“Ma’am try to remain calm,” the detective told her as he escorted her out of the tomb. “Let my men do their job. You will only be in the way if you go down there again.”
“He’s my husband,” Aimee cried “I have to find him. He can’t walk. His ankle is sprained. He needs help.” She felt the hysteria building up inside her despite her efforts to keep her emotions in check.
“The best thing you can do for him is let my men do their jobs.” The detective signaled for someone to take her back to the hotel.
“Ma’am if you’ll come with me,” the officer held his hand under her elbow escorting her towards the squad car. In the sunshine she could see the dried blood on her hands. Shaking she couldn’t believe this was happening. She fell to her knees retching. The officer stood a discreet distance away until she sat up. This was a nightmare Aimee thought, any minute now she was going to wake up. Gene would be beside her teasing her like he always did. He would wrap his arms around her and tell her everything would be alright.
It’s been three months since that terrible night in the tomb and Gene was nowhere to be found. Aimee sat in the airport terminal. William beside her patting her hand while they waited to board the plane back to Starlight Shores. How could she leave without him? Tears trickled down her cheeks as she thought about what the detective had told her.
“I’m sorry ma’am the case is closed. There is sufficient evidence that your husband is deceased. The amount of blood at the scene was too much for anyone to survive. We have the girl in custody. She’s admitted to dumping his boy in a well inside the tomb. There is no way of retrieving his body as she has refused to say where and some of those wells are bottomless. We simply do not have the man power to continue the search. I’m sorry.” He tried to usher her from his officer.
“Please let me talk to her. She has to tell me where Gene is,” she begged to no avail.
Leaving the detectives office lost and alone she struggled to comprehend how her life could go on. A commotion ahead of her brought her attention back to the present as the interrogation room door opened and the stalker girl was brought out. Aimee struggled to get past the officers surrounding the girl screaming “where’s my husband? What did you do to him?”
The girl smiled “you’ll never find him. He’s in the deepest pit I could find. He shouldn’t have tried to escape.” Her smile vanished replaced with one of spite “all he’d talk about was you. How much he loved you. How he had to get back to you. You spoiled everything. I’ll never tell you where he is. He’s mine and only I will know where he is.”
Screaming Aimee fell to her knees sobbing overcome with despair and grief. It was true. Gene was gone. She’d never see his eyes light up as he teased her. Never feel his arms around her giving her strength. She’d never know that feeling of being loved. It was all gone. All because of one crazy girl. If only she could die too then she’d be with him again.
She woke up in the hospital. A kindly older man smiling down at her “I’ve called your mother to come and be with you. It’s not good for you to be going through this alone.”
She stared at the man biting her tongue to keep from lashing out. Closing her eyes she chanted ‘he isn’t dead’. She wanted to scream ‘he’s alive. Needing help.’ Instead she blinked back tears mumbling “thank you.”
“You should eat something,” the man suggested “the baby needs you to get your strength back.”
“Baby?” she mumbled.
“Yes at least five weeks along,” he told her.
Putting a hand to her stomach. Five weeks. Must have happened their first night in France. Tears spilled from her eyes as she realized this was the last tie she had to Gene. The man stood up patting her shoulder sympathetically before leaving the room.
She stared up at the ceiling lying listlessly remembering how she had prayed for death. Not even the knowledge of being pregnant generated any pleasure in her. She didn’t want to live without Gene. It wasn’t fair that she’d have to live without him. His kids were robbed of his presence. They needed him. Curling up into a ball she cried out in pain. She had to pull herself together. It was bad enough the kids would grow up without a father but she couldn’t let them lose their mother as well. It wasn’t her choice any longer.
The faces of Jasmine and Stephanie flashed through her mind. They had already lost so much. Their real mom when they were born and now their dad at five years old. Ian would never have the opportunity to know his dad and learn what a wonderful person he was. How could she willingly give up on life and let him lose his mother as well? The baby growing inside her was a testament of their love. Nothing could take that away unless she willingly gave up. Sighing she sat up and began to eat the meal that had slowly grew cold and disgusting. She hadn’t eaten in days. With a full stomach and a renewed will to live she fell a sleep.
A nurse came in escorting Amelia and William into the room. “Bless her, she finally ate something.” Turning to Amelia “she hasn’t eaten anything for three days. The doctors were getting ready to start intravenous feeding for the sake of the baby.”
When the nurse collected the tray and left Amelia broke down in William’s arms. Helplessly he held her offering what comfort he could. His mind on the funeral they had yet to plan and dreading it. Where was he going to find the strength to bury another child? Looking up Amelia saw the agony in his green eyes. “Oh William I’m so sorry.” It was her turn to hold him as he sobbed on her shoulder.
