Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 125: “Did you see that?”

Sunday, July 23 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

“Did you see that?” Jared Erspamer asks as he glances back from the car. “Did you see what the stall looks like? We were just standing there….” The other crew members glance around confused, as they continue pushing.

“Where’s Josh?” Jordan Allen questions, noticing the car chief was missing.

“He went with Chase and Alan,” Chad Avrit informs them. “Chase didn’t look good….” Jordan then stops pushing as they reach the hauler, looking back at the guys.

“You know, something didn’t seem right pre-race, either. I mean, he was quieter than normal and a glance in his eyes seemed off, too. Plus, Josh stayed by the car when normally it’s just myself and Chase.”

“Are you saying that Josh and Alan knew something was up?” Jordan shrugs his shoulders.

“Regardless, it just all seems odd – especially after that.”

“We’re just supposed to load up, right?” Jared Seate questions and Jordan nods his head, remembering Josh’s words. “Okay….” Jordan then goes to head inside the hauler, when he stops and glances back.

“This is even more odd,” he summarizes, catching the crew’s attention. “Why aren’t the engineers looking over the notes?” Jared shrugs his shoulders. “Guess they will at the shop. Alright, not my responsibility…” He then continues into the trailer, set to go upstairs and open the door.

“Jordan?” Jordan then stops and turns around. “Text message from the boss…” Jordan then walks back to Jared, taking his phone as he opens the message. He then shakes his head in disbelief.

“Of course….” He then types a message quickly, before looking over the guys. “Load up quickly, please. We got somewhe-”

“Poisoned again?” Jared Erspamer questions, having that fear based on his own experience prior. Jordan just nods his head before going back into the hauler. “Ah shit…”

“Why do I have a feeling that was meant for us truly?” Jared Seate asks as he glances back at the garage once again, thanking his lucky stars.


The trip to the care center did not last long as they were immediately transferred to Methodist Hospital of Indiana. Alan and Josh could only feel their hearts pounding harder with worry.

Once at the hospital, the pair found themselves in a waiting room with six sets of eyes staring them down – Sarina and Chase’s parents. Alan takes a couple deep breath, and explained everything. He told them Chase’s original confession, followed by the plan, and followed by how things played out.

“I should’ve done something,” Sarina says quietly as she looks at the floor. “I knew something was off….”

“But you did nothing?” Cindy questions as she looks over. “Seriously, Sarina?”

“Cindy…” Bill warns as Cindy keeps her eyes focused on Sarina.

“I asked him if he was alright and he told me he was fine,” Sarina answers. “I asked him more than once, Cindy. It wasn’t like I just stood there and let this happen. I literally asked him last night, along with a couple times today. I thought maybe I was just off on radar, or something – I don’t know. Maybe I should’ve pus-”

“Oh now you think of that…” Cindy comments as she sits back in the seat.

“To be honest, I noticed something too,” Bill admits, causing Cindy to look his way. “And to be honest, I asked and he said he was a little sick. I suggested that he tells the guys, and have a stand-by driver. I just thought it was a stomach bug. I could’ve never predicted this.” Bill then looks straight at Cindy. “So before you chew up Sarina’s ass for no reason, think about that. Besides, that’s not what’s important right now…” Cindy then sits back in the chair, crossing her arms.

“I just can’t believe that we’re sitting in a hospital once again not even a month later and he’s fighting for everything that he’s got….” A stray tear falls down her face and she quickly wipes it away. “I just want my baby to be okay…” Bill wraps an arm around her, pulling her close.

“He will be, Cindy. No matter what…”

“Do you want anything?” Josh asks as he looks at Sarina and she shakes her head no.

“I just can’t believe this….” She comments with a sigh. “We knew shit was still possible with her and Bethany running around, but yet we let it happen. I should’ve went with him to qualifying.”

“It’s not your fault,” Alan assures her as he pats her shoulder. “To be honest, I screwed up, too, probably worse than any of you. I could see the symptoms right before me. I even suggested that we just throw the race totally and get him help. I should’ve done that. I should’ve never let him go through with this plan – no matter how clever Josh was in thinking it.”

“He’s right,” Josh adds. “I mean, there’s two hours there that we let it eat at him and make it worse. As they say, time is the most important in these situations – and we fucked up. We should’ve convinced him to tell the authorities, or to go about it another way.”

“Are the guys okay?” Bill wonders, having heard about the bomb going off.

