Wednesday 23 – Thursday 24 September 2015
Crime scenes, dead bodies, slimebag suspects, none of these things bothered Beth, but her inability to discover the truth about her family was a different story. She gazed at the wall in her study. Years of research and investigation had garnered hundreds of pages of information, much of which was pinned or taped to the study wall. Red string linked photos to locations on a map of the town or incident reports that Beth had been able to dig up from the police archives. She focussed on a mug shot she’d found of Lonnie Corwin, and traced his face with her index finger.
‘What happened to you, Lonnie Corwin, that made you turn out so bad?’
* * * * *
The house was quiet. When Lonnie had arrived home from school nothing seemed out of the ordinary. The horses were grazing in the paddock out the back, the dogs were hiding from the heat by laying in the shade of the oak tree near the barn, and his father had left the front door off the latch so that Lonnie could beat a hasty retreat inside from the scorching afternoon sun.
‘Dad, I’m home,’ Lonnie called out as he locked the front door, and wandered through to the kitchen. He threw his schoolbag on the kitchen table, and opened the fridge door expecting to see the after school snack that his father always prepared for him. There was no snack.
Lonnie looked around the kitchen for evidence that his father had been busy whipping up his snack. It was spotless. Lonnie doubted that his father had been anywhere near the kitchen since they’d had breakfast.
‘Dad? Are you home?’ he called out. He took a single step towards the door, and listened intently for his father’s reply, but only silence echoed back. ‘Dad? I’m home.’
Still getting no reply, Lonnie slowly left the kitchen, and walked up the stairs. He stopped at the top of the staircase, and listened again. The house was silent and still aside from Lonnie moving about. He crept down the hall towards his father’s bedroom. The door was closed, but more alarming for Lonnie was the fact that he could not hear his father’s snoring. If the old man had been in the house, it was possible that he was asleep, but without hearing any snoring, Lonnie became concerned.
He gently tapped on the bedroom door, and waited. A second time, and a little louder, Lonnie tapped on his father’s bedroom door.
‘Dad? Can I come in? Are you okay?’ he asked.
* * * * *
‘Neighbours found Corwin, 12, sitting on the edge of his father’s bed at around nine on Thursday night. It is the belief of the sheriff that Henry Corwin, 59, had suffered a heart attack earlier in the day.’ Beth pinned the latest piece of evidence she’d uncovered on the study wall. ‘You poor little guy, sitting with your dead father all that time. That’d be enough to freak out anyone.’ She finished reading the article, tracing each line of words with her finger. ‘But still, it’s not enough to send you over the edge.’
Talking to yourself again, Beth? That’s not a good sign at all.
Beth looked to her right. Anyone else standing in the room wouldn’t have see a soul other than Beth, but she saw Lonnie. He was all grown up, and looked just as he did in the last mug shot ever taken of him.
‘You never told me that your dad died, and that you sat with him for hours after you got home from school that day.’
I can’t tell you anything, Beth. I’m not real. I’m a figment of your imagination that just happens to be based on your father. I’m not really here. Hell, I’m not even a ghost.
Beth dropped to her knees, and then rolled on to her side. More often than not since she’d started investigating her father and his family, she spent her nights in a foetal position on the floor of the study. Tonight would be one of those nights.
* * * * *
‘Dad?’ Lonnie whispered. ‘Dad, are you okay? Please . . . wake up.’ He shook Henry by the shoulder. The old man stared at the ceiling, eyes and mouth open but not seeing or breathing. ‘Who’s going to look after me now?’
. . . To be continued . . .