“I can’t … I can’t face burying another child. I don’t have it in me to do this again. Why did this happen? He deserved so much more than this.” William collapsed in despair. “We don’t even have a body or know where he is. How could this happen? Why?”
Amelia held him as he sobbed. There were no answers. She couldn’t imagine the loss he was going through. She had never lost a child led alone two. Her baby was in the bed beside them. She could sympathize with him but she couldn’t fully understand. She hoped she never would experience that pain of loss.
Slowly William took a deep breath wiping his eyes “I’m sorry” he mumbled.
Holding his face she said “there’s nothing to be sorry for. You need to grieve for your son. If I can help by offering a shoulder to cry on than feel free anytime you need. I’m here for you.”
“Mom?” both Amelia and William turned towards the voice to find Aimee staring at them. “Did they tell you? About Gene. They say he’s dead.” With sad pink eyes she pleaded “please tell me it’s not true. Tell me it’s all a mistake.”
“Oh baby I’m so so sorry,” Amelia grabbed her before she was able to stumble from the bed. “We’re going to get you healthy again so you can go home.”
“I don’t want to go home without Gene,” She clung to her mom “I want Gene back.” She sobbed.
It was another month before the doctors agreed Aimee was able to make the flight home. She had gained some weight. At least she was back to the weight she had been when she had arrived in France three months before.
“This is where I say goodbye” William said giving Aimee a hug then Amelia.
“I wish you were coming with us,” Amelia said.
“I know but the flight is overbooked as it is,” William reminded her “Aimee needs to get home.”
“I know you’re right,” Amelia sighed “I hate leaving you alone. What if….”
“I’ll be alright. My flight is only three days from now.” William forced a smile “it’s time we get on with our lives best we can.”
Nodding Amelia kissed him one last time before taking Aimee’s arm to guide her to the plane.
William watched them until they disappeared around a corner to board their plane.
Turning he saw a young police officer running towards him “Mr Bennett?” he asked coming up to him.
“Yes can I help you?” William asked dreading the reason for why someone would be looking for him in such haste. “have you found my son?”
“Yes we think so,” he replied “my superior has asked I escort you to the morgue to…” he stopped talking as William grabbed him.
“Morgue? Did you just say morgue?” William blinked to clear his vision. His ears ringing as he fought not to faint.
“Yes sir. Sorry sir,” he looked at William “are you alright sir?”
“No I mean yes,” William muttered knowing this was what he wanted. Closure. A body to bring home to bury. But it was suddenly so real and he wasn’t ready to face it. “Did you need me to identify the…the…body?
“Yes sir,” William followed the young man who was so close in age to his own son. This couldn’t be happening William’s mind kept saying I’m not about to view and identify the remains of my son. This is not happening.
Arriving at the morgue he was shown into a room where a shrouded body lay on a gurney. “Oh Gene. This can’t be happening,” William mumbled as he approached the gurney. With trembling hands he reached out and pulled the sheet back. “Oh god no,” he cried as his eyes gazed upon the bruised and battered face of his son. Sobbing he fell upon his son his ear upon his chest. His sobs so loud he almost missed the faint ba bump, ba bump. Looking up he found the officer staring at him “get a doctor quick he’s alive.”
The young man stared at William like he had lost his mind. “The ME pronounced him dead.” He walked over to the gurney putting is fingers to Gene’s neck checking for a pulse “there’s no way that he’s…” Eyes bulging “oh god” he jerked his hand away.
“See I told you,” William said “how could your ME make such a stupid mistake?”
“I don’t know sir” the young officer mumbled looking around the room. “Have you seen the ME?” He motioned for William to be quiet as he pulled his gun out cautiously searching the room.
William barely paid attention as he focused on the miracle of finding his son alive. “Come on baby open your eyes. Open your eyes for daddy.”
Several minutes later an ambulance arrived to take Gene to the hospital. William waited impatiently for news as to Gene’s condition. He wanted to call home to let everyone know the good news but he held off just in case. Pacing the waiting room floor William couldn’t help but wonder why the ME said Gene was dead when he wasn’t? What was gained by that?
“Mr Bennett?” someone said behind him. Turning around William found a tired older man standing in front of him. “Yes?”
“I’m doctor La Fiet” he held his hand out for William to shake.
“How is my son?” William asked trying to reign in his anxiety.
