Too Little...Too Late By Darrell A Cador
Monday, May 28, 2007
Rated "G" by the Author.
Too Little...Too Late
knock at the door had abruptly removed Raymond from a morning of much-needed sleep. The digital clock on the dresser showed . Slowly, he pulled his feet from beneath the crumpled, down comforter and sat upright. Seconds later the stagger that brought Raymond across the plush, sea-green carpet to the peephole enabled him to look through, assuring him that it was safe to open the door.
"Good Morning, senor. You need service?"
"No ma’am. Thanks anyway," he said to the twenty-something housekeeper who obviously didn’t see the Do Not Disturb sign. Belinda, his wife, remained asleep.
Closing the door, Raymond headed back across the room to the table nearest the beachside window that boasted a spectacular view of a white sand beach, tranquil blue waters, and beachgoers by the droves, all nestled beneath a cloudless sky. A cluster of empty food containers had been gathered in a corner next to the wastebasket, which needed emptying.
The mid-morning sunlight rested upon the writing desk where Raymond’s cell phone was charging, reminding him of a certain phone call that he’d promised to make upon their arrival. Flipping open his phone he retrieved a number from the electronic phone book, then pressed speed dial.
"Hey Tony. What’s up? This is Raymond."
"Oh. Uh…not a whole lot."
"Is Jennifer around? I told her we’d call and check on the kids when we got here." A slight pause revealed barely audible sounds in the background. Sounds of voices. Maybe from a nearby television.
"Uh…she’s busy right now. You’re gonna have to call back later." Tony hung up. Raymond stared at himself in the mirror and saw the face of a man mildly confused.
"Raymond, who were you talking to?" Belinda asked as she headed to the restroom.
"Tony. I was calling to check on the kids."
"Well? How are they?" Raymond paused.
"I don’t know. He said Jennifer was busy, and that I’d have to call back later. Then he just…hung up."
Immediately, Belinda began to feel the same unrest as her husband. An unrest that seemed to linger. Not satisfied with the results of Raymond’s attempt, Belinda picked up the cell phone and placed another call.
"You’ve reached the home of Anthony and JenniferTowns," the recording stated. Belinda hung up without leaving a message.
"Raymond. Didn’t you just talk to Tony a few seconds ago?"
"Strange, huh?" he responded.
"Yeah. I guess we will have to call back later."
The last day of their three-day mini vacation Raymond and Belinda were met with the strength of an invigorating mid-summer sun as they made their trek beachside. The beach, with its white powdered sand, beckoned Belinda and Raymond as if it needed them more than they desired it. As far as the eye could see, a melting pot of vacationers blanketed the pacific shoreline, with many browning themselves under the light of a vibrant summer sun.
The boy inside Raymond lost himself in the rush of an incoming wave while his lovely wife looked on. Belinda smiled as she saw two young girls playing in the remains of a sand castle, then remembered a particular young girl with two younger siblings that she hadn’t spoken with since she and Raymond arrived here just days ago. Heading toward their umbrella to call Jennifer, Belinda yelled her intentions to Raymond.
"Yeah, okay," he said.
As she retrieved her cell phone from their embroidered beach bag, Belinda noticed the voicemail indicator showing two messages.
"Huh. I wonder who they’re from."
Mildly curious, Belinda dialed her voicemail number, entered the password, and then listened with intent.
"Mommy can you pleeeease come and get us! We wanna come home! Uncle Tony and Auntee Jennifer keep fighting!" Stunned at the sound of Debbie’s distressed voice Belinda became encased in a shocked stiffness that gripped her with the strength of a thousand men. A stiffness that was soon shattered by the chilling likeness of the second message.
"Daddy can you please come and get us! Auntie Jennifer is blee--" Raymond’s walk quickly turned into a sand-dispersing sprint as he saw the look of sheer terror etched in Belinda’s face.
"Baby, we’ve got to go! Now," she said, her voice quivering with fear. "Something’s wrong with Jennifer."
A frantic forty-five mile drive traveled at almost twice the speed brought Raymond and Belinda to the Northern California suburb that Tony and Jennifer had called home for the past six years. Looking back on the length of their marriage, Raymond remembered Tony and Jennifer as having more downs than ups, and how it took him quite a while to accept his only sister’s choice in a soul mate. In the past, multiple restraining orders had been taken out on Tony to help cure him of his addiction to spousal abuse. Belinda, having feared for Jennifer‘s safety, had told Raymond on numerous occasions of how she was more than willing to take Jennifer into their home if the madness continued.
Anxiety began to fill Raymond’s chest as he and Belinda screeched their Toyota Camry to a halt in the driveway. The intense arguing that could be heard from curbside grew louder and more hostile as they drew closer to the house.
Approaching the front door, Raymond found the outer screen door to be locked and assumed the inner door to be likewise. Tearing open the screen covering, he opened the outer door and frantically searched his key ring for the spare key Jennifer and Tony had given him. Belinda stood behind him and dialed 911 as the sounds of shattering glass, screams, and obscenities convinced her that a police presence was more than needed. Raymond’s gasps became short and labored as humidity thickened the air. Sirens and flashing lights were heard and seen as police cruisers arrived, seemingly coming from all directions.
Screams that started in the living soon room made their way to a rear bedroom. Additional cruisers came to a screeching halt in front of the house as a result of frantic 911 calls placed by distraught neighbors. Before the police could employ forced entry, Tonya and Joy, Raymond and Belinda’s youngest, opened the front door and ran into the waiting arms of their mother. With weapons drawn, several officers entered and immediately headed upstairs. Debbie’s whereabouts had yet to be determined.
"Oh my God! Are you alright?" Belinda asked as the girls held her tightly, trying to wish away their demons.
Suddenly, at the top of the staircase, the heavy resonance of an officer’s voice was heard shouting, "Halt! Police! Drop your weapon now and put your hands up!" As the police officer aggressively barked his command, an extended, blood-curdling shrill escaped from Debbie’s lips. A sound that paralyzed Raymond and Belinda’s senses with the potency of a rattler’s venom. A sound that was soon followed by the rapid-fire blasts from a semi-automatic handgun.
The eight-man police force angrily stormed the bedroom in unison and found a semi- conscience Jennifer lying on the floor beside a partially made-up bed. Just a few feet away, Tony was sprawled on the floor with the carpet beneath him soaked in blood. Four officers stood over Tony’s motionless body poised and ready to fire as a fifth cautiously checked his vital signs. Jennifer’s condition was quickly evaluated as the blare of a paramedic unit’s siren came closer to the scene.
With detectives and countless officers present, the entire house was soon encircled in yellow crime scene tape. Belinda and Raymond were finally reunited with Debbie and were assured that she was at least physically intact.
"Baby, are you alright?" Belinda asked. Debbie’s distraught countenance spoke to her current state. Raymond was taken to another part of the house and was thoroughly questioned about the history of Jennifer’s stormy marriage to her now recently deceased husband. Minutes later, Jennifer was whisked away to a nearby hospital for observation.
At the conclusion of his questioning Raymond asked, "So Detective. What’s gonna become of my daughter Debbie?" to which the detective jotted down a few notes on a small writing pad then responded, "Well sir, considering the circumstances surrounding this tragedy, the traumatic ordeal your daughter has just experienced, and, of course, with her age being a factor, I’m pretty certain she won’t be charged with Mr. Towns’ death, seeing that she acted in defense of her aunt." A feeling of relief wrapped Raymond’s flesh, warming it from the outside in as he stared down the hall into another room and saw Belinda firmly embraced with their three beautiful daughters.