Chapter Twenty Six
The harassing phone calls to Mary had increased at an alarming rate, causing Michael undue stress and worry as he agonized over their situation. To make matters worse, a fierce snowstorm had struck with the force of a northeasterner late Friday night. It had blown all Saturday, and Sunday with no respite in sight as Sunday became Monday morning.
Jackie and Rose-Marie, having become Mary’s advocate since being stranded at the hospital, had relieved some of the pressure Michael was under as Mary’s protector. With them in the suite with her he was now able to attend his duties, almost worry free.
Mary and the children would listen enraptured by her guests' tales of living in a town smaller than Gilfords Falls. They would talk for hours about their summer home, picnics, family reunions and the hilarious times they’d had at the old swimming hole located at the back of their property.
Michael had been surprised and pleased, when after the children were asleep, Mary had told her new friends about their life in the commune. She had started the telling haltingly at first, but once she started telling of the horrors they had endured, the floodgates opened and she couldn’t seem to stop talking. She told of how terrified she’d been that the money she’d been hiding for six long years would be found.
She talked of their life on the streets, of the kindness of Henry and Myrtle. Her fear of the man at the gas station. Of her dash down the alley, over the guardrails and into the woods. She told of her fears that her children would freeze to death, and of Billy finding the house. Of the door miraculously opening at her knock. She described Angelia and Michael’s incredible kindness. She told them everything. Every single horrifying, torturous, terror filled moment they’d endured, before finding refuge at Gilfords Falls!
After the telling, the three of them had clung to each other and had cried a million healing tears. The tears were of sympathy for the little girl she been, and of love for the woman she’d become. The tears were also for her friends, companions and all those forced to live in such a cruel, callous and unforgiving world at the hands of a madman!
The women, exhausted and wrung dry after hearing Mary’s story, had excused themselves shortly after the telling, to check on Billy and Kimmey. They had then said their goodnights and retired to a small bedroom nook off the alcove, leaving Michael alone with Mary.
Michael had been shaken to the very core of his being at the horrors his Mary and the young’uns had endured.
Tenderly picking her up he carried her into the dining area. Slowly sliding into the chair closest to him, he sat her on his lap, drew her close and gently rocked her, as she sobbed into his shoulder.
“I’m such a baby!” she said, shakily wiping the tears from her eyes. “I don’t know why I spilled my guts like that. I should have kept my mouth shut. We were told complaints about the leaders’ abuse, would be met with contempt by all outsiders. I couldn’t bear it if every time you looked at me I saw contempt or disgust in your eyes,” she sobbed.
“As a child, I was constantly being told that no one wanted me and that no one cared how I was treated or how I felt. I can’t count the times I was told I should be grateful for the roof over my head! I was about six the day Zachariah hit me so hard that luckily, I didn’t break my arm or shoulder, when I hit the wall.
When I threatened to tell on him, he actually got right down in my face and said, go ahead tell the world for all I care! Then delivering a stinging slap that left his handprint on my face for days, he yanked me to my feet saying, don’t you get it? Your nothing but a stupid little brat. You can go boo-hooing to anyone you want! No one’s going to believe you. What, are you dumb or just brain dead? Do you actually think a grownup would believe a conniving lying little nothing like you, over me?”
“But Jackie and Rose-Marie didn’t laugh or scorn me,” she said, with simple wonder in her voice, “they even cried with me! Why did they do that Michael? You didn’t laugh either, thank you Michael, for not laughing or being ashamed of us,” said Mary talking into the collar of his shirt.
“I could never be ashamed of you, Billy or Kimmey!” exclaimed Michael, wiping tears from her eyes, and lovingly kissing the tip of her pert little nose. “All this drama has made me hungry. What do you say should we raid the fridge for something to eat?” He asked, deftly changing the subject.
Oh! Michael can we?” Asked Mary. “I’m about starved!”
“I don’t know why not,” he said, taking fried chicken, thinly sliced sharp cheddar cheese and ice-cold milk from the refrigerator. A pack of snack crackers, two glasses, and a plate soon found their way to the table, where they took turns feeding tidbits of food to each other.
“What an absolute feast,” said Mary wiping the milk mustache from Michael’s upper lip, then patting her bulging stomach, where the babies were having a contest to see who could kick their Mommy the hardest, Mary stifling a huge yawn, said, “I think the babies are saying thank you too.”
“It’s been quite a day for all of us, especially you,” said Michael, gently patting her stomach, then telling the babies, “Behave yourselves and let your Momma get some sleep.”
It was one thirty in the morning and Michael was still awake. After hearing Mary’s story, he was more determined than ever to protect them and to find his sister and the others as well!
It was still snowing; the wind was howling and the phone was dead again on Tuesday morning. Jackie and Rose-Marie reassured Michael and Mary that they didn’t mind being there at all.
“There is plenty of food and we’re having a great time visiting and trying to keep up with Kimmey.” Said Jackie. She’s so smart we can hardly stay ahead of her with school lessons.”
“Billy isn’t even three and he’s reading simple words and sentences. Why, he can even do addition into the four’s and some of the five’s,” bragged Rose-Marie!
It seemed that not everyone stranded at the hospital was happy about the situation, including Michael, who was getting tired of dodging Harriet every time he went out the door.
It was twenty-five minutes after one when the phone rang. Before Michael could grab it, Mary had picked it up as Jackie literally snatched it from her hand. After listening for a few seconds, Jackie looked directly at Mary, winked and laughed, saying. “I suppose you’re finding these crank calls cute, don’t you? Well, I for one don’t find them cute at all. I’m hanging up now. I won’t be as polite next time. Do not call here again. Do you understand me?” She asked replacing the phone in its cradle.
“They’ve found us, haven’t they?” Asked Mary, looking bravely at Michael.
“What makes you think that?” he asked.
“I’ve known they were here ever since the snowstorm. I heard you say, I’m sorry, but there’s no one here by that name. Then you said something about harassment charges, if they ever called again.”
“Now, I’m only asking once, Michael, was that Zachariah on the phone, or someone calling for him? I have to know. Are they here, Michael? Please don’t endanger yourself trying to protect us. These people don’t fool around! They take what they want, and they want us! Please level with me, regardless of the circumstances, before it is too late!”
“I promise I’ll tell you everything as soon as the children are down for their naps. There's no use frightening them unnecessarily, is there? Besides Dad and I have a plan that just might land Zachariah and his cronies in prison for the rest of their miserable lives.”
“Promise me you won’t give up just yet! Okay? Now, I’m about half an hour late for my rounds. I guess I’d better see to my other patient, before he thinks I’ve forgotten him. We’ll talk upon my return.”
Michael knew there’d be trouble the minute he opened the door and saw them slouched on the couch talking to Harriet.
Quickly crossing to the nursing station, he entered the emergency room, exiting onto a divided hallway, walked past several rooms absent of patients and entered his patient’s room. The whole staff seemed to be there keeping old Mr. Sims company.
After a quick hello and a look at his chart, Michael filled out a release form, telling Nurse Clark to send the man home after the storm had passed. Then telling her where he’d be, he crossed a short hall, entered his office, and called the suite. Rose-Marie answered on the first ring.
“I’m just checking in, is everything okay?” Michael asked.
“Michael! Kimmey’s gone! We've looked everywhere! She’s not here! Mary‘s frantic! A picture with her name on it, was on the stand by the door, just before you left. When I looked through the peephole it was lying in the hallway. Kimmey must have opened the door to retrieve it, because it’s gone and so is she!”
“Calm down. Tell me when you last saw her, said Michael, as his heart lunged painfully in his chest.
“Maybe two three minutes ago,” she said shakily.
“Okay, now listen carefully, go check that all doors are securely locked then tell Mary to take Billy in the small alcove off the dining area.”
“Take that huge dishpan from the hall closet, put all the ice you can find in it. Empty the half cup of orange juice in the jug, into the sink. Rinse and fill that jug with water, put it and the jug of milk into the dish pan.”
“Pack all perishables into that pan. Put juice, cereal, cheese, peanut butter, jelly, bread, crackers, paper plates, cups and silverware into the bags stacked under the sink. Take enough food and supplies to last a couple of days including whatever you will need to entertain Billy and yourselves.”
“I’ll stay on the line until you take everything into the alcove. Take the wall phone in the alcove off the hook, lay it on the stand under it then and only then it’s imperative that you hang up the one you’re talking on. So I can talk to you on the other one, please hurry!”
“But Michael, you can’t go anywhere from the alcove!”
“I don’t have time to explain, the longer it takes you to follow my instructions, the less time I have to look for Kimmey, before they find her! Understand?”
“If they have Kimmey, it won’t be long before they also have all of you. Now please hurry!” said Michael.
He immediately heard Rose-Marie calling her mother, a minute and a half later Jackie was on the line.
“We’re here, and we have everything you said we’ll need,” she replied.
“Now what?” she asked in a puzzled voice.
“Are Billy and Mary in the alcove with you?” he asked.
“They’re here,” she said.
“I want you to reach up and find the button at the very top of the phone. Do you feel a button there?” He asked, as a shadow fell onto the frosted glass window, hesitated a moment and then disappeared down the hallway.
“Yes! I can feel it,” she said.
“Push it in and hold it until a panel in the wall opens, when it does, you will see a five-foot square landing that connects to a steep narrow stairway. Be careful descending them. At the bottom of the stairs you will find a small three-bedroom apartment, with beds, a table and chairs, a small kitchen with a refrigerator, a two-burner stove and a small oven. There’s a small bathroom, with sheets and other necessities in the closet.”
“Once you’re inside, and on the stairs pushing the button over the light switch at the left of the door, will close the panel and turn on the room’s air circulating system. Once you are locked inside, the door will stay closed for exactly twenty-four hours unless you unlock it with a key.”
“Whatever you do, keep Mary and Billy safe. I will come and get you when it’s safe to do so. Now I have to find Kimmey. Oh, I almost forgot, and so we don’t waste precious time, you’ll be in the Gilfords Fall-out Shelter.”
Seconds later, Jackie said, “We’re in.” He heard the dial tone and knew they were safe.
The shadow was back and this time it was pounding on the door screaming, “Michael! Let me in! Michael! You there? Help me! Michael! The bad man’s here! Michaeeeel!”
“Kimmey,” shouted Michael, yanking the door opened, he scooped her into his arms, just as one of the men from the waiting room rounded the corner at the far end of the hall.
He was shaking his fist into the air and yelling at the top of his lungs. “You come back here you little brat! I’ll teach you to run from me! Just wait until I get my hands on you! I’ll make you wish you’d never been born, you, your brother and that Mama of yours too!”
Aghast, Michael slammed and locked the door. Turning off the lights he moved to the furthermost corner of the room. Holding a shaking, sobbing Kimmey, he watched as the man darted past the door and down the hallway.