Blackbird Has Spoken: Part 18
From Blackbird Has Spoken: Part 17
Ivy's agenda as she begins life over again is to plan a memorial service for Cloe.
Dr. Wong and his wife begin a new chapter in their lives as well.
Thomas Gimmler, on the other hand, is met with evil once again as Murray Stricklen seeks vengeance.
"I don't care about reimbursement, Thomas," he shouted. "So you felt bad about beating the snot of me. I would expect that of you. You're weak, Thomas. I could respect you more if you had no regrets."
"Well, I do. I took a look at myself and realized that I had become a vile monster. That realization changed me. If I was a traitor, though, it was to my wife."
"Thomas, you never came close to being a vile monster. I own that title alone. You just got lucky because I was drunk. For the first time in my life I was careless, and my guard was down. But I'm not weak like you. This is more than about you busting me and my rare bourbon up. You've been talking to the law trying to implicate me for that Ludlow girl's death. They've been on my case almost daily. Snitching, Thomas, is another sign of weakness. All these years of friendship and then you turn on me." He walked to Thomas with the gun pointed at his head.
"Come on, Murray. You'll only dig yourself in deeper. They're going to look at you first if you kill me. You'll have one more investigation."
"No, I think not. I'm out of country before they find you. Get up."
Thomas didn't move.
"I said get up." Murray jerked him up, gun still pointed at his head. "Were going to get in your car and you're going to drive."
"Where are we going?"
"A little field trip to the point of no return."
Thomas and Murray were barreling down old Highway seventeen. It was a lonely, deserted, two lane road. At first the landscape was wooded but eventually they hit wide open space. Murray told him to slow way down. "There, turn into that spot."
Thomas turned onto a deeply rutted, weed infested road. The full moon revealed an abandoned municipal air traffic control tower in the distance. They bounced up the rutted road. Murray had him turn right onto another path that led through some tall brush. They parked next to a late model, green Ford half hidden in the brush. Thomas figured it was to be Murray's get away car.
Murray dug into his backpack, pulled out a large zip tie and bound Thomas' wrists behind him. "Perfect. Let's go." He took Thomas by the elbow and guided him back toward the control tower, about a ten minute walk. Murray was soon winded, which was puzzling considering what a physically fit man he was. They didn't stop, however. They got to the tower and walked up a steep staircase. When they entered the large control room the moon shone brilliantly through the large windows. Murray was really huffing and puffing now.
"You okay, Murray?" Thomas said.
"I'm fine." He gave Thomas a strong shove toward a chair. When Thomas was seated Murray zip tied his feet. Then he got out some bottled water and guzzled. Thomas licked his lips. Murray saw it and smiled, putting the cap back on the bottle and returning it to his bag. Murray sat in another nearby chair. He still held the pistol but carelessly, not yet directing it on Thomas.
His breathing was almost back to normal. Thomas said nothing and waited, praying inside his heart for Murray, for Linda, for Dr. Wong, and for all those he'd hurt over the years. His eyes had instinctively closed.
"I'm talking to you Thomas."
He looked up. "What did you say? I was praying." As soon as he said it he knew what was coming.
"Praying? Ha! I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Most weak people pray when they know they're about to die." Murray cupped his hand to the side of his mouth and yelled. "Nobody listening, Thomas."
"I wasn't praying for myself. I'm not afraid to die, Murray. I know where I'm going. I have peace with God. But I was praying for Linda, and I was praying for you."
Murray's face contorted into rage. He began to yell and gesture, gun waving into the air. "I don't need prayer. God never did anything for me. Don't waste your breath."
Thomas asked God to give him the right words to say. "God has been on your side since before you were born, and He died for you."
