As requested, an advance notice: what follows is not the usual fare. It is a first draft of the second chapter of a YA fantasy novel I am working on.
As noted previously, I welcome all feedback, positive or negative. If you can be civil, fabulous. If you can’t, I’ll send your IP address to Elkridge. Thanks for taking the time to indulge me.
Saturday was always a special day for Catherine Kinnane and her daughter Molly. Catherine owned an Irish café and worked late every weeknight. On school days Catherine always walked Molly right to the doors of her school, which left Molly both mortified and thankful, but afterward she walked with her best friend Sarah Read to Sarah’s house.
There they did their homework and split Sarah’s chores. They watched television, listened to the new music they were buying online, and also jumped around the web looking for interesting news about the latest teen heartthrobs.
Sunday was Mass. The Sabbath was inviolable, and had been for as long as Molly could remember. Catherine would not tolerate missing Sunday service unless a true emergency arose, and the last time that had happened was lost to Molly’s memory. S Catherine closed her restaurant. A natural disaster was about the only thing that might interrupt Catherine and Molly from hearing the good Father Thornton’s weekly homily.
But then there was Saturday. Saturday was their day together. Often they would take a train downtown to enjoy a museum or a concert, but once a month, today for instance, was CostMart day. Bulk shopping, with an emphasis on bulk.
Molly pushed one cart and Catherine another. They trolled the aisles and scanned the massive shelves for bargains on pancake mix, crackers, peanut butter and jelly. They held up blouses and t-shirts, lounged on furniture, toyed with computers, and donned Tom Cruise Ray-Bans to watch 3-D televisions.
And they sampled. Well, lunched. Okay, brunched, considering they kept at it from 10 AM to 2 PM. Saturdays were the days when these massive retail warehouse stores brought new customers in the door with huge discounts, referral bonuses for existing customers, and food. Lots of food.
After the requisite hour or two rolling their carts up one aisle and down another…
“Hey MOM! Do we need the 48 rolls of toilet paper or the 96?” Molly would yell.
“I don’t know! How much refried bean dip are we buying?” answered her mother.
“DEPENDS!!” they’d call out, laughing.
They always wound up in the grocery section, the most crowded no matter what time of day. The sample artists laid out dozens of products, hors d’oeuvre style, for customers to pick up and try. Molly and Catherine made a game of it, trying to sound like the most pretentious Food Network judge imaginable.
Catherine spooned up a small cup of something and remarked, “Oh, dear, this corn relish is just lost in vinegar. I can’t find any hint of the secret ingredient at all!”
“And what was that again?” asked Molly.
“And you want to taste moth wings in corn relish?”
“Hmm. Point taken.” And with that she tossed the remaining bite in her mouth.
Later Molly decided that the new barbeque potato chip being handed out had accidentally been barbequed with habanero peppers, and spat it out all over the floor. She cleaned it up, of course, with all appropriate apologies and repentance, but a few feet down the aisle her mother was howling uncontrollably.
This was how it went every month. Molly and Catherine treated CostMart like a playground, and the staff, uniformed in purple hats and polo shirts, looked the other way for the most part. They were fun customers; they sampled everything and bought most of it, and racked up an enormous total by the time they passed through the checkout. Catherine stocked her restaurant from CostMart almost exclusively; anything that didn’t come direct from the Emerald Isle was ordered here. The management tolerated their hijinks in trade for their effect on the bottom line, even once making them honorary employees with purple shirts and hats, plus a one-day spree with an additional discount.
Oddly, Catherine came up quite ill, and they spent less time and money that day than any other in the previous year.
Today was more typical. Eight-hundred-plus dollars, two full bellies and nearly three carts later, Molly and Catherine wrangled their haul off the curb towards Catherine’s green panel van. On the side was painted the name of the restaurant: “Dooblin.” Molly led the way, pulling the cart between them. It took a moment for her to realize her mother was no longer helping to push.
Molly turned and Catherine was not there. “Mom?” She stepped around the cart and saw her mother collapsed on the asphalt parking lot. Molly ran and dropped to her knees. “Mom!”
Catherine mustered all remaining strength, reached up and yanked a chain from her neck. Looking to her right, she flung the chain, and whatever was on it, down the sewer grate there. Catherine cocked her head, and even Molly could hear sirens already. Oh, thank God. Someone had called 911.
“Mary Liane…it’s your time now. Mr. Callan has what you need.” Catherine voice was already giving out but remained unmistakable with purpose. “Until you meet Mr. Callan, there’s nothing to do but wait and pay attention. Always pay attention, Molly. There’s more to the world than you know.”
She knew her mother loved jokes, but Molly saw no humor on her face now. The sirens were almost here –
too quick, her brain tickled at her –
and she thought with black desperation that she might not get a chance later to ask…
“Mom, what does that mean? Mom? Mom!” Catherine had closed her eyes. Molly could hear the siren of an ambulance backing to a stop directly behind her.
The driver’s door opened and a little monster jumped out. His hair was jet black, and he was dressed in the standard paramedic uniform, navy blue trousers and a pale blue buttoned shirt. A black shield logo adorned one shoulder but Molly could not read it. The driver’s face was shining and sunburned, most notably his long pointed nose. Pinhole eyes drilled through Molly and saw her mother prone on the ground. Molly heard the back doors of the ambulance swing open and a brown haired man, not quite identical but with the same rat-like features and pointing, sharp fingers, leaped out. He pulled a gurney behind him.
