Branded

If you are new to Darlene’s Story, here’s the gist:  Darlene Whitman always heard that you can pick your friends but not your family.  She realizes the lie in this statement when nosy eighty-two-year-old neighbor, Myrtle Crawford, insists on helping unravel the mystery behind the disappearances of her husband and father.  Darlene discovers her father’s involvement in illegal cancer drug testing, which is also linked to her husband’s courier business.  Her ties to Myrtle are more complicated than she thought, and now, she must piece together the truth before it’s too late to save either of them.

And now, for the next segment in the story:

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After donning the disguise of all disguises, Darlene couldn’t get a word out of Myrtle Crawford.  She claimed that even when they weren’t there, they could hear everything in her private hospital room.   Darlene wished she could bust Myrtle out of that hellish prison, but couldn’t.   The sick act wasn’t an act.

Darlene felt the burn of curiosity when her thoughts drifted to the folded papers in her bag.  Just because Myrtle couldn’t talk didn’t mean she couldn’t communicate.  She’d clearly expected Darlene would find a way to get there, because she’d spent her days in the hospital writing, and then hiding the pages when nurses, doctors, or FBI agents came into the room.

Darlene kept her hands on the steering wheel, rented car pointed east, for no other reason than her instinct said west so she did the opposite.  When she hit the Albuquerque city limits, Darlene finally felt far enough away.  At four in the afternoon, Little Anita’s wasn’t busy, despite being located right off the I-40.  The sole waitress on shift shuffled her to a booth in the back of the restaurant.  Maybe her desire for privacy was that obvious.

Sipping on a Diet Coke- Darlene would never drink that- she ordered a smothered burrito and then carefully pulled the tri-folded papers from her bag.  In her acquired paranoid state, she looked around to make sure no one watched before opening Myrtle’s letter.

Tears involuntarily slipped from her eyes when she finished reading.  She tried to stop them with a swipe from the back of her hand, but it did no good.  Myrtle provided more evidence that Darlene’s father was a thief and possible murderer and her dead husband, Scott, the ultimate liar she’d never be able to confront in this life.

This left Darlene with a brand she couldn’t hide.  A criminal’s daughter and a liar’s wife is what her heart knew.  It became her, no matter what clothes covered her.

All because of the experimental cancer drug, MEG42A1.

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TrifectaPicture11-1This is my response to the Trifecta weekly challenge, which is to write a 33 to 333-word response (mine is 333) using the following word/definition:

BRAND (noun):  (a)(1) : a mark made by burning with a hot iron to attest manufacture or quality or to designate ownership ; (2) : a printed mark made for similar purposes : trademark; (b)(1) : a mark put on criminals with a hot iron; (2) : a mark of disgrace : stigma <the brand of poverty>

If you want to read other responses, or try the challenge yourself, click on link above to view Trifecta’s site.  Happy writing (and reading!)

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This continuation of Darlene’s Story is still in Darlene’s point of view.  Click here for Darlene’s Story page if you want to read the entire piece.  Thanks for stopping by!

Incognito

Darlene checked her reflection in the rearview mirror after snagging a shaded space in the hospital’s north lot.  She almost didn’t recognize herself with the sandy blonde hair and green eyes.  The bangs made her even more a stranger, as she hadn’t worn them since 1999.  Her best friend, Jen, masterminded the disguise, right down to the skinny jeans and floral t-shirt.  She blinked several times, still grossed out by wearing borrowed cosmetic contacts.  When she balked, Jen had said, “do you want to rot in a jail cell wearing unflattering wide stripes?”  Darlene doused them in extra saline before inserting.

She felt ridiculous about her paranoia as she concentrated on not toppling over in 4-inch heels- also borrowed from Jen.  The idea was to not dress “Darlene,” and any shoe with a raised heel was definitely not Darlene.  She strolled to the information desk and asked for Myrtle Crawford’s room, claiming to be her niece just in case they limited visitors to family.  Without any verification, the volunteer surrendered the room number.

On the third floor, Darlene rounded the corner to the east wing.  She halted at the sight of two officers outside Myrtle’s door.  Panic took form in caught breath, pounding heart, and the distracting trickles of sweat sliding down her sides.  Her mind had refused to grasp the danger of coming here- until she spotted the two dark uniforms and gold shield badges.  Her gaze settled on the weapons dangling from their duty belts.  She took a deep breath and exhaled slowly.

“Hey-a, fellas,” Darlene said as she approached the door.

