A Broken Family Tree (A Short Story)

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Daniel Cooper sat in his office chair behind his imitation oak desk, gazing at the clock’s hands move the way only a clocks hands can move. Ogilville Indiana sat perched on a Friday evening, waiting for the weekend to unfold. Dan was more than comfortable with the situation at hand; every Friday he sat in that exact spot looking through that precise floor to ceiling window bank out at those unsold cars, those unsold hopes, those optimistic eyesores.

Two more minutes and then two days without trying to sell someone his or her next big thing in their little lives.

One more minute and……ring, ring, ring.


“Mr. Cooper? This is Ian Conner. I’m your mother’s attorney, and I was given strict instruction to contact you in just a circumstance like this.”

“Excuse me,” Dan said.

“Daniel, may I call you Daniel? Your mother, Elsie, well, Mr. Cooper, it has happened.”

Daniel sat with the receiver pressed against his cheek and ear, wondering what the hands on the clock were doing still circling as if the workday had never ended. He was thinking his way through his office door, down the hall, a goodbye to Ally at the front desk, out the front double doors, across the parking lot, into his blue Acura, down State Street, and on his way home for the weekend.

“What has happened is my mother ok,” Daniel said.

“I’m sorry to say that she is not ok at this moment, Daniel. She has had a heart attack and is currently undergoing surgery here at Vincent Memorial. She has been in surgery for a little over an hour now, and I have been told that she should be sent to recovery in a very short time.” Ian said.

“What room is she going to be in?” Daniel asked, now nervously pacing behind his desk as much as the phone cord would allow him.

“Room 313 Mr. Cooper, I think you should come over as fast as you can because there is information that we must discuss, which is of considerable importance to your mother and you, as well. I honestly think you should hurry.”

“I’m on my way as soon as this conversation is done,” Dan said as he essentially threw the phone onto the receiver.

Now with his mind racing and his body sweating, he grabbed his suitcase, flung open the office door, ran down the hallway, gave a hasty goodbye to Ally, and burst through the front doors on his way to his car. Fumbling with his keys, he managed to insert the correct one into the ignition and bring the machine to life. Driving as he hadn’t driven since his teenage years, he sped out of the parking lot and onto Edmonton Street heading towards the hospital.

At that exact moment, Marry Keller was frantically looking for her son William who was just outside playing in the front yard, but now he was nowhere to be found.

“Willy! Willy! Where are you?” Marry was screaming, running from one neighbor’s yard to the other, hoping with a mother’s spirit that he would be around the next corner. She headed down their street to an open lot that the local kids sometimes played in only to find a crowd of children and some other adults. As she approached, Karen West started towards her, to keep her back from the gruesome sight that presented itself for all to see in the early evening sun.

“Marry, I think you should stand back.” Karen was saying.

“What is it? Is it Willy? Is he alright? I have to see him!” She said, fighting Karen’s grip and spinning out of her grasp only to gaze upon the lifeless body of her seven-year-old son William.

He was lying there in a small patch of bare earth on his back, surrounded by knee-high grass and weeds. His shirt covered in bloodstains. His eyes open but lifeless. His left leg twisted in an unnatural position, his arms spread out full length to each side, and his mouth twisted in horror.

Just then, a blue two-door car came screeching to a halt at the intersection of Anderson Street and Dunn Boulevard. Then just as quickly as it appeared, the car sped off down the road. The crowd of onlookers stared in suspicion at the car’s erratic behavior. They all seemed to turn to each other at the same time, not saying a word, but they were all thinking the same thing—Was that the culprit who had murdered young Willy.

Daniel’s thoughts were hurtling nearly as fast as his car was speeding across town. He was thinking about how his father had just passed away only a month ago, and now he might lose his mother, as well. Moreover, what could be this piece of critical information that his mother wanted him to know? He kept his foot to the floor, doing his best to weave through the traffic that seemed to be intentionally blocking his way.

