NOTES: I hope you all had a great weekend. Thanks to everyone who bought a copy of Disavowed. Didn't quite crack the Top 100, but we were close. I'm sure we'll hit it next time.
Our time is short this week, so I'll keep it quick. This chapter was part of the reason I wanted to write this book. I not only want to tell the story of servicemen and women, but I also want to tell the stories of their families. I hope I can do them justice. Tell me what you think...
(CAUTION: The following contains unedited material that may be unsuitable for the grammatically inclined. Keep in mind that I don’t review what I write until after the first draft of the whole novel is done.)
Disney Yacht Club Resort
Lake Buena Vista, Florida
5:29pm, December 5th
Mrs. Ellwood was waiting for them in the lobby. Cal recognized her from the photo Special Agent Barrett had shown him and Daniel. She was beautiful in the old southern way. Distinguished and almost regal, her silver hair pulled back in a bun. When she turned, Cal caught of glimpse of the sorrow in her eyes. The look was replaced by the cordial gaze of a professional military wife, a general’s wife.
“I’m Cal Stokes, Mrs. Ellwood, and this is Daniel Briggs.”
Cassidy Ellwood shook their hands and said, “I’ve reserved a room where we can talk in private. My family is still in our suite.”
They followed General Ellwood’s wife down the long nautical themed hallway. When they reached their destination, Mrs. Ellwood touched the pink band on her wrist to the electronic locked. It flickered green and the three entered.
Mrs. Ellwood flipped on the lights and took the first chair she found in the small sitting area. She motioned for Cal and Daniel to do the same.
Nothing in her appearance, other than the hint of puffiness around her eyes, suggested that she was in mourning. That didn’t surprise Cal. Being a Marine wife for as long as she had, surely she’d dealt with her fair share of grief over the past thirty-some years.
Cal began. “I’d first like to say how sorry we are for —“
“For my loss? For the fact that my husband blew his brains out? You can save your words Mr. Stokes. I’m a big girl. I’ve seen too many Marines take their lives. I was one of the ones that had to help pick up the pieces for the grieving wives, the widows forced to care for their fatherless children. So spare me the song and dance. What does the Commandant want with me?”
Cal nodded. He hadn’t expected the meeting to be easy, but the level of animosity made him pause. “General Winfield wanted me to come down and let you know that he is at your disposal. Anything you need we will help take care of it.”
“What about the Marine Corps? They already sent their delegation.”
“This is in addition to that, Ma’am.”
Mrs. Ellwood cocked her head to the side taking the two men in. “Who are you, Mr. Stokes? Are you a Marine?”
“Former Marine, yes, Ma’am”
Mrs. Ellwood snorted. “Didn’t you hear the last Commandant? There are no former Marines. Once a Marine, always a Marine.” She spat the words out like they’d burned her mouth with some vile taste.
“Yes, Ma’am. I don’t like to confuse people, especially without a regulation hair cut. Daniel and I are no longer on active duty,” Cal explained.
“Then what are you doing for Scotty Winfield?” She seemed intrigued now, her anger just below the surface.
“That’s a little hard to explain, Mrs. Ellwood.”
“Try me. I’ve been around the block a few times, Marine.” She sounded like a general. Patiently tolerant.
Cal couldn’t tell her the whole truth, so the Commandant had told him to use his discretion on what he said to Mrs. Ellwood.
“We’ve been directed to help in the investigation of General Ellwood’s death.”
“I would think it’s pretty cut and dry, gentlemen. My husband told us he would meet us in an hour. Instead he returned to our room, pocketed the pistol my Daddy gave him, and walked into the woods to take his own life.”
He could see that she was trying to stay strong, but her lips were quivering. Cal made his decision.
“Mrs. Ellwood, we believe, that is, myself and General Winfield, believe that there might be more to your husband’s death.”
Mrs. Ellwood’s eyes went wide.
“You’re telling me that the Marine Corps not only took my husband away for me for years, but now you’re saying that it might have had something to do with his death?” Tears were now streaming from her eyes. She didn’t seem to notice. “God damn the Marine Corps! Honor, courage and commitment? What happened to family?! We tell our young Marines and their wives to take care of one another, to be there for their children. But that’s all a lie! My children never had the benefit of their father’s love. He wasn’t home. He was supposed to be the example, but Doug was always working. Now my grandchildren will never know their grandfather.”
She paused to grab the tissue Daniel had extended for her. Mrs. Ellwood dabbed her eyes and continued.
“I’ll tell you something that isn’t in your filed, Mr. Stokes. We came on this trip because of me, because I demanded it of my husband. I really thought he understood. He took the time with our boys, with their kids. We made love and for a moment I thought I had my Doug back. We were kids again. I loved him very much, Mr. Stokes. I love him…”
Her voice trailed off as she sobbed quietly. Cal stood up from his chair and knelt in front of her, taking her free hand.
“I understand,” he said simply.
Mrs. Ellwood’s eyes flashed. “How could you?!”
“My fiancé was murdered in front of me, and my parents were both killed on nine-eleven.”
Her eyes softened and she covered his hand with hers.
“I’m sorry,” she said.
“It’s okay. I’m very sorry for your loss, Mrs. Ellwood.”
She nodded, wiping her tears away with the tissue.
“My husband was a good man, an honest man, Mr. Stokes. He worked hard and did his best. There wasn’t a lying bone in his body. But he was a Marine through and through. It was in his blood, I know that.”
“He was a Marine’s Marine, Ma’am.”
Mrs. Elwood nodded absently. “You were saying…are you telling me that there may have been a reason that Doug did what he did?”
Cal didn’t see the harm in telling her something.
She smiled. “For some reason that makes me feel better. Doug wasn’t a man who could fall into self-pity. I…I didn’t believe it when they told me.” Her eyes met Cal’s again. “Can you promise me something, Mr. Stokes?”
“If I can, I will.”
“If there was someone behind my husband’s death, if they did something to force Doug’s hand… Find them, Mr. Stokes. Find them.”
For some reason, despite the odds stacked against them and the enemy still lurking in the shadows, Cal said the first thing that came from his heart, “We’ll take care of it, Ma’am.”
Comments? Questions? Concerns? Tell me in the COMMENTS section below.
Join me as I write a new novel LIVE with your input. Tell me what you like, what you don't like. This is a joint mission to write a kickass novel.