Someone knocked on the door.
Mister Banks came in, followed by a police officer. Chris went for the police officer, not that he meant to snub his landlord.
“Good. You are here about Lilly?” He assumed as much, but the police officer looked at Mister Banks, and the landlord spoke.
“I brought the police. I wanted a witness in case you go mad or something. I want that offensive sign off my building immediately. You are defacing my property in violation of your lease. It is offensive.”
“What sign, Oh…”
“I just got out of church, and looked up and see this offensive sign, on my building. My building.” Mister Banks turned to underline his ownership with the police officer.
“But Christmas is on Monday this year, a week from tomorrow. It is a national holiday, on the calendar, banks are closed and everything. What is offensive? Are you objecting to the national holiday, or the fact that I hope everyone has a happy holiday? I didn’t know joy was offensive.”
“Don’t play games with me,” Mister Banks yelled. “You are defacing my property in clear violation of your lease. I am giving you thirty-days-notice. I want you out by the first of the year.”
“Today’s the seventeenth,” the police officer said. “Thirty-days would be January seventeenth.”
Mister Banks pointed a finger in the police officer’s face, and continued to yell. “Now, don’t you start quibbling. Get out,” he yelled at Chris and stomped out.
“Merry Christmas,” Chris shouted after the man.
“Merry Christmas,” the police officer said quietly in return, smiled, and gently closed the door. Chris turned around, but Mary went to the kitchen area to make another pot of coffee.
Someone knocked on the door, again.
Mary came back from the coffee pot to find a sheriff explaining the paper. “The subpoena is an order for a court appearance for Wednesday, January third, after the New Year.”
“All fine and well, but Lilly’s not here.”
“The little girl?”
“If she was here,” Mary said. “Why couldn’t she stay here at least through Christmas?”
The sheriff shrugged. “I got a court order to pick her up and take her to a foster home.”
“Well, I already filed a missing person report with the police. I’m expecting someone to come from the police department to take a statement,” Chris said. “She is just six-years-old. I am terribly worried about her.”
“We already checked all of her friend’s apartments,” Mary said.
“And out front, in the basement and on the roof,” Chris added. “I was about to start calling her school friends, though she did not take her coat. Come to think of it, her pajamas are on the bed, but her clothes look undisturbed. For all I know, she is walking around naked somewhere.”
“She disappeared?” The Sheriff wanted to be sure.
“I put her to bed last night. I went to bed, and when I woke up, she was gone.”
“Excuse me,” the sheriff said, and stepped aside to get on his radio. After that, he left, and Chris checked Lilly’s clothes, commented again about her walking around naked, and got on the phone. Mary kept him supplied with coffee, and every chance she had, she encouraged him, that everything would work out for the best.
Finally, someone knocked on the door…again.
The policeman arrived to take a statement, at last. Chris told him everything, honestly; including the part about waking up in the morning and discovering the apartment decorated with decorations he did not buy.
“Someone broke into your apartment in the middle of the night and put up all these Christmas decorations.”
“Yes,” Chris said.
“Yes,” Mary echoed.
That was the only question the officer asked, before he stood. “I think I have everything I need. I gotta go type this up. If you think of anything else, call the station. You got my card. Otherwise, we will be in touch.”
“When?” Chris asked the inevitable question.
The officer shrugged. “We will keep our eyes and ears open.” He held a photo of Lilly, and slipped it in his jacket pocket as he left.
Mary stepped up with another cup of coffee, and Chris asked. “Do we have anything else to eat?”
Mary looked up at him with big, sad, puppy-dog eyes. “I got left-over macaroni and cheese. I’m sorry, I don’t cook much. Back home, we have great cooks, so I never get a chance…”
He cut her off by hugging her, but before he could shut the apartment door, someone else appeared. Courtney looked dressed to kill, her face painted to perfection. She stood, one hand near the end of her dyed hair, which made her a red head, though she should have been blonde in the worst sense of the word. As Chris studied the woman seriously, and for the first time, he noticed everything appeared artificial or enhanced in some way. In fact, he could not find one thing off hand that said, “This is the way God made me”. He felt both sorry for her and terribly repulsed by that revelation at the same time
Mary let out a little shriek. She saw devil horns, the red painted nails as bloody claws, and the heels as cloven hooves. She shut her eyes and buried her face in Chris’ shoulder.
“And who is this?” Courtney asked in a voice that suggested ownership.
“Mary, from across the hall. She has been helping me since Lilly went missing.”
“And how did you hear that?” Chris asked, before he had a thought. “You have a friend that works at the courthouse? Maybe another friend works for 9-1-1?”
“What are you implying?” Courtney stood tall on her heels, but all Chris saw was one big heel. He wondered why he ever cared for her.
“Not implying,” Chris said. “You got me laid off. You got the court to review custody. You got the sheriff to pick her up, and right before Christmas. I got evicted. Is this your new sport? Finding ways to torment me?”
“I had nothing to do with you being evicted,” Courtney defended herself, while her wide-open mouth and eyes betrayed her true intentions.
“You did not plan on Lilly disappearing,” Mary said, without lifting her head from Chris’ chest.
“Right, and God willing, she is well beyond your reach.”
“How dare you—” Courtney got that much out before Chris interrupted.
“Mary and I are going to church. You should consider it. I understand Father Stephano hears a great confession.” Chris slammed the door in Courtney’s face
“Church?” Mary looked up into Chris’ face, but did not want to let go.
“Right after macaroni and cheese,” he said, and he let go.
A Holiday Journey: Chris and Mary seek some advice and get some unexpected help.
Until Monday, Happy Reading