"i scared," read the text message on my cell phone that day. Not knowing what it meant, I was suddenly terrified when I realized it was my sixteen year old daughter sending it. Quickly, I scrolled down the small LCD screen anxious to see more words hoping for an explanation of the startling two word message; there were none.
Instantly, I went to my contact list to phone her when another text message suddenly arrived.
"dont call," was all it said.
"Don't call!" I whispered to myself. "What does that mean? I have to know why she's scared. How can she expect me to not phone her when she sends me such an alarming message?" Ignoring what I thought was an unreasonable request; I began to call her when another text message arrived.
"i in closet he outside."
"Oh, my God," I said softly to myself as I grabbed my mouth with my left hand. "Where is John?" I added, as my voice increased in volume and my eyes darted to the left and right as if that would assist me in some way. "He's on a sales call somewhere," I answered myself. "I need him now."
Quickly, I scrolled my contact list to my husband's name and pressed the "send' button. There was no answer. "John, answer!" I said very loud and several people nearby me in the shopping mall turned their heads. For one brief moment I felt an obligation to explain, but knew that was pointless and would waste time that I didn't think I had. I ignored them and began walking quickly towards an exit. Another text arrived.
"What's going on," I said very loud and then I remembered that Shelly was at a classmates home, who was new in town, and I didn't know where her friend lived. Another message flashed onto my phone.
"jeanie screem i scared."
"I have to call her," I whispered and began the procedure to do so when I realized why she told me not to call; the sound of the ring-tone could reveal her in the closet. "But, to who?" I said as I continued to hurry towards my car.
Logical non-threatening rationalization of what this all meant surged through my brain. "Maybe it was some kind of game or joke," I said. "Yes," I said loudly as I got into my car. "It's got to be a game. Shelly told me that Jeannie has a brother. It's probably him," I added as I tried to force a calmness into my emotions. It didn't work. "Maybe Shelly is simply playing a practical joke on me," I said and instantly knew that could not be. Shelly didn't like practical jokes and she knew I didn't either. Then another message suddenly arrived.
Those letters, ILU," I whispered to myself. "They mean I love you. "Shelly ends all her regular text messages to me with those letters. It's her way of saying goodbye. Oh, God, that scares me. Does she think this is her last message before she's discovered by some awful attacker. Oh, Dear God, don't let this be happening," I said loudly as I looked up towards Heaven. "Please keep her safe until I find a way to help her," I added to my impromptu prayer as I inserted the key and turned the ignition to start the cars engine. I backed out of the parallel white lines, squealing my tires slightly and braked hard to stop from hitting a car on the opposite side. Shoving the gas pedal down, I lurched forward and recklessly drove through the mall parking lot not thinking rationally and suddenly I realized, I needed to phone the police. I jammed on the brakes and came to an abrupt stop. Holding the cell phone up I pressed the numbers I never dreamt that I would someday dial; 911.
"This is nine one one, what is your emergency," a female voice spoke into the phone.
"My-daughter-is-in-trouble! She-needs-help," I said loudly and very quickly, blending all the words together that must have resembled a very long, multi-syllabled word.
"What is your name, Maam?" was asked by a semi-monotone voice that struck me as lacking empathy. I paused for no more than a moment, telling myself this nine-one-one person has a job to do and getting emotionally involved could interfere with her performance. My self lecture didn't convince myself.
"I'm Harriet Simpson," I said loudly and quickly forcing myself to respond to what I perceived of as an unimportant question. "My daughter needs help!" I added as if I needed to remind her why this call was taking place.
"Is your daughter there?" she asked.
"No," I answered impatiently.
"How do you know your daughter needs help?" the voice asked.
"Because she texted me," I said in a raised voice displaying some frustration. Before the nine-one-one lady responded, I forced composure into my voice and spoke. "Look, I know you need to know what's going on, but I believe my daughter is in grave danger and if we don't do something quickly, she might be raped, or killed, or who knows what," I said, each word in my statement getting louder and faster in its delivery.
