Just Let Me Die Here (A Serialized Novel) 33
After passing through town and grabbing a morning coffee, I head to the police station. This has become a daily ritual for me. Even if it produces nothing, it makes me feel like I’m doing something. Apparently Detective Singh has come to expect these visits too. She is waiting just inside the front door when I arrive.
“Mrs. Logan,” she says with a tired smile.
“Waiting for me, Detective?”
“I was just about to head out, but I figured you would be stopping by soon. Decided I’d wait.” I feel like I have become close with this woman through this terrible situation. She understands me, supports me, and is going beyond her call of duty to help me.
“Anything new to tell me?” I ask.
“Nothing solid at this moment. We’ve had a few calls in to the alert line, some people saying they have seen him, but you never know with those calls. These types of requests can bring out some real characters.” I think about Beth and Carl and feel a weight drop in my stomach. “We will definitely look into them, but I warn you not to get your hopes up.”
“But you have had some calls? A possible lead?” I have to think something helpful could come from this.
“Maybe. We’ll have to wait and see when we follow up.”
“And someone is doing that?”
“Yes, Mrs. Logan. Someone is doing that.” She is sympathetic but I know I am starting to annoy her. I just don’t care. “Look, I do have to run real quick, but I will be in touch with you if we find out anything else.”
“Great, thank you.” She steps around me and goes to open the door but then stops and turns back.
“Oh, and we got word this morning from the hospital. Mr. Howard, the man who was in the accident with you. He’s awake and recovering. I’ll have someone head over there later today and see if that could be a lead.”
In my spiraling quest for answers, I nearly forgot that there is one person who actually might have a few for me. The one person who was there when this whole thing began. Our previous run in had been brief but intense and I can’t help wondering if he is part of this whole mess that my life has become. And I can’t just wait for someone else to find out.
Canmore General Hospital is just across the street from a Tim Hortons doughnut shop. I have a taxi drop me off there and I pick up a half dozen assortment of doughnuts. I’m hoping some sweets might tempt this man into telling me what I want to know. I plan to play the whole thing off as completely innocent. I’m so sorry about our accident, I will tell him. I’ve been so worried about him. I am just a kind, co-victim, checking on him and his recovery. But my nerves are getting the better of me. Who is this man? Had he really tried to hurt me on purpose? If so, he probably would not be happy to see me alive and well. Was he another part of Tucker’s plan? It just seems too perfectly timed to be a coincidence. By the time I walk across to the hospital parking lot, I’ve already scarfed down two of the doughnuts. Stress eating has always been a go to for me. Oh well, four doughnuts are still a decent offering.
When Millie was a newborn, she got really sick. Things were manageable for a day or so. She had a runny nose and was a bit raspy, but Tucker and I both figured it was just a cold. Babies get sick. Kind of a lot. We had gone to the park the day before and she probably picked up something from some slobbery kid. No big deal. But then, in the middle of the night, when I placed my hand on her back to feel for her breathing, I could feel her raging fever through her pajamas. One hundred and three degrees. We were in the car in minutes. I sat in back, trying to comfort a screaming Millie while Tucker rushed us to the Emergency Room. There were tests and scans taken. Three different doctors visited us in the small, curtained off area of the ward. Millie was exhausted and in pain, struggling to breathe between the tears. I had never felt more panicked in all my life. My little girl, struggling in my arms, and there was nothing I could do about it. Finally, a decision was made. It was pneumonia.
We stayed in the hospital for three days, most of which time Millie was connected to a breathing machine. She looked so helpless. Her tiny body lost under all the tubes, her soft noises drowned out by the beeping of monitors. I refused to leave her side. I almost lost her. That was the last time I had stepped foot in a hospital. This time, I’m going into a hospital in hopes that I haven’t actually lost her forever.
It’s a small hospital, and, as with everything else in this town, it’s surrounded by beauty. I can’t help but once again be in awe of the majestic backdrop of mountains that sits behind the dwarfed brick building. If I had to be stuck recovering somewhere, I’d want it to be here. Maybe I should have let them send me to the hospital. It definitely would have been nicer than my motel room recovery. The air inside the building even feels fresh and mountain crisp. No awful, antiseptic hospital smell that I assumed was essential for the functionality of such establishments. It’s quiet, with only a few staff members walking around and no patients or visitors in the halls that I can see.
