#52weeks52stories: Week 14
Word prompt: military
Word Count: 1090
Seven hours and two attempts later Sally Bennett sat up in bed. Though she’d vetoed any further sedation, a low dose of Xanax flowed through her I.V. to stem any new bouts of hysteria.
Joanie and Darrin were still at her bedside, joined by oldest daughter, Carolyn.
The tear-filled eyes of her girls and the devastated look on Darrin’s face broke Sally’s heart. When she thought of the cause of their misery, her chest tightened, and she thought each breath would be her last.
Sally focused on Darrin’s words and not how flat and strained his tone was.
“The police are still trying to sort things out, mom. There’s still so much unknown, by them… and us.”
When Sally didn’t respond, Darrin cleared his throat and continued.
“We’ve always believed…d-dad… was given birth to by a fifteen-year-old girl in upstate New York and adopted by a middle-aged couple from Maine. Mom, no record has been found of a Florence and Bob Bennett anywhere in Maine. An initial search on dad’s fingerprints also found no record. The police are baffled.”
Sally rested her head back on her pillows. “That’s not possible. Your dad served in the military, had a driver’s license, and had been bonded.” She looked down, fidgeting with the bed covers. “When we met, he told me both his parents had passed on.”
“We know, mom.”
“So, they don’t know why he…” Her voiced trailed off. She couldn’t say the words.
“No. And it’s still not certain he committed the other attacks.”
Her head throbbed. This was insane. Why would Frankie attack elderly women? Her husband wasn’t some deranged psychopath, was he?
Sally caught herself when she realized the man she’d been married to for almost thirty-two years was probably in a drawer at the morgue waiting for the coroner’s scalpel.
How had she not known? Had she missed obvious signs? Except for business trips with Bill, Frankie was always home. No unaccounted absences. She raised her head, addressing Darrin.
“Has anyone talked to Bill?”
“His flight lands in a couple of hours. Wish I could meet him. Poor guy seemed as hurt and baffled as we are.”
Sally’s pulse raced. She wanted to scream, grab her hair, claw at her skin… anything to wake up from this nightmare. But the Xanax had a gentle, but firm hold on her. She squeezed her eyes shut, concentrating on her words.
“Did Bill say why your dad wasn’t on the trip with him?”
“He said you were sick.”
She remembered Frankie’s offer to cancel his trip and stay with her because the Senior Citizen Rapist was still free.
What a joke.
He’d never intended to stay home with her.
He’d fooled her.
She wasn’t some empty-headed drone going through the motions of life. She could read people and was a fair judge of character. Her years as a military recruiter, teacher in the classroom, and working with the public taught her much.
But not enough obviously.
Sally shook her head, frustrated. There had to be more to this! People don’t wake up one day and decide to become criminals, do they? Frankie had been a wonderful husband and attentive father…
Sally bolted upright. It was too fast for her medicated system and empty stomach. She gagged, then leaned over the edge of her bed. Carolyn was right there with the emesis tray.
“Mom? Should I call the nurse? Are you going to be sick again?”
Joanie cleaned her mother’s face and Sally sagged back into the bed.
“The twins. Has anyone talked to the twins?”
“We haven’t been able to reach them yet, but their unit commanders are aware of what’s going on.”
Twenty-six-year-old twins, Cameron and Cheryl, were both on active military duty. Cameron, an Army warrant officer, was somewhere in the middle east. Cheryl, a sergeant with the National Guard, was due back in two weeks from a support mission to the Horn of Africa.
Despite her sedation, Sally could feel the dull roar begin behind her ears. She breathed through her mouth fighting against more nausea.
She didn’t want the twins to hear about their troubles through some abbreviated news report or offhand remark.
Born premature, Frankie had sat at their incubators for three solid weeks, stroking their backs, pleading and encouraging them to fight and breathe on their own. When Cheryl and Cameron improved and were moved to cribs, Frankie was still there—cuddling, rocking, and singing to them.
The bond formed when they were only weeks old was unbreakable. It withstood the arrival of baby Joanie two years later and starting school and making new friends. Even the rebellious teen years never found the twins at odds with their dad.
The news about their father would break them both.
Connie Pierce knocked on her neighbor’s door for the fourth time in as many days.
Where is he?
Gary Sievers had only moved into the quadplex of studio apartments a few weeks ago. The shy, middle-aged man kept to himself, and Connie didn’t think he ever left his apartment.
Unable to pry any details from complex manager, Walt Stokely, the bold insurance agent knocked on Gary’s door late one afternoon and introduced herself.
She thought the tall, broad man was handsome, but the haunted look in his eyes made him appear pensive and frightened.
After thirty minutes, Connie still didn’t know anything about Gary other than he hoped to get a laptop computer soon. Thinking it a way to get to know her neighbor better, Connie ran next door to her apartment and returned carrying a laptop.
“It’s not new. I bought another one about a year ago and this one’s just collecting dust. You’re welcome to use it until you can get your own.”
This won Connie her first smile from Gary.
While he still wasn’t forthcoming with much personal information, they settled into an easy friendship and had shared an early dinner twice in Connie’s apartment. That’s how she found out Gary wasn’t a night owl and went to bed early every night, usually before eight.
She glanced back at his door.
How does someone who appears to never go out suddenly disappear?
Connie decided to check with Walt in the morning. Losing her laptop to a computer virus put her in a bind. She needed to retrieve her old one from Gary. Even if Walt had no information on the man, she hoped he would at least enter the apartment to get her laptop.
She’d deal with her absent neighbor later.
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