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NT Franklin, 24 Jul '16

Seven Days to Kill

NT Franklin

        I had seven days left to kill him. The trial started Monday. The date had been etched in my mind since September.
        I’d gone three days without listening to my babies’ voices. It was more than I could take. I grabbed my cellphone, tapped the home button. When the answering machine picked up, I listened to my three reasons for living giving a cheery greeting asking the caller to leave a message. I hung up and the number on the answering machine flashed to 64 messages. Abby was five, Janice was seven, and Rebecca was thirty-four; my whole family. All dead. All at once. Forever.
        The State Police arrested the driver. He was too drunk to crawl away from the accident. A suspended license, four previous OUI convictions, three accidents, one person crippled for life, and now my family gone. His father, a prominent businessman, spent a fortune on lawyers to keep him out of jail. Technicalities always seem to favor the wealthy.
        I am in my usual trance, going through the motions of life, gassing up my truck when I was startled back to reality.
        “You doin’ okay, Bob?” Todd asked.
        “Sure,” came the practiced reply. “I gotta move on, right? Besides, would hating him do any good? Moving on is what Rebecca and the girls would want.” I go through this routine all too regularly. “Christmas was tough this year,” I said. Tough doesn’t come close.
        “Haven’t seen much of you recently, Bob. You sure you’re doing okay?”
        “Yeah, I’m fine. Tonight I’m heading downstate for the week. I’m going down to Portland, maybe to Boston. Not sure.”
        “Be back by next Monday for the trial, I suppose?” Todd asked.
        “That’s the plan.” There was no way I was telling him, a cop, the real plan.
        I went home and stared at my favorite picture of them. Fourth of July on the beach. All smiles and full of hope for the future. I stared at it until I cried. How that man can eat and drink at the same place as before, I don’t know. Nothing has changed for him. Months of surveillance confirmed that. Monday through Thursday, eat a meal and drink until closing at the Rugged Moose Bar. Drive back to daddy’s house. This is for you, honey. That son-of-a-bitch is going to get a judge, jury, and executioner, the way my family did.
        I took off that afternoon, checking in four hours later at the Holiday Inn in Portland. That should do for an alibi. I chatted up the redheaded desk clerk and heavily tipped Andy, the tall porter. Did enough to be remembered. The ground-floor room had a sliding door outside, perfect for leaving unnoticed. I enjoyed a nice seafood meal and the best night’s sleep in months.
        It gets dark early in December. Leaving Portland the next evening still put me in The County by 10 pm. I was positioned three-quarters of a mile from the Rugged Moose Bar, aftermarket blue lights ready, wearing a rented cop uniform. Three hours to wait.
        The blue lights lit up the night. And my dashboard. Shit.
        “Yes, officer,” I said rolling the window down. It was Todd.
        “Bob, that cop costume looks like crap. Go back to Portland. I haven’t called this in, so you aren’t here. There's nothing you can do here.”
        “You know why I 'm here. Let me finish.”
        “There’s nothing to finish,” Todd said.
        “I don’t care what happens to me. This is all I have been focusing on for months. For the girls’ sake, let me finish.”
        “Bob, I said there is nothing you need to finish. We’ve known each other since high school. We both wanted the same girl. Go back to Portland. Now. Maybe you should read the paper.”
        Having no choice, I headed south to the interstate with Trooper Todd following me for over an hour and into a gas station. I filled up, bought a paper, and below the fold was the story about Troopers upping their patrols in The County. The story focused on a victim found in his car with his throat slit, near the Rugged Moose Bar. A prominent businessman put up a large reward for information leading to the arrest of his son’s murderer. There were no leads but it was thought that the dead man knew his attacker, or at least felt safe, as he had no defensive wounds. Todd nodded and gave me a knowing smile as he drove off.

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