Read My Sister's Keeper Online

Authors: Bill Benners

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

My Sister's Keeper (9 page)

BOOK: My Sister's Keeper
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Do you mind telling me again what you did after you went to her house?” Sam asked.

Danny followed Staten around taking photographs of anything the officer pointed out. I exhaled slowly. “I told you my attorney said not to say anything else.”


I was thinking if you could just go over the same things you’ve already told us.”

I squeezed my fingers against my eyes. “She...unlocked the door and we went inside. I had a flashlight with me and she pointed me toward the kitchen



Could we see the flashlight, please?”

I sighed. “Sure.” I drained the last drops from the glass as I went to the drawer by the back door. As I pulled it open, it dawned on me that it wouldn’t be there. And it wasn’t. I closed the drawer slowly. “It’s still over at her house.”


Could you describe it?”


It was one of those long black metal flashlights

the kind you guys carry. Held three or four batteries.”

Sam made a note. “What happened after you went inside?”

As Staten feathered a brush along the edge of the back door, black prints appeared. I figured they were mine. I couldn’t remember Ashleigh touching the door. “She showed me to the box where I found the main circuit breaker switched off. I reset it and everything came back on.”


You said before that the breaker was tripped.”


Yes, I know, but—actually—it had been switched off.”


How do you know?”


When they trip, they only go half off and have a red marker. This breaker was off.”


What happened after that?”


She…fixed me a drink and went to her room to—”


Bedroom?”


Yes. To get ready for a pose she wanted to show me.”


A pose?”


For the photographs she needed to get an audition for that movie they’re going to be making here.”


What movie is that?”


I don’t know—a Brad Pitt movie.”


And then you…?”


Well…after that, I’m not sure. Like I said, I passed out. I didn’t think I’d had that much to drink, but I must have.”


Where? In the kitchen?”


I was…on her bed.”


On her bed?”

I could still feel her weight against me as she pushed me down and fell on top of me.


Richard?”

I looked up. “Yes?”


You were on her bed?”

The photographer looked over at me and waited to hear the answer. I lifted the bottle of scotch and poured a short drink. “Yes.”

Lizard Lips worked his way to the den and began examining the items on the coffee table.


And where was she?” Jones asked.

I took in a breath and expelled it. “She was lying on top of me.”


She was on top of you?”

A smile passed over the photographer’s face. I chugged the scotch and swallowed. “Yes.”


Are you sure it wasn’t the other way around?”

I turned to the sink and filled the glass with cold tap water. “She was on top of me.” I drained the glass and filled it again.


And that was around nine-thirty?”


I guess.”


Did you notice anything unusual while you were there?”


Unusual?” I sipped the water. “There was nothing normal about anything that night, Sam. Even her cat had one blue eye and one brown one. What did you do with the cat?”


We haven’t seen the cat.”


It was tan and black

longhaired.”

Lizard Lips lifted a pillow on the couch and looked under it. The panties in my back pocket felt like a rock. As he lifted another pillow, I ripped a paper towel off the dispenser and wiped my face.


Sam,” Lizard Lips called.

My stomach tightened. Sam stepped into the den where the two of them gazed at something under a pillow. I finished the water in the glass and set the glass on the counter.


Richard, would you step over here?” Jones asked.

I wiped my face again, dropped the towel, and crossed to the den. Right there under the pillow on the couch was the black metal flashlight I’d taken to Ashleigh’s.

And on the material under it was a long red smear.

 

 

 

12

 

 

I
STARED AT THAT FLASHLIGHT and the red smear feeling as if I was standing before my father once again being accused of something I didn’t do.
Don’t lie to me!
The skin on my back felt as if it was crawling around under my shirt.


Is this your flashlight?” Sam asked.


It…looks like it.”


What’s it doing here?”


I don’t know. I didn’t put it there.”


You think Ashleigh did?”

The photographer nudged in next to me focusing his camera on the flashlight. I stepped back. “I swear to you I have no idea how it got there.” The strobe went off and the camera beeped.


Could Ashleigh have done it?” Lizard Lips asked.

My mouth felt hot. “Of course she could have. I was passed out on the deck. Anybody could have done it.”

The man’s tongue danced back and forth across his lower lip. “But, did she?”

My stomach soared and I burped. “As far as I know there were only two of us and I was passed out in the rain.” Another burst of light from the camera’s flash further aggravated my anxiety.


And why would she come in here and put your flashlight there?” Sam asked, his eyes piercing me. They were my father’s eyes. Hard. Judgmental.
Don’t lie to me!


You’re the detective, Sam. You should be able to tell
me
. I’d love to know. In fact, I hope to God you can tell me
exactly
who put it there.
When
and
why
.”

Sam used his pencil to lift the other cushion. “Bag it.”


Because, Sam, the thing that scares me the most is finding out that you
can’t
. And if you can’t do any better with this than you did with Martha’s case, I’m screwed.” I crossed back to the sink, leaned, and drank directly from the faucet. Sam pulled two Polaroid photographs from an envelope he’d brought in with him and shuffled them in his hands. I took another swig, turned the water off, and leaned back on the counter. I knew what was coming next.


