#My52 “Captive Heart, Part III”

~~~

#My52 – Week 17

Word Prompt – fatigue

Word Count – 1781

Reading Time – 7 mins, 08 secs

~~~

“Hey, Mark? Mind if I take an extended break? Bout an hour?”

Looking up from the testing console, Mark grinned.

“Hold your horses, Dale. I’ll call for lunch in an hour.”

“And I plan to be here to eat it.”

“So, what do you need an hour break for?”

“I wanna to go down to Russo Construction and Meacham Contractors and punch the shit of the son-of-a-bitch who thought this was proper wiring.”

He yanked part of the melted generator from its housing frame and plopped it onto the workbench. “That’s damn near criminal.”

Mark snickered.

“Calm down, man. You’d only find empty buildings. They ceased operations and locked their doors ahead of the court filings.”

“Well, damn. I was looking forward to knocking some heads.”

“Chill, Dale, chill. It’ll all get sorted and we will be well paid for fixing the mistakes of idiots.”

His crew foreman didn’t respond and Mark glanced in his direction.

“Dale?”

“Dammit it all to hell!” He kicked the workbench.

“No, no, no! Do not give me any more bad news, man.”

“Sorry, chief, but this shit is shot. It’s nothing more than an expensive doorstop now.”

“Damn. Every time I give Bailey a damage report, the total climbs higher.”

“Not our fault. We don’t have bullshit for brains.”

Mark chuckled as Dale considered the damaged generator.

“What is it?”

“Nothing, nothing. It just reminded me of a rack of lamb my wife made once. Dry and crusty on the outside dry and crusty on the inside. It was like eating ashes covered in mint jelly.”

Turning his head, Mark covered his mouth to hide his grin.

“I don’t care if you laugh. I survived. Just like I survived the boiled brisket, under-cooked fried chicken, overcooked flounder, and tostadas served on homemade tortillas hard enough to be used in an Olympic discus throw.”

Dropping his arms to his sides, Mark bellowed with laughter. “No disrespect, Dale, but sounds like your wife’s cooking skills are lacking.”

Dale smirked. “Aren’t you kind?” “Sounds like your wife’s cooking skills are lacking,” he mimicked. “My Susan is a horrible cook and all the recipes, online videos and cooking classes have been no help.”

“What do you do? Eat before you go home? Hide food in the garage?”

Dale’s face fell. “I eat every bite.”

“I don’t get it. If the food is that bad, why would-”

“Every single meal my Susan makes for me takes great effort on her part and is done out of love.” He laid his hand over his heart.

“I’m lost, man, and wasn’t trying to be mean-”

“She taught math at Cal State for fourteen years. Her cooking wasn’t a big deal in those days. She was busy, I was busy, the boys had lots of activities in and out of school, so we ate a lot of takeout. Both our moms were still living, and they always kept a casserole in the freezer for us.”

His demeanor changed and Mark could see the sadness in his eyes from across the room.

“Then my Susan got hit with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. What a nightmare. Doctors, misdiagnoses, medication… it was too much for her and sent her into severe depression. She had to quit teaching, and withdrew from life, including the boys and me. And if that wasn’t enough to make us all loony, we lost both our moms during that time, within a year of each other. And I thought I would lose her too.”

“Dale, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to get in your business or dredge-”

“But we found a doctor up in Pasadena who gave us the right diagnosis and understood CFS. There’s no cure, but new medications and therapies, and a wealth of information made a big difference in Susan’s health. It’s been nine years and we manage. Some days she can barely hold her head up and other days I get home and find her gardening.”

“You have nothing to apologize for, dude. This is life… our lives.”

“You speak in plural…’we’…’our’…”

“Hell yes, I do! Her fight is my fight. We’re in this together.”

He approached his supervisor.

“I can’t feel her pain. I can’t take away her fatigue. But, I took vows “for better or for worse, through sickness and in health” to be at her side.”

“Too many don’t take those words to heart… or say them from the heart. They’re caught up in the feel-good moment of getting married and looking forward to the honeymoon. They haven’t been tested, and not everyone will pass.”

“I worked with this guy years back, Gill Fonner, who divorced his wife of seventeen years because she lost her breasts to cancer. You hear me? She had pieces of her body cut away so she could continue living… and he bailed. Said it was too much for him to deal with.”

“Another idiot, Sid Broome, had only been married four years when his wife had a massive stroke at thirty-six. She couldn’t speak or walk. He left.”

