Little Red Riding Hood - Part 10

Red stood in total darkness for a moment, unable to see her hand in front of her face. On the other side of the door she could hear soldiers storming into the storm shelter. She could hear her father being slammed into the shelves that he had converted into a secret door. She could hear them screaming at him "Don't move", "put your hands behind your head", "where is the girl" and "stop resisting." She had come to understand that "stop resisting" simply means, "we are beating you half to death and violating several laws at once, but if we accuse you of resisting then we can not only get away with murder in the event of your death, but also file charges against you if you live as a means to force you into negotiating with us to plead guilty to a crime even if you haven't committed any." She didn't learn any of this dark truth in civics class, shockingly enough. This important dose of reality was learned through personal experience, plus a few conversations with the family attorney about how things really work.

The sounds of her father being beaten by the Obamacops were incredibly upsetting. He was screaming now. She didn't know what exactly they were doing to him, but she could imagine. She wanted to scream, too, and pry open the door, to rush in and pull them off of him. But she knew she couldn't do that. Giving herself up wouldn't help him at all. In fact, cooperating with the police didn't seem to make any difference. She and her father had been completely compliant with the police on the night she was attacked, and the police attacked both her and her father anyway.  Real life cops are nothing like the cops on TV. They're brutal, vicious, and mostly unattractive.

So she stood there in the darkness shaking, her hand covering her mouth as she cried as silently as she could for her father. Without realizing it, she was slowly stepping backwards, away from the door and the horrible screams. Step by step, she was backing deeper into the darkness.  Hardly any light slipped past the cracks around the doorway, but what light made it through framed the door with a soft glow. As she stepped back one foot at a time the lighted doorway grew smaller and smaller. Her eyes were slowly adjusting. She could make out a few details of the walls around her. Wooden beams occasionally became visible.  She started to wonder just how deep this tunnel was, where it went, and why her father hadn't installed any lights in the tunnel.

It was then that Red remembered the suitcase her father had told her to pack. He specifically mentioned the need to include a flashlight. She had taken a small LED flashlight from the kitchen and thrown it in the suitcase somewhere. She knelt down, laying her suitcase flat on the ground. Even with her eyes gradually adjusting to the darkness it was still too dark to really see any details. She had to feel her way around the case, find the zipper, zip it around the bag, and then flip it open. She started touching everything in the suitcase with both hands, carefully fumbling through her clothes for the flashlight. She felt the softness of one of her red hoodies. She immediately pulled it out and put it on. It was cool in the tunnel and had only managed to throw on a pair of jeans with the t-shirt she was sleeping in after her father had come into her room and gotten her out of bed. Shoes! Her hand felt the shoes she had packed. Her feet were freezing. She felt around and pulled out some socks. She quickly put them on and then pulled out her shoes. As she stuck her left foot into her shoe she felt something hard.

"There it is!" she exclaimed excitedly, reaching her hand into the shoe and pulling out the flashlight she had originally been looking for. She put her foot back into the shoe and then turned the light on. It seemed incredibly bright to her after having adjusted her eyes to the near total darkness. She squinted and aimed it at her suitcase, which she quickly zipped shut. She grabbed it by the handle, stood up and began to look around. The tunnel went on for quite aways more. She continued on, determined to find the exit and make her escape. It wasn't long before she came to the end. It was another light-framed doorway, just like the one she had left behind at the other end. Now that she had a light she could see that there was a doorknob on it. She grabbed the knob and gave it a turn, cautiously swinging the door open and peering inside.

It was another storm shelter, almost exactly like her father's. She stepped inside and pulled the door closed behind her. There was a steep metal stairway, just like the one in her father's storm shelter. And up above the trap door was already open. She could hear someone walking around and quickly clicked off the flashlight. Very quietly she tiptoed up the stairs and peered around without sticking her head out. She could make out a few details of someones garage. And then she heard a voice.

"Hurry up, Esther! She should be here any minute now." a man's voice commanded.

"I AM hurrying," a woman shouted in reply. "I've just got one more bag I need to get and then I'll be ready."

"How many bags are you bringing?!" the man argued. "We can't fit a whole truckload, you know. We'll never get off the ground!"

"I'm just bringing the necessities! You'll be glad I did when we get there." she shot back at him. 

Finally, Red decided that it seemed safe to stick her head up and announce her arrival. After all, they seemed to be talking about her as if they were expecting her. She peeked up and saw an old woman. It was Mrs. Zingel, the woman who lived in the massive house located sort of behind the Reidenhausen's place.  It was 'sort of behind' because the entire neighborhood was laid out in a kind of scattered manner, with no one living directly behind anyone exactly. It almost seemed as if Shady Grove was originally intended to be for wealthy estates rather than a normal neighborhood. There is even a polo club hidden smack in the middle, with nothing much visible from the road beyond an ordinary-looking driveway and thick trees blocking any real view of the club. Most people driving by the club never even suspect it is there.

"Katie!" a man's voice bellowed excitedly. "There you are!" Katie turned around on the step to see Dr. Zingel. He was standing next to his black Mercedes shoving a bag into the driver's seat. She was directly behind the rear bumper. "Come on, Katie," he command, "we've got to hurry and get moving. We haven't got much time."

"What ..." Katie muttered, stepping up out of the shelter stairway and looking blankly at Dr. Zingel. "Get moving?"

"Yes, dear," Mrs. Zingel said, taking Red's suitcase from her. "We have to get you out of here as quickly as possible. Harold, open the trunk. We've got one more suitcase."

"Open the trunk nothing," Harold responded sharply, "its full of your crap. She'll have to put it in the backseat with her. I told you not to bring so much. We'll never get off the ground."

"We've traveled with a lot more than this and you know it! Stop being such a putz." Mrs. Zingel shot back at him as she opened the back door to the Mercedes and placed Red's suitcase inside. Then she turned to Red and asked "are you ready, Katie? Do you need to use the little girls' room before we go? Actually, you really should. We have a long trip ahead of us and I don't imagine you had time for that yet, have you? Why don't you go pee and then we'll head out."

"Head out?" Red asked, confused as to this part of the plan. Her father hadn't told her the entire plan. She only knew that he wanted her to be ready to run for it if the police came to get her, especially after the way they had so casually severely hurt random students and even shot a teacher at her school when arresting Brandon. He told her he had a plan and that they wouldn't get her. But he hadn't said anything about a tunnel and he hadn't said where she was going to hide while they were looking for her.

"Yes, we have a long trip ahead. Run, go pee and we'll tell you all about it on the way." Mrs. Zingel assured her. So Red went inside and found a bathroom just opposite the laundry room. She peed a river, having clearly been affected by the cold and dampness of the tunnel, in addition to having been awakened in the dead of night from a sound sleep.

"OK, I'm ready," she said as she climbed into the back seat of the Mercedes. "So, where are we going?"

Dr. Zingel looked at her in the rearview mirror and said "Katie, honey, you have to stay hidden back there until we're well out of the neighborhood, honey. Can you fit down in the floorboards behind the front seat? We have a special blanket we'll put over you in case they stop us and look inside."

Red tried to scrunch down into the floor behind Dr. Zingel's seat. There was a shockingly large amount of space in this car, she thought to herself. She did sort of fit, but she had to lay across and put half her body behind Mrs. Zingel and half behind Dr. Zingel and the part in the middle was extremely uncomfortable. Once they put the surprisingly stiff and noisy blanket over her she could only guess what was going on from what she could hear and feel. The garage door went up. The car started. She could feel them backing out of the garage. They slowly crept down the driveway. The garage door was closing behind them.

"Watch the garbage can!" Mrs. Zingel shouted.

"I'm nowhere near the garbage can!" Dr. Zingel shouted back.

They were pulling out onto the road. It felt as if they were hardly even moving as they drove down the street. Either this was the smoothest riding car in the world or else Dr. Zingel drove like an old man. That would make sense, though, since he was about 80 years old or so, a doctor long retired from medicine. He was so old that he sometimes reminded Red of a cartoon image of an old doctor. He was shriveled and shrunken. Red was much taller than he was, so he couldn't be but maybe 5'1" or so. Mrs. Zingel wasn't any taller, though. They both looked like those apple dolls that Katie made when she was in kindergarten as a child, where you dry an apple and dress it up with eyes and a nose and mouth and all that. Red was thinking about the absurdity of being driven past police roadblocks by two shriveled applehead people and then she started to giggle to herself. It took all her strength to stifle the laughter. How could she explain what exactly was so funny about this situation if they heard her laughing?

The car slowed and turned. It was creeping along again. Then it stopped and there was the distinctive sound of an electric window rolling down. "You boys looking for drunks?" the voice of Dr. Zingel said to someone."We haven't had a drop to drink all night, I promise."

"No sir," a voice replied from outside the car. "Where are you two going at this hour?" Red could tell that a light was shining into the car. Suddenly she didn't feel like laughing. Her heart was pounding as she tried to hold her breath out of fear that someone might notice the blanket in the floor rising and falling with her breathing in and out. Sweat began to bead up on her forehead. She suddenly began to feel uncomfortably warm under there.

"We're going to our beach house in Panama City." Dr. Zingel replied. "It's getting to be Autumn and we're old. The sunshine state is calling to us. Arthritis hurts a lot more in the cold and damp than it does in the warm sunshine. We have a long trip ahead so we always leave before the morning rush hour traffic. We'd like to be out of Memphis completely before all that congestion clogs the roads."

There was a silence that seemed to last for an eternity and then Red could tell that the light wasn't shining the car anymore. The whir of the window could be heard. And then Red could feel the car start to move again. It felt as if the car was barely rolling down the road. And then it stopped.

"Dinka-dinka-dinka." Red could hear the blinker. And then they were turning again. Another crawl down a stretch of road, and then another turn. The car began to accelerate and climb upwards.

"Katie, dear, are you OK under there?" Mrs. Zingel asked quietly. "We'd like to get out of Memphis entirely before you take the blanket off, OK? We don't know how many police we'll encounter or if anyone is in the air above us looking into cars leaving the neighborhood so we can't afford to take any chances.  

Red spent an eternity hiding underneath the noisy blanket, but thankfully Dr. Zingel seemed to be driving much faster now that they were out of the neighborhood and on a main road. Red guessed that they were on Walnut Grove. She was burning up underneath the blanket and badly wanted to get it off her now.

"It's really hot under here. I want to take this blanket off." Red whimpered.

Dr Zingel answered her, "the police have helicopters with thermal cameras that they use to find people who are hiding. They detect the heat from your body and then radio down to the officers on the ground as to where you are. Then they come and get you all of a sudden, just when you think you're safe and have escaped them. That's why we have you under that particular blanket, honey. It reflects your body heat back at you and doesn't let it escape. That's why you're hot under there. But it's also why they won't find you. I'll turn on the air conditioner in the back to help cool you down. But please don't take off that blanket just yet. Wait 'till we get out of Memphis."

The air conditioning helped, but the floor was still exceedingly uncomfortable and the ride was very long. It was beginning to feel as if they would never get out of Memphis.

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