But as the new year approached, the season turned into a...
Not so Merry Christmas
From Safe Harbor by Rosemary McCracken
"We are missing one of our, how you say…assets. You help us get back?"
Jude clutched the phone and went to the living room window. Across the street, she saw a black SUV parked at the curb. Its chrome fenders glinted in the sunlight.
She turned back to the room. Her son Tommy lay on the sofa, his knees propped up. He was playing a video game on the hand-held gaming device Santa had given him for Christmas.
She fixed her eyes on the boy. "Look, I don't know where―"
"Then you find out," the voice on the other end of the line demanded. "If you know what is good for you―and your boy."
Jude turned her back on Tommy. "You leave him alone. He's just a child."
"Then do what I say. Get us the Somali."
The only response was the droning dial tone.
She placed the receiver in its cradle and looked out the window again. The SUV hadn't moved. She needed to stay calm and get Tommy out of the house.
She brushed her hands on her jeans, walked over to the sofa and crouched down beside her son. "Come here, sweetie." She struggled to keep her voice steady as she pulled him into a hug.
He squirmed. "Not now, Mommy. I'm not finished."
"Tommy, you have to put that away." She moved to ease the device from his grasp.
"No! The game's not over."
Jude stood up, her face tight with fear. "Yes, it is. Give that to me." She held out a shaking hand.
"I said now."
He pushed a few buttons, then handed his mother the device. "What did I do?"
She crouched down, held his shoulders and looked into his brown eyes. "It's not you, Tommy. Mommy needs help."
Tommy frowned. Then his face lit up. "I know who can help us."
She looked at him quizzically. He pointed to his T-shirt.
Her heart sank and she feigned a smile. "Spiderman can't swing to our rescue. But I have an idea. Tommy, how would you like to go to a hotel?"
Tommy's eyes widened. "Cool." He paused. "Are we going to live at the hotel?"
Jude tousled his dark-brown hair. "No, it's just for a day or two." Then where? Mom's? Arlene's? No, those would be the first places he'd check.
Tommy stared at her, his eyes squinting with suspicion.
"Let's pretend we're spies, Tommy. We'll sneak out the back door and run down the alley. Then we'll look for a taxi on the Danforth. Okay?"
She took his hand and led him towards the stairs. "We may be away longer than just tonight. We'll pack a few things to take with us."
"But, Mommy, can't we―?"
"Tommy, we don't have time for questions. You have to do as I say. Got it?"
"Got it," he muttered. "Ten-four."
She stopped on the landing. "Now scoot to your room and get out your backpack. I'll be there in a sec."
"I wish Daddy was here. Not in heaven."
She drew a deep breath. "Me too, honey."
In her bedroom, Jude sank onto the bed. Her heart hammered in her chest as her glance fell on the pewter-framed photo on the dresser. She picked it up and stared at the photograph of a man in a dark suit and tie. He was handing a silver trophy to a teenage boy in hockey gear. The photo had run in the Toronto World, and the newspaper had sold her a print.
She focused on the man in the photograph. "What should I do?"
Then it came to her.
"Tommy, your father may be able to help us after all."
Safe Harbor by Rosemary McCracken is available as an ebook and a paperback on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.ca.
Watch Safe Harbor’s trailer here.