A sliver of bright sunlight entered the dark cavernous room, illuminating its contents. It first swept by a pair of dirty work shoes, then shone glinting off the black leather bench resting at the end of the bed. The beam continued to make its way, glancing across a pile of strewn clothes that had fallen from the overfilled hamper. Washing over a human-shaped lump in the bed, gleaming off the bathroom mirror as the door rested, having finished its creaking unveil.

     The person, creating the lump, bemoaned the disturbance rolling over with a deep sigh. Pulling the blankets up over his head in a futile attempt to shield his eyes. Laser beam-like shafts of light penetrated thru, assaulting him as he turned. Hoping the blankets would protect him like a child hiding from the monsters under the bed.

     A soft and gentle rapping of knuckles laid across the wooden door echoed into the black abyss, followed by a soft whisper. “Honey, it’s time to get up.” The owner of the voice paused in the doorway—a raven-haired woman, her locks flowing to her shoulder blades. “Come on, hun, you promised this week. It’s Saturday.” Getting no response from the motionless bump. “Sweety,” the woman continued, entering further, picking her way slowly across the midnight room carefully as to not trip, gliding to the curtains. A pair of heavy thick blackout curtains designed to restrict the flooding of outside light into a room. “If you don’t get up, I’ll open them.” The woman warned, placing her hand on one side, ready to pull the fabric back.

     “Come on, thirty more minutes.” Complained the balled-up figure.

     “Robert Gerald Pikeman, you get your butt up right now.” The woman barked in a playful tone planting one hand on her hip for dramatic effect, watching her husband twisting about with a wry smile.

     “Ok, ok, fine. I am getting up.” Robert replied, stirring, un-cocooning from the blankets. “Jeez, I’m up, I’m up already.” Complaining, shielding his eyes as his wife had started to pull back the curtains permitting shards of sunlight to enter splashing into Robert’s face. He withdrew vampire-like from the rays, hissing for dramatic effect as he pulled back.

     “Just making sure,” a happy, bright smile creases the young woman’s full lips. “Now hurry up and get ready.”

     Robert twisted, searching for the clock. It read 5:30pm. Groggily he rubbed his eyes, blinking twice to make sure he hadn’t miss read the time. Nope. Still 5:30. You’ve got to be kidding me, he thought regrettably. He’d only just gotten to bed four hours earlier after having worked a sixteen-hour shift for the third time this week. He’d done four such shifts the previous week as well.

     In fact, that’s pretty much what his life had been reduced to over the last year. They needed the money for his son Roland’s operation to correct his heart condition, Aortic Valve Stenosis. His wife, Rebecca, couldn’t get a job because someone needed to be at home to care for Roland. So, that burden had fallen onto Robert’s shoulders alone. Not that he would ever complain, he loved his son more than anything in the world.

His only regret is that all his time at work was pulling him away from his family. He’d begun to see fractures where there were none before. Arguments about little things started to creep into their daily lives more so than ever before.

     But the need was too great to let that stop him. He needed the second job and thus opted for as much overtime as both companies would allow him to rack up. Which didn’t really allow him to spend much time at home with Rebecca and Roland anymore.

For the first eight years of Roland’s life, Robert had been present at nearly every major milestone and significant life event. His little ‘mini me’ has Robert liked to brag to his friends, had even taken to listing his dad as his favorite superhero of all time.

So when he had to miss Roland’s ninth birthday, it ate him up inside. After that, they had instituted a family night. Every Saturday, given Robert’s work schedules, they would let Roland pick something for the family to do together. Though lately, they hadn’t been able to do so for the last three weeks due to Robert’s scheduling. So, this week, he had promised Rebecca and Roland that given Saturday evening off from both jobs, they would finally be able to go out. The whole family had been looking forward to a night out together.

“Come on, honey, get that tushie into gear.” Rebecca chided, picking out a set of clothes from their dresser. 

Robert sat up; every known fiber, muscle, and bone ached. Even ones he didn’t know existed. His feet hit the soft plush bedroom carpet, though they felt as if they’d just been raked across a pit of hot coals. Barely able to move, stiff as a board, he continued to sit on the edge of the bed, contemplating not if but could he actually get up.

Trying to stand, his vertebra cracked all the way up his spine. Plobbing back down. “Nope, I can’t do this.” Laying back in bed. “I need a few more hours of sleep, hun.” Pulling the blankets back up.

Rebecca whirled around on him, slamming the clothes she’d just picked out onto the floor. “Goddammit, Robert,” she barked through clenched teeth. “You promised your son that we’d be able to do family night. Now get up.”

“Rebecca, I am exhausted. I just need like another hour or two, please. I can hardly move.” Her husband complained.

“So, what am I supposed to tell Roland then. Daddy is too tired to spend a little time with his son.”

Robert shot up furry in his eyes. She’d just pressed the one button he had become most sensitive about. He loved his son and wanted nothing more than to spend time with him. “Are you fucking kidding me with this right now? Seriously.” He spat. “All I am asking for is just a little bit more sleep. Is that too much to fucking ask for? Two hours isn’t going to make that big of a difference. It’s 5:30, so we go out a little later.”

“Robert, I know you. Two hours will make a huge difference. You’ll get up, and by the time you’re ready, it’ll be eight. We can’t keep Roland out like that. The doctors only allowed us to bring him home as long as we provide him plenty of rest.” Rebecca countered.

“You don’t think I know that, Rebecca? Jeez, he’s my son too.”

“You sure about? You don’t spend any time with him.” Rebecca snapped.

Robert ignored the pain, leaping from the bed affronted by his wife’s comment. “Are you fucking kidding me?” He growled, enraged. “I am killing myself working two jobs and all the overtime I can get to pay for the procedure. And what are you doing? Nothing. That’s what.”

“Oh, don’t you dare.” Now it was Rebecca’s turn to be insulted by Robert’s insinuation that she doesn’t love her son just as much because she’s not working. “You’re not here all the time. Do you know how hard it’s been to take care of Roland 24/7? Don’t you dare accuse me of doing nothing just because I am not working. I am doing my part.” She snarled, her crystal blue eyes lit up like pyres infused with anger.

Robert paused, letting out a huff of air. He knew deep down that they both loved Roland, and he didn’t mean to imply that she didn’t. But he wasn’t going to apologize, well, not right now at least. “You know what. Take him; just take him out tonight. Just the two of you.” He said, not wanting to continue the argument. “I’ll take him out on my next day off. Just me him. Give you a little bit of a break since you clearly need one from your son.”

Rebecca’s hands trembled, her fist clenched tight balled-up incensed. “Fine.” She scowled, shaking. “Maybe one of these days, you’ll spend some time with your son.” She screamed, slamming the door behind her as she left the room.

Laying back down, finally some sleep, he thought to himself, hearing Rebecca shuffle about the house for a few minutes before leaving. His head hit the pillow, and he was out like a light.

****

Startled by a heavy banging at the front door. Robert sprang up in fight mode, head surveying his surroundings. Unable to see anything, the room was pitch black; the blackout curtains had still been drawn closed—another heavy knock. Glimpsing around, he saw the time 12:30am. He’d slept much longer than he originally wanted to. Why was Rebecca not answering the door? Another bang.

“I am coming.” He shouted, making his way through the living room. There was nothing on, and there was no sign of Rebecca or Roland. “Where are they?” Approaching the door, he could see a set of flashing red and blue lights coming from outside.

He peered through the peephole to see a police officer in uniform standing, waiting for someone to answer. His heart sank; he spun, looking around the room once more. His throat suddenly dried. He knew deep down something had gone terribly wrong. Reaching for the door handle timidly, his hands jittery. He turned the handle.

Buzz.

Robert’s phone trilled across the nightstand, eyes snapping open, finding himself drenched in sweat. “What the fuck,” his heart racing. His cellphone continued trilling, vibrating across the tabletop. “It was just another nightmare,” he said to himself, reaching for his phone, clocking the time. 10am. “Hello.” He said, answering.

“Good morning, Mr. Pikeman. I hope I didn’t wake you,” said an unfamiliar voice.

“No, I am awake,” Robert answered, wiping the crust from the corner of his eyes. “Who is this?”

“Oh, I am sorry. My name is Detective Reese, Marvin Reese.”

“What can I do for you this morning Detective Reese?”

“Well, I was hoping to get you to come down to the station this afternoon. Unfortunately, we still need your written statement about the other night’s events, as I am sure the officers told you.”

“Oh, yes, of course. I’d meant to-“

“That’s ok, sir; I know things have been a little chaotic.” Detective Reese cut in. “How does say one o’clock sound for you?”

“Umm…yeah, sounds great. I’ll see you then, detective.” Robert hung up the phone. “Shit,” he muttered, looking at his disheveled self in the mirror. He’d managed to stop drinking the day after the accident, but, unfortunately, he had found himself with a bottle in hand again last night, accompanied by a throbbing headache this morning. He had been unable to shake the accident’s events and his son’s visage the following day, which had guided him to help a total stranger. “Jeez, I need to get my shit together.” He said, stumbling his way to the bathroom.

****

Robert pulled his pickup truck into the first open parking spot he could find. Hands still resting on the steering wheel, he caught himself staring off into the abyss, trapped in his own thoughts. The last time he’d seen the police station was the night of his wife and son’s accident. Memories began to flood back, memories he’d buried away, swearing to never revisit, but he had no choice today. Panicking, he reached under his driver’s seat feeling around the floorboard. Fingers first touching something metal and cold, then what he was looking for.

Wrapping his hand around the neck of a bottle easing it out from underneath him, like a jewel thief easing a protective case off his prize.

Staying hunched over, he screwed the cap off, lips wrapping around the neck, his taste buds soaking up the liquid appeased. Taking a quick shot, “and that’s for the nerves,” he said, twisting the cap back on. Sliding the bottle back into his preferred hiding spot before reaching across the center console to the glove box. Unlatching the plastic cover over the compartment, shuffling its contents around, finding his bottle of mouthwash. Gulping down the bitter, tingling liquid, swishing it around his mouth. Spitting it back into the small plastic container. “And that’s to cover it up.” Tossing it back in, closing the compartment.

Proceeding timidly into the building stopping by the front desk. “Good afternoon. I am here to see Detective Reese. I am Robert Pikeman. We spoke-“

“Down the hall, set of offices against the wall, second one in.” The desk officer stated, not even bothering to look up. Instead, he quickly snatched up the ringing phone.

Robert shrugged, then followed the officer’s directions making a left turn past the desk and continuing down the hall the officer had pointed towards. It led into a large open floor planned office. Several rows of desks lined up in the center, and against the room’s sides were several smaller offices with glass doors and windows. Names and positions of each of their occupants stenciled. Finding detective Reese’s office right where the desk officer said it would be.

Calmly he approached, inhaling a deep breath about to knock when the man behind the glass looked up, locking eyes with him. Detective Reese. He looked in his late thirties to early forties, not much older than Robert. He had thinning hair, his face appeared sunken in, and he had heavy dark circles below his eyes. He gave the appearance of a man who didn’t sleep much and who seemed to have the weight of the world resting upon his shoulders alone. Like he’d placed everyone’s burden squarely on himself.

     Motioning for Robert to enter. “Good afternoon, Mr. Pikeman,” he said, standing to greet Robert with a handshake before indicating him to sit. “Thank you for coming down on such short notice. I am just looking to wrap this up quickly, so we need a written statement from you. But first, let me just say that this world needs more people like you, sir. Not many would put their own lives at risk to save two strangers.” The man gushed.

     “Um…thank you,” Robert responded; he wasn’t used to receiving praise, and that was the last thing he felt like. A good person. “Just right place, right time, I guess.” He added.

     “Well, anyway.”

     “Quick question before we start, though.” Robert had found it pretty odd that a detective would be investigating a random crash caused by a blown tire. “Why is a detective investigating a simple car crash. As I stated to the responding officers, I’d heard a loud pop like their tire exploded just before the woman lost control.”

     “Sorry, Mr. Pikeman, but I am not really at liberty to discuss the full investigation. All we need at this time from you is a written statement. The essentials as to what happened and why you were on the bridge, to begin with. As that part wasn’t in the officer’s report.” Reese’s expression became calculating, almost as if he knew why he was there but didn’t want to let on that he did.

     Robert’s heart leaped. Was the detective investigating him? As far as he knew, suicide wasn’t illegal anymore. His mouth was suddenly dry and not from his drinking. “Um…sure, anything to help.” He finally mustered.

     “Great, thanks; we can get started right now then.” Sliding an official police statement across the desk in front of Robert, handing him a pen. Clutching the pen, Robert began to write when Detective Reese’s phone trilled. “Excuse me, I have to take this,” he said regarding the caller ID with great confusion and suspicion. He stepped out into the main office. Robert tried to continue writing his statement but at the same time straining to hear any part of the detective’s conversation out of curiosity. A moment later, Detective Reese returned. Making a beeline for his desk, retrieving his badge and gun from the top drawer, and yanking his suit jacket off the back of the chair. “I am so sorry about this, Mr. Pikeman, but something just come up, and I need to go. Can we reschedule for another time?” The detective’s demeanor had been altered by his phone conversation. He was no longer quiet, subdued, with a slow drawl to his words. He now came off as jittery, and the pace in which he spoke increased.

     “Sure thing,” Robert said, not knowing what to make of the situation.

     “Great, I’ll call you when I can. I trust you can see yourself out?”

     “I can,” Robert replied, but the detective was already gone shuffling quickly down the hall and out of sight. Robert stared blankly, unable to process what had just happened. Maybe it was a break in some big case he was working on? Turning to put the paper and pen back.

“Whoa,” Robert gasped, jumping back startled, sending him and the chair reeling back, slamming into the door frame. “Not this again.” He said, rubbing his eyes. “Why are you doing this?” He asked, blinking several times; each time he opened his eyes, his son was still sitting in the chair across from him. “What is this?” Peering around, looking to make sure no one was paying him any attention. Everyone in the office was still at work on whatever project was in front of them. “Will you please answer me? Why are you doing this?” No response; the child raised his arm, pointing in the direction Detective Reese had shot off into, then pointed at a picture of a family on the desk. “I don’t understand, Roland. What do you want me to do?” The boy repeated first to the hallway and then back to the picture. “You want me to follow him?” Roland nodded. “Ok, this is insane but ok.” Robert couldn’t believe his eyes. What was going on? Roland had died six months ago, and in the last several days, he’d seen this apparition of his son. Who seemed to be guiding him to do; well, Robert didn’t quite know exactly what his son had been urging him to do. Roland repeated his signal more hurriedly. “Ok, ok, I am going.”

     Dropping the pen on the desk, Robert rushed out of the office, giving it a quizzical look, to find no Roland. Shaking his head, he raced down the hall and outside. The sun blasted his pupils with bright rays, temporarily blinding him. Shielding his eyes, Robert surveyed the parking lot spotting Detective Reese getting into his black Ford Taurus and backing out of the parking lot.

     Running across the parking lot, fishing his keys out of his pocket, Robert leaped into his driver seat, throwing the pickup into reverse. Keeping mindful that he was surrounded by cops, he slowed, backing up, making his way out of the lot.

He spotted the black sedan driving off as he approached the exit gate. Slamming his brakes as three other cars whooshed by him. Then, checking that both ways were clear, he pulled out onto the street. The three vehicles separated him from Detective Reese as they stopped at the light. Robert’s higher-profile truck cab allowed him to see over the other cars making it easier to watch the one in front.

     “What the hell am I doing?” He asked himself as the light turned green, and he continued to pursue the detective. “I am trailing a cop.” He said, laughing to himself, having no clue what he was doing.

     Robert continued trailing Detective Reese, maintaining his distance across town. Finally, the detective pulled into a parking spot across the street from another police station. Quickly disembarking, he sprinted across the road disappearing inside.

Wanting to follow him initially, Robert thought better of it. How in the world would he ever be able to explain if the detective saw him. Instead, he waited for what seemed like hours until Reese re-emerged from the station. Though, he wasn’t alone. In tow, he had with him a teenage boy. He couldn’t be more than sixteen years old, Robert guessed. The expression worn by both parties had suggested a wave of unspoken anger from the boy and sadness from the detective. As the kid was shepherded into the passenger’s seat with haste. The black sedan peeled away. Robert decided to continue following.

     Pursuing the detective to a house, where he and the boy entered. Robert waited across the street, lowering himself in the cab, keeping a watchful eye on the front door.

An hour later, Reese reappeared, this time by himself, muttering something as he got into his car, slamming the door taking off. Then, sitting back up, still in disbelief of what he was doing. Robert placed his own vehicle in drive, easing his truck back onto the road, maintaining a semblance of distance between him and Reese. Wondering if it was illegal to be trailing a cop.

     They drove around for a bit, Robert at first, not knowing exactly where they were going. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to their journey. Figuring Reese needed time to process whatever had just happened in the house.

He used to do something similar when he needed to clear his head or after he and Rebecca had gotten into a fight or disagreement. On the verge of giving up, he looked around at his surroundings to plot the best course home. Until something unnerving presented itself. He knew exactly where they were.

“Oh, no, what is this?” Robert questioned. “Oh god no, don’t tell me.” Turning at the stop sign directly ahead was a park. “This can’t be, no, I can’t do this.” Robert made an abrupt u-turn swinging the truck around when he looked into his rearview mirror to see Roland’s disapproving face. The apparition of his son shook his head.

     Trailing Detective Reese had brought Robert to a place that he’d held sacred at one time. It was also a place that he didn’t want to see ever again. Especially in his current condition and state of mind. The last bastion of goodness for him.

     This was the last place, the last time he could remember being truly happy. He had everything, a loving wife, a loving son, a great job, and most importantly, great health for the entire family. They were happy, a truly happy family.

It was what came the next day that ruined everything. They found out their lives would be altered forever on a routine checkup for Roland because their son had a heart defect. It was the genesis of everything that would bring Robert’s happy world to a screeching halt.

So now, at this moment, to return to a place of happiness in his current level of pain, suffering, and despair was too much to bear. He couldn’t, wouldn’t go through with it. Waiting at the stop sign seeing Reese’s sedan pull into a parking spot through the rearview mirror, watching the detective disappear inside. Still gazing into the disapproving face of the spirit of his son. Robert sighed, lowering his head. “Fine, you win, Roland, again. I don’t know why you’re doing this or what I am supposed to do here, but ok.” He said once again, doing a U-turn for the second time in a matter of seconds.

Robert stood outside of the park’s gates for a moment, trying to muster the courage to step through. Feeling that if he entered his once happy place with the bad and negative feelings swirling in him these days. That he would forever taint, its hallowed meaning, and somehow cause him to spontaneously burst into flames.

He stepped through.

To great relief, nothing happened. He didn’t combust; the flowers didn’t wilt and die. Everything was as it was before.

Spotting the cop sitting on a bench, his head in his hands. “Ok, here goes nothing,” Robert said, striding past the policeman in a veiled attempt of nonchalantness. “Detective Reese,” Robert announced his presence to the previously unaware man. He looked up, concealing a tear.

“Mr. Pikeman,” the detective looked around confused. According to Robert’s file, he knew for a fact that the man standing before him didn’t reside in the area. “What…what you doing here?” He asked accusingly. “Did you follow me?”

Not about to tell a member of the police force that he had actually been secretly tailing him all afternoon. “Umm…no, I uh, I uh. I come here sometimes to think and clear my head.” He said, not knowing what to say or how to explain this chance, not-so-chance encounter. “This place has a special meaning to me.”

“Really,” Reese said, tone suggesting he didn’t completely buy the story.

“Yeah, it was,” Robert paused, looking over his shoulder at the clacking of chain links from the swing set Roland used to love playing on. “I used to bring my son here,” he said, doing all he could to refrain from crying at the mere mention of Roland.

For the first time, a small crack of a smile came from the detective’s lips while still reading Robert’s mannerisms. “Me too. I used to bring James here often.” The accusatory tone was replaced with a more somber note. “James is, my son, by the way,” he added. “Or, at least he used to be. I don’t even know where we stand anymore.” Shaking his head.

Assuming the boy, he spotted with him earlier was the aforementioned James. But Robert, not wanting to let on that he had been spying on him all afternoon. “Where is he now?” He asked.

“His mother has full custody. I haven’t seen James in a year or so, until today. Hell, I haven’t even spoken to him for about six months. Some father right.” He added, waiting for a disapproving look from Robert. Receiving none, he continued. “During the divorce proceedings, I’d pretty much given up my custodial rights. She didn’t really want me around, not even to help raise him. My wife, Sophia. Though I can’t really blame her. It’s not like I was really there for them in the end anyway.”

“So, what happened today then?” Robert asked; though he’d seen them together, he wasn’t sure what happened or how James ended up in the police station.

Giving Robert a bewildered look as it sounded like he genuinely wanted to hear his story. “James got caught shoplifting after he’d skipped school today. When the cop showed up to arrest him, he told them his dad was a detective. So out of professional courtesy, they called me. That was the call I got during our meeting. So I rushed over and took care of everything. That was the least I could do for him since I am not there anymore.”

Robert had so many questions. Is it that different being on the side with a badge that they can make things just go away than without a badge? Another being, why wasn’t he there for him? He could clearly see in his eyes that he loved his son. Every time he thought of Roland, it was the same look in his eyes.

“What do you mean by can’t be there anymore?” This puzzled Robert the most. He knew why he couldn’t be there for Roland anymore. However, James was still alive and breathing, and a father’s place was to be there for his son.

