A pounding on the door downstairs forced my mind awake, and the banging throbbed in rhythm to the pain in my head. I groaned, grabbing my head with both hands, and feeling the regret of the two bottles of whiskey I drank last night in each breath.
The pounding continued, “MASON!”
A male voice shouted from behind the front door of my little two-story house.
“I’m coming,” I mumbled, rolling myself out of bed, and stepping on an empty bottle under my feet.
I fell over, hitting my head on the foot of the bed, and making my headache worse. I groaned out in pain, laying on the floor, hoping that whoever was stupid enough to come to my house, today of all days, would piss off, and leave me alone. There was a reason I always took a week off this time of year.
“GO AWAY!” I shouted, regretting it the moment I did. My head exploded with pain and my eyes felt like they were going to pop out their sockets.
The pounding continued, and with every thump on my door, my anger raised a notch. In a huff, and with a drunken unsteadiness, I got up off the floor, found my jeans, and pulled them on as I went down the stairs.
I did the button up and flung the door open, “What the fuck-”
I stopped at the pissed off eyes of my Captain glaring at me. “Jesus, Mason, you look like shit. And you smell even worse,” Captain Thomas Raymond said, ducking his six-foot-two frame as he pushed past me into the house.
“Captain, what are you doing here?” I shut the door behind him and checked the street through the small window at the top.
“Is Lilly here?” He spun around to look at me, the pity, and anger fighting for floor space in his eyes. I dropped my head and went into the kitchen, my bare feet slapping on the wooden floors.
He followed and watched as I took a beer out the fridge and twisted the cap off, “No. She went to Florida with her grandparents. They will be gone for a couple of weeks.”
I chugged down half the bottle, while Toms judgmental eyes glared at me.
“Hey, I have a week off, Cap,” I said, finishing the bottle.
“Its eight in the morning, Paul, and you were supposed to be back at work yesterday.”
He came over and grabbed the empty bottle from my hand, threw it into the bin, and swung open the kitchen window.
“What? No, I wasn’t, its Saturday. I’m only back on Monday.”
“Its Tuesday, and I think you’ve drank enough.”
I pulled my phone out of my back pocket, where it was left last night, and checked the date, “Shit,” I sighed, running my fingers through my greasy, messy brown hair.
Tom turned back to me with a long breath, his dark skin on his bald head shining in the sunlight, “Look, just take today off, sober up, get some sleep and for fuck sakes, take a shower. I will see you in the morning.”
He stomped out the kitchen, and paused in the dining room, by the table, and picked up a drawing of the house, and two figures standing, holding hands and smiling. “She’s a special little girl, Paul. Don’t let her see you fall apart like this. I know its hard, especially this time of year, but she lost her family too. Don’t let her lose you as well. You’re all she has left.” Tom said, slid the seven-year-old’s artwork back on the table and left.
I went over to the table, and picked the drawing up, smiling at the pink sun, the orange tree and what I assume is my red hair.
She doesn’t remember anything, and I thank God for that every day. All she knows is that I raised her. I am her family, and that I will always be there for her.
I took the picture with me as I walked back to the fridge, took out two beers, and went back upstairs. I placed the childish picture on my bed, and the two beers, one of which was now open and halfway through, onto the table next to my bed.
My phone vibrated in my pocket, and I reached for it, swiping to answer with my eyes still glued to the drawing, “Mason?”
“Hello, Detective Mason.” A slow, sinister voice said in my ear. My mind instantly sobered up, and my muscles tensed.
“You son of a bitch!” I said, running over to my laptop, and swinging it open.
“I wouldn’t waste my time with that, detective. You won’t trace this call.” His smiling voice like a snake in my head.
I looked around the room and then went to the window, slowly moving the curtain to look out.
He can see me!
“What do you want?” I asked, looking at the street in front of my house.
A truck drove past, a man walking his dog darted across the street, and a woman with a purple and black pram stood on the corner a few houses down, talking on her phone.
“I have missed you, Paul. We had so much fun together, don’t you think?”
I moved away from the window, and ran my eyes over everything in the room, looking for anything out of place.
“Why don’t you come over, we can pick up where we left off,” I taunted, my heart breaking at what he considered fun was the worse two weeks of my life.
“Soon, detective. I have other things I must do before we can see each other again.”
“You’re back in town?” I asked, hoping for anything to help catch this sick fuck this time.
“Not yet, but I will be. For now, I’m enjoying the sunshine and childish pleasures of Disneyland. Tell me, Paul, how is Lilly these days?”
My body turned cold, “You stay away from her, you hear me! Leave her out of this!” I shouted as my mind raced at little Lilly, with my parents, smiling and enjoying a wonderland built for children, and being hunted by a predator.
“Easy, Detective,” He dragged his words out, “She’s safe. Grandpa is buying her ice cream. Bright blue bubble-gum, oh, with extra sprinkles. How sweet.”
“If you want me, come and get me. I won’t fight you, just leave them alone, please.” I begged, knowing that’s exactly what he wanted to hear.
“Oh, I’m coming for you, Paul. I’m coming.” He said, and the call ended.
I stared at the screen for a second, but the call came from a private number. My hands trembled as I ran through the list of names, looking for “mom”.
“Hello?” My mother’s happy voice answered.
“Mom, where are you?” I asked in a panic.
“Paul? Is that you? I can hardly hear you, honey.” She shouted into the phone.
“Mom! Where is Lilly?” I called back.
"She’s with your father, at the ice cream stand,” My heart sank, and her voice grew distant as she shouted to my father, “Rodger, why do you insist on getting the child the bluest ice cream in the van?”