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“I—I,” was all I managed to mutter. My throat was dry, my tongue tied. Thoughts were spinning around my head. Sam knew I was already betrothed to Lloyd. Why would he ask me such a bold question? But if we did manage to escape and leave Chicago forever, the engagement would be off and I would be free to do as I please…
“Look,” Sam said hastily with a broken look on his face, “You don’t have to answer me now. At least let me get you as far away from Lloyd as I can get you.” Looking bewildered all I could do was nod. Sam still looking hurt, tried to smile, grabbed my hand and lead me to a car.
The car was loaded with piles of suitcases in the backseat. Sam politely said, “You’ll have to sit in the front with me, the back is full.” Still tongue tied, all I did was smile and nod. Sam helped me up and hurried to the other side. He quickly started the engine and pulled out onto the busy Main Street.
Finally finding my voice I managed to utter, “How..did you do this?”
Sam smiled politely, looked around to make sure no one was close and said plainly, “Months of careful planning and secrecy.”
My eyes bulged. “S—so y—you had this p—planned all along?” I asked, my voice shaking.
“Yup,” he said with a grin.
Well of course it had to have taken months of planning. He had to set up where we were going, what we would need, he’d need to have everything ready.
Clearing my throat I got my voice back to full strength and spoke with clear articulation this time. “Where are we going?”
“Please. I’ll tell you everything you need to know when we get to Virginia,” he said while peering into all the mirrors, checking our surroundings. He was clearly nervous about any followers Lloyd might have sent after us once he, Lloyd, realized we were gone. I folded my arms and turned away because of what he said. “Everything you need to know,” that’s just how Lloyd was with me. So what if I am a woman? I understand just as much as they do.
Sam noticed my sudden anger and asked, “Is everything okay?” Feeling a little better since he actually cared for me I told him about his mistake and its resemblance to those that Lloyd had made. He agreed not to belittle me again and as the lights of the city behind us grew fainter and fainter and the surrounding area became less and less populated I felt myself drifting into a much needed slumber.
When I woke up it was still dark. I picked my head up to look around. We were in the middle of nowhere, on the edge of an empty meadow near some trees. The car was stopped and everything was silent. I looked to my left and saw Sam leaning against the window sleeping with a smile on his face. How could he be so happy at a time like this? What could he possibly be dreaming about to make him this joyful?
I nudged him on his shoulder. Nothing happened. “Psst, Sam. Are you awake?” I asked him ever so quietly scared to make any loud noises.
“Mm,” he said, trying to turn over.
“Sam,” I said a little louder, “Sam can you hear me?”
“Mmhmm…” he grunted.
Getting frustrated now I took off his hat and hot him over the bridge of his nose with it. Nothing happened. This man could sleep with a war going on right outside the window. Which is what I am afraid of. Finally, thinking of a foreign film she had heard about where a man fell in love with a woman, but the woman fell into a deep sleep. So he searched for her and upon finding her he kissed her.
Building up all the courage I could muster, I leaned forward staring into Sam’s sweet face. I closed my eyes, got really close to him and it happened. Our lips touched ever so lightly and it felt like the most magical thing in the entire world. Better than anything Lloyd would be able to buy me. Sam jolted, startled by what was waking him up. I started to back away, but instead Sam grabbed a hold of me and passionately kissed me. We stayed locked in each other’s arms for a few moments more.
After letting go Sam said wearily, “Good morning.”
“Is it morning?” I asked.
“Well, I don’t know to be completely honest with ya.”
“Where are we?”
“Just outside of Richmond, Kentucky. We are a lot closer now.”
“Where exactly are we going?”
“First we are going to get some breakfast. Then we are going to Norfolk, Virginia. Then when we arrive there you have your choice.”
“What do you mean?”
