"Farraday. No, ma'am. I reached him at home."
"Well, I...can you let me have his number, please?" She listens as Phoebe reads off Farraday's number, writing it onto a pad on the counter. "Thank you," she says. She puts the phone back on its cradle, hesitates for a single uncertain instant...
"What is it?" Rosie asks again.
...and is reaching for the phone again when it rings, startling her.
She picks up the receiver.
"Hello?" she says.
A woman's voice says, "I have your children. Don't call the police, or they'll die."
There is a click on the line.
Alice puts the receiver back on the cradle. Her hand is trembling. Her face has gone pale.
"What is it?" Rosie asks.
"Someone has the children."
"Oh my God!"
"She told me not to call the police."
"Call them anyway," Rosie says.
"No, I can't."
"I don't know."
The house seems suddenly very still. Alice can hear the clock ticking in the living room. A big grandfather clock that used to belong to Eddie's mother.
"A blue car," she says. "A woman driving a blue car."
"Call the police," Rosie says.
"No. Do you know anyone who has a blue car?"
"No. Call the police."
"I can't do that! She'll kill them!"
"Did she say that?"
"Nothing. Nothing. She just hung up. Oh my God, Rosie, she's got the children!"
"What'd she sound like?"
"I...I don't know. A woman. I..."
"I don't know. How can anyone tell...?"
"Everyone can tell. Was she white or black?"
"Black. Maybe. I'm not sure."
"In her thirties maybe."
"Call the police. Tell them a black woman in her thirties has your kids. Do it now, Mrs. Glendenning. A bad situation can only get worse. Trust me on that."
"I can't take that chance, Rosie."
"You can't take any other chance."
The women look at each other.
"Call them," Rosie says.
"No," Alice says.
"Then God have mercy on your soul," Rosie says.
Alone in the house now, Rosie gone in a flutter of dire predictions, Alice first begins blaming herself. I should have bought Ashley the cell phone, she thinks, and remembers her daughter arguing like an attorney for the defense.
"But, Mom, all the girls in the fifth grade have cell phones!"
Oh, sure, the same way all the girls in the fifth grade are allowed to wear lipstick and all the girls in the fifth grade are allowed to date, and...
"No, Ashley, I'm sorry, we can't afford a cell phone just now."
"Not just now, darling, I'm sorry."
Thinking now, I should have bought her the phone, how much would it have cost, anyway? If Ashley had a cell phone, she'd have called me at the office before getting in a car with a strange woman -- what on earth possessed her? How many times had Alice told them, her and Jamie both, never to accept anything from a stranger, never, not candy, not anything, never even to stop and talk with a stranger, certainly never to get in a car with a stranger, what was wrong with them?
No, she thinks, it isn't their fault, it isn't my fault, it's this woman's fault, whoever she is, this woman driving a blue car, do I know anyone who drives a blue car? She tries to remember. She's sure she must know someone who drives a blue car, but who remembers the color of anyone's car unless it's yellow or pink? A blue car, she thinks, a blue car, come on, who drives a blue car, but she can't think of a single soul, and her frustration leads once again to unreasoning anger. Anger against herself for not having bought the goddamn cell phone, anger at her children for getting into a car with a strange woman, but especially anger at this undoubtedly crazed person, whoever she is, this woman who probably has no children of her own, and who has now stolen from Alice the only precious things in her life, I'll kill her, she thinks. If ever I get my hands on her --
From Alice in Jeopardy, chapter 1, pages 3-23. Copyright © 2005 by Hui Corp. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt maybe reproduced without written permission from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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