the sister mystery (epilogue)

This story started here.


When we got back to the hotel, all the procedures having been followed and all the paperwork having been completed, the sky was starting to get light.

Ron had wanted to come with us to capture Trainor, but I had told her firmly that she was not going to be there. She had made a face, but she didn't argue and she didn't try to sneak out and follow us. She'd sat cross-legged in the center of our bed, prepared to wait all night if necessary for our return.

When we came back, she was lying on the bed, curled up, on top of the covers, still fully dressed, and sound asleep.

Before waking her, I stepped quickly into the bathroom and removed the protective vest I'd worn, just in case Trainor had gone after me with his knife. I didn't want Ron to think too much about the very real danger that we'd been in. Our thought had been that if he moved to attack either of us, it would have been me. I was the one blocking the door, and he wouldn't have wanted to have me behind him if he attacked my employer. So I'd been prepared, but we'd hoped that it would go pretty much as it had.

I sat on the bed as my employer hung up her jacket and tie and unbuttoned her vest. Ron blinked a couple of times and I squeezed her shoulder. "We're back," I said quietly.

She nodded as she sat up and rubbed her eyes. "Okay," she said, yawning. "What happened?"

I gave her the very short version. As I talked, she slid over to sit on the edge of the bed next to me, and Jan sat next to her. Ron nodded as I finished the story. She liked it when her mother's cases were solved, since it confirmed her idea that her mother could figure out anything, but she wasn't usually interested in the details. Apparently not even when the victim had been her sister.

Jan and I had talked as we'd walked back from the hospital, and we had decided not to try to have the conversation with Ron about her unprovoked attack on her sister right then, mostly because we were too tired. We did end up having it the next night, but we did not win her over to our position.

"Ron," Jan said when I had finished telling the story, "we're going to get some sleep now, but there is one other thing. We have your sister's suitcase. Do you want any of her clothes?"

She shuddered. "No," she said.

"I didn't think so. I'll donate them downstairs. There are two other things." She got up and took a photograph from her jacket pocket. "Do you want this?" She handed it to Ron.

It was a family snapshot, maybe taken on their trip to the city. The parents were blond and tall, and Tracy was blond and pretty, and they were standing on a street corner, smiling at the camera.

Ron was standing at the side, making a face that was probably intended to be a smile. Her clothes were shabby, her hair was brown and bushy, her body language was awkward, and she looked like she'd wandered into the frame by mistake.

"There's also this," Jan said, holding out a small stuffed animal.

Ron took it carefully, her mouth set and determined not to cry. She examined it, saying very quietly, "It's Mister Bunny."

My wife restrained her pedantic urge to point out that "Mister Bunny" was not in fact any sort of bunny at all. He appeared to be a rather bedraggled donkey. He'd probably started out with fur, but by now it was all worn down to the bare fabric.

Ron held this object in her hands, but she clearly couldn't figure out what to do with it. She wanted to clutch it to her chest and cry, but that was not an option. She looked around, then she got up and went to our trophy shelf.

My employer and I had traveled extensively before settling in U-town. We had mostly traveled light, often under difficult conditions, so we hadn't collected a lot of mementos along the way. A couple of times we'd had to leave treasured items behind in favor of escaping with our skins intact, so we'd learned not to get too attached to anything. But we had managed to hold onto a few keepsakes, and they were now displayed on a small shelf in our room.

Cradling Mister Bunny in the crook of one arm, Ron reached up to the shelf and carefully moved things around in order to make some room. She reached up and slid Mister Bunny into the empty space. He had lost a bit of stuffing somewhere along the line and she had to work to get him to sit up straight. "Is that okay?" she asked when she was done.

"Of course," I said as she came back to sit with us again.

"Ron," Jan said, "I think your sister wanted to make peace with you. That's the only reason I can think of for her to bring Mister Bunny to you."

Ron shook her head. She picked up the photograph and tore it down the middle. "No fucking way," she said. She tore it again and dropped it into the wastebasket. She picked up her Red Cross bag and said, "I'm gonna go get the mail."

She was not in a mood to be hugged, but I hugged her anyway, holding her tight until she sighed and hugged me back. Then she went off to collect the mail.

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The End

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About Anthony Lee Collins

I write.
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