Recap: The blizzard hit hard, and Ilan stayed out to try to find his kallah. There was an overturned train, and the passengers supposedly walked away. In the meantime, a neighbor told Aunt Mimi that her father is ill, and she needs her and her husband to come right away.
“Shani, your mom’s on the phone. I reached her.”
“Shoshana, why aren’t you in school?”
I told her about the man knocking and the strange note.
There was a long pause. “I’m not sure what you should do. I wish I could reach Aba, but he’s in secret meetings and unreachable for the next week.”
“Mr. Abraham. Mr. A. Do you think it’s the same person? Aba said I could trust him.”
My mother sighed. “I wish I knew more, but if that’s what Aba said and this note says its urgent… I just pray Aba isn’t in danger. I think you should contact him. Oh, Shani, they’re calling me back to a meeting. I’ll call you later.”
I took the card and studied it. My hand trembled as I dialed the number.
It rang and rang, and no one answered. I put down the phone.
Ilana offered me some breakfast.
I wasn’t hungry. My stomach was all knotted. What if Aba was in danger in China.
Just then, my phone rang.
Ilana and I looked at each other. It said private number on the Caller ID.
“Hello?” There was a man’s voice that sounded far away.
“Meet me at your house in an hour. Come alone. It’s urgent.” He hung up before I could ask anything.
My hand shook as I put down my phone.
“Ilana, that was so strange.”
“He said to be there in an hour? I don’t want you to go alone.”
“He said to come alone.”
“Why? I think Yehoshua should go with you and maybe you should call the police.”
“Aba told me it’s a secret, this vaccine, and we can’t publicize it. Calling the police could bring reporters and––”
“But we don’t know who this man is.”
“Okay, look, I’ll call Yehoshua and tell him to follow close behind.”
I took a breath, and I hadn’t even realized I’d been holding my breath.
“Why do you think he wants to meet you at your house?”
“There are some papers. Aba showed me where they are. Maybe they need them?”
“I wish your father was home. I hate you to have to deal with this by yourself.”
Ilana hugged me.
I was still feeling shaky. She brought me a cup of lemonade and I sipped slowly.
“You’re so pale, Shani. I don’t think you should go.”
“But it’s a vaccine that could potentially save the world from another pandemic. That’s what Aba said.”
Shlomo called her from his crib.
“He’s up from his nap. Don’t go yet. I’m going to call Yehoshua.”
I sat on the couch. I glimpsed a T’hilim book on the shelf. I grabbed it and began reciting T’hilim.
The clock nearby ticked loudly. When Ilana came back into the room with Shlomo, I noticed that 20 minutes had passed since the phone call.
Ilana glanced at the wall clock. “Do you want me to come with you?”
“No, he said to come alone. You can’t bring the kids.”
“I left a message for Yehoshua to call me.”
Ilana walked me to the door. Shlomo blew me a kiss.
“You’re so brave, Shani. You’re doing what your father wanted. I’m sure it will be okay. This man is trying to help.”
I trudged down the street, begging Hashem for help and hoping she was right.
I had 30 minutes and I was only five minutes away. I decided to stop in the park.
I strolled down a trail I liked that led to the lake and watched the ducks and swans gliding on the sparkling water. To my surprise, a girl approached me.
“You’re Penina’s new friend?” the girl asked.
The girl’s hair was tangled, and she had a tattoo on her arm.
“Who are you?” I asked.
“I’m her sister Ruty. I think I saw you with her.”
I didn’t know what to say. I had heard Ruty was troubled, but I hadn’t expected her to look like this.
“Listen, I wanted to warn you.”
“Yes, don’t go to your house.”
“How do you know where my house is.”
“I don’t have time to explain. Just listen. You’re Shani Karmel, aren’t you?”
“Don’t go to your house.”
Just then, someone called from behind a tree. “Ruty, come on. We have to get out of here.” Another girl dressed like Ruty yelled to her. “We don’t have any time. Hurry.”
Ruty turned to me. “Don’t go back.” She rushed away before I could ask her anything else.
Now what? Hashem what should I do?
To be continued…
By Susie Garber