Her Father's Keeper

4. Her Father's Keeper

I wanted to sit on the bed and cry the rest of the morning away, but that wouldn't help the situation one bit, so I set about tidying up the room, removing every trace of evidence that daddy had been there. I washed his clothes, except the blood-soaked shirt and jacket, which I disposed of the same way I had gotten rid of my own bloody clothes.

It was nearly dawn by the time I finished straightening up; Marissa awakened right about the time it got light. "I didn't expect you up so early, Arianna," She said, stretching and yawning. "I must have really been tired; I slept like a rock."

"Yes, I noticed." I laughed. "I've been up for ... a while, and I've walked through here several times. You never stirred."

Marissa's face had gone still, and I could almost see her nose twitching as she sniffed the air. "Gary was here," She commented quietly. "Why didn't you wake me?"

"H-he told me not to. Said to l-let you sleep."

Marissa sighed. "That's Gary for you — he's suffering from a gunshot wound and on the run from the police, but he's worried about me getting enough sleep." She turned her head toward me. "How's he doing, Arianna?"

"He looks — tired. More tired than I've ever seen him. He has an infection in his shoulder, too. He took a shower and that helped bring down the fever, but I'm still worried. I gave him my antibiotics; maybe that will help."

Marissa ran her fingers through her dark, shiny hair. I could see her concern, for both daddy and me. "We'd better get you more antibiotics," was all she said.

"No." I shook my head forcefully, momentarily forgetting that Marissa couldn't see me. "I'd have to get a new prescription, which means I'd have to explain what happened to the bottle they gave me. I don't think they'd believe that the cat ate it." Cat looked at me and meowed his agreement.

"I guess you have a point." Marissa still sounded worried.

Suddenly, I remembered the Paper. Glancing at my watch, I gasped. "Marissa, it's past seven and the cat hasn't brought the Paper! What if he doesn't bring it today?"

I looked at the couch, where Cat had been sitting only moments before, but he was gone. Within a few minutes, I heard the familiar "meow-plop" sequence outside the door. "Guess he just needed a reminder," I mumbled as I went to get the Paper.

When I returned, it was with a much more somber attitude. "Marissa, how can I contact Officer Ross or Officer Allison?"

"Just call the police station and ask for them, I guess. Why?"

"Because I have to tell them where daddy is." I headed for the phone.

"Arianna, what on earth —"

"He's going to die if I don't, Marissa!" I exclaimed. "He's going to die from hypothermia. I don't want him to get captured any more than you do, but at least he'll be alive."

Just before picking up the phone, I hesitated, mumbling to myself. "The article says he isn't going to die until tonight ... daddy told me who really killed Charlie Dove. Maybe I can at least keep him from being the only suspect."

I didn't need to call, because the police officers knocked on the door before I could even dial the number. "Morning, Miss Hobson," Officer Ross greeted. "Ready to talk to us now?"

"Oh, I'll talk, but not about my father. I know who really killed Charlie Dove." I paused for a moment to let that sink in, and then added, "His ex-wife. She ran from the scene before police could arrive."

"And you know this ... how?" Officer Ross sounded skeptical, to say the least.

"Call it a woman's intuition," I replied a little sarcastically. "I just know. Come on, can't you guys figure out whether she was there? Can't Crime Scene Investigation or forensics or whatever find some evidence?"

Allison and Ross looked at each other thoughtfully. "We'll get them looking," Officer Allison said finally, "but I can't promise you anything, Arianna."

"Just get to looking," I said with more optimism than I felt. "You'll find something."

Wondering how they would respond to what I was about to do, I reached behind me and carefully pulled out the gun, wrapped in paper towels. "Here's your murder weapon," I said, handing it gingerly to Officer Allison. "If you don't find Dove's ex-wife's fingerprints on that, I will be very much surprised."

Officer Ross looked at me in disbelief. "How on earth did you get that gun?"

"A little birdie gave it to me." I grinned a little. Officer Ross glared at me.

"If this is the murder weapon, and we do find the lady's fingerprints on it, then we'll have something to think about," Officer Allison put in. "However, the fact remains that your father was seen standing over Charles Dove, holding this gun. Dove's ex-wife wasn't seen anywhere near the area."

"Yes, but considering their relationship with Dove, which person would you expect to kill him — Gary Hobson, who'd never met the man before in his life, or this woman who went through a bitter divorce from him?"

"You never had a motive for Gary killing Dove," Marissa added quietly. "Just circumstantial evidence. Both of you know that every bit as well as I do."

Officer Ross didn't reply, just looked thoughtfully at the gun. "We'll have forensics take a look at this," He said. "If the fingerprints are there, your dad will cease to be our primary suspect, but that's about all I can promise you."

"Thank you," I said softly. "Thank you v-very much."

When they were gone, Marissa turned toward me and spoke with a worried note in her voice. "Arianna, you didn't tell them where Gary is. How much time does he have?"

I glanced at my watch. "It's nearly 8 AM right now, and daddy won't die until around 8:30 PM. He'll be discovered a little less than an hour later." I sighed. "I'm just hoping forensics can find something to get him off the hook. Can I borrow your cell phone?"

"Sure." Marissa handed it to me. "Mind telling me why?"

"I'm going to where daddy is — to where he'll be by tonight, anyway. Hopefully I can find him. I'm taking him some broth and blankets, but if he's in bad shape, and I expect him to be, I'm going to call the police. Hopefully I've set in motion the process that will clear daddy of the charges, and right now I'm not sure it matters so much whether he's in custody or not."

Marissa nodded. "Be careful, Arianna." Then she smiled, a little wistfully. "It was smart of Gary to give you that gun."

"Yeah." I smiled to myself, despite my concern over daddy.

Working quickly, I gathered up some blankets and stuffed them into a trash bag. I headed out the door carrying the bag of blankets in one hand and a thermos full of hot chicken broth in the other. The police might follow me, but right now I didn't really care.

Daddy was there, in the place where he would die if I didn't change things. He was half-sitting, half-lying against a wall, his eyes closed and his face ashen. He didn't hear me approach, so I knelt in front of him and spoke softly. "Daddy?"

"Arianna?" My father's voice sounded rough and weak. He was shivering and his face, when I touched it, was very hot. "How did you find me?"

"The Paper again." I tried to smile at him. "Daddy, I'm going to have to call the police and tell them you're here." He tried to protest, but I placed a finger against his lips. "Shhh. You're g-going to die if you don't get some medical attention."

I wrapped the blankets around my father and helped him sip the chicken broth. I then sat down beside him, letting him rest his head on my shoulder. His eyes drifted closed — he looked so tired, like he could fall asleep and never wake up. That was what I was afraid of.

Taking out the cell phone Marissa had let me borrow, I dialed the number I had memorized from the phone book. A woman answered, and I asked for Officer Allison, adding, "Tell her it's Arianna Hobson and I urgently need to talk to her."

Officer Allison came on the phone in less than a minute. She sounded out of breath. "Arianna, where are you?"

I gave her my location, holding the phone with my shoulder as I helped daddy take a few more sips of broth. "My dad is here too," I added matter-of-factly. "You have to get an ambulance here. He's in bad shape."

"Don't you worry; an ambulance is on its way." She paused briefly and added, "Arianna, you might want to know that we did find Dove's ex-wife's fingerprints on the gun, and that it was the murder weapon. We also found a friend of the ex-wife who's willing to testify that she talked about killing Dove the day before the murder."

"Thank God," I whispered, leaning my head against the cold brick wall behind me. "Oh, thank God."

While I was waiting for the ambulance to arrive, took the Paper out of my back pocket and looked at it. The headline brought a smile to my face, but I was surprised to see a photo along with the story — a photo of me and my father sitting just as we were now, with my arm around him and his head on my shoulder. Looks like the ambulance is going to be accompanied by a reporter or two, I observed, but didn't really care. Just so long as daddy was all right.

Sirens blaring, the vehicles pulled up next to the alley — an ambulance, a police car, maybe more than one police car, and of course, an alert reporter.

Paramedics came running with a stretcher and reluctantly I had to disentangle myself from the blankets and step away. Weakly, daddy tried to protest as his shivering body was placed on the stretcher, and I smiled a little sadly. My father never changed.

I felt a hand on my shoulder and turned to see Kate Allison. To my surprise, she gave me a hug. "You did the right thing, Arianna. Your dad will be okay now, thanks to you."

Everything started catching up to me and my legs almost gave away. Officer Allison helped me sit down and placed the back of her hand against my forehead. "You've got a fever. Have you been taking your antibiotics?"

"No," I admitted. "I gave them to daddy when he gave me the gun. Evidently they weren't enough."

The ambulance had already pulled away, sirens blaring, so Allison and Ross took me to the hospital in their squad car. I was treated and given a new prescription for antibiotics, with strict instructions to take them this time!

Marissa and Emmett showed up before long; I gave Marissa her cell phone and she called Chuck to let him know what was happening. I had forgotten about Chuck, but apparently Marissa had been keeping him updated the entire time.

"Miss Hobson?" A doctor stepped into view, and I stood up so quickly that my head spun. Officer Ross grabbed my left arm to steady me.

"Your father's sleeping right now," The doctor explained. "He has a pretty bad infection and paired with the hypothermia ... well, he wouldn't have lasted much longer. Fortunately, we got to him in time, and with some rest and medicine, he's going to be fine."

I went in to see daddy; his face was still pale but he was no longer shivering and he appeared to be sleeping peacefully. When I brushed a gentle kiss across his forehead, his face was only warm, not blistering as it had been earlier.

When I got back out to the waiting room, Andrews was there; he looked at me a little sheepishly and cleared his throat. "We've got some pretty darning evidence against Kim Harris now — she's Dove's ex-wife. Looks like the charges against your dad will be dropped. Maybe this'll teach him not to stick his nose in other people's business."

Fat chance, I thought with a slight grin. The day Gary Hobson manages to keep his nose out of other people's business will be the day hell has a hard freeze!

"We will need your dad to testify," Andrews continued. "I know he won't want to, but he has to. For now, we're gonna leave him alone, let him recover. I kinda doubt he'd want to talk to me right now." He gave me a half-grin and left.

As it turned out, daddy never did have to testify — Kim Harris hung herself in jail long before her case ever came to trial. I was released from the hospital only a few hours after I arrived, and daddy was released two days later. I had never been as happy as I was when daddy and I got to go home and return to a normal life.

As normal as life can get, anyway, for the daughter of a guy who gets tomorrow's newspaper today.

All disclaimers apply. Arianna and this story were created by Katerina17 (edit: now katriel1987). I'm using them with her generous consent.