It was 2:30 in the morning. Susan was woken by a phone call from a supposed acquaintance of her sister, Veronica. "Come quickly Veronica fall down stair - She hurt - broken a leg!'
How many more times was Susan supposed to bail her younger sister out of trouble.
'Who are you and where is Veronica?'
'I send you address - you come quick!' and the phone went dead.
Susan pulled on her coat and slipped her feet into her boots. How many more times am I going to do this for you Veronica? She thought to herself. I am so tired of these calls for help in the middle of the night. Where will I find you tonight?
The ping of her phone shook her out of her thoughts. She ran her finger over the screen and saw a message from an number she did not recognize. As she Punched in the address on her google map app, she made her way to her car.
I used to be afraid of going to these remote places to collect Veronica, now I do it so regularly it is like another day at the office, but you know what - I am angry, very angry right now. This has to stop.
Susan negotiated her way through a dingy part of town. Watching where she was going but also keeping an eye on the map on her phone. Making sure this was the place, she stopped her Mini next to the curb, got out and looked up at the building. The entrance was dark and she was not sure if she was being watched as she pushed the door open and stepped into the foyer.
There was no elevator in the building and the address on her phone was 301 Winchester Heights, so she surmised that she would have to make her way up the stairs to the third floor. Using her phone to light the way she made her way up to the first floor.
Yip, I was right. Another two floors up! She held her phone up to light up the number 101 on the door in front of her. Slowly she made her way up another two flights until she saw 301 on a door that looked like it had been kicked in a few times already.
Taking a deep breath she lifted her hand to knock on the door when she saw movement to her left and sharply pulled her hand away and stepped back, nearly going down stairs she had just come up. The door with 301 opened and someone held a torch up to face.
'What you want?' Susan recognized the Asian accent from the phone call earlier.
'I have come to collect my sister, where is she?'
'First you pay!' Susan shielded her eyes with her hand and could now see she was speaking to a small Asian woman.
'What on earth for. Let me in so that I can get to my sister.' Knowing there was going to be some bargaining as usual, Susan put up a brave face and stood tall over the woman.
'No, no. Your sister have account. You pay first, then get sister!'
'Look lady, I'm tired and I'm broke, so what does she owe you and for what?'
'One thousand dollar. Rent and food for one week she is here.'
'Really, are you sure that is what happens here. I have two hundred dollars with me and I'm going to tell you what is going to happen next!' Susan's heart was now beating so loud in her chest she thought this little woman in front of her could definitely hear it and know her fear. 'I am going in to collect my sister, leave two hundred dollars for you and leave. Understand?'
The woman stood back to let Susan in. The apartment was dimly lit and a strange odour filled the air. There were at least five girls sleeping awkwardly on the coaches in the room. Susan saw Veronica trying to open her eyes to see what the commotion was about and she quickly went over to help her up. Her fear was making her brave. She put her arm around Veronica and as she turned toward the door, a tall man with fair hair pushed the little woman onto one of the coaches. She landed with a bump.
'If you know what's good for you, you will keep your butt on that couch,' he warned her.
What do I do now, thought Susan. Who is this?
'Were you the one in the stairwell? Are you police?'
'Hurry, get your sister out of here now!' he shouted at Susan as he went from one girl to the next as if searching for someone. He stooped and picked up one of the girls. Carrying her as if she was a baby. 'Stay where you are,' he told the Asian woman, moving towards the door.
Susan and the fair haired man made their way down the three flights of stairs as fast as they could. Both of their charges were unaware of what was going on around them. His car was parked behind Susan's Mini.
'Does Veronica need a doctor?' he asked as he bundled the girl he was carrying into his car.
'No,' Susan replied. 'This is a regular with her. I need to get her cleaned up and into bed. How do you know Veronica?'
'I'll explain later. Here is my card with my number. Follow my car and I'll get us out of this dump. Call me tomorrow when things have calmed down. We need to discuss a few things and I think we can be of help to each other.'
Susan secured her seat belt after she had helped Veronica into the passenger seat and followed the blond man's car without another word.
What a surreal experience that was. Never a dull moment with my sister around. Susan let a smile spread across her face.
Veronica had not moved since Susan had put her to bed in the early hours of the morning.
Susan sat at the kitchen counter and looked at the business card in her hand.
Hank Henderson. I remember a Hank Henderson when I was at school. He also had a younger rebellious sister. Could this be that Hank Henderson. She picked up her mobile and entered his number.
'Hank Henderson - Good morning."
'Morning. This is Susan, you gave me your card last night.'
