Copyright 2014, MillieAnne Lowe, Orange County, California
“I can’t believe the situation we’re in!” said Jeanne. “We are running out of money, tired, and dirty. On top of that we are homeless!”
“Calm down, Jeanne,” said Haley. “We’re almost there. It’s hard on all of us. We’re all dirty, especially me! I’ve been rained on, I’ve fallen, ruined my clothes, and my hair is like a matted mess of curls! I’m not doing as well as you look,” Haley said.
“How did we get in this mess? Remind me, please.”
“I can,” piped Krista. “First Mrs. Johnson got shot, fell into Haley’s arms, and went to the hospital in an ambulance. That Commander James Stetson, who we now refer to as the creep made moves on Haley at the hospital. Haley later discovers her purse missing, but then it turned up with Eric. He said it was Stetson who gave it to him.”
Haley interrupted, “I found everything in my purse a mess and my apartment key missing, and still is, in fact. Now my knees are stinging, our apartment is in shambles, and we’re running away from who? Either it’s the Serial Killer of Bush Street, or that creep whose name I can’t stand to say! When I saw him on TV and heard he was in charge of the serial murder investigations, I felt so awful, so helpless.”
“Me, too,” Krista said.
“Yeah. Don’t forget when he harassed Krista and me about disturbing the peace,” said Jeanne.
“If he’s in charge of the serial killings investigations, it means he’ll be barging in on our privacy whenever he wants – flaunting his authority is his favorite thing to do. That’s what the nurses think of him, too,” said Haley.
“I can’t tell you,” said Jeanne, “How satisfying it felt to see Eric land a hard one on that creep. Does your chest hurt a lot, Haley?”
“Only when I touch to check the bruise,” said Haley.
“I hope he gets in big trouble for causing that ruckus in Mrs. Johnson’s room,” Krista said.
“What a big relief it was when Eric stepped in,” Haley said. “But he wasn’t the only hero for that moment. Did you see how the orderlies were smiling when they got their hands on the creep? I definitely saw some extra punches thrown. It seems they’ve had a strong dislike for Stetson for a long time.”
“Haley, I can’t imagine how you felt when you found your nightgown on the sidewalk, and your panties hanging from the fire escape,” Krista added.
“It wasn’t anywhere near how you felt when we found Sweetie Pie dead in the elevator,” said Haley. Then she realized her mistake.
“And then Eric found dear Mrs. Hamlin, dead on my kitchen floor!”
Haley saw in her rear view mirror that Krista lost it right then. Her voice cracked and she choked on the words, “Mrs. Hamlin found dead on my kitchen floor!”
Haley felt helpless to comfort Krista. Jeanne reached to the back seat and tried to get an arm around Krista who had her face in her hands and rocked back and forth.
“Hey, babe. I understand how you must be in shock. Mrs. Hamlin loved you, and you felt the same way about her. I know I’ve been a big mouth on this trip, but I’m just trying to hold back the fear and keep us going on my stupid humor, you know?”
“You haven’t done badly, Jeanne,” said Haley. “We’ve been on the road for more than an hour and ten minutes. We’re traveling thin on our wits. So far, I think we’re doing pretty good. We are so lucky to have friends like Eric and Chief Mullins.”
“You’ve got that right, Haley. We’ve been lucky,” added Jeanne.
“The three of us have to stick together and hang on with courage. Then we’ll get through this,” Haley said.
“Here’s the main road,” said Haley. She made a right turn onto Saratoga-Sunnyvale Road. “Help me look for Pierce Road. That’s where we’ll turn left and head into the hills.”
“Say a prayer and cross your fingers, you guys. This is where the scavenger hunt starts. Our next lucky find will be Aunt Mattie’s cabin,” said Jeanne. “Gosh, how long ago did you live with your aunt, Haley?”
“Five or six years. I thought I’d never forget what the trees would look like on the way home, but now they’ve all changed.”
Krista sniffed some more and wiped her tears with the back of her hands. “What do we look for first?”
“A short bridge that goes over a creek,” said Haley. “Then we keep following the road until we cross over another short bridge. After that, there will be a split in the road. I think, we’ll need to go right. Gosh, I’ve missed this place.”
“I love how the sunlight flickers through the trees. It’s like a daytime twinkling,” said Jeanne. Then she became serious again. “I hope we find the cabin soon.”
“Well, if we go for about ten miles, and don’t find it, we’ll turn around, come back, and take the other way,” said Haley. “For now, we have plenty of gas.”
“Eric must be so worried about us right now,” said Krista.
“By now, I’m sure that Eric, Chief Mullins and Eric’s aunt, Robin? They are all worrying and wondering where we are. How are you going to contact him Haley? He might even think we got in car accident,” said Jeanne.
“Heavens, not that! He’s done so much for us already.” Haley said.
“Yeah, we’re lucky he has a crush on you. I don’t know where we’d be right now without his help getting us away before the police arrived,” Jeanne said.
“Where else? The police station and getting pushed around by the creep. Look, there’s Pierce Road coming up,” Krista said.
“Good eye, girl,” Jeanne said.
“What does the cabin look like again?” Krista said.
“It’s got a wood shingle roof, a deck on the second floor that wraps around three sides of the cabin and a huge rock chimney. The front porch has three wooden steps. Haley paused as they crossed over the first short bridge and drove up a winding road deeper into the woods.
Let’s roll down our windows. Take a whiff of the woods. Refreshing, isn’t it? I remember large oak trees next to our cabin and so many bushes where I used to play hide and seek. I think…there’s a narrow path that goes up the hill to a larger house behind our cabin.”
The girls got quiet as they looked at the cabins set further back from the road.
“We have one more short bridge to cross before get to the fork in the road. I wish I could remember the name of the one I should be taking,” Haley said.
“Maybe it won’t even matter. We just get there,” Jeanne said.
Just then, their van bumped across the second short bridge.
“I’d guess we’re almost half way there,” said Haley.
Shortly, they did come to the fork in the road and Haley went right. Bumps in the road tossed them around a bit as they watched in awe at the beauty of nature before them.
“Oh, thank God! That’s it over there! And on the porch it’s Aunt Mattie!”
A slim woman, about 45 years old, dressed in jeans and a flannel shirt, waved at the girls from porch steps. Beside her stood a man about ten years her senior and he waved, too.
“Who’s that good looking man with the mustache? Is that your uncle?” Jeanne asked.
“Aunt Mattie swore she wouldn’t ever get married,” said Haley. “Don’t ask me why. I just don’t know.”
Haley pulled up in front of the cabin and jumped out. “Wow!” she said and smiled. “This place looks twice as large as when I left.”
“That’s because we added on to it, silly. Welcome home, Haley!” said Mattie and she hugged Haley heartily and kissed her on her forehead.”
“I’ve missed you doing that,” Haley said softly.
“I know. I’ve missed it, too,” said Mattie. She turned and said, “Girls, welcome to my home. Jeanne and Krista, this is going to be your home now. For as long as you want to stay.”
Mattie stepped forward and hugged the two girls. “Group hugs are fun? Aren’t they?”
“Oh yes,” Jeanne said. “No one can ever beat this welcome. Thank you!”
“May we call you Aunt Mattie, too?” Krista asked.
“You can, but how about just calling me, Mattie? It’s shorter and I won’t feel so old.”
Everyone laughed and turned to face the man with the silver grey moustache standing behind them.
“Jeanne, Krista, and Haley, this is my very special friend from a long time ago. This is George.”
“Aunt Mattie, how did you know the names of my friends? I haven’t introduced them yet,” said Haley.
“Girls, you are going to have a wonderful time here,” Mattie said and walked over to George. “Our special friend here,” and she tiptoed to reach and put an arm around George, “lives in the house above our cabin right up that path between those thick bushes. George told me your names, and he was able to tell me you all were arriving today. As you’ll soon find out, George has a special gift. He’s a bit psychic.”
“Oh, wow! That is so cool!” Jeanne said.
The other two girls were speechless. They just starred at the smiling mustached face.
Copyright 2014, MillieAnne Lowe, Orange County, California