“You’ll see,” Sam said with grin on his face. I stared at him coldly for a moment. I decided to let this one slip. I do like surprises after all. Sam started the car and pulled back onto the road. We drove for what seemed like an eternity passing small town after small town not stopping once. After stopping near another field for the night and starting back on the road, we ran out of food. Driving onward, we stopped in Roanoke, Virginia to eat lunch. During the meal I wanted to find out as much as possible about everything. So I asked Sam question after question.
“Why are we going to Norfolk?” I asked while we were waiting for the waitress to come back.
“Because…I know people, good people that can help us there no matter what your decision is,” he confessed.
“How did you plan this escape?”
“Months of buying necessary items, setting up a safe haven, making sure you were comfortable…”
Before I could stop myself I blurted out the question, “Why?”
After a moment of silence he hesitated and said, “…why, what?”
“Why would you risk your life to save me. Why does it matter to you if I am happy or not?”
Sam looked down at the table. He seemed depressed and too shy to answer such bold questions. He opened his mouth and in a barely audible whisper he started to say, “…because…because…I—I…”
Bang! Somewhere in the street somewhere fired off a shot. People started to scream and run around hysterically. Sam’s head snapped up immediately and said, “C’mon we gotta get outta here.”
Not hesitating for one minute I got up and headed for the front door when someone grabbed my wrist. It was Sam. “No,” he whispered, “It’s too dangerous to go out the front. C’mon there’s gotta be a back entrance.”
Following close behind Sam holding onto the sleeve of his gray trench coat. As we made our way through the kitchen and out the back door over the screams and crashes of things being knocked over, I could hear a man screaming, “WHERE IS SHE!”
Looking towards the street I tried to make out the scene but all I could see was a blur of more people running in every direction as more gunshots rang out. Sam stopped, turned and held me in his arms.
“Just keep moving no matter what. Don’t stop. Whatever happens keep course for Norfolk. Once you’re there find a man and woman with the last name Horowitz. The man’s first name is Mikhail and the woman’s is Eliana. Look for them and they will help you. Please be sure to find them.” Sam said in rush, tears cascading down his face.
“I promise,” I managed to choke out. Tears were now falling from my own eyes. Before turning and running away from our chasers, I kissed Sam again. After our quick embrace there were more shots and screams. We headed for our car which Sam had parked on a whole other street to be on the safe side.
While I stood in the shadows of the alley way, Sam went to go make sure the coast was clear. When it was he ran to the car to start it. After the engine was running he motioned for me to join him. I quickly walked to the car and slid in the passenger’s seat. Sam sped onto the road that would take us closer to the safe place that he had set up.
After an hour on the road, I noticed a car behind us on the road with Illinois license plates. Holding my breath I tugged on Sam’s sleeve and he just nodded. Who was in the car behind us? Was it just a coincidence that someone else from Illinois was in this part of Virginia, or was it…Lloyd? Staying on course, we acted as normally as possible. The car followed us through town after town. When we reached a little village, the gas tank was running on empty. I looked at Sam, his expression matched the look of worry on my face. When we saw a gas station, Sam pulled. Sitting in the car, holding our breath we waited. But the other car just kept going.
“Thank God that’s over,” I breathed. Sam nodded in agreement, got out and filled up the tank. After buying us both a snack and drink, Sam got back in the car. We were back on the road in a matter of minutes.
“We’re about 10 miles away from Norfolk now,” Sam said relieved. I smiled back at him and grabbed his hand and squeezed it tightly.
“Who are Mikhail and Eliana Horowitz?” I asked trying to make the atmosphere less tense as we got closer to our safe haven.
“My parents,” Sam replied honestly.
“Your p—parents? But you said your parents were dead. And that your last name was Ricci,” I replied, bewildered. Sam was the only one of Lloyd’s friends that I ever trusted and it was mainly because of his honesty.
“Well my real name is Samuel Horowitz. I worked for the police department in Norfolk and was transferred to Chicago to work undercover in the mafia. And now that I have a real witness, we might be able to book them,” he said with enthusiasm. I couldn’t believe what he was saying. At least he was a good guy. Way better than Lloyd, that’s for sure.
