Anna & Amber's Secret Powers
CHAPTER 4: KIDNAPPED!
Anna sloughed along the highway in the darkness while Amber was removing her shoe and shaking out a pebble. Around them the night wrapped cool air around their shoulders like the clammy hand of an old man close to death.
She gathered her arms together to preserve her body heat while Amber looked up at the clouds which had started to part around San Antonio peak. It looked like the logo to a movie company, a proud mountain jutting up into the crystal clear sky above and adorned with a crown of silver mist.
The walk was about a half mile down the road fom the Zen Center, near the Manker Flats Campground. They could hear the quiet gurgle of a small stream beside the road as well. Sometimes a car would slice the silence and whoosh by. Then they turned the corner and saw the Deer Lodge for the first time. It was painted green with red trim and had a lot of two motorcycles and a car in front of it which were gleaming in the light from the Lodge sign. It looked like a log cabin, and in the back was a pool area. The front door was illuminated by a single naked yellow bulb, but from inside they could hear the sounds of people eating.
Step by step, they inched closer along a carpet of plastic grass which led to the door. Anna looked at Amber (and Amber grimaced) but they pulled the door open and timidly stepped inside. They saw a bar area and a restaurant right in front of them the size of a single family home, with one wall of the bar showing a sign that said Constructed 1910 and another with the head of a deer mounted on it. Two different couples at tables with gingham tablecloths were eating french fries and steaks, but they were way off in a corner and did not even seem to notice the two who had just entered the establishment.
"How can I help you?" It was a man with a beard and a faded green jacket who had risen up from behind where the bar area met the entrance.
"Um," said Amber, not sure where to begin.
"We called before," interjected Anna. "We wanted to ask for some stuff our parents left here."
"Stuff?" grunted the man. "Sorry."
"But we called," gulped Amber. "We called, and you said..."
He cut her off. "Wasn't me you talked to, little girl. Where are your folks?"
"We came by ourselves," Admitted Anna. The man made a huff and was about to turn away.
"But the box has our book! We have to have it!" interjected Amber.
The man came up short and sort of stiffened, then he whirled around. He didn't say anything but he looked at the girls strangely, squinting, as if they were the source of a bright light. Then he said, "What book?"
Anna and Amber sensed something had piqued his curiosity. "Just a book from our Aunt," Anna said cautiously. "And our parent's boxes. They were left here by our parents a few years ago when they were going to move in. We called and someone here said that it was in storage in the back of the pool room."
"So we came," added Amber, pulling on her fingers nervously.
"I don't know anything about any boxes of magic books," huffed the man. He just looked irritated as if he had a lot of work to do but his face twitched a bit by the eye. "But yeah, well, ok, Wait here."
The man then turned and ducked behind a curtain. As the door opened and closed they could see a kichen.
"He said magic," Anna whispered. "But we didn't say that..."
They waited impatiently for what seemed like forever but was about ten minutes. They spent their time cracking open sunflower seeds and spitting them into a little cup they found at the bar.
Suddenly all the lights and power in the restaurant went out. The was a second where Anna wondered if something like that didn't happen all the time way up here in the mountains. Perhaps they had a generator.
But then in the pitch black Anna heard a cry from Amber and then she herself felt something over her mouth. She tried to yell out but it was muffled. The other diners in the room were making comments about calling the power company but they were across the restaurant and didn't hear her. Her arms were yanked behind her back and she was pushed to the ground where she landed on her side and smacked her ear against the ground.
It was rough carpeting that smelled like mold and boots. She felt woozy and disoriented, so that when someone grabbed her by her feet and started dragging her she had no energy to resist. "Uh," she called out faintly, but she couldn't have even heard a reply because she was by then out cold.
* * *
Anna and Amber's mother was sitting in a cold vinyl chair in a nondescript waiting room in the Rancho Cucamonga police station off Haven and Foothill. She was deep in the bowels of the place, and around her was the bustle of a station. In the room in front of her were two suspects in handcuffs. She watched through glass criss-crossed with wire and bars as a desk clerk finger-printed the perps who then were led them down a dingy grey cement hallway to a cell with five other people were waiting. Some were sitting spaced out on a single cot, some sat slumped against the white painted cinder block walls, and some just strung themselves out on the dirty floor in the fetal position trying to cover their eyes and catch some sleep.
When the police had called her and asked her to drive down to the station in a follow-up to the investigation they were conducting into the whereabouts of her missing twins she had dealt with the worst feelings. She said, "I'm coming down there." She was not going to leave anything to chance, she was going to do all she could.
When she got there she waited in a lobby for a half an hour and then a man with a tie and sweat stains under his arms came out and said they did not have any information yet, so in a way no news was good news. They did say they had a "lead" however, so after waiting again for as long as what felt like forever and an extra day, finally another officer came to get her and took her to another room which had better lighting.
There in the room, which was more like a seargeant's office, was a obese woman with a parrot on her shoulder. The parrot was faced away from her but it swiveled its neck almost all the way around to look at her and its green neck feathers ruffled.
"This is Mrs. Katzenjammer," said the officer. "She may have some information that can help us. We wanted you to talk with her to verify her impressions of what she saw and to see if the two kids she ran into this afternoon were your kids."
Mrs. Katzenjammer sat up brightly and said, "Yes, I think they are your kids. I was on the 480 bus going to the Montclair bus depot, and they were darling. The whole way they read books," she said.
"That's them!" mom exclaimed. "That's exactly them!"
Mrs. Katzenjammer went on to describe their clothes, bookbags, and other characteristics which matched those that Mom confirmed.
"Oh my god," said Mom. "maybe they're still ok!"
"They said they were going to the Mt. Baldy Zen Center," said Katzenjammer.
"The Mt. Baldy Zen Center. I believe its a buddist retreat in the mountains."
"Why...but... but, why...?" Mom's puzzler could not finish the sentence and her hand beckoned to them over and over again to come to her aid as her mouth stood open.
"We don't have an answer to that right now, mam." The officer tried to offer.
Mom stood up abruptly. "Well, I'll tell you what. I'm going to drive right up there and find out," She stated firmly.
"Well, mam, we put in a call to the small police station that's up there in the Baldy village, and they should be able to go take a look for us."
"What did they find out?" Mom demanded.
"Well, they were on another call and there's only one patrol car, so they know about it and they're going to check it out in good order."
"Good order? I'm free to drive there if I want, right."
The officer shrugged. "Sure."
"Well, thank you very much officers. Please call me on my cellphone if there is anything that happens I should know about."
And with that, Anna and Amber's left the room. Marching down the hall the questions were still running through her mind. What could they possibly want up in the Mt. Baldy Zen Center? Didn't they once ask me to go to Mt Baldy?
She was out in the parkinglot near her car still going over all of it in her mind when she heard a voice call after her. "Excuse me, mam?" She looked up from rummaging through her purse for the keys to see Mrs. Katzenjammer hustling after her, her body moving like a dog wagging its tail.
"Excuse me, your girls..." She managed to get out though she was short of breath. "Your girls said they wanted to find a book. They didn't know I heard them say that."
"A magic book is what they said."
"Oh. My. God." The mom said.
Mrs. Katzenjammer looked at her expectantly.
"A long time ago we left some boxes in a storage place. It was the Deer Lodge, up at Mt. Baldy."
"That could be it!" said Mrs. K brightly.
"That must be it. And so that's where I'm headed."
"I want to come along," said Mrs K. She was wheeling over to the passanger side door of the BMW.
"Um..." Mom didn't have an answer to that right away.
"I feel responsible," said Mrs. K. "I should have said something earlier when I saw some kids going off like that but I waited."
"Um..." said mom.
"Also, I don't have a ride. But I live off Baseline. The police brought me to the station so I could help you..." She looked a little pleadingly. "You could drop me off after Baldy on your way home." She smiled a nice smile and added, "My bird would go in the back seat. She's quiet." With that she took a sunflower seed out of her pocket and gave it to the bird, which snapped it up eagerly.
Mom took a moment, and then assented by nodding. "Get in," she said while by clicking open the car door lock with a press of the button in her hand. It chirped in reply.