This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
- Dear Ellie - Part 33
Scott Branson is on a path to self-destruction, and Ellie will pay the price
We left Ellie as she deciphered Scott's secret code embedded in his supposed suicide note. Stella is fingered as the brain of the abduction ring.
It struck her as being odd and out of character for Scott. Some of the letters were slightly darker than others. She noticed the line, I'm so sorry for all the difficulty I've brought your way. I never meant for this to happen. I don’t how it all went wrong. I know I’ve caused you so much pain . . . Why was the s in the word so written heavier than the letter o? She continued on. The t and e in the word the were also darkened. The l in difficulty, the l in all, and the a in caused were all pressed harder by Scott's pen. s-t-e-l-l-a, She continued until she had deciphered Scott's entire message. "Stella betrayed us. She took your baby and murdered me. Forgive her."
Ellie's grief was redirected by her discovery of the secret message. She immediately called Sharon. "Ell, you've got to let the police know about this."
An upset Ellie responded, "You forget, Shar. The police want to arrest Scott for the crime."
"Ell, sit down." Ellie sunk deep into the recliner. "Ell, Scott's dead. They can't touch him now. If Larson is looking for a suspect, he'll be glad to hear from you. Let's take a drive down to the station."
The two drove to the police station. Larson was the first to see them. "Hello, Mrs. Branson. I'm sorry for your loss. How may I help you?"
Ellie handed him the note but was speechless. Sharon explained. For once, Larson was sympathetic as he explained his part in the investigation.
"Mrs. Branson, we suspected Stella Washington for quite some time. It was hard. She was one of our own - and she was good. I went back and watched and re-watched the video of the press conference. Mr. Branson's reactions were quite normal under the circumstances. He was believable. We suspected David Martin, but we also noticed how Washington would never pursue the arrest. She agreed he may have been involved - even got a handwriting sample, but she never really pushed the issue.
"We left clues, notes and such things for your husband to find. We knew he would eventually lead us to the guilty one. I had to paint Mr. Branson as a suspect to throw Washington off the trail.
"I'm sorry it ended this way, but your husband was, and is a hero. He stood for truth and as a silent advocate for every missing child, past, present, and future. You can be very proud of him."
Although meant to be encouraging, Ellie's heart sank deeper. She whispered to Sharon, "Take me home." She was tired, and she knew what was next - finalizing Scott's funeral plans. Sharon promised to be by her side the entire time.
Ellie awoke to the sound of rain splashing the windows. She thought it was appropriate as it matched the rain in her heart. Scott would be laid to rest in a few hours, and Ellie needed to get ready. She dressed, applied her makeup and headed for the funeral home. Her family and friends would meet her there.
The long line of people made its way through the parlor and over to the chapel where Pastor Johnson would give the eulogy. Old college friends had come together with those from the high school where Scott once taught. Childhood friends appeared in numbers. Folks from the church filled in the line along with a few from the gym.
Pastor Johnson began, "Scott finally received the honor he deserved. He was willing to endure the shame as a suspect in his own daughter's abduction case. He was ridiculed and condemned by most who knew him. but he chose to put his own life in danger and investigated his daughter's disappearance in the hopes of finding the daughter he was accused of taking. He gave the ultimate sacrifice - his life but also discovered the truth.
"2,000 years ago another man endured similar circumstances. His name was Jesus. He endured the false accusations of the religious institutions of the day. He faced the shame and indignities of a brutal execution. He also made the ultimate sacrifice as He laid down His life for mankind.
"His mission - to reunite a lost human race with the God who created them. All He asks is for you to accept that sacrifice in your stead and follow Him. You see, it was the very blood of God Himself that fell from the cross. It was the innocent for the guilty. The sinless for the sinner. The creator for His creation. Scott recognized Jesus for who He is, God, the Savior of all mankind. But it is a choice. Won't you take Him today? That's what Scott would want."
For those who made the choice to follow Christ, Scott's death was not in vain.
Next, it was Ellie's turn to speak. She shakily walked to the microphone. She took a deep breath. This was something she really didn't want to do, but she did it for Scott. Struggling, she began to speak. "Four years ago. my little girl went missing. I was scared. I didn't know what to do. Like many others, I blamed Scott for what had happened. I trusted people - the wrong people. The very one I trusted was the one responsible for my daughter's disappearance - Stella Washington. I believed a lie.
"I know the truth now. God used these very painful circumstances in my life to lead me to Himself, and I've come to learn that God is always good. the bad things that so often take place are not of God but rather of man's sinful nature. We cause our problems because we are far away from God. God has allowed these circumstances in my life, but He did not cause them.
"Scott's final request of me was to forgive the one who took our daughter and eventually murdered him. I honestly don't know if I can do that right now, but with God's help and God's grace, I will find a way."
The procession made its way to the cemetery as the rain continued to pour. The dark clouds reflected the mood of the day, but Ellie knew that at some point, the skies would clear. She'd be whole again.
The rain tapped lightly on the tent covering Scott's grave as Pastor Johnson spoke once again. The wind picked up slightly drawing Ellie's attention to her right. Three people stood watching from a distance. A woman pointed at Ellie, and one of the other two ran toward her.
Not to be distracted, Ellie turned again to Pastor Johnson and his words of encouragement. But she was distracted - as a little girl was pulling at her dress. A little older now, but the face was still the same. It was the face of Carrie Branson.
Pastor Johnson's closing speech was interrupted as those around Ellie realized what was happening. Ellie held Carrie tightly as they embraced for the first time in over four years. It all happened so fast. Only seconds passed until Ellie glanced in the direction of the other two. Impossibly, they both disappeared from sight. They simply were not there.
Still holding Carrie close, she whispered in her ear, "Sweetie, who was that lady who brought you here?"
Between sobs of joy, Carried answered, "She said her name was Rosie Spenser. She was a nice lady."
"And, Honey, who was that little girl you were with?"
"Oh, that was Alise! She was nice, too. She'd come and play with me when I was lonely. When I felt better, she'd go back to Heaven until the next time I was missing you. I asked her to please help me find my mommy. That's when she got Rosie and brought me here. I missed you so much."
The years came and went. Slowly, Ellie was able to put the pieces of her life back together, but a sadness still hovered over her.
It was long overdue. The pile of leaves in the backyard needed to be gathered into the burn barrel and burned. Ellie began the task. Once the leaves were gathered, Ellie returned to the house and grabbed a lighter and Scott's note. She walked slowly back to the burn barrel.
She breathed in deep the autumn air and looked up into a gorgeous September sky filled with blue and an occasional white, puffy cloud. She spoke softly to no one in particular, "Stella Washington, I forgive you."
She flicked the lighter once and placed the corner of Scott's note in its flame. Once the paper began to burn, she placed in on top of the leaves in the burn barrel and returned to the house.
Ellie sat at the dining room table staring out through the French doors as a gentle, September breeze filled the room. Autumn’s golden garb was just beginning to clothe the mountains in the distance.
© 2018 William Kovacic