat.

"Mr. Baimbridge, I'll not be long." She lowered her eyes, gripped her pocketbook with both hands, and pursed her lips exposing the lines of her seventy-odd years. "Due to recent developments, the Board has decided to engage another director for Laying Down the Law and requests that you return the scripts and musical scores at your earliest convenience."

I hated hearing it, but it didn't devastate me as much as I'd thought it would. "I understand."

"I'm sorry, Richard."

"Me, too. Thank you, Mrs. Wadsworth."

She pivoted, opened the door, and left. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed. Opportunities like that come but once in a lifetime. Yet, with all I had going on, I would not have been able to give it my best effort. I'm sure my stepping aside was better for everyone involved. I was in the process of calling the cast members and asking them to contact the theatre concerning the future of the show when Sydney called.

"All you all right?" I asked.

"Yes. Why?"

"I heard some things before you hung up last night that—worried me. I tried to find your number and call you back."

"Good thing you didn't. That would not have been good."

"It sounded like he hit you."

"I'm okay."

"Did he?"

"It's okay. I'm fine."

I drew a deep breath. "Well, be careful."

She was silent a moment, then said, "The reporters seem to think—to me—they seem to think that…you're…"

Her implication knocked the wind out of me. "Guilty?"

There was a short pause before she answered. "I'm just saying that I think that's what they think."

"What do you think?" I asked.

My heart was pounding so loudly, I almost didn't hear her whispered reply. "I don't know."

"Well…" I tried to make the best of it. "I can't imagine how you would, actually."

She changed the subject. "How's your father today?"

I sighed. "He's—not doing too well."

"I'm sorry to hear that."

"Yeah. Thanks. Look, have you had lunch yet?"

There was a long pause before she answered. "No."

"Would you like to run out and get something?"

There was another long pause—so long that I withdrew the invitation. "Never mind. I understand."

"Where?"

"It's okay. We'll do it some other time."

"No, really. Where?"

"Anywhere you like, Sydney. Just name it. I'll buy."

There was another beat of silence. "It would have to be someplace out of the way…that isn't too crowded."

"Well, maybe it's not such a good idea right now."

"I'd love to. Really, but—"

"You don't have to say it. I understand."

"Do you know that gazebo on the back side of Greenfield Lake?"

"Gazebo?"

"It's nice. Just follow Lake Shore Drive around the lake. You'll see it. Meet me in thirty minutes?"

"Yes. That'll be go

n parked up the road with two men in it. One appeared to be looking at us through binoculars. I turned back to face the lake. "Don't turn around. I think someone's watching us."

"What?" Sydney sat up higher, but looked only at me. "Watching us right now?"

"Scott wouldn't have you followed, would he?"

She turned her head slightly and checked the car from the corner of her eye. "The one on the road?"

"Don't look at them."

"I don't know. Maybe."

"It's probably just the police. I'm their prime suspect right now."

"What about the ones that killed the Jacksons? Could it be them?" Her eyes were wide and intense.

I laid my hand on hers and squeezed it. "When you leave here, turn right, and go out the same way you came in. If they follow you, I'll follow them. If they don't, I'll wait a few minutes, go left, and see if I can tell who they are when I ride by them."

"I'm scared, Richard."

"Just be careful. Keep your doors locked and if they follow you, go someplace where there's a lot of people or to the police station. Just don't let them get close enough to grab you."

"Now you're really scaring me."

I looked into her eyes. "What time do you get off tonight?"

"My last class ends at 9:30. I'll probably be there until 10."

I snatched a pen from my shirt pocket, ripped off a section of the lunch bag, and wrote a phone number on it. "This is my cell number. Call me when you get ready to leave." She folded it and clutched it in her hand. "And let me have your home number." She ripped off another piece of the bag and wrote the number on it.

I read it, then tucked it away. "Okay. You ready to go?"

"I guess." She picked up her keys and water bottle as I put away the trash. I then took her hand and walked her back to her van.

"Be careful, Richard."

"It'll be fine."

She started the van and waited as I straddled the bike and strapped on the helmet. On my signal, she pulled onto the roadway, turned right, and disappeared up the winding tree-lined road. The car with the two men didn't move. I caught a couple more glimpses of her through the trees as she worked her way around the lake, then gunned the bike and eased up to the roadway. I removed my helmet, fiddled with the straps, and wasted time. The men, parked up the road to my left, seemed to ignore me. Finally, I snapped the helmet back on, turned left, and eased off toward them.

As I moved past them, they looked out at the lake to their right. They wore casual clothes—like policemen working undercover—or the FBI. Their license plate was so badly banged up, I could not read the numbers as I rolled past. I opened the throttle, roared up the road around the next bend, and pulled over.

A moment later they passed me heading in the same direction. They saw me, but made no attempt to slow down or stop as I whipped back on the road and dashed off in the direction Sydney had gone, then made a quick left, a right, and another left. I didn't see them again and figured I'd lost them.

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