I woke to a gray light filtering through the window. I felt cold and numb. Rain drummed on the aluminum skin of the trailer. Winter was coming.
Yesterday played over and over in my mind - the police questions, Deb, Tonka’s forlorn whine, and the hole inside me that was Moira’s loss. Deb had kept the reporters at bay. I wanted to leave the phone off the hook, but the police insisted on keeping it on with a recording device attached.
It didn't matter. I was pretty sure I knew who had kidnapped Moira and I knew what they wanted in return. I told the police nothing about that.
I had cried all my tears yesterday. Today I felt empty. I knew I needed to do something … but what?
I used to be brash, intimidating and able to run through walls. Improbable was routine, the impossible took me slightly longer. I was strong, I was tireless and I was the most determined person I knew. That was then, that was before.
Now I am broken, weak, exhausted and useless. That doesn't matter. Regardless of how I feel, how weak I am, I knew I must get Moira back.
I struggled out of bed and realized Tonka wasn't in the bedroom with me. A dull headache pushed on the back of my neck. I shuffled forward to find Tonka at Deb’s feet on the sofa. He looked up at me and his stump of a tail thumped the cushions. That woke Deb, who looked at me with red eyes. Neither of us said anything. I sat down beside her and she took my hand in hers. Tonka lay his head on her legs. We remained there in silence for some time.
I had started to say something when the phone recorder clacked to life. I startle easy. I jumped.
Normal now seemed absurd.
Deb sat up and put the quilt back on the sofa’s back. I stared at the floor.
“What are you going to do?”
“I don't know Deb, but I have to get her back.”
“Who do you …”
I stopped her with a finger across my lips and then pointed to the walls. She looked back with questioning eyes.
“I don’t know Deb, I’m sure the police will have some leads.” I shook my head No as I said that.
She tilted her head, looked around, then back at me with a deep question. I placed my hand on her forearm and pointed to my stomach. I nodded toward the door. She watched my strange pantomime until a flicker of awareness crossed her face.
“Whatever you're going to do, Jake, you can’t do on an empty stomach. I’ll go scramble some eggs and make coffee while you clean up. Give me ten minutes, okay?”
“Sure, thanks. I’ll go buy my normal Diet Coke at the 7-Eleven and be right over.”
She looked at me with an odd look but, again, I shushed her with my hands.
“Come on Tonka, time to do your business. Deb, would you call him over to your place when he is done?”
“Sure.” She stood, straightened her jeans and collected Tonka’s leash. He didn't need his leash, but the sound of its chain excited him and he leaped to the door.
“And Deb.” She stopped and turned back. “Thank You.”
They left and she closed the door. I went to the kitchen sink, turned on the cold water and splashed my face repeatedly. I wiped down with my tee shirt, then turned and opened the closet. Some Airstream closets have cedar linings. The aroma of cedar welcomed me as I dug through and found my black ragg wool sweater. I slipped it on, knelt, then pushed on a board in the back of the closet. A soft pop. A latch released and I slid the board up and out. Inside the crevice behind the false cedar panel was the metal box I had retrieved from the farm. I opened it with a revolving three-number combination and removed a three-by-five laminated card. I put the card in my back pocket, closed the box, returned it to its hiding place and replaced the board.
With a hand on the wall for support I rose, forcing my creaking knees to support me. I finger-combed my hair, then walked out the door with a bag in my hand.
Instead of heading straight to the 7-Eleven I went first to the park’s dumpster. From there I had a good view of the street into the park. I scanned the entry as I dropped the near-empty bag inside. Nothing.
Maybe I was paranoid. Maybe.
I walked to the convenience store assuming that who ever might be watching me was better than my quick check. I got to the store and checked my six in the door’s reflection. Still nothing.
I entered, nodded at the clerk -- damn, not Tak! -- and went straight to the small storage room at the rear of the store. Tak had shown me the five-digit push-button combination, so I was able to enter the room without fuss. An auto switch turned on the overhead fluorescents. I found the phone mounted on the wall beside a shelf of cleaning supplies.
I removed the laminated card from my back pocket and dialed one of the numbers on it. An auto-responder answered. When the voice had had its say, I entered a series of numbers from the card, listened to the information, pushed seven to repeat, and hung up.
I started to leave the room, stopped, and took the business card from my front pocket. I dialed the telephone number on it. The phone rang seven times with no answer. I hung up and had headed towards the door when the phone behind me rang. I damn near jumped out of my skin.
I looked at the phone, paused, and then lifted the receiver.
“When’d you start to work at 7-Eleven Boy?” spoke the familiar voice.
I grasped the receiver silently for a second, and then answered.
“Damn you, Walters.”