A bounty’s love
Chapter 7: Confronting Max
As expected, the following morning I receive a call from the sheriff’s department of Toller city.
It wasn’t hard acting like a shocked grieving brother considering that in a way I had just lost my sister. I drove to station to identify her belongings.
Sheriff: We haven’t found a body yet and to be honest we rarely ever do recover remains from that water.
He places a couple of clear bags on a table. With watery eyes I choke back a sob. Pulling out her purse and phone. I nodded to the sheriff. Unable to hold back the emotion.
Aron: These are her things. These are my sister’s things. What happened.
Sheriff: It would appear she lost control of the car when she went into the turn and ended up over into the icy water. She must not have been wearing a seat built the way the windshield was busted out and with the under tow that section gets.... that’s why percentage of recovery is low.
He paused for a minute as if contemplating what to say next.
Sheriff: I’ll give you a few moments and then we can proceed with some paper work
I collapse on a nearby chair with my head buried in my hands.
When I got back to my car preparing myself for the confrontation with Max my phone starts ringing. Max!
Max: Where is she.
I took a deep breath trying to find the right words.
Max: Aron! Where the fuck is Kylie. She hasn’t returned any of my calls or texts since yesterday.
My grip on the phone tightens as every muscle in my jaw and neck tenses. What I would give to pound this mother fucker to the ground.
Aron: She’s gone
I manage a slurred response sounding like I’ve been crying.
Max: What the fuck do you mean she’s gone.
Aron: There was an accident.
Max: What do you mean an accident.
His breathing became heavy. I could sense the emotions as the final blow of news takes toll.
Aron: They found her car in the water at Toller’s bridge this morning.
After a moment of what sounded like muffled sniffles as if the asshole was crying, he managed to speak.
Max: Where is she.
Aron: They haven’t found her body. I just got done at the station identifying her belongings.
Max: Then how do you know she’s gone. Has anybody checked the hospitals?
Aron: There was blood on the windshield Max. They think she wasn’t wearing a seatbelt and went through it. They say most bodies that go in that river don’t come out.
I could hear the tremble in his voice. I couldn’t deny the asshole thought he loved her and maybe he did once but if he really did, he would have never done what he did to her.
The line went dead.
Knowing Max, he’ll obsess with trying to find her long after the sheriff department calls quits. I was going to have to rekindle our friendship to keep a close eye on him. You know the saying keep your friends close your enemies closer and that’s what I did.
Every day for a week straight we checked every hospital with in a ten mile radius, joined the many search parties. The last day of the search while Max and I walked along the river bank a good 15 miles down form the accident he dropped to his knees.
Max: It’s my fault.
I stopped in my tracks watching his shoulders slump with his back turned to me.
Max: Did you know she was leaving me.
Aron: What are you talking about?
Max: I never would’ve hurt her on purpose. It was an accident. I was so angry when I saw that guy all over her at the gala. I didn’t mean to do what I did.
Even though I already knew what he had done I acted as though I didn’t.
Aron: What the fuck did you do to my sister Max.
I screamed at him with my hands fisted at my sides. His head dropped into his hands and I could hear him crying. I wasn’t feeling any sympathy. I kneeled down grabbing him by his collar.
Aron: What Max. What did you do?
He looked up at me with blood shot eyes.
Max: I forced myself on her in a way I had promised I never would. I... I didn’t mean to.
I drew back my fist and punched him square in the nose. His head wiped back and forward like a sling shot, and yet his hands remained at his sides. He wasn’t even attempting to defend himself. I drew back my fist again but as I looked into his lifeless eyes, I realized this was enough. I let go of his collar and walked away.
A week later we held a memorial service for Kylie at the gallery. Having not been able to contact her the past two weeks made it all feel a little too real. I placed one of her paintings in the center of the gallery with some pictures of her scattered around it on a small table.
No one but me knew she painted. It was something she only did during her dark days. She didn’t have them often but when she did it was always due to a depression she’d fall into after certain nightmares of her past would re surface.
I tried to encourage her to paint more often or to let me hang some of them in the gallery but she always refused. I let out a slight chuckle thinking of how pissed she’d be if she knew I had this painting out on display. It was my favorite. It was of a bright fiery Phoenix bird flying over water with the reflection of a light blue Phoenix beneath the surface.
It was the last piece she had painted just after mother died.
I remember the day she had just finished it. I had just gotten back from my 2-week self-pity morning abroad after my mom died. The first person and only person I wanted to see was Kylie. She didn’t hear me knock so I walked in to find her standing by the window in her little art corner staring at a painting.
Aron: Hey little sis.
