Something was shaking me. It wasn’t a pleasant feeling, so I tried to brush it off. I swatted and I grumbled, but the shaking wouldn’t go away. After abandoning my sweet dreams of me and Martinez tangoing in our swimsuits on the beaches of Jamaica, I reluctantly opened my eyes to find Danny staring down at me. For a minute, I thought I’d waken up from a dream into another dream—I’d done that before—but then I quickly remembered the events of the night before. I struggled to sit up, glad that I had remembered to wear shorts and a t-shirt to bed. Wouldn’t want to be charged with child abuse or endangerment or something like that.
“What is it, sweetie?” I asked Danny, glancing at my beside clock at the same time. It was nearly one, which meant I got close to seven hours of sleep. Not bad.
“I’m hungry, Auntie. And I want my mommy.” Danny was holding Percy in one hand and sucking the thumb of his other. “I also have to go potty.” I leapt out of bed and dragged him to the bathroom where he did his thing. I silently thanked Kayla for potty-training Danny so early as it made things much easier.
“Let’s see what I can make you,” I said, grabbing Danny by the hand and taking him to the kitchen.
“I want my mommy,” he repeated in a louder voice. “When are you going to find her?”
“It’s not that easy, Danny,” I said, rummaging through the fridge. I tried to remember how long the eggs had been there, but I couldn’t. That meant no eggs as I wasn’t taking a chance of giving salmonella to Danny. Pancakes. I could make pancakes. “Do you like pancakes, honey?” I asked, reaching for a box. Danny nodded yes, but he refused to be distracted.
“You found me. Why can’t you find my mommy?” Before I could answer, my cell phone rang. I gave Danny an apologetic glance, but I raced to find it. Who knew what important information it could be? It was my mother.
“I’m back. That poor, poor boy,” Mom said, clucking her tongue against her teeth. “And poor Julia so worn out. I made her promise she would take a whole day to show Banana the sights. How are you, dear?” The answer to my prayers!
“Mom, are you busy today?” Before she could ask why, I filled her in on the situation—leaving out my little escapade at the club last night, of course. She was properly appalled and agreed to watch over Danny while I visited Matt and talked to Martinez. She told me to come right over, that she would defrost a few of her frozen goodies which she saved for an emergency such as this. Knowing her, it would be a seven-course meal, but I had no objections. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d eaten a real meal, and my mom was a better cook than I could ever hope to be.
“Danny, we’re going over to my mom’s house,” I said, putting the batter back. “You’re going to stay with my parents while I go visit Matt and try to find your mommy. What do you say to that?”
“Ok,” Danny said, his body drooping. I knew he didn’t want to let me out of his sight but that he wanted to find his mom more. I felt sorry for the little guy for having to deal with such a burden so young, so I gave him an impulsive hug.
“Danny, my parents have my cell phone number. If you need me, you just call, ok?”
“Ok, Auntie.” Danny hugged me extra-hard before letting go. We went to my room so I could gather his stuff. Danny watched me, holding onto Percy as he did. I shooed him from the room so I could change into something presentable. Five minutes later, we were out the door and headed to my parents’ house. My mother was waiting for us when we got there.
“Scarlett!” My mother flung open the door, a wide smile on her face. “This must be Danny. Scarlett’s told me so much about you.” Even though she was going out of her way to be friendly, she seemed worn-out. I felt a pang of guilt for putting her through so much the last few days, but I knew she could handle it.
“Hello, Auntie’s mommy,” Danny said solemnly, holding out his hand.
“You can call me A-go,” Mom said, drawing Danny into her arms. “That means grandmother in Taiwanese. Can you say that?”
“A-go,” Danny repeated, nestling against my mother. It occurred to me that he probably hadn’t had many elderly people fussing over him as Kayla didn’t have any family.
“Come. Let’s eat.” My mother guided Danny to the dining room with me trailing right behind them. I glanced at my watch and decided I could eat a quick bite before going to the hospital. My father was sitting at the table, waiting patiently to be served.
“Danny, this is Scarlett’s father. You can call him A-gong.” My mother sat Danny besides her in a high chair she must have saved from my siblings and my childhood.
“I have to be quick,” I said, sitting down. “Matt’s in the hospital.” Of course, my parents had to know why Matt was in the hospital, and I told them as briefly as possible. I didn’t give them all the details as I didn’t want to alarm Danny. He didn’t seem to be paying attention, as he was staring at the food on the table. Selfishly, I also didn’t want my parents bawling me out for my poor judgment, so I still didn’t tell them the extent of my involvement. Besides, I didn’t want to think about Digger if I could help it.
My mother had outdone herself. The table was loaded with dumplings, sticky noodles, roast duck, the ever-present barbecued pork, and other delicacies. There was a steaming bowl of rice in front of each place with chopsticks on the side. Danny had a fork, of course, as my mother hadn’t known if he could use chopsticks or not. Danny was hesitant at first to try the food, but he was won over by the promise of a peanut butter sandwich if he didn’t like what my mom had cooked. I watched as my mother heaped food into his bowl then showed him how to scoop up a bit of rice with each bite. Danny screwed up his face as he took his first bite of barbecued pork, but it brightened immensely once he swallowed.
