Mel lay awake, listening to her captors discussing their plans. She knew they would probably leave her here.. or worse. She knew she must act fast, and soon, while they were distracted. She slowly rose from the bed, careful not to aggravate her legs or cause noise.
Crawling off the bed proved to be a challenge. She had to put her hands on the floor in a push up position, then slowly and carefully bring one leg down, then the other. She winced at the pain, but so far, no one had come in. She army-crawled over to the open-faced closet and pulled out her crutches. Hobbling over to the window, she unlocked it and pulled at it. It only opened a few inches. She groaned inwardly. Just great. How am I going to get out? Suddenly, she heard a noise at the door.
Frantically, she hobbled over to the bathroom and hid just inside the shower curtain, her heart beating wildly.
“Where is she?” A male’s voice demanded.
A woman’s voice answered, “I don’t know! She was right here when I checked on her thirty minutes ago! I don’t know where she could have gone when we were outside and the window doesn’t open!”
“I think I know,” the man said.
Mel waited, her heart feeling like it was going to burst.She leaned on the shower wall and raised a crutch. She heard the door creak softly as it was opened. Help me, Father.
The shower curtain was slid aside and Mel swung the crutch with all her might, hitting the side of the woman’s head. She cried in pain and fell to the ground. The man was right behind her, and Mel swung her crutch again, but not in time. He caught it and whammed the side of her head.
She screamed as she fell, one last thought before settling into unconsciousness. I know who he was!
Janefer struggled with the ropes. The fire was getting hotter, and closer. Janefer hoped the fire department would be here soon.
Her wrists chafed against the rope, and Janefer choked on the gag.
The flames were licking at the door frame now. Janefer let out a cry and scooted her chair over to her desk. She looked around for an object to cut her ropes and spotted a nail file. She turned the chair around and reached for the nail file.
Adjusting it in her fingers, she rubbed it against the rope. C’mon. Hurry! Please work.
She rubbed faster, hearing the rope fibers breaking. Sweat rolled down her face. A little more and–ah! Got it!
She quickly freed her hands and untied her feet. She ran over to the window and opened it. Crawling out, she slid down the roof and landed with ‘thud’ on the ground.
Janefer ran to her neighbor’s house next door, where she called her mother and was assured that he fire department was on its way.
While waiting for the fire department to arrive, Janefer sat on her neighbor’s porch swing and watched her house burn. The orange-red flames licked up the side of the house where Mrs. Davis’s bedroom was. She couldn’t watch.
Feeling utterly defeated and down, Janefer put her head in her hands and cried. Harder than she had when her Dad was hospitalized. She felt hopeless, as if everything in the world were falling in on her. Audrey’s betrayal, her father’s sickness, Mel’s disappearance, the fire, Terrence’s imprisonment when she knew he was innocent. “I don’t understand this!” she cried. “Why? I just want to-to-scream!”
She had just uttered the words when a shrill, piercing sound cut through the air. Janefer looked up. The fire department had arrived. Janefer watched as the firefighters trooped out of the truck, shouting orders over the sound of crackling fire eating up wood. They carried hoses and sprayed the house. A few firefighters broke down the door with an ax and began fighting the flames.
Janefer knew they would be there for hours. Just as she stood up to go talk to the fire chief, Janefer was hit with a thought that she had stuck with her ever since Audrey had said it.
My boyfriend’s name is Jack.
“That doesn’t make sense,” Janefer muttered. “In the hospital, she said his name was Morris!”
Another thought hit her. Something Audrey had said. He’s already got his alibi covered. No one will know it’s him, and only I know, and then he’ll kill me and get all the money.
Jack. Alibi. Janefer’s brain raced with possibilities. Of course! Jack Whitby, the police officer. He looked suspicious in her basement cellar, he was working with Audrey, and probably had Mel! She had to get the police. Her mother’s car pulled into the driveway. Janefer ran to the car, jumped inside.
“Mom, pull out. This is important. I know it is. We have to go to the prison! It may be a matter of life or death!”
Mrs. Davies looked at her quizzically. “Okay. Honey, are you all right?”
Janefer nodded. “We have to hurry!”
Jack Whitby paced. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go! Where was Audrey, for pete’s sake?
He groaned and looked at his watch. Five minutes, and if she wasn’t there by then, he would have to leave her here.
He looked over at Mel, who lay unconscious on the bed. Restless, he looked at his watch again. Four minutes. “C’mon!” He growled.
Three minutes. He grabbed his briefcase and combed his wig.
Two minutes. He put on his sunglasses and checked the all the windows.
