Monday, June 5, 2017

Fiction: Unwanted President. Chapter 14

Mary Cahill

By Ed Rogers

When Mary arrived at Hans and Gert Duman’s house in Germany, they were surprised but happy to see her. In fact, Gert was beside herself with joy at seeing Mary again. Mary had met the Dumans at the start of her European trip. The three of them were part of a tour group that was traveling to five countries in thirty days. Before the tour was over, Mary had left the group and headed to Finland, leaving a very sad Gert.
    Mary now looked so sad and alone, it broke Gert’s heart. As Gert put it to Hans, “She looks like a bird with a broken wing.”
    During the original time they spent together, they had formed a genuine friendship. Coming into their house now was for Mary like coming back home. Gert wanted to know everything, but Mary was not sure how much to tell them. Too much information could get them hurt. Not that what she knew seemed that important to her, but people had been dying around her lately.
    Gert made fresh coffee and, as she carried it back into the sitting room, said, “Mary, my dear, there is something different about you. You have a glow about you that was not there the last time we were together. If I did not know better, I would bet there is a man in your life.”
    “Yes, Gert, I have met somebody.”
    Gert beamed. “You have to tell me all about him!”
    Hans said, “I can’t take this! Tell me what you want out of your car, and I’ll take it upstairs and get your room ready.”
    “I just have a backpack. I sent the suitcases on ahead so I wouldn’t have to fool with them,” Mary lied. She couldn’t bring herself to tell them that just about everything she had brought to Europe with her was back in Finland and that she might be running for her life. “I can only stay the night. I’m behind schedule and need to be in Frankfurt by tomorrow afternoon.”
    “Well, when do we get to meet this new man of yours?” asked Gert. “You promise me that you’ll bring him back with you next time.” A tear was coming to her eye.
    Hans and Gert had only one child, a beautiful little girl who died of the flu in 1979. Gert saw her own daughter in Mary, which is why it had been so hard on her when Mary had to leave to go to Finland. And now she had been hoping Mary would stay with them for a good long while.
    “Don’t start crying, Gert,” said Hans, who stood at the front door, about ready to go out to the car. “Mary has a man and a life waiting for her. You should be happy tonight, not sad.” He opened the front door and went out into the cold.
    Gert said to Mary, “Drink your coffee, my dear. That old fool doesn’t know what he’s talking about. You know I am happy for you. It’s just that I’ll miss you.” Gert sounded sad.
    “I know, Gert, and I love you both so much. I wish I could stay, but I will bring Tom – that’s his name – and we will have a long visit, I promise!”
    Hans opened the trunk of Mary’s car and found her backpack. He lowered the lid just as a large black car pulled alongside him. From the slow speed they were traveling, he thought they were going to stop, but they sped up and disappeared around the corner.
    Hans came in and pulled off his boots. He could hear Gert and Mary talking as he started up the stairs. He was wondering what their lives would have been like if their little girl had lived. Less sad, that was for sure.
    If given the chance, Gert would have kept Mary up all night talking, but Hans saw Mary fighting to keep her eyes open and came to her rescue. He said, “That is it, young lady. I will not have you going to sleep behind the wheel of that car tomorrow. It’s off to bed with you.” Gert protested a little but gave in, knowing she had kept Mary as long as she could.
    Mary woke up early the next morning and ran a hot bath. The warm water and the cozy feel of the Duman’s home brought a longing within Mary for a home of her own with Tom, where they could be safe and secure. She wanted the safe feeling she had had with John Jr., and she knew she could have it with Tom. That, however, would have to wait for another day.
    Mary was getting dressed and thinking about the long drive ahead of her. She wasn’t looking forward to driving through the mountains – it was fifty miles to the autobahn – but the Germans took good care of their roadways, so maybe it wouldn’t be too bad.
    She removed the journal and set her backpack outside the door. The journal had no real value to her now, so she looked for a place to hide it. It would be waiting for the day when she and Tom would return. But for now it was just extra baggage.