“Excuse me,” I say to the gray-haired woman sitting behind the glass barrier as I approach the front desk. The pencil in her hand runs along the left margin of a list of numbers as her eyes dart back and forth between the paper in front of her and the computer screen to her right. She quickly puts a mark on the sheet where her pencil has stopped and looks up at me.
“How may I help you?” Her greeting is not overly friendly, but not hostile either. Simply an overworked individual who has been interrupted from a non-essential task. Behind her, an open take out container holds a half-eaten breakfast sandwich. Melted cheese oozes from inside the bread onto a pile of French fries. Her question is punctuated with a quick smile.
“I am here to visit a patient that is recovering from a skiing accident.” I lower my voice, as if in a library. I don’t want to disrupt the tranquility of my surroundings.
“You’re going to have to be more specific.”
“Oh, of course. His name is Brent. Brent Howard.” The woman turns to the computer, closes one window, double clicks on another, and begins to scan through a list.
“And are you related to Mr. Howard?” she asks. I worry that this is a relatives-only situation. But I need to talk to this man. I need answers.
“Oh, yes. I’m his sister. Just here to brighten my big brother’s day. Brought some of his favorites,” I say, holding up the Tim Hortons bag. “Terrible for me, can’t handle the sugar, but he loves them.” She looks at me sideways, as if she knows I’m lying but doesn’t want to put in the effort of caring.
“Okay, Miss Howard, let me just check here.”
“Um, it’s Logan actually. My name. August Logan. Married,” I say, waving my ringed finger in the air as proof. I don’t want to stray too far from the truth with this woman and I worry if she asks for ID my story would unravel. So, I was previously August Howard. Plausible enough story. “How’s my brother doing, anyway?” I ask, trying to shift focus from the fib.
“I’m sure they can tell you that in there. Here it is. Brent Howard. Room 106. Just down the hall, there to the right.” She points out the direction with the eraser end of her pencil. “If you could just sign in here,” she says, sliding a clipboard with a list of visitors across the counter towards me.
“Thank you very much,” I say, writing my info in nearly illegible writing and hurrying off before I add anything more incriminating to my cover story.
I knock on the door to room 106 and hear a man’s voice inside tell me to come in. Inside, the man, who last time I saw him was knocked out on a hospital gurney, is sitting up in the bed watching a hockey game on the small TV that hangs in the corner of the room. He looks younger than I previously assumed him to be. Thirty, thirty-five maybe. His right arm is in a full cast and his neck is in a solid brace. A casted foot sticks out from underneath his blanket and his head is wrapped in a bandage.
“Yes?” He looks at me while keeping one eye on the game.
“Hi, my name is August. I don’t think you know me, but we have met. Once. I’m the one you ran into up on the mountain.”
“Ran into?” He is surprised enough in this revelation to give me his full attention.
“Yes,” I say, stepping further into the room. I hear the door close behind me and realize there’s really no turning back now. “When you had your accident. You hit me and we both went over the edge into the trees.”
“Oh, damn. I’m so sorry. I knew there was another person involved, but they didn’t really tell me much else.”
“You mean, you don’t remember what happened?”
“I honestly don’t remember anything from that day. I guess I hit my head pretty hard. The doctors said I may get some of my memory back, but maybe not.”
“Well, I just wanted to come in and check on you. See how you are faring.”
“Thanks. But hey, you look like you’re doing alright,” he says.
“Dislocated shoulder,” I say motioning to the sling with my good arm. “And a lot of bumps and bruises. And a slight crack in the ribs, thanks to you.” I try to play off this last bit as a joke.
“Ouch. I’ve done that before. Not fun at all.”
“Definitely wasn’t on my to-do list for the trip.”
“I bet.” I realize I am still just holding the bag of doughnuts at my side.
“Hey, I also thought you might like these,” I say holding up the bag and stepping forward. “I don’t know if you like them. We don’t have Tim Hortons where I’m from, but I know they’re pretty popular here. And hospital food is never the greatest.”
“Oh yeah! Love Timmies,” he says, taking the bag from my outstretched hand.
“I didn’t know what you would like, so I got a few things.”
“Thanks.” He reaches in and grabs the maple glazed doughnut.
“So, you’re Canadian then?” I ask. “I mean, not because of the maple thing. But the Timmies thing.” He laughs.
“Yep. Originally from Toronto but moved out to Calgary for work. I try to get out here as much as I can during the ski season.” On the TV, someone scores a goal and Brent pounds the bed with his fist. “Fuck!” I jump at his outburst. “Sorry, it’s just, I’m a big fan. We haven’t been doing great this season.”
