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The memory keeper, p.35
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       The Memory Keeper, p.35

           Lisa Stowe
 

  Chapter 35

  The hospital filled with sounds as nurses made their rounds with breakfast trays. Cody found the growing bustle soothing as she walked down the hallway toward the critical care unit. Matt was out of surgery and even though he wasn’t conscious, Jess had badgered the doctors into allowing Cody to sit with him. She entered the room quietly, as if any noise might penetrate the drugs in his system and wake him.

  The doctor was cautiously optimistic that the surgery had gone well. Barring infection, or rejection of all the new parts in his body, he was expected to walk again. After physical therapy, of course. And the doctor had made it clear there would be a lot of physical therapy.

  But for right now, his leg was encased and elevated, and he was hooked up to more equipment then Cody had ever seen in one room. May would be jealous.

  She sat down as a low hum kicked on and the blood pressure cuff around Matt’s arm swelled like some kind of blue leech. She watched the numbers climb on the monitor, and listened to the soft hiss as the air escaped, the numbers paused, and machines went back to their ticking. She didn’t expect him to wake, especially with the slow morphine drip turned on, but she badly wanted him to. If he’d at least open his eyes, she might have proof the doctor knew what he was talking about.

  An elderly man came into the room, wearing a tag that identified him as a volunteer. He carried a small basket that held a woodland fern in a bed of moss.

  “This was delivered for your friend,” he said. “I’ll just put it here by the window, shall I? This envelope came with it, but it has your name on it. The nurses told me where to find you.”

  Cody took the thick envelope and held it long after the volunteer had left. Practically everyone she knew was here at the hospital. Even Jake, who’d shown up as soon as visiting hours officially started, with muffins and donuts. She rubbed her thumb over the envelope, and then picked up the phone and quietly asked Rivers to join her.

  “What is it?” Rivers asked as she came inside.

  Cody handed her the envelope, and waited while Rivers studied it.

  “Well, let’s see what she has to say, shall we?” Rivers finally said, as she opened the envelope and began to read out loud.

  “A year ago I was reorganizing the storage room at the museum, and found an account about the opening of the Honey Do mine. It caught my interest because my great grandfather was listed as one of the owners. The mine didn’t pan out and was closed and it appeared the mayor, also one of the owners, bought out the others.

  “The more I researched the mine, the more I realized that it had been closed simply because of its location. Not because the ore was no good. I realized that with modern advances, it might be able to be reopened and turned into a good producer.

  “And I needed money. You know what’s going on with Granny, Cody. My wages at the museum sure as hell weren’t going to keep her out of the nuthouse. So I climbed in bed with the devil. I signed over Granny’s house as collateral to buy the mine from Keith. The house my family had lived in for generations. My history.”

  Rivers paused and took a sip of water from a plastic cup by Matt’s bed. Cody walked to the window and stared out at the returning rain, muting even the glow of the tamaracks, and wondered where Rachel was. It seemed easier somehow to hear Rachel’s words with her back to Rivers and the letter.

  “Things would have been fine if it hadn’t been for two problems.” Rivers resumed reading out loud. “One was the environmental stuff connected to reopening the mine. I didn’t know ahead of time how hard it would be, or how much money it was going to take to just get the thing up and running. I had to hire Jim Russell to handle that end of things for me, and his wages took even more money. I’d wiped out my savings and wasn’t anywhere close to getting any kind of return. I couldn’t make the payments to Keith anymore. Several months ago he told me he was going to foreclose, take the house. He didn’t care what that would do to Granny. He didn’t care that he was taking away her home and she wouldn’t understand. That’s when I realized he’d sold me the mine so he’d have a hold over me, could manipulate me, could control history.”

  “So I started working the mine myself, secretly. I would spend as much time there as I could, drilling, and even blasting a couple times when Jake wasn’t around. Because the mine, as I’m sure you’ve figured out, is the one by his place. The ore I was getting wasn’t near what I could have been doing with it open legally and being worked by experienced miners, but I was seeing some money coming in. I thought I’d be able to keep Keith away from Granny.