Smiling the doctor escorted William to a secluded area to talk. “He’s very lucky. He has multiple broken bones in his foot and ankle that have become infected from lack of proper treatment.” He stopped considering his words.
Sensing there was something else William requested “please just tell me whatever it is your leaving out.”
“Well … from the ex-rays there is evidence that someone twisted the ankle causing the bones and ligaments to become stretched, frayed and broken. It was no doubt done in an attempt to keep him from being able to escape. However there may be permanent damage from the lack of medical care…”
“Will he be able to walk again?” William asked.
“Possibly” the doctor replied “he’ll require extensive therapy. However my main concern is the infection. Your son is very week from dehydration and malnutrition. Gangrene has already set in and if we can’t treat it there’s a chance we’ll have to amputate…”
Blood rushed from William’s head as he heard the doctor’s words. This can’t be happening. How would Gene cope with the loss of his foot? His career would be ruined…over. “Can I see him?”
“Yes. He will be out for quite a while. I will have a nurse bring you information on a doctor that specializes in trauma injuries who may be able to get your son back on his feet.”
“That is if you are able to save his foot,” William muttered.
“Yes but your son has already beaten the odds by surviving at all. There’s every reason to believe he’ll continue to do so.” The doctor walked away leaving William to contemplate his words. Pulling himself together William walked to Gene’s room. Sitting next to his son he took his hand praying for a miracle.
Moaning in his sleep Gene lay motionless on the bed unaware of his surroundings. He was so thirsty, he licked his lips for moisture. William leaned forward noticing the slight movement. He reached for the ice chips running one across Gene’s lips. Flicking his tongue out to taste the moisture Gene sensed someone was nearby. A scream built up inside him but he couldn’t form the words. He struggled briefly to free is hand from whatever had it. He calmed once his hand was free, falling into a deep sleep once again.
When Gene started to become agitated and trying to free his hand William let it drop from his grasp. He dropped his head in hands crying because he couldn’t help his son. He could only imagine what Gene had suffered. It was all too apparent that the crazy girl had been working with someone, why else would Gene still be alive?
A soft knock on the door had William sitting up. A detective entered “Mr Bennett please accept my apologies. It is unforgivable that I had closed your son’s case when I did.” He squirmed a little in embarrassment “if I had continued the investigation perhaps your son would have been found sooner.”
The detective sat down watching Gene toss uneasily on the bed beside them. “For my negligence I feel I owe you an explanation for what happened to your son.”
“I would appreciate that,” William told the man swallowing back the anger and bitterness. He wanted answers and the detective might have them.
“The girl, Christine had a troubled past. Running away, living on the streets, drugs, alcohol. She fantasized over Gene because she felt he understood her. When she met him it tipped her over the edge. She followed him and his wife everywhere. We found pictures plastered all over her apartment of them on their honeymoon. Some she had photo shopped her face into the pictures instead of Aimee’s. I believe when Gene injured himself she took the opportunity to turn fantasy into reality.” The detective looked at William “through her father she had access to drugs that would induce a deep sleep sound enough for her to drag Gene out without waking Aimee. The blood she used was taken from the morgue. It was too much for someone to have survived the loss of. The ME falsified his report stating it was Gene’s blood type and DNA. From that point on we viewed the investigation as body recovery. We had the girl and all the evidence we needed to confirm that Gene was dead.”
“But why? I don’t understand” William asked “Why would someone do that?”
Looking at William the detective asked “what would you do for your son? I’ve known Rudolph for twenty years and never knew he had a daughter. Not until I arrested her for Gene’s murder. Rudy told me he did it to protect her. He thought he’d be able to convince her to let him go. Instead she was arrested first. Rudy had a choice to make either let Gene die or release him. His conscious was bothering him. He came to see Aimee and seeing her so distraught over her husband he decided to move Gene into an area where his body could be found. I doubt he thought Gene would survive.” Standing the detective turned to leave “your son has a strong will to live. He dragged himself up out of a dark tomb. Ate god knows what to survive the weeks it took him to be found. It took a great deal of determination, strength and love to accomplish what he did.” He smiled offering his hand to William. “Remember that when the doctors are giving you their worst case scenarios of how Gene is doing. He’s here because that’s where he wanted to be and he’ll continue to put forth the same effort in his recovery. That’s who he is, a survivor.”
“Thank you,” William smiled grateful to the detective. He had been given the first ray of hope he’s had in months. He couldn’t forgive the mistakes but he could look forward to a future with his son.
Gene – Chapter 13 – Nightmare in France Part 1 / Gene – Chapter 14 – Fear and Hope Part 1