She jumped higher than I had ever seen her turning to see me with the biggest grin. She pulled out earbuds I hadn’t noticed and punched me in the arm pretty good before taking me into a hug.
I looked over her shoulder at the still wet canvas and just stood in awe.
Aron: This has to be my favorite piece you’ve done.
There were tears in her eyes as she stood beside me.
Kylie: It was something Gwen said to me a long time ago when she knew I was having a dark day. (Through the darkness there is always light even if you have to create it yourself).
Everyone that came to pay their respects asked in wonder where the painting came from who the artist was. But I couldn’t let that secret out, and no one knew the signature because all she used was a P. for my mother’s middle name Page and signed Murphy which was hardly legible
Miss. June: I’m so sorry for your loss Aron. She was just a lovely girl.
Aron: Thank you Miss June.
Miss June: So, do tell me who did that beautiful painting.
Aron: I’m afraid I can’t Miss June, the artist was anonymous. All I can say is it was one of her favorite pieces as well as mine.
A disheveled looking Max with more than a five o’clock shadow walks in through the door causing heads to turn and whispers to stir. Most of the people here tonight were here the night of gala and blame Max for the accident. He walks straight for the table placing a single rose down while lifting a photo of Kylie. He set it down and simply walked back out.
It was the sight of a man who has lost everything, I almost felt sorry for him. Almost.
I missed my Kylie who I still hadn’t heard from in two weeks. As if she heard me, my pre-paid phone I got for her calls only started ringing. In such a hurry to answer it, I nearly dropped it on the floor.
I said out of breath as I walked as fast as I could down the hall to my office. At first, I couldn’t hear anything. But I knew it was Kylie.
I lock the door behind me and repeat.
Aron: Yeah, it’s me.
Tears threatened to flood my eyes. The sound of her voice was like an angel.
Kylie: We made it. We’re all good.
I let out a breath of relief.
Aron: Thank god. Oh, Kylie I’ve been so worried. It’s been two weeks.
Kylie: I know I’m sorry. It’s just we wanted it to be realistic.
Aron: Well it fucking worked.
I let out a laugh which made her start laughing.
Aron: How was the trip.
Kylie: It was good. Anthony has been an amazing tour guide. He’s like a traveling encyclopedia.
I chuckle at the thought of Anthony giving a tour guide in a place like Montana with his Irish accent.
Aron: I miss you.
Kylie: I miss you to.
Suddenly I hear what sounded like someone leaning against my door. I step quietly to the door before throwing it open as quickly as I can. There’s no one there. I’m about to head back in when I hear something over on the other side of Shari’s desk. When I walk around, I’m stunned to find Shari down on the ground scrambling to put things back in her purse.
Shari: Jesus sir you scared me.
Aron: What are you doing out here?
Shari: I was just heading out but then I dropped my purse.
I lean down helping her with the last couple items.
Shari: Thank you Mr. Murphy. I’ll see you Monday.
She got up and walked quickly down the hall. Something didn’t settle right with me. The thought of anyone possibly hearing me talking to Kylie could put her in Jeopardy. But it was Shari. I turned my attention back to Kylie once I was back in my office.
Aron: You know today was your memorial service.
Kylie: Oh no I didn’t think about that kind of stuff. Must have been pretty quiet.
Aron: Actually, it wasn’t. A lot of people love and respect you.
Kylie: You’re just saying that.
Aron: No, I mean it Kylie. Everyone of your clients and all the artists you have brought in to this gallery showed up. Even Miss. June.
Kylie: What about....
I clenched my teeth and bit my tongue knowing the name she was about to say. I know it must be hard for her, that
a part of her will always love the guy she thought he was!
Aron: Yeah, he showed up, and yes, he looked terrible.
She went quiet for a moment. Then thankfully changed the subject.
Kylie: So how was it.
We talked for a good hour till I realized the time and thought I should go close things up and head home.
Aron: You need anything you call me alright.
Kylie: Yes sir.
Aron: love you sis.
Kylie: Love you bro.
I closed up got my car and was pulling out of the garage when I noticed Shari bent over leaning in the passenger window of a very familiar car. What was she doing talking to Max.? He glanced my way for a brief moment with an unreadable expression. It made me feel uneasy causing a chill to creep up my spine. I called out to Shari.
Aron: Everything alright.
Shari looked up with a flirty smile.
Shari: Everything’s fine Mr. Murphy, have a good night.
Max was watching from the corner of his eye as I reluctantly drove off. I couldn’t shake the bad feeling in my gut but I knew at the moment Kylie was safe and I would do whatever I have to keep it that way.