"Give me a break," he shouted with bitterness. "God gave me a sadistic old man and a sniveling, groveling mother who let him do whatever he wanted to me. When he beat my back with his belt and threw me into the garden shed for a day and a night just for being ten minutes late from my paper route, my mom pleaded to be allowed to bandage my wounds. All it took was a look from my old man and a gesture and she stopped. My old man took me to the Catholic Church once a week from age five on to make confession. We never attended church but every week he hauled me off to confession. He made the confessions for me. Told the priest I was a pervert, stole my old man's beer and cigarettes and cash out of his wallet, and that I knocked my mother around. Then I was forced to admit it all to the priest. The priest would pronounce judgment. One time I went to see the priest by myself and told him my old man was making all this stuff up and making me lie. When I got home my old man was waiting. I was in the hospital for a week with three broken ribs, a broken arm, two black eyes and two missing teeth."
Thomas winced remembering how he'd beat Murray so badly.
"I don't know what he told the doctors but I heard him threatening a doctor out in the hall. They said they were calling the cops. My old man told me before they came into my room I better lie or he'd kill me. I told him, 'Go ahead.' He told me he'd kill my mom too, so I lied." Murray stood to his feet and shook his fist in the air, yelling so loud it echoed all over the expanse of the room. "Where was your God then, huh?"
"I'm sorry you had to go through that Murray. But God was there, He..."
"Shut up, Thomas."" His rage was vicious and powerful and he began to rub his chest. Thomas wanted to ask if he was okay but thought better of it, lest he aggravate him still more.
"My old man told me I'd never amount to anything. Said the only thing I was good for was taking a beating. One day he came home with some woman and kicked my mom out of the house. I never saw or heard from her again. I despised her for being so weak and yet I missed her.
"When I graduated from high school I left home and worked myself through college. Then onto medical school. When I became a doctor I went and found my old man to tell him I'd made something of myself and that all he'd accomplished was becoming an unemployed, town drunk. He took a swing at me and passed out on the floor. I never went back. I hope he dropped dead." Murray grabbed his left arm and grunted. After a moment it subsided. He pulled his bottle of water out of his backpack and guzzled again. He was short of breath again.
Thomas was alarmed that Murray was likely having a heart attack. "Murray, I think you might be having a heart attack. You need to see a doctor."
"So now you're a doctor, eh. I don't need a doctor Thomas and I don't need your prayers."
He aimed the gun at Thomas.
Linda was lying in bed at their beachfront condo listening to the wind, the waves and the rain as she tried to sleep. She wondered at a sense of foreboding that gripped her. Everything with Cal had been going well. They'd been on picnics, scenic drives, eaten in a quaint beachfront bed and breakfast, went beach combing, and professed their love for one another. Where, then, did this sense of impending doom come from? She had been feeling guilty for lying to Cal about still being married to Thomas, but this thing that gripped her gut seemed to come from some other unknown source. She tossed and turned most of the night, finally drifting off into a fitful sleep around four o'clock. The blare of her phone woke her up around eight thirty. At it's sound she thought of Thomas and the sense of foreboding attacked her again. She fought it and didn't answer her phone, waiting for it to go to voicemail. If it was Cal she could just call him right back. Still fatigued she drifted off to sleep again.
Linda was roused out of sleep an hour and a half later by a knock at the door. She looked at the clock. It was ten a.m. She was supposed to meet Cal a half hour ago for breakfast. She threw on her robe and flew to the door. It was Cal looking concerned.
"Linda, are you okay? You don't look good honey."
"I don't feel so good either. I just didn't sleep well. I meant to answer your call earlier this morning but drifted off again. I'm so sorry. Come in, Cal."
Cal stepped through the threshold. "I didn't call, Linda. I just came right over."
"Oh," she said. "I thought it might be you. I have a bad feeling about that call. Let me listen to the voice mail." Before she could access the voicemail the phone rang in her hand. She answered with a skipped breath. "H...helllo?"
"Hello, Linda. I hope I didn't wake you. This is April at the office. Listen, I was wondering if you know where Thomas is? He was supposed to be at an eight o'clock meeting with the board of directors. It was a very important meeting. It's not like him to miss something like that without calling. He rarely misses work anyway. Is he there?"
"No. Actually April, I am at our beach condo and been so the last several days. He's not here." Linda glanced at Cal who looked confused. "I'm sorry I can't help you. I hope you catch up with him. Let me know if you do."
