Cold Hearts(7)

By: Sharon Sala

“No, Mack. No heart attack.” Trey braced himself for the rest. “He was working on a car late last night, and it appears the lift failed and crushed him beneath it.”

When Mack went silent, Trey didn’t know what to think. “Mack? Mack?”

Mack’s voice was shaking, and his eyes were so full of tears he couldn’t see his desk. “I’m on my way.”

“Look, Mack, the coroner isn’t here yet and—”

“Are you telling me he’s still there? Under the car?”

“It’s procedure in an unattended death. The coroner has to see the scene intact.”

“Are you implying it wasn’t an accident?” Mack asked.

“No, I’m not implying anything, but it’s my job not to assume anything, either.”

“I hear you—now you hear me. I’ll be there.”

“No, man, you don’t want—”

The line went dead in Trey’s ear. He sighed. This was the second time that morning someone had hung up on him. He left the police station through the back door and returned to the scene of the accident.

* * *

It took Mack less than thirty minutes to put the lumberyard into his sympathetic manager’s hands and go home and pack. He’d made the drive from Summerton to Mystic countless times, but never like this. This time he was scared to go home.

Once, when he was six, he got mad because he couldn’t go to his grandparents’ house and ran away. He didn’t get far before he realized he didn’t know how to get there, so he stopped, then was scared to go home because he was afraid of the consequences. He felt like that now, afraid to go home because of the consequences awaiting him.

He was also bothered by how his father had died. He had been such a stickler for safety in the garage that this scenario seemed improbable. Of course hydraulic lifts could fail, but he’d never imagined them dropping so fast a man couldn’t escape. The horror-filled image in his head kept getting worse with each passing mile. Had his dad cried out for help and no one had heard? Had he suffered?

He didn’t know he was crying until his vision finally blurred to the point that he couldn’t see the road. He pulled over onto the shoulder, slammed his SUV into Park and then laid his head down on the steering wheel and sobbed. One image after another swept through his mind from when he was a child. All the nights when he was little and his dad had read him a story to put him to sleep. The countless holidays spent together with his parents. The year the front porch had collapsed from a heavy snow and they couldn’t use the front door for two months. Losing his mother when he was only ten. Mack and his father had become inseparable afterward. Now the thought of his father dying alone in excruciating pain was horrifying. His dad had been there for him when he’d needed him most, but in Paul’s darkest moment, he’d died alone.

Overwhelmed with grief and guilt, Mack lost track of time.

It wasn’t until a semi rolled past him so fast it shook his car that he pulled himself together and resumed his journey. He had always thought the worst thing that could ever happen to him had been when he’d found out Melissa Sherman, the girl he’d loved more than life, had aborted their baby, but he had been wrong. Today was, without question, even worse.

* * *

Trey was at the garage with his officers, absorbing the implications of what they’d just told him, when Mack Jackson arrived. Trey could tell he was in shock as he got out of his car, and his hesitant steps bore witness to how much he dreaded going into the garage, yet he kept moving forward.

Trey went to meet him. “Mack. I’m so sorry.”

Mack couldn’t look at the sympathy on Trey’s face without breaking down again, so he nodded without meeting his friend’s gaze.

When he started into the garage, Trey stopped him. “I’m telling you again, you don’t want to go in there.”

Mack looked up then, with anger in his eyes. “Hell no, I don’t want to go in there, but he’s alone, damn it! He’s alone! That’s not right. It’s just not right.”

Trey stepped back. “Then, I have to go with you. You can’t move anything. You can’t touch anything.”

“I know,” Mack said.

Mack kept his eyes on the back of Trey’s head until they were inside the garage, and then he looked down.

He saw the car, then the pool of drying blood, and then he saw a work boot, and that was enough. He turned away, and his voice was trembling with shock and emotion when he spoke.

“I see and still don’t believe. He was all about safety measures. He was careful, so damn careful,” he whispered. And then he looked up at Trey, unaware that he was crying again. “I need to stay with him. Show me where I can stand.”

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