"You need to calm down Mrs. Simpson," the voice said. "I want to help you, but you need to help me first," the voice added and then paused for a few moments to wait to see if I responded. I didn't. "Now, where is your daughter?"
"I don't know," I said and began to sob.
"How do you know she needs help?" the voice asked.
"I told you, she texted me. She said she was scared. She said she was hiding in a closet and there was somebody threatening them and she said Jeannie screamed."
"Who is Jeannie?"
"A friend, a school friend, damnit," I yelled, my emotions returning to frustrated impatience again. "It doesn't matter who Jeannie is, it only matters that my daughter and Jeannie are probably being raped at this moment."
"What is Jeannie's last name?"
"I don't know," I answered; as a feeling of helplessness enveloped me.
"Where does Jeannie live?" asked the nine-one-one lady.
"I don't know that either," I responded as my feeling of inadequacy increased. "In Jackson," I added. "Jeannie's family just moved into Jackson last summer," I said, trying to salvage some semblance of competency.
"Mrs. Simpson, I want to help, but with the information that you have supplied, I don't know what we can do. Jackson has over four-thousand homes. You're going to have to find out where this girl, Jeannie, lives and determine more of what is going on there."
"Jesus," I yelled. "Do I have to show you two dead teenaged girls for you people to do anything?" I yelled as my frustration escalated.
"I'm sorry," the nine-one-one lady said. "We want to help."
"What use are you?" I yelled cognizant of the fact that she didn't deserve my wrath. I pressed the "end' button and then wished I hadn't as I felt the need to apologize. At that moment another text arrived.
"k4now not c me"
"Okay for now, not see me," I said aloud hoping I was translating the text message encoding correctly. "It's time I take a chance," I whispered. I pressed the "message' button and entered. "I need address.' and then pressed; send.
As I pressed the little send button, I instantly wished I hadn't done it. Apprehensions soared within my consciousness. I feared that in my haste in trying to help, I might have revealed to the attacker where Shelly was. I had horrible visions of the door being yanked open and Shelly being drug out of the closet screaming. It was as if I could see her face exhibiting terror and I never felt more helpless in my entire life. Then I realized I was still sitting in the parking lot of the mall. Through tear blurred eyes I looked ahead and shoved the gas pedal to the floor. "Jeannie has to live somewhere in Jackson," I said to myself. "She wouldn't be going to school with Shelly if she didn't. I need to get there." I raced down the two lane highway, crossing the double yellow line several times to pass slower cars that were within the speed limit. As I entered Jackson, I arbitrarily chose the first street on the right and entered it at a speed not meant for suburban driving. I bumped over the curb and slid in the soft grassy area between the street and the sidewalk. Moments later, I was out on the street and continued until a four way stop. My head darted from left to right trying to determine which way to go when the sounds of another text message arrived.
"now or never, lywamh."
I sat in the car seat feeling overwhelmed as I repeated her message out loud. "Now or never, love you with all my heart." I put my face in my hands and began to cry. I cried for several minutes and then I heard someone tapping on my window.
A flashlight's beam was shined in my face and a voice came from somewhere behind the blinding shaft of light.
"Roll your window down, Miss," said the voice, and as my sight gradually returned I could see a police officer was responsible for the semi-command. "Are you allright?" he asked.
"Yes." No," I answered and was surprised when I realized the neighborhood was being illuminated, strobe effect, by the rotating blue light of the police cruiser. I took a deep breath and tried to compose myself as best as I could. "Officer," I said, "I've been getting messages on my cell phone from my teenaged daughter and she says she's about to be attacked and I don't know where she is. She's at a friend's house here in Jackson and I'm terrified and I don't know what to do."
"Let me see your driver's license, Miss," the officer said.
My hand was shaking as I opened my purse and fumbled through it for my license. "Officer," I said as I abruptly turned to face him without having accomplished his request. "We've got to find where Shelly is."
"Please, Miss, show me your driver's license," the officer said uncompromisingly.
I looked at this young man for several seconds with the urge to argue, but realized that would accomplish nothing. I returned to my purse and searched until I found my license and gave it to the officer.