You recognize this photograph?” He dropped one of the photos on the counter in front of me.

I didn’t need to look, but rotated it anyway. It was the one of Ashleigh in the robe with her head on my chest. “Yeah, we took it Sunday night.”


Looks like you’re a little more than an acquaintance, Richard.”


Well, I wasn’t.” Tearing another paper towel free, I wiped my forehead. “Sunday night was the first time I ever laid eyes on her.”


You have sex with her?”


No sir, I did not.”

He dropped the other photograph on the counter. Without looking I knew it had to be the one I took of her on the bed. “Is that you in this photograph?” he asked.

What?
I leaned to look at the photo and felt a dagger pierce my chest. It was the picture Ashleigh had taken accidentally

or so I’d thought.
You could clearly see her kissing me on the cheek and the fact that she was nude. Sweat beaded on my face and I could hear the blood rushing through my ears. “Yes sir, it is.” Lizard Lips ran a vacuum over the love seat, couch, and floor. Staten took his black fingerprint brush and the photographer up the stairs. Sam just stared. Finally I said, “It’s not what it looks like, Sam.”

He closed his eyes and squeezed the bridge of his nose. “It never is, Baimbridge. How do you explain it?”


When she took this picture, I thought the camera had gone off by accident and didn’t even know she’d gotten us in it.”


How do you explain the fact that she was
naked
, Richard? Kissing you
naked
. Appearing quite comfortable I might add. Kissing you in a very comfortable, very
naked
manner? You need to explain that, Richard.”

I spun the photograph around for him to see. “Have you noticed how
uncomfortable
I look in this photograph?”


Uncomfortable? It looks like heavenly bliss to me.”


Well, it wasn’t.”


You said you hardly knew her. How do you explain the fact that she was
naked
?”

I wiped the towel across my face. “Sam, I am a photographer. The photographs she came to me about were necessary for her to audition for that Brad Pitt movie that’s going to be made here. Nude photographs. After I got her power back on, she fixed me a drink, ran to her bedroom, closed the door, took her clothes off, lit a bunch of candles, and called for me to come in. Honest. I didn’t know what she was up to. When I opened the door there she was.” I could see he wasn’t buying a single word of it and I was becoming more and more agitated. “She asked me if I liked that as one of the poses. I told her I did. Which was
true
, I did!” I waited for him to respond, but he just stared at me. “She had a Polaroid camera and asked me to take a photograph of the pose so she could see it. So I did. Did you find that one too? Where she’s laying on the bed alone?”


No, we didn’t.”


And why did you let me think that she was
dead
last night? The paper says you haven’t found her body. As far as you know, she could be out there somewhere right now praying for somebody to find her. To rescue her. You got anybody out looking for Ashleigh?”


Tell me how you got that scratch on your face.”

I stamped my finger on the photograph and shrieked, “Does it look like I’d have to force her if I’d wanted it?”

Sam grabbed my face and yanked it to the side. “Did she do this?”

I backed away and skulked off. “No she did not!”


How’d you get it?”


When I woke up yesterday morning it was there. And these on my arm.” I unbuttoned my right sleeve and pulled it up.

Sam called Danny down from upstairs and scrawled in his notepad while photos were taken of my face and hands. “Sam, I know it sounds improbable, but I swear it’s the truth. I blacked out around ten and when I came to, I was lying on my deck in the rain. I have no idea what happened after I passed out, how I got home, what time I got home, or how that flashlight got under that seat cushion.” Sam said nothing, just dissected me with his eyes. The clock on the microwave read 6:10 p.m. I sighed, “How much longer is this going to take? I’ve got a rehearsal at seven.”

Sam dropped onto a stool at the counter and flipped through his notes. “You can leave anytime you want.”

I wished he’d told me that earlier. I would’ve taken off right then. As I reached for my keys, Staten came down the stairs toting a clear plastic bag containing something white. “Sam.”

Sam met him at the foot of the stairs where they discussed the contents of the bag, then brought the bag to me. “Is this the shirt you had on Sunday night?”

There were several drops of blood on the sleeve, a couple more on the shoulder, and a large stain on the right-hand cuff.


Yes. That’s from the scratches on my face and arm.”

There it was. That scorn in his eye that I feared most from my father. “Well I certainly hope—for your sake—it turns out to be
your
blood.”

I flinched expecting his hand to bolt out and slap my face, then turned and walked out as bile rose in the back of my throat.

 

 

 

 

 

13

 

 

A
FTER DIRECTING A SUCCESSFUL run of Tennessee Williams’
A Streetcar Named Desire
my first year back, and Neil Simon’s
California Suite
the second, I was asked by the Board of Directors of the Thalian Association to direct Stephen Patterson’s brilliant new play,
Laying Down the Law,
making its world premiere that fall in Wilmington. It was the break I needed. It would open a great many doors for me and might even change the way my father saw me.

Unlike most directors, I insisted on longer rehearsal periods and, since the theatre’s rehearsal halls were not available yet, used my own studio. I pushed all the equipment in the 40x60 camera room back against the walls, arranged a couple pieces of furniture in the center of the room, and aimed a few lights down from overhead to simulate a “stage.”

BOOK: My Sister's Keeper
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ads

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