“This is good,” he said, beaming at my mother. I knew he had just won her over with his words, and I was glad he liked it. I rummaged through his bag to pull out his sippy cup which I handed to my mother. She went into the kitchen to fill it, presumably with milk. Danny was eating everything on his plate at such a rapid pace, I urged him to slow down. My mother returned and kept herself busy by fussing over him.
“Where is his mother?” My father asked me in a low voice.
“She was kidnapped, too,” I responded, keeping a sharp eye on Danny. He was too engrossed with his food to pay attention to me, however, for which I was thankful. I took a healthy bite of barbecued pork, glad that my mother had remembered to make my favorite. I shouldn’t have worried about it, however, as she always had a stash for me when I came over.
“Have the police found her yet?” My father was watching Danny, too. None of us wanted to upset the boy any more than he’d already been upset.
“No. I think I might be able to help them.” I shoveled in the food between answers, anxious to be on my way.
“I like your detective,” Dad said, scooping up some rice himself. “He’s a fine man.” I was happy that somebody thought he was better for me than Matt—other than me, of course.
“I gotta go,” I said, standing up. Before my mother could protest, I brought my dishes to the kitchen and rinsed them before returning to the dining room. “Have fun, Danny,” I said, kissing him on the cheek. “Remember, you can call me if you need anything.”
“Ok, Auntie,” Danny said distractedly. He was still concentrating on the food in front of him, so I let him be.
“Thanks, Mom,” I said, hugging my mother. I went around the table to my father so I could hug him as well. “Thanks, Dad. I’ll give Matt your love.” Waving at the three of them, I hurried out to my car. My phone rang as I was driving to the hospital.
“Scarlett? It’s Martinez. I wanted to see how you were doing.” His voice was more personal than professional, which relieved me.”
“I’m ok,” I said. “I’m on the way to the hospital to see how Matt is. How are you?” I was more concerned about him given that he’d probably been working all night.
“Frustrated. I can’t get anything out of Digs and Thompson about Ms. Richardson’s whereabouts.”
“Oh!” That reminded me of what I’d seen last night but had been too tired to tell him. I related it to Martinez who listened without comment.
“Is there anything else?”
“No, sorry.” After more chitchat and firming up our plans for tonight, I let him go.
The drive to the hospital was a welcome respite from the mayhem that had surrounded me the past week or so. I drove slowly so I could make maximum use of my time alone. I was anxious to know how Matt was, but I didn’t think ten more minutes of my time would make much difference. I noticed that my shoulder blades were tight, and I resolved to get a professional massage when this thing was all over. Over. What exactly did that mean? We had Danny back, and wasn’t that the important thing? All I cared about now was Matt getting better and me getting to know Martinez. Even though I felt vaguely guilty for thinking it, I didn’t give a damn if Kayla came back or not.
I knew I’d keep looking for her for Danny’s sake—as well as Matt’s—but I was furious at her for putting herself in such a precarious situation. I didn’t want to sound as if I were blaming the victim, but she really had a lot of nerve dragging her poor son into her mess. I knew that drugs fucked up your mind and made you make bad choices, but I couldn’t tolerate it that that sweet boy had had to endure so much because of his mother’s bad habits. I always felt that you should only be allowed to self-destruct if you didn’t take anybody else with you. Unfortunately, that usually wasn’t possible. Fuck Kayla and the horse upon which she rode.
“Mr. Reynolds,” I said at the ER because I didn’t know where he was. They sent me to the general wing, and I ran into his parents there. They looked worse for the wear, and Mrs. Reynolds couldn’t stop crying.
“How is he?” I asked, my heart clutching at their abject misery. “He came out of surgery ok, didn’t he?”
“Where have you been?” Mr. Reynolds boomed. He looked like an older version of Matt, which bode well for Matt’s future. “Our son, your best friend, is lying in the hospital, and you’re off gallivanting God knows where. You call that being a best friend?”
“George, please,” Mrs. Reynolds said, squeezing her husband’s arm. “I’m sure Scarlett has a good reason for not being here.”
“I do,” I said, trying to keep my temper in check. I knew they were concerned about their son, but I wasn’t in the mood to put up with any shit. I’d been molested, tied up, and almost killed. I had to help rescue Matt’s son, and I’d taken care of said son. I didn’t need a verbal tongue-lashing from either of Matt’s parents to boot. “There are still some loose ends….Please answer me. How is Matt? May I see him?” It wasn’t that I didn’t want to tell them where I had been and what I’d been doing, but I didn’t feel the need to justify myself. Matt knew I was his best friend, and that was all the mattered.
“He’s recovering, dear,” Mrs. Reynolds said, producing a watery smile. She was a thin, nondescript woman who stood in the shadows of her overbearing husband and effervescent son. “He’s a bit woozy, but he’s been asking for you.” There was a faint tinge of reproach in her voice, but I ignored it. “He’s in room 213. Just down this hall.” She pointed to her left, and I hurried off without saying anything else. I heard Mr. Reynolds grumbling behind me about the tough streets of Minneapolis, which made me laugh. He was from Chicago; who was he to criticize my city?