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Authors: Bill Benners

Tags: #Fiction, #Thrillers, #Suspense, #General

My Sister's Keeper (37 page)

BOOK: My Sister's Keeper
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And, for now, he had Tiffany.

Like a panther lurking in the grass, he could taste her already as she ran ahead of him and stepped over the railing onto the wooden deck. She would do for now. She’d teach him to sail and he’d teach her how to please him. And when he grew tired of her, he’d pick up another.

As he climbed down to the galley below deck, Tiffany threw her arms around him bouncing up and down. “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. McGillikin. I can’t believe this is really happening.”


Please, call me Scott.”

She slid off him and saluted. “Aye, aye, sir. Mr.—Scott.”


Good. Now, we need to get a few things straight. Can you cook?”

She wrinkled her nose. “Some.”


Very well. Your job will be to keep the boat clean, afloat, and on course.”


No problem. I can do that.”


My job will be to plan the trips, pay the bills, and teach you to cook.”


Great. When do we sail?”


Tonight.”


Seriously? I’ll need to run home and get some things.”


No. If you go home, somebody’s going to want to know why you’re not at work.” Scott opened his billfold and handed Tiffany five one-hundred dollar bills. “We’ll shop in every port. There won’t be room for it all. But today, just buy what you’ll need to get underway and be back here by one o’clock.”


Yes! Wow! This is going to be so much
fun!”
She gave him a daughterly squeeze, then climbed out. When he was sure she was gone, he moved the passports and one-quarter of the money from the briefcase to a combination safe he’d had built-in, then hid the gun, the cartridges, and the rest of the money around the boat.

He tuned the satellite TV to the
Weather Channel
while checking the rest of the equipment to see that it was all working. VHF marine radio, GPS receiver, single sideband LORAN radio, depth finder, radar, and NOAA weather radio.

The forecast for the tropics called for no disturbances during the next seven days. He switched the TV to the local antenna and flipped through the Wilmington stations. Everything seemed to be working perfectly.
Plan the work. Work the plan.

As he checked items off his list, the TV station interrupted its scheduled program with a news bulletin. “
Twenty-three-year-old Ashleigh Matthews has been found alive and well.”
Scott’s eyes shifted to the TV.
“She was spotted this morning at Duke Medical Center in Durham where, according to eye-witnesses, she was seated in a hospital waiting room when photos of her were aired on television. Recognized by others in the waiting room, she fled the hospital.”
While the reporter interviewed an elderly woman who said that Ashleigh seemed alert and aware of what was going on around her, they showed still shots recorded by hospital security cameras of Ashleigh as she fled. “
Anyone with any information as to the whereabouts of Ashleigh Matthews is asked to contact the Wilmington Police Department.”

Spreading a nautical chart on a table, he used a pushpin to mark the location of a farm on the south side of the Cape Fear River and dropped a key on the pin. He then wrote a note telling Tiffany to take the boat to the location marked by the pin, to transfer the boxes she’d find in the barn to the boat, and that he’d meet her there after dark.

 

 

 

 

 

50

 

 

S
YDNEY PICKED ME UP at the hospital and drove me to the site of Martha’s accident. A southwesterly breeze had brought in warm tropical air and with it, the scent of the Japanese Cherry blossoms lining the other side of the road. As we stood at the corner with cars and trucks streaming past, I closed my eyes.
Martha, what happened? Talk to me, Babe.

Years of memories popped into my head, one on top the other like a Fourth of July fireworks show. Things I’d long ago forgotten. The time Martha went to Donald Wolfe’s house and punched him in the nose because he’d punched me at school. Martha pressing a towel to my bleeding leg after I fell over a chain-link fence and split my calf open. Martha lifting a neighbor’s dog off the street and carrying it all the way home after it had been hit by a car.

I followed skid marks in front of me to the right where they jumped the curb. Tiny bits of glass, plastic, and metal lay in a ribbon of sand that stretched along the gutter. They meant something, but I’d had no sleep. I couldn’t think. My mind was only clicking on one cylinder.


See anything?” Sydney asked.

I looked back up the steep hill and shook my head. “I don’t understand how she could have just rolled off into the street.”


That’s a steep hill.”

I tried to imagine that—her coming down that hill not being able to stop, bumping off the curb into that steady stream of traffic—but it didn’t work for me. No way could that have happened. “I don’t think she would have come down that hill in the first place. It’s too rough. The sidewalk’s all pushed up by the roots in places.”


Unless she did it deliberately.”

I didn’t want to think about that. I’d read her story. I knew where it had stopped with Chelsea poised on the brink of suicide and I told Sydney about it. “But I don’t think Martha did this to herself. Not now. The timing’s all wrong.”


Which means you think somebody had to have pushed her.”

I didn’t want to think about that, either. The thought of Martha being shoved into traffic and knowing what was going to happen was just too difficult to consider. My throat closed up on me as I felt the fear she must have felt and I grunted to clear it. “Who would have done that?” My eyes stung again.


A mugger maybe?” I pondered that, but didn’t reply. “Or someone from the warehouse.”

I wiped my eyes, turned away from the corner, and looked up and down the street. “This is not on the way to the warehouse, so what was she doing here?”


Looking for something?”


Minutes earlier, she’d called Sam from the warehouse and surely had intended on waiting for him. So I think she must have either followed someone here…or was
brought
here.”