On officer blocked her way.  “You can’t go in there, ma’am.”

“I-I’m her niece.  Please… ya’ll have to let me see my aunt.”

“Evie, honey, is that you?” a weak voice asked from the other side of the door.

“It’s me, Auntie!”

The officers exchanged glances.  The one in front of the door narrowed his eyes, studying her face.  “Go on,” he finally said, stepping aside.

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This is my response to the Trifecta weekly challenge, which is to write a 33 to 333-word response (mine is 332) using the following word/definition:  GRASP: (verb) -to lay hold of with the mind:  comprehend

If you want to read other responses, or try the challenge yourself, click here to view Trifecta’s site.  Happy writing (and reading!)

Once again, this is a community-voted challenge, which means that readers have the opportunity to vote on their three favorites by visiting Trifecta’s site after the challenge closes on Thursday, at 8PM Eastern time.

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This continuation of Darlene’s Story is still in Darlene’s point of view.  Click here for Darlene’s Story page if you want to read the entire piece.  Thanks for stopping by!

Tenuous Ties

Darlene checked into a run-down motel that she wouldn’t normally consider, in case anyone came looking for her.  She had been puzzled by the front desk clerk’s “hourly or nightly” question.  However, upon seeing a scantily clad, heavily decorated woman and a suited man enter the next room, she pieced it together.  The noises seeping through the paper-thin walls confirmed the nature of business conducted.  Consequently, she decided avoiding the bed would be in her best interest.

She huddled at the small desk, curtains drawn, door double-bolted, and lights dimmed.  The papers from Myrtle’s safety deposit box were spread on the desktop.  Darlene cupped her hands over her ears to muffle the grunts and groans from next door.  Finally, fifteen minutes later, she was blessed with silence when her neighbors left.

One of the pages caught her eye.  She recognized the Medical Enterprises of Grayhawk logo.  Her mom had gone there for her cancer treatment.  A few weeks ago, Darlene read in the Arizona Republic that early clinical trial results earned Grayhawk a large federal grant.  Darlene went numb as her eyes scanned the paragraphs.  Myrtle had cancer.  Behind the letter, she found a handwritten page.  She recognized Myrtle’s shaky penmanship.

She read through the letter twice and dropped it on the desk.  She shook her head.  It couldn’t possibly be true.  Myrtle claimed that Medical Enterprises of Grayhawk injected healthy patients with an aggressive form of cancer to gather more treatment data.  A European competitor, Sidney-Talbot, also had promising trial results, and Darlene knew being the first to market meant billions of dollars earned before patents expired.

Still, Darlene couldn’t buy the weak claim that her father, Andrew Moritz, injected Myrtle with cancer as retribution.  Retribution for what?   Her father had been a sales rep for New Way Pharmaceutical for twenty years, but that had nothing to do with Grayhawk.

Darlene needed more.  She needed Myrtle’s help.

New occupants entered the room next door.

Darlene decided to leave immediately.

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TrifectaPicture11-1This is my response to the Trifecta weekly challenge, which is to write a 33 to 333-word response (mine is 330) using the following word/definition:

WEAK (adj): not factually grounded or logically presented <a weak argument>

If you want to read other responses, or try the challenge yourself, click on the tricycle picture to view Trifecta’s site.  Happy writing (and reading!)

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This continuation of Darlene’s Story is still in Darlene’s point of view.  Click here for Darlene’s Story page if you want to read the entire piece.  Thanks so much for stopping by!

Closing In

Shoved into Myrtle’s back yard with two FBI agents at the front door, Darlene felt the panic of a child still searching for the perfect hiding spot when the seeker just counted, “twenty-three!”

“Just a minute.  My knee’s bothering me.”

Darlene smiled.  She heard Myrtle’s exaggerated shuffle and knew she was stalling.

For a split-second, Darlene contemplated climbing the 6-foot tall block wall, but thought better of it, remembering she couldn’t even shimmy up a chain link fence in grade school.  Her options limited, she bounded for the cobwebbed storage shed.  She slipped inside, leaving the door ajar so a thin stream of sunlight leaked inside.

She huddled in the corner beside what might’ve been a wheelbarrow, praying the agents’ visit would be quick.  After several minutes, sweat beaded around her hairline; then trickled down her face.  Darlene wiped her forehead with her shirt.  She had to think of a plan, or she’d die an inelegant death.  She figured she had less than half an hour in the unforgiving Arizona August heat.

