It’s 2AM and your phone has just buzzed you awake, filling the room in white-blue LED light. You have a message. It’s a photo. No words, no explanation. Just a photo. Tell us all about it. And what happens next.
I was sound asleep, dreaming that I was making pancakes, flipping each one up in as I turned it. One dropped onto the range top, sizzling and throwing off smoke. I grabbed it with the spatula and threw it into the sink but I was too late; the smoke alarm started shrieking. It wouldn’t stop, piercing through the dream into a realization that what I’d taken as the smoke alarm was actually the loud buzz of my phone.
It was time to get going. Sighing reluctantly, I hauled myself out of the warm bed and dressed as quickly as I could. It was freezing, and a look out the window just confirmed it; I could see puffs of smoke coming from every roof and a fresh dusting of new snow lay atop the foot or so of snow that had been in place for, well, it seemed like months.
Twenty minutes later I parked in front of the all-night diner and walked in. There he was, sitting at the table, with a cup of coffee and a short stack of pancakes in front of him. I walked over and sat down “Couldn’t this have waited until morning?”
“Sorry” he mumbled through a mouthful of pancake; “I wanted to be sure and catch you.”
“So, what’s going on”.
“He won’t let her leave. I need your help.”
I sighed. I’d figured it was something like that. “Okay; when do we leave?”
Hec finished his cakes and drained the last of his coffee. He dropped a twenty on the table and we got up to leave. I put my coat, scarf, ear muffs and gloves back on; it was cold out there. We left the warmth of the diner and headed outside. It was still night and the air was frigid. The seats in his car were so cold the upholstery didn’t give when I sat down. We left, and gradually the car’s heater started working. I pulled off my gloves and held my hands in front the heater vents to get them warm.
While we drove, Hec filled me in. Perri should have been back in town weeks ago, but no one had seen or heard from her. Last night he’d received a call; she was having troubles with her old man.
I’ve never understood their relationship. They would get together and seem blissfully happy, but within a few months or so there’d be a big fight and she’d leave and go back to her mother’s, swearing that this time it was for good. They had a habit of getting together, then breaking up, then getting together again. It was like clockwork; pretty much every 6 months something big would happen. She’d called her mother 5 weeks ago to say she’d be coming for a visit, but hadn’t shown up. Her mom called Hec, and he contacted me.
We were off to get her away from Hank, if not permanently, at least for a while.
Their place is out in the boonies and we ended up driving through the rest of the night and into morning. They live up North, in a remote location near the Wisconsin River. We had to cross the River. Unfortunately, the Merrimac Ferry was still out for the season so we had take the highway the whole way up there.
We finally made it up to their place. By now, it was early morning, and we figured they were up for the day. Hec and I walked up and banged on the door. Hank opened it; he looked gruff and angry, but then he always looked that way. “Quit banging!” he yelled; “You’ll wake the dead”.
I stood at the doorway; this was one house I didn’t want to enter. “Perri!” I called; “Come on, we’re here to take you home.” I peered around Hank and could see her sneaking out of a back room, pulling a suitcase behind her. Hank started yelling; he and Hec were going at it. While they argued, focused on each other, Perri quickly slipped past and ran to the car with me. I opened the door and threw in her suitcase, and she followed into the back seat. I went around and hopped in the front seat, started the engine and laid on the horn. As I did a quick turnaround, Hec came running into the passenger seat and I gunned it out of there.
We headed for home, stopping at a Culver’s along the way for some fried cheese curds. We dropped Perri off at her Mom’s, and by noon I was home.
I walked into the house, dead tired but not wanting to nap. We’d done our job. Perri was back, and the weather would start turning pleasant again. I knew that within 6 months she’d be ready to go back to Hank, but at least for now we’d have some decent weather.