Bill and the Sting of Death

A Little Rest and Planning

Bill sat in his recliner, drumming his fingers. Carol could be heard starting the clothes washer.

Bill hollered, “Carol, please, you don’t have to do that.”

“I know, I want to. Besides, the doctor told you to take it easy. You can’t be bending over lifting anything for at least a week.”

Bill sighed and looked up at the cathedral ceiling. His eyes trailed along the far wall of the living room. He scowled at the thin layer of dust that laid across his bookcase, television, and even picture frames. Carol walked around the corner of the kitchen. “What’s wrong?”

“I didn’t realize how filthy I’d let my place get.”

Carol looked around the room. “What?”

“Dust, there’s dust everywhere, and the pillows are all disorganized.”

Carol walked back into the kitchen and hollered at Bill from the other side of the wall, “I can see you’re going to be a handful.”

Bill answered, “You don’t have to stay here. I can take care of myself.”

Carol walked back in with a glass of sweet tea and one of Bill’s pain pills. She answered, “That’s what worries me, and your doctor. You’ll be in the emergency room in a day if I leave you to yourself.”

Bill took his pill and followed it up with his tea chaser.  He put down the glass, “Then you really won’t like what I’m about to tell you.”

Carol sat down on the couch next to him and leaned in, “What are you planning?”

“I’m just going for a little drive tomorrow.”

Carol responded, “Don’t make me hide your keys.”

Bill got silent, picked up the television remote, and turned on the golf channel. He spoke to the golf pro taking a chip shot. “You can’t stop me. The doctor cleared me to drive.”

Carol protested, “You’re not going into work.”

Bill’s forehead wrinkled, “No, what? Why would I?

Carol’s finger pressed against the top of this thigh. “Where are you going?”

Bill turned his attention to Carol and looked into her concerned eyes. “I need to talk to Dr. Adam about this Joshua guy.”

“You know that could all be trauma-induced.”

“I know. I just, well, I need to know. Do I have a brother out there somewhere, and if there was a man named Joshua, what did he do?”

Carol removed her finger, “I can come along.”

“No, this is something I need to do on my own. Don’t worry, I’ll take it easy.”

Carol’s right foot began to tap. “The orphanage is an hour and a half from here.”

Bill looked back at the television, “I’ll stop and take breaks.”

Carol lightly tapped his temple, “You know, for a smart man, you sure can play the fool sometimes. If the painkillers don’t make you wreck, the pain will.”

“Well, that’s why you’re here, to keep me straight.”

Carol got up and headed into the guest room, mumbling so Bill could hear. “Darn fool, he’s going to get himself killed.”

Bill hollered, “I’m not that stupid.”

Carol marched back in and plopped down on the couch. “Listen to me, Mr. Columbia Graduate. If you aren’t careful, you’ll tear those stitches and ram that car of yours into someone or something at seventy miles per hour.”

Bill took a sip of tea and put it down. “Well, Joshua said if I didn’t find him soon, I could be in real danger. Besides, if Harold Brown is my brother, these guys could come back for me. I need to try and figure out what’s going on.”

“Why not just go away for a little while and rest?”

Bill sat quietly for a moment and focused his attention on the golfer teeing off. Then he said, “I might do that. John has wanted me to take a trip with him to the mountain house he and Rhonda had built.”

“Oh, really?” replied Carol, “I didn’t know you two had become buddies.”

“Well, when you set up a tax-free offshore retirement fund, some people appreciate the effort. I’m not sure it’s all about the money, though. He’s been bugging me to get back into church ever since I’ve met him.”

Carol answered, “That doesn’t sound like bad advice.”

Bill rolled his eyes, “Whatever. Anyway, maybe we can go up there.”

“When you say we, I hope you’re not including me on your vacation.”

Bill’s eyes widened. “What? I thought you’d want to come.”

Carol reached over and grabbed Bill’s hand. “I do. I want to be here to help you through this, but I need to get back to the office before too long. Besides, you’ll have John, and who’ll tell you what’s happening at the office if I’m not there?”

Bill took his hand back, “Okay. I’ll call John in a minute. First, I need to call the director of the orphanage. Adam and I go back to my childhood. If anyone knows about this Joshua, it’s him.”

“Don’t get up.”

“Thanks.” Responded Bill.

Carol brought Bill the phone and headed in the direction of her room. Bill muted the television and dialed the number to the North Carolina Children’s Home and asked to speak to Dr. Adam Murray. Bill began to feel a little drowsy when an old but familiar voice grabbed his attention.

“Billy, how are you?”

Bill cleared his throat, “It’s Bill, now. I’m good, Dr. Murray. How are you?”

“Please, call me Adam. It’s been a long time.”

