Part 1942 – Jeff’s Proving Point

“I need you to come to Ambrose’s house.” Barbara said. “I have a question that I need to ask you, my dad, and Ambrose.”

Jeff watched Missy’s breathing. He watched her hands as they twitched in her sleep.

“Jeff? Are you there?”

“Yeah, I’m. I’m here.”

“Will you come?”

Her chest rose and fell without exaggeration, without any difficulty. “You’re asking me to leave my daughter alone. I don’t know if I can do that.” He ran his free hand through his hair. “I don’t know if I should. She’s so vulnerable. Anything could happen to her.”

“Raven is there, isn’t he?”

He scoffed. “Raven is out like a light. He can’t protect her. He may want to, but he can’t.”

Barbara’s voice was completely unruffled by his protesting. “Is there anyone else there who can help out?”

Jeff looked over at LM.

I told him that I believe him. I believe in him.

This is my proving point.

But it’s so soon after what happened. I’d be an idiot to test him on his loyalty right now.

But maybe this is the right time for such a test.

“Jeff? Are you there?”

“Yeah. I do have someone who can help.”

“Will you come?”

LM looked over at him.

“Yeah. I’ll be there. Oh. How do I get there?”

Barbara gave him directions, which he quickly scrawled down on a random pamphlet. “Thanks. Wait.” He frowned. “How did you get my number?”

“I am a very resourceful woman. I called Sammy Borscht on the odd chance that he would have it. And he did, which surprised me.”

“I had applied for a protector position some time ago. I’m not even sure how long ago it was. I just know that it was shortly before my Laura died. Sammy gave me a job offer and I was going to accept it. Then.”

Jeff held her hand. He could feel every single bone. If he squeezed, he could easily crush them all. “Laura.”

Her eyes stayed closed. Her eyelids didn’t even flutter. Her eyes didn’t move under her eyelids.

His mouth twitched. “Laura girl. My Laura.” His voice wobbled. “I love you, darlin’. Look at me one more time. I love you. I love you.” He brought her hand up to his lips. Her skin was so dry and smelled strongly of antiseptic rubs and medical tape.

Jeff watched her breathe. “I’m here. I’m here. I’m here.”

Her breathing stopped.

There was no struggle. No final gasp.

Just a full and complete stop.

“Laura?”

Her monitor blared a strong, steady tone.

“No. Laura, please. One more breath. Give me one more breath.”

Her chest remained motionless.

“Please. Don’t leave me.”

Her monitor held out its one flat note. 

The nurses rushed into the room.

Jeff released her hand and dropped to his knees as the nurses tried to bring her back. He felt like someone had punched his gut at full strength. He couldn’t gasp, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t even cry. He wrapped his arms across his chest, but she wasn’t in his embrace.

And the monitor kept blaring.

“She died. I never did get back to him. I should have.” Jeff smiled. “I’m just impressed that he kept my information on file.”

“You must have made a good impression.” Barbara said. “He doesn’t keep just anyone’s information. Are you going to reapply for that job?”

“Are you ever planning to come out of retirement?” Darius asked.

“You could come hunt with me.” Hildreth said. “Kind of stick your toes into the water and see how it goes.” 

“I don’t know. I’ll have to think about it.”

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