The computer screen went black as her executive assistant interrupted the videoconference by putting her own face on the screen. Danielle huffed and wondered if she should find another assistant.
“Yes, Amy? What is it?”
“I’m sorry to interrupt the meeting like that, but your mother is on line one.”
“Can’t you tell her I’m busy?”
Amy shook her head. “I’m sorry, Ms. Thompson. She says it’s urgent. I’ll let the sales force team know that you’ll reschedule the meeting for another time.”
“No. Just tell them that their bonus checks are in the mail, and I’ll send them all a personal email in the morning. That should lighten any hard feelings.”
“Yes, ma’am.” The computer screen went blank again.
Danielle reached for the landline headset.
“Mom? What’s up?”
“Oh, Dani! I can’t find your father!”
“What are you talking about, Mom? Did Dad go somewhere?”
“I don’t know. He called last night and said he had to work late. He wasn’t home yet when I went to bed. Then, this morning, I still couldn’t find him anywhere! I’ve tried calling his cell phone every five minutes for the past three hours, and there’s never any answer! Have you heard from him at all?”
“Um, no, Mom. I haven’t talked to Dad in about a week – since he called to tell me about the birthday party he’s holding for you tonight at the cabin. I tell you what – I’ll have one of our security guys go out looking for Dad, okay? I’ll call you in a couple of hours to let you know what’s going on.”
Danielle’s mother sighed. “A couple of hours? Oh, all right, Dani, if you think it will take that long.”
“Mom, I don’t really have any idea how long it will take, but I will notify you as soon as I hear anything.”
Danielle hung up the phone and called the head of security. She explained the situation to him, and he immediately agreed to send someone out searching for her father’s car.
An hour later, he called her back.
“Ms. Thompson, I have some bad news.”
Danielle held her breath. “What?”
“We found your father’s car parked along the side of a deserted road out in the woods, but he was nowhere around.”
Danielle began to breathe normally again. She even started to smile.
“Out in the woods? Thanks, Bernie. I think I know exactly where my father is.”
She called her mother to let her know what was going on. Then she told Amy to cancel all her meetings for the afternoon. There was a family matter she had to attend to.
The path through the woods was just as she remembered it. For a long time, she was the only one who was allowed to see the cabin. It was her father’s treasure – his secret hideaway and art studio. It was where some of his best pieces were created.
She spotted his parked car just where she expected it to be, parked her car behind it, and took the well-worn path into the forest.
There were no lights on in the cabin. She knocked on the door. There was no answer. She knocked louder. Still nothing. She took a paper clip out of her jacket pocket, straightened it, and pried the lock open.
Her father was passed out on the sofa, an empty bottle of wine on the floor next to him. On the floor in front of him, there was a covered easel, various used paintbrushes, and a palette.
“Oh, Dad,” Danielle said. “Not another bender!”
Her father stirred when he heard the sound of her voice.
“Huh? Dani? What are you doing here?”
“Looking for you, Dad! Mom is worried sick! It’s after noon!”
Her father looked dazed.
“I- I didn’t realize,” he said.
Dani gestured to the empty wine bottle on the floor. “No, I guess you didn’t.”
Her father shook his head. “It’s not like that. You know I haven’t touched a drop of alcohol in over nine years. That wasn’t mine. My friend Tom drank it last night when he came over to help me.”
“Help you what?”
“You know your mom and I honeymooned in France, right?”
Danielle nodded and narrowed her eyes. The conversation was taking an unexpected turn.
“Well, your mom’s favorite painting at the Louvre was the Mona Lisa. She commented to me then how fun she thought it would be to have her face on a portrait for generations to look at and wonder about.”
“Uh, okay. So?”
He stood, walked over to the easel, and tore the cover off. The image on the canvas was an almost-exact replica of the Mona Lisa, with one major difference. The lady’s mysterious half-smile had been replaced with Danielle’s mother’s wide grin.
“Oh, wow!” Danielle breathed.
“Do you think she’ll like it?”
“Dad, I know Mom will love this, but I know one thing she would love even more.”
“Use my cell phone to call her and let her know you’re okay!”
Her father grinned at her, took the phone out of her hand, and dialed.