Chapter Four: Road to the Future
Leland walked with her across the street where there was a quaint little restaurant that he often ate at when he was in the area. They were still out in the more rural areas of Illinois, so there were less businesses catering to the weary traveler. Leland knew the area well and would frequent these places when he was in the vicinity.
Zorell looked up at the sign the read Aunt Sarah’s Family Restaurant. “This looks like a nice place,” she said, looking at the sign that was written a soft red color with daisies painted on each end.
“I know the owners well,” he said and she looked at him sternly.
“How well?” she asked, but he refused to answer. “Let me guess. You courted at least two of their daughters and broke their hearts.”
“No, Zorell, why do you always think I’m a cad?” he asked and she laughed. “Okay, I courted one of them, but only to make a fella she really liked jealous.”
“Did it work?” Zorell asked with a coy look in her eye.
“They got married last month,” he said, and she shook her head trying not to laugh. “That’s you, Lee, always helping a damsel in distress.” Her laughter broke free as he took her hand and led her inside.
“Well, hello, my dear boy,” an older woman of about fifty said, while greeting them. She was apparently the hostess of the establishment and wore more modern clothing as opposed to many older women who preferred their Victorian attire. It was apparent that she recognized Leland and gave him a quick embrace.
Leland turned to Zorell and clumsily made an introduction. “This is the infamous Myra, the owner Sarah’s sister.”
“As in Aunt Sarah?” she asked and Leland nodded.
“Now, who is this lovely young lady?” Myra asked in an excited tone. She seemed to Zorell to be a bit pushy but friendly. “Don’t tell me you ran off and gotten married?”
“Oh, no…” he said quickly, but was swiftly cut off by is female companion.
“That’s exactly what it is,” Zorell said as Leland looked on stunned that she would say that. She shot him a look that told him to play along.
“Well, then the newlyweds must have the best table in the house,” Myra said, practically singing the words. She escorted them to a quiet secluded table in the back. “Now, what would the both of you like for breakfast?”
“Whatever you recommend is just fine,” Leland said, still feeling flustered at Zorell’s announcement.
“Alright, we’ll start with a spot of tea,” she said sweetly, but Zorell loathed tea and instantly spoke up.
“Coffee for me with a touch of cinnamon,” she said, lifting up her gloved hand.
“Very well,” the woman said and walked off leaving them alone.
Once the woman had gone, Leland’s loss of voice ceased, and he tore into Zorell. “What were you thinking telling her that?”
“I was thinking of saving our skins,” she said and looked out the window with a visible view of the road. He was about to open his mouth to speak, but she stopped him. “My father has probably hit the ceiling by now, and he’s going to have a search party formed by the end of the day. It’s likely he’ll pass through here before long, and if the people think we’re married then he just might stop searching.”
“What if this lie blows up in our faces?” Leland asked, looking around. He felt that every person in the restaurant was staring at them. “You don’t even have a ring.”
“Oh, yes, I do,” she said and reached into her purse and pulled out the black velvet box that she had packed before she left. She opened it up and sorted through the pieces that lay within it. “Ah, here it is.” She held up a diamond ring for Leland to see and he looked shocked.
“Where did you get that?” he asked in astonishment. She took off her left glove and slipped it on her finger. He rolled his eyes and shook his head. “Don’t tell me you met someone when you were away at nursing school, some lovesick heartbroken gent is right now pining over his little angel of mercy.”
“Not even close,” she said and looked down at the ring. It had been the first time she dared put it on. The impact at seeing it on her figure just hit her, and her voice became quiet. “It was my mother’s.”
“So, your father gave it to you?” Leland asked, as she heard some faint music playing in the background, some classical piece written hundreds of years ago.
“No, he gave it to Devlin, and he gave it to me,” she said and looked down at the sparkling gem on the ring with sadness. “Basically, all I have of her is a ring and this locket.” She touched the small piece of gold that was hanging around her neck.
“Not even a photograph?” he asked and she moved her head back and forth. “I’m sorry, Zorell. I can’t imagine not having a mother, and you don’t…”
“Don’t feel sorry for me,” she said, cutting him off.
For the rest a breakfast she ate in silence. Leland didn’t push the issue any further. For the most part Zorell was an easy-going girl, but when pushed too far she would come out fighting.
After they had finished their breakfast, they realized they needed some rest, Leland most of all, and he knew there was a motel nearby. She still had her mother’s ring on, but it was covered by her lace glove so no one could see it. She only would make a point of showing it off, if they had a run-in with someone, they both knew.
They drove the short distance and parked in the dirt lot in front of a row of units. Zorell looked up and saw a sign saying, Morton Motel. The sign was a little shabby and looked like it was homemade and not professionally done. Leland had told her that the place was built and run by Agnes and Franklyn Morton who were the first to realize a need for a motel in the area. Unlike the hotels in the cities, the rooms were much more stripped down which made them much cheaper in price. Since more people could afford cars in the last year, they were traveling both long and short distances, going on weekend vacations to visit nearby relatives and friends or even longer car trips to visit historical sites and tourist attractions.
