Sam’s heart sank as she entered Uncle Brewin’s room. Her friend, mentor and confidante looked terrible. His cheeks were sunken, his tissue-paper skin was a ghastly white; he lay there like a wraith beneath the sheets, a tube running to his nose, his ragged breaths accompanied by the steady beep of a heart rate monitor.
“Uncle B?” Sam said.
Brewin’s lids lifted and despite the severity of his appearance, a spark shone suddenly in his eyes. “Heeeey, Sunbeam!”
Sam pulled a chair up next to the bed and laid her hand on his skeletal arm. Brewin’s head turned slightly. “Aren’t you a sight for old eyes,” he said.
“How you holdin’ up?” she asked.
“Oh you know me,” he said, “tough as the day is long.”
Sam squeezed his arm gently. “Anything I can get you?”
Brewin smiled. “I’d kill for a smoke.”
Sam resisted the urge to swat him. “Ha ha.”
“What I want to know is how you’re doin’. Your mom told me all about that body you came across.”
“Yeah,” Sam said.
“Heard it was a gruesome scene.” Uncle Brewin had always taken an active interest in law enforcement. At some point in his career he had run a private security firm.
“I chatted a bit with Jim, too.” Brewin said. Sam’s captain, Jim Hoskins, had been friends with Brewin for many long years. “He started telling me about some message that was left on a wall, before he got called away. What was that all about?”
“I don’t know…”
“What’d it say?”
Sam considered not giving the answer, but she knew that unlike her mother, Brewin could be trusted to keep the secret. Besides, who was she to deny information to a dying man?
“It was one word,” Sam said. “Eclipse.”
Beep, beep, beep, beep…
Brewin’s heart rate not only increased, but his blood pressure went up as well.
The old man’s eyes widened slightly. He glanced over at the monitor, took a few deep breaths. Seconds later:
Back to normal. Sam took all of this in, at the same trying to look as if she had noticed nothing.
“Is that right,” Brewin responded.
“Yeah… yeah. Barnes thinks that message was left for me but I got no idea what it means.”
Brewin’s eyes wavered, his tongue licking dry lips, his breathing labored. Sam looked at her watch. “I know this is short but I gotta run, get to my shift…”
The old man reached over his body, laying his right hand atop Sam’s. “Come back and see me, if you would. Do you have a calendar? On your phone?”
“Yeah,” Sam said. She withdrew her cell phone, unlocked it, pulled up the calendar and handed the phone over.
“You had asked if I wanted anything earlier; I could really use some water before you take off. Could you do that? Just out of the tap is fine.”
“Of course.” Sam grabbed a cup off of the bed tray and went to the bathroom. She ran the water…
“Hey, did they ever bring me a toothbrush?” The old man called from the next room. Sam shut off the water, looked at the counter and then opened the medicine cabinet door to see a toothbrush lying on the bottom shelf. “Yeah it’s here,” she called.
Sam came back out, putting the water cup on the bed tray.
Brewin had the phone right up in front of his face. He clicked a few buttons and handed it back. “Come see me tomorrow or the day after. Can you do that, Sunbeam? Please? Promise me.”
“I will,” Sam said. “Right now though I gotta go.”
“You do that, but can I have one more promise before you disappear?” Brewin’s eyes locked on hers, his gaze suddenly intense. “I want you to be extra careful.”
She gave his arm one more squeeze. “I promise,” she said.
Minutes later she was walking out, pulling up her hood to ward off the late-afternoon drizzle, her mind spinning. She couldn’t stop thinking about the monitor, and the increase in Brewin’s heart rate and blood pressure.
Whatever “Eclipse” meant, it sure as hell seemed like Uncle Brewin knew something about it.
Sam had crossed the parking lot and was approaching her Mustang when she glanced up and stopped in her tracks.
There was an impact point with radiating cracks in the lower right corner of her windshield, and spray-painted across the vehicle’s left side in tall, black, thin letters was one word: “REMEMBER.”
Son of a bitch.
That car had belonged to her foster dad. Kathy had given it to her when she turned sixteen, saying that Ben had meant for her to have it.
And this bastard had vandalized it. Her eyes scanned the lot as the drizzle thickened to a light rain. There was no one in sight.
Her fists clenched. She wanted to scream out; to kick, punch, shoot… to take out her frustrations on something tangible. Drawing in a deep breath, she forced herself to calm down and think this through. There was a choice to be made.
She could take the car in and submit it as evidence… but that would only reinforce the notion that she should have some idea as to why she was being targeted. And she had already been evasive by not telling Barnes about her dream. Something like this would put her under the microscope; take up more of Barnes’ attention, when his time and hers would be better served by doing some real police work.
And, given what just happened with Brewin, Sam couldn’t afford to be distracted.
As the rain increased to a steady downpour, the spray paint began to run. Anything that might be evidence on her car was, even now, being lost to the elements.
And so it was settled: she would maintain her focus, and she would keep this incident to herself. Tomorrow she would take the car into that new mechanic Kathy had told her about.
Sam stood there for a moment longer, watching the word remember distort and melt away.