The officer then stepped back a little and shined his flashlight on the license. A few moments later, he leaned his head down to be level with mine. "Mrs. Simpson," the officer said. "Have you been drinking?"
"No, damnit," I said loudly and then realized what I said was not useful. "Look, Officer, I'm sorry I cursed. It's just that I'm so worried about my daughter."
"Where is your daughter?" he asked.
"I don't know, Officer. I told the nine-one-one lady that a few minutes ago, also. She's at the home of a friend here in Jackson, but the friend is new to town. All I know is that she's scared and could be in great danger."
At that moment the officer looked back at his cruiser and paused. "Excuse me," he said. "Please stay in the car, Mrs. Simpson. I'll be back."
I glanced over my shoulder as I saw him return to his police cruiser. Then I looked at my cell phone wondering what I should do next. Flashing through my mind was that I had never felt this alone in my life. No one seems to understand the significance of what I've been telling them. Then I glanced at the dashboard of my car and realized the engine was still running. For a fleeting moment I considered driving away, but discarded that as not accomplishing anything useful. I knew I wouldn't have gotten far. "Oh, God, help me," I prayed. "Please," I pleaded. "I need to find Shelly."
"Mrs. Simpson," came the words through the open window. I turned and looked into the eyes of the police officer again.
"Turn off your engine and get out of your car," he said in a semi-commanding sound of voice.
"Am I being charged with something, Officer?"
"No, Mrs. Simpson. Please get out of your car and get into the cruiser."
"But, my daughter," I protested as I stepped out of my car and began to walk towards the police car.
"Please, Mrs. Simpson, get in the cruiser."
I did and the officer drove away. I didn't know where we were going, but I had a bad feeling.
Several minutes passed, which seemed like an eternity and I noticed we turned into a no-outlet street. My curiosity began to overtake my fear laden emotions.
"Where are you taking me officer?" I asked.
"You'll see," he said.
As the street made a gentle curve I became aware of many flashing blue lights. The officer slowed his car as he rolled to a stop behind an ambulance and several police cars that were in front of a home. I became extremely alert and my fear was escalating. I could see someone being brought out of the front door with no shirt on. There was a police officer on both sides and he was being followed by a paramedic who was pressing something against his bare back.
"Would you like to get out, Mrs. Simpson?" said the officer who had brought me here.
"What's going on?" I asked.
He simply pointed to the front door of the house. There stood Shelly and Jeannie. Both were wearing a big grin. Shelly had her left arm around Jeanie's shoulder. She waved with her right hand.
For several minutes I held onto Shelly with a bear like hug until finally she laughed softly and gently moved me away from me. "I'm okay," she said, "and so is Jeannie." We went into Jeannie's house and that's when she told me what happened.
"Jeannie was ironing some clothes and we were talking," Shelly said. "and I went to the closet in the next room to get some more clothes hangers when I heard Jeannie scream. As I looked back I saw this scummy looking guy grab her and I turned back into the closet and closed the door. That's when I began to text you, Mom."
I nodded my head as my mind flashed back to such a short time ago when all of this began. "Go on," I said.
"I was terrified," Shelly said. "I couldn't move except to text you. Then I could hear more sounds of Jeannie being hurt or something. I peaked through the keyhole and could see that guy trying to kiss and fondle her. It was then I made a decision. I remembered reading about that airplane back on Nine-eleven when that young man said, "Let's Roll." It inspired me to do something. That's when I texted you that it was "now or never.' I slowly opened the closet door and crept across the room and as I approached from behind I realized I could grab the clothes iron on the ironing board; a little steam emitting from the top told me it was hot. I picked it up and rammed it hard on that guy's back and held it as tight as I could hold it. He let go of Jeannie," she said and laughed a little. "He rolled around on the floor as I dialed nine-one-one and told them what had happened. The lady I talked to said she thought that she had talked to you, Mom. Anyway, as that guy finally tried to get up, I put the iron next to his face and asked him if he wanted more. He shook his head. I did good, didn't I Mom?" my wonderful daughter asked displaying a confident smile.
I grinned broadly. "You did good, Honey," I said and hugged her again.