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   Chapter 45 No.45

My Sister's Keeper By Bill Benners Characters: 5683

Updated: 2018-05-28 11:26

AS THE LAST STRANDS of pink faded and the sky turned steel gray, I drove past the McLeod Hotel and parked several blocks away. It stood tall and proud at the center of the seediest part of Wilmington. Built in the late 1800s, it had not had a coat of paint since Hitler marched on France. A few windows on the bottom floor had been covered with plywood that had since grayed and curled, threatening to fall off. One window on the second floor was covered by cardboard. I got more than a few strange looks as I walked past the neon signs and cheap bars back toward it.

The prostitutes propositioned me, and the men kept an eye on me. The entrance to the hotel was too narrow and too congested with people I wouldn't dare ask to move, or try to slither through. I lowered my head and walked on by, disappearing into a narrow alley a few doors farther. Stepping over broken bottles, drug vials, and piles of excrement, I made my way to the back of the buildings.

Night was falling quickly. The interior of the block was a menagerie of fire escapes, sagging porches, broken windows, and dilapidated sheds. There was an equal amount of cracked pavement and tall weeds with clear open dirt paths squirreling around the garbage containers and outbuildings. I could feel the presence of people all around, but couldn't see any. I heard a whisper from one direction, a grunt and a moan from another. In the distance a police siren wailed and a woman screamed at a whimpering infant.

I followed a path toward a rotting wooden stairwell at the rear of the McLeod and came upon a man leaning back against a telephone pole watching me. I paused to see what he was going to do, but when I realized there was fe

of club.

The air was thick with tobacco, reefer, and stale beer. The only light I could see came from dim colored bulbs in the ceiling aimed at erotic art and life-sized nude statues recessed into the walls. A heavy bass and drums rhythm thumped loudly amid a celestial tinkling of music lacking a melody. I pushed forward through the sweaty bodies and felt a hand grab my crotch.

"Oh, darling, " a man purred. I twisted free and limped on. "Over here, lover, " another beckoned. The air was hot, musty, and hard to breathe. Beads of perspiration trickled down my sides. My ankle throbbed with pain. I had no idea where this would lead, but knew it was safer than being outside. I moved my wallet to a front pocket and hobbled on blindly, my legs trembling. I could feel my heart beating in my gums as my eyes adjusted to the darkness.

Farther in, the crowd in the aisle thinned and the room angled to the left. Voices whispered and giggled from dark alcoves around me and I could smell the odors of sex—male and female.

What lay behind me was life in prison and possibly death. What lay ahead I could not have imagined.

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