Jenny paused on the expansive lawn for a moment to slip on her tennis shoes. With a pounding heart she ran across the open stretch of lawn toward the curving road. Racing away from the estate, she frantically waved at a passing black Cadillac. The car slowed, stopped and backed up.
She ran to the passenger's side, and quickly slipped inside. "Oh, please," she pleaded to the driver, a silver-haired gentleman, "please take me to a telephone. I've been kidnaped."
The man didn't start moving until Jenny turned to look anxiously out the back window. "Please get me away from here."
He accelerated and drove around the curve and into an elongated brick driveway down the mountain road.
"Where are you taking me?" Jenny scarcely recognized her own voice.
"It's okay. This is my home. You may use the phone here. My name is Nathan Klein. We'll call the police from my home."
Jenny turned to look out the back window. Exhaling a relieved sigh when he stopped in his driveway, she bolted blindly from the car.
The Klein home, adorned with cupolas and spires and scrolled balconies, was a veritable mansion. Jenny glanced back at Nathan Klein. She was shaking visibly. Nathan took her arm to steady her and she followed him into the entryway of his luxurious home.
"Barbara," he called. "This young lady needs our help. She escaped from a kidnapper. We must call the police."
Jenny paled, "Oh, no, please don't do that."
Barbara Klein, a tall, elegant lady in her early sixties, walked toward them, her eyebrows lifted. "You've been kidnapped? In this area? How did you escape?"
Jenny managed a shaky laugh. "Not really kidnaped. I just need...to get away. It's the earthquake. It's rather unnerved me. You see, I'm from Chicago and the first time I've had such a frightful experience."
Barbara smiled and drew Jenny further into the house. "Well, yes, dear, this earthquake has frightened everyone. Fortunately, we have our electricity back and the telephone's working. You may use our phone in the den."
Jenny followed Barbara into an exquisite book-lined den, and sank into an overstuffed chair. "I'll need a telephone directory."
Jenny searched for the number of the hospital, and quickly dialed. "I'd like to speak to a patient, Philip Lansing."
The harassed operator at the other end spoke hurriedly. "Just a moment, I'll connect you to the fourth floor."
Jenny repeated her request to the nurse at the fourth floor station and waited with joyous expectancy. In just a moment, she'd talk to her father, hear him assure her that he was all right. Instead, the phone rang five times before it was picked up.
"Who is this please?" a female voice asked.
"This is Jenny Lansing. May I speak to my father?"
"I'm sorry, that's impossible. He's in no condition to talk."
"What do you mean? Is he okay?"
"You must ask his doctor. He'll be in a little later this morning."
"I'll be there as soon as possible." Jenny replaced the receiver and looked up into the kindly face of Barbara Klein who handed her a tissue for her falling tears.
"I couldn't help but overhear your conversation, dear. Nathan and I will be happy to drive you to the hospital."
"Thank you, thank you. Can we leave now?"
Nathan Klein appeared in the doorway. "It's best if you wait until morning. It's close to midnight, and the streets are not safe."
Jenny stood. "Oh please, take me now. I don't have my bag so I have no money to pay you, but i'll send you a check when I get home. "And," she almost wailed, "I don't have a change of clothing."
Barbara Klein, an active member of a Los Angeles society to shelter abused women, walked toward Jenny with outstretched hand.
"Come dear. Since we're about the same height and size, we'll find something in my closet. As for money, we can help you until you retrieve your purse. Come, freshen up, and change your clothes."
Jenny followed her up a curved stairway to a luxurious upstairs bedroom, and into a walk-in closet filled with an abundance of casual pants and tops, gala outfits and shelves of shoes.
"You may need to freshen up." Barbara said. "Please feel free to use my cosmetics in the top drawer. And then select something comfortable from my closet. I'll wait in the bedroom."
Jenny hurriedly washed her face, applied a touch of lipstick and changed into a pair of Barbara's classic black jeans. She pulled an aqua turtleneck over her head.
Barbara smile when Jenny appeared in the doorway. "That color suits you with your dark hair and green eyes. Looks better on you than me. So, I donate it to you."
