The man whom the front desk lady had identified as Mr. W. W. Warwick III stopped dead in his tracks upon hearing the commotion and seeing the animated looks flashing across both Lilly’s and the front desk lady’s faces. Their expressions jarred him greatly and for a minute he was unsure whether or not he should run from the two lionesses prepared to pounce on him.
Recovering from his shock, Mr. W. W. Warwick III took some steps forward and directed a question to the front desk lady. “Ms. Chanae Lu, what appears to be the matter concerning my help?”
Lilly answered for the front desk lady whose name was now revealed to her, courtesy of Mr. Warwick. “My dad’s in jail illegally!” she stated. “I need you to please help me help him get out…like tonight…preferably.” Lilly stopped short and waited for Mr. Warwick’s response.
“Listen, young lady,” he began cautiously, “many people’s dads are imprisoned for false reasons, even as I speak. Was I scheduled to meet with yours today?”
Lilly shook her head. “I suppose you weren’t. Please come! You’ll be glad you did. Maybe then a little girl won’t be orphaned in this big city…and her dad won’t be suffering for nothing…and another person can be found,” she pleaded.
“She’s not making any sense,” Ms. Lu whispered. Her jet black hair bobbed as if in agreement then ceased all movement.
“And what makes you believe I can be beneficial in helping you accomplish all this?” Mr. Warwick asked Lilly, moved by her theatrics.
For this question, Lilly had no answer.
“I’ll give it to you, young lady,” Mr. Warwick said in his husky voice. “You’ve got faith and guts.”
“Does that mean you’re coming with me?” Lilly asked.
“Not exactly. That was somewhat of a compliment,” Mr. Warwick clarified. “How can I know you aren’t playing some sort of prank?”
“There’s a little something called trust,” Lilly said. “I’m sure you’ve heard of it.”
“O.K., O.K.,” Mr. Warwick said laughing a little. “Is your father confined in jail here or someplace else?”
“Right here in Beijing,” Lilly stated.
“One more question, young lady, who is your father exactly?”
“Well, he’s my dad, and — ”
“Does he have a name — other than Dad, I mean?”
“Of course. His name is Marc Hill,” Lilly said, “I call him Dad.”
A look of remembrance flickered across Mr. Warwick’s face. “Marc Hill,” he repeated. “Marc Hill. Is that my old partner?”
“I don’t know,” Lilly said impatiently. “He could be.”
“Oh, I wasn’t asking you,” Mr. Warwick said before proceeding to answer his own question. “Yeah, he must be. But what would he be doing over here. I thought…” His voice trailed off as another look of remembrance flickered across his face. “You’re his daughter? I mean, you’re his daughter.” Mr. Warwick pointed at Lilly with his free hand.
Lilly lowered his pointing fingers with her own. “Yes, of course, I’m positive,” she said.
“Yes,” Mr. Warwick repeated gleefully as if he had just happened upon an amazing discovery. “You’re the beautiful child he was always showing a picture of. I remember now! How you’ve grown so much!”
“I have…like a normal person,” Lilly agreed. She detected Mr. Warwick was the type who unknowingly enjoyed stating obvious facts. “Does all this mean you are coming with me?”
“Not exactly. But what I’m about to say does,” Mr. Warwick assured Lilly. “Yes. I wouldn’t pass up an opportunity to help deliver a friend especially one so good as Marc, or his child—ever.”
Lilly took Mr. Warwick’s hand and shook it even though his hand eclipsed her own. “Thank you,” she said simply.
Mr. Warwick stopped shaking. “I can’t make any guarantees, young lady.”
Lilly continued shaking. “I didn’t ask for any guarantees, just help.” She quickly told him the name of the jail where her father was being held.
Mr. Warwick shrugged at Ms. Lu, then followed Lilly outside. Lilly would have toted him out herself if she could, but decided he was moving fast enough on his own two legs.
