Marka has to go back to Sheltering Oaks for her Alzheimer’s group. When she finishes with them, she finds a group of people lurking around her office. She doesn’t recognize them, so she calls Shay. She suspects they are trying to break in since Frank’s name is still on the door. Realizing they may come looking for her or Frank’s notebooks, she takes them from her room and heads out with no clear objective in mind.
Calm and resolute, she headed to the parking lot, smiling and chatting with those she met. She arrived at her car, praying no one had thought to put a bomb in it. She didn’t know what to look for or what to do if she found it in any case. She had to trust she was still flying under the radar. Holding her breath, she turned the key. The car started—without exploding.
Exhaling sharply, she clung to the steering wheel for a moment. Putting the car in gear, she headed out the gate and turned up the road to Alliance. Feeling a little better, she touched the On Star button on the mirror. A pleasant woman’s voice greeted her.
“Hi, this is Charlotte, how can I help you?”
“Hi, Charlotte. I need to get to the nearest federal building.”
“Are you all right? You sound tense.”
“I’m okay, Charlotte. Thanks. I’ll be better when I have that address.”
“Done. I entered it into the system for you.”
“Thank you.” Relief flooded Marka’s voice.
“Are you sure you’re okay?”
Marka’s sigh came out sounding like a sob.
“Do you need me to call the police for you?” Charlotte asked.
“No. It’s been a difficult few days. My boyfriend is in the hospital and I’m—I’m exhausted.” She realized, almost too late, that she was about to say too much to a complete stranger.
“Stop somewhere for a coffee.”
“Not a bad idea.”
“There’s a Dunkin’ Donuts in Alliance. I’ll add it.”
“You be safe. I’m here if you need me.”
Marka drove in silence, except for the occasional prompts from the GPS. She found the Dunkin’ Donuts and stopped at the drive thru for a large cup of coffee and a few donuts. She realized she hadn’t had any breakfast and she’d missed lunch. No wonder she felt so shaky. She was starving. The hot coffee and donuts gave her a sugar and caffeine rush and she felt better.
About thirty minutes later, she neared her destination. She could see the Ralph Regula Federal Building ahead. She drove around the block, searching for a parking place. Grabbing the journals, she headed to the front door rapidly, feeling as if a giant bullseye was plastered on her back. The tall, glassed in front seemed to get further away, instead of closer. People drifted up and down the steps and Marka was sure they were all staring at her.
Forcing down the paranoia, she walked resolutely through the doors and over to the security checkpoint. Following the search procedures, she put her purse and other belongings in the bins. She almost forgot to set down the journals, until the officer reminded her.
“Sorry. I’m in a bit of a hurry.”
“Late for court?” he asked sympathetically.
“Yes. Kind of.”
He raised an eyebrow as she passed through the gate. “Kind of? Are you on the way to court or aren’t you?”
Marka burst into tears. Feeling a fool, she stood there barefoot and sobbing. The guards became more wary, probably thinking this was a distraction for their benefit. A female officer helped her gather her things and took her to a room in the security area.
“My name’s Rochelle. What’s the matter, honey?” She was a formidable black woman, tall and strong. She looked to be around fifty. Her hair was cut short and dyed golden blond. It was plastered to her scalp in finger waves. She handed Marka a box of tissues.
“I’m sorry,” Marka said, blowing her nose. “It all seems so surreal and I doubt that you’ll believe me. I need you to make a call for me, if you can.”
“Okay, I can do that, if you think it’s necessary.” She sounded dubious.
“I need you to call Colonel Arnold Shay. I have his number. I need you to tell him to come here.” Marka recited the number, which Rochelle wrote down on a pad of paper.
“You can’t call him yourself?”
“My cell won’t work back here,” Marka said with confidence. “And I’m a little worried that my phone might be tapped.”
“Ma’am, before I can do this, you need to give me some information.”
“Okay, but do me a favor. Withhold judgement until I’m done. It’s going to sound crazy.”
“I will. You want a coffee?”
Rochelle called for coffee and another officer brought it in. He set it down between them, standing near the door. Marka wasn’t sure if she should feel safer with him there, or not.
© Dellani Oakes