Where do I start?
Lois looked over her son’s head and watched the city fly by in the cab window. While the steady hum of the car made him doze off beside her, Lois rested her head atop his and couldn’t help but wonder what she had gotten herself into. She could explain the situation to Lucy, but how much information could she reveal, and could she get it out without bursting to tears?
Keeping her face away from her sister, Lois unconsciously chewed on a fingernail and returned her thoughts to Richard. She knew the house would echo with the void of his abrupt absence, and it scared her. There wasn’t going to be the warm, dependable presence that would openly help her with anything, or would comfort her in this situation that she had gotten herself into – not that she would openly admit that, but Richard knew enough about her to know when she really did blame herself for things. It was something she had noticed off the bat with him.
She could feel tears prick the corners of her eyes. How do I start?
When they turned moments later, Lois could see the river’s rippling surface just over the dashboard, the lights from the house casting a warm glow in the cold night. She knew that being delivered to the
When the cab pulled into the driveway, Lois told Jason to go ahead and make his way to the front door, while Lucy retrieved the wheelchair from the trunk. Lois was able to wiggle herself to the doorway and had a hand on the frame when Lucy wheeled the chair over to her. The older sister swatted away Lucy’s hand when she tried to help.
“I’ve got to learn how to do this eventually,” Lois muttered, using her elbow for support while she tried to stand herself up on her good leg. Lucy’s hand under her arm earned her sister a glare.
“God, Lois. When are you going to learn that you can’t do everything on your own anymore?” From the way Lucy moved Lois into the wheelchair, it seemed like she was doing everything to not slam her sister into it. “It’d be easier if you’d stop being so stubborn about this.”
“I am not going to need you all the time. I can manage some things by myself.”
Lucy paid the cab driver and waved him off, putting her hands on the bars and leaning closer to Lois. “Can you, now? Name one thing you’ll be able to do by yourself.”
Lois put a hand on the wheelchair and was about to mention she could get herself anywhere… but her other arm was in a cast. She wasn’t supposed to put weight on her leg until later in the healing process, so she couldn’t do anything that required stress on the bone. She could eat, but getting her food and drink would have to be handled by someone else.
Lucy leaned over and lifted an eyebrow. “You’re a little quiet there, Lois.”
Staring straight ahead and looking at Jason waiting patiently for them, Lois slumped in her seat and turned her head toward her sister. “I hate you.”
Lucy rolled her eyes. “Yeah, you say that now. Just wait ‘til you have to go to the bathroom later on. You’re really gonna hate me then.”
Lucy wheeled Lois to the front door and handed Jason the keys, pausing to grab the house key before handing them to him. When he had unlocked the door he held it open and moved out of the way, letting his aunt push Lois into the house. He took off his jacket, toed off his sneakers and ran upstairs to his room.
“Dinner in half an hour, kiddo!” Lucy yelled to him, reaching down to grab his jacket. She opened the door to the closet and turned to Lois after grabbing a hanger. “Does he do this kind of thing often?”
Lois stared at his sneakers. “Richard makes him hang up his jacket and arrange his shoes by the door. I can never remember.”
Lucy pushed her into the kitchen and left her by the table, turning on the lights and setting her keys on the counter. While she was in the living room, Lois looked around and sighed. The house seemed eerily empty and quiet. Her surroundings seemed new, and that intimidating feeling she had felt when they drove up returned. How was she going to do anything – anything while being closely monitored?
Shaking her head, she called out to Lucy. “Dinner in half an hour? What did you have in mind?”
Lucy walked into the kitchen and searched through some drawers. “Well, I figured that since we’ve got some adjusting to do, we might as well have something easy. I was going to order a pizza. Any objections?”
All thoughts of maintaining a diet plan screamed in Lois’ brain, but she was too tired to resist. She shook her head. “Be sure to order Jason Veggie Lovers.”
“Done,” Lucy held up a flier and waved it at her. “Any preference?”
“I don’t care. It’s not like I’m going to be able to eat it by myself.”
Lucy grinned and grabbed the phone. “Well, that’s not entirely true. You can use that good hand of yours, but I would recommend going easy on the other one. No heavy lifting tonight. How are your pain meds holding up?”
Lois picked at a stain on the table. “Fine. It might be a few more hours before I need some again.”
“Great. I forgot to call the pharmacy, so I’ll do that after ordering the pizza.”
“You forgot to call the pharmacy?”
“I’m a doctor who just brought her sister home from the hospital. I’m allowed to forget a few things.” Before Lois could retort, Lucy’s attention turned to the man on the other line. Her tone immediately changed from sarcastic to attentive and polite.
