Chapter 3-1. Andrea

The following is an unedited preview of my upcoming novel Rachel’s Peril, the first novel in the Rachel’s Peril Trilogy. For more information about the book and more chapters, please check out the Rachel’s Peril page!

Not sure where to begin? Start here: Rachel’s Peril – Table of Contents and Book Description

Chapter 3. Bear

Part 1. Andrea

“It’s just a precaution,” the police officer said. “We’ve got orders to make sure you get to the hospital safely and get checked out.”

Andrea sighed.  She knew it was necessary, especially since she’d gotten an unfortunate amount of blood in her mouth from the driver. But a helicopter?

Whatever her objections, the bright red air ambulance was coming in for a landing, the rotors throwing up a wash of dirt and dust all over the highway.  Westbound traffic on Interstate 70 had been stopped, and police were directing frustrated and angry commuters to alternate routes. Half a dozen police cars, two ambulances, a fire truck and a swat team truck had converged on the site.

The need for that level of force had already come to an end.  Fifteen seconds after exiting the car, Dan, or whatever his name was, opened fire on the police, and died from half a dozen gunshot wounds. The police had been quite thorough making sure he wasn’t getting back up.

The police had refused to allow her to retrieve her phone or purse. Evidence, they said. It might be evidence, but her passport was in there. Her frustration about that situation lasted right up until the moment when she stood up to walk to the helicopter. After a brief argument with an EMT who wanted her to be strapped down on a stretcher, she squeezed herself into a crew seat and they buckled her in.

She stared out the windows as the twin engines roared to a high pitch and the helicopter lifted into the sky. To the east, Baltimore, a city she’d never actually been in other than passing through the airport. Toy buildings, tiny cars, the hazy horizon, all contributed to her sense of unreality and isolation. Was it only two days ago she’d said goodbye to Javier? To her grandmother?

She wanted to go back home. She shivered, looking out at the harbor on the right side of the helicopter as it sped toward its destination.

Damn it. She didn’t even know Javier’s number. Or any of her friends from school. And if she got a replacement phone, it wouldn’t do any good, because her backup was on her laptop, in the trunk of the stupid car.

Who the hell were they? What did they want? It didn’t make any sense. Sure, her father had been nominated for some job with the US Defense ministry or whatever they called it. But that had nothing to do with her. And her attempt at negotiation wasn’t exactly honest. For all she knew, her parents wouldn’t lift a finger to ransom her. She barely knew them, and had been raised primarily by her grandmother.  Her mother and father were remote figures on another continent.

The only one of her sisters she was close to was Julia, the oldest. At thirty-two, she was double Andrea’s age. But she’d also been the one sister who consistently visited her in Spain. She was the sister she could count on.

It had been eight months since she’d seen Julia. That was a long time. They’d sat in the park together near Carrie’s condo in Bethesda, Maryland, the day after Ray Sherman’s funeral.

“Why don’t they want me home, Julia?”

She had asked the question, not really expecting an answer. What possible answer could there be when your parents don’t want you there?

“Of course they want you, sis,” Julia said.

Andrea shook her head. “No… they don’t. When I told Mom I wasn’t coming home for Christmas last year, she didn’t even argue.”

Julia flinched. “Mother and I… I’ve never understood her.”

Andrea said, “There’s nothing to understand. They’re both awful. She’s crazy and he’s an icebox. I’m glad I was raised by Abuelita. At least I know I’m loved.”

Julia sniffed. “They love you… our parents are just screwed up. They don’t know how to show it. And…we love you. Your sisters.”

“You say that, but you know as well as I do that except for you, I barely know the others. Carrie might as well be a stranger.”

Julia shook her head. “That’s not true. She practically raised you.”

Until I was what… six?  I don’t even remember.”

“Sometimes I feel like we failed you.”

Andrea sighed and sniffed. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to… I just… sometimes I’m so lonely, you know?”

She’d cried that day, and Julia held her.  Two days later, she flew back to Spain. She and Julia talked on the phone twice a week, whether they had anything to say or not. She called once every two weeks to check on Sarah and Carrie. Sarah was recovering from her injuries and Carrie was going through her pregnancy.

Her mother rarely asked to speak to her during those calls.

That loneliness pervaded her. The helicopter circled the hospital, a low bass vibration in rising up through the soles of her feet. Bright light sparked out in the harbor, sunlight reflecting off the waves.

The crew chief sat across from her.  “We’re going to land in a minute… they’re going to want to do the full VIP work up on you. Keep your chin up, okay? I know it’s going to suck, but they just want to cover their asses and look out for your best interests, okay?”

The unexpected kindness caught her off guard.  Andrea nodded. The crew chief touched her shoulder and said, “Did you get any of his blood on you?”

“Yeah,” she said at a whisper. He couldn’t hear her, but he could see her shudder.

“You’re gonna be all right, kid. This is just about the best hospital in the country. They’re gonna do all the tests and make sure you’re good to go. You got nothing to be worried about.”

She sniffed. She wasn’t used to being called kid and having someone reassure her. She wasn’t used to needing other people. But something about the crew chief reminded her of her Uncle Luis, and before she could stop herself, she said it. “I’m scared.”

She hated herself for saying it. He smiled kindly, then squeezed her shoulder.

“Here we go,” he said. He stretched up a little, wrapping his hand around a handle mounted above the door. The helicopter landed gently.

“You ready, kid?”

She nodded.  “Thanks.”

 

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