Bill replied, “It has been. I was thinking of dropping by tomorrow, would that be alright?”

“How long will you be in the area?”

Bill answered, “Oh, it’s just a short hello. I’ve had some strange dreams as of late, and I’d like to talk to you about them.”

Adams’s voice seemed to tense up, “Dreams, what sort of dreams.”

Bill paused.

Adam asked, “Are you still there?”

“Yes. Just memories, I think, of the orphanage. I wanted to check some things out.”

Adam asked, “Are you close by? A visit seems like a lot of trouble for some dreams. Perhaps you could tell me about them now.”

Bill responded slowly, “I’m in the area for a short time. I thought it was a good excuse to say hello.”

Adam’s perked up. “Wonderful. I hope I can talk you into staying longer. Do you know when you’ll be here?”

“No. Sometime in the afternoon. I hope that’s alright.”

Adam replied, “Certainly, my boy. I look forward to seeing you.”

Bill hung up, quietly lowered his recliner, and grunted as he rose from the chair. He snuck into his master bathroom, and ease the door close. After washing his hands, he started to exit when he spied Carol. She blocked his only egress from the bedroom.

“Uh oh, I’m busted,” joked Bill.

“Should you be standing by yourself?”

“Carol, you need to relax. If I need help, I’ll holler, yell or scream. Lori doesn’t baby me this much.”

At the sound of his own words, darkness crossed over Bill’s face. He looked down at the floor, pushed his way past Carol, and sat back down in his chair.

Carol walked up, squeezed his arm, and whispered, “I’m sorry.”

Bill looked up at her, “I’m the one who should be sorry. You didn’t do anything wrong. I appreciate your concern. I just hadn’t thought about the whole affair while we were talking. My comment brought everything back.”

“Are you doing alright?”

“I’ll be okay. I just can’t believe I forgot about Lori for a moment. I guess I was too focused on my phone call.”

“With John?” asked Carol.

“No, Adam at the orphanage.”

Carol moved back to the couch and leaned towards Bill, “What did he say.”

Bill’s brow furrowed, “Nothing exactly. It was more the way he said things. I mentioned I wanted to visit, and I mentioned I had had some weird dreams. After that, it felt like he was trying to nail down where I was. He wanted to know if I was nearby, how long I would be staying, the exact time of my arrival tomorrow.”

Carol sat back, “That just sounds like an old friend who’s hoping to spend some time with you.”

“Maybe. I guess my talk with Cindy at the hospital has me looking over my shoulder. Dr. Adam would never do anything to hurt me. After all, he was the one who got me into the Columbia Business School. I’m his poster child for other children.”

Carol stood up, “Well, I’m going to grab a nap if I’m not needed right now. Why don’t you call John? I think you could use a vacation.”

“Good idea.”

Carol left, and Bill dialed the number.

“How’s my favorite superhero?”

Bill replied, annoyed, “I’m no hero, much less super.”

“Carol told me some of what happened. I’m just trying to cheer you up.”

“Do me a favor, don’t try so hard.”

John’s voice got softer, “I know you feel like you failed Lori and your baby, but do me a favor, think about what I’m going to tell you.

“I know it doesn’t seem like much, but if you hadn’t done what you did, everyone could be dead. You, Carol, everybody. I hate that Lori was killed, but I’m thankful you survived, and the other worker’s families are grateful for your actions.”

Bill acquiesced, “Thanks. Hey, any chance the two of us can go to the mountain house? Things are getting weirder, and I need to get out of here.”

“Weirder than the shooting?”

“Yea. I’d rather talk up there instead of on the phone.”

John said, “We can leave tonight if you’re up for it.”

“Well, that’s tempting, but I’m driving up to Thomasville tomorrow.”

“Wow, I didn’t think you’d heal up that fast.”

“Oh, I didn’t say I wasn’t hurting. I need to visit the orphanage. I have questions about why I went crazy and killed those men, and I think the orphanage may hold some answers. “

John said, “The press said the police have closed the investigation and are considering this a robbery gone bad.”

Bill was quiet for just a moment. “Well, if that’s what the press is reporting, go with what they are telling you. I haven’t heard anything from law enforcement.”

John replied, “That seems strange.”

“Yea, well, I’ve been sort of doped up the past twenty-four hours. Speaking of, my pain medicine is kicking in, and I’m feeling pretty tired. I need to get some rest before tomorrow’s little drive. I’ll see you in a couple of days.”

John answered, “Alright, see you then, Bud.”

Bill hung up the phone. He quietly got out of his chair and held his side as he slowly made his way back to his bedroom, closed the door, and turned on the light. Bill noticed the pregnancy test on Lori’s side of the bed. He turned the light off, climbed into his bed, buried his face in his satin pillow, and cried himself to sleep.

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