“Everybody accounted for and safe. I had them moving away from there pushing the car to the trailer.” Josh then glances at the latest text from Jordan. “They’re curious already, by the way.”

“As expected,” Alan summarizes. “We’ll have to explain it to them and why we kept it a secret, even though it sounds so stupid now.” Alan then runs his hands through his thin hair, letting out a sigh. “I’m sorry Bill, Cindy, Sarina….”

“You did what you thought was right and what he’d allow you within the window he gave you,” Bill comments as he looks over at the crew chief. “Stop beating yourself up. It’s not going to help. Just focus on him. Focus on making sure he gets better.” Alan nods his head, knowing he wasn’t taking any more chances.

The group then glances up as they watch door open and see a female walk through, followed by calling over to them. She then takes a seat in the chair before the group, which could only add to the concerns that they were having. Alan knew that if the doctor was taking this careful measure entering, she’d have a lot to say and it wouldn’t be pretty.

“My name is Demetra Manning,” she states as she looks at each of the individuals. “I’m the toxicology expert for the hospital, and in charge of poison control. I can tell you everything that you need to know, and answer any questions that you may hav-”

“Just tell me how my son is!” Cindy snaps, just wanting an update as soon as possible.

“I understand that you guys have been in a situation like this before and actually, just a couple weeks ago.” Cindy rolls her eyes as she hated to hear the doctor spending time wasting energy on stuff they didn’t need to know this second. “I got a hold of Dr. Hanken in Daytona as we were looking over initial test results to discuss everything. We both confirmed that he was poisoned with the same substance, with it acting as a stronger stream due to the consistency, the fact that it was injected versus digested, and length of time in the body.”

“We should’ve said something….” Alan comments, feeling a bunch of regret in hearing how serious things had potentially come. It was a regret that he didn’t know if he could ever overcome, either.

“How much more serious?” Bill questions, feeling a tinge of worry himself now. Normally, it was Cindy’s job to panic and worry while he stayed calm – but that wasn’t happening.

“We’re not absolutely certain that he’ll fully recover, yet, or how long it will take him to wake up,” the doctor reveals, which pulled at every heart string for both Cindy and Sarina. “We immediat-”

“What do you mean by ‘wake up’?” Cindy interrupts. “Last time, they gave him a sedative to keep him asleep as his body fought it and he began to heal. Are you referring to that, or….” Dr. Manning takes a deep breath.

“Recall that he passed out on the way to the care center with Mr. Gustafson and Mr. Kirk. Well, he hasn’t woken up since then – and that’s what I am referring to. It may take him a couple hours, or it could be a couple of days. It just depends how the poison affected him.”

“But he will wake up, right?” Dr. Manning felt confident in nodding her head.

“As I started to say, we immediately started him on the antidotes and anti-epileptic medicine. He’s also on a ventilator like previously, too.” Cindy knew that shouldn’t affect her too much as she’d been here before, but she couldn’t help but cringe at those words. “We’ll wait to see when he wakes up and see where he is. If he’s really agitated, we’ll give him a sedative. If he’s not too bad, we’ll look towards the next steps – removing the ventilator, and checking everything over. Either way, it’s going to take a bit of time….”

“Can we go see him, though?” The doctor nods her head.

“I’d actually encourage that, as being surrounded by family and friends will help. Don’t be afraid to talk to him or amongst yourselves, either.”

The group then followed the doctor through the doors, down a short hall, before turning into a room. After a couple deep breaths trying to clear their nerves, Cindy and Sarina led the group into the room. They each took a seat in the first two chairs by the bed, putting their differences aside for the time being. Bill then sat back on the window sill, while Alan and Josh leaned against the wall.

One way or another – none of them were leaving the room until they knew he was okay.

“Kasey won…” Josh breaks the silence in the room that had fallen over a good 20 minutes.

“Really?” Alan asks as he looks over surprised and Josh just nods his head.

“Truex and Kyle wrecked racing for the lead and Kasey managed to get his ass to the front.” Alan shakes his head in disbelief.

“That’s great for Kasey, though. I know how frustrated he’s been.” Josh nods his head once again.

“We keep doing what we’re doing, and Dale manages to snag a win, we may actually get all four cars in the playoffs after all.” Alan could only hope that as he knew how much the guys would like that in the shop. After all, he had seen the frustration with how they’d all run lately.

“How can you think of playoffs at a time like this?” Sarina questions, catching the crew members off-guard.