“That’s fine. I get it.” I’ve always been a fan of sports. With hockey though, I never really understood the draw. Especially watching it on TV. You can barely see the puck. How can you know what’s going on? But team devotion, I totally get. Tucker has his Clippers and I live and die for the Bears. I realize now that I haven’t even thought about football since we left on vacation.
“You’re not from here, then?” he asks at a break in the game.
“Nope. California. Just up on vacation.”
“Great place, eh?”
“Totally.” I shift to lean against the wall.
“Oh, hey. Please sit.” He motions to the chair next to his bed. “You can watch with me if you like.” I’m not sure whether he genuinely wants a stranger interrupting his hockey time, but I figure I’ll stick around a bit longer and see if I can get any answers.
“So, you really don’t remember anything from the day of the accident?” I ask when the second period finishes.
“Nope, sorry. I can’t even tell you what I had for lunch that day. My buddies say we went for a few runs down the mountain that morning but that I wanted to try out some of the blacks in the afternoon. None of them were really up to it, so I said I would meet them back at our rental place later. Obviously, I never showed up. They even went back and searched the lodge and everything. One of the nurses here got in touch with them on my phone.” Turns out, Brent is an excellent skier. He’s been skiing since he was six and even competed for a short time in high school. The idea of him getting out of control on a rather tame run just doesn’t add up. And, from what I remember, he hadn’t looked out of control at all.
“So what kind of work brought you to Calgary?” I ask. I’ll come back to the accident later.
“I’m an architect. Mostly for eco-friendly corporate stuff.”
“That sounds interesting.”
“It can be. Sometimes it gets a bit dull. Lots of people just want copies of stuff that’s already been done. But on some projects, I get to be a bit more creative. Makes it worth it. I’m actually working on a new headquarters space outside of Calgary for an American company right now.”
“Really? Anything I might have heard of?”
“Doubt it. They’re kind of a smaller company. Trying to expand into the Canadian market. But I’ve gotten to design most of it on my own, so it’s been great.” Tucker had mentioned international’s expansion as a possibility for their company when things got going. “Full potential.” “Maximum growth.” Had they reached that point already? Maybe this was the connection I was looking for. I decide against subtlety.
“Just out of curiosity, does the name Tucker Logan mean anything to you?” I’m not sure if I imagine it or not, but I swear Brent hesitates for a moment.
Before I can press any further, there is a knock on the door and a woman comes in. She’s quite stunning with long auburn hair and the body of a ballerina. She has a coffee in each hand.
“Hey, little brother,” she says, walking to his bed while eyeing me. “Funniest thing. When I was checking in and told the woman that I was your sister, she let me know that our other sister was also here.” They both look at me.
“Yeah,” I say, hesitating a bit. “I said I was your sister to get them to tell me what room you were in. Sorry.”
“No worries,” Brent says. “I get it. Sarah, this is August. She was the other person involved in the accident.” Not ‘I ran into her’, just that I was ‘involved’.
“Oh, wow,” Sarah says. “How are you feeling?”
“I’m okay,” I say. “I think your brother took the brunt of the fall. I love your hat, by the way.” The beanie she is wearing is a beautiful mix of cream and maroon knitting, spiral waves crashing around her head.
“Oh, thanks.” She smiles, touching her hand to her hat. She brushes her fingers across the two gold pins that are stuck to the side.
“World Championships?” I ask, reading one of the pins.
“Ice skating,” Sarah says.
“Sarah’s an amazing skater,” Brent says.
“Better than this one is at skiing apparently,” she says, turning back to her brother. “I’ve always worried one of his adventures would get him killed. I guess you lucked out just being in a body cast this time.” Sarah settles in to the empty chair on the other side of the bed and both siblings fix their eyes on the TV.
I don’t think Brent is going to tell me much more, especially now that his sister has shown up, so I figure it is time to go. I thank them both and apologize again for my falsified entry.
“It was nice meeting you,” Brent says. “At least this meeting I will remember. Thanks for checking in on me. And thanks for the doughnuts.” He smiles and reaches in the bag for another as I head toward the door. His sister starts talking to him about something that happened at the coffee shop on her way over and he is pulled into the conversation. But just as I open the door, I glance back over my shoulder. If I’m not imagining things, Brent is looking at me out of the corner of his eye. It is not a pleasant look.
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