Turning from the two lane road into the driveway, Michael notices the top half of the side door swinging in the breeze and knows she is gone. Dragging the car to a stop, he throws the door open and sprints toward the house, fearing the worst. Placing his hand on the lower half of the door, it easily swings open, confirming his suspicions
Cautiously, he steps into the house, sending his eyes around the kitchen, in case someone else is in the house. It could be a break in, he tries to convince himself and failing, but slides a butcher knife from the block by the sink, just in case. Forcing himself to move slow, despite the hammering in his chest, he works his way down the hall to the two bedrooms.
The door to the room she usually stays in is open, as well as the one to his room. Entering her room, the sheets from the bed are in a pile on floor but there is no sign of a struggle. She is gone. Moving faster now, he crosses the hall to his room. Someone has been in his closet, probably her, and several of the hangers are empty.
He was only gone an hour and a half, running into town to pick up her medication. If the pharmacist had been more focused on doing his job, filling the order, instead of being social this might not have happened. Only an hour and a half, and he did not see her on the road, she could not have gotten far.
Running back through the house, he latches the doors securely behind him and surveys the yard. The most danger lay to the East, back toward town. As long as he reaches her before she do es something crazy and catches the attention of the authorities, he will be alright.
Noise. Birds chirp. Wind blows leaves that claw at the trunks of trees and fallen branches. Something scurries. The forest is alive and Elizabeth is frantic and confused. Clutching the over sized waist of the pants in a fist, she stumbles forward. Her blue flannel shirt, the man's shirt , taken from his closet, catches on an errant branch. None of her clothes were in the closet, only his. There had been no shoes that would fit her and she had not taken time to search further, driven by the desire to escape.
She hears a car the road on her right, giving her direction in her flight. Sticks and pine cones gnash at her feet, making progress slow. Her mind spins. Where is she? How long has she been here? Where is her baby? She had a baby, a boy. She trusts this memory. She will never find him if the man catches her and makes her go back to her room.
Through the trees, she spies the shape of a building, white with a green roof. There is a sign and gas pumps. People will be there and something inside her tells her she can find help. She hurries, ignoring the pain lancing her feet, as she feels the man's breath already on her neck. He is coming and desperation propels her.
Chris has worked at the Stop N' Go on Route 60 since he was a sophomore in high school. He has little aspiration to leave, making enough to cover the meager rent his parents charged for the apartment above the garage, as well as take care of weekend entertainment. Looking at the clock, he smiles. Only another half hour and Jessie, his girlfriend, picks him up and they will head to her parents lake house. It is going to be a good weekend, he thinks, until the glass door bangs open, a frizzy haired homeless woman spilling to the floor, leaving bloody footprints on the dirty linoleum.
"What the hell!," he yells, shocked at her sudden appearance.
"Helpme! Aman...needagetaway....mybaby...helpme," her words slur together as she gasps for breath.
Chris stands staring at her struggling to get her feet underneath her. Nothing like this ever happens and he is unsure whether to help or call the cops. She could be dangerous. Grabbing the phone, he punches 9-1-1, while the lady stands and begins yelling sentences that make little sense about a man and her baby.
"Campbell County 9-1-1, how can I help you?," a woman answers.
"Yeah, this is Chris, down at the Stop N' Go. I got a homeless woman going crazy in my store. I need help!," he yells over the blatherings of the lady in his face.
"Sir...," the rest of the response is unheard, as the homeless woman knocks the phone from his hand, grabbing him and pointing toward the door.
Michael sees her through the door as he crosses the parking lot. This was the first public place after the house so he had decided to stop and see if someone had seen her. It was his lucky day. He watches Elizabeth slip to the floor and begin crab walking away from the door, as his hand finds the the warm metal of the push bar. She is screaming incoherently and there is a boy behind the waist high counter to his right. He sees no one else in the store. Ignoring her, he enters and turns to the boy.
"Thank God she is here. I am so sorry. My wife is sick. She left the house while I went to get her medicine. If you will give me just a moment, I will get her calmed down. I am so sorry this happened," he says, his words filled with anxiety, palms up to show the boy he is harmless.
"Nodon'tlethimnearme! Heisjustgoing...," she yells, pulling herself behind a row of shelves.
"What the hell is wrong with her?," the boy spits back at him, on the verge of panic.
Michael slips a medical bracelet from his pocket, showing it to him, "Alzheimer's. Affects the brain. Half the time she does not even know who she is. Ever since we lost the baby...,"
Tears spill down Michael's cheeks, his hands beginning to shake, the composure he had mustered upon entering the store shatters. Sucking air, he stills his breathing, dragging a hand across his face.
"Nonononononono," she is howling, peeking around the end cap, hair dangling in her face.
"Sure man. I called the cops, but let me call them back real quick. That sucks!"
Michael turns his back to the boy, walking toward his wife. When he smiles, her screams get louder and louder.
Duane Cooper is in line at the Tastee-Freeze when he hears his call sign come through the police radio. A disturbance at the Stop N' Go just out of town, call in for more details. From the Tastee-Freeze he can be there in five minutes. Another dinner postponed for the sake of some nutcase. Shaking his head, he steps out of line, affirming he is on his way.
Lights flashing, he is erasing the distance at a rapid rate when dispatch comes through with an all clear stand down, which sits odd in his stomach. Decelerating, but continuing toward the Stop N' Go, he flips open his cell, calling Mary at the Sheriff's office.
"What's the scoop?," he doesn't even wait for her to start talking.
Used to his abruptness, she answers, "Seems it was some crazy woman. Her husband showed up and took her home."
"Yeah, you going back on lunch?"
"Nah. Think I will stop by anyway and see what happened," he decides he can't eat, feeling unresolved.
"...so he was talking to her about going home to see the baby. I guess it was the one that he told me died, but she calmed down. She apologized when he told her to. They left right before you got here," Chris finishes telling the Sheriff's deputy about the incident.
"Nothing was damaged?" the cop asks.
"Nah, just the blood on the floor and she knocked over a couple boxes of cakes. I picked those up and I am going to mop. My relief should be here soon, so if you don't need anything I'll get busy."
Chris turns to fetch the mop as the cop walks toward the door, when he hears, "Does that camera record or is it just for show?"
He figures he might as well call Jessie and tell her just to hang out at home until he calls.
Once Elizabeth was in the car, he opened one of the white bags containing the prescriptions. He was glad he had left them in his haste to inspect the house earlier. Palming a white pill, he had instructed her to take it, letting her wash it down with a half empty bottle of water. It was old, but would do the trick. Before they were even home, she had fallen asleep, which made it easy just to carry her into the house and secure her. He took his time, making sure there would be no repeat of today's escapade.
Pulling the door to her room closed, he slides a lock into place, then proceeds down the hall, turning right into the living room. Through the front window he watches a patrol car drive past on Route 60 and for a moment he is afraid they will stop. Watching it disappear beyond the treeline, he settles into the couch, relieved that he had found her before things got out of hand.
Powering up the television, he finds Wheel of Fortune. The spinning of the wheel is calming and he always guesses the words before the stupid schmucks they put on this show. He is smarter than just about anyone he knows. That medical bracelet worked like a charm today, he chuckles to himself.
A long squeal, a board against a nail, propels him out of his chair toward the kitchen. He has barely risen when the front door explodes inward, splinters ripping through the air. Voices, loud barking orders thunder in the small space. Bodies pour into the room, rough hands shove him through the hall, knocking him to the hard wood floor of the kitchen.
He hears footsteps pounding down the hall, the wood door cracking, the jangling of locks as they are torn out of the wall. Everything is a blur it happens so fast, then the ruddy face of a deputy fills his vision.
"Michael Williams, you are under arrest for the kidnapping of Elizabeth Myers and her infant son. Now tell me where the baby is..."
Duane stands in the kitchen, looking out the top half of the door, which has been opened to allow a cool evening breeze into the house. He was glad he had noticed the video camera at the store, because there was no mistaking the face of the young woman. Her picture had been all over CNN the last six months, since she and her son had been taken from the parking lot of a mega store about a hundred miles from here.
They had not found the baby. Michael just laughed when Duane asked him. After he cleared the room for some alone time with Michael, he gave it up and men were already searching the loose dirt of the basement floor to verify his confession. His stomach twists just thinking about it.
"We are coming out. Is he clear?" the female deputy's voice breaks his thoughts. She had been back in the room with Elizabeth and the paramedics while they locked the trash in the patrol car.
"Yeah," Duane murmurs as he watches a hawk swoop through the darkening sky to take a field mouse into its talons, both loving and hating his job.
This is a Magpie Tale and also for the 10DOM muse, confession.