The morning was warm, so Zorell didn’t bother wearing her coat. She only took her purse, so she could pay for her room. She wasn’t going to let Leland pay for her half of the motel fees, just like she refused to let him pay for her half of breakfast.
They walked into the main entrance to see a young man of no more than eighteen behind the counter. He was clean cut looking with slicked back blonde hair, even lighter in tone than Leland’s. He was short in height but thin and looked like he didn’t eat regularly.
“C-can I h-help y-you?” he asked with a stutter in his voice. His tone was high-pitched, and if they hadn’t seen him, he would have been mistaken for a woman.
“We would like a room.” Leland said and pulled out his wallet. He took out a large bill and paid the boy.
“W-we only h-have one r-room left,” he said, struggling to get the words out. “D-do you s-still want the r-room?”
“We’ll take it,” Zorell said and the boy took the money and gave them change. He gave her a strange look. “Don’t worry, we’re married.” She took her glove off and flashed the ring, which gave him a look of relief. “He just snores.”
She grabbed the room key and walked out of the door to go and find their unit. The doors to the rooms were outside, and she followed the path down to room six which was at the very end. Leland looked pale, and beads of sweat gathered on his brow. He could have blamed it on the morning sun, but that was not what was causing his anxiety. The car was parked close by, so he made the excuse that he was going to get their suitcases. She believed that it was more that he didn’t want to be in the room alone with her.
As she walked into the room, she laughed. She was glad to see that there were two beds inside which looked like they were hospital issue. She feared it would only make him think of Shanee and how she was in a hospital bed in Chicago and needing him. They would be there tomorrow, and he could see for himself that she was out of danger. That’s what she hoped after all.
The room was small and only had one table with a lamp on it, each rested in between the beds. The walls were painted a light yellow with dark forest green carpeting on the floor. There was nothing in the room that gave it any real character. This was a simple establishment, that was used as a rest stop for those just passing through.
She had her carry-on with her and took out her mirror to see how bad she looked. Her hair was a mess, so she freed it from the pins that held it in place and brushed it out. There was a washroom on the north side of the long building, and she thought it would be nice if all the units had its own separate bathrooms. She hoped that sometime in the future it would become a standard. When Leland returned, she would take a trip there to get washed up. She needed to change her clothes as well. She wasn’t that tired and thought she would only be taking a short rest, but Leland on the other hand looked like he was about to drop. She had a few books that she had packed and would catch up on her reading, while Leland got some sleep.
She had the latest Agatha Christie novel called The Man in the Brown Suit. It had just come out a week before, which was right after her birthday. Devlin knew how much she loved to read and bought it for her. Until now, she hadn’t had to the time to devote to it.
Her father hated the fact that she liked to read, and thought it wasn’t right for young women to read so much. They should instead be learning how to run a household, but she already knew how to cook and clean. She even learned to play the piano, more so to make her father happy knowing his love of classical music, but he would point out all the wrong notes she would hit even if no one else noticed.
She loved music and refused to let him ruin that for her as well. When he was gone, she would sit at the piano and play more modern jazz music, which he hated. None of the boys ever told on her and would often invite girls over when their father was away, and they would dance while she played. It was always fun pulling a fast one on the old man, but she figured that he deserved it.
She had just put her book on the nightstand when someone knocked on the door. She assumed it was Leland since no one knew she was there, and she had the only key.
“Lee?” she questioned out loud just to be sure.
“Who else?” he asked. She had only opened the door after hearing his voice, letting him inside. She grabbed her carry-on bag and headed back towards the door. “Where are you going?”
“The wash room,” she said, answering his question. She slung her bag over her shoulder and gave a little wave before exiting the room.
She walked down the walkway until she found the washroom and stepped inside. She thought it would be nice to have new clothes to put on. It didn’t take long for her to change, and she was able to wash up and style her hair properly. She opted to apply her makeup lightly, just enough to give her pale skin some color.
After she was done, she exited the washroom and was about to head back to the room when she spotted someone she recognized. It was Harold Gorman, one of her father’s employees. She stayed out of sight, so he wouldn’t spot her and watched as he was speaking to the boy that they saw earlier that gave her and Leland the last room available. There was an older man standing next to him. She stayed in her hiding place and listened to their conversation.
“I’ll ask you one more time,” Harold said, pointing his finger at the boy who looked a bit frightened. Herold was intimidating, and even though he was only of medium height for a man, he was husky and strong. His voice was deep which made him more frightening to a boy of his size. “Have you seen this girl?”
He held up the picture, and she knew it was of her. He hesitantly took it. “I-I…”
“Talk!” Harold shouted. Zorell was shaking but still she stayed hidden and silent.
“Don’t shout at my son,” the man said in a forceful tone. “Robby is a good boy and will help you anyway he can but shouting only makes him nervous.”
“I’m sorry, but I’ve come on behalf of Damon Dupree. I believe he owns the note on this land.” So, he was willing to blackmail these people to get her back. “She is his only daughter, and he fears that she may be in danger.”
“I-I know him,” Robby said and handed back the picture. “H-he stayed here before w-with another g-girl, but this g-girl had a ring o-on.”
“Do you remember his name?” his father asked.
