(This story started here.)
I had no idea what to do. I squeezed Sharon’s arm and told her I was going to get help. She didn’t react and I stood up on the cold wooden floor.
I wasn’t about to go out in the hall in my T-shirt and boxers, so I wrapped myself up in the blanket and hurried out, nearly tripping over the edge of the blanket in my haste.
I went down the hall to the main bedroom and knocked on the door. “Craig? Will? There seems to be something wrong with Sharon.”
There was no response, so I pushed open the door and looked in.
One brother was lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, motionless. He was alone in the room. I felt my heart pounding. “Craig?” I said, and then I suddenly couldn’t remember which brother was the clean-shaven one. “Will?”
He slowly turned his head toward me, exactly as Sharon had, with the same dismal expression.
Okay, he wasn’t going to help. Where was Craig? Or Mr. Bostwick might know what to do — he lived with them, after all.
The other door in the upstairs hall was locked, so I went downstairs.
I found them in the living room.
Mr. Bostwick was on the floor, next to his wheelchair, and Craig was near him, also on the floor, also covered in blood.
I held the door jamb to keep from falling. I slowly sank to my knees, still holding on. I told myself that I needed to do something, since I was clearly the only person in the house capable of doing anything.
I tried to remember where the phone was, but instead I remembered that U-town didn’t have telephones. What did they do in emergencies?
Then it came to me, remembering something Sharon had said once. I got to my feet and stumbled to the front door. Next to the door, beside the coat rack, there were three nails, each holding a whistle on a string. I took one, opened the door, stepped out onto the stoop, and blew as hard as I could.
I stood there for a moment, holding onto the doorknob for support, thinking about how the front door had not been locked, wondering if I was supposed to blow the whistle in a specific way, and wondering what time it was. After dawn, but still early, I thought.
There wasn’t anybody on the street, though a couple of people looked out their windows at me. At least they didn’t yell at me to stop making noise.
I guess they knew, or assumed, that something serious was going on. I considered blowing the whistle again, but then someone appeared at the corner and pedaled toward me on a bike.
She looked like she was about fifteen as she jammed on her brakes and skidded to a stop in front of me. She clearly saw how shaken I was because she said quietly, “What’s the problem, miss?”
“Sir,” I said, belatedly clutching the blanket more tightly around me. “I mean, you don’t have to call me…” I stuck out my hand. “I’m Mike. Michael.”
“Oh, uh, sorry.” She suddenly looked much younger as she tried to find some reason to look at something on the deserted street besides me.
She swallowed after a second, obviously still trying to figure out what to say. “I need help,” I said. I gestured inside the open door. “There’s been a murder… I mean–”
“Oh,” she said. She obviously had no idea what to do, and I wondered if I’d have to end up helping her rather than the other way around.
Then there was a short blast on a whistle from the corner, and a couple of teenagers ran up. “SVs,” one of them said, then he caught my expression and clarified, “Security Volunteers. What’s the problem?”
Once I said the word “murder” again, things started to move quickly. The girl on the bicycle, one of U-town’s “runners” that Sharon had told me about, was dispatched to the hospital, to get medical assistance and then to notify Jan Sleet. The two security volunteers came in and checked the bodies, and then they asked me to stay out of the living room. One remained in there, and the other waited out on the stoop.
They asked no questions, which surprised me until I figured out that it was because Jan Sleet, the great detective and U-town’s most famous citizen, was coming. She’d be asking the questions.
I sat on the stairs to the second floor for a moment. I was feeling woozy, but I took a deep breath and told myself firmly that I barely knew Craig or Mr. Bostwick, or even Will. My responsibility was to Sharon.
II climbed the stairs and went back into our room. Sharon hadn’t moved, as far as I could tell, and her eyes were still staring at nothing.
She didn’t react as I sat next to her on the narrow bed. I reached down, gently pulling her up so that I was holding her to me. “Sharon,” I said softly, “I’m sorry I took so long downstairs. I need to tell you something, though. It won’t take long.”
I was holding her close so that she was looking over my shoulder and I was looking over hers. Some things are easier to say when you can’t see somebody’s face.
“Back when I was in high school,” I began, “There was a period of time when I didn’t want to get out of bed. I just couldn’t face one more day of… things being the way they were. I didn’t know what the problem was — not then — but I just wanted to stay in bed.
“My mother came in one morning and she said, ‘Listen, you have to get up, every day, and face the day. Otherwise the day wins.’ She didn’t know what was wrong, and she didn’t… she wasn’t harsh about it or anything. She just…”
I felt Sharon shift in my arms, and I leaned back to look at her face. She looked a little more like herself — I could see the beginnings of a skeptical frown. I couldn’t help smiling for a second. “I know,” I said, “It doesn’t mean anything, but you have to do it anyway. Jan Sleet is coming, and there will be an investigation.”
She nodded slowly. “You’re right. It’s what we have to do.”
This had been my plan, to use the story about my mother to get her attention, and then to give her the argument that I knew would convince her — civic responsibility. She took that very seriously, and I knew from the conversation at dinner the night before that her brothers did also.
She started to sag down toward the bed again, and I could tell that this was physical rather than emotional weakness.
“I’ll help you,” I said. I looked at her clothes from the day before, which were folded on top of her suitcase on the floor. “Do you want me to…” I gestured towards the bedroom that she shared with her brothers.
She shook her head. “Yesterday’s clothes will be fine.”
This showed how distraught she was, since ordinarily she always put on fresh clothes in the morning.
It took some effort to get her dressed, and she helped as much as she could. She didn’t bother with a bra, and I lent her a pair of clean underwear, and eventually we were done. She was sitting down and I was standing, and she reached for me — I thought for an embrace — but she took the bottom of my T-shirt and started to pull it up.
I expected to feel panic. I’d never been naked in front of her, but there was no panic. We were apparently beyond that now. She took off my T-shirt and boxers, and then she helped me with the complicated process of getting me dressed for the day.
I had my arm around Sharon as I opened the door to the hall, and Will was there, leaning on the doorjamb.
“You were right,” he said, putting his hand on my shoulder. “We have to do this. Thank you for reminding us of our responsibility.”
We moved toward the stairs together.
More to come…