When Linda hung up the phone she couldn't look Cal in the eyes. "I'm going to go jump in the shower and get dressed," she said, turning to go.
"Sure Linda. I'll make some coffee."
"Coffee is in the cupboard on the left," she said rushing off.
As the hot spray showered Linda it failed to relax her body or mind. What was she going to tell Cal? And where was Thomas? Her stomach knotted at the thought of him. She found herself concerned about him. She didn't want to be concerned about him. She wanted to continue this love affair and put Thomas and their marriage behind her. But she couldn't shake it off. She dressed lingeringly, not wanting to explain herself to Cal. When she could stall no longer she went out to the kitchen.
The coffee smelled good. Cal poured her a cup. "Come sit down, Linda."
"I think I'll make breakfast for us," she said nervously, keeping her back to him. On her way to the fridge Cal took her by the shoulders.
"No, Linda. I don't care about breakfast. Something's wrong and you won't look at me. It's about Thomas, isn't it? What's going on?"
Linda's shoulders slumped yet her heart raced. She sat down and continued to look down at the table. Cal reached across the table and lifted her chin to look him in the eyes. "Linda, tell me what's going on. The truth."
Tears stung her eyes. "I've not been truthful about Thomas, about our marriage. We're still married but separated. I left him and came here to think things over. But then I met you, and I...I didn't want to lose you. I haven't felt love like this in years. I was going to tell you..."
Cal looked into her eyes. Linda couldn't read him. "Linda, I don't know what to say, except I'm very disappointed you would lie to me. I don't care that you're separated, I don't want to be the other man, or be responsible for ruining any chance for Thomas and you to work things out."
Linda began to cry. "I'm so sorry. I had decided not to go back to him when I met you and I thought I'd wait and see where this was going before I told you."
"That's not the way things are done, Linda. Tell me what's happened with you and Thomas."
The phone rang again and she answered it. As she listened to the caller the color drained from her face. "Where is he? What's his condition?" She listened to the answer and said "I can be there in an hour. Thank you."
"What is it Linda?" said Cal.
"Thomas has been shot. I need to get to Mercy right away."
"You shouldn't be driving, I'll take you," said Cal.
Dr. Wong and Chaplain Bob had met for breakfast and were very concerned when Thomas didn't show up. Their calls and texts to him went unanswered. As they were leaving the restaurant Bob's phone rang. Seeing it was the hospital he picked up.
"I'll be right there," he said, and hung up. He looked at Wong. "Thomas has been shot and Murray Stricklen is dead."
"Oh no," said Dr. Wong. Both of them were in a state of shock. When they got to the parking lot Bob turned to Dr. Wong.
"Before we head to the hospital, Huan, let's pray." The men bowed their heads and stormed heaven for their friend.
Ivy and James were in the car headed for the store to pick up a few things for Aunt Gwen. Chris Tomlin was singing Amazing Grace on the Christian music station. A local news report came on when the song ended.
"Murder suspect, Dr. Murray Stricklen died today of an apparent heart attack at the abandoned municipal air traffic control tower off Highway seventeen. He was allegedly holding Mercy Hospital's administrator, Thomas Gimmler at gunpoint when he had the heart attack. Mr. Gimmler received a gunshot wound to the head, allegedly by Stricklen, but was able to to get free. Despite his best efforts at performing CPR, Stricklen could not be revived. Mr. Gimmler was able to walk to the highway where he collapsed. He was found by a motorist who called nine one one. At last report his condition was critical.
Dr. Murray Stricklen, formerly a psychiatrist at Mercy Hospital, was a murder suspect in the Cloe Ludlow case. Ms. Ludlow was struck down and killed in the underground parking lot at Mercy Hospital a few months ago. We'll bring more information as news comes in."
"Oh, Lord Jesus," Ivy cried out. "I don't know Mr. Gimmler personally, James, but I heard he cooperated with police about Dr. Stricklen. We need to pray." And pray they did.
© 2017 Lori Colbo