A lump gathered in Jenny's throat. "You're too kind, and you know nothing about me."
"I know you're in trouble and that's all I need to know." Barbara said crisply. Jenny followed Barbara down the stairs to their den, a showcase for antiques and collectibles.
Nathan was carrying a large silver tray with steaming cups of mint tea and cookies. He set it down on a carved mahogany coffee table and pointed to chairs opposite him.
"Now," he said to Jenny, "would you like to tell us what this is all about? What are you doing up here in the mountains?"
Jenny twirled the delicate blue china cup in her hands, and looked down into the steaming tea. She averted her gaze from the puzzled faces
of her benefactors. "I can't explain the circumstances that brought me here, please understand. I can't." How could she make them comprehend something she couldn't understand herself?
She looked around their immense den. "Your home suffered so little damage."
"We were fortunate." Barbara nodded, "so many of our neighbors suffered devastating losses."
Nathan, a retired CEO of a large California software corporation, wasn't so easily dissuaded. He remained seated, and leaned toward Jenny. "You mentioned you were kidnaped. If that's the case, we must call the police."
"Oh did I say that? What I meant was I had a date with an unfortunate ending, if you get my meaning." Feeling guilty about the half-truth, Jenny glanced down at her hands, a gesture not lost on Nathan Klein.
He sat back, and lifted his heavy brows. "How about the truth, young lady?"
Barbara looked at her husband. "Nathan, how can you? She's had a bad experience, and we don't really need to know the details. She's safe now, and we must help her." She turned to Jenny. "Dear, why don't you stay the night, get some rest and we'll drive you to the hospital in the morning."
Jenny swiftly reacted. "No, no, please, take me tonight." She glanced nervously out the darkened windows. She must remove herself as far as possible from Curly, and the eerie Gavota estate. Nothing or no one would rescue her once Sammy Gavota arrived.
Barbara noticed Jenny shiver. "It's chilly. Let me get you a coat, Jenny."
Watching her leave the room, Jenny thought of the negative comments she'd heard about the snobbishness of Californians. She'd found the opposite. Since the earth had violently moved, she'd been offered an amazing amount of compassion and generosity. The Fergusons had generously lent them their automobile, and these people were extending
their help to a complete stranger. These were acts of kindness she would remember forever.
Nathan stood and looked intently at Jenny. "I think you should tell us the whole story."
Barbara walked in and handed Jenny a coat. "Nathan," she said, "this girl is in trouble. You do remember our promise to help anyone running from something... or someone."
Nathan nodded and took his keys from his pocket. "Let's go. It's a little drive to the hospital and the roads are quite disrupted."
Jenny could think of nothing to say. She couldn't stop shivering. Each time a car passed the house, fear set her heart to hammering.
"Nathan, we must help this girl." She turned to Jenny. "We'll drive you to the hospital and pray your father is not injured."
If she hadn't been engulfed with terror over the proximity of the Gavota estate and the possibility that Curly might be roaming the street searching for her, Jenny would have hesitated to involve these kind people. But her emotions were chaotic and she could only think to run as far from this place as possible.
On the drive down the mountainous road, Jenny slipped down into the back seat until Nathan reached the bottom of the hill and entered the freeway.
Jenny covered her face and sobbed. "How can I ever thank you? You rescued me, gave me clothes, and a way to get to my father. Why have you been so kind to me, a stranger?"
Barbara turned to her with a soft smile. "You are in need, Jenny. As Jews whose families found refuge in the homes of compassionate people during the war, we've pledged ourselves to shelter all who need help in time of trouble."
Jenny suddenly remembered her prayer for help. She had thanked the Kleins, now she must thank God for His help during the darkest hour of her life.
She closed her eyes and whispered a grateful prayer. If she had been looking, she would have noticed two cars drive slowly past the Gavota estate and stop directly in front of the Klein home. Two men sat in the dark Chevrolet.
The driver of the Chevy was talking on a cellular phone to a man in the green Taurus just ahead of them.
Chapter 21 || Table of Contents