“Casual conversation and hope for the future – just like the doctor recommended,” Alan summarizes.

“All I can think about is how much pain he’s in and how hard he is fighting…” Alan walks a couple steps forward, rubbing her shoulders.

“Listen, that’s certainly on my mind – bigger than Kasey’s win or anything Josh and I are talking about. Chase’s well-being is the most important thing that I can think of, so you don’t need to question that. We’re just trying to lightly pass the time so we can get to that point he is okay. Besides, you know he’ll be asking what happened and wanting to be in those playoffs.” Sarina sighs, nodding her head. It still didn’t feel right to talk about it all, though.

“Oh shit!” Josh lets out as he grabs his phone off the window sill, causing the entire room to glance over surprised.

“What?” Alan questions as he walks back over to the car chief. “Encumbered finish?”

“Don’t mention those dreadful words – but this is worse. Kasey is feeling crampy, almost dehydrated…but remember before the race in the driver’s mee-”

“Text Kenny right away!” Bill’s eyes then open in surprise as he hears the panic in Alan’s voice. “Kasey sipped from Chase’s water bottle because he was so thirsty. Chase tried to shrug him off from doing it, but couldn’t convince before he did.” Bill rolls his eyes.

“Of course…” He says as he glances over at Chase, feeling his heart break in seeing all the tubes and how he just laid there motionless.


Kasey makes his way down the hall, stopping as he reaches the door and glances in. Alan immediately notices him, excusing himself from the room as he goes out to the hall. It had been four hours since the aforementioned text had been sent.

“Nothing from him?” Kasey questions and Alan shakes his head no.

“Not a single movement,” Alan answers as he leans back against the wall, crossing his arms. “Dr. Manning says that could be a good thing, as his body is conserving energy to fight off everything. But she also warned that not waking up in the first 24 hours could be a sign of brain damage or something serious.” Kasey shakes his head in disbelief.

“Well then he better wake up….”

“How are you, though?” Kasey could only shrug his shoulders. It’d be a whirlwind from victory lane to kissing the bricks, to the infield care center and to the hospital.

“I didn’t get a lot in my system, thankfully. Dr. Manning gave me the same antidote that Chase is taking, and it’s starting to work. I’m about 80% right now, and she says I should be back to myself in the next couple of days.” Alan could only let out a sigh of relief.

“That’s good.” Alan then glances back towards the room, before looking at Kasey. “I’m glad you’re not in the same shoes as him. I mean, he shouldn’t be there, either. If he would’ve said something sooner, then he could be like you. If I would’ve convinced him to say something sooner, or I would’ve just done it myself, then we wouldn’t be here this serious. I can’t believe I didn’t say something. I can’t believe I didn’t go against everything. Why did I just sit there this morning and let him convince me about this absurd plan of Josh’s?” Kasey shrugs his shoulders, having not been there to see everything.

“You can’t beat yourself up over it, Alan. We all make mistakes. Heck, I’ve made some myself. It doesn’t help. You just got to focus on getting him bet-”

“Every time I look at him lying there, though, it’s a reminder. It’s a reminder that time is precious and I was an idiot for not remembering that. I mean, what kind of crew chief am I if let my driver get into this positio-”

“Alan, it’s not your faul-”

“But it is, Kahne! We’ve been here before! Damn it!” Kasey could hear the anger laced in Alan’s voice, knowing it wasn’t directed at him, but rather the situation. “I should’ve done something…” A couple tears fall as Kasey immediately reaches out, pulling Alan into a hug, rubbing his back. “I should’ve….”

“He’s going to be okay, Alan. It’s going to be okay…”


Flight 88 – Chapters 51 Thru 55

Chapter 51: Mariela’s Ideas

Tuesday Night

Mariela walks into the hospital, taking a careful glance around. She had already found her way into an office and gotten her hands on a doctor’s coat. Now she looked liked she belonged, rather than someone to suspect. Now to find the rest of the pieces.

Knowing a group of people who get you the information that you wanted, she knew where to find out more information about her further details for the plan.

She walks through the hospital, heading to one of the drug bays. Seeing as there is someone there, she takes a deep breath and walks in carefully, ready.

“Umm, are you busy?” She asks and the male doctor turns around as she reads the name tag seeing ‘Jay Dunn’ on it. The male doctor shakes his head as she walks over and holds out her hand. “I’m Rosie Fisher as I just transferred her from upstate New York.” She had carefully removed the name tag on the coat that she had stolen, replacing it with another name tag that the person with the information had given her.

