The Adventures of Lilly
Book Two – A China Escape
Later that evening, Lilly brought two cups of spicy chai tea down to her father’s home office nestled between the dining room and the master bedroom. She tapped on the door with her foot.
“Come in!” Mr. Hill called.
“One for you. One for me,” Lilly announced. She plunked both cups down on his charcoal colored desk.
Mr. Hill was at work on his laptop. Lilly noticed a fresh dent on its exterior.
“Yep. I was chasing down another fly,” Mr. Hill said in answer to her unasked question.
“They can be so pesky,” Lilly said.
“Funny. For some reason, they all like to congregate in my office,” Mr. Hill said.
“They do that for more joy. The flies like to congregate around you because you get annoyed at them the most,” Lilly joked.
“How wicked! I ought to prosecute the whole lot of them,” Mr. Hill said, playing along. “Thanks for the tea, sweetheart. Which cup has the least sugar?”
“That one.” Lilly pointed to the cup on the left.
Mr. Hill sipped some tea, then set the cup down, looking at it with a strange expression on his face.
“So, Dad, did you find out who our mysterious caller is yet?” Lilly asked, settling into one of three oversized, velvet chairs positioned before the desk.
“In a way,” Mr. Hill replied. “I called back, but received an automated message saying the phone had been disconnected. However, the country code points to China. I tracked the number to Beijing.”
“I hope you didn’t stop there,” Lilly said.
“No. I contacted our friend Bo over there. He did a little prodding and was able to track the phone’s signal to a specific location. Just a few minutes before you came in, he called me back and said that he visited the house. A woman answered the door, but refused to give any information about herself. However, after he told her the company he was representing, she told him that she needed to get in contact with me over an urgent matter and asked that he pass the message along. So, there you have it.”
Lilly scrunched up her eyebrows. “Do you have any idea who she might be?” she asked.
Mr. Hill shook his head, no. “About two years back I prosecuted a group of gang members from Beijing. Their ring leader was a woman who went by the name of Snookie. Last month, I received word that she was released from federal prison, having served her term, and had returned to her native city of Beijing. But rest assured, I’m positive that she is not seeking retribution. Still, I’ve already booked a ticket over there, just in case.”
Lilly nodded thoughtfully. “You know what I think, Dad?” she asked.
“I believe that this is the perfect time for us to think on the things of others.”
“Us?” Mr. Hill questioned with a twinkle in his eye.
“Um-hm,” Lilly got up from her chair and walked behind the desk to look at her dad’s laptop. “Shouldn’t you be booking another ticket?” she questioned matter-of-factly.
Mr. Hill threw his head back and laughed softly. Lilly had become his travel buddy ever since she had turned nine years old and showed an interest in seeing the world. Whenever she could, Lilly joined him on his business trips across America and once to Russia. Together, they had already visited twenty-five of the U.S. states and had hundreds of photos to prove it. While Mr. Hill did business in the conference rooms of large, glass buildings, Lilly sat in the sophisticated waiting areas sketching images of passers-by and brewing numerous cups of coffee using the company’s espresso machines (except when they traveled to Russia; there, she studied a bit of the Russian language). Sometimes she practiced her gymnastic floor routine, but more often than not the receptionists gave her a withering stare, which would cause her to sit back down hurriedly and continue drawing. Afterward, she and Mr. Hill would sight-see and explore the cities before returning home.
“Check with your Mom first to make sure she doesn’t have anything important planned that we need to stick around for,” Mr. Hill advised Lilly. “But I’ll go ahead and book the ticket so she can’t say no.” He winked.
“Will do,” Lilly promised.
“And before you go,” Mr. Hill began, “would you please take this tea into the kitchen and pour it into a clear glass cup?” He handed Lilly his royal blue ceramic cup.
“Sure,” Lilly said, looking perplexed. “Why?”