Her heart lurched when she heard a male voice.  Agent Mulroney.  Aloneness overtook her.  Mulroney had Haversill, Myrtle had Darlene’s father- but she had no one to band with.  Darlene had no one she could trust.  Myrtle was hiding something about her father, and for that reason, Darlene couldn’t risk confiding.

“You can’t do this!”

“We have a warrant,” Mulroney said.  “You know harboring a fugitive is a felony?”

“The only thing I’m harboring is-” Myrtle gasped, and then groaned.

“Let’s get her inside.  Could be a heart attack!”  Haversill shouted.

The sliding door slammed shut.  Trembling with fear, Darlene started to feel her way to the door, but stopped.  She inched backward and patted around until her fingertips grazed the plastic fertilizer bag.  She slid her hand behind it and snatched her tote bag.

In that instant she understood the moth, as she was drawn to the safety deposit box contents- even though the knowledge would likely kill her.

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TrifectaPicture11-1This is my response to the Trifecta weekly challenge, which is to write a 33 to 333-word response (mine is 332) using the following word/definition:

BAND (verb):  to gather together; unite.  <they banded themselves together for protection>

If you want to read other responses, or try the challenge yourself, click on the tricycle picture to view Trifecta’s site.  Happy writing (and reading!)

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This continuation of Darlene’s Story is still in Darlene’s point of view.  Click here for Darlene’s Story page if you want to read the entire piece.  Thanks for stopping by!

Additional note of thanks:  I appreciate everyone who read (and voted) for my last two Trifecta community-voted challenge pieces.  Keepers of Secrets shared a 3-way tie for third place, and Nature shared a 3-way tie for second place.

Keepers of Secrets

Darlene stayed crouched under the window long after she heard Myrtle’s front door slam and her father’s car engine crank; even after the motor’s purr faded down the street.  Darlene didn’t move until her aching knees insisted.

Several minutes later, she’d unfolded into an upright position and managed the stiff journey to Myrtle’s back patio.  She peered inside the sliding door before knocking.  Myrtle’s hunched shoulders shook, her face rested in her hands.  She’s crying.

Darlene rapped on the glass.  Myrtle’s head jerked toward the slider, surprise melting into a smile.  She wiped her hand across her eyes and rushed to the door.  Noticing a slight limp, Darlene suspected arthritis flared in her left knee again.

“Darlene,” Myrtle whispered.  “What are you doing here?”

“Why whisper?”

Myrtle grimaced.  She poked her head outside, looking left, then right.  She grabbed Darlene’s elbow, pulled her inside, and locked the door behind them.

“You shouldn’t be here,” Myrtle said.

“Is someone looking for me?”

Myrtle averted her gaze.  “I heard Dottie Anderson and her husband are dead.  You’re the suspect.”

“Me?  I didn’t kill them!”

“They found your scarf around Dottie’s neck.”

Darlene took several shallow breaths.  “No.  No!  I used my scarf on Jeff outside Dottie’s house.  I wanted the key.  When he quit struggling, I panicked and ran away.”

“Did you get it?”

Under Myrtle’s hopeful stare, Darlene weighed her answer.  “How do you know about all this?”

Myrtle’s eyes widened, but she remained silent.

“Did my father tell you?”

Myrtle flinched.  “That man could charm the devil with a smile.” She shook her head.  “I know, because I sold my soul to him.”

Darlene wondered if Myrtle sold out to the devil or her father.

Or if they were one in the same.

Three sharp knocks on the front door interrupted her thoughts.  “Mrs. Crawford!  Agents Mulroney and Haversill.”

Darlene gasped.

Myrtle led her to the slider.  She opened the door just wide enough and shoved her out.  “Run,” she whispered.  “Go!”

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TrifectaPicture11-1This is my response to the Trifecta weekly challenge, which is to write a 33 to 333-word response (mine is 332) using the following word/definition:  CHARM: (verb) -to control (an animal) typically by charms (as the playing of music)

If you want to read other responses, or try the challenge yourself, click on the tricycle picture to view Trifecta’s site.  Happy writing (and reading!)

Oh, and this is a community-voted challenge, which means that readers have the opportunity to vote on their three favorites by visiting Trifecta’s site after the challenge closes on Thursday, at 8PM Eastern time.

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This continuation of Darlene’s Story is still in Darlene’s point of view.  Click here for Darlene’s Story page if you want to read the entire piece.  Thanks for stopping by!