So—either way—there had to be someone else here.”


And she could only have come from that direction,” I said, looking east. “—or down that hill.”

Sydney and I walked eastward for two blocks looking for some kind of clue, but found nothing that seemed to be connected. We returned to the corner and started up the hill when something caught her eye. She reached into the ivy next to the wall, pulled back a large class ring, and held it out on her open palm. “Some guy lost his class ring. UNC. Sigma Nu. He shouldn’t be too hard to track down.” She looked inside the band turning it slowly. “It’s

” She gasped.


What?”


It’s Scott’s. Scott McGillikin’s.”


You’ve got to be kidding.” I looked inside. There it was.
Robert Scott McGillikin
. It looked clean; no dirt or film on it anywhere. “Wonder how long it’s been laying out here?”


It couldn’t have been very long anyway. I’ve never seen him without it.”

I bounced it in the palm of my hand. It was heavy. Not the kind of thing that would drop off your finger without your noticing. “Does he live around here?”


No. Not unless he’s just moved.”


What’s it doing here? What was
he
doing here?”


He’s a lawyer. Maybe there was another accident here—before Martha’s.”


Even it that’s true, don’t you think he would’ve noticed it when it fell off?”


I would think,” she replied.


I’d like to give it to him, myself, if you don’t mind. I’d like to know what he was doing here.”


Sure. I’m not going to be seeing him—I hope.”

I pocketed the ring. “Have you got time to stop by Mother’s? I want to take a look at Martha’s notes.”


An hour.”


Let’s go.”

 

 

WE SCANNED THE FILES in Martha’s computer concerning
her
case, but didn’t find anything new. I noticed, however, that she’d been working recently in a file called “Richard.” Opening it, we found most of the things she and I had talked about since Ashleigh disappeared as well as a few things I knew nothing about. Sydney sat next to me and together we read a clipping about a man named Bob McGillikin who had died in an auto accident back in the 1980s and a man that police were looking for named Dane Bonner.


There was a man at that beach house they called Mr. Bonner,” I said. “And Martha told me she was looking for more information on him.” Scrolling down the file we came across a picture of a redheaded, freckle-faced boy labeled
Robert Scott McGillikin at UNC
along with it was a summary of his rather outstanding scholastic career.

Sydney shook her head. “The name’s the same, but that’s not the Robert Scott McGillikin we know.”


So, what’s she onto here?”

There was a link to a Wake Forest University webpage. I clicked the link and a page entitled “Robert Scott McGillikin” opened. First came the text then, as a picture began to appear in the top left corner of the screen, I scrolled down the page. It was another summary of McGillikin’s education and background, much of it a repeat from the UNC site. “I don’t get it. Why would she care about this guy?” I scrolled back to the top of the page and the picture leapt out at us.

Sydney gasped. This was definitely a photo of
our
Scott McGillikin. “What’s going on here? Are there
two
Robert Scott McGillikins?”

I jumped back to the newspaper article. “I thought he was killed in a car wreck.”


According to that clipping, he was. But according to that transcript, he went on to finish law school.”

We searched through the file again, but found nothing else about either of the two men. “Somehow Scott’s tied into this thing besides being your lawyer.”

I sighed. “Do you think he could also be working for Bonner?”


Nothing would surprise me about Scott. What do we
know
about him?”


We know he’s my attorney and that he graduated from Wake Forest Law School.”


And he once told me he was raised in an orphanage.”


But the article said that the McGillikin raised at that orphanage died in a wreck.”


And he doesn’t look like the man in the photo, either.”

The computer dinged and a message appeared on the screen.
New mail has arrived. Would you like to read it now?

I clicked the “yes” button and it opened a piece of new mail with the name
Dane Bonner
in the subject line containing a couple of photographs in the body
.


Richard! That’s a photo of Scott!”


But the sender says it’s Dane Bonner.”


Well, I’ve been with him for five years. That’s Scott.”

The photo was fuzzy, but it looked exactly like a younger version of Scott. “Didn’t that article say McGillikin was killed and Bonner disappeared after the accident?”


Yes. The police wanted to question him, but could never find him.”


Yet someone showed up at Wake Forest and used the scholarship.”

She pulled at my arm. “You don’t think Bonner took the real McGillikin’s place
,
do you?”


Can a person get away with that?”


What better way to hide from the police than to become someone else?”


So, my attorney, Scott McGillikin—the very person I’m expecting to clear my name—could actually be the same person Ashleigh was running from. I withdrew the ring from my pocket and held it in front of me. “So this ring must have belonged to the original Robert Scott McGillikin and was stolen at the time of the accident. Which tells me that the sly son-of-a-bitch might have had this plan in his head even
before
the wreck that killed the real Scott McGillikin.” As I rotated the ring in my hand, sunlight streaming in the window caught in the stone. There was a brilliant blue flash that left the image “N3” lingering in my eye for an instant. I looked again and the Greek letters ΣΝ were upside down forming a rough “N3.”


Oh, my God!” I looked at Sydney. “It was Scott all along!”


What was Scott?” she asked looking at the ring.


Martha always said that when she was thrown out that window, she saw a flash of blue, the letter N, and the number three.” I handed her the ring. “Turn the ring upside down and tell me what you see.”

Sydney rotated the ring. “N3?”

BOOK: My Sister's Keeper
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