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Turbulence, p.20

Turbulence, page 20

 

Turbulence
 


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  “The most logical place is my hangar,” he admitted as he started the engine.

  “But you said he couldn’t get in.”

  “Not any way that I know of. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, though. Sam’s a pretty resourceful kid.”

  Dana covertly watched Micky as they sped the few miles toward the airport. Micky’s concern couldn’t have been more obvious. “You’re really worried about him, aren’t you?”

  He nodded. “Does it show?”

  “A little.” She paused. “He’s not just some pesky kid who hangs around your business, is he?”

  It took him a full minute to answer. “No, he’s not.”

  “What makes him so special?” she asked, curious about the boy who’d grabbed a corner of Micky’s heart.

  “I’m not sure,” he said slowly. “He loves airplanes. Sam’s like a sponge when it comes to flying. I only have to tell him something once and he can recite it from memory.”

  “You’ve taught him a lot.”

  He grinned. “It’s hard not to. I suppose he reminds me of myself at that age.”

  “How so?”

  “He has that look in his eye.”

  “What look?”

  He shrugged. “Can’t explain it. It’s a look of wonder, I guess you could say, when he stares at the horizon. As if he’s just itching to see what’s out there and won’t be satisfied until he does. Whenever he’s flown with me…. He seems happiest in the air.”

  It was obvious to Dana that Micky and Sam were kindred spirits. It was equally obvious that Micky was more than a man who’d simply allowed a kid to hang around his business and absorb a few flying tips. He might refuse to take responsibility for anyone other than himself, but he had become Sam’s mentor.

  At the airport, Micky unlocked the gate in the chain-link fence surrounding his hangar, then drove through. As soon as he parked, he opened the huge door just enough for the two of them to slip inside.

  Dana stood still while he located the switch box, then flooded the gloomy interior with light.

  “The airport has its own generator,” he explained before she could ask why they had electricity and very few other places did. “Sam?” he hollered.

  His voice echoed through the steel building, but there wasn’t an answering shout.

  “Let’s check the office.” Micky led the way, but there were no telltale signs of a visitor, which meant that Sam hadn’t been there.

  A quick search of the entire place from top to bottom showed nothing disturbed.

  “We’ll drive back to town,” Micky decided. “Surely someone saw him this morning. Turning Point isn’t that big and everyone knows everybody else. He couldn’t have gone unnoticed for long.”

  Unfortunately it took them all morning and most of the afternoon to piece together a picture that was as worrisome as it was promising.

  The clerk at the convenience store reported seeing Sam late the previous night stocking up on candy bars. One of the Red Cross volunteers said she’d given him a sackful of sandwiches and several bottles of water. Frank Pyle, the owner of the gas station, reported that Sam had filled up his bike tires shortly before dark.

  The police officer they spoke to, the one who’d interviewed the volunteers at the school gym, didn’t offer any suggestions other than what was glaringly apparent. “He’s gone to ground. The question is, where?”

  Micky followed Dana to his Explorer. “Where would he go?” he mused aloud.

  Dana thought for a minute. “Does he have a private place? A place that’s his when he wants to think about things? Alex had a tree house in the backyard that was his oasis. I used it myself on several occasions. Maybe Sam has a spot like that.”

  “Not that I know of.” He hesitated. “Although…”

  “Although what?”

  He turned the key in the ignition and peeled out of the school parking lot. “There is a place where he might go. It’s isolated, and no one would think of looking for him there. The Cameron house.”

  “Where is it?”

  “About three miles out of town. The couple who lived there went to a nursing home in Corpus Christi several years ago and it’s been vacant ever since.”

  Dana sat silently as he drove the short distance. As they neared the old two-story farmhouse, it was obvious the intervening years had not been kind. The roof was in desperate need of repair, although whether most of the damage could be laid at Hurricane Damon’s feet was difficult to say. Windows were cracked, some were boarded up, and others were gaping holes. The porch steps sagged in several places.

  As Micky turned down the gravel road on the east side of the house, she could see a tree leaning against the building and a jagged trough in the ground where its roots were exposed.

  He parked near the front door. “Be careful,” he warned her as they gingerly walked up the porch steps. “Who knows what sort of shape the structure is in.”

  “I should have brought my helmet,” she said as he pushed on the door. It squealed as it opened.

  “Sam?” he called out. “Are you in here?”

  The wind whistling through the broken windows was the only sound. Dana had never imagined such an eerie sight. Furniture stood as if waiting for the owners to come home. Cushions were ripped, and mouse droppings littered every available surface. A bird had nested in the chandelier overhead. Dust covered everything and the curtains were rotting on the rods.

  “It’s a shame no one has taken care of this,” she said. “It’s a great old house.”

  “It was,” he corrected as he scanned the ceiling. “It needed work before, but now it needs a bulldozer.” He raised his voice. “Sam?”

  Dana thought she heard something upstairs, so she walked past him to stand near the staircase. “Sam?” she called.

  The sound came again. She started up the steps, then stopped. “Look, Micky.”

  He joined her. “What is it?”

  She pointed to the imprints left by a sneaker. “Someone went upstairs recently.”

  She headed farther up the staircase, but six steps later, the wood cracked and splintered under her boot.

  Micky grabbed her arm to keep her from falling until she regained her balance on the step above. “Be careful,” he told her.

  “I was.”

  “I’ll go first,” he said. “If the wood will support me, it will support you.”

  Dana shook off his hold. “I appreciate the chivalry, but this is my job. I’m trained for situations like this and you aren’t. Besides, there’s no point in both of us going upstairs. Sam may have been here, but it doesn’t mean he still is.”

  “Too bad, because I’m sticking beside you,” he said firmly. “We’re partners, remember?”

  Knowing that she couldn’t talk him into staying below, she continued upward, testing each board before she placed her full weight on it. Finally they reached the upper level.

  “Is it me, or does it seem like the breeze is stronger up here?” she asked.

  He pointed. “There’s a hole in the roof.”

  By unspoken agreement, they split up to go in separate directions. “Sam?” Micky called.

  “In here,” came a weak reply.

  MICKY HURRIED into a room at the back if the house and saw a scene that churned his stomach.

  The flagstone fireplace in what appeared to be the master bedroom had crumbled. A large slab had fallen across Sam’s thigh and pinned him to the floor.

  Micky mumbled a curse before he knelt beside the boy, hoping, praying that the situation wasn’t as bad as it appeared. “Hey, there, sport,” he said. “How’re you doing?”

  “Pretty good now that you came.” Tears ran down Sam’s dust-streaked face and Micky wanted to shed a few of his own.

  “Where are you hurt?” he asked gruffly.

  “My leg. I can’t move it.”

  Dana came up behind Micky, and he was grateful for her reassuring presence. The smile she bestowed on Sam made him feel better, too. “
Things don’t look too bad,” she assured them. “We’ll have you out of here before long.”

  “I tried to get up, but I couldn’t. The rock was too heavy.”

  Micky could easily see why. The chunk that had fallen on Sam must weigh at least eighty pounds. “No problem,” he said cheerfully. “As soon as Dana gives me the go-ahead, I’ll move it.”

  “I’ll get my kit,” she said. “Don’t do anything until I get back.” Before he could caution her to watch her step on the way down, she disappeared.

  Sam grabbed Micky’s hand. “You won’t leave me, will you?”

  Micky shook his head. “I’ll be with you all the way,” he promised. “What happened?”

  Sam wiped his nose with the back of his free hand. “I didn’t mean to hurt anything, honest, but I like to come here to be by myself. The fireplace has been crumbling for a while, so I knew not to touch it, but I tripped and bumped against the side. The rocks fell on me and I couldn’t get up. I didn’t tell anyone where I went, so I was afraid no one would come until it was too late.” His voice wavered. “It hurts really bad, Micky.”

  Something tore in Micky’s chest. “I know, buddy. Dana will give you something for that just as soon as she comes back.”

  Sam covered his eyes with his elbow, as if he didn’t want his hero to see him cry. “Okay,” he said in a muffled tone.

  “There were a lot of folks looking for you.” Micky hated to imagine what might have happened if he hadn’t thought of this abandoned farmhouse—if Dana hadn’t suggested that Sam had gone somewhere private to lick his wounds.

  “I’m in trouble, aren’t I?”

  “I wouldn’t say that. People will be glad to know you’re safe and sound. Your mom included.”

  “No, she won’t,” Sam said dully. “She doesn’t want me.”

  Dana returned at that moment and Micky turned a helpless gaze at her. She raised one eyebrow as if to tell him that he was on his own.

  “Sure she does.”

  Sam shook his head while Dana began working on him. “She’s sending me to stay with her aunt.”

  “That wouldn’t be so bad, would it?”

  “Mom’s always hated Aunt Sybil. She told me how mean she was to her when she was a kid. What makes her think she’ll be nicer to me?”

  Micky was at a loss. Crystal didn’t deserve his defense, but what choice did he have? “People change.”

  “I won’t live at her house.” Sam’s young face set in a mulish expression. “I won’t. And I don’t want to go to Nashville. It’ll be like all the other times. Her big career won’t work out and we’ll be back where we always are. Starting over.”

  What could Micky say? The boy knew his mother far better than anyone.

  “I had an idea while I was lying here,” Sam continued, his voice hopeful.

  “What was that?”

  “If I talk my mom into it, could I move in with you?”

  With him? Micky was stunned into silence.

  “I wouldn’t be any trouble, I promise,” Sam continued. “I can cook and clean and do laundry. I’m hardly ever sick, so you wouldn’t have to worry about taking care of me.”

  Micky’s jaw dropped. “I don’t know….”

  “Really. I could talk Mom into it. I know I could.” Sam sounded desperate. “If you agree, that is.”

  Micky glanced at Dana, but she’d simply raised one eyebrow as if curious to hear his answer. No help from that quarter.

  “I’m not sure that’s a good plan,” Micky said. “You know I’m rarely at home. You can’t spend hours by yourself.”

  “When I’m not at school, I can be with you at the airport. I can answer the phone, sweep the floors, do whatever chore you have. Please?” he begged. “Say yes.”

  Dana frowned at Sam’s blood pressure reading. “Keep him calm,” she mouthed.

  Keep him calm. The only way Micky could do that was to say what Sam wanted to hear. But he wasn’t about to make a promise he couldn’t keep.

  “Let’s talk about it later,” he hedged. “Right now, we have to concentrate on getting you out in one piece.”

  Apparently satisfied with Micky’s answer, Sam relaxed. “Okay. Until later.”

  Dana spoke softly. “He seems stable, and I can’t quite tell what’s happened with his foot until we raise the rock slab. Before we do, though, I want to give him something for the pain and call an ambulance. Sam’ll need to go to the hospital and see an orthopedic surgeon.”

  Micky placed the call while Dana started an IV, explaining everything to Sam in terms he could understand.

  Ruth promised to send an ambulance and patrol car, then Micky called the hospital in Alice, and a doctor in emergency gave Dana the authorization she needed to administer medication to Sam. Once those details were squared away, Micky closed the phone. “More help is on the way,” he told Sam.

  “Mom, too?”

  “I think so.”

  Dana injected the pain meds into Sam’s IV, and while they waited for the drug to take effect, she determined the best way to lift the slab without causing more problems than they already had.

  On Dana’s count of three, they hoisted the slab and set it aside. As he held Sam’s hand, Micky watched Dana splint Sam’s foot and ankle, and check his vital signs and distal pulse.

  “All done,” she said, beaming at the boy as she patted his shoulder. “You’re ready to go, wrapped up nice and neat just like a package.”

  Sam chuckled. “I feel pretty good right now. Maybe nothing’s broken after all.”

  “Sorry, Sam,” Dana said. “I wouldn’t count on that if I were you. But broken bones heal, and I’m sure you’ll be racing around town on your bike before no time.”

  The sound of an ambulance siren grew louder, then stopped. “Your ride is here,” Micky quipped.

  Moments later, the group carefully carried Sam downstairs on a stretcher and loaded him into the ambulance for the drive to the hospital in Alice.

  Micky handed his truck keys to Adam Brown, the volunteer fireman who’d driven the ambulance. Micky would take Adam’s place while Dana rode in the back with Sam. Crystal, to her dismay, and probably the deputy’s as well, was relegated to the county patrol car.

  Micky knew it was only a reprieve. As soon as Sam could talk to his mother about his latest idea, he would. The question was, what could Micky do? He knew he wasn’t in a position to care for a child, even one as independent as Sam, but he couldn’t bear the thought of seeing the disappointment on the boy’s face.

  What could he do?

  What should he do?

  The trip to Alice was uneventful, although Micky’s inner turmoil raged on. After passing Sam into the E.R. staff’s capable hands, Dana insisted on stopping for a cup of coffee while a nurse replenished the medical supplies Dana had used in Sam’s pre-hospital care.

  Dana wordlessly sipped the strong brew as if waiting for Micky to start the conversation. Finally he couldn’t stand the silence.

  “All right,” he said crossly. “Just go ahead and say it.”

  “Say what?”

  “Say what you’re thinking.”

  “Who said I was thinking?”

  “Any woman who isn’t talking is thinking.”

  She chuckled, clearly not taking offense. “What a flattering remark. But since you brought it up, what are you going to do about Sam?”

  “The only thing I can do.”

  She peered intently at him over her raised cup. “Which is?”

  “What’s best for the both of us.”

  CHAPTER THIRTEEN

  “AND WHAT IS BEST for the both of you?” Dana asked cautiously. In her gut, she sensed that his answer would signal what she could expect in their own relationship. If Micky was willing to assume responsibility for a boy who clearly held a special place in his heart, then maybe, just maybe, it was possible that he wouldn’t be so quick to discard a chance for the two of them, either. Yes, they’d have logistics to work out—commuting wasn’
t an option for either of them—but if the desire was there, the practicalities would follow.

  “Letting him move in with you?” she pressed.

  “Of course not.” He sounded aghast at the idea.

  Her hopes plummeted, although she pretended that his decision didn’t matter one way or another.

  “I see.” She blew on her already cool coffee for something to do.

  He studied her. “You don’t approve.”

  “It isn’t my place to approve or disapprove. This is your choice. You have to live with your decision. I don’t.”

  She was wrong, of course. With this strong need she had for him and a connection she hadn’t felt with anyone else, his decision would influence their future, as well.

  Dana sighed. Coming to Turning Point was supposed to help her decide what she wanted and where to find it. Now she’d go back feeling worse and more at loose ends than when she’d left.

  Was this what Alex and Lauren had felt for each other in the beginning, before those feelings had developed into a full-fledged love?

  Unfortunately she’d never know.

  She honestly hadn’t expected to fall for Micky so quickly, but in hindsight, she wouldn’t have gone to his bed so eagerly if some subconscious part of her hadn’t recognized that there was something worth nurturing between them.

  The problem was, all she could do was hug this information to herself. She wouldn’t delude herself by imagining that Micky would change his decision if he knew how she felt.

  “But you think I’m making the wrong one.”

  “It isn’t my place to say,” she said, pleased that her voice sounded steady when inside she was quaking with disappointment.

  He leaned across the table. “Don’t give me that flimsy excuse. You have an opinion.”

  “Of course I do. I just don’t care to share it.”

  His gaze grew intent. “You think I’m making a big mistake.”

  She sipped her coffee. “You said it, I didn’t. But if the shoe fits…”

  “How can you say it’s a mistake?” he growled. “You know my situation. How am I going to look after an eleven-year-old boy and stay on top of my business?”

 
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