Reese’s face twisted into a grotesque caricature of itself, trying to process the plethora of emotions waging war on themselves inside his mind. His eyes reeked of sadness and guilt, lips contorted downward revealing remorse, forehead scrounged in anger. “I used to be the typical working father when I was a patrol officer. I had pretty much a set schedule; I could be there for him during sports practices, anything extra circular he wanted to do.” Reese explained. “Then I took a promotion to detective, and that was when everything changed. I had different hours, calls at all times of the day. Even in the middle of the night too. Then…then, the things I saw,” he continued. “When I was home, I wasn’t really home. I began to drink heavily to clear the things I saw out of my head. I started to pull away from my family….”

Reese continued to narrate the rest of his story. However, Robert began to think of his own situation and how he’d done something very similar. Allowing himself to be consumed by his worry about the financial crisis the family faced with Roland’s procedure and care afterward that he’d pulled away from his family too. He would always tell himself that once they got through it, and everything was behind them, that would be the time he could spend with his wife and son. He just needed to get them past it all.

Sadly though, that time never came, and the one thing that had been eating away at him most. That fateful night, family night, he had decided to skip. It wasn’t necessarily because he missed it. He worried most about what that one action might’ve said to his son. Did Roland die thinking his father didn’t love him? That was the one thought that he couldn’t bear.

“No,” Robert said aloud and definitely, abruptly cutting off Reese.

“What.”

“I am sorry, detective, but no, you can’t think like that.” Robert was partially listening. The part that perked his defiant outburst was when Reese said he felt it was too late to make a change. It was too late to show his family that he loved them and that they were what mattered most to him. Not his job, them, his family.

“Excuse me,” the detective questioned, taking offense.

“What I mean to say,” backtracking. “Every boy needs his father in some way or another. As long as you’re trying and James knows that, you’ll never let him down. Sure he may be mad at you and act out from time to time. But don’t you remember doing the same as a youth too. I do, but I always knew my father loved me because he was there when I needed him, just like you today. And that is something you have to show James every chance you get. Because…because, well, you never know when that will be your last chance.” Starting to well up, Robert paused, reminded of the last time he saw his wife and son. “I, too, once let work and responsibility get in the way of spending time with my son. In fact, the night he died, the night my wife died, the night my whole world came tumbling down around me. My wife and I had gotten into an argument about that very same thing. Not being around for my family. The thing that haunts me the most is we didn’t end things on good terms and that Roland may have thought his daddy didn’t love him anymore. I can’t go back and change that night and tell him I love him or even go out with them. It’s too late for me. But you can. You can change your narrative. You can change how your family sees you. You can insist on being there for James and making sure that he knows you love him every day. Because you never know when that last day will come, and believe me from personal experience. You don’t want that doubt living inside your head. The doubt of thinking you didn’t show him what he means to you. Because, detective, that will eat you alive.”

Detective Reese gawped at Robert, not knowing what to say upon hearing the man’s tragic story. “I…I don’t want to say Mr. Pikeman. I am sorry you’ve gone through all that. I can’t even imagine what that must feel like.”

“Terrible,” Robert said plainly. “It is a horrible feeling, and no one should have to experience it. That’s why I am telling you. It’s not too late to fix your situation. Go to your ex-wife, tell her you want, no, need to be a part of James’ life, her life too if you still love her that way. Do everything in your power to be there for him every time he needs you. You said you haven’t spoken in months. But his first instinct when he got in trouble was to call for your help. That tells me he wants you to be a part of his life more than you have been. As long as both of you are breathing, it’s never too late. I’ll never get that chance, but you have it. So take it and embrace it.”

“I, I am going to go right now.” Reese hopped up from the bench. “Thank you, Mr. Pikeman, reaching out to shake his hand. “Again, I am truly sorry for what you’ve endured. And thank you so much for sharing your story with me. I think I know what I need to do now. Thank you again.” Turning to walk off, the detective spun around. “Oh, and Mr. Pikeman, I know we don’t know each other well, but after what you’ve just told me. I think your son knew exactly how much you loved him. So I wouldn’t worry about that anymore if I were you.”

Reese pirouetted and raced off through the park, driving away, leaving Robert alone on the bench in the park that used to once be his and Roland’s favorite happy place. Peering out over the monkey bars, jungle gym, and swing sets, he spotted Roland blissfully swinging away, a smile on his face. Robert felt that he could finally let go of all that guilt he had pent up from that night. Because deep down, he knew that both his wife Rebecca and Roland knew precisely how much he loved them both, as Reese said. Roland smiled at his father, giving him a wink, then faded away. Robert sat on the bench for another hour, happily remembering all the great times he and Roland had as the sunset, turning the evening sky ablaze in a beautiful orangish glow.

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