I’m a doctor who forgot to call the pharmacy about the pain meds for her sister, Lois thought irritably. There was nothing she could do about it now. Pain meds would come later, and with Jason upstairs and oblivious to what his family was doing in the kitchen…
When Lucy hung up the phone, Lois gave a significant glance to her sister. “He’s going to be upstairs for a while...”
“Is this about Richard?”
Lois looked at her casts. She sighed deeply. “Yeah, it’s about Richard. What’s said here stays here, okay? The last thing I need is for Jason to hear this.”
Lucy stopped and looked at the brochure she had in her hand. Setting it and the phone on the counter, she crossed the kitchen and took a seat next to her sister at the table. “Nothing leaves this room,” she said quietly. “Do you want to change first? Get into something comfortable, maybe?”
Lois thought back to the pair of sweats she kept hidden deep within her dresser drawer and nodded her head. “Yeah, actually. Then I’ll tell you everything.”
“My God,” Lucy leaned back in her chair and took a deep breath. “Wow. So, you get this phone call and head off to the docks to see what you can find, only to discover that the building has been abandoned for months?”
“Not completely,” Lois turned and looked at the door. “What did you do with my coat? The one I was wearing earlier.”
Lucy stood and walked into the closet, pulling out Lois’ long black jacket. Handing it to her sister, she watched Lois dig through the pockets and pull out their contents – her car keys, a few dollar bills and some change, some Kleenex…
“Where’s my lighter?” she said suddenly, digging deeper through her coat. “I could have sworn it was right here… they would give that back to me, right?”
Lucy smirked. “You don’t honestly think I’d let you have that back, now do you?” She put her hand in her pocket and pulled out the silver lighter, waving it in Lois’ face. “I was able to get you to rely on me again, but the last thing I’m going to do is let you keep smoking. You know better than that with a little one running around the house!”
Lois glared at her sister. She knew she was taking advantage of her situation, pulling the lighter just out of reach so she couldn’t grab it. Leaning back into her wheelchair, she reached across the table and grabbed her purse. She pulled out the last thing Lucy expected to see.
“The patch?” Lucy stared first at the white box, then the winning grin of her sister. “When did you start that?”
“Several months ago. Lighter, please.” Lois held out her hand.
“No way! You’re not getting this until I get the rest of the story. You were digging for something in your coat. What were you looking for?”
Lois sighed and reached into the breast pocket. Folded and faded was the document she had recovered earlier. She opened it and handed it to Lucy. “Tell me what you see.”
Lucy scanned the paper a moment. “Really bad handwriting… an oil change… the engine and propeller blades were cleaned... am I supposed to be seeing something here?”
“Look at the date of the document.”
Lucy glanced at the top of the page. In a box above Richard’s signature were the numbers
“So, it’s a check-up from several months ago.” She glanced at her watch. “Several months to the day, in fact. This is important why?”
“Because Richard never goes flying without making sure that everything is in proper working order with his plane. When I checked the files, this was the most recent document they had on his check-up. Why wouldn’t they make note of another?”
“Maybe they forgot.”
Lois shook her head. “Nu-uh. Not with this business. Screwing up like that could get you sued.”
“So you think Richard was set up?”
The fire that was blazing in Lois’ eyes suddenly died. She turned and looked at the pizza boxes they had discarded earlier. “Well, I don’t have any actual evidence for that. This is my first lead, though. I’ve got to keep looking for… something, anything.”
“Does Jason know about this?”
“I hope not, but I’m sure he’ll be asking why his fath--Richard hasn’t come home yet.”
Lucy set the paper on the table and stared at it. “What are you going to tell him?”
Good. She didn’t notice it. “I’m not sure yet. He’s a smart boy. He’s going to figure it out sooner rather than later. If I come up with anything on the fly, just play along, okay?”
Lucy took Lois’ jacket from her lap and picked up the document. “Sure thing. Do you want this back in here, or do you want to investigate it for a while longer?”
Lois reached out her hand in a silent plea. Lucy handed the paper back and made her way to the closet. When she hung the jacket inside there was a quiet knock on the door. Lucy craned her neck to look at Lois. “Are you expecting someone?”
Lois gestured to the oversized sweatpants and shirt she had dressed in earlier. “Dressed like this?”
“You might want to hide, then.” Lucy closed the closet door and crossed the short hallway. When she had her hand on the knob, Lois suddenly stood straighter in her seat.
“Lucy, wait! I’m not ready!”
But Lucy had already opened the door. Standing on the other side, a notebook clutched to his chest and a briefcase hanging by his side was…