Twisted Saga ReGenesis (book 3 of 3)

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Chapter 14- Poisonous End

Meanwhile, back in Columbus, Gwen and Lilly wait patiently for Josh’s ashes to be handed over.

“Mom, can we go home yet?” Lilly asks, missing her father.

“Soon, sweetie, once we have daddy with us, we’ll go check out of the hotel and try to see Emily and Brooklyn before we go home. That okay with you?”

In a surprise twist, Delilah shakes her head no.

“How come they’d like to see you, I’m sure.”

Bowing her head, Lilly begins to sob softly.

“I just want to go home. I never want to come back here.”

“Well, what if I said we were going to move closer to here? Would that not be alright?” Gwen probes to gauge a decision based on Lilly’s answers.

“No, please, mom, not here. This is where daddy died. I don’t want to remember how bad this hurts all the time.” Delilah mentions in a soft-hearted manner.

Gwen’s at a loss for words; her sunglasses hide the pain in her eyes, but now she’s not sure which way is up.

“Well, since here is out of the picture, what about somewhere like North or South Carolina? It’s beautiful there, and daddy and I got married in North Carolina. That’s where we found out that we were expecting you.”

The gears in Delilah’s head turn quickly, depicting the place she would like the best.

“Can we live on the beach?” She makes a request using her charm in her big lovable eyes.

“Absolutely, I want to make sure you’re going to be okay. I know it sucks now, but in time you’re going to be just like your daddy, I know it. I can see it in those bright blue eyes, and you even have that gold trait he did, which I loved about his eyes.”

They stand there and smile for the first time in days.

“Good, I want to make him proud. I want to be like daddy, but I can’t do what all he did, mom. I’m not strong.”

“Whoa, right there, young lady. You may not have the strength your daddy did, but you have a brilliant mind, and you can use it over your muscles. Aaron did and look at how well he’s done with his career. You don’t have to be a federal agent and work dangerous cases to be like daddy, you know. You can easily work from a desk to make a difference or become a lawyer like me. Daddy thought about it when he was in high school. Not many people know that, but I do because we talked about things when we weren’t fighting.” Gwen reveals to her daughter.

The fun ends when the person in charge of cremation appears with the urn in his hands.

“Mrs. Bradshaw, I presume?” He asks when he sees the ladies standing there.

“Yeah, that’s me…” She says, reaching for the urn.

“Just need to see a photo I.D. please to confirm, and then he’s all yours to take home.”

Gwen swiftly takes out her wallet from her purse to present the required verification.

“Thank you, and I am positive that you are sick and tired of hearing this, but I am sorry to hear about your husband’s passing.”

The funeral home worker disappears as swiftly as he appeared. Then an awkward silence falls between mother and daughter.

The grief becomes all too real at that moment when they get into their rental car and returns to the hotel, where they pack up their stuff to check out.

“Yes, ma’am, how may I help you?” The desk clerk asks.

“Bradshaw, checking out, please.” Gwen stutters, fighting the urge to cry again.

“Yes, ma’am, just a moment, and I’ll have your receipt.”

“I don’t need it. Here are the keys, and thank you. It’s a beautiful hotel. My daughters should be proud.” Gwen states, wiping her finger under her nose.

“Oh, you’re Mrs. Lockhart and Mrs. Parker’s mother. It was so nice to meet you. Yes, I love it here. I’ve been here for a little more than three weeks.”

Gwen acknowledges the statement then takes her cart, heading for the car.

“C’mon, kiddo, let’s take daddy home and handle things there.”

The pair of ladies are in the air when Delilah has a particular question when she looks at her mother’s hand.

“Mommy, don’t you need to take off your ring?”

Stunned by the question, Gwen pulls up her hand to her chest to play with her ring.

“No, I can tell myself that your daddy is just out on another trip, and he’ll be home. At least for now, that’s what I tell myself.” She admits kissing the ring softly.

“Oh…Good idea…” Delilah hints at the idea of thinking Josh is just out on the road again.

