a true story
by Camille DaSilva © 2014
He stood in the door. Raindrops hung in his dark beard and curly hair. His clothes were drenched.
“You better be nice to me!” he said, laughing. “I stood in the rain thirty minutes getting your bag and trying to lock the trailer door.”
She hugged him. “Thanks honey. What was wrong with the lock?”
“I don’t know. The key stuck.”
He kissed her goodnight and she dragged her suitcase into the hotel room. The whole lot of them were exhausted. For two-and-a-half weeks now they had been on the road, traveling four to six hours every morning, loading in, performing Christmas music, and then getting back at the hotel after midnight just to get up again at before dawn to load out and travel again.
Plus, they were all sick.
Michaela was running a 101 degree fever. She was a small, pretty girl, with a passion for mathematics and engineering.
Gretchen, a tall, natural blonde, was sick with a cold that antibiotics would not budge. In only two weeks she was scheduled to start recording on her own album. She was a born song-writer, Joni Mitchell style, with a clear, velvety voice.
Camille, her sister, had brown hair and bangs and blue eyes, and she was getting ready to be married in only two-and-a-half weeks. She was the only one who had been saved from getting sick. She thought it was because James had been the first to get sick, and since she was always around him, she probably got naturally immunized. Or else it was the constant supply of Emergen-C that she kept with her.
Probably she’d hold off getting sick till Christmas, and then she’d get it worse than anyone else. That’s what happened last year.
Tonight she was wired. They had to leave extra early tomorrow, at 5:30am, and it was already 12:30am. Sometimes she enjoyed being extra organizational, so she wound the hour away as she reorganized her suitcase, ground her coffee beans, packed up every possible item that she could do without in the morning, poured her morning portion of vitamins onto the desk, showered and braided her hair.
In the midst of this obsessive-compulsive behavior, Gretchen was looking outside the hotel window.
“Does this seem weird to you all?” she said, withdrawing her head from the curtains.
Michaela walked over and looked out. “Whoa…”
“What is it?” Camille asked.
“It’s just a white van that is stalling in the parking lot with its lights on. It’s been there for thirty minutes or so. It looks kind of suspicious.”
“Well, they can see you through the window with all the lights on.”
“Oh man, you’re right.” They withdrew from the window. Camille turned out all the lights, enjoying the suspense––especially after having just finished watching the entire season of Sherlock Holmes and being an especial fan of Alfred Hitchcock–– and secretly pretended she was Grace Kelly in Rear Window. She got down on her knees, turned the incredibly annoying air conditioner unit off so it didn’t blow up her nose, and peered out a tiny sliver in the curtains,
Actually, it was very creepy looking. No pretending about it. “Y’all, this isn’t funny,” she said. “It’s an old van, with its lights on and the windshield wipers going, and it’s not even parked. It’s just stalling in the road of the parking lot. In the rain. And it’s after 1am. And our trailer is right there.”
Nobody was getting in or out of the vehicle, but break-ins had happened before, and they imagined the destroying party would probably ride in an old fifteen-passenger van and keep it ready to drive off just in case they got caught.
“All our instruments are in the trailer,” Gretchen said.
“Should we call somebody?” Michaela said
The last thing they needed was having their trailer broken into in the middle of a grueling Christmas tour. 18 concerts in 22 days, and the 4 days off had been made busy with such enjoyable rest and relaxation like sending out huge mail-outs of Christmas merchandise, dropping off harps in the middle of downtown Chicago for repairs, flying 13 sick under-slept people with babies and luggage and strollers and carseats and merchandise and instruments from one tiny uncommercial airport to another smaller tiny uncommercial airport with no good coffee shops anywhere… yes. Definitely didn’t need a break-in right now.
“Are you calling somebody?”
“Yeah. Nobody will answer their phone. Oh, here’s James.” She told James the circumstances on the phone and hung up.
“Is he going to get in touch with somebody?”
“I think so,” Gretchen said. “It’s probably nothing.”
“I think it is really weird! Nobody just stalls in hotel back parking lots in old white vans after midnight on cold rainy nights. They probably saw ya’ll watching through the window and are waiting till they think you’re asleep.”