“…Thank you so much Sam…”
“It was my pleasure Viv.”
Pt—pt! The car’s engine made an awful noise just 2 miles outside of Norfolk. Sam tried starting it back up, but nothing happened. He looked at me with apologetic eyes.
“It’s okay Sam. We can walk from here. We are really close aren’t we?” I asked trying to reassure him.
“Yeah. My folks live on the edge of the city so it shouldn’t be too far from here.” We both got out of the car. On the shoulder of the road I spotted a little wagon that would be perfect to carry some of the bags. I fetched, helped Sam load it up and began walking towards our final destination. We were a few yards away from the abandoned car when, from out of the shrubs surrounding them came Lloyd and his henchmen. I froze on the spot. Sam looked up to see what happened and noticed who was now walking down the quiet highway with us. Sam moved closer to me as did the gangsters.
“Vivian, run!” Sam whispered.
“No,” I replied frozen to where I stood.
“Please Viv, save yourself,” he pleaded. I shook my head as the other men moved closer. “Fine, if you won’t move and save yourself I want you to know this…I—I love you!” Sam declared loud enough for only me to hear. I was now fighting back tears. Resisting the urge to grab Sam and never let go, I stood my ground not even flinching as the mafia pulled out their guns.
“Now Viv, I am gonna give you one, and only one chance to come over here with me and come back home to Chicago where you and I belong,” Lloyd said with as much authority as he could muster. That’s when it hit me, an idea to save myself and Sam. And finally rid myself of Lloyd for good.
Hoping and praying to God that I would not hurt Sam too much, I raised my head as high as possible. While fighting back tears I marched over to where Lloyd stood and took my place at his side. Looking up at Sam I could see the pain all over his face. I wish I could tell him the plan.
“Good girl Viv. Since you came quietly I promise to forgive you for this little incident,” said Lloyd smugly. Turning to face Sam, Lloyd said, “Now Sam…I think you know what we do with people who misbehave…boys”
Without waiting another second, I sprang into action. I grabbed the gun out of its holster on Lloyd’s wide hip. I pointed it directly at the back of Lloyd’s head.
“Drop the guns or he gets it!” I shouted at the bloodthirsty gangsters. Panic stricken they looked around not knowing who to listen to. Lloyd was shaking violently now, giant beads of sweat pouring down the nape of his neck. He nodded at the boys and they dropped their guns immediately. Sam pounced and grabbed as many as he could hold—all four of them.
“Now,” Sam said his voice steady, “If I were you four I’d get out of here and forget you’d ever known my buddy Lloyd over here.” Looking at each other the gangsters ran in the same direction as fast as they could. As soon as they were out of sight, Sam turned to Lloyd and said, “Now…what to do with you?”
“Please don’t kill me,” Lloyd pleaded.
“Oh I’m not going to kill you know. But I want you to apologize to Vivian right now.” Lloyd mumbled ‘I’m sorry’ and cowered even lower.
“Viv, if you don’t mind I’ll take over from here.”
I nodded and stepped back, hands shaking. We started walking into town and went straight to the police station. We left Lloyd there where he was to be transported back to Chicago where he would have some court hearings.
Back at Sam’s parents’ house, everything was quite alright for me right now. Sam and I were in love and finally safe from Lloyd.
On the evening of Lloyd’s expected arrival in Chicago Sam and I were sitting on the front porch of his parents’ house. We were holding hands, listening to the various sounds of the neighborhood. But the silence was broken when Sam asked a complicated question.
“What is your choice?”
“What are my options?” I replied.
“Well…” Sam started out, but he was interrupted by his dad who had just rushed out onto the porch, yelling,
“He’s escaped! They don’t know where he is! Lloyd has gone missing! He is on the loose!”
Palm Desert, California
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