One minute. He shut off the bathroom light.
30 seconds. Someone knocked on the door. He stalked over to it and pulled it open angrily. There stood Audrey, a smug smile on her face.
“What took you so long?” Jack growled.
Audrey brushed past him and stood in front of the mirror. She combed her hair back into a messy ponytail and pushed on her sunglasses. “I had to finish some business. You know, get rid of some unwanted garbage.”
She turned to face him as his frown turned into a small smile.
“Good.” He said. “We have to leave now. Here, take this wig. It will keep the police guessing for a while, and by then, we’ll be long gone.”
She laughed softly as she put on a curly brown wig and looked in the mirror again as she adjusted it. Suddenly she stopped and faced him again.
“What are we going to do about the girl in the bedroom? We can’t kill another one!”
Jack grimaced. “As much as I don’t want to do it, we have to. We’ll make it look like an accident. You left the iron on high and it set fire. The maid came in, which will be Carmen, and she’ll call the police. It’s the perfect alibi. Then, we’re of to Hawaii.”
Audrey sighed, then looked up at him. “All right. I just hate to lose another of my patients. But you’re right. We have a job we have to finish.”
He grinned. “That’s my girl. Now, do you still have some gasoline leftover?”
She nodded. “In the maid cart outside the door.”
He retrieved it and set about to the second fire New York would experience in one day.
Mel awoke to hearing the last part of their plans. She started shaking uncontrollably.
“I’m so scared.” she whispered.
When they came in, Mel pretended to still be unconscious.
They spoke in low tones as they spread the gasoline over the room. When one of them came near to her bed, Mel heard a low whisper. “I’m sorry.” It sounded like a girl. She now remembered where she had seen the lady who had checked her out of the hospital. She had worked there. Audrey, she thought her name was. Maybe this was the same girl.
Mel tried to lay still until they left. Once they did, and Mel heard the soft click of the door, she knew it was time to act. They would probably be lighting the room door first, where it would spread to where she was. She sat up, her head dizzy.
She swung her legs over the bed and grabbed the crutches laying at the foot of it. She opened the window a couple of inches, as that is as far as it would go.
Hearing the fire’s crackling in the adjoining room, Mel worked faster. She needed something to break it with. She looked at the TV. The remote would work. She grabbed it and with all her might, swung it into the window, hoping it would break easily, like in the movies.
It cracked, and she swung the remote in it again, and again. The fire was licking at the door now, and she banged harder, faster.
Finally, it broke, and she clambered out of the window, hoping there would be a fire escape. There was. She prepared herself for pain, and jumped.
“Ouch!” She cried out in pain. It hurt, badly, but she was free, and alive.
“Thank you, God.” She had to call the police station, and warn them. Hobbling down the stairs, she went over to the lobby of the hotel and called the police, telling them about the fire and that she was safe, and warning them about Detective Jack Whitby.
Janefer updated her mother on her new discoveries as they drove to the jail.
“Mom, where would the detective go if he didn’t want to be found?” Janefer asked.
Her mother looked thoughtful. “Well, if I were him, I would probably go to somewhere in the middle of nowhere, or if I wasn’t as smart, I would probably go to a hotel.
He definitely is not the most smart, so I would say the hotel, but which one? She groaned inwardly. As they passed by a gas station and hotel on their right, Mrs. Davis gasped.
“Janefer, look! There are fire engines and police cars at the hotel back there! Maybe something happened! Did you want to pull over?”
Janefer looked back. “Yes!”
They turned around and pulled into the parking lot of the hotel, where they saw one room near the fire exit was sectioned off with police tape. As soon as Mrs. Davis parked, Janefer leaped out and ran toward hotel lobby door to ask what had happened.
When she ran in, she saw sitting on one of the lounge chairs was Mel!
Janefer stopped, and covered her mouth with her hand, choking back sobs of relief.
Janefer raced over and hugged her.”I can’t believe you’re here! What happened? Are you okay?”
Mel was crying. “Oh, Janefer, I was so scared. They tried killing me with arson, and I can’t believe it! I think Audrey the nurse was in on it, and the detective too! I’m so glad you’re here.”
“They tried that to me as well, ” said Janefer,” I’m so glad you’re alright! I was so frightened.” They hugged again.
“Did you call your folks?” Janefer asked.
Mel nodded. “They were so happy that I was safe. They’re going to be here soon to pick me up.”
Mrs. Davis came in then, and hugged Mel, so happy that she was safe. Right then, Mrs. Davis’s cell phone rang.
She answered it. Her face grew white.