In her mind’s eye she imagined the criminals sneaking into the hotel while she wasn’t looking and knocking on their hotel door. She would open it, thinking it was James, and… She could probably throw her coffee grinder at them.
Camille felt impatient and called James for an update. It was 1:15am now. “Hey, honey! Did you get in touch with anyone?”
There was disturbance in his phone, wind brushing the microphone.
“Where are you?”
“I’m going out to check the trailer.”
“WHAT?!?!?! Do you want to get shot? What do you think you’re doing?!”
“I’m just going to check the trailer and make sure it’s locked.”
“Oh my gosh. I’m going to stay on the phone with you and watch you from the window.”
She threw the window curtains open and stood right up close to the panes, so that the criminals knew somebody was watching them. She saw James in his leather jacket walk across the parking lot in the rain, his iPhone to his ear. When she was talking to him she was very upset that he was being a hero. But secretly she thought it was kind of romantic.
He disappeared behind the trailer. She was glad he was checking, actually, because the criminals could have gone to the side of the trailer she couldn’t see and be breaking in this entire time without her knowing about it.
She watched the white van, with its lights blaring in the parking lot and the windshield wipers swishing back and forth in the rain. Somebody in a white shirt was sitting in the front driver’s seat, fidgeting. She couldn’t see anybody else in there. They were stalling in the side of the parking lot, ready to gun it and get out of there at any moment.
Finally James re-emerged from the trailer and came walking back, his phone to his ear. “Was it safe?” Camille said.
“Yeah, it’s all locked up. That van is weird though.”
“I’m going to call the police,” Camille said. “It’s getting close to 2am and they’re still there.”
“Are they really still there?” Michaela asked.
Gretchen sleepily called from the bed, “Are you sure we aren’t blowing this out of proportion? How are you going to call the police?”
Camille went to the phone and dialed 0 for the front desk. “Um, yeah, I’m just up here in my room and I can see this old van from the window. They’ve been sitting there with their lights on for an hour or more, nobody getting in or out, just sitting there. It’s not even parked. I don’t know, it just looks kinda suspicious.”
“I’ll call the police for a drive-by checkup,” the front-desk lady said. She was cool as a cucumber.
Camille was getting sleepy, so she climbed into bed and set her timer for fifteen minutes, estimating that the police would take exactly fifteen minutes to arrive. She called James.
“Yeah, I was just about to tell the front desk woman the same thing when you called her. I was standing in front of her when you were with her on the phone. Yes, I think it’s a good idea. Better safe than sorry,” James said. “Now go to bed honey.”
She lay there, parceling it all out in her mind. She wasn’t about to go to bed until she saw the police come and see what happened. Something this exciting didn’t happen every day of the week.
When fifteen minutes were up she got out of bed, peeked through a crack in the hotel curtains, and, sure enough, the police had arrived and were questioning the person in the van.
They talked a while and then the tall police man took aside the short police woman for a private conference. They came back to the window of the car, spoke some more, and then the suspicious van drove off.
The short police woman talked with the tall police man for a little while longer. She was speaking very fervently and high-pitched. If she listened hard enough, Camille could hear the tones of her conversation through the window. She kept jabbing her thumb at the big trailer in the parking lot.
Finally the police cars drove away. It was 2:20am. She updated Gretchen and Michaela on the police scene, and then drifted off to sleep
The 5 a.m. alarm clock went off brutally. The three girls were dressed and downstairs in half an hour. Camille filled her French press at the Hampton Inn’s hot water station while James got a green tea for his sore throat.
“Did you hear?” he said.
“I asked the front desk lady this morning before her night shift ended, and she said the police told her that the person in the van was a woman who was suspicious that her husband was having an affair on her. She had staked out in the parking lot to watch if he came out.”
Camille gaped at him, feeling her guts broil with the horror of it. “That is awful! What was she planning to do? Hit him with the car when he came out? What woman in her right mind would drive a huge 15-passenger van to a Hampton Inn and stay stalling in the parking lot road all night with the lights on?” Her early obsession with Nancy Drew came back to her mind, and it flashed through her mind how the woman probably checked her husband’s bank accounts and saw suspicious bills at the Hampton Inn that complemented his late night homecomings.
“I don’t know. Pretty terrible.”
They looked around at the guests in the breakfast room, shrugged their shoulders, and walked out the doors.