The night before
At some time past 3:00 in the morning, Terry and the business lady he had picked up at the bar were leaving a small 24 hour diner. The diner wasn't the most popular, nor was it the most fancy looking, but for $17.99, you could get a mean steak dinner with corn and mashed potatoes and salad. Now Terry wasn't usually this big a spender, but he really wanted to impress his recently acquainted date. Unfortunately, the effort was mostly lost on her as she had had more than a few too many back at the bar.
His phone rang as the two walked up to his car, a 2006 Civic. The display of his phone showed the number to be blocked.
"Hey baby, can you give me a sec?" Terry said turning back to his date, "I gotta take this one."
"Go right ahead," she said, slurring her words just a bit. Fumbling in her purse, she swung back and forth, as if she were trying to catch her footing on an icy slope. "Do you have a lighter? I can't find mine."
"Uh, yeah, there's a car lighter on the passenger side," said Terry with his back turned, already not paying attention.
"Hello?" he said into the receiver.
"I got your text," the voice on the other end said, "so you ran into him at a bar? What a coincidence."
"What dumb luck, right?" Terry said. Terry could start to smell the lazily drifting smoke from his date's cigarette.
"Did anything happen?"
"Not much really," Terry replied, "but I did send him to get some help."
"Yeah, I sent him to the Gorilla." Terry said with a smile. The smoke from the cigarette was getting stronger now.
"Why the **** would you do that?"
"I didn't think it would be a big deal," Terry replied defensively, "besides, we can't be the only ones having all the fun." He thought he smelled something strange.
"I suppose you're right. I would like to see what happens when those two meet," the voice on the other end said after a long pause, "but you'd better hope this doesn't **** us somehow."
But Terry was no longer listening. The last thing the man on the other end heard before the line was cut was Terry screaming obscenities and the sound of pouring water.
A phone rang somewhere. Its generic ringtone was shattering the silence in the room. It rang a total of 27 times before finally being fl;ipped open.
"Hello?" said the woman on the other end of the receiver.
"Aaron?" she said.
Still no response.
"Look, Aaron, I know you're there," the woman said again. She made no attempt to hide her impatience or concern in her voice.
"Fine, you don't have to talk," she said, changing her tone. "Just listen to me. Aaron, it's about Ashley. She's in some trouble, Aaron. And it's not like before. She's in something deep. Something big. Are you listening?"
Aaron made no reply. He made no sound. He stayed sitting where he was, just looking ahead as he had been for hours before the call. In fact, if anyone had seen him right then, they wouldn't have even been able to tell if he was paying attention or not. His gaze was unchanging. With the exception of picking up the phone (and that in itself was a rarity), he was still as a rock. The rise and fall of his chest was so incredibly subtle that you couldn't even tell if he was alive just by looking. He never blinked (at least not in front of anyone).
"Aaron, she needs you. I know you love her. You've got to help her."
"Goddammit, Aaron! This is your sister! She's going to get killed if she keeps going down this path. You've gotta stop her and the people she's with before it's too late!"
He made no reply.
The woman was sobbing now, "Aaron, please. I don't know who else to call. You've got to help her. Ok?"
Silence still. The woman waited another minute before speaking again, hoping, in vain, that he would talk to her, or give her some sign.
"Ok, I'm going to go now," she said, "I hope you know what's important in your life and what you need to do. Goodbye."
Several minutes after the woman hung up, Aaron finally closed the phone. Slowly, he put the phone back from where he had taken it, among the muffin crumbs.