Monday, August 5, 2013, Greensboro

Blasted alarm clock! Good morning, good morning, good morninngg guhh guhh! Nothing to do…

Slam, thump, “Ouch! Son a bitchin’ thing!” Leah finally got the alarm shut off on the fourth smack. She must have moved it when she got into bed last night. Or was that this morning?

“Ugh,” she groaned as she turned over. She grabbed the gray stuffed hippopotamus, and plopped it over her throbbing head, effectively shutting out the world with the loftiness of the velour and polyester water-horse pillow.

In the town, where I was born, lived a ma’a’aan…thump. “Hah! Gotcha on the first try!” Leah exclaimed with pride then fell back and moaned, “Oh, no,” the pain of her class one hangover trumping her momentary elation at winning the whack the alarm clock contest. She rolled over and looked at it. It was 5:15. If she had to work today, she only had 15 minutes to get dressed and slug down a cup of coffee before it was time to head out the door. If she had the day off, she could roll over and sleep until noon if she wanted. It would be easy enough to check. She made sure she entered her work schedule into her smartphone every week as soon as it was posted.

“Okay, where did I leave you this time?” Leah was forever misplacing her phone. She was so notorious that she even customized a message for the opening screen page that said, “Tell Leah you found her phone. You can contact her at work at Moses H. Cone Hospital….” So far, every one of the three people who had found it had returned it. “Mom was worse than me,” she said softly, “she lost and found hers five times.”

Then she saw them: the two identical solar-powered smartphones. “Oh, crap.”  Traces of talcum powder were still visible on one. She had dusted it the night before, looking for the engraved initials to verify what she already knew: it was her mother’s.

Her mother disappeared from Greensboro ten months ago, apparently falling off the earth without a trace. Yesterday she reappeared at her hospital’s emergency room with a musket ball in her shoulder, looking forty years younger, fifty pounds thinner, and as a nursing mother. Before they had a chance for explanations, Leah was knocked out by the phony attending doctor. He then kidnapped mom and shuffled her out the door in a wheelchair. He forced her to drive away—drugged and still recovering—in a stolen car, leading the hospital personnel and police on a chaotic chase to a vacant lot at the edge of town. The police found the car within minutes, but not its occupants.

Leah, still stunned at her mother’s sudden appearance then re-disappearance, had told her supervisor that she was related to the kidnapped woman. Nurse Gata, not wanting to be burdened with paperwork or inquiries, gave Leah the left behind personal belongings bag. It’s only contents: the colonial-style dress her mother had been wearing when she came into the emergency room and the prototype smartphone.

“I guess it wasn’t a dream after all,” she said as she softly touched the phone with the white disclosed initials DUM: Danielle Ursula Madigan.

Leah picked up her own phone, the one without the powder, and scanned her calendar. Cool, she had today off. She stumbled into the kitchen, opened the refrigerator door, and saw the carton of orange juice. “I don’t think so,” she groaned, “What I need is the hair of the dog that bit me.” She shoved the juice aside. “Ooh, there’s an idea,” she said and grabbed the carton of vanilla-flavored soymilk coffee creamer. She took her dirty coffee cup out of the sink, gave it a fast rinse, shook off the water, and then poured a healthy slug of the sweetened coffee creamer in it.

“Ah, my little friend,” she cooed to the bottle of McCallum whisky on the counter and tipped a shot into the mug. She swished the cup, dipped her finger in it, and swirled the mix. She lifted the cup to her lips and sniffed. “Smells pretty good, but I bet it’d be better warmed.”

She put the cup in the microwave, nuked it half a minute, then pulled it out and did the swish, finger dip, and swirl routine again to make sure the hot and cold spots were blended. “Ah, that’s too good,” she said as she finished sipping down half the concoction with her first taste. “That should take the edge off the hangover.”

“Ding dong.” Leah took her cup of homemade crème liqueur to the table and sat down in front of the two phones. The notification tone wasn’t from hers; she had disabled the audio email and text message alerts long ago. She picked up her mother’s phone and slid her finger across the face of it. The little animated letter was dancing all over the screen. Her mother’s email address was still valid, although there hadn’t been any real activity on it for the last six months. The Alchemy spam blocker had virtually blocked all of the junk mail; this one must be legitimate. Leah took another sip of her liquid courage and double-clicked the letter.

‘Remember meeting me in that little café in Greensboro last Halloween? Did that strange little man—Simon was it?—ever figure out his map? Hopefully you were able to finish your little Revolutionary War sightsee and had a safe journey home to Alaska. I will be returning to North Carolina August 5th. After I take care of some business, I would like to visit your state. Is your offer for a three-hour tour still open? Please let me know so I can schedule flights on this end. Regards, James Melbourne’

“What the fu…” Leah looked at the properties of the email. The origination was a UK internet provider and the name was ‘Lord’ James Melbourne, MP. Last Halloween—that was the last time she had heard from her mother. Maybe this man could shed some light on what happened.

Leah quickly typed in her reply. ‘Please contact me as soon as possible. This is in regards to my mother, Dani Madigan. Thank you, Leah Madigan.’

She hit send, then wondered if she should have included her phone number. “Nope, I doubt I’d be coherent over the phone. If he’s going to be here today, maybe we can meet face to face.” Leah touched her hair and realized she was a mess. She’d better clean up if she was going to meet the man, a British Lord no less, who might have a clue about what happened to her mother last year. She wouldn’t tell him about yesterday unless… No, don’t anticipate she admonished herself. Just take a shower and go from there. One small step at a time: baby steps, lady, baby steps.


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