Reading Between the Lines

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Chapter 9

I felt like I was sitting on pins and needles as I went about the rest of my day. Why did I think it was a good idea to impersonate my neighbors’ partner? I couldn’t have come up with ANYONE else?! The good news is though, I was able to get ahold of Michael Abernathy through Facebook and asked if he wanted to meet for coffee to catch up. Thankfully we went to high school together, so the impromptu meetup wasn’t too sudden. All I needed was to get Michael to tell me what he saw and then I’d be out of there.

I walked into the small diner at noon, my eyes searching the space around me. The last time I saw Michael she was a tall, lanky individual that continuously tripped over his feet in the halls. When a man built like a linebacker stood up from one of the booths, I did a double-take.

“Cassandra?” The man quickly waved at me before lowering his hand. “It’s me, Michael.”

“Wow, Michael. Looks like the rest of your body finally caught up with your height.” I couldn’t help but let a smile slip as I slid into the seat across from him.

“That’s what almost six years in the cable business does for you.” Michael let a nearby waitress fill our coffee cups before continuing. “I’ve got to say, I’m a little surprised at your message. We never really talked much in high school.”

“Well, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking for any sort of semblance after leaving college.” I did my best to give a half-hearted smile. At least I wasn’t lying. Sometimes, I do wish that my mom had never gotten sick and I was still halfway across the country at college.

“Yeah, I heard about your mom, I’m so sorry. How’s she doing?”

“She’s good, the same lovable, opinionated person that she was before.” Both Michael and I chuckled as I brought the coffee mug to my lips. “Enough about me and my sick mother. How’s work been for you lately?” Could you have made that transition ANY rougher Cassandra?

“Been pretty boring actually. The only exciting thing that’s happened is- “Michael’s eyes darted around the diner, making sure no one was nearby. He leaned over the table slightly as he brought his voice down to a whisper. “I was working on the street when Crenshaw was murdered.”

“No fucking way,” I spoke, praying the shock in my voice sounded genuine. “Did you see anything?”

“Nothing much, just that I saw some guy walking around outside Crenshaw’s house in the hour before his murder. I didn’t think much of it, except this guy, kept pacing in front of his house. It looked like he was scoping out the place.”

“That’s insane- “I should have stopped there but my curiosity got the better of me. “Did the cops come talking to you yet?”

“No, not yet. I wouldn’t hold my breath.” A weird grin spread on Michael’s face as he leaned back in the booth. “I got a video of the guy. I didn’t catch his face, but I got everything else.” I couldn’t stop myself from sitting up in the booth. This was too good to be true! This is great, he has a video of the possible killer! Now if you could only get him to show you the video!

“Dude that’s awesome! Can I see it??”

“Why do you want to see it?” Michael’s voice took on a skeptical tone.

“What can I say, I have a pendant for true crime.” I shrugged my shoulders to give off a blasé tone. Before Michael could respond, my phone started going off in my pocket. I gave him an apologetic look before fishing the phone out of my pocket.

“You’ve got Cassandra Gilbert.”

“Ms. Gilbert. This is Annie Morgan, from the market. I don’t know any other way to put this- but your mothers being taken to the hospital right now.”

I felt my heart drop as I stared blankly at Michael, my eyes becoming increasingly misty. “What?!”

“Your mother was just shopping for some products when I came across her. We started chatting and she began to look incredibly ill. I asked if she was ok and she assured me she was. Just as she walked away, your mother collapsed in the middle of the aisle. The ambulance took her away not more than 5 minutes ago.”

“Thanks, I’ll be right there.” I had barely hung the phone and hastily stuffed it into my pocket before getting up from the table and darting towards the door, not even bothering to tell Michael what was going on.

There was no sense in doing so. I knew by the stabbing pain in my gut that this was anything but good.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I broke just about every traffic to get to the hospital. It helped that Penbrook Falls was small, making the hospital even smaller and quicker to get to.

I rushed into the lobby of the two-story hospital, my heels screeching on the white linoleum flooring as I approached the desk. My face was marred with sweat and tears as I wildly stared at the receptionist. I wasn’t able to get a word out before I heard a distant voice.

“I take it your Ms. Gilbert’s daughter?” Turning my head, I saw an older man standing a few feet behind me. There was a grim look on his face as he assessed my appearance, further conforming my fears that nothing about this situation was good.

“What happened to my mom? Is she ok?” I managed to squeak out as more tears fell down my face. The doctor blankly stared at me before clearing his throat.

“Your mom was dehydrated and malnourished, which originally caused her to collapse. Once we were informed of her previous kidney failure diagnosis, I did some further tests. I don’t know how to put this Ms. Gilbert but- your mother’s kidney failure has exponentially increased. It’s decreasing at a rapid rate now and with her being dehydrated and malnourished she’s unable to fight it. We’re going to keep her here a few days to get some fluids in her and nourished but-”

“But what?!” I all but screamed at the doctor.

“Even if we fix that, I’m afraid your mother only has a month at the most before- “The doctor paused once again, his eyes unwavering as he stared straight at me.

“She only has a month left to find a match and get the surgery before she dies.”

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