Chapter 18: Followed

Chapter 18: Followed

By Susie Garber

Recap: Miri goes to Mrs. Mintz’s deserted old house in search of the letter and calendar. She has a terrible foreboding, feeling that someone is following her there. Inside the old house she tries to find the secret place where the two important pieces of information are hidden. It seems like she isn’t going to be successful. She is so scared of Mr. Quail.

I was about to walk away when I thought of something my father taught me when I was seven. It was spring and I had begged and begged for a two-wheeler bike.

We were in a park by a lake and my beautiful pink two-wheeler with streamers was sitting there waiting for me to ride it. I was so excited. I jumped on and tried to balance. I fell and scraped both knees. I got on again and it happened again. I was in pain. I didn’t like my bike anymore.

My dad put his arm around me. He would stay behind and guide me. He did for a while and then he let go. I fell again. I fell so many times I finally said, “I don’t want to do this anymore.” That was when he said, “Mimi, the only way you will never learn to ride this bike is if you give up and stop trying.”

It took most of the afternoon and a lot of help from my dad, but eventually I glided away on my own.

I felt a strange premonition. It didn’t make sense but I suddenly felt frightened. The SUV was several feet behind me

Funny that I was thinking of that now. Hashem has a way of putting the right thoughts in our minds. I mused. I rubbed my hand against the wall again. Nothing. I kept on rubbing it. My hand was getting tired. I rubbed very hard, feeling for any movement with my thumb. Just then, like magic, I felt some give in the wall. I pushed hard and part of the wall gave way. I was able to thrust my hand into the wall. Could this be it? This was a hole like the one Mrs. Mintz had described. l felt all around. It was narrow. I kept moving my hand around, hoping, hoping. Suddenly, my fingers grasped something hard and metal. I couldn’t believe it. I pulled out the key.

I headed back to the wall safe. I thrust the key into the keyhole and turned it. There was a click and the door swung open.

Just then, I heard a creaking noise coming from below. I knew I had closed the front door. I felt my neck muscles tighten. I froze and listened. I waited and waited. There was no more noise. Should I go back down and see if someone was there?

I listened again. No, just your imagination, I told myself.

I felt around inside the safe and pulled out an envelope. I examined it. It was yellowed with age. The writing on the front was in a foreign language. I shivered as I carefully opened the envelope. A letter lay in my hands. It was also in a foreign language. I assumed it was German. I slid the letter back into the envelope. I felt around in the safe again and my hand grasped something else. I pulled it out slowly; it was a small pocket calendar of the year 1943. I gasped.

Just then, I heard the creaking sound again. It was this soft imperceptible sound like a door creaking. Maybe the realtor had come, or…

I tried to push away any other scary possibilities. No one knew I was here but the realtor. No one had followed me. I was safe.

I stuffed the letter and calendar into an inside pocket of my sweater. Then I slammed the safe shut. I recited ein od milvado and quickly replaced the painting over the safe. Then I rushed down the stairs.

I didn’t see anyone near the house, baruch Hashem. I slammed the front door shut and raced to my car.

I felt the lump in my sweater pocket. I would take this treasure straight to the police station. Thank you, Hashem!

As I drove down the deserted street, there was a clap of thunder. Then a burst of rain pounded against my windshield. I put on my windshield wipers and slowed down. I couldn’t see anything. It was like driving through a waterfall.

It’s okay, I said, trying to calm myself. It’s just a rainstorm. You’ll get everything to the police.

I inched along, straining to see the road ahead. I decided to pull over and wait it out. The rain sounded like drummers.

All I could think about was Mrs. Mintz and what it must have been like when her parents never came home that night in 1943. If Mr. Quail was responsible for their deaths, then I had to do everything I could to get this evidence to the police.

Suddenly, in my rearview mirror I glimpsed a white SUV. I was in the middle of a deserted street. There was no one here but me and the approaching car. I felt a strange premonition. It didn’t make sense but I suddenly felt frightened. The SUV was several feet behind me.

I decided to drive again. The SUV was still behind me. When I got to the first cross street I turned left. The SUV remained behind me, in the distance.

They’re not following you, I told myself.

Please, Hashem, help me get to the highway. I have to find a pay phone or people – someone who can help.

Rain thudded against my windshield. Lightning zigzagged.

There was a brilliant flash! My car skidded. I was shaking as I turned into the skid. I gunned the accelerator again and kept going. Come on, come on!

To be continued…

Susie Garber is the author of Denver Dreams, a novel (Jerusalem Publications, 2009), Memorable Characters…Magnificent Stories (Scholastic, 2002), Befriend (Menucha Publishers, 2013), The Road Less Traveled (Feldheim, 2015), fiction serials and features in various magazines including A Bridge in Time, historical fiction serial (Binyan Magazine, 2017). She writes the community column for the Queens Jewish Link and she writes the Queens page for Hamodia. She works as a writing consultant in many yeshivos and she teaches creative writing to students of all ages.


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