Chapter 13 of 21. If you haven’t read the earlier chapters, please read them first. You can find them here: The Willow, a serialized novel.
“What is the use in walking the path that a delirious world has laid before us – obsessing over power, money, progeny or fame – when in the end, all of our bones share the same fate – burnt to ash or stored in a grave?” Those were the last words that Beth had said to Marcus twelve years earlier, when he was on his way off to college. He had no way of knowing that it was actually a message from the girl he had seen abducted so many years before. He didn’t know that Beth was made to repeat those words over and over again until they were perfect. He had just thought that they were the random musings of an awkward girl who seemed always full of random musings.
Now, twelve years later, after having casually tossed them away, those words came racing back into his consciousness. Now, twelve years later, he was seeing Beth again, but the awkward girl was gone, and an aged and weary woman had taken her place.
It was the first day of his new job at the psyche word – his first job since completing his residency. Barely one hour in and he was seeing his old friend Beth being wheeled into the reception area. It took him a moment to register that she was staring directly at him. She wore an upside down smile that seemed to be saying, “At last I have found you.”
When they were kids, Marcus was always trying to avoid Beth. He was older than her and she seemed to always want to hang around him. Although he was never a cool kid, he wasn’t interested in hanging around someone who was even weirder than he. Whenever she asked him why he was hiding, he denied it. He didn’t know why he was hiding, but was not about to admit that he was actually doing it. If he had looked within himself, he would have had to admit that she just made him feel uncomfortable. Even though he had wished she would leave him alone, he had never wanted to make her feel bad because of it. Now seeing her wheeled into the psyche ward, a sense of guilt rushed over him.
As Marcus walked over to Beth, her nurse piped in, “Dr. Kelly, this is Beth Collins.”
They looked at each other for a moment and Marcus felt a silent agreement to hide their relationship. He didn’t want to create any complications by letting on to the nurse that he knew this woman.
“Hello, Beth. I’m Dr. Marcus Kelly.” Beth smiled a sarcastic smile, but didn’t open her mouth. She looked completely different from the last time they met. Her face was resigned and her eyes had sunk into her head. Her enthusiasm was nowhere to be found. She looked like she just didn’t care anymore.
“How are you feeling Beth?” Marcus tried.
Beth looked into Marcus’ eyes knowingly. This was the way it had to be, the only way they were going to be together.
“Nurse, Stevens?” Marcus shifted his gaze towards the nurse by his side.
“She tried to kill herself last week,” answered the nurse. “In fact she tried to bury herself alive. Her mom found her in the dirt. Beth hasn’t spoken a word since. They transferred her here from San Francisco Hospital. Her mother is having her committed until we can figure out what is wrong with her. Her mother said that she’s been depressed for years.”
Not depressed, Beth thought, just waiting. Waiting for everything to be lined up so we can start our work again. You have to learn to use your sight Marcus. It’s the only way we can free Willow.
“Beth,” Marcus tried again, “you can talk to me. I’m here for you.”
Beth let out a long sigh before lifting both of her hands and violently clasping them around her own throat. She was trying to strangle herself. Marcus and the nurse couldn’t believe what they were seeing.
“Dr.?” asked Nurse Stevens.
“Get the jacket, get the jacket!” yelled Marcus as he dived towards Beth, trying to restrain her.
As the orderlies rushed to put her into the straight jacket, Marcus thought he saw a look of contentment on Beth’s face. It seemed as if Beth didn’t really want to kill herself, but instead just wanted the jacket.
As the orderlies wheeled Beth away, she didn’t take her eyes off of Marcus. We’re gonna be here for awhile my friend.
There was a growing divide between those who were stationed inside the cabin and those who secured the grounds outside. Matthew had left Gabriel in charge of day-to-day affairs, and it was clear to Benjamin that Gabriel didn’t respect Benjamin’s own position as a senior member of the Guardians. Those who were stationed inside the cabin were all Benjamin’s people, and started referring to themselves as the Keepers – those who managed Willow and held strongly to the dignity upon which their organization was founded. Those stationed outside the cabin, were becoming more and more loyal to Gabriel, and began taking on his wild and boisterous characteristics.
It had been eight years since Matthew had last shown his face at the cabin. He called Benjamin on the phone from time to time, to check on morale, but always said he was too busy with Guardian affairs to stop by. Benjamin suspected that Matthew was slowly restructuring the whole organization in a way that would strip Benjamin of any remaining power. In actuality, Benjamin had changed dramatically since their last meeting and was no longer concerned with the rest of the Guardians’ affairs.
