BREAK AND ENTER: SURPRISE PARTY (Part 4)
His grandpa once told him, "If you want to be of help in a time of crisis, don't say, 'Call me if there is anything I can do,' Instead jump in and do something--take them food, cut the grass, run errands--anything you see that needs to be done."
Knowing Roxy was exhausted and fragile, Mel forgot his shyness and took charge.
Pointing to his legal pad he said, "Roxy, if you approve, here's what we're going to do. 1. I'll punch in all the calls. 2. I'll hand the phone to you, you'll introduce me. 3. I'll relate what's happened. 4. You'll add a few words and hand the phone back to me. 5. I'll say, 'It's been a long day for Roxy and she still has a lot more calls to make. The memorial service and wake will probably be at my place, the Harbor Cove Supper Club on Labor Day. I'll put the details on my web-site. Please come if you can.' "
"Sounds like a good plan."
"It should go fast. We can be done in an hour or two."
Ninety minutes later, they'd completed the phone calls and responded to a number of messages--all loose ends she wasn't ready for. "The devil is in the details," her mother used to say, "when you are overwhelmed, the simplest things are difficult." Her words had never felt more true.
* * * * * * *
Mel's daughter showed Roxy to her suite. It was breathtaking. So was the view from the log veranda overlooking the bay. She loved her little summer place tucked in the woods, but it could close in on her at times, and that was the last thing she needed in the midst of her grief. Being here, with Mel and Betsy in close proximity, was far better.
Like her father, Betsy couldn't have been nicer. The genetic similarities were striking. So were their personalities. They were both as nice as they were good looking. "I wonder what makes them like that," she mused aloud, "or does it all boil down to what Shakespeare said--'that nothing is good or bad--only thinking makes it so.' "
Suddenly the memory of Bubba came to her uninvited. It'd been two years since their divorce. The day it was final he vowed to kill her if she ever took up with anyone. Now, with her dad gone, there'd be no one left to stop him. Then too she wondered. Would the bastard claim he had rights in the joint stock Mac had given them as a wedding present? "Not going to happen," she swore aloud, "It'll be a cold day in hell."
The phone rang. It was Betsy. "Hey, I forgot to tell you. I left a suitcase for you outside your door. There's some things I thought you might need until we can get you back to your cabin."
"Thanks. I was wondering how I was going to clean up. "
"It's the least we can do. Others did for us . . . when my mom died."
"Oh, I didn't know. I'm so sorry . . . "
"It's been awhile now. We got through it. But now, it's you who needs the arm to lean on. I gotta believe, you're like I was, fragile. You'll need to conserve your strength for the days ahead."
"Yes, I'm sure your right."
"Well, we're here for you. Don't hesitate to ask. Anything, anything at all, let us know."
* * * * * * *
Venturing out into the hall, she investigated the contents of Betsy's suitcase. Finding a one size fits all swim suit and white terry cloth robe, she put them on and walked down the corridor to the elevated tiled tub where she immersed herself into the warmth and let the jet streams sooth her aching body.
Her head jerked. She'd almost fallen asleep. The memory of a distant relative nearly drowning in a hot tub was enough to bring her out of her stupor. Even though part of her wished she could join her dad, she knew that wasn't the answer. "Dad's got to be buried and his business needs running," she mumbled, "and maybe someday I'll get lucky and fall in love with a nice guy like Mel. Who knows?"
Pulling herself out of the tub she laid down on a nearby chaise. The music from the lounge below soothed and comforted her. It made things seem almost normal--a subliminal message saying "Life goes on and you will be okay."
Dozing off she dreamed of Daddy Mac back when he'd been a big time coach with the Chicago Bears. She was a little girl playing along the shores of Lake Michigan in downtown Chicago. He was showing her how to kick a football when good old Bubba, a former NFL quarterback, tried to tackle her. "Run with the ball. Keep it," Mac told her, "Make me proud of you baby."
The phone woke her up. It was Crystal, her psychic cousin. "I hope I didn't wake you."
"You did, but its okay. I was dreaming and glad to get away."
"Was it one that frightened you?"
"Not exactly, but it was eerie. I'm too tired to tell you tonight. Another time."
"It's a good sign Roxy. Go back to sleep. I'll call you in the morning."
She'd no sooner hung up and her phone rang again. It was a text message from Mel, "Call me if you need anything. I'm right next door."
It was tempting to call him. She was getting a headache and was afraid it'd go into a severe migraine if she didn't get her medication. Instead she called his daughter and explained.
"Don't worry about a thing. I know the pharmacists in town. I'll give him a call."
Fifteen minutes later, Betsy called her back. "My pharmacists hasn't called back. Do you have any of your medication at the cabin?"
"Not at mine, but I think there is an old bottle at Mac's office, one I left there when I was helping him out last year."
"Hang in there. I'm calling Dad. He needs to take you there. This is no time for a migraine."
* * * * * * *
Twenty minutes later, Roxy was sitting next to Mel headed for her dad's office.
It was past midnight when they approached her dad's old log cabin office perched on a hill deep in the forest. From the highway, Roxy could see that the lights in the windows--the amber lights Mac always left on day and night--were dark.
"Maybe dad blew a fuse. He never did upgrade to circuit breakers."
"I have a flashlight, we'll find out."
* * * * * * *
Leaving her rocking in the moonlight on the front porch swing, Mel beamed his light around the room. Someone had broken in. He shut the door so Roxy wouldn't see the ransacked room.
"There might be a skunk inside. We'd better not corner him and get sprayed. Wait for me in the car until I'm sure it's safe."
He hated to lie to her but he didn't know what else to say. Besides, it wasn't exactly a lie. Something did smell. Stepping back into the cabin, he called 911 to let them know what he'd found. They said if it wasn't an emergency, they'd have to delay coming out. They were swamped. "Mel," the sheriff growled, "You know how it is when the full moon is out. All the weirdo's in the county come out of hiding. But we'll get to you later or check with you in the morning."
Walking back on the porch, he saw Roxy half way down the path. She hollered back, "Look in his medicine cabinet. I think my pills are in there." Seconds later he heard a blood curdling scream.
* * * * * * *
He found her lying on the ground next to the car unconscious. Again, he called 911. "We need help. Right now. My friend's ankle is twisted and there's--oh my God--her neck is bleeding"
Before he could say anymore, he looked down and saw his cell either had no signal or had lost its charge.
"Roxy . . . Roxy . . . I should have never left you alone . . . wake up . . . come back to me."
Moaning she opened her eyes. Twigs snapped and leaves rustled. It was obvious they were not alone. Huddled on the ground Mel cautioned, "Be quiet my darling." They froze as they listened to the noises fade. When they heard a car start and take off down the road they took a deep breath and hugged each other.
"Roxy, whoever it was has left."
"Mel. I didn't see him or recognize his voice, but he must be a guy mixed up with Bubba. My ex. When he held the knife to my throat, he told me I needed to sign over the joint stock to my husband--that a lot of money was owed and he planned to collect, one way or another. That he'd take it out on my hide if I didn't co-operate."
"I'm getting you out of here," he told her, "to the hospital."
But they weren't going anywhere. Not only was Roxy's ankle sprained, all four tires were slashed. Picking her up he carried her inside the cabin and laid her down on the big log sofa that dominated the room. Covering her neck with his handkerchief and the rest of her with the quilt back of the sofa, he left for the bathroom to look for antiseptic, washcloths and her migraine pills.
He found them all and a glass of water. "Take this. I'm going to go see if I can get us some light."
"The fuses are in the utility room next to the fuse box."
Within minutes they had lights, but not wanting Roxy to see the ransacked office, he quickly turned off the ones near the mess as he dropped his shoes and collapsed next to her. Holding her tight in a spooning position he reassured her. "It's okay darling, we're safe for now. He's gone. I'm here and I'll protect you. Go to sleep."
Despite his good intentions, the warmth of her beautiful round bottom against his loins aroused him. Now he had a new worry--that she'd wake and feel him pressed hard against her--be afraid.
Forcing himself to think about his first wife, he was able to control his wanting and finally dozed off. He awoke to a bleeding burly man in a ski mask hovering over them with a Franken Rifle. "Do her!" he laughed pointing his rifle at Mel's zipper. "Do her good. I'm gonna stand here and watch."
Roxy screamed. "Bubba. Is that you! "
"It's him!" Sheriff Hatfield yelled as he burst through the door with his deputy.
"Drop your rifle and get your hands up . . . "
"I'm shot, help me . . . " he said crumpling to the floor.
"You'll get help.There's an ambulance on the way, and in the rear of it is your injured partner. He said he shot you, but it was in self defense."
"Read me my rights . . . I got rights."
The sheriff rambled through them mechanically as he tried to stop the bleeding.
"Roxy," Bubba moaned as he reached out for her, "I'm sorry for all the stuff I did to you. Can you ever forgive me?"
Kneeling down besides him she soothed his brow. "I do Bubba. I do. Rest now."
Closing his eyes, he passed out just as the ambulance arrived and the emergency medical technicians ran in with their stretcher.
With a stethoscope dangling from his neck, the senior EMT kept fiddling with his monitors. As he removed the ski mask he looked up at the sheriff and shook his head.
Sheriff Hatfield put his hand on Roxy's shoulder and patted her head.
"He's gone, Bubba's gone. Your troubles are over."
To Be Continued: Part 5