'Susan!' he exclaimed. 'We haven't seen each other since school. I recognized you last night in all that turmoil. Linda and Veronica move in the same circles - that's how I knew who she was. You are one very brave lady to venture into those circumstance on your own. How are you?'
The two exchanged pleasantries and then made arrangements to meet later that day to discuss the plan Hank had in mind.
Over coffee Hank lost no time and got straight to the point.
'I have already been in touch with the police to see about infiltrating the drug pushers operating at 301 Winchester Heights. The Asian lady is not the kingpin, they use her apartment and she is happy to make some money but there will be consequences for her. I know this drug problem is huge and closing down one drug house does not even make a dent in their business but I could not just leave it there. I have had to go to rescue Linda countless times and when I saw you battle with the Asian lady last night, I knew you were in the same boat. Would you like to join me and use some 'tough love'action on our siblings?' Hank looked at Susan.
'I have been at a loss for a while now in how to handle Veronica. It's just the two of us. Mom and Dad have both passed away and I feel it is my duty to look after her but it is draining me. What do you have in mind?' she asked. Finding an old school friend and being able to share this burden was already making her feel a bit better.
'I have been toying with the idea for a while now but last night's episode has made up my mind. No matter how much Linda fights it, I am putting her in rehab or cutting ties with her altogether. It's her choice. No financial assistance, no midnight rescues, no listening to broken promises any more.'
'That's really tough!' Susan did not know if she could do that to Veronica but she also knew that they could not carry on like this indefinitely. What if she was too late one night and could not rescue Veronica. She would never forgive herself.
'You mull that over. I am not going to influence you but we have to get real here. These girls are in trouble.' Hank looked across the table at Susan and smiled warmly.
The following week was a week of turmoil after Susan set out her ultimatum to Veronica. Veronica had until the weekend to make a decision. Rehab or nothing more from Susan.
There were threats of suicide because she was not loved by Susan anymore. Furniture and crockery was thrown round the apartment in sheer rage. Neighbours could hear the Veronica's ranting and raving but Susan stood her ground. She felt like a real monster but she needed to do this. When she needed encouragement, she would contact Hank. He was having it pretty tough on his side too. She liked having a friend she could turn to. She had been looking after Veronica for so long that she had lost most of her friends. They were not prepared to put up with Veronica's antics.
On Friday morning Susan woke up to find Veronica sitting on the edge of her bed staring at her with haunting eyes. 'Do you really want to send me away?' she asked dolefully.
'Veronica, you know I love you but you need the kind of help that I can not give.' Susan let her statement hang in the air waiting for a response.
'I won't be able to cope on my own. I know myself and I will run away again as soon as I need a fix.'
'Well...' Susan was very careful with her words now. She knew she had to be tough and not be manipulated by Veronica. 'The choice is still yours. I have made arrangements for you to be admitted tomorrow so see that you are packed and ready to go.'
Hank and Susan decided to take the girls to the rehab centre separately. They had been accused of conspiring together and although they had laughed about it they thought it was best to show some thought and care had gone into this decisions for their siblings.
Susan was feeling guilty as she showered and dressed to take Veronica to the centre. The apartment was too quiet for her liking and as she came down to make coffee, she peeked into Veronica's room. The bed was empty and she was nowhere to be found.
In a panic she called Hank 'She's run off Hank. What shall I do?'
'Calm down. Come over to my place and we'll see if Linda knows where she has run off to.'
Susan grabbed her coat and ran out to her car. Veronica was leaning against the car and when she saw Susan, she turned her back on her.
Don't even entertain her with a response, Susan said to herself, she was fuming. This is just another game for her. She sent Hank a message to let him know what had happened.
Susan was still feeling guilty as she drove her Mini, with her charge sitting silently next to her. As she stopped in the car park, she could see Veronica was afraid so she leaned over and hugged her.
'You are a strong young girl. You can get through this.'
There was no reciprocating hug which made Susan feel even worse. Her heart was heavy as she watched Veronica disappear through the entrance of the rehab centre. Have I made the right move? Would Mom and Dad have handled this matter in a different way? Have I failed Veronica? All these thoughts were racing through her mind when she saw Hank walking towards her car and got out to meet him.
'We did it Brave Lady,' he smiled at her. 'We have done a good thing for them. Here they can get well, but they are going to have to work at it too.'
'I know and all we can do is be there for them one day at a time.' Susan smiled at him and he stepped closer to give her a hug.
'Let's go and have lunch and just forget about this for one afternoon.'
It felt good to connect with a friend again.
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