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   Chapter 39 No.39

My Sister's Keeper By Bill Benners Characters: 6508

Updated: 2018-05-28 11:06

DANE BONNER TURNED OFF Highway 133 west of Wilmington near Kendall Chapel and guided his Escalade through thick brush along an overgrown dirt trail leading back to a nineteenth-century farm house. He'd stolen the property from a client that had gotten the death penalty for the rape, torture, and murder of an eleven-year-old boy the man had picked up hitch-hiking. Although it was located in Brunswick County, it was just minutes from Wilmington along the western side of the lower Cape Fear River—a tract he now called "The Bonner Place."

The two-story frame house had been built in the late 1800s and had been wired for electricity later with exposed cables running up and down the outside of the house. The barns and sheds had been added in the more affluent 1950s. Behind the barn, there was a bulkhead and dock on the river. He got out of his car, pulled open the front doors to the barn and parked the car inside.

Bonner lit a kerosene lantern, unbolted the front door to the house, and stepped into a narrow hallway. There were doors on his left and right and stairs going up to the second floor. The house had not been cleaned or even opened for fresh air in two decades. A hole in the roof had gone unattended for years and the air reeked of dampness, mold, and bird droppings. The wallpaper throughout the house had turned dark brown and, in places, drooped from the walls like pig's ears. Cobwebs shadowed all corners and the floors were barely visible under a chalky layer of dust. He stepped into the front room to his left and walked to a metal table placed against a dark window. The corner of the room nearest the center of the house had a fireplace set in it at a 45-degree angle that shared a chimney with a fireplace in the next room. Behind the wire grill were the carcasses of black birds and squirrels unfortunate enough to get trapped in the chimney. In the room beyond, a double window was completely covered over by a ha

r way while the children in the back seat screamed.

Another explosion propelled the burning car up and backward toward the gas pumps. Flames leapt fifty feet into the air and everyone scattered for cover. The attendant hit the emergency kill switch and waved everyone away. "Get back!"

Greg ran toward the spot where he'd left the Corvette, but it was not there. He turned in a circle looking for it and ran to the middle of the parking lot searching the entire area. He turned back to the burning car and his eyes fell on the silhouette of the man inside slumped against the steering wheel—his clothes on fire—then moved down to the wheels. Polished chrome wheels. Corvette wheels. A tire blew and Greg began to shake. Just a little at first, then an uncontrollable violent rattling of his bones. His knees became weak and his lungs spasmed. He backed away, turned, and stumbled back into the building, snatched a cold soda and a map, tossed five dollars on the counter, and walked down the road heading back toward I-40.

Looking over his shoulder, he could see the glow of the fire and thick black smoke curling into the night sky, sparks shooting upward like fireflies.

As fire trucks and police cars wailed by, he flipped his collar up, crossed the highway, and stuck his thumb out.

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