Molly knew instantly something was wrong, but the two men – if that’s what they truly were – moved as if they knew their jobs exactly. They moved efficiently to Catherine’s side, ignoring Molly completely.
Molly said, “She just collapsed right there! She was talking…nonsense, I don’t know what it meant. Is she having a stroke?”
The two men ignored her. One used a stethoscope to listen to her chest while the other prepped an injection and delivered it to Catherine’s her arm.
They lifted her onto the gurney, making no effort to strap her down
“What are you doing? Where are you taking her?” shouted Molly.
The paramedics, with hardly a care for Catherine’s health or safety, ran the gurney up into the back of the ambulance. Molly tried to follow.
A huge hairy arm prevented her.
She looked up to see a police officer holding her tightly. He was huge, over a foot taller than Molly’s five feet and five inches.
“Hold on there, young lady,” he said with the concern of an owl for a field mouse. “We need you to answer a couple questions.”
“That’s my mother! They’re taking her away. Where are they are taking her? Is that enough answering for you?”
The policeman loosened his grip – slightly. “No need to be like that, young lady. Let’s start with your name,” he said.
“And that’s your mother?” he asked.
“Yes, Catherine Kinnane.”
The policeman wrote nothing down. “And what happened? “
Molly was beginning to calm down. She faced the officer and recounted her mother’s collapse to the hulking officer. She took a moment to note his name plate: V. Milion.
“Okay. I think that’s it. Thanks for your time. You’ll want to follow you mom to the
The radio in the officer’s car squawked a call. Milion turned and asked, “Can you get another ride? That’s my call.”
Molly turned and saw that the ambulance had vanished without a sound. When she turned back, Officer Milion and his squad car had done the same. That was when she heard the sirens coming once more.
* * * *
This time, the responders were all more concerned about Molly than anything else. With her mother now missing, she was the obvious patient in need of attention. The paramedics were different, a man paired with a sturdy woman, but both knew their business and checked Molly thoroughly before pronouncing her healthy.
The police cruiser came with a pair of no-nonsense officers who allowed her plenty of time to explain the situation. One took copious notes while the other not only checked her mother’s van but loaded their unattended purchases inside.
One thing that was now clear to everyone was that the first ambulance and the first officer to respond had somehow jumped the call. One of the officers, Torrelle, checked the logs. “Three 911 calls came from this location between two twenty-two and two twenty-five; the dispatch call went out at two twenty-four, and we arrived on scene at two twenty-eight,” he said
The female paramedic agreed. “How did another unit beat us here in a four minute window? They must have been here before the dispatch calls.”
Molly asked, “I have a question – where’s my mother?”
* * * *
There were two local hospitals, Saint James and City General. City would be by far the busier, so the paramedics went temporarily off duty and headed for Saint James while the police took Molly to City.
In the emergency room, the police stood at Molly’s shoulders as she inquired after any recent admissions.
“No one by the name of Kinnane,” said the woman behind the admissions desk. “That’s really all I can say.”
Officer Torrelle stepped up. He leaned over and with a practiced, quiet menace, said to the woman, “This young lady has lost her mother to a medical emergency. We don’t know what ambulance took her mother from the scene and frankly that’s probable cause to call in some detectives and drag this entire hospital to a halt while we search. And I’ll be sure to mention to your supervisors who it was that could have prevented all that uproar with a little bit of common sense and courtesy.”
The woman’s face began to turn several colors at once.
“What say we try again, hmm?” Torrelle asked. “Have you had any ambulance drop offs in the last 60 minutes?”
The woman quickly scanned a sheet. “Only one. Female. DOA.”
Dead On Arrival.
Molly said, “I need to see her.”
Torrelle asked the admin if there was any ID available.
“No,” replied the admin.
“Damn,” he said. “We’ll have to take her down there to see if she can make an identification.”
The police escorted Molly down an elevator to the basement. This was the laboratory space of the hospital. Patients were brought here for certain tests, MRIs and CAT scans. That end of the floor was painted with warm and inviting colors. Molly and her two escorts turned the other way. The walls and floors were still clean, but there was a dingy, neglected feel to them as well. They passed quickly through a set of steel double doors with no label. Torrelle and his partner, Kertin, had obviously been down here before.
An attendant waited by a wall of silver doors. Each one had a pull handle like the walk-in freezer at Dooblin.
ooh – let’s not think like that again
The attendant greeted them with the somber mien of an aspiring funeral director. He checked the clipboard and opened the drawer. Drawer fourteen was the third up from the floor in that particular column and Molly could see the top of the door was taller than she was. She wondered if she would be able to see the face of her mother.
As it turned out, no.
The attendant pulled the sheet away from the face sedately, revealing a face some twenty years older than Catherine Kinnane, with an obvious blonde dye job. True to her Irish heritage and her temper, Molly’s mother was a fiery redhead like herself.
“That’s not my mother,” she said, a mixture of relief and fear in her voice.
The attendant said, “Well, this is the only unidentified DOA in inventory currently. We did have another this morning, but she was picked up by the county this morning for, um…” he looked at Molly, “…disposal.”
Kertin looked at Torrelle and whispered, “Oh, nuts.”