“Y-yes, L-lee,” he said and looked over towards the place where Zorell was hiding. She stood still and quiet not wanting to be seen. Robby wouldn’t look at Harold, and Zorell could understand why. She guessed the boy had a nervous condition, and she figured that was why he stuttered.
He thought for a moment, while Zorell’s knees were shaking hoping the boy would send Harold in the wrong direction. His name is… Freeman. I-it’s the name he signed on the r-register.” The last word was hard for him to get out. Zorell gasped thinking that they were about to get caught.
“Leland Freeman?’ Harold asked, and the boy nodded. For some reason he let out a hardy laugh which confused Zorell. She thought about running, but Leland needed her. First, she wanted to find out exactly what her father’s yes man was going to do. “This is excellent,” he said with a grin and cramped his hands together near his chin.
“Do you wish to speak to him?” Robby’s father asked.
“No, and don’t tell him anyone was here looking for him or the girl,” Harold said and walked away. He stopped at a slightly dirty black car that had a streak of dust near bottom half. A good washing would have cleaned it. He got inside of the car, and she saw him slowly drive off, dirt flying up in the air creating a fog tainting her view slightly.
Zorell stood there for the longest time thinking that the whole scene came out of her imagination, but something told her it was real. Harold knew she was with Leland, and it was what her father wanted. Even though there was no real romantic attachment there was no reason for her father to know that.
Once she saw no one in sight she walked back to her room being wary of anyone who might appear in her sight. She had the key to the room and opened it to see Leland sleeping on one of the beds. It was in fact too small for him, and his feet were hanging of the edge of it. The sight of him lying there was kind of funny, and she needed something comical to get her mind off the fact that her father had already been looking for her.
She sat down on the empty bed and saw the book she had left on the small table and picked it up. Reading always made her forget about everything. She just hoped it would work this time. An hour passed, and she was so enthralled in her reading, that she didn’t notice that Leland had woken up and was staring at her as she sat on the bed with her feet up and her nose in her book.
“Romance?” he asked and she looked up rolling her eyes at him.
“Murder mystery,” she said and shook her head.
The only romances she ever read were written by Jane Austin. She once had the whole collection, but her father believed them to be vulgar and burned them, all but one. She managed to hide her copy of Pride and Prejudice. It was one of the books she brought with her. She had to leave most of her books behind, but she would soon replenish her collection once she was settled.
“I thought girls only read about love and romance,” he said as he wiped the sleep out of his eyes.
“Not this girl,” she said and closed the book. She managed to read five chapters while he slept. “I think we should get out of here as soon as possible.”
“I agree,” he said and his expression turned serious. “I want to be in Chicago before the end of the day.”
“There’s another reason,” she said, and he looked intrigued. He was sitting on the edge of the bed he had slept in. He put his shirt back on, but he still looked disheveled.
“Harold Gorman,” she said and a chill crept down her back.
“Who is that?” Leland asked her, looking confused.
“One of my father’s henchmen,” she said with a bit of sarcasm in her voice. She slipped her book back into her bag and closed it up. “He’s looking for me.”
“Then we’ll leave right away,” he said and stood up. He buttoned up his shirt and tucked it in haphazardly. He grabbed his travel bag and looked over towards Zorell. “Are you ready?”
“If you are,” she said and he took her hand and led her out of the room. Leland loaded their things into the trunk of the car and handed her his car key and walked to the main entrance of the motel to return the room key. After seeing the bruise on her arm, the night before, there was no way he was going to allow her to return to her father.
Zorell entered the car but sat in the driver’s seat. Since Leland drove the car practically all night, she would insist on driving the rest of the way, besides driving would get the fact that her father came looking for her out of her mind. Even though by now he believed that she had run off and married Leland, the truth would come out eventually, and she knew he would eventually come after her. By then she would be more prepared to deal with it.
She sat patiently waiting for her traveling companion. She heard footsteps before long and looked back to see that he was walking towards the car. She played it cool, just sitting in the driver’s seat pretending that she didn’t see him.
She had a grin on her face when he came up to the car window. “What do you think you’re going?” he asked.
“Well, I’ll be driving if you get your tail in this car,” she said and gave him a cheeky grin.
“There’s no way you are driving my car,” he said and stood there crossing his arms. “Dev told me horror stories about the way you drive.”
“I drive just fine, and besides you’re still too tired to be tackling the road,” Zorell said and refused to budge, but Leland was unrelenting as well. “Do you want to get to Chicago or not?”
He stood there not saying anything, just standing his ground, but he didn’t realize that it was Zorell who had the upper hand. After all, she was in the driver’s seat with the car ready to drive off without him if she had to.
“Oh, fine, you can drive,” he said, giving into her. He entered the car with a sour look on his face. He turned towards her pointing his finger at her as if he were ready to scold her. “I’ll tell right now that the first sign of trouble…”
“No, lectures… just sit back and enjoy the ride,” she said and he let out a gruff sigh. He sat back and looked as if he was about to face a firing squad.
“Just don’t get us killed,” he said and she burst out laughing, awhile driving off.
Their destination was close at hand, and neither one of them truly knowing what they would find when they got there.