by Patricia Harrington
"Mother, I want you to promise me that you'll wear it."
Sometimes, Harold acted as if I were seven, not seventy. He didn't even give me time to answer--that was the lawyer in him.
"Promise you'll wear this personal panic button--it can be your lifeline. I don't want you lying on the floor again without anyone knowing. Just press the button if you're in trouble. The lifeline operator will answer and send help."
I loved my son, but he could be a real pain in the neck, and I had enough aches and pains already. About the only things that hadn't gone haywire with my body were my eyesight and mind. They were still sharp--thank the good Lord.
Harold handed me the necklace with its dangling pendant and black-button. "If you don't wear this, I'm going to insist you move into an assisted-living apartment."
"Oh, all right," I said, and slipped the chain over my head.
Harold rose from his chair. "I have to go now." He leaned over and kissed me on the cheek. At the door, he said, "Oh, Mother, another thing. Don't walk by that house on Baldwin Street again. You don't want to be known as a nosy old lady stirring up trouble and maybe getting sued."
I smiled to reassure him. "Don't worry, Son."
After Harold left, I scolded myself. "Lydia Tilson, you fibbed!"
"Well." I sniffed. "I didn't actually promise."
It had been a mistake to tell Harold about the rail-thin girl with scared eyes who lived on Baldwin Street. She couldn't have been more than four or five. When I told Harold I was going to call Child Protective Services because I'd seen ugly bruises on her arm, he squelched the idea right away. "You're not to do any such thing, Mother. Kids fall down all the time. You just have an overactive imagination."
Humph! I knew in my bones I was right. What Harold didn't know wouldn't hurt him--or me. That night I fell asleep thinking of ways to help the poor child.
The next morning, I went for my walk, using my new cane. Most of the houses on Baldwin were rundown rentals. I'd made a point to walk by the house where the little girl lived about midmorning. The last two times, she'd been outside, wearing dirty jeans and long-sleeved T-shirts that were way too big for her. She'd smiled shyly and then looked away when I said, "Hello."
She was outside again. I could see her playing on the lawn that was more dirt than grass. The yard had a picket fence in front, but the gate was long gone, with just the hinges remaining on the gatepost.
I stepped inside the yard to get close to the little girl and started to say something to her, when the front door opened. A mean-eyed man in jeans and an undershirt hollered through the screen door. "Get in here, Girl. Now!"
The little girl froze. I could feel her fear, and I did what I had to without another breath or thought. I clutched my bad hip and fell to my knees beside the girl. Pain jolted me right up to my teeth. I wrapped an arm around the girl and twisted so that she was partly under me, and then I fell to the ground.
The man swore and started down the steps. I screamed, "Don't touch me. I broke my hip!" Then I pressed the panic button dangling from my neck, and a voice answered, "Mrs. Tilson. Are you all right?"
"No. Call 9-1-1. I fell, and there's a little girl hurt, too. The address is 2901 Baldwin Street . . . and hurry."
It wasn't more than a few minutes before I heard a siren close by and saw the man screeching out of his driveway in a beat-up truck.
I whispered softly to the little girl, "It's going to be okay."
Patricia Harrington is the author of the Bridget O'Hern Mystery Series -- "A sleuth seeking bliss and finding bodies." Her new book titled DEATH COMES TOO SOON is now available. CLICK HERE to order from Amazon.com.
Pat is donating a portion of her online book sales of DCTS to two animal rescue groups helping Hurricane Katrina victims.
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