Together they sigh, in their seats to make the long trip home.

Things for Nathan are still heated when he stops back by to spend time with his mom.

“Hey kid, you shouldn’t sit here to wait for me to feel better. I’m good if you want to go out and explore.”

Nathan sits in his chair, staring outside.

“Nah, mom, besides, when I leave here, I have a new project to head to anyway. I have a new water treatment facility to visit for work.”

Interested in his work, Nikki digs as a mother does for information.

“Where they have you heading to this time?”

“Nowhere big, a small city somewhere in Minnesota called RiverCreek. It meets where the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers come together. Sounds like a dull place, so yay for me!” He taunts, resting his fist under his chin.

“Maybe if I can get out of here in time, I could tag along. I could use a real vacation, especially one better than this one.” Nikki teases, sharing a chuckle with her son.

Although he sits with her, Nathan can’t get what James said out of his head. It’s driving him crazy to the point he finally speaks up about it.

“Mom, I have to know what happened to my father? During the funeral, that guy, James, mentioned that he knew my father. So really, what happened to him?”

“He died, he worked on the road a lot, and he died. I’m sorry I’ve kept it from you. You were better off not knowing him or his habits. I got the best end of the deal. Look at you, working for the Corp of Engineers, making a difference in people’s lives. You don’t run around to avoid your life as he did, and I am beyond proud of you.”

Frustrated more than ever, Nathan takes off after he kisses his mother on her forehead.

“Where ya going?”

“Out, I need to get some air and maybe find something to eat or a bar. I could use a drink right about now.”

Nikki hollers out one last bit of information.

“Don’t overdo it. Your father had that problem too. It’s genetic, you know. I love you, son!”

Out on his own on the streets of Columbus, Nathan finally comes across the Corvette. James drives by and doesn’t pick up that he’s followed as he leads Nathan back to the house. After he parks and stumbles from the car, Nathan doesn’t waste time to approach James.

“We need to talk, and we need to talk now.” He insists on James, gripping him by his arm.

“Yeah, sure, kid, what do ya need, want, or whatever?” He slurs his phrase together, trying to get his vision back into focus.

“You said you knew who my father was; I want to know now!”

James smacks his lips together and waves for the visitor to enter the house with him.

“Sure thing; I need a drink, though. You’re gonna need one too. Plus, I think I still have a hot piece ass inside. You can smack on her booty if you want.” James mixes his words, trying to form a half-decent sentence.

The door stands wide open by the time they walk inside. James staggers his way to the kitchen for a fresh bottle of Wild Roses bourbon from the cupboard.

“Crack a bottle, do a little waddle from a bottle, hey gobble-gobble.” He rhymes, slapping his hand on the counter.

Nathan is concerned, but he allows James to land on the floor before he tries getting anything from him.

“Hey, hey, need help to the couch or maybe the bedroom?” Nathan offers with a hand extended to help.

James motions he’s not interested in anything but drinking.

“Nah, get cups, us for drinks, you father, you yeah you stop spinning listen to so know. Me, that’s am who to you, son.”

James crawls on his stomach to the living room. That’s where Nathan follows without the bottle of liquor on the counter. He notices some sleeping pills on the table and gets an idea in his head.

“Wait, so you’re saying you’re my dad?” Nathan begins standing over James’ intoxicated body.

“Yup, am I that I am to you. I stuff know, ask so away go.” James mutters, barely conscious.

By now, he realizes he’s not getting answers, but he does scoop up a handful of sleeping pills without James realizing it.

“Hey! Why don’t I make you a drink?” He proposes with evil intentions on his mind.

“I’m driving nowhere, so yes.”

All Nathan can do is chuckle silently but remembers that James mentioned a female companion in the house. He searches for the stranger but comes across a dreadful scene.

“Oh, it smells like a stale asshole in here!” He calls out, shielding his nose with his arm.

He peers over to find the female James referred to dead on the bed.

“Oh my God, that’s rank!” He muffles from under his arm, seeing the body begin to swell.