“Well, I have a…certain fear…of drinking tea or any liquid, really, from out of a colored glass. I’m particularly afraid of what may be lurking at the bottom because it cannot be seen,” Mr. Hill admitted. “Don’t worry. This isn’t a rip on your dish-washing skills,” he quickly added.
“Riiight,” Lilly said. “Dark-glass-phobia. That’s a new one, Dad. Never heard of it.” She gave him the thumbs-up with her free hand as she backed out the door.
Waltzing into the kitchen, Lilly found Mrs. Hill and Marco seated on stools by the counter clearly enraptured by her Julius Caesar play performance which they were watching on Mrs. Hill’s laptop. Lilly pulled up a stool beside theirs and snapped her fingers in front of the screen.
“Get out of the way, please,” Marco said, pulling on a strand of her hair. “You’re already on the computer. Isn’t that enough?”
“Mom, Mom, I’m going to China!” Lilly announced ignoring her brother.
“What’s that?” Mrs. Hill asked.
“I’m going to China!” Lilly repeated.
Mrs. Hill cupped her ear as if she still couldn’t hear. “I’m sorry,” she said. “Was that a question or a statement?”
Lilly laughed. “Sorry, that came out wrong. I meant to ask if it’s O.K. with you for me to travel to Beijing with Dad this weekend?”
“Beijing? Why? He has another business trip?”
“Kinda,” Lilly answered. She related all that Mr. Hill had told her about the mysterious caller.
“Bless me!” Mrs. Hill said, shaking her head slowly. “That sounds weird.”
Lilly placed her hands on her mother’s forehead. “You’re blessed,” she announced. “Now, can you please give me your permission to go to China?”
“I just don’t know,” Mrs. Hill sighed. “Beijing, China, is so far away.”
“Oh, no, it’s not,” Lilly quickly said as she remembered her mother had said the same thing about her traveling to Russia. “China is right here on planet earth. Shall I show it to you on a map?” She flung her arms into the air.
Mrs. Hill narrowed her eyes. “You know what I mean,” she replied. “It’s not a skip, hop, and a jump away. Besides, this whole situation seems so weird. But I said that already, didn’t I?”
“Yes,” Lilly said. “That’s exactly why Dad and I should go. We must un-weird this little mystery. If not us, who will?” She flashed a winning smile.
“Us?” Mrs. Hill questioned, running her fingers through her rich brown locks of hair. “I’m thinking ‘him’ alone.”
“Pleeeeeease,” Lilly pleaded.
After thinking for a few minutes, Mrs. Hill consented. “Alright,” she said. “You can go, but only if you promise to take good care of yourself and come back soon, alive, and not wounded.”
“I always do,” Lilly said. Lilly interlocked one of her pinky fingers with one of her mother’s. “O.K., I promise.”
“Thanks for the sass, miss,” Mrs. Hill said. “But that’s not what I wanna hear, baby doll.” Mrs. Hill hugged her daughter tightly. “I’ll miss you,” she whispered.
Marco eyed her warily. “Word to the wise,” he said. “Learn how to use a pair of nun-chucks and take them with you.”
“Thanks,” Lilly began, “but the wise don’t need a word.”
“Yeah, they do, because the wise are those who listen,” Marco answered. He turned his attention back to the laptop screen.
“You’re funny,” Lilly said smiling. After transferring her dad’s tea into a clear glass, she returned to his office and told him the good news.
“Wonderful,” he exclaimed, leaning back in his chair and propping his socked feet on the desk.
Lilly copied him. For several minutes, they tried unsuccessfully to knock each other’s feet off the desk. Then Mr. Hill spoke. “Our plane takes off in two days,” he said. “Are you ready for it?”
“Ready as I’ll ever be,” Lilly assured him. “Guess I should start packing.”
“Great idea,” Mr. Hill said with a twinkle in his eyes. “Your last minute packing is always disastrous and constantly jeopardizes our plane trips.”
“Way to tell me the obvious truth, Dad,” Lilly said.
“Go! Go! Go forth and pack early,” Mr. Hill urged, shooing her out of his office.