“Is this Ms. Lamb? A Ms. Artemis Lamb?” A voice asked from Artemis’ smartphone speaker. The voice had a heavy southern accent with a slight twangy elongated vibration at the end of the sentence.
“Yes,” Artemis said. Her scalp tingled from a dreadful expectation. “Who are you?”
“Glad we finally found you, oh heavens me,” the voice said. “I’m Mrs. Thompson with Child Protective Services, here in Kentucky. We received an anonymous inquiry from our hotline, about you.”
“Sorry,” Artemis said. She started to pace. “I don’t understand?”
“You have a child, Laina Lynn?” Mrs. Thompson asked.
“Yes,” Artemis said. “She’s quite safe, I’ll protect her.”
“I have no doubt,” Mrs. Thompson said. “But, we do have laws here, you know you can’t just take a child, right?”
Artemis paused, she looked up at her apartments skip trowel ceiling texture.
“I’m not about to break any laws,” Artemis said. She sucked in a deep breath. “I’ve simply helped her out, seems her mother’s passed. Or, that’s what I’m lead to believe.”
“Yes, I have not doubt,” Mrs. Thompson said. “That’s our understanding, hospital informed us, the mother was cremated, mercifully, you know. I do feel for the child.”
“I understand,” Artemis said. She nodded. “Have you found any next of kin, aunt, uncle, someone close to her father?”
“Not quite yet,” Mrs. Thompson said. “But, we’ll need you to bring Laina back, we’ll need to have a hearing, we have a process to follow, you understand?”
Artemis searched her apartment for a clear thought, she dreaded what was about to happen down to her bones. Her joints ached, her vision blurred.
“I’ll comply,” Artemis said, dryly. “What am I to do?”
“You did what?” Wylie asked. He sat up straight on his high back office chair. “How’s this got to do with the file?”
“I know,” Artemis said. She walked back and forth, wiping her forehead with her palms. “She’s my lovers child, Benjamin, he died in Afghanistan, lucky shot.”
“I’m listening,” Wylie said.
“Weird coincidence,” Artemis said. “You know, I was working the file, girl looked familiar, you know?”
“No I don’t,” Wylie said. “I need more information, or I’ll take you off this file, I need your full attention.”
“I know, I know,” Artemis said. “Girls got no one, alone, and being Benjamin’s child, cut me some slack dude.”
Wylie sat back and nodded.
“All right, girl,” Wylie said. “But you know that general counsel, Gene something or other, he really hates you. Been complaining up north, but that just means you’re doing your job. It’s not his money on the line.”
“He’s a drunk,” Artemis said. “He’s easy to manage, I have a hearing, for Laina, I’ll get this resolved.”
“I know,” Wylie said. “Sorry, I have to let them know I grilled you, you know that?”
“I do,” Artemis said. “I’ve been duly informed.”
“So, that’s past us,” Wylie said. “I don’t ask about your personal life, tell me about the boy, and his child.”
Artemis sat down. She stared down at the carpeted office floor for several minutes. She wiped away the tears.
“After my parents accident,” Artemis said. She stared past Wylie. “I went into a hole, I liked being alone. Got out of college, went all military. I was a good medic.”
“Scary stuff,” Wylie said. “But I know part of your real work, they don’t tell me the reason, I just give you the file.”
“Yeah, I know. But once you have big bullet whizz past your skull,” Artemis said. She coughed. “Anyway, I met him over in Afghanistan. He was a good solider, born leader.”
“I take it was tragic romance?” Wylie said. “Sorry.”
“Yeah, he just understood me,” Artemis said. “He loved my red hair, told me to keep my helmet on to avoid snipers.”
Wylie got up, and walked around his desk and sat across from Artemis.
“Go on,” Wylie said.
Artemis closed her eyes, she whispered a prayer to a being she never understood, or thought ever existed, until now. She realized if Satan existed, then an all powerful force existed.
“They had me in a forward position,” Artemis said. She leaned forward and looked over at Wylie. “You know, word came back, we went in for support, hit them with air power.”
“You don’t need,” Wylie said before Artemis held up her hand to cut him off. “None of my business.”
“Let me just say it,” Artemis said. She methodically blew oxygen into her lungs, and then back out. “I found him, they had leaned him against an ASV’s tire, sniper, got him in the neck.”
“Oh, damn,” Wylie said.
“Blood was every where, his team stood there crying, guns pointed down,” Artemis said.
“Says a lot,” Wylie said. “Hardened tough guy cry for you.”
“Yeah, all I could do was hold him,” Artemis said. “I was to late, died with me. I was powerless.”
Wylie and Artemis simply sat together in silence. For several minutes that seemed longer to Artemis, she remembered Benjamin’s handsome face, his kind eyes, and his courageous gaze as he slipped from life into another dimension.
“I’ll come help you,” Wylie said. “If need be.”
“No,” Artemis said. She stood up. “I’ll do my job. I’ll get back up there, sort through this mess.”
“Come here,” Wylie said. He tightly hugged Artemis. He clutched her shoulders. “Be careful my friend, this old man’s not dead yet, if I need to, I’ll be there.”
“I know,” Artemis said. “Thank you. I’ll handle this, I always have, you taught me well, let me go.”
Wylie stepped back. He curiously looked away and walked back behind his desk.
“Just be careful,” Wylie said.
“Why are you being cryptic?” Artemis said.
“Instinct,” Wylie said. “And the fact FBI been up there, poking around, which I take it you know?”
“I do,” Artemis said. “Sorry, thought I should keep quiet for now, not sure where they’re headed.”
“Get up there, I’ll play stupid,” Wylie said. “You know, I talked with Dr. Langendorpher?”
“Not surprised,” Artemis said.
“I think your girl is part of this,” Wylie said. “Follow her, I bet, we’ll get our answers.”
“I think you’re right,” Artemis said. She started to leave the office.
“What was the accident?” Wylie asked. He looked away from Artemis.
“Pardon?” Artemis asked. She held the cold doorknob.
“Your parents,” Wylie said. “What was the accident that took them?”
“Oh, gas leak, bad luck,” Artemis said. “I was away, teenager, summer camp. The police said they died in their sleep. They never woke up.”
Wylie washed his hands across the desk top. He was quiet and still.
“In a way,” Wylie said. “A merciful death, to go to sleep and not awake, you know?”
“I guess,” Artemis said. She twisted the doorknob. “I’ve never worried about money, they took care of me. But, I miss them everyday, I never got to say goodbye.”
“Maybe you’ll see them again,” Wylie said. “In heaven.”
“Stop it,” Artemis said. “I’m not a believer, you know that, you old softy.”
“Well, I guess we’ll both find out,” Wylie said. He waved over at Artemis to encourage her to leave. “Some day, right?”
End. Chapter 20.
Did you enjoy the blog post? If so, feel free to comment, share my posts with friends and other readers. Sign up below to automatically receive my blog posts in your email. (Absolutely free)
Follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.