When it came to needing things for plans – drugs, ways into hospitals – this informant was even better than her crew partner. This informant could get her into places that could get the tools that she needed and tell her how to go about it. It was how she had gotten the bomb. The days of working with the FBI were certainly paying off in knowing how investigations went, and some interesting contacts.

“Jay Dunn, one of the many drug specialists here,” the blond male shakes her hand.

“It’s nice to meet you, Jay. Listen, I have some questions about a couple patient files that I was reading in where previous doctors seem to suck at writing proper notes for drug detox.”

“Some doctors can be sloppy with their writing. I don’t have the neatest writing so I hear about it all the time. What can I help you with?” Mariela smiles, knowing that she already has Jay wrapped around her finger.

“Say if you wanted to get someone to listen to you and do what you wanted, whether sexual or not.” Jay smiles immediately, knowing the answer.

“It’s a combination of a drug with hypnosis.” Mariela smiles as she knew how to do hypnosis from a young age.

“So you sub-consciously make the person willing to accept the hypnosis by giving them the drug, am I correct?” Jay shakes his head. “What drug would you use?”

“A truth serum because it makes answer to your commands and such.” She then looks at him a little puzzled as he points to one of the shelves. She walks over, reading the labels, having heard of one of them – scopolamine.

“Scopolamine was a drug that was used by investigators in third-world countries to get information from people. I’ve heard it can be really thorough with it’s work.” She had known the effects based on working with her father; it was what her father had used on her mother to find out about Marie’s wrongful behavior.

“Correct. They suspected that the US Army was also using it for the same purposes, but didn’t find anything.”

“It wouldn’t surprise me as you have to do what you have to do when it comes to someone breaking the laws and needing to be dealt with.” She then turns back to Jay, knowing that she needed a little more information. “What’s a good anesthetic, or anesthesia to use? Every hospital has a different choice in what they use so I’m curious to see what you guys use. Personally, whatever does the job is the best. However, some say don’t use this because of that and don’t use this because of whatever.” Jay chuckles a little.

“I’ve heard it all – trust me. If you’re looking for a good anesthetic, I always recommend prilocaine for long procedures, and then we use isoflurane, desflurane, nitrous oxide and sevoflurane for the anesthesia.”

“That sounds about right from what I’ve heard across the board. Thank you for taking the time to explain it to me. I always like to know what I’m giving my patients.”

“I admire a doctor like that, Rosie. Now if you excuse me, I need to go deliver the epidural to the poor lady in labor down the hall.” Jay then leaves the room as Mariela smiles, watching him.

“You couldn’t had picked a better time to leave, sweetheart.” Remembering the list given to her, she grabs a couple of each, storing them in a backpack before leaving.

To anyone that she passed on her way out, she said that her shift was over and that she’d see them later, waving goodbye. None of them acted suspicious, thinking that she was just another doctor as she left the hospital.

Jay returned to the room about 20 minutes later, surprised when he noticed the bottles stated were missing. Immediately, he locked down the room and called down to security, explaining the situation.

The security guards were made aware, scanning the security video and looking for any sight of the person who had stolen the vials of medicine. However, no face was identified on camera in her whole way through the hospital and leaving as she had made sure to know where the cameras were at all times.

She knew that it’d be easy to re-enter on Wednesday night to see the person that she wanted to see.


Marie takes a sip of the water as she leans against the counter in the small motorhome kitchen, letting out a long sigh. She had been trying to sleep for the past three hours after she and Dale finally finished texting each other – she made him stop, insisting that he needed rest. However, she couldn’t let her mind quit thinking as she worried about him being alone. With what had happened the past month or so, she wanted to be close to him and able to cuddle him.

“Can’t sleep?” She hears as she turns towards Steve, who is standing there. “I know you’re worried Marie, but you need your sleep. You need to take care of yourself if you’re going be there to take care of him. You know he’s safe as he’s at the bloody hospital with security at every end so you know that he’ll be fine.”

“It doesn’t cure my worry or want to be cuddled right up to him Stevie,” she comments as she sets the glass in the sink.

“I understand, but please run it through your mind and take care of yourself. How will you take care of him if you’re running around tired and sick?”

“Yeah yeah, I get it.” She then walks back towards the pull-out couch, flopping down on it as she pulls the blanket over herself.