Marry fought through Karen’s grip and laid her eyes upon the scene before her. With a half scream half whimper, she fell to the ground and grabbed William by the shoulders and shook him in hopes of waking him, nevertheless, nothing. She pulled him to her chest and then laid him back down to administer CPR. Karen told her that she had sent one of the boys back home to call the police and that they should be here any minute. As if on cue, a patrol car pulled up next to the vacant lot, and two officers exited and hurried over to the crowd of onlookers. As they reached the scene, three more police cars arrived along with an ambulance, which, unfortunately, there was no need.

As the other officers approached, Karen grabbed one and told him about the blue car that had seemed, to her at least, to be escaping the scene of the crime. The officer stopped in his tracks.

“What color of blue was it, and can you tell me the style or make of the vehicle?” He said. Also, before she could answer, he continued, “Could you describe the driver? Was it a man or woman?”

“It was a pale light blue, it had two doors kind of like a sports car but not a real new one, and it was certainly a man driving. He was white and had dark hair, but that is all I could see,” she said, glancing back and forth from the officer and the paramedics kneeling around William. She tried her best to remember more, but nothing came to mind, it had all happened so fast.

“Ok mam, thank you and please don’t leave I may have some more questions for you.” He then walked over to some other officers and began talking into a radio.

Dan was now less than ten minutes from the hospital when a police car hurled out of Tammy’s family restaurant parking lot and quickly flipped its lights and sirens on and proceeded immediately to close the gap between itself and Dan’s car.

“Shit,” Dan weighed his options and decided he would explain his driving once he reached the hospital. Surely, the officer would understand his situation as well as why he was driving so erratically. So on went the chase for another twenty blocks, through red lights and stopped signs, around other cars and sometimes even into oncoming traffic, until; finally, the hospital was in sight.

The office in pursuit was on his radio, relaying that he had a possible suspect driving down Thornton Street and asking for backup immediately. Just then, the blue Toyota swung into the Vincent Memorial Hospitals parking lot and came to a stop under the emergency entrance overhang. The officer stopped his car a few yards behind Daniels and quickly exited with a gun in hand he knelt behind his opened the driver’s door and waited for the other driver to leave his car.

Marry was downright hysterical as the paramedics lifted little William onto a gurney and rolled him towards the opened doors at the back of the ambulance.

“It’s going to be alright, mam,” one of the officers said, knowing that the boy was gone as he tried to hold her back. Marry fought her best fight but eventually gave in to the stronger police officer and allowed herself to be escorted to the backseat of one of the patrol cars. As the ambulance pulled off so did the patrol car that Marry was in, she stared out the window at a world that would never be the same again.

Dan opened his door and stepped out to the sound of the officer yelling at him to lie down and not to move. This caught him by surprise, and he wasn’t sure what to do next. What he did know was that his mother might die at any moment, and nothing was going to stop him from seeing her before that could happen. Therefore, he ran around the back of his car and through the hospital doors deciding to deal with a speeding ticket after he got to his mother.

“Halt! Don’t move,” the officer yelled as three other patrol cars entered the parking lot and pulled up behind the first one.

“He ran into the hospital,” one said to the others.

“Was he armed?” Another asked in return.

“I’m not sure, but I don’t think so.”

Over the radio came the news that the victim, young Willy, had been pronounced dead from multiple knife wounds to the upper body. The officers looked at each other and headed for the hospital doors.

What was that room number again? Dan thought as the elevator doors slid shut. Third floor 313, he suddenly remembered. As the doors slid open to the third floor, Daniel hurried down the hall glancing at the room numbers. 301, 303, 305…quickly he made his way to 313 and opened the door to see his mother lying in bed looking more dead than alive. Dan stood in the doorway looking at his mother as she ever so slowly turned her head to smile at him. Ian Conner stood from his corner chair and greeted Dan with a handshake. He glanced at Helen and headed for the door.

“Sit down, Danny,” she said.

“Are you going to be alright, mother?” He said pulling his chair closer to her bed.

“That’s not important right now, honey. There is something must tell you that isn’t going to be easy for either of us.” Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes and began her story.

“Daniel, Harold, my husband, your so-called father was not your true father, and I am not your real mother,” she said, not blinking once as the words fell from her lips.