Running from the doorway, Nathan takes the sleeping pills into the kitchen, where he sees a knife covered in blood lying in the sink.

“He killed her, holy hell; he’s a cold-blooded murderer!”

Not willing to take a chance of being a potential victim. Nathan takes the knife with his hands over the pills lined out on the counter, crushing them with the blade’s flat part, and dumps the contents into the bottom of a glass.

Before he pours the bourbon with the crushed pills, Nathan washes the blade. He returns to the living room and goes over to hand the concoction to James.

“Bottoms up unless you’re a pansy-ass bitch.” He challenges James to down the entire thing.

He plays along with the fake drinking game. James gulps the entire glass down in about three full swigs.

“Now, man, we do it that way.” James fumbles over his words giggling as he sits there, stirring back and forth until the pills take effect.

“Hey you, hey James buddy boy, you good?” Nathan asks when James’s head slams into the arm of the couch.

He takes the opportunity to find his way to the garage, where his plan unfolds more.

“Perfect! I’ll pull the car in, let it run, and leave him in it.”

Not wasting his chance to rid himself of the burden that James could potentially kill someone else. Nathan runs to the garage lifting the door open, then pulls the Corvette into the garage and leaves it running after he shuts the garage door.

He grunts when he picks up James’ dead weight to carry his unconscious body out to the car. He straps on the seatbelt and exits through the utility room as the carbon from the exhaust bellowing up.

“Sorry, dude, I’m doing the world a favor. You kill people. You deserve to die.” Nathan tells himself, with his conscious beginning to pester him.

Nathan’s breathing begins to get easier walking out the front door. He pulls it shut in the process. He wipes down the handle to cover his fingerprints the best he can.

“Time to go…” He says, about to jump into his car, fighting the urge to puke.

The guilt continues to climb, but he can’t force himself to turn back, afraid he’ll get busted.

“Don’t go back, don’t go back!” He repeats, keeping his eyes locked on the road until he gets back to the hospital.

“You’re back. I was afraid I ran you off.” Nikki greets him from her bed.

“No, just went out, hey maybe we should just order a pizza or something, and I spend some time with you before I leave in a day or two, ya know.” He says in a raspy shaky voice.

“Everything alright?” Nikki analyses his voice.

“Yeah, just you know almost made mistakes driving, you know that’s all. What do you want on your pizza, pepperoni, sausage, and mushrooms good?”

Nikki’s instincts tell her something else is up, but she downplays it.

“Yeah, that’s great; I could go for some deep dish action right now.”

The rest of the day, Nathan barely leaves his mother’s side. His nerves are rattled, his conscious battles against his racing mind that he’ll be arrested at any moment.

He’s a wreck to the point that he doesn’t sleep at all that night. He paces the hospital floors while Nikki rests, waiting for more surgery.

That morning he decides he’s not risking it and decides it would be best if he got a head start for RiverCreek. He drives back to his motel room to pack in a hurry, and checks out in a rush.

He appears calm, cool, and collective to anyone who doesn’t know his personality.

“Hey, mom, if you don’t mind, work called. They need me earlier than expected. So, I’m heading out. I will be back when I’m finished. The job shouldn’t be more than a couple of weeks. You know testing and training and whatnot.”

Nikki’s motherly instincts scream at her that something’s wrong, but she realizes he won’t spill anything to her and goes along with his decision.

“Sure, my boy, I’ll recover at home by then, and please come see me when you’re done with work. I miss my baby all the time. Maybe I should sell the restaurant and the house and move out your way finally. I have nothing left at home so get ready for a roommate. That is at least until I get my place.”

“Sounds great mom, you’ll love it, but I need to go. It’s a long drive, and I need to extend my rental policy. I love you, mom. I’ll be back to check on you. Call me when you feel better.” He kisses her on the forehead, gives her a gentle hug then bolts from the room.

A few days fly by before Nikki’s resting from the final surgery.