Janefer and Mel stopped chatting. They waited until Mrs. Davis hung up.
“Mom, what’s wrong?” Janefer asked with dread.
Mrs. Davis was still white. “Janefer, we have to go. Your father has just coded. They think this is the end.”
Janefer leaped out of the chair. “What?”
Mrs. Davis nodded. “We have to go, now.”
They ran out of the hospital and got into their car, still shocked and devastated by the news.
Mel watched as her best friend and her mother drove away.
“Please, God. Help them, give them strength for this grief they are going to experience.”
A police officer came in then, and told her they had caught Jack and Audrey, and Carmen, the associate to their plans.
Mel was relieved at the news, though, she wasn’t sure what to do. She felt a mixture of sadness, relief, discomfort, and happiness.
“Thank you, God, for keeping us safe.”
Janefer waited just outside of the ICU, where her mother was saying her goodbyes to her father.
She was overcome by grief, such a sadness that she couldn’t cry.
She didn’t understand this. She supposed no one really did when their fathers died young.
Her mother came out, her eyes bloodshot and glossy. The tip of her nose was red and shiny. But there was a peace about her, even as she said it was Janefer’s turn to say goodbye.
Janefer sighed and walked in. She found her dad’s room and sat next to him, holding his hand.
“Hi, Dad.” Her father didn’t move, but with just an ounce of strength, squeezed her hand.
“Dad, I- I don’t know what to say.” Her chin quivered. “I guess I’ll say what’s coming to my mind right now. I love you. I love you so much, Daddy. Thank you so much for being there for me as a kid. For all those piggy backs, tickle fights, and horsie rides.” She laughed softly and sniffed.
“I’m gonna miss you, Daddy. I only wish we had more time to spend with eachother. So much of it was wasted, by me.” Tears blurred her vision. “Dad, what are we going to do without you? I truly don’t know, but I want you to know that I’ll always remember you, and that you’ll always be in my heart, and that I love you.” She started to sob. “Oh, Dad!”
He opened his eyes for a moment. Then, in a soft whisper, he said. “I love you, too. Don’t… blame.. yourself. God….. forgives. Look…. to Him.”
Then with one loving look to his daughter, Ray Davis closed his eyes and breathed his last.
Janefer stopped crying. “Dad?” The machines went off. “Dad!”
A hospital team came in and Janefer left the room. She knew it was too late.
Her mother seemed to know, too. They embraced one another. This was one of Janefer’s darkest days.
——————1 month later————————
Janefer sat beside her best friend, Mel, as they sat on Mel’s porch swing.
So much had happened in the last month. Terrence was released, and Mr. Davis’s funeral was held. Jack, Audrey, and Carmen were arrested and imprisoned, and their trial was set for another month. Janefer’s house was rebuilt, and Mel’s legs were finally healing.
Janefer had heard the whole scheme from the investigating police officers.
Audrey and Jack were actually hired to kill off Janefer and Mel as revenge to their fathers because of some patients they couldn’t save. They weren’t able to kill them in the car crash, so when they found out they were in the hospital, Audrey planted a bug in Mel and Janefer’s room, and when they found out that Mel was a witness, decided to kidnap her. They blamed it on Terrence because he was just in the right place in the right time, with no definite alibi. The rest, Janefer knew.
She had been reading the Bible, and asking her mother and best friend many questions, letting her confusion and frustration with Christianity be uncovered. She now understood many things, and was thinking about becoming a Christian, but hadn’t had the courage to ask Mel yet. They now sat in silence as Janefer worked up the courage to ask her.
Mel finally spoke. “Okay. What’s wrong? I can tell something is bothering you.”
“Nothing is wrong, really. I was just wondering about something.”
“What is it?” Mel pressed.
“Well,” Janefer began,”I was reading in the New Testament today, and I think I understand what being a Christian is. I felt so bad about my sins, but I don’t know what to do.”
Mel’s face glowed. “Repent and believe! Ask Jesus to save you from your sins, and repent. Believe that He died to save you, and believe and trust in Him. It’s so easy. Do you want me to help you?”
Janefer nodded. “Yes.” she whispered.
“Just pray to God and ask Him to save you. Ask Him to forgive you.”
Janefer closed her eyes and prayed,”Dear Jesus, please forgive me from my sins. I’m sorry, Lord. Please wash me clean, and give me a new heart. I believe in you, Jesus, and please rule my life from now on. Amen.”
She looked at Mel. “I feel so happy!”
Mel grinned and threw her arms around Janefer. “I’m so happy for you, Janefer!”
It was a new day.