By Trish Hubschman
Tonight, is my night for me. My husband and kids are out doing their own thing and the house is blessedly quiet. There’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while. Now I have the chance. I’m going to sign on to Facebook, look for some very special, old high school friends, my cheerleading sisters.
We were supposed to be best friends forever. That last Labor Day weekend after graduation was a blast but then we left for college in different parts of the country. For a while, we called each other and wrote letters but things got in the way – heavy class loads, dormmates, boyfriends, sorority sisters, then after graduation came marriage, children, careers. We were down to sending Christmas and birthday cards then, well, things tapered off entirely. I haven’t spoken to any of the girls in years. I find myself wondering what they are doing. Are they thinking about me too?
Clicking onto Internet Explorer, I typed in the address for Facebook. When it came up, I registered with my user name and password. I planned this all-in advance and knew what to do. My fourteen-year-old son, Jimmy, gave me step-by-step instructions. I moved up to the Search box and typed in the name of the first Friend, Jen Davis. She was the level-headed, common sense, peacemaker of the group, when one was needed. Twenty-five entries by that same name came up. No problem! I found the right Jen and clicked on the button to send her a friend request. I went onto another friend, Tara Johansson. She was the head cheerleader, the drop-dead gorgeous blonde on the squad. There was only one listing with that name. Our Tara is still a raving beauty! I stared at her picture for a long time, then I put in the request. The third one in our group was going to be more difficult. I typed in her name, Lisa Miller. There were three hundred entries with that name. Taking a deep breath, I began scrolling down the list. My Lisa Miller turned out to be number thirty. Friend request number three went in.
I leaned back in my chair. I doubted anything would happen tonight but I had nothing else on my agenda and would have been too excited to do anything else anyway. I had just located three of the most important people in my earlier life, by a touch of the keyboard. Staring at the motionless screen was burning my eyes, so I turned away from it. Spotting the TV remote, I picked it up and flipped on the set. It was no surprise when a baseball game came on. My husband, Jack, left on a sports channel. I held the channel change button down until I came to a black-and-white movie that I didn’t plan to get too absorbed in. It was to pass the time while I waited for something to happen on my computer. It finally did. I turned back to see that Jen Davis confirmed me as a friend. She also sent a message. “I’ve been looking for you,” she wrote. “Where have you been?”
I replied with a question of my own. “Are the other girls on this?” She answered yes and it was the four of us again. Hopefully, this time we wouldn’t lose each other.
Every night after nine-thirty, we got together online. We talked, joked, posted pictures and recipes. We got reacquainted. Jen has four kids. I’m an architect and have three kids, Jimmy has two younger sisters. Tara is in the fashion business. She runs an exclusive clothing boutique in Los Angeles. Lisa’s a journalist. She mostly covers local and state stories, political rallies, traffic accidents. We talk about today more than yesterday. We meant to exchange phone numbers and postal addresses but the site is public and we didn’t want to risk the whole world knowing our home addresses. We would have to exchange emails first, then send our addresses to each other but we never got around to doing that.
Two months into our happy reunion, Lisa stopped writing. We speculated on what might have happened. Maybe she’d been sent out on a big story and either it was top secret or she didn’t have a chance to tell us. After even more time had passed, we all started to worry. “Maybe one of us should call the police,” Jen suggested.
For some reason, I was hesitant to say I was married to a cop. One night, Jimmy suggested I contact Facebook and see if I could get Lisa’s email address, then I could trace out her home address through her server. “Isn’t that breaking confidentiality laws or something?” I asked. He shrugged. I took his advice and, to my surprise, I was provided with Lisa’s email address. That’s when I went to Jack.
“Did you contact her parents?” he asked, while typing the email address I gave him into the Atlanta Police Department’s database. Actually, I hadn’t even thought about Lisa’s parents. It was a good idea. I had to look up their phone number. As it turned out, they didn’t live there anymore. Jack got me Lisa’s postal address and I told the girls everything I did in the sleuthing mission.
“Lisa lives in Idaho,” I said. I still live in Georgia. Jen is on Long Island. “None of us lives close enough to Lisa’s new home location,” I pointed out. “So, what are we going to do?” Nobody had an answer.
“There’s always the telephone,” Tara suggested. “Since I’m the closest in time zone, that one’s up to me. Do you have the number, Kay?” I reeled it off. “Stay tuned, girls,” she teased.
That amounted to nothing more than an answering machine. Tara left three voicemails. “Where do we go from here?” Tara asked.
Jen offered a response. “I think it’s time we call the Idaho police. Can your husband help with this, Kay?”
I checked into it and told the girls what I found out. “They can’t do anything until a Missing Person’s report is filed and how can we file one when we don’t know if she’s missing? “Maybe we should all go to Idaho to look for her,” I posed. The suggestion had come from my husband. Jack pointed out that if Lisa had been missing for the past three months, somebody on her turf would have reported it. I told the girls that. “Tara, how does going to Idaho fit on your end?” I asked. Tara had two daughters, who were at boarding school.
“Mmm, well,” Tara wrote. “I guess my assistant can handle the shop for a while. How long do you think this is going to take and when do we go?”
“We go as soon as possible and how long it’ll take depends on what we find out while we’re there. What about you Jen?”
“I could try to shift things around, it might take a bit of doing, and I’ll have to discuss it with Jeff and maybe my in-laws, but our going is for a good cause, so I’d say, count me in.”
“Okay,” I said. I still had to square things away on my end. “Let me make my reservations, then I’ll touch base with you two and we’ll finalize the plans.” I was the self-appointed leader here.
We met at the Boise airport two days later. Talking in person after three months of chatting online was exciting. “Let’s get the rental car and go to Lisa’s office first, then we’ll go to her condo,” I told them, getting behind the wheel of the Ford Taurus. I entered the address of the Sun-Monitor newspaper office into the GPS and we took off. We were there ten minutes later.
An older woman sat at the receptionist desk. Her nameplate identified her as Mrs. Grant. She didn’t look up when we stopped in front of her. “We’re looking for Lisa Miller,” I said. She glanced up. Her eyes were wide. “Can you tell us where we can find her?” I asked. Mrs. Grant’s mouth dropped open.
“She does work here, doesn’t she?” Jen asked.
Mrs. Grant nodded, then shook her head. “Well, I can’t really say for sure, um, at this point, I really can’t. Who did you say you were?” she asked. “Oh, dear, then is such a shame. You came all this way to see her?” She held her hand over her mouth for a moment before dropping it. “I’m afraid Mr. Townsand has instructed the staff not to give out information about Miss Miller. We have to be careful about reporters nosing around.”
My mouth dropped open but I shut it quickly. “Can we talk to Mr. Townsand, I assume he’s the editor?”
She smiled. “Yes, of course,” She picked up the phone. Mr. Townsand saw us five minutes later. All he would say was that Lisa was one of his best reporters and would be welcome back whenever she was ready to return to work.
“Let’s see what her condo can give us,” I suggested, sliding behind the wheel of the Taurus. “Maybe we’ll luck out and a nosy neighbor will tell us more than she’s supposed to.”
And that’s exactly what happened. While we were peeking into the windows of Lisa’s condo, an elderly woman appeared. “She’s not here. I’m keeping an eye on her place. I’m Mrs. Wessler, from next door. Who are you three?” she asked. I went into my story, did the introductions and told her we’d just come from the newspaper office. Mrs. Wessler stuck her nose in the air and sniffed. “Of course, they’re not going to tell you anything. What if you were TV reporters and found out that they sent a simple hometown girl into a war zone to cover a story? The poor girl could be dead now and is very lucky she isn’t.”
I looked at the neighbor questioningly. “I beg your pardon?”
She waved her hand. “Don’t you girls read the newspaper?” she asked, squinting her eyes and looking at us as if we were from another planet. She continued. “It happened in Washington DC about three months ago, there was an explosion in a building and it came down.” She was looking at the sky, then refocused on me. “It was never put down to a bombing or terrorist attack.” She wagged her finger.
My stomach clenched. I remember that. “I don’t think they ever released a list of who was in the building.”
Mrs. Wessler’s expression was smug. “I just said it was a coverup.”
Jen’s hand rested on my forearm. “What about Lisa?” she asked the neighbor.
Mrs. Wessler’s attention went to Jen. “Poor girl’s hips and legs were crushed and she has some nasty burns on her hands and face.” She pressed her lips together. “They’ve done so many skin grafts on her, she looks like a zebra.”
Tara sucked in her breath. I sighed with relief. Jen forged on. “Can you tell us where she is now?”
“Of course, I can,” Mrs. Wessler replied. “I think I’m the only person who visits her. She isn’t saying much of anything, even to me, I guess that scares people away.” She sighed. “She asked me to bring her computer. I did.” Mrs. Wessler gave us the address and directions to the Merritt Assistive Care facility.
We found Lisa in the rec room of the Merritt house, sitting in a wheelchair, fully dressed, computer open on a table in front of her. She didn’t look up when we gathered around her, she just started speaking. “I was wondering when you guys would get here,” she said.
That infuriated me, but before I could say anything, Tara shot in. “You’ve been listening to us on the computer all along?” she accused. “Obviously, you know we’ve been going crazy trying to figure out what happened to you. Why didn’t you let us know what was going on? We’re not magicians, we don’t have crystal balls.”
I touched Tara’s arm trying to calm her down.
Lisa glanced up. “Maybe the three of you should take a good look at me.” We did and, frankly, she didn’t look as bad as Mrs. Wessler said. “I’m not the same as I was twenty years ago and it all happened three months ago. I’ll never be homecoming queen, or do cartwheels or backflips again.”
Jen’s hands were on her hips. I held my breath. “Guess what, Lisa, me neither. I have four kids, flabby thighs and ugly stretch marks on my stomach.”
I wanted to laugh at Jen’s picture. Instead, I voiced my agreement. The three of us looked at Tara. After a long pause, she sniffed. “I was homecoming queen, not Lisa,” she protested. We all burst into laughter.
Jen reached out and took Lisa’s hand, squeezing it. “I’m not the ringleader of this bunch.” She indicated the trio. “But I’m pretty sure I speak for my sisters here, we love you Lisa, you’re alive and you’re doing okay.” Jen glanced around the room. “And I like this place, it looks like a hotel.”
Lisa shrugged. “I guess it’s not that bad but it’s kind of lonely. I missed you guys and thanks for not giving up on me.”
“You’re beautiful, wonderful and don’t ever try to hide from us, Lisa. We’re your sisters.” I added, looking at Tara. It was her turn to share her sentiments. “Tara?” I urged.
Tara was frowning. “Well, of course, I agree with that, but we have to get one thing straight first and you must all agree with this.” We waited. “I was the beauty queen of Atlanta High Class of 1992.” She threw back her blonde mane. Me, Lisa and Jen burst into laughter. It was the very best medicine for our fourth sister.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR AND HER WORK…
JUST PUBLISHED: the prequel to the Tracy Gayle mystery series
by Trish Hubschman
Available in e-book and print from Amazon and Smashwords.
Details, cover image, link to a free text sample, and purchasing links: https://www.dldbooks.com/hubschman/
Tidalwave’s tour bus bursts into flames while the band is relaxing on the beach. The band’s leader, Danny Tide, hires private detective Tracy Gayle to do some discreet investigation into the matter. She’s joining the band on tour as security chief. The arsonist is discovered, but much deeper, more dangerous things come to light as well: an assault, an attempted murder, and then two murders. Tracy is faced with far more than she bargained for, and her stint with the band goes further than just that summer tour. She is fully determined to protect America’s favorite rock and roll heartthrob, and they become the best of friends along the way.
About the Author
Trish Hubschman and her husband, Kevin, along with their dog, Henry, recently moved to Northern Pennsylvania. They formerly lived on Long Island, New York. Trish is a graduate of Long Island University’s Southampton Campus and has a Bachelor’s degree in English-Writing. She is the author of the popular Tracy Gayle mystery series, Stiff Competition and Ratings Game. Tidalwave is the eagerly awaited prequel to the series. For more information about Trish’s three books, please visit her website, linked to above.