“What? That’s crazy mother; you’re just a little confused from whatever medication the doctors gave you.”

“Listen to me, Daniel. Nearly thirty-three years ago, Harold and I were camping in Hoosier National Forest when we came upon another couple camping not too far away from our site, Bill and Fay Keller were their names. They had a baby with them named Brad.” She paused to catch her breath. “Harold and I had been trying to have kids for close to five years at that point but with no success. We sat around the campfire talking with the Keller’s, and then it just happened. Harold slammed a piece of firewood into Bill’s skull, and down he went, I sat there stunned but managed to grab Fay before she could run, I don’t know why to this day I don’t know why. Harold took her into the woods and finished her as well, both of them lay dead in those woods while I scooped you up, and we headed back to our campsite. You never made a sound; you slept through the entire event.” She stopped once again and looked at Daniel with eyes full of tears. “We packed up and left that night. The next day the Keller’s bodies were found, and it was all over the news stations. It was only then that we realized that there was a little girl named Marry asleep in her tent just a few feet away from where we killed your parents and took you. We had kidnapped one child and orphaned another, but we couldn’t go back. We sold our house, moved to Indiana, and changed your name to Daniel. No one suspected a thing, and we were never connected to the murders. We raised you as if you were our own son, after a while you actually became ours. I still consider you my son, but I promised myself years ago that I would tell you the truth before I passed away, and it looks as if that day is near. I don’t expect forgiveness, understanding, or compassion. I just hope you will remember that Harold and I loved you, loved you more than God himself.” She closed her eyes once again and rolled her head to stare at the ceiling.

Daniel did nothing but sit there, quietly. His mind felt as if it were completely made of thin ice, and someone was trying to cross it. He didn’t know what to say. He didn’t know what to do. He pushed his chair back a little and stood over his dying mother, or whomever she was and was about to say something when the door flung open, and four armed officers rushed in screaming at him, to get on the ground, and when he didn’t, they tackled him. They rolled him over onto his stomach and handcuffed him. They then lifted him and escorted him down the hall, into the elevator where he tried to explain his situation but got nothing but quiet stares in return, out through the hospital lobby, and into the back seat of a waiting patrol car.

The police had brought Karen West to the hospital, and she identified Dan’s car as the same one she had seen earlier. Also, Daniel looked as if he could have been the driver.

“I’m sorry for speeding across town,” Dan was saying, “but my mother was, is, on the verge of death, and I was only trying to get here before it was too late.”

An officer was reading him his rights, and when he finished, the door slammed shut and the patrol car headed off down Thornton Street. As they headed towards the police station with whom they thought had just killed a young boy, new information came over the radio that a man had entered the station no more than ten minutes ago confessing to murdering a young child in the exact vacant lot where they found William. He also produced a small blood covered hunting knife.

The officer driving the car with Dan in it looked into his review mirror at Dan and shook his head. After pulling up to the station, the officer got Dan out of the back seat un-cuffed his hands, and asked him to please come inside for a statement. The statement Daniel Cooper made was one that the officers never expected. Dan had retold his mother’s story in full detail, and the cops were stunned into stillness.

Three weeks later, the DNA tests came back; Daniel Cooper (Brad Keller) and Marry Keller were brother and sister, separated thirty-three years earlier by the murder of their parents by Harold and Helen Cooper. Mary had lost a son but gained a brother. Daniel (Brad) had lost two fathers, one mother, and his identity but gained a sister.

One week later, he lost a second mother; two days after that he attended his nephew Williams’s funeral with Mary and many others. He held his sister’s hand and cried with her as the coffin cross the threshold into the ground.

On the following Friday, he stood over his mother’s, Helen Conner, grave wondering how he should feel. He stood there, wondering alone.


Write Fearlessly

About G.Edward Smith

A stranger in a strange land...
This entry was posted in Just Thinking and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to A Broken Family Tree (A Short Story)

  1. Elyan White says:

    Oh, boy. That’s a doozy.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This was like reading an old movie where characters had fated connections.

    Liked by 2 people

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