Valentine’s Day was two days away, and four days had passed since Liz had last seen or spoken to Hank—the love of her life. He had left for work and never returned—none of his friends had heard from him either. But, like clockwork, each morning at seven-fifteen, her doorbell would ring, and each morning she would find a package with an attached envelope sitting on the welcome mat.
Tears ran down her face as the letter she had just finished reading, joined the other three on the floor of her bedroom. She stared out the window and cried. Hank had left her for good and she was sure he was not coming back.
Each day the attached letter would be nastier than the last, and each letter was signed Dude—her pet name for Hank. The packages had contained personal items she had made for Hank. But the last package that arrived on that morning—broke her heart—it held the ring she had bought him last year for Valentine’s Day. The inscription around the inner circle read ‘Love Prevails, Liz and Hank forever’.
Liz continued to stare out the window as her bedroom door swung open. When it banged into the nightstand—the beloved ring fell to the floor and clanged as it bounced up and down. The final clatter before it stopped spinning finally broke her trance.
“Mom—” said her daughter, Arizona—a pet name given her by Hank. “I’ve been banging on your door for a couple of minutes. What’s—” Arizona stopped when she saw her mother pointing at the floor. Arizona picked up the letters. Read them, and then read them again. “This is not like him,” she said, as she picked up the ring and placed it back on the nightstand. “Do you want me to stay home with you?”
Liz shook her head. “No . . . I’ll be fine. Go . . . someone has to open the shop.”
“Ok . . . I’ll open the shop, but I’m coming home at lunchtime. Get some rest”. Arizona left her mother and walked the six blocks to the novelty shop her mother had established when she started dating Hank.
Appropriately named ‘Love Prevails’, the shop made and sold trinkets of love. Made from the heart, for the heart, that was their motto. Sheer happenstance caused Arizona to look back toward the house as she turned the corner, and sure, as God made little green apples—AJ the Stalker was standing on the sidewalk, staring into her mother’s bedroom window.
Arizona thought back to her first sighting of AJ a couple of months prior, she had noticed the creep following her mother around. Riled and out of anger—she called him an Ass Jack. Her mom had laughed and said, “Don’t you mean Jackass?” She had laughed at her mother’s retort.
“Fine,” she remembered saying. “I’ll call him AJ.” They both had a good laugh and her mother insisted that AJ was harmless. Arizona thought different, and feeling he may have had a hand in Hanks disappearance —she made a few phone calls. She knew how much Hank loved her mom and in her heart—something was wrong. Her posse began to arrive, and everyone given a few block radius to patrol. They would follow AJ the Stalker and find where he called home.
Arizona closed the shop at noon and headed home to check on her mom. She spotted AJ hiding in the bushes across the street from her house and flushed him out. A quick call on the party line she had established—put everyone on the move.
The first young woman tailing AJ was made, and quickly let the group know. The second and third tails were also made. But Arizona had called a few of Hanks friends, too, and they were stationed at all the local bars. AJ was totally caught off guard when he entered an abandoned building only to be accosted by Hanks best friend Redd—the owner of his and Liz’ favorite German restaurant. It wasn’t long before Redd had AJ singing like a canary. With his plans of having Liz all to himself thwarted, and convinced that Redd meant business—AJ coughed up the location where Hank was confined. When Redd received word that Hank was secured and off to the hospital, he called his pal at the local precinct to come and retrieve AJ.
When Liz and Hank walked into the Village Lanterne on Valentine’s Day eve—they were met with a chorus of cheers.
Arizona went all out to make sure it would be her mother’s best day ever. “Happy Valentine’s Day, Mom. I hope you enjoy your present.”
Meet the Author
Gene Hilgreen lives in Lindenhurst, NY with his faithful companion Millie a rescued Border collie.Learn more