“Hold up, young lady,” Mr. Warwick called to Lilly, who, in her eagerness, was heading toward the busy street. “Evidently you don’t know where you’re going, and I have a car. Hop in!”
Lilly slid into the smooth, leather passenger seat. Mr. Warwick shoved his worn briefcase near her feet. “You took its special spot,” he joked.
“No biggie. I’m sure an inanimate object doesn’t mind,” Lilly replied. She outlined the three Ws and the Roman numeral ‘III” embossed on Mr. Warwick’s briefcase. “What do the other two W’s in your name stand for?” she asked.
“William Wishaw,” Mr. Warwick replied. “William Wishaw Warwick is what I was named.” For nearly the whole drive, Mr. Warwick spoke non-stop. He spoke of his past, of his working relationship with Mr. Hill, and of his future, namely how he was planning to break tradition and cause a stir in his family by naming his newborn son Winograd and Warhol (after the famous artist Andy Warhol) instead of after himself.
The things Mr. Warwick spoke about failed to interest Lilly. Even the compliments he paid her father didn’t sink in too deep because she knew already that they were true. Still, Lilly listened to Mr. Warwick’s words politely. She allowed him the pleasure of hearing his own voice, only interrupting once to ask if he could drive faster to which Mr. Warwick responded, “Young lady, I help defend the law. How dare I try to break it!”
Lilly let the matter rest.
When they finally pulled up in front of the local jailhouse, Lilly pointed at her dad’s rented car. “Yep, he’s in there,” she exclaimed.
Mr. Warwick parked. He turned to Lilly. This time he wasn’t going to say something about himself. “Are there any specifics I should know about what your dad’s been up to before I go in this place?” Mr. Warwick asked.
“Um, yes, sir, there probably are,” Lilly admitted. “But I can’t tell you right now.”
“Because?” he said.
“Because I’ve just escaped from a harrowing situation and am no longer sure exactly who I can trust. And that’s the absolute truth.” Lilly threw up her hands causing her bracelets to jingle musically. She had resolved to say no more.
Mr. Warwick tapped the steering wheel thrice. “Harrowing, huh?” he asked.
“Yeah,” Lilly answered. “You said what I said. Don’t worry, just act like you know!”
“I will,” Mr. Warwick agreed. “In the meantime, hang tight, young lady. The next time you see my face, you’ll see your dad’s as well.”
“What happened to ‘no guarantees’?” Lilly asked, a slight smile spreading across her face.
“Just one,” Mr. Warwick promised. He slid out of the car and strode into the police station.
To Lilly, time slipped by fast, but it was the kind of fast adults referred to when they said she would be ‘all grown up fast enough.’ Not that she was in a hurry to grow up. Lilly rested her head on her seat’s headrest. The events of the day flooded her mind, but she swiftly swept them away, making room for fresh thoughts to spring up—thoughts about how she could possibly scale the jailhouse walls and rescue Mr. Hill, depending on where he was, just in case Mr. Warwick’s plan failed. If nothing else, Lilly decided she could dress up as a Chinese officer, put her hair up, and infiltrate the station that way, just like great detectives did it in novels. This thought made Lilly chuckle. Only where would I find Chinese police garb? she wondered. An answer would have proven useless, for at that moment, Lilly caught sight of her dad and Mr. Warwick emerging from the jailhouse. They were conversing together like old friends. Lilly flung open the car’s passenger side door and bolted from her seat. She raced toward Mr. Hill.
“Hey, young lady,” Mr. Warwick hollered. “You’re tearing up my Mazda!” He threw up his hands in protest at the force with which Lilly had opened the door.
Mr. Hill chuckled. “Still concerned about your style after all this time. Hurry up and have kids. A lot more than your car will get messed up,” he said in jest as he engulfed Lilly in a big bear hug.
Lilly reciprocated the hug. She squeezed him tight. “I’m so happy to see you safe again, Dad. Let’s get out of here!”