Mary smelled the food cooking downstairs. Gert must have heard her running the water for the bath and begun cooking breakfast. She had hoped to depart without the tears and the sad goodbyes, but there would be no getting around them now, so Mary resigned herself. This was the price you paid for having people in your life who loved you. She went down the stairs and met Hans at the bottom step. He took her bag and told her to go eat. “I’ll put your backpack in the car for you.”
    “Good morning,” Gert said, as Mary came into the large warm kitchen. “I hope you slept well, my dear. We will be ready to eat in a few minutes, but the coffee is ready if you want a cup.”
    Hans came back in about the time Gert was laying out the food. Sitting down at the head of the table, he began filling his plate. Seeing Mary watching him, he smiled and said, “She never cooks unless someone is visiting. This is an occasion for feasting.”
    Gert popped Hans on the back of his head and told him, “If you ever want to eat in this house again, you will watch what you say.”
    This brought laughter from both Mary and Hans.
    After the hot meal, including three cups of coffee, it was time for Mary to go.
    Gert was waving and crying as Mary drove off. Mary was thinking how much she was going to miss them. Just a month ago she had no one – now she had Tom and a family who would be waiting for her return.
    If she had not been watching Gert and Hans intently in her rearview mirror, she might have seen the black car parked on the side street. But her attention was on the loved ones she was leaving behind and not on the danger parked maliciously nearby.
    Mary turned right and disappeared from the Duman’s sight into a white cloud of snow that was kicked up by her tires. Gert made no move to go back into the house. Hans took her arm and said, “Come, it is too cold out here. We’ll see her again.”
    “I don’t think so, Hans.” Gert wiped her eyes and turned toward the house. “I have a feeling she will never come back.”
    “That is foolish talk. If she doesn’t come see us, we will find her and go to her. Now, let’s get out of this cold,” Hans said, pulling Gert toward the front door.
    Just before going into the house, Hans heard the sound of a car pulling out, and turned in time to see the black car from the night before turning onto the same street Mary had just driven down. He wondered who they were visiting. He knew every car in the neighborhood, and that one didn’t belong.
    That night, the same car would be spotted in the neighborhood again and reported to the police, who would soon be investigating the double murders of Hans and Gert Duman.