“Damn.”

“I know, right? But this story has a happy ending. She spent her forty-first birthday in a bikini on a beach in Cancun… with her new husband. She married one of the doctors who consulted on her case. Even at her worst, unable to do anything for herself, he saw her beautiful soul and stayed by her side.”

“What happened to Sid?”

“Miserable bastard lives down in San Pedro, working around the docks and drinking too much to numb his regrets.”

“He got exactly what he deserves.”

“No, he and Gill both deserve an ass-kicking. I tried to tell them both that marriage doesn’t work that way. Real love takes real sacrifice. You can’t have one without the other. You don’t get to walk away when it gets hard. That’s when you’re tested. That’s when you find out what kind of human being you are. And they suck.”

“Agreed. Now I want to beat the crap out of them.”

Dale chuckled.

“I started all this to say I know what Susan’s been through and how far she’s come. I sat her down one day and told her she didn’t have to cook or clean a thing. The boys and I would do more, and if needed, I’d hire someone to come in two or three times a week.”

“You’re a good husband, Dale.”

“Yeah? I regret ever bringing it up. I hurt my wife that day.”

“What do you mean?”

“She’d lost her good health, career, professional contacts and even her friends stopped coming around because they didn’t understand why Susan was always so tired or always in bed. I’m not angry, though. In the beginning, we didn’t understand either. But by offering to do more and hire help, I was taking away her family… saying she was useless.” He hung his head. “She cried for so long it scared me. I got down on my knees and begged her to forgive me.”

“Of course, she did, because she loves me as much as I love her. So, yes, I sit down to meals I sometimes cannot identify, but there’s no way I’ll ever criticize or refuse any of them.”

Mark could only smile and shake his head, the lump in his throat making speech difficult.

“What?”

He cleared his throat. “That’s the kind of love my parents share… and the kind that eludes my brother and me.”

“Trust it will come and be patient. I was thirty when I met Susan.”

“If you say so, man.”

“I do, and I also say we need to end this Hallmark movie. I’m feeling way too sensitive.” He shuddered. “Sure I can’t find one of those lame assholes and beat the shit of them?”

“And Dale’s back!”

They shared a chuckle.

“Hey, how does Susan put up with your potty-mouth?”

“Potty-mouth?” Are we twelve? I swear, cuss and have been known to pitch a bitch, but never around my wife. That would be disrespectful.”

Mark’s eyes widened. “But you come to work and subject us to it?”

“You’re a guy. Get over it.”

“Hello? We work with women.”

“And have you heard what comes out of Trina’s mouth? She makes me blush.”

Dale cackled to himself as he worked a chisel around the housing frame.

Mark grabbed his cell and updated Bailey by text.

While he waited for a response, Dale’s words weighed on his mind.

Real love takes real sacrifice. You can’t have one without the other.

Had he sacrificed enough for Yvonne?

It had been three weeks since he closed his condo door in her face, but she still invaded his thoughts.

He hadn’t reached out but neither had she, and she was the one who issued the ultimatum.

Still, the icy fingers of guilt crept up the back of his neck.

Have I put money and material things ahead of our relationship?

He shook his head to clear his thoughts.

Yvonne never asked me for anything. I offered.

Stop being a schmuck.

He frowned, glancing to his left and right. Dale was across the room and the rest of his crew was one level down.

What has Yvonne ever done for you? Name one thing she’s done from her heart. Better still name one time she’s told you she loves you and it wasn’t in a sing-songy voice like she was talking to a pet.

Bowing his head, Mark rubbed his eyes.

He was losing his mind.

Not only was he getting a smack-down by his subconscious… it was right.

#

Intending to run in and change, Mark parked in the guest lot of his condo instead of underground.

Bailey said things were beyond ugly with the contractors and told Mark to lock the site down and give his crew the rest of the week off at straight pay.

He hadn’t had five straight days off since the holidays and sent a text to his brother inviting him to dinner.

Mark hoped Prentiss could get the time off too and ride with him up to Fresno to see their parents.

He stopped and emptied his mailbox then took the walkway to his place.

“Mark?”

Looking over his shoulder, he saw Yvonne standing under a tree in the courtyard. His chest tightened.

She was breath-taking in a burgundy and crème jumpsuit that hugged her full hips. Her hair fell in tiny ringlets around her face, but the hard expression she wore ruined the vision and sent him into defensive mode.