Her gut wrenches from paranoia that her son was up to no good. Her mind fills with several bad scenarios. She tries to ignore her feelings, but in time she’ll put two and two together.

Audrey is settled back home in Lesage. She’s talked to Kyle a few times, but she hasn’t heard from Sara or her brother, and she begins to worry.

“Kyle, can you do me a favor? I haven’t heard from James since the funeral. Do you think you can go by and check on him, please?”

Unwilling to be an adult babysitter. He wants to tell her no way but doesn’t want to hurt her feelings by refusing.

“Yeah, I guess he hasn’t been back to work at all either. No one’s heard from that asshat, and he’s not picking up for anyone. I’ll head over there after I feed the baby and make sure he’s okay. He’s probably blacked out drunk again.” He replies, hoping it’s as simple as that.

“You’re probably right, but be a doll and just see if he’s okay. I’d appreciate it, Kyle.”

“Sure thing, I need to get moving if I wanna make it there and report back. Send everyone my love.”

They end the phone conversation as Kyle gets his things to rush from point A to point B in a speedy manner.

Everything seems in order when he pulls into the driveway. He does notice that the front door has been kicked in.

“Oh, shit, that can’t be good.”

Investigating the front room, he calls out, trying to locate James.

“James, it’s me, Kyle is everything okay? Are you home?”

Slowly walking through the house, he picks up on an overwhelmingly foul odor.

“Good gosh, what the blue blazes is that smell?”

It’s overpowering odor forces Kyle to evacuate the house and call the police.

“This is 9-1-1. What’s the emergency?”

Kyle remains calm, talking to the dispatcher.

“Yes, this is off-duty State Highway Patrolman Kyle Parker. I am at James Cline’s home, and I think something awful has happened. No one has heard from him in days, and when I walked into the house, there’s a horrible odor inside. I need the police and maybe the paramedics here.”

“Okay, officer, tell me the address, and I will send units there immediately.”

Kyle exchanges the information in a near panic state of mind with the scent stuffed in his nose.

“Please hurry…” he says into the phone with his stomach twisted like a pretzel.

“They’re on their way sir, just sit tight.”

The authorities arrive as the ambulance pulls up the driveway first. Kyle waves them down by the door.

“Thank goodness you’re here. I don’t know what’s happened in the house, but please be aware it smells atrocious.” He explains, keeping some distance from the door.

“We’ll check it out and clear the house before anyone else heads inside.” The officer informs him, trying to ignore the smell.

Several minutes go by, and the officers exit the garage with their arms shielding their noses and mouths. They can barely control the coughing when they exit the house and explain what they’ve found.

“It’s a mess in there. Someone’s ransacked the place, and we have two dead bodies. One in the bedroom, female, and one male occupant dead in the garage.” The officer shares.

“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph no…” He mutters, watching the paramedics try to enter the house to bag one of the bodies.

“Officer, we’re going to need a statement from you before we can let you go. Also, this is now an official crime scene, so you’re going to have to stay clear to allow us to do our job.” The Deputy explains with a notepad in his hand, prepared to jot down notes for Kyle’s statement.

“I understand. Anything you need, officer, I’ll do my best to provide.”

Time doesn’t move with every heartbeat when Kyle gives his explanation to the police. With each moment, more units arrive, taping off areas around the house as another set of paramedics arrive to carry out the second body.

“Hello, sir, hello, stay with me for a couple more questions. You said his sister asked you to come to check on Mr. Cline. Then when you arrived, you couldn’t withstand the odor, which is when you called us, correct?”

“Uh yes, sorry sir, it just seems unreal. We just had funerals for my family, and now someone was killed here in my friends’ home.” He tells the officer, trying to get a glimpse of the body that’s removed from the garage.

“Is there any way I can see the I.D. on that car? That’s James’ Corvette, and if it’s him, I need to call his sister.”

The officer signals to wait right there and goes to the paramedics. He watches them extract the wallet from the victim’s back pocket, bringing it back for possible identification.

“Is this James Cline?”

