“No don’t go!” I cried as I grabbed my father’s hand. His heartbeat was getting slower and slower by the minute, but he kept smiling.
“Listen to me, Mina,” he said, a smile on his face, but I could see death coming closer, and closer. “Find out what happened to her. Put her soul to rest. Put my soul at peace. Find out what happened to your mother.”
“No! No!” I cried even louder now. Doctors and nurses were staring, but how could they not? A twenty-one-year-old girl was crying her eyes out, while kneeling on the floor of a hospital, on the side of her father’s potential death bed. “Not right now!”
“Listen to me, Mina!” He said squeezing my hand. It was so warm, so comforting. “Find out what happened to your mother! We both know that it wasn’t some freak accident, how she died.” He took a deep breath. It was almost too long, though. “Go out and find out what happened to her, for me.” He smiled at me again. I loved his smile. It was the same smile that welcomed me home two months ago when I lost my job at the art studio back in New York. I gave a little smile back, but I was still crying.
“I don’t think I can,” I said, trying not to show how sorry I was, but it was hard when your dad was dying in front of you because of pneumonia.
“But you can!” He gave my hand a squeeze, “You are Mina, daughter of Flynn and Caroline Washington, you can do anything. I believe in you and I love you. I always will, even after I’m gone.”
I was crying even harder than before now, but I was able to make out a quiet, “I love you, too,” and then I heard the dreaded beep of the patient monitor, and then he was gone.
“No!” I screamed, and I tried to reach out for his hand, but the doctor had already pulled the sheet over his head. I felt a nurse’s hand on my shoulder.
“It’s going to be okay,” She said as she helped me stand up, and take one last look at my father.
I nodded my head as she put an arm around me, and walked me out of the room. She tried to get me to sit down, but I couldn’t sit still. I could feel the panic attack coming on. I had panic attacks in the past, but I knew none of them would compare to this extreme. My breathing sped up, my chest tightened. I just wanted to scream, but if I did, I knew it wouldn’t help. Everything just kept spinning until I was on the floor, looking up at the white ceiling. The floor was so cold, like ice, and I knew I should feel the iciness of it, but everything was on fire, and the floor smelled like death and dog poop, but I didn’t care. All I could think about was how I didn’t have anyone left in my family. How everything that I had ever known, everything that was always there for me, was now suddenly gone. The nurse tried to help me up, but I couldn’t move. Someone eventually helped me into a wheelchair, and then everything went black.
While I was sleeping I had a dream that I was there the night of the gala, seven years ago, the night my mother died. I was back in my fourteen-year-old body, and I was in a blood-red dress with matching heels. I was going to get something to drink when I saw this black shadowy figure, come over to where my mother was sitting. The shadow handed her her drink and after she took a sip, she started to slouch over. The shadow grabbed her shoulders and dragged her up and into the sky. I saw everything happening, but when I tried to move to her I couldn’t move. When I tried to yell for help no words were coming out of my mouth. I saw my dad walk over, a smile on his face, but the smile left when he saw that my mother was no longer there. The shadow figure came back down and did the same thing to my dad. I kept screaming until every ounce of energy was sucked away from my body, and the shadow eventually came down and took me too.
I don’t remember much of what happened next, in the dream or in real life, but when I woke up the next morning, I was in a hospital gown, and I had an I-V coming out of my arm.
“What’s happening?” I asked, in panic. I shot my eyes open, a little too fast, so I was blinded by the light for a second. When I was finally able to adjust I saw that there was a nurse standing in my room, watching me. Not in a creepy way, but in a loving, caring way.
“You blacked out from dehydration last night around ten o’clock. The doctors wanted to put you on an IV so you could get some fluids in you,” she replied to me, as she looked down at the clipboard in her hand. She had really dark hair, almost black, and a tan, that looked as though she just got back from the beach. She had to be at least fifty but looked forty.
“Is it true?” I asked her, remembering what happened last night, “Is he really gone?”
She nodded her head, and instead of crying like I did last night because I don’t think I had a single tear left in me, I just nodded my head.
“Now, honey, what is your full name and date of birth,” she asked as she rolled a chair over to the side of the bed. I tried to look for a name tag on her shirt. Karen, it read. I felt as though a lot of nurses were named Karen. I gave out a little laugh when I thought of this, and then said;
“Mina Georgia Washington, October 28, 1998.”
“So your birthday wasn’t too long ago! Happy belated birthday!” Karen said to me as she wrote down the information I just told her.
“Thank you,” I said, giving a little smile, remembering my twenty-first birthday. It was only about a month ago, and I had just hung out with a couple of my friends and my dad. We played board games like we did every year. I couldn’t believe that would be the last birthday I would be spending with my dad.
“Okay, now I just need to know your parent’s names and dates of births and deaths, then I will be out of your way,” She pulled the IV out of my arm, and gave me some Jello to eat.
“My mom’s name was Caroline Marie Anderson-Washington. Her birthday was July 14, 1959, and she died on September 13, 2012. My dad’s name was Flynn Harold Washington. His birthday was August 18, 1959, and he died yesterday, November 30.”
“Okay, sweetheart,” Karen said, standing up. She gave my hand a pat. “When you finish eating, your clothes are over on the counter, so you can change back into them, and there’s a phone you can use to call someone for a ride home. I’m sorry, honey.” And with that, she was gone. I ate the Jello and called my friend to come and pick me up. I didn’t know what else to do. Both of my parents were now dead. Both of my grandparents died before I was even born, and my parents were only children. I was officially alone in the world, except for the only two real friends I had.
“I’m so sorry, Mi,” Pia said as she jumped out of the car and gave me a hug.
“Thanks,” I said and I hugged her back. Pia Blum was my best friend. I met her when I was fourteen, and we had been inseparable ever since. She helped me get through everything that happened with my mom, and then I helped her get her start with the daycare she ran.
As we got into the car, I noticed that Pia didn’t come alone. She had brought our other best friend, Nathan Cromberry, along with her. Now, Nathan, I had met in college, in the one art class I was taking. We got super close, and eventually, I introduced him to Pia. They got super close, and eventually fell in love, but they aren’t dating, nor do they know that the other person is in love with them. I am the only person who knows about their crushes, and I have been, sadly, forbidden to play matchmaker with them.
“I hope you don’t mind,” Pia said, as she started the engine, “He was already over my house when you called, and when I told him what happened, he wanted to come along.”
“I’m sorry, Mi,” Nathan said from the backstreet. He put his hand on my shoulder in a comforting way, “If there’s anything you need just let me know.”
“Well,” I said, thinking back to what my dad said last night, “I did want to talk to you guys about something.”
“Yeah. What’s up?” Pia said as she pulled out of the Hospital parking lot, and on to the street, back to her house.
“Well, my dad wanted me to do something after he was gone,” I started. I mean how do you start, though? How would you tell your two best friends, that you want them to come with you on a road trip, so you can finally have an answer to your mother’s mysterious death?
“And that was?” Nathan asked, sitting up a little straighter as if he was trying to say he was up for anything.
“He wanted me to find out what happened to my mother,” I said, letting out a deep breath.
“Really?” Pia asked, “I thought you knew what happened.”
Everyone believes that my mother’s death was caused by a drug overdose, but she couldn’t have died that way. My mother would never put anything like drugs into her body on purpose. She loved her body too much to even get near anything like that. And she loved my father and me too much, to ever put us in that type of emotional pain on purpose.
“We thought we did, but then we realized, my mother wasn’t taking fentanyl, or any other drug for that matter. She had to be poisoned,” I said, remembering what the cops had told us. They said that she was taking something, most likely fentanyl, and she chose to take it with alcohol. Now my father, being an ex-cop, knew that the two substances combined could be deadly, and he thought that my mother knew that, too. Apparently not, the cops told us, when my father brought this point up.
“I can see your point there,” Nathan added. He took a pause before continuing, “So what do you need our help with?”
“Well,” I started, but trailed off. I looked outside my window and saw all the trees. Almost all the leaves had dropped, and the weather reported that there was a big snowstorm coming to us in the next couple of days, so the air was extra brisk. The ground was red, orange, and yellow, from all the leaves, with a mix of the green grass. It reminded me so much of my childhood when I used to play in the leaves, and dance to Dancing In The Moonlight by King Harvest, when my parents would have potluck dinners before the weather turned bad. It was my parent’s favorite time of the year. “Never mind,” I said, “It’s stupid.”
“Mi,” Pia said as she pulled into the driveway of the My Little Munchkin Daycare. She also lived on the upper level of the place, “Your father just died, and as he’s dying wish asked you to find your mother’s killer. Let’s talk about everything in a little bit, once you wrap your head around everything that happened. You can stay with me for however long you want.” She stopped the car and got out. Nathan stayed in the car with me for a minute, and then said;
“You want to go and find her killer, don’t you?”
I nodded my head, “I think my dad is right.” I looked back at him. He gave me a little smile. “I think my mother was murdered.”
He looked down at his feet for a minute and then looked back at me, “Well, do you need help?”
A big smile spread across my face when he said this. “You really want to go to New York City to help me find out what really happened with my mother?”
“Sure, I mean, why not?” Nathan replied, “As long as you can get Pia to come with us.”
I had a goofy smile on my face now. “Okay, deal,” I said, as I got out of the car, to shake his hand, making it official.
I decided to wait a day to talk to Pia. I didn’t want her thinking that I wanted to do this only because of my dad, even if it was one of the reasons why. So when I walked into the kitchen the next morning, I decided to play my mother’s favorite song.
“Sweet Caroline,” my phone sang, as I danced into the kitchen. “Bum Bum Bum!” I sang and gave a smile to Pia.
“You can’t sing that song, without saying “Bum Bum Bum”, can you?”
“I haven’t learned it any other way.” I smiled, and then turned down the music, “Do you remember when I didn’t let you listen to this song for six months, because it reminded me of my mom too much?”
“Yeah,” she said, as she looked back down at the scallions she was chopping, “Do you remember, once you let me play the song again, how we used to argue about who sang it better? Elvis, or Neil Diamond? And then you eventually got me to believe that Elvis did.”
I laughed, and then said, “It was my mother’s favorite song, sung by the king of rock and roll!” We were quiet for a minute, remembering the year after she died. Pia had only met her once, and that was when my parents were dropping me off at her house, before they went up to New York for the gala they were attending, for some award my father was receiving. It was the same weekend she died.
For the brief ten minutes, she did talk to Pia, however, my mother was a barrel of laughs. She kept saying how our friendship reminded her of her best friend growing up. And then she was gone. It was the last time I would ever hear my mother laugh.
“Why don’t you want to know what actually happened?” I asked, trying to break the silence.
“Because I don’t want to.” I could tell she was lying though. Her nostrils flared whenever she lied. And right now they were flaring like crazy. She was trying to hide her face though, so she didn’t break eye contact with the scallions.
“Pia I’ve known you for seven years, I know when you’re lying. Why don’t you really want to go to New York?”
“Because what if we do find your mother’s killer?” She had tears in her eyes now, and it wasn’t just because of the scallions. “Then what do we do? What if they try to kill you, or Nathan, or me? You know I couldn’t live without either one of you!”
“Pia, breathe,” I said, trying to handle what was happening. Even though I had only been planning on going after my mother’s killer for a day, that thought had never crossed my mind. What if someone does try to kill us? “Nothing will happen to us.”
“Mina, we would be going after a murderer! Anything could happen!” She looked at me like I was crazy.
“But, if we find this murderer, we would be able to stop anybody else from getting killed! We could figure out what happened! We could put both of my parents to rest!”
“Mi, I couldn’t risk losing you though!” She was crying super hard now, and I was on the verge of joining her, “You already lost both of your parents, and I couldn’t risk losing you as well!”
“Pia,” I said, between cries. We were hugging now, “Please, we have to try! I can not, not try to do this for my parents! Please.”
We were just standing there hugging for a couple of minutes, and then Nathan walked in and awkwardly asked; “Are we good crying or sad crying?”
“Both,” Pia said, as she grabbed his shirt and pulled him into our hug. I could see him blush. He was totally freaking out inside, for two reasons: A) he had to deal with two crying girls, and B) Pia pulled him into the hug. Oh, how I loved their strange love story!
“So does this mean we are going to New York City?” He asked, after he got himself together.
“I think it does!” Pia said, and with that I let out a squeal.
“Okay,” Nathan said, clicking away at his computer, “New York is about three hours away, so that means if we leave by six-ish we could possibly get there by nine. That is if the weather holds up.”
“That sounds great!” I said, as I threw some clothes in a suitcase. We came back over to my house, so I could get some things for the trip. “Oh, and remember to bring something you could wear to a charity gala. That is our first stop this trip.”
“Really?” Pia asked, “There is a charity gala this weekend?”
“Yeah. The NYPD is throwing something in my dad’s honor,” I said, as I neatly put the dress I wore to my first art show in my bag. My boyfriend at the time, had pushed me to get fancier, and more expensive dress for the night. Unfortunately, he is one of the reasons why I left New York in the first place.
“Here,” Nathan said as he pulled up a video advertising the gala, “I think this will explain it more.”
Pia and I gathered around him, as he pressed play.
“We are so sorry to hear about the loss of Lieutenant Flynn Washington,” the reporter cooed, “Thankfully, though, he had a loving group of family and friends, who always supported him. We are standing here now with one of his oldest friends, Captain Beatrice Montgomery.”
I had only met Beatrice a couple of times, and when I did, she was nice, I guess. I only saw her in her captain’s uniform though. She had a brown bob, and green eyes. It was nice of her, though, to host this gala in his honor.
“I had known Flynn since we were little kids!” a small smile spread across her face when she said this. The smile was like a fox, however. Clever, sly, mischievous, as if she could be preparing for anything, as long as she could get away with it. Always hiding the truth, until she got what she wanted, no matter the cost. But what could she hide? She was Beatrice, captain of the thirty-ninth precinct in New York City, she couldn’t hide anything even if she tried. “It breaks my heart to hear that he has now passed.”
My eyes started to water. He was really gone.
“Now I heard that you are the one who opted into doing this gala?” The reporter inquired.
“Yes. Flynn had been through so much in his short life, I wanted to thank him in someway. And when he lost his wife a couple of years ago,” she gave a smile, and paused before adding, “It was just so heartbreaking! I was there to support him in whatever he needed!”
I paused the video. “Liar! She never came by to check to see if my dad or I were okay!” I yelled in frustration.
“Mina breathe!” Nathan said, as he put away his computer. “Maybe she talked to your dad on the phone, or emailed him, or did something that you were unaware of.”
“I guess,” I said as I grabbed my bag, and rolled my eyes, “You guys ready?”
“Yeah,” Nathan said as he threw his computer bag over his shoulder, and grabbed his duffle bag. “I’ll take your guys stuff out to the car, and get the car warmed up. We might as well leave now, before the storm comes.” He grabbed mine and Pia’s bag, and walked out of the front door.
“You ready?” I asked as I walked over to Pia. Her cheeks were a little rosier than usual. You could tell that she was nervous.
“Might as well be,” she said with a sigh. “Let’s go find ourselves a murderer!” She paused before adding, “Sorry that came out wrong.”
I laughed as we walked outside, and left for New York City.