Copyright 2014, MillieAnne Lowe, Orange County, California
Fire Chief Mullins and Eric headed for the St. Mark’s Hospital. Both had been quiet for most of the drive. Then Mullins spoke, “Eric, I know you’ve been worried about the girls. We could drive over to your aunt’s home in a few minutes. Can you call, and get Stevens to cover for you for at least a couple of hours?”
“I don’t know. I have so much to put down on paper. It’s not like I can tell him what to write in the report.” Eric sighed. “Okay, okay. I’ll use the walkie talkie.” After some static, Eric was able to reach Stevens, who was second in command at the station. It was located a short distance down from the hospital where Mrs. Johnson was in the ICU. “Hey Stevens. It’s Eric. Help me out and start the basic info on the forms, all right? I’ve got some complicated stuff to file in the report when I get there.” Eric paused and listened, but couldn’t make out what Stevens said in reply. “I can’t make out what you’re saying. I’ll be there in a while. Over and Out.”
Eric looked at his friend, Chief Greg Mullins. “Can you believe how much has happened? Everything we’ve done is not part of a normal workday. It’s been so crazy going from the hospital to the apartment, finding the girls’ trashed apartment, a dead dog, and and dead body… I’ve forgotten about Mrs. Johnson! She must be wondering why Haley and the girls haven’t come back to see her.
“Eric, I know you aren’t one to break rules, or take extra time for yourself on the job, but in this instance, this girl, Haley, is obviously very special to you,” the Chief said, and then paused.
Eric turned in his seat and looked at Chief Mullins. “What are you getting at?”
“It’s this. You gave Haley and the girls your car to use. You sent her to be in the care of your aunt, and now, no one has called you, and you haven’t been able to reach your aunt because you’ve been busy at the crime scene. Get your priorities straight! The Chief pounded the steering wheel. “Le. me drive you to your aunt’s house and help you track down Haley and the girls. How’s that?”
“I think I’ve been stupid, that’s what. Com’on, let’s go to Aunt Robin’s house. It’s not far from here. Just keep going straight on Hyde and when we come to Vallejo Street, hang a right. I’ll point out her house to you.”
The Chief parked his car on the driveway of a red brick house covered in ivy.
“I don’t see her car here, but maybe she’s cleaned the garage and parked inside,” said Eric.
“Let’s take off our jackets and ID cards here, Eric. We don’t want to alarm anyone unnecessarily. I’ve had enough startled neighbors for the day. How about you?”
Eric nodded in agreement. “Just lay your stuff with mine in the back seat,” said the Chief.
The neighborhood was quiet except for a few people who had just climbed up the hill on Vallejo Street. They were huffing and puffing, trying to catch their breath.
Eric led the Chief up into the brick alcove and rang the doorbell next to a beautifully framed beveled glass door.
“I hear her coming. That’s her,” he pointed. “You’re going to love her, Chief. She’s wonderful woman.”
Eric’s Aunt Robin, a retired art teacher, answered the door in a blue green blouse and Capri ensemble. Her thick fading blonde hair sparkled in the sunlight. She had combed it into a French twist and a thick strand fell forward against her cheek. “Well, hello! Where are your girl friends?”
Eric felt the dread flowing over him like a wave. “Haley and the girls aren’t here?”
“Not yet, they’re not. I thought they were going to be here earlier. Come in, come in,” she said, waving him in and then discovered the Chief standing off to the side. “Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t see you there.”
“Aunt Robin, this is my friend, Fire Chief Greg Mullins.” Then he turned and said, “Chief, this is my very special Aunt Robin.”
“How do you do, Aunt Robin?” said the Chief smiling. “I’m pleased to meet you.”
“Oh, I’m fine. I’m fine. But you must call me Robin. I don’t do well with that aunty stuff. Where are the girls you promised to share with me, Eric?”
Before he could answer, Robin waved her hand for them to move on into the house. “Please, let’s go inside the living room and sit down. I have so many questions for you…”
“I have more questions for you,” said Eric interrupting her. “The girls left their apartment early this afternoon and should have arrived hours ago. I’ve been busy at a crime scene. When I did call, I wasn’t able to get through to your line. Is it working?”
“Oh yes. I’ve checked several times.”
“Are there any signs that they’ve been around here at all?”
“I’m sorry, dear. No,” she said and her shoulders slumped. “What can I do to help?”
“Nothing for now. Darn! I took it for granted they would get here safe.” Eric paced back and forth across the room.
“I’ve been here all day, and a couple of times, I went outside to watch for them. I thought maybe they couldn’t find this place. I even trimmed back the ivy that grows around the address. I thought about calling you, but saw that you were at the crime scene on Bush Street. Oh you know,” she gushed, “It’s so weird. Here I wanted to talk to you, and then I saw you on the television news, but we could not connect. It was so frustrating. But here you are now. That’s what’s important.”
“I know what you mean,” said the Chief. “Eric, maybe you should give Robin a walkie talkie.” They all laughed for a moment.
“Come with me into the kitchen. I’ve made ice tea, ice coffee, and chocolate milk. Gosh, have either of you had a chance to eat? I saw how busy and crowded Bush Street was. What’s really happened? The reporters just keep on repeating themselves.”
“You know Aunt Robin, we’re both tired and a sandwich would be great for me. How about you Chief? A sandwich and something hot to drink?” Eric said.
“I’d appreciate that,” and the two men sat down at the kitchen table where a small vase held a small bouquet of violets.
“Tell me, Eric, do you have a plan? How are you going to find the girls?”
“No. I was hoping they were here and resting. I gave them your phone number. I don’t know why they haven’t called you.”
“We have a way, Eric. Just call our friend, Detective Fontino,” Chief Mullins said.
“Oh man…Why didn’t I think of that?”
“Probably because you thought it was less important than what you were working on,” said his aunt.
Eric sighed. I have a problem with that in another way. We haven’t given Detective Fontino all the details about the girls yet. Aunt Robin, the apartment they lived in has been totally trashed. They really need a place to stay.”
“Eric. I’m sorry. My mind has closed down,” said the Chief. His hands went to his forehead and he rubbed his temples. “Where did we first run into Fontino today, Eric? Remind me, okay. I want to get things right.”
“Excuse me? Do you mean Shorty Fontino? That boy from your school days, Eric?”
“Yeah. He’s in charge of the serial killings now. You remember him after all this time?”
“Well,” she said, placing a strand of hair back in place. “It hasn’t been that long. Besides, what girl could forget the kind of flattering he dishes out?”
“Well, when you meet him again, you’ll find that he hasn’t changed. He’s still got that charm,” said Eric.
“Now, now. Go back to what you were saying. I’m sorry I interrupted. I’ll make those sandwiches right now.”
While Eric’s aunt got to work, Eric and the Chief went over what trouble they might be in for not mentioning that they knew the girls who lived in apartment 24.
“Friend, or no friend,” said the Chief. “He’s got the right to be very angry at us.”
“It’s not like we weren’t busy,” said Eric. “I’ll just have to tell him straight out. But I’d better do it in person. Drive me back, Chief?”
Robin said, “Eric, you can always borrow my car if it isn’t convenient for the Chief,” and she looked at both of them.
“I’m not letting this young man face the music alone, Robin. I’ll take him. And, Robin. Here’s my number in case you can’t get a hold of Eric. Call us as soon as you hear from the girls, okay?”
“You got it. Now eat your sandwiches first. Eric, you absolutely must wash your face before you go out again. You look a mess.”
“Yes, Aunt Robin,” and Eric gave the Chief the rolling eyes comment along with a big smile.
Copyright 2014, MillieAnne Lowe, Orange County, California