Benjamin had spent his life dedicated to a cause, but his main focus had been power. He valued religion for its ability to take both the dark and light aspects of human nature and focus it in a single direction. It was the ability to hold the strings of power that had interested him most. His proximity to Willow was changing his very nature however. He no longer cared about being the one in charge, and he had come to the conclusion that Willow’s nature was superior to his; that by her influence, he was growing softer.
Benjamin asked himself why Matthew’s influence hadn’t been the same. Benjamin had always been the one who influenced Matthew and not the other way around. Whereas Benjamin had always thought of the two of them as partners, he now began to accept that his presence might be stronger than Matthew’s own. While he was becoming humble in the face of Willow, his ego would swell when comparing himself to Matthew. Benjamin was not concerned with Matthew wrestling control of the Guardians from him, but he would never allow him to take control of Willow. Benjamin would see Willow’s journey through to whatever outcome might be awaiting them.
Everyone who lived inside of the cabin had slowly fallen in love with Willow. They wouldn’t admit it aloud, but they all respected her fearlessness. She never talked down to them or acted as if she were being held against her will. Often they would all listen, as she would pray aloud in the night, as they were beginning to drift towards sleep.
“Oh Lord,” Willow would call out, “You give us what we need in order for us to understand and appreciate you. Some see your hardships as evil, as if you have forgotten about us, but I know it is just you giving us a chance. You always call on us to be responsible for our choices, to choose right over wrong, and even when you don’t make it clear, we know which actions fill our hearts with the love that could only be coming from you, and which actions close our hearts to that love. May my heart always stay open, Lord, so that you will always have a clear pathway into it.”
When Willow prayed aloud, it was as if they were all praying. They all heard her words and repeated them within themselves.
The only time that they communicated with those outside the cabin was during meals or shift changes. The security personnel on the outside of the cabin always talked in a derogatory way about Willow. Even though they never showed it, the Keepers felt pain in their hearts while listening to those insults.
Willow had made her way so far into the Keepers’ hearts that they felt as if they were all locked in the cabin together. The extent that they would fight for her, though, was not known until the day when Gabriel barged in and announced that he’d received a call from Matthew.
“Matthew said he’d be here in two days. He said he’s got plans for the girl.” Gabriel winked at Willow as he sauntered out.
Benjamin looked at Willow sitting as calmly as she always did. He then looked at the rest of his men and motioned them to come close. “Well, I’ve got plans of my own.”
Sarah wanted to run into Sam’s arms and feel protected, but she could see in his eyes that Sam was going to be anything but comforting for the time being. Sarah could see Sam working himself into a frenzy, wondering where to begin. He was desperate for the information that he thought she had, but he didn’t want to bombard the little girl with questions knowing she had just witnessed her father acting like a mad man.
“What do you know about the girl?” Sam finally asked.
“I don’t know anything.”
“What do you mean you don’t know anything?” his desperation returning. “Your father just said that you could show me where she is. That is the only reason that I let him go – because you have the answers.”
“I think he meant something else,” Sarah said shaking her head. “I haven’t heard anything about a little girl, and I don’t know what my dad would have had to do with her. He can barely bring himself to leave the house. The only thing that I know is that my dad said I should show you some papers if he ever got in any trouble.”
“What kind of trouble?”
“I’m assuming the kind that just made him point his gun at you. I didn’t even know he had a gun.”
“What are the papers about?”
“I haven’t seen them, but dad was very clear that you had to be the one to get them.”
“I don’t know. I guess you’ll understand them when you see them.”
Sam’s irritation was growing quickly. “How do you even know me?”
“My dad saw you on the street one day and got all freaked out. Then he made me remember your face and promise to get the papers to you.”
“I know your father from way back – from when I was a kid. Did he tell you about that?”
“He didn’t tell me anything,” said Sarah wanting to take a break from the interrogation. She stood up and started pacing in front of Sam. “I know what kind of man my father is. I know he has demons. I know that he must have done something very bad – something that is haunting him. But I also know that he thought you could help. He just wanted me to give you his papers.”
Sam felt bad for the girl. He tried to regain his composure. He had just let a man who drew a gun in the park walk away. He needed to get himself together quickly before more officers showed up.
“Where are the papers?” he asked.
“At home. In my dad’s desk drawer.”
“Take me there.”