“Get some sleep. Morning will be here before you know it.” Steve then leaves the room and heads back to bed.

Wednesday Morning

“Jordy, what we doing?” Alyssa asks as she heads towards the garage with Jordan and Rob. They had agreed to keep her for a couple more days with Dale being in the hospital. They thought that having her at the track would keep her little mind amused. “Where we going?”

“We’re going to see daddy’s racecar,” Rob starts as he holds her hand tightly. “Since daddy is sore, Regan is going to drive it today.” She then looks at him with a puzzled face. “Daddy said it was okay so I’m sure you think it’s okay, right? Please?” Alyssa smiles and shakes her head yes as they walk into the garage stall.

“Chase!!” She runs up to him and wraps her arms around Chase’s legs as he stands in the garage with Regan and some of the 88 team talking about what had happened to Dale and the fact that Regan was driving the Cup car the rest of the weekend. Regan knew that he could handle it – hated the circumstances but knew he could handle it – and was set to have a good practice and a good Gatorade Duel tomorrow for the team. If anything, showcasing how strong the team is would help Dale feel better, right?

“Sorry….” Jordan starts as Chase turns around and picks the three-year-old up, tossing her in his arms.

“I heard you were around but have you been hiding on me?” Chase teases as Alyssa giggles and shakes her head no.

“Jordy and Rob hid me,” she comments as Chase looks over at the pair and shakes his head.

“Hey now, we took her to see Cinderella and Mickey Mouse on Monday, and then went on some cool rides yesterday at Universal Studios,” Jordan defends his actions as he walks over. “Say, since you’re her big buddy, can you handle her while I help Regan get comfortable in the car?”

“Can I handle her?” Chase questions as he keeps his eyes on Alyssa. “I don’t know about that Jordan. I heard this one is a handful.”

“She’s an angel,” Rob comments as Alyssa smiles.
“I be good Chase,” she tells him as Chase smiles, setting her back down.

“So I have a little minion for the day?” Chase questions Jordan as Jordan winks. “Yeah, sure. I’ll just spoil her with chocolate all day so she won’t sleep tonight for you.”

“Yummy!” Alyssa cheers as Jordan just rolls his eyes.


Marie looks at the clock, watching the second hand tick by each number, it feeling like an eternity as she waits for the time to hit. Finally – it hits the 10 and she bursts through the doors, hurrying up to his room. She immediately runs in, seeing that he’s awake, wrapping both arms around him and holding him close to her.

“I love you….I missed you,” she lets out before kissing his cheek. He then turns to her, taking her lips in passionately, wanting them more than anything, especially small peck on the cheek.

“I missed you as well,” he comments. “It was hard to sleep without you.”

“Ugh, don’t remind me of that as I was up half the night.”

“Well then get your ass up here and cuddle if you’re so tired.” She then listens, cuddling up close to him as they both feel secure in each other’s arms, letting both their eyes close.


Chapter 52: Wednesday

“Chase, can we go see daddy?” Alyssa asks as she eats her lunch with Chase. Chase had gone into full watching her as he didn’t mind doing it at all as she was great to have around. “I want to see daddy.”

“We can go see your daddy and then what do you say tonight we have a sleepover and watch Cinderella?” Chase offers, which brings a big smile to Alyssa’s face. “But first, you need to eat all of your lunch like a big girl.”

“Okay!” Alyssa then listens to the instructions without another word.


“So how was the car?” Jason asks as he leans against the car following practice.

“It was awesome as I could do what I wanted in the draft as I pleased,” Regan answers, bringing forth a smile on Jason’s face. “Now it’s just putting myself in the right position tomorrow.”

“We know you’re good at that. You’ve done it here before.” Regan smiles in approval as it felt good coming back to Daytona after winning the Nationwide Series Championship last year. It also felt good based on the fact that he won last year’s season opener as well.

“We’ll just have to see what happens. I’ll do the best that I can for this team.”

“That’s all we expect. Thanks for filling in on short notice, too.”

“It’s not me that you need to thank – it’s Megan. I was supposed to go to Epcot today and Disney World tomorrow before Nationwide Series practice kicks off.”

“We know a way that you can get yourself out of trouble with her,” Rob teases with a grin on his face, earning laughs from everyone else as Regan shakes his head in disbelief while leaving the garage stall.

As the team began working on what needed to be done, Steve stood in the back corner and watched. He was proud of the guy. Everything that they had planned during the off-season was working out perfectly as it seemed like everything was flowing with Jason as he planned. He knew that things would go that way as this was a superb group that he had worked hard to put together and perfect.

