“I’m so sorry, Jack. I never thought about the cafe closing. We should have called ahead and explained the circumstances.” Kat knew how panicked Jack must be.
“I wonder where Annette has gone.” Jack said. He was clearly devastated.
“I’ll contact the police,” Jack heard Agent Stedman say as he watched him pull out his phone. Thankfully, he had service. “They’re aware of the whole situation, but the storm probably stopped any kind of investigation in it’s tracks.”
Jack was trying to reach Annette but either the call wasn’t going through, or she was choosing not to pick up.
“Pretty ironic isn’t it?” Dr. Clark said. “We have two young girls who were on the verge of freezing to death and a woman who has been badly burned in a fire. I wonder if there is somehow a connection. Is there any word from the police concerning their identity?”
“No Dr., but the cell service is still spotty in some areas and the police are trying to put out fires of their own. I’m sure there are a lot of people stranded.”
The nurse and doctor heard a voice come over the intercome. “Dr. Clark, please come to the nurse’s station.”
“I’ll be back. Keep a close eye on these girls. Especially the younger one.”
Dr. Clark hurried to the nurse’s station where he noticed two men were waiting for him. They pulled out their FBI identification and introduced themselves before asking if an older woman and two young girls had by chance been admitted.
“Two policemen brought them all here a couple of hours ago. The woman and the youngest girl are unconscious and in pretty bad shape. The older girl is in a lot of pain. We’re treating that now, but she’s pretty confused and hasn’t been able to tell us much.”
Blake Stedman was anxious to call his friend, Jack to tell him the news. “Dr. Clark…have you heard from someone by the name of Annette Morris?”
“No one by that name has been here, as far as I know. The two policemen who brought the woman and two girls here said they were headed over to the Roadside Cafe to talk to a young lady who was waiting for news on her mother and two girls. Could that be her? They were going to tell her all three were here.
I guess she left the cafe thinking the police hadn’t found them. The girl had given Sandy, who works at the cafe, her name and number. I placed a call, and I thought someone answered, but then it went dead.”
“Thank you, Dr.. We’ll let you get back to your patients. The girl’s father is waiting at the cafe now. We’ll be bringing him here…and Dr. Clark, if you should hear from Miss Morris, please call me. Here’s my card.”
Annette hadn’t recognized the voice on the other end of the call before she lost the connection. She was still a little over halfway between Danfield and the cabin site…and she was stuck. Thankfully, she had some warm clothes in the trunk. She also had a shovel and began to start digging herself out. Periodically, she stopped to check on her phone service.
Edith Morris was beginning to come around and the pain from her burned body was excrutiating. Where is my Jennifer? Where has she gone? She was remembering the day Jennifer had been badly burned by a campfire that had gotten out of hand.
In the process of grabbing each of her little girls to get them out of harm’s way, Jennifer’s pretty summer dress had become engulfed in flames. Edith had stood and watched, unable to move as she saw her daughter lose her balance and fall back into the fire. The screams brought Annette, who had gone back to the house, running to the spot where they had all been having a picnic.
Annette was exhausted from shoveling and decided to take a break and warm up in the car. The battery on her cell had died so she started up the car and plugged her phone in.
Her thoughts also went back to the day Jennifer died.
Her older sister and her two little girls had come for a visit. It was the first time Annette had seen her little nieces and it had been ten years since she had seen her sister, Jennifer.
They were up in the mountains when the terrible accident happened, and the fastest way to get Jennifer to the hospital was to put her in the car and drive her there. The little girls stayed behind with Annette while her mother and stepfather rushed a badly burned and mercifully unconscious Jennifer to the hospital. Edith’s husband later drove back to the cabin to get the little girls and bring them to the hospital so they would be there when their father arrived.
Neither of the girls talked about the fire or their mother. They sang songs all the way to the hospital. Annette stayed back at the cabin. She had no desire to witness what was happening to her sister.
When Jack and Kat arrived at the hospital, Dr. Clark informed them that Vanessa would need to be in the hospital for a few days, but she would fully recover.
Jack allowed himself to take a deep breath. “What about Alice?” He asked. “How is she?”
Dr. Clark motioned for Jack and Kat to sit down. “We’re doing everything we can, but it’s not looking good.”
Jack reached into his shirt pocket and brought out a picture that he had obviously looked at many times. “Oh, Jen he said. “I am so sorry.”