See? I TOLD YOU I wasn’t abandoning this project altogether. Now, it’s gonna be slow going from here on out, no doubt - there’s just a lot of irons in the fire that take priority over this. But I can’t just leave Sheriff Boyd sitting there in his car, bleeding out. Unfortunately, we can’t look in on Boyd just yet. When we last left off, you see, Bill Wells was divulging a secret to his bestest friends….
Oh, and if you’re new to A War Between States, you’d probably be best served going here and playing catch-up.
A War Between States Part 31:
Chapter 16: Campaign: Sarah and Nate, Part Two
“Ya’ll know that I know lots of people,” Bill began. He stood in front of them like a preacher in front of a congregation, and Sarah thought for a moment that Bill even sounded like a preacher. “Thing is,” he continued, “even though I know lots of people, I don’t love lots of people. I mostly despise ‘em, in fact. Ya’ll, however, are the exception. You folks gathered here today are the people on this Earth that I love above all others, and it’s ya’ll that I’m gonna miss.”
A titter of confused excitement passed through them at this statement. At the same time, Sarah could see that Bill’s eyes had begun to water. He was beginning to cry - and Bill Wells never cried.
“I don’t want this to get out, now,” Bill said, the quiver in his voice a vanguard for the tears he was fighting to hold back. “So after I tell ya’ll this, I don’t want none of you running out and telling your husbands or boyfriends. ‘Cept you, Sarah - you can tell Phil. If he didn’t have to work, I think I’d want him here, too.” This tangent allowed Bill to get his crying under control; the shake in his voice disappeared and he blinked his tears away.
“Anyway,” he said, “Lemme relieve you of your suspense. The reason I got all ya’ll together is to tell you that I got cancer. And I got it bad.”
They all gasped, just like any small crowd gasps when the magician finishes his trick, when the murderer in the whodunnit gets revealed.
“I’ve know about my cancer for a little over a year,” Bill said. “It started as a weird lesion on my back. I had it removed and biopsied, but it was already too late. I waited too long. I scheduled another surgery and some chemo for last summer, but I put it off until a couple of weeks ago. Kept rescheduling it, you know? Then, when I finally went in, turns out it had already metastasized, and it’s in my lungs.”
Bill paused, sucking in a breath. He might as well have been sucking all of the air out of the room.
“I dunno,” he said, and now he really started to cry. Sarah could feel her own tears suddenly coming - a surging swell behind an oh so fragile dam. “I dunno,” he repeated through his tears. “I kept putting it off. I didn’t think it could get so bad so fast. I thought I had time.”
Mary moved toward Bill, and the others stood as if to do the same. He just stood there, a spindly, deflated, slumping, and sloping version of himself, waiting for their embraces.
Then a siren went off outside the convenience store, followed by a crash.
“Holy shit,” Nate muttered beside Sarah - they had been the last to make a move toward Bill - and Sarah looked out the one window in the room, out to the place where Nate was staring. “I’m having a déjà vu, I think,” he finished.
In the convenience store parking lot, two cars had collided, one T-boning the other on the passenger side. A third car had jumped the curb on Washington Street and had smashed into the rear of Pammy’s parked car. In the distance, Sarah could see a white Mustang speeding away, followed closely by a very familiar police car, its lights blazing and its siren fading away.
They all moved away from Bill and gathered at the window. Bill stood behind them, wiping away his tears and straining to see past them, to see the wreckage in his parking lot.
Suddenly, two more cars - unmarked white sedans with dashboard-mounted lights flashing - came careening down Washington and headed after the Mustang.
“Somebody call and ambulance,” Bill said, his voice weak. Sarah looked back at him again.
She’d never noticed how small he was before.
- Sarah Dobson - Jennie M.
- Nate Wells - Jay Elgin
- Narrator/Bill Wells - Will Kenyon