“What are you doing here, Yvonne?”

“We need to talk about us.”

“I don’t want to rehash this-“

“I don’t give a damn what you want. I’m pregnant and you’re going to marry me.”

********

Mark was just getting used to being single, now he and Yvonne are going to be parents. His dream girl is becoming a nightmare. Still, he wonders if marriage would be what they need to stabilize their lives.

To be continued…

 

Part IPart II   |

~~~

My52 banner

 

©2019 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

 

The Devil You Know, Part VII #52weeks52stories

Intruder

#52weeks52stories: Week 17

Word prompt: cell

Word Count: 1513

~~~~~

Part I    |     Part II    |    Part III    |   Part IV   | Part V

Part VI   |

(All links open new windows.)

“What? When was she discharged?”

“It’s been at least two hours.”

Gavin Marks hung his head while rubbing his brow in frustration.

“Ma’am, Mrs. Bennett is a victim and a witness in this case. The department was to be informed of her release.”

Donna Marcus was at a loss.

“I know, detective, I know. It’s on the patient chart and in the patient care system, but I just came on duty. I know there were emergencies on the floor in the afternoon and the shift was understaffed. Any number of things could have happened, including one nurse thinking another made the call. I’m sorry.”

Gavin understood how a well-planned day could go south in a matter of moments.

He reached out and shook her hand.

“Thanks for your time. I apologize for my rudeness. This case has stonewalled us, and Mrs. Bennett is our only lead. I hope your shift is an easy one.”

“Thank you, detective.”

Gavin walked away, pulling out his notepad and cell phone. His call to Sally Bennett’s home went unanswered. He swore under his breath when he realized he hadn’t gotten her cell number too.

As he reached the elevator, the doors opened and Brian Holland stepped out.

“Got the message to meet you here but you don’t look happy to see me.”

The detective smirked at the uniformed officer.

“The hospital discharged our only witness over two hours ago. Just called her home… no answer.”

“She’s had a rough couple of days… could be asleep.”

“True. But three of her five children are in town and I doubt they’d drop her off and head back home after finding out their father tried to kill their mother and her client and now he’s dead.”

It was Holland’s turn to smirk. “Good point.”

Gavin pushed the button for the elevator.

“Let’s take a ride over there… see what’s going on. This case is dead in the water. There must be something Mrs. Bennett has forgotten that will point us in the right direction.”

“Sure thing. Let me call Lothern.” The officer reached for his radio.

“Not necessary, dude. I talked to your sergeant and had you re-assigned. Hope you don’t mind, but you’re on my team in four days, anyway.”

The elevator doors opened and the big man grinned as he stepped inside.

“Nope, I don’t mind at all.”

“Welcome to the Special Investigations Unit. Your first case is a real cluster.”

*

It only took a few minutes for Connie Pierce and Walt Stokely to tell the police what they knew about Gary Sievers.

Neighbor Jill Vick had nothing to add. The forty-seven-year-old disabled woman lived right across the hall but spent most of her days wearing headphones or ear-buds.

Noah Lambert lived across the hall from Connie but had been at work all day, then spent the night at his girlfriend’s.

Lead detective Leonard Ganson was pissed.

“Someone tried to commit murder and no one heard anything. That’s just great. That’s just freakin’ fantastic.”

He lit his third cigarette since arriving at the scene.

“Man, calm down and stop acting like it’s the first time we’ve had no witnesses. Pete Hill had been Ganson’s partner for fourteen years.

“And stop smoking like a chimney. If the captain shows up and sees you, it won’t end well.”

“Just once I’d like to have a willing witness or a repentant suspect who fears for his immortal soul and confesses.” He took a long drag on the cigarette before continuing. “It’s gonna be a long night.”

Connie stood in the evening twilight watching the paramedics stabilize Gary Sievers for transport.

Attached to the gurney, a short I.V. pole held twin bags for O positive blood and simple saline. A light compression bandage was wrapped around his forehead “to keep his brains from falling out” she’d heard one paramedic say to the other.

The small case tracking Gary’s vital signs showed they were impossibly low.

Walt slipped an arm around Connie.

“I’m sorry, Pierce. I should have opened the door when you asked me to.”

Surprised by the gruff man’s sincerity, she offered him a sad smile.

“Don’t blame yourself, Walt. We didn’t know. Gary kept to himself so much, not seeing him daily wasn’t a big deal.”

