Dial Emm for…

04/18/23

“Yes Ms. Cathcart it’s over. You’re safe. No, no charge. Take care of yourself.”

Emma MacAulay disconnected as another call appeared.

Emma had been married only six months when she began to suspect that her husband wanted to kill her. The suspicions started with small things. Having removed her wedding band to clean it, she discovered it missing. Ellison began to rant about her carelessness and the fact that such actions suggested she didn’t love him. When she found the ring hidden in his jewelry box, he denied putting it there. A phone call from a long time male friend found her accused of cheating on him.

“Women in certain parts of the world get killed for less than what you have done. Better watch your step. And stop feeding me that slop you call dinner. Learn how to cook like a southerner.”

Ellison was not the man and attorney she had gone with for year. Nor the one she left the police force for.  She tried to talk with him about what had changed between them.

“It’s your imagination. We need to do things together. I bought a fishing boat and if you get sea sick take one of those pills. We’re going to this fishing tournament. All the wives come. We raft out together in Tiger Bayou at night and cook and party.”

“Ellison your friends all have cabin cruisers. We have an 18 foot outboard with no bathroom facilities or cover.”

“We’ll make do. Now start packing.”

The first day was spent in the bayou because of bad weather and the MacAulay’s were invited to stay with friends. At 4:00 a.m. the next morning everyone headed out to troll the gulf waters for Tarpon. Six foot swells sent their boat and Emma’s stomach roiling. After an hour of her hanging over the side Ellison pulled up to an unmanned oil platform and left Emma with a bottle of water and a book.

“Enjoy and watch out for lightening. I’ll be back.”

Five hours later, with the sky clearing and the sun beating down Emma dozed. Shouts from a rig tender vessel woke her.

“What the hell are you doing up there lady? How did you get here?”

“I was sick so, . . .”

One of the men helped her down. The captain radioed Ellison.

“We have your wife and if you care she’ll be at the port.”

Ellison immediately threatened to have them arrested.

“And we’ll sue you for trespassing,” shouted the captain.

Picking Emma up and ignoring warnings about a tropical storm Ellison set off up the river, flying into the 7 foot wakes of the huge cargo ships they met. Emma had insisted on a life jacket and held it tightly as she bounced off her seat.

Ellison, refusing a vest “Meant for Pussies”, began to steer the boat sharply from port to starboard, grinning each time Emma almost fell overboard. She was thrown against the rail and slipped, tearing her leg on the anchor. The sight of her blood adding to the slippery mess caused something to snap.

She crawled toward Ellison and when he jerked the wheel to port, she stood and pushed him hard. He fell overboard. Reaching out he stared in disbelief as Emma steered the boat away. She watched as he disappeared into another 7 foot swell. The Coast Guard inquiry ruled it an ‘unfortunate accident’.

Emma collected substantial life insurance funds and planned to rejoin the police force when a friend called with a story of being stalked by an ex-husband.

“He says he’ll kill me, Emm. The police won’t help.”

 Emma had smiled.

That had been three years ago. She moved to a new state and studied the statistics about women being threatened, injured and killed while the courts and police said ‘Wait until he does something.’

The fliers appeared in coffee shops, office buildings and shopping centers. Word spread. Emma’s voice mail took the current call:

“If you’re a woman under threat of harm leave your name and number. Help is on the way.

Remember to Dial Emm for . . .!”

~ fin ~

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Pamela Ebel was born in Northern California and raised by southern women; part of the diaspora created by the Great Depression. She returned to her roots at 21, receiving an M.A. from LSU-Baton Rouge and a JD from Loyola New Orleans. Her careers have included lawyer, university professor, associate dean, and now fiction writer. She travels between New Orleans, California, Alabama and the Mississippi Delta sharing tales from the crossroads of America. And like the ancient Greeks and the Irish, as a southern writer she knows you can’t out run your blood.