My Brother's Keeper
Unedited Chapter One
Elle didn't like what she was hearing in Tallulah Hatch's voice. Fear, has its own sound and it assaulted
Elle's mind. "Slow down Lu, the traffic noise is confusing your message." Making her voice calming,
warm in an icy sea of hysteria was all Elle could hope to achieve to help her friend over whatever crisis
that had her derailed now. Indeed, she sounded like a run-away-freight train on a collision course with
"It's your father….Well, it's way more than your father, but you have to come home. All sorts of bad
stuff… It's awful Elle, I…."
Her voice faded off into the ether as a car pulled close to the phone Tallulah was using. Why a pay
phone? Why at a wayside? Elle knew form the background noise it was exactly as she thought. She held
her breath…"Lu, Tallulah—Are you okay?"
"Miss can you tell me how to get to Sayner Lodge?"
Elle heard a deep male voice obviously asking Tallulah for directions. Tallulah's voice, finally, giving
those directions with her typical rapid fire woman-of-substance meter and volume.
A gush of wind pushed noisily out from her as released the breath Elle held hostage because of the
trepidation she held in for the long moments when Tallulah had gone silent.
Tallulah raised the phone, Elle could hear the movement as she waited for Tallulah to speak again.
"You're welcome, safe trip." Tallulah obviously was bidding the traveler on his way.
Elle could almost see her wave the traveler on.
"Sorry, car scared me." She said as an explanation for her absence.
Why would she be afraid of a car approaching, certainly, not in or around sleepy, nothing-ever-happens-
here Echo. "where are you?"
"I couldn't chance using a phone back home. I'm at a wayside far enough away, I mean, it's a nightmare. I,
I—you, have to come back, now!"
The urgency in her voice sounded like that was all the information Tallulah was prepared to give over the
phone. Elle had to make the trip she had been dreading. She wanted to go home, nearly as much as she
dreaded the confrontation with her father if, not if, but when she did. "Okay. Hang in there. I'll try to
make arrangements to come home for the weekend. Can I call you later?"
There was a long pause and Elle waited listening to freeway traffic rushing, hissing, speeding –not
noticing her friend's angst. Life was like that, she concluded. "Lu, are you there? Look, I'll get a room at
The Duck Inn, Come by on Saturday morning I'll be there. Can you do that?" Whatever had her held
hostage was too frightening for Lu to consider having Elle call her and she didn't want to be part of the
trouble Tallulah was feeling at the moment.
"s,sorry, I was thinking. Ya, ya, okay—I can do that, about nine? Ya nine would be good he is usually
gone by then."
It sounded to Elle like Tallulah was talking to herself. Trying to convince herself she could indeed, do
that. Elle didn't like the way her friend sounded. Don't come unglued until I get there. What could be so
horrific as to make Tallulah, who used to fear nothing, go off the deep end like this? Who was the he she
referred to, and why was she so afraid of him? "I'll see you Saturday then. Whenever you can get there is
fine. We'll do breakfast somewhere."
"Will you have a car?"
What an odd thing to ask. There was no way she could drive to Echo, not for a weekend. "I'll rent one
from O'Hare airport in Chicago."
"Oh good. No one will know that one."
Every minute she talked with Tallulah seemed to get more strange. She nearly hated to hang up the phone
for fear her friend's safety and—form the sound of her—her sanity would collapse. Tallulah sounded
about ready to be pushed off a craggy cliff. Elle couldn't let that happen.
It had been nearly a year since she had heard from Tallulah. Elle's letters went unanswered and the last
couple returned as undeliverable. She never had time to ask about that, she couldn't reach her by phone as
the number had changed to an unlisted number. She thought perhaps their friendship had eroded as
friendships sometimes do with distance and life style changes, but…
Slowly, Elle replaced the phone in its cradle. She'd need to make flight arrangements. IT would be costly
with such a short notice, but how could she not. Tallulah sounded desperate.
What about her father? She was overseas on a job when her mother died, that probably made her look
even worse in his eyes. He never tried to reach me, only Tallulah did. That was little comfort now, and
she felt the guilt envelop her again.
Elle clicked on her lap top computer and pulled up the travel service she normally used. Ginger's printed
voice was cheerful and full of life as usual. Arrangements were easy, she wished the rest could go that
That done among the usual banter and talk about what exciting thing Elle was up to now, Elle pulled her
calendar up to figure out how to rearrange or cancel everything that she'd need to either ditch or delegate
for the next few days. At least for the weekend she'd need to be away, she hoped not longer. One good
thing about being your own boss, you had choices, usually.
Penny Westcott could field most of Elle's clients while she was away. Weekends were never that
demanding. She dialed Penny's number. "Just the weekend I hope. If for any reason it turns out to be
longer, I'll call you right away."
Why should she even entertain that thought, except for Tallulah's near frantic pleading, how could Elle
expect to fix her father or her relationship with him or anything else in a weekend.
Truth was, she worried it would be too uncomfortable to spend more time then that where she wasn't
welcomed or wanted. Going home, "You can never go home again," the old axiom scratched through her
mind on combat boots. Going home should be a celebrations, it felt more like a burden. Elle squared her
shoulders, it may be a burden, but it was her burden. Regardless of what had transpired ten years ago, life
goes on. People change. She had repaid every dime to the tribe for the loans to get her through school. She
never liked nursing—she switched careers mid-stream, so what. People did that all the time. And then
Dominique—happened. Italy was gorgeous. She could have, should have, been deliriously happy there, if
Elle pushed that thought back into the closet of her mind where people keep their skeletons. Time to
move on. She packed her suit case and went to bed. Let tomorrow take care of itself.