The paramedics lifted the gurney into the back of the ambulance. One jumped inside, administering aid to Gary while the other packed aware their medical gear.

“Will he make it?”

“I can’t say, ma’am. We’ve stabilized him the best we could, but his pulse rate hasn’t improved. If he can last through the ride to Colon Regional, the docs there may be able to improve his odds.”

He closed the back doors of the ambulance and hurried around to the driver’s side. Connie followed.

“Wait. Colon Regional? Trinity Memorial is right down the street.”

He opened the door but paused long enough to respond.

“Yes, ma’am, but their ER is closed down. Some guy rushing his buddy in after an accident lost control of his truck and plowed into the emergency room. They’ve got dozens of injuries to deal with.” He climbed inside the vehicle. “Baxter General is seventeen miles across town through evening rush hour traffic.”

He radioed in his departure time and started the ambulance.

“Colon is in the next county, but it’s only six miles away, a straight shot… and this guy’s best chance.”

The ambulance pulled away with sirens on, and Connie’s tears returned.

*

Seated back in Pax Lacey’s office, Carolyn and Joanie clung to each other, sobbing. Darrin sat next to his mother, exhausted and defeated.

Sally sat perched on the edge of the sofa watching the coroner as he placed first a call to Detective Marks—which went straight to voice-mail—and another to check on the status of the fingerprint search for the man he now knew wasn’t Franklin Bennett. He completed the call and scrubbed a hand over his face.

“Still nothing on the fingerprints.”

“How is that even possible? Everyone is fingerprinted for something these days.”

Anger marred Carolyn’s tear-stained face. “I was fingerprinted for a background check before I could volunteer at my daughter’s school.”

Joanie nodded. “I had to be fingerprinted when I worked at the bank.”

“Don’t forget our driver licenses,” Darrin added while staring at his fingers.

Pax stood and approached the family. “That just means this man has been off the grid for some time. But we’re just getting started We will find out who he is.”

“Please. You have to… soon.” Sally’s voice was shaky and stilted. “Finding out who this man is may be the only way of finding my husband.”

The distraught woman wavered and her son slid closer to support her.

“I can’t make any sense of this but that man isn’t Frankie. And we know Frankie didn’t go with Bill Reynolds. But, he wouldn’t have lied to Bill about me being ill. That means the man lying in that room talked to Bill… and he’s done something to Frankie.”

*

After exiting the elevator, Det. Marks and Officer Holland took the shortcut through the emergency room to reach law enforcement parking.

Marks pulled out his cell phone to check his messages.

“Hey, Marks! How’s it going?”

He stopped and turned to see Leonard Ganson standing in the doorway of an exam room.

“Lennie, hey man, what’s up? Aren’t you in the wrong county?”

The wiry older detective snickered. “Yeah, yeah. I’m on your turf. Gotta follow the case, right? Assault victim found unconscious in his apartment. Trinity’s ER is shut down. Colon was closer.”

“Tough break. Heard about Trinity too. Anything good happen for you today?”

“My wife told me she loved me.”

Marks laughed. “That’s gotta count for something.” He motioned to Holland. “This is Brian Holland. He joins Special Investigations Monday. Brian, this is Leonard Ganson, a senior detective in the Baxter major crimes department.”

The two men shook hands.

“Congrats, Holland. Now you’ll get to work double shifts and drink bad coffee in a suit.”

Brian chuckled. “Thanks, man.”

Pete Hill rushed toward the men panting. “Got an ID on our vic! Franklin Bennett… has a Marbury address.”

Marks and Holland exchanged quick glances. Before either could speak, Holland’s cell phone rang.

“Holland.”

“Yes, I’m with him now.”

“Okay, I’ll let him know. Thanks.”

“That was Lothern. Says the coroner’s trying to reach you.”

But Gavin Marks didn’t hear the officer. He walked past Ganson and Hill into the exam room.

A nurse was washing up the unconscious man lying in the bed.

“I’m sorry, sir. No visitors.”

Gavin opened his jacket to show his shield clipped to his belt.

“Oh, sorry. But like I told the other detectives, he’s still unconscious. We’re prepping him for surgery and hoping his blood pressure rises enough for him to live through it.”

She said more, but he didn’t hear. Standing at the foot of the bed, Gavin just stared at the man.

Holland joined him, his mouth gaping open when he looked at the unconscious man.

“What the hell is going on?”

 

©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved