Despite being wealthy and powerful, Judge Honoria Walker has had a difficult life. Now, with her husband, Bert, ill, things have become even more stressful. Could it be that she sees a little of her husband in the young thief, Jason Banes?
Betsy poked her head around the door frame, smiling curiously. “You okay, Mrs. Walker?”
Honoria shook her head, weeping over the steering wheel. The young nurse came out, taking her in her arms.
“It’s okay, Honey. It’s gonna be okay. You just cry all you want. Then you can go up with a smile on your face and say good night.”
“I can’t do this anymore, Betsy. I can’t sit here and watch him die.”
“Then you sit there and watch him fight, cause that’s what he’s doing. It’s for you, not him. He wants to go, Honey. He’s ready to leave.”
“I’m not ready for him to go yet.”
“Well it seems you’ve got a choice to make. You watch him suffer and wither away, or you set him free. Which is it gonna be?”
Honoria wiped her eyes, getting control of her sorrow. She was being selfish.
“You’re right. I’d better fix my face.”
“He won’t care. Go on up. I came down to tell you that he’s awake.”
Bert looked so frail. His once robust body had wasted away to skin and bones. His hair, once lush, thick black curls, had fallen out again a few weeks ago. His dark eyes had nearly lost their color, but burned with intensity as they always had.
His eyes were what attracted her to him in the first place. Big, brown, bedroom eyes. With a gasp and flutter of her heart, she knew who Jason Banes reminded her of. Set aside their difference in coloring, they were the same man. Jason’s eyes and dark lashes were just like Bert’s. The line of his jaw, the set of his shoulders—all so similar, it was a bit spooky. Perhaps it wasn’t the best reason to help the lad, but it made as much sense as any. Strangely, she believed him and clung to that belief when mere logic told her not to.
Bert was awake. He held out his hand to her. She took it, sitting on the side of the high hospital bed.
“You’re late,” he said, his voice barely above a whisper. “What kept you?”
“The Jason Banes case.”
She sat on the edge of the bed, telling him what had happened that day. Bert listened, holding her hand as she spoke, a half smile playing at his lips.
“So, you’re going out on a professional limb to help him. Why?”
“For some reason I believe him. He’s willing to admit his guilt over the robbery, but insists he didn’t kill those people.”
“Could it be a last ditch effort to keep himself from going to prison for life?”
“Possibly, but I don’t think so. If you’d seen him in his cell, darling. He looked so afraid and alone. It tore my heart out.” She gulped back tears. “He’s got no one, no family. Living on his own since he was a boy. He and John are the same age, almost to the day.”
“Is that why you’re helping him?” He smoothed her hair from her forehead.
“Maybe a little. But I don’t think so.”
“Help your little thief, darling. He needs you.”
“I will sweetheart. Any way that I can.”
Her voice drifted off as Bert put his palm on her cheek. Leaning against it, she held his hand to her face, closing her eyes. He’d always touched her so softly, as if she’d break. He drew her close, kissing her gently. It felt like the first time so many years ago. Tentative, unsure, as if he thought she’d pull away. She parted her lips and he kissed her deeply, passionately. It lasted only moments. His hands fell away, his body went limp.
“Bert! Darling!” She pressed the call button for the nurse. “Sweetheart?”
There was no response. She knew it was too late, he was gone.
Betsy ran in a moment later, stopping just inside the door. “Is he…?”
Honoria nodded, closing Bert’s dark eyes. Numb, she couldn’t even move.
Betsy made the necessary calls and the room filled with strangers all moving very quickly. Someone led Honoria aside and gave her a cup of hot coffee. She sat with it clutched in her hands until the coffee went cold. She had the vague impression that someone was trying to talk to her, but the words weren’t making any sense.
Betsy stood in front of her, holding a phone. “It’s your friend, the retired judge,” she said softly. “He said if you can’t talk right now, to tell you, ‘It’s a go.’ He said you’d know what that meant.”
“Thank you. I’ll talk to him.” She took the phone in trembling hands.
“I’m so sorry, Honey,” Kyle said. “I’ll be there in the morning. Did you call the boys?”
“I can’t,” she whispered.
“I’ll do it,” he volunteered. “You get some sleep, sweeting. I’ll be there by morning. We’ll get through this together.”
“Thank you, Kyle.”
“What are old friends for, Honey? Bert asked me to help you through this.”
“He did?” Her voice broke as she started to sob.
“He did. Let me talk to that lovely girl again.”
“You old letch. She’s young enough to be your granddaughter.”
“I didn’t say I wanted to ravage her, Honoria,” he said in mock horror. “Merely wish to speak to her. Be a good girl and hand her the phone.”
© Dellani Oakes