Mary wiped the tears from her eyes and turned her attention back to the snow-covered road. She had been driving in Europe long enough to feel comfortable with her ability to handle a car in snow. She didn’t drive fast, and she could handle things fine if she didn’t exceed the speed limit.
    She had driven less than a mile when, up ahead, she saw someone standing in the roadway waving her arms, and had to slow down for fear of hitting her. There was no way in the world Mary would normally stop for anybody like that, but she could now see it was a young person, and she looked desperate, so Mary couldn’t help herself. After making sure the car doors were locked, she pulled alongside the girl and cracked the window.
    Before Mary could say a word, the woman, who now looked more Mary’s age than what she had initially thought, ran up to the car and said, “Please! Do you speak English? I need help!”
    “Yes, I’m an American. What’s wrong, are you hurt?”
    “I’m an American too! No, I’m not hurt, but I’ve been robbed.”
    “If you need to call the police, I just passed a payphone – you can call the police for free from there.”
    “No, please, I must catch up with the ones who robbed me. I know them, and they will be stopping at the next town. They are not bad people and if you can just give me a ride that far, I’ll be able to straighten this all out.”
    Mary thought that sounded a little fishy, and picking this woman up would be against her better judgment, but she unlocked the door and said, “Get in.”
    As Mary continued down the snow-covered road, she asked, “How much of a head start do you think they have on us?”
    “Maybe ten minutes, or less. I can’t thank you enough for what you are doing. If it was me, I don’t believe I would even have stopped to see what was wrong.”
    “I’m not sure why I did. My name’s Mary Cahill. What’s yours?”
    “Judy Roberts.”
    “I’m happy to meet you, Judy. I wish it were under better circumstances. What brings you to this area?”
    “I came to Europe for some adventure, but I never bargained for this. My husband died of cancer two years ago, then, last year, my mother passed away. I found myself quite alone. I had lived my life for my husband, and then for my mother. I decided I was going to do something for me. Spending a year in Europe seemed like a good idea at the time.”
    “Who is this that robbed you? You say you know them?”
    “Well, I guess I don’t know them that well. They are two girls from London, England. I met them on the train from London to Paris. We went out on the town together in Paris. We all had a little too much to drink. To save money we shared a hotel room. Anyway the three of us—” Judy turned her palms up. “How can I put this?”
    “There’s no need to go into detail. I’m just wondering how someone you knew was able to rob you?”
    “The two girls are younger than me. I had been paying for most of our meals and gas for the car.” Judy sighed. “I didn’t think too much about it at the time, but when we came into Germany I realized I was low on cash. We stopped at a bank yesterday, where I cashed a thousand dollars’ worth of traveler checks. Tony – that’s one of the girls – came into the bank with me and saw me get the money.”
    “It’s too late now,” said Mary, “but you should never carry large amounts of money around with you when you’re traveling.”
    “I know that now, but I never thought these two would do this to me. I thought we had become friends. Then, after we started out this morning, I fell asleep in the passenger seat. Suddenly, the car stopped, my door opened, and Tony pulled me out of the car and dumped me in the snow, then jumped back into my seat and they drove off. It was all so unexpected and done so fast I had no time to react. Dumbfounded, I sat there in the snow until I got cold. I kept wondering what had happened. Then – thank God! – you came along. Believe me, you are a lifesaver. I can’t thank you enough.”
    “They aren’t driving a big black car, are they?”
    “No,” said Judy, “it was white. Why?”
    “Because there’s a big black one right behind us!” Mary shouted.
    The black car had come up on her rear bumper from out of nowhere. Now it matched her speed – whether she slowed down or speeded up. That in itself was very upsetting, but the closeness of the car was making her especially nervous and she had an uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach.
    Mary tapped her brakes, hoping the people in the car would back off and give her room to breathe, but it had no effect. They were moving into the mountains and Mary started looking for a place she could pull off and let the fools pass her. At last, she saw an emergency turn-out a few hundred feet ahead. She tried to ignore the vehicle behind her and put all of her attention on making it to the turn-out.
    Mary stole a look at Judy, and the terror she saw on Judy’s face didn’t help ease her mind.
    “Who are these people?” Judy cried out, her voice shaking with panic. She dropped onto the floorboard and started crying and praying.
    “I don’t know, but I’m letting them pass as soon as I can.” Mary turned into the outcropping and looked into her rearview mirror to see what the black car was doing, but it had pulled up alongside her now and was squeezing her toward the drop-off. Mary turned into the other car but was unable to deter them; they were now pushing her car toward the edge.
    Mary put both feet on the brake, but it did no good. It was too late to do anything. Her car rolled over the edge, flipping two, three times as it went down the mountain, and finally coming to a rest against a large boulder.
    Mary couldn’t feel her legs, and her head was cut and bleeding. She was hurt badly. She wiped the blood from her eyes and looked around. She was now in the rear seat. Apparently, when the car hit the boulder, the front seats had broken loose. Judy was now under the steering column. She was quiet and wasn’t moving. Her blank eyes stared at Mary.
    The door beside Mary was open just a little and there was enough room for her to fit between the car and the boulder. She pulled herself hand over hand around to the other side of the big rock. She could see grape vines at the bottom of the hill, which she took to mean there was a farm somewhere near. If she could get to the field, maybe she could get help. Lying on her side and letting herself go. She rolled down the snow-packed incline. The pain was intense, barely tolerable. She came to a stop at the edge of the field.
    Lying on her back, unable to move, she could see two men standing on the ledge way above her. They were throwing something at the car, which ignited and started to burn brightly.
    A velvet veil of darkness slipped over Mary. Then the eternal night engulfed her. There was no one to hear her call out, “Oh, Tom!”
[Editor’s Note: The novel from which this excerpt is taken can be ordered from Amazon, as either a paperback or a Kindle book.]

Copyright © 2017 by Ed Rogers

No comments:

Post a Comment