#52weeks52stories: Week 18
Word prompt: ranch
Word Count: 1181
(All links open new windows.)
Darrin Bennett drummed his fingers against the steering wheel. Marbury, Pennsylvania wasn’t a large city or even a business hub. But as one of four cities that shared the interstate exchange, evening traffic was always headache-inducing as suburbans scurried back to their ranch-style homes.
He glanced at his mother in the passenger seat. She’d been quiet since they left the coroner’s office.
“How are you holding up, mom?”
Just like she’d done in Pax Lacey’s office, Sally Bennett sat with her back straight. Her seat belt strained against her as though trying to push her back in the passenger seat.
“Tired. Confused. Pissed off. Scared.” She fingered the small handbag in her lap. “It was horrible enough being attacked in the Ramirez home. But we both lived through that and are so grateful.”
Tears pooled in her eyes.
“Then to see your dad… my husband lying dead on the floor…”
Sally leaned her head back, causing the tears to run down the sides of her face.
“… and now we know the man is not your father. No one knows who he is, or what has happened to my Fran-”
Her voice broke as her husband’s name disappeared inside a deep sob.
With his eyes still on the road, Darrin reached over, gripping his mother’s hand. Exhaustion bore down on him and his nerves were as frayed as Sally’s.
He and Merri should be busy packing up their kids and dropping them off with Merri’s parents before heading to Carolyn’s for a hang-out weekend to plan Sally and Frankie’s thirty-second wedding anniversary dinner.
But instead, he was living out the plot of some bad movie-of-the-week melodrama.
Sally’s deepening sobs synced with the throbbing in Darrin’s head.
He knew she couldn’t take much more. Since the week began, his mom had: sent his dad off on a business trip; been attacked in a client’s home; found out the attacker was her husband… and he was dead; now knew the attacker was not her husband but shared his face.
Darrin needed air, but with one hand on the wheel and the other still holding his mom’s hand, increasing the air conditioning or opening a window would have to wait.
His mania calmed as he passed the Limerick Avenue ext. The next exit would lead to Colon Regional Hospital.
Apprehension tugged his mind. Why was his mother ordered back to the hospital not by her doctor, but by a police detective?
He did not understand what they were walking into, but he would demand full disclosure from the police. They had the right to know. Is mother needed to know. He wouldn’t risk losing her to hysteria again. After this meeting, he would find Sally’s doctor and get her re-admitted… at least for the night.
Darrin flipped on his turn indicator as he approached the exit and glanced in his rear-view mirror to make sure his sisters were still behind him in Joanie’s Ford Escape.
Sally’s sobs had turned into pitiful moans. Darrin gripped her hand tighter, determined to do right by his mother and for his family.
Ganson and Hill were incredulous as Marks and Holland recounted the week’s events involving the Bennett family.
Pete Hill whistled long and low while staring through the unit window at the comatose man.
Lennie Ganson rested his hands on his hips.
“Well, you guys have seen both men. What do we have here? Doppelgangers? Twins? A bad remake of The Boys from Brazil?”
Gavin Marks leaned against the wall, his arms folded across his chest.
“I wish I knew, but nothing has added up in this case from the start. Pax confirmed the ID of the body in the morgue fell through before we stumbled upon you guys.” He tilted his head across the hall. “Your guy’s ID says he’s the real Bennett, and his family will be here shortly to confirm, but that still doesn’t tell me who’s lying in the morgue.”
Pete pulled out his notepad.
“The landlord who called 911 and the woman who found this guy gave his name as Gary Sievers. Said he kept to himself, didn’t go out much, but only at night when he did.”
Brian Holland took out his own notepad and copied the details from Hill.
“His injuries were life-threatening so the paramedics were focused on stabilizing him for transport, not searching his pockets.”
Marks addressed Officer Holland.
After we speak with the Bennett family, we’ll need to visit the crime scene and speak with the people who found him,” he grinned at Det. Ganson, “if you don’t mind us visiting your county?”
Ganson threw his hands up.
“With everything I know… and don’t know about our cases we need each other to put the puzzle pieces together. Visit away!”
The men shared a laugh while a young orderly approached them.
“Detectives, we have a small conference room set up for you just past the nurse’s station.”
The small group followed the orderly down the hall. Marks paused before entering the room.
“Holland, the Bennett family should be here soon. Go down and wait for them and get them up here as quickly and quietly as possible… without telling them too much.”
“You don’t think any of them are involved in this do you?”
“Oh, no. They’re as much in the dark about this as we are. But Mrs. Bennett… well, after what she went through the night of the attack and just being discharged from the hospital today, I wanted her seated and calm as possible… and a doctor close by, before we tell her about her husband. Of course, she’ll be glad he’s alive, but his condition isn’t stable and he does require surgery… if he ever gets strong enough.”
Holland’s large frame sagged.
“She gets good news, then bad news, then even worse news.” He grimaced. “Bet a week ago, she never imagined her life taking a turn like this.”
Darrin eased into the parking space and cut the engine when he saw he sister take the space next to him.
Still holding his mother’s hand, he gave it a gentle squeeze.
“Ready for this, mom?”
She didn’t respond and he turned toward her, and his heart broke more.
For the first time since Tuesday night, Sally Bennett was asleep without the aid of emotional shock or prescribed medications. It wasn’t a peaceful sleep, however. Her furrowed brow and tight jawline proved her mind was not at ease.
Carolyn tapped on his window and Darrin opened the car door.
“Wish I could just let her sleep.”
“I know. I wish we all were asleep and could wake up from this nightmare.”
“Nothing is ever going to be the same again, is it?”
They both glanced at their baby sister standing near the back of Darrin’s car.
“We’ll get through this, Joanie, one way or another.” Carolyn’s faint smile did little to encourage her sister.
“No, we’ll get through this together.”
They all turned at the sound of Sally’s voice.
“I just hope that includes your father.”
©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved