Agent Jon Gordon stuffed his cold hands deep down in the pockets of the expensive, well-tailored overcoat. He strode toward the front door of number 10 Oak Street with a determined step. His last visit to Mrs. Clancy had been on a warm summer day. She had offered him lemonade. With the news he had this time, he did not expect any refreshment.
The musical doorbell chimed a cheerful note, followed by the sound of her quick footsteps. He frowned. She seemed unafraid to open the door to anyone who rang.
“Hello Jon. Come in out of the wind. There’s some hot chocolate on the stove.”
There was no choice but to follow her to the cozy kitchen. The usual charade had to play itself out.
After a few sips of the steaming cocoa he could wait no longer.
“Jim Bob has escaped.”
Mrs. Clancy picked up a plate of homemade cookies and smiled as if she were posing for a magazine advertisement. He shook his head no.
“Did you hear what I said?”
She raised her brows in mock surprise.
“Why Mr. Gordon, I’m not deaf.”
He noticed the matronly woman, with wisps of white hair slipping out of the carelessly pinned bun, was wearing her favorite red sneakers. She had laughed last year at this time when she told him it would be easier to find her if she ever got lost in the snow.
He stood up, hoping he sounded respectful, yet firm. They had known each other too many years to go through these silly games.
“Luella Clancy, I have to insist you sit down and listen to what I have to say.”
The plastic smile slid from her pleasant face as if it had melted from a memory still too hot to confront. She sat down across from him and folded her hands on top of the table. Her voice was filled with an unspoken challenge.
“Okay, Agent Gordon, I’m all yours…talk.”
He cleared his throat and began with a brief reminder of the events that threw them together. She knew the drill by heart. “…he won’t stop until he gets you for being the witness who put him away…he swears revenge.”
Something in his voice was different this time.
“Mrs. Clancy, Jim Bob is no doubt headed this way. Why won’t you cooperate and let us help you?”
She tried valiantly to defend her foolish stance.
“This was my daddy’s house and I just can’t leave. Where would the kids come for Thanksgiving? I’d have to start all over. I’m too old. Besides, I’ve prayed for the Lord to tell me what to do.”
“Have you considered, I may be the answer to those prayers? We have a beautiful place to take you. There’s room for a garden, but most of all, you’ll be safe. The only thing different will be your name.”
She pursed her lips and drummed short puffy fingers on the side of the cocoa mug, as if in deep thought.
“I’ve heard before that he had broken out, but it was a silly rumor. I don’t think I believe it this time. It wasn’t on the radio.”
He leaned his head back a little, searching for the crack he knew would be in the old kitchen ceiling. He held his breath until he saw it, then exhaled slowly.
“I would not lie to you my dear lady. This is not simply street talk."
Her kind blue eyes seemed to reflect a new understanding.
“I’ll sleep on it and call you tomorrow.”
She rose as if to dismiss him. He headed back to the regulation stake-out vehicle...just in case. He’d stay down the road all night if necessary.
A little before the sun came up, he fell asleep. When he awoke he realized there was a message on his cell phone. Her quivering voice was nearly a whisper.
“Yes, Mr. Gordon. I’ll go.”
He started the engine and slid a little as he maneuvered the large vehicle through the night’s latest precipitation. In the past, she had accused him of giving too much credence to reports from the prison grapevine.He could hardly wait to get her on the way to a secure place at long last.
As he turned in the driveway of number 10 Oak Street, something caught his eye out by the rose trellis. It was a bright crimson color.
He put both hands over his sad face and prayed, “Please, please…not a red shoe.”
Psalm 45:10 NKJV
Listen, O daughter, consider and incline your ear; forget your own people also, and your father’s house...
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