Chapter 54: Dark Passenger
Richard awoke in degrees and turned over, nearly falling out of bed. He was startled alert and then confused by the narrow mattress. His bed wasn’t this small. The room also smelled different. A warm hand closed over his, on top of the covers. Richard opened his eyes to Harriet’s concerned gaze.
“Are you alright? We got scared when you had that dizzy spell and almost fell,” she said.
Her question triggered a flood of memories. Richard suddenly realized he was still at the nursing home. Everything happened so fast. The officer had come and Rachel caused an even bigger scene, rudely ordering him to arrest the nurse for murder and demanding an autopsy. As their mother’s power of attorney, Joshua had to be the one to sign off on the request. In the end, it was the only way they could get Rachel to agree to leave. Richard saw that the exasperated officer was on the verge of slapping on cuffs and dragging her down to the police station.
Throughout the ordeal, Richard’s migraine steadily intensified. He was doing his best to help Joshua hold their sister back from swinging at the nurse, when a wave of vertigo threw off his balance. The nurse recognized in him the symptoms of a migraine. Rachel’s threats about suing the nursing home for negligence led to the nurse insisting that her brother lie down in one of the empty rooms. Joshua left to take Rachel home. They decided that when he returned, they would begin making arrangements and sign the necessary paperwork for their mother in peace.
Without Rachel to distract him, Richard finally had to face the fact that his mother was dead. How could someone that healthy and strong be gone, in the blink of an eye? On some level, he believed that she would be around until he was old and gray. When the pain allowed him to think straight, Richard had lain in that bed attempting to wrap his head around the situation. Exhaustion kept him drifting between a state of wakefulness and sleep.
Now, he looked over at his sister and their eyes filled with tears. Harriet leaned forward and lay her head on his chest. For several minutes, they gave themselves over to grief. Without Reverend Mother, they felt adrift in the world. Now, the siblings only had one another to rely upon. Harriet’s tears slowly subsided and she sat up, wiping her eyes.
“I’m glad you’re feeling better. I don’t think I can go in that room and see mom without you.”
“I know what you mean. We’ll wait for Josh to get back and the three of us will go in together.”
“Ok, I just hate to put so much on him. You know how highly strung he is. Maybe we could get something done, while he’s dropping Rachel off at her friend Gina’s house. That would be one less thing on his plate. What about mom’s belongings? We could get all of that packed up. Then, he could just put the boxes in his trunk and go through everything later.”
“I’m sure the staff would be willing to do that and let us come back and get the boxes. Other than the wedding ring on her finger, mom didn’t bring anything of value.”
“I think she brought a few…keepsakes with her.”
“I’ve never seen anything but shoes and clothes in her room. Besides, I’m sure they’ll put anything of value away for safekeeping, until we return for it.
“We should get everything now!”
The flash of anger was abrupt and so out of character, it caught Richard off guard. Their eyes met. For the second time, he saw an alien look in Harriet’s eyes. She started to look away, but he caught her chin with his fingers and turned her face back to him.
“So, you decided to come back.”
“I…what are you talking about?”
She was momentarily startled, but recovered quickly and put on a confused expression. The sly look never left the eyes. The pain in his head suddenly flared up with an intensity that momentarily blurred his vision, but Richard refused to be distracted by it.
“I saw you earlier, when we were all in mother’s room. Who are you?”
“You must have hit your head or had some sort of stroke. Don’t you recognize your own sister Richard?”
“Cut the crap! I’ve been looking into Harriet’s eyes since I was a kid and saw her soul gazing back out at me. I’m not sure what’s going here, but rest assured I will get to the bottom of it.”
Her throaty laugher caught him off guard. Richard struggled to sit up, preparing to confront her again. Joshua came bustling into the room, abruptly ending the confrontation.