His eyes give it away when they grow to the size of quarters.

“Yes, that’s him, please say it isn’t so…”

“I have all your information. If we need anything else, a detective attached to the case will contact you. Oh, one last thing, did you touch anything in the house when you entered? We’ll need to clear you before we can proceed further.”

Kyle stops to think for a second but can’t remember touching anything when he walked into the house.

“No, sir.”

“Unless we find your prints on anything suspicious, you shouldn’t have anything to really worry about then. If you need anything, let the detective know when they contact you. I have to ask you to leave the scene now.”

Kyle doesn’t waste time making it a few blocks away before he pulls over to update Audrey about the police’s findings.

“Come on, Audrey, pick up…” He groans, looking back to check on the baby.

“Hey, did you get ahold of James, sweetheart?”

Beginning in silence with his head pressed to the steering wheel, Kyle delivers the bad news.

“He’s dead. They found his body in his car in the garage and the body of someone else in another room. They said it appears to be like a murder-suicide, but James is dead.”

“Christ all mighty, not James too. I’ll be back up there tonight to do this all over again.” Audrey informs with guilt throughout her body.

The last time she talked to her little brother, she yelled at him over a voicemail about his actions, and now she regrets her words

“I’ll see you then. Bye.” He says when the phone flies into the cup holder.

The trip back to Columbus isn’t an easy one for Audrey. Other than Sara and Amber, there’s no one else in terms of immediate family. Her mind is flooded with memories of James from the time they were kids to the times he visited when they lived on base in Dayton.

Once they can identify James’ body, the coroner releases it to be transported back to West Virginia.

“I’m sorry, there’s nothing I could do to have his body prepared for a proper funeral. From what I can gather, it appears that he choked on exhaust fumes. I won’t know more until the toxicology reports return from the state labs. You have my deepest condolences.”

“I’ll have the cemetery put him beside our mother. At least he’ll be back with family. Thank you for trying, at least.” Audrey expresses.

“Give it a day or two that way, you can transport him there, and again I am sorry, I truly am.” She’s told with the sadness of loss filled in their eyes all over again.

“You’re going home, finally going home,” Audrey says to him when the coroner shoves James’ back into the body cooler.

The next morning Audrey gets everything arranged to have her brother buried. The casket is provided by the funeral home where Josh and Justin had their viewings.

The coroner releases the body for transport after confirming that the burial plot has been prepared from the cemetery. Audrey leads the transport vehicle with James’ body back home.

Once they arrive at the plot where James’ body is to be laid to rest, Audrey has a surprise visitor. Her husband, Sean, stands there with roses in his hand.

“What are you doing here?” She asks, climbing out of her SUV.

“Just because he can’t have a proper funeral doesn’t mean he can’t have someone say a few words on his behalf. He is your little brother, after all.” He admits offering over a white rose to drop into the casket when it’s lowered into place.

The workers allow Sean to say a few final words in James’ honor.

“James Cline, a little brother I barely knew in life. He was a hardworking man. I do know that. He always strived to be the best at everything. He was a loving father, husband for many years, and a companion to his best friends in life. A God-fearing man with his demons, he battled quite often—a lover of all that is Chevy, which we share in common. Last but not least, he was a son of God. We may say goodbye to you here, James, but we will meet you one day again at the Pearly gates of Heaven. Go with God, my brother, and rest in peace.”

Audrey is in tears and drops her rose before Sean finishes.

“That was beautiful, thank you.” She mentions with her arms wrapped around his.

“Everyone deserves a kind word, my love. We may never know or under the circumstances that lead to this moment. We’ll always have him in our hearts to remember his goodness.”

Together they stand there while James’ grave is covered with dirt. Hearts, minds, and thoughts wander about what happened in the house.

The report arrives in their hands claims that the evidence points to James possibly murdering the homeless prostitute—consumed too much alcohol and sleep aid pills, which resulted in him unconscious behind the steering wheel, allowing the exhaust fumes to cause an accidental suicide.

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