  “Until the second problem. A man showed up one day. Looking for the mine. He had a map, said he was the grandson of Patrick Cross, one of the original owners, that he by rights, still owned a share. I told him the mayor had bought out the partners, but this man didn’t believe it. He was going to contest it, he was going to have everything frozen until ownership could be established. We got in a fight when he came into the mine. I grabbed a Pulaski, and swung. To be honest Cody, I don’t know whether I was trying to kill him or just scare him, but I swung that axe as hard as I could and practically cut his head off. I swung that axe so hard the handle snapped clean through. Think about it, Cody. You touched it, that first day you came to the museum when you knocked all that crap over.”

  Cody pressed a fist against her mouth, swallowing against the urge to gag and leaned her forehead against the cold glass of the window.

  “It was the most horrible thing I’d ever done. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat, stayed away from the mine for days trying to figure out what to do. The therapist I was seeing for depression gave me that prescription, thinking it was stress about Granny. And that’s when I realized I had to put my problems aside because saving the house and taking care of Granny had to be my priorities. It was all I had.

  “I thought it would be safe to hide his body far back in the mine, in some of the old workings, since the mine wasn’t opening and it was just me in there. I thought everything would be fine. Until Jake started nosing around wanting to know what I was doing. And until Nate showed up looking for his dad. I should have tossed the guy down a mineshaft but I just couldn’t bring myself to do that, to just throw away someone.”

  Rivers snorted. “She can kill people but not put them down a mineshaft?”

  Cody heard the anger behind her voice, and understood what Rivers was saying even though she had no response. She simply watched the rain wishing she had never accepted the letter.

  “So, yes I shot Jess. I think she was figuring everything out. She was coming by the museum a lot, asking questions. And I kept seeing her questioning Jake. And that damn bouncing bitch, Hailey, wouldn’t leave me alone. When she saw the pages from Kelly’s notebook in my Jeep, I pretty much decided everything was going to come out. But I thought if I explained it all to you and Matt, you’d help me.

  “I was losing everything, can you see that? Keith kept calling me wanting more money. The mine wasn’t opening, the costs were climbing, Granny was getting worse. I couldn’t even leave her alone anymore. And then the shittin’ museum burned down. And no, that wasn’t me. I needed that job. But once it burned, I didn’t even have that anymore. I couldn’t provide care for Granny, I was going to have to look in her eyes and tell her I’d lost her home. And I couldn’t keep her safe anymore. I’d killed Nate’s dad to hang onto the mine. I killed Nate to keep him from finding out about his dad. I killed a friend because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. All to care for Granny, to let her live out the rest of her life in the home she’d grown up in, to hang onto our lives.

  “I was so stupid. What I should have done was killed Keith.

  “So I’m going back to the mine. There are a lot of ways to have an accident in an old mine. I know if I’m gone there won’t be any financial support for Granny and the state will have to step in. God how I don’t want that to happen. But I don’t know what else to do, and we’re going to lose the house now for sure. I’m begging you, Cody, to tak
e care of Granny. I don’t want her knowing what I’ve done, and I sure as hell don’t want her visiting me in jail. So I’m ending this my way, and trusting you, as my friend, to watch over her for me.

  “And oh yeah, I’d suggest Jess take a good look at Keith. I think he’s the one who burned the museum. Think about it. Not only did one fire destroy all the stuff you were looking for, but it also destroyed stuff about the mine. Or so he thinks. But, shit, you know me and papers. Scattered everywhere. I hate to say it, but I’m beginning to think Nate’s dad may have been right. Which means you and Kendra might be co-owners of my mine. So maybe you can have some financial help with Granny’s care.

  “I hope so anyway.

  “I also hope you’ll remember me as a friend.”

  The blood pressure cuff started inflating again, and Cody watched it tighten around Matt’s bicep. She stood and walked to the edge of the bed, placing her hand lightly on his chest. She saw the heart monitor tracking him, she heard the machines working. But she needed tactile proof under her fingers, that he breathed, that he was alive.

  Remember Rachel as a friend?

  After she’d killed people?

  After she’d shot Matt?

  Anger stirred, and took root deep inside.

  Remember Rachel as a friend?

  Not a chance in hell.

 
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