Martha and her two kids checked into the Rainer Valley Inn and rushed to their room. Daisy hadn’t stopped shaking since she emerged from the forest. Brett had kept silent, feeling responsible for letting his sister wander away, and wondering what he could do to make up for it. He kept staring at Daisy and wishing that he could comfort her, but he didn’t know how to do that. Martha had never seen Daisy so determined, and knew that whatever she had witnessed was all that mattered to her anymore. Now that they were safe, Martha needed to figure out how to help.
Martha told Daisy to sit on the floor and pulled up a chair behind her. Taking the hair tie out of Daisy’s hair, she began to brush it. Feeling her hair being tugged away from her scalp always calmed Daisy down. Her hair had thick, dark black curls that were only made ruly by being tied tightly into a ponytail.
Martha’s two kids were mixed as their father was white and she herself was black. Her kids’ hair was completely different from their parents and even different from each other. Her son Brett had a soft afro that he kept cut short, while Martha’s own hair was very coarse. Though she used to keep it long, straightening it to reach her shoulders, Martha now kept her hair nearly clean-shaven. After her two children were born, she had decided that she had no more time for hair; the two kids were more than enough to keep her busy. But combing out Daisy’s curls always seemed to create order in their hectic world.
Once she calmed down, Daisy looked up at her mother and asked, “Are we gonna call Sam now?”
“Yeah, we’re gonna call Sam now. Don’t worry. He’ll take care of everything.”
Daisy didn’t know who Sam was; just that somebody needed his help. The only Sam that Martha knew was the man she had dated before she and her now ex-husband had met. Sam was a cop, and if the universe was telling Daisy that they needed a Sam, it must be the cop that she was looking for.
Sam was a good man and Martha had loved him dearly. But being involved with a cop had caused constant worry and heartache – a heartache she was not ready to endure. Martha hadn’t spoken to Sam in years. She hoped that his phone number was the same and that he would be willing to hear her out. But she knew he would. That was just the kind of guy he was.
Dave was driving as fast as he thought he could get away with without being pulled over. What am I going to do? I didn’t follow orders. But why hadn’t he killed the visitor in the first place? How can he expect me to kill Sam? I didn’t sign up for this. I thought this was all over. Is he going to take care of Sarah?
It was just over an hour and a half since he left his daughter alone with Sam and he had already reached the turnoff point for the cabin. Dave didn’t even wait to make sure there was nobody watching him, before pulling off the road and driving straight into the pocket. Dave realized that if he missed the pocket, he would be driving full speed into a tree, but at this point, he didn’t see that as such a bad option.
Hearing the car racing towards him, Gabriel jumped up. He recognized it as Dave’s vehicle and thought he must have fled the scene after killing Sam. Gabriel felt anger rushing to the surface thinking that Dave, possibly high, could have led cops or anyone else to the cabin’s location. He forced himself to calm down until he found out the full story.
Dave bolted from his car and slammed the door.
“Is it done?” Gabriel asked.
“Is it done? Is it done? Of course it’s not done! I am not a killer!”
Gabriel took a long sigh and slumped back into his rocking chair.
“What are we going to do?” asked Dave.
“I don’t know,” said Gabriel shaking his head.
“This has gone on long enough!” yelled Dave, determined to be the man that he should have been years ago.
“That is not for us to decide.”
“Isn’t it? I don’t see anyone else left around here to make decisions.”
“We took vows. It is our life’s work.”
“Maybe we didn’t know what we were getting into.”
“Of course we didn’t,” said Gabriel. “We were children. But we heard the call. We heard God’s call. And we dedicated our lives to defending his way. We can’t just change our minds because we are feeling confused when times get hard.”
Dave looked at Gabriel. Dave didn’t have any friends in this world, but he had known Gabriel the longest. He felt he owed it to him to tell him the truth.
“Sam is going to be coming here.”
“What? What do you mean?”
“I left directions in the house, and I told my daughter how to find them. It is only a matter of time before they come.”
Gabriel looked from Dave to the ground. It didn’t surprise him. Dave had never been fully committed. Gabriel was thankful that Dave hadn’t sold them out earlier.
“I guess I’d better call Russell and Travis back. It seems the day has finally come. We’re going to be making our last stand.”
“What should I do?” Dave asked.
“What more can you do?” asked Gabriel as he pointed his shotgun towards Dave’s chest and pulled the trigger. Turning his head back towards the cabin, he could feel Willow watching him, and thought, I guess you don’t defend all of your people then, do you?
I’ll see you next Friday for chapter 14.
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