Though, that wasn’t why he was there that day. He had his eye on each crew member, watching their behavior, watching their work, seeing who could possibly be the rat. It was something that disturbed him as he badly wanted to know who it was and why they’d do such a thing. He never thought anybody on their own team was capable of such a thing and that was what made it feel even worse.

As the idea processed through his mind, his eyes trailed to the new engineer in suspicion again. He didn’t know why Randy seemed to stand out but he looked like the odd ball of the group. Perhaps because he was new, but perhaps because he was trying to cover for his real reason for being there.

It wasn’t Steve’s choice to hire him, nor did Steve have any say in the hiring process. It was something that Jason, Rick and Chad had gone about doing, saying that he’d help the team in the transition. He remembered Chad speaking highly of the resume and Jason being confident based on what he saw during the trial period. However, was it all just a lie?

Steve quietly makes his way over to Randy and leans over his shoulder at the computer screen, reading over the notes that the engineer is looking at.

“Whatcha doing?” Steve asks casually as Randy looks up from the computer.

“Just comparing the notes that we have from practice to what the other Hendrick teams have,” Randy answers. “I just want to make sure that we didn’t miss anything and see what they tried versus us.”

“Seems legit.” Steve then sits down in the chair beside Randy, still not fully convinced. “So what are you noticing? Anything that Jason should know? Anything that we all should know about you?” Randy then looks at Steve confused as Steve stands up and pushes the chair in.

“Still think I’m the person that is helping Mariela, huh?” Steve shrugs his shoulders as Randy stands up and looks Steve in the eyes. “Let me tell you something. I’m just here to do my job just like everyone else on this team. I’ve worked damn hard to get in this position and I don’t need your false suspicions getting me in trouble. So I suggest that you just let it go because I’m not the person that you’re looking for, LeTarte. Fair?” Randy then picks up his laptop and walks away from Steve as Steve leans against the wall, thinking over Randy’s words.


That night in the hospital room, they were spending time playing a couple games with Alyssa as Chase had brought her over as she had requested. Dale and Marie had been perfectly fine with it, playing a couple games with her.

Alyssa had also been a welcome sight when it came to getting Dale up to do some walking as Chase and Alyssa came up with a game that helped make it a little more fun, and less painful experience. Rather than focused on how he was feeling, there was another sweet thought in his mind.

For both Dale and Marie, it was a welcome sight based on everything as it gave them time to get away from the craziness of life and get back to what they knew as fun in the way that things were before. Why couldn’t things be like this all the time?

“Daddy, you leave hop-ee-tal now?” Alyssa wonders as she sits at the end of the bed. Dale shakes his head no.

“The doctor says that I can’t leave yet as he wants to make sure that I am feeling better before he lets me go,” Dale answers. The doctor had told him that he needed to stay for a couple more days so they could observe over him and make sure that the stab wound was healing accordingly. If all went well, he’d be let out on Friday afternoon.

“Soon?” Dale shakes his head yes, hoping that he’d get the okay on Friday.

“But hey, I think you’re the special one because you get to sleep over with Chase tonight,” Marie states as Alyssa smiles. “Are you sure it’s okay, though, Chase?” Chase shakes his head yes as he had texted Jordan already saying that he’d keep her for the night and all day Thursday so that way she stayed out of trouble.

“I love Chase!” Alyssa lets out before wrapping both arms around Chase and pulling him close. “Chase is my boyfriend!” Marie and Dale’s jaws both drop as Chase looks at her surprised.

“Are you sure you want a boyfriend like me?” Chase questions and Alyssa shakes her head yes with certainty. “Okay….ummm……”

“Aren’t they just adorable?” Dale questions as Marie chuckles.

“What do you say if we were buddies but not boyfriend-girlfriend?” Alyssa looks at him confused. “Boyfriend-girlfriend means that we have to kiss each other’s lips…eewwww.”

“And wait for it…” Marie starts as Alyssa keeps her eyes on Chase.

“No kissy lowed,” she tells him. “Boys have cooties. Daddy says. We buddy!” Chase then breaks out laughing as he looks at Dale and Dale gives him a wink.

“Keeps her from dating so it must be working,” Dale comments.

“I can’t believe that you’d do that to her,” Chase says.

With continuing to get later, they all realized that it was time for Alyssa to leave so her and Chase said their goodbyes before leaving the hospital together for their ‘sleepover’, leaving Dale and Marie by themselves.

“What are we going to do with her when she actually gets a boyfriend?” Dale questions as he pulls Marie close. “How am I going to handle it? She’s still my little girl. I don’t want her to grow up.”

“You got a long way to go before that and I think you’re safe from her dating for awhile thanks to your ‘cooties’. I’m surprised that she hasn’t stopped you from kissing me.”

“I would go to time out every minute of the day if I had to just to kiss your lips.” Dale then gives Marie another kiss as they lay together in the bed again, counting down the seconds to the time that she’d be kicked out once again. Only two more nights. They could handle it.


Chapter 53: She’s Back!!!

Making her way into the hospital – gown adorned, new name tag attached, she heads to the elevator, making her way to the floor that she knew that he was on. With her pockets loaded, she climbs off the elevator. She just hoped that nobody would recognize her despite her disguise – a wig, contacts – she was prepared for this.

She made note of the nurse that was on the floor – Brenda Erickson – so that way it wouldn’t see strange as if she was sneaking in there. She also had her story straight as to explaining her appearance, and remembered the explanations from Jay the previous night.

She makes her way over the counter, leaning over the edge as he peers at the nurse. The nurse looks up at her, surprise written on her face

“Oh, Latoya is not working tonight?” She asks and Mariela immediately shakes her head no.

“She called in sick so they got me to cover for her,” Mariela explains, knowing exactly where she had stashed that precious doctor – knocked out and locked in a forgotten closet. “My name is Maureen Lewis. I’m new on staff.” She holds her hand out, watching as Brenda shakes it. She knew that she couldn’t use the same name as the previous night due to Jay probably reporting her for stealing drugs.

“Well it’s nice to meet you. My name is Brenda Erickson.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Brenda. Anything that I need to be aware of?” The nurse shakes her head no as she hands the stack of files over. Mariela quickly shifts through them, knowing who’s she is looking for.

“Oh, there’s a certain name that may stand out to you if you’re a NASCAR fan – so as Ella probably already told you, be sure to follow policy.” Mariela smiles, knowing exactly what that means. “There hasn’t been any problems tonight nor was there last night with anybody so I think things will be fine. Oh, and if you do go see Mr. Earnhardt, don’t be surprised that someone is there with him.” Mariela instantly freezes as she looks back towards Marie, curious. She had planned on him being perfectly alone. “With everything that has supposedly happened to him, he couldn’t sleep well last night being alone without his fiancé. So per special permission – which was approved by Ella – she was allowed to stay tonight since he needs his sleep if he is to heal properly.”

“That’s understandable and perhaps a good move, considering the psychological state of his mind right now.” Of course, her inner thoughts spelt different explanations. This would make things very difficult in having to deal with Marie also. It wouldn’t be a simple set of things to do now. Though it was still possible – if she took the right steps in order.

“That’s what Ella and the other doctor said. Beyond that, everything else is in order as per the files.” Mariela then sets the files down, grabbing a couple to look like she was going on a set of routine checks as she watches Brenda get back to working.

She walks away from the desk, heading down the hall towards the room in question. Peaking in the room, she sees them both sound asleep and cuddling together. She shakes her head in disgust, debating in her mind which way to go about her next set of moves.

She then sneaks into the room quietly, carefully keeping herself hidden, watching for any sign of movement by the pair. As she moves closer, she hears Marie stir a little as if she heard something.

“Dal-” Marie goes to call out as if to ask if he heard something was well, though instantly feels a mask cover her face, forcing some sort of gas into her as she starts to feel sleepy.

“That’s it sister, go to sleep like a good little girl,” Mariela comments quietly as Marie tries to fight her away. Marie pushes at Mariela, trying to get her back even a little to move the mask, though the actions aren’t proving anything as she begins to feel more sleepy by the second. Once Marie is totally limp, Mariela removes the mask as a smile forms across her face. “You always were the first to go to sleep at night.”

Knowing that she has to move quickly as if Dale catches any glance of her there will be a problem, she makes her way over to him, taking the needle out of her pocket, watching the liquid closely in it, before placing it in his arm. She was prepared for him to wake him up and instantly when she saw the eyes open, her hand went across his mouth firmly.

“Don’t you dare think of screaming or I will make sure that Marie doesn’t make it out of here alive,” Mariela tells him. “She’s just knocked out right now but I can make sure that it is permanent considering what I have.” Pulling the mixed jars of medicine from her pocket, she feels Dale instantly relax against her hold as a smile comes across her face. “That’s what I thought.”

“What do you want?” He asks as he keeps his eyes on her, debating what move to make to next.

“For you to do one simple measure for me,” she answers as she waits for the ‘truth serum’ to set in before the next step. “Tell me the truth.”

“What? That I hate you? That I wish you would go away? Or should I just tell that I have nightmares because of you? I can’t sleep at by myself because of you. I keep thinking that someone is just over my shoulder. The slightest noise makes me jump.” Mariela smiled in pride as she could tell that it was doing exactly what she wanted it to do. “Oh crap. Why did I just tell you that?”

“Those reasons don’t need to be discussed, Dale.” She then reaches in her pocket, pulling out the string medallion that she had kept since she was a little girl when she learned how to hypnotize people from her father.

“You’re going to hypnotize me, right?” Mariela smiles as she keeps her hold on him so he can’t move, dangling the object in front of his eyes.

“And as much as you fight it, you know you want to.”

“No I don’t because I know you’re evil…..Go away!”

“Sssh, keep your voice down.” Dale snickers as sure, there was truth serum in him, but that didn’t erase the thoughts. That just made the truth even more clear in that Mariela was evil. A scream immediately erupted from his lips, hoping to attract someone.

“Help! Evil witch present!” She hoped that it didn’t bring forth the nurse or anyone, although she had a possible cover story ready to go.

“Follow the medallion….co-operate….or….” She holds up the vials of medicine, though the footsteps coming closer catch her attention as she quickly hides everything, seeing Brenda at the door.

“Is there a problem?” The nurse asks and Mariela immediately shakes her head no.

“She’s not who she says she is!” Dale yells as the nurse looks on shocked. “Her name is actually Mariela Calantay! She is the one that tried to kill me!”

“He’s hallucinating, it’s just a figure of his nightmares because of what happened,” Mariela starts as she gets out a needle, loading it with one of the medicines. Perhaps the truth serum/hypnotism act was the wrong choice. “In the morning, we’ll set him for a psychological evaluation with the on-site psychologist. Though for now, everybody needs sleep so this should do the trick.” Dale tries to fight against her as she sticks the needle in his arm, containing a sleep drug. She watches him go to sleep as she grabs the file and makes a note. As she writes the note to keep the nurse happy, she realizes what she can do to fill out the rest of her plan.

“I’ll make sure to contact Dr. Garry Bates in the morning,” the nurse states. “Is there anything else that I can do?” Mariela shakes her head no. “Okay. Let me know if you run into any problems that require my help.”

“Yes, and please continue to do your job as specified.” Mariela sets the file down on the table as she clears her breath, ready to take a stab at it. Keeping him in this room with all this on his mind wasn’t in the cards. “You know what? Scratch contacting Dr. Bates. I’m going to transfer him down to the psychological ward now so they can keep a close eye on everything. I just feel it’d be better so that way things stay under maximum care. We’ll leave his fiancé up here and tell her in the morning when she wakes up as she can’t be in that area for certainty. I can carefully move her to the chair.”

“Don’t you think we should notify her?” Mariela freezes, not believing the thoughts of this nurse.

“Nah, it’d be better to let her sleep considering what she had gone through in the past couple of weeks.” The nurse shakes her head before leaving the room as Mariela carefully moves Marie to the chair, throwing a blanket on her to make it look like she actually cares. “I love nurses who have no clue on what they’re doing. See ya later sis.” Mariela then turns back to Dale, ready to move the bed accordingly. She pushes him to the elevator as she notices the nurse is off attending to another patient.

Once in the elevator, she hits the basement floor, knowing her escape plan and still thankful that she had access to the staff elevator with what she had planned.

Hitting the bottom floor, she rolls the bed out to the back parking lot before parking it by her car. Picking him up, she tosses him in the backseat, closing the door before climbing in the front seat. Starting the car, she backs up and heads off, smile firmly planted on her face.

“That was easy,” she comments.


About 30 minutes later…..

“Ma’am,” someone taps her as Marie stretches, waking up. She then sits up in the chair, looking around confused. Where was the bed? Why was she in a chair? What happened? “Ma’am, there’s something that we need to tell you.” She then looks to her left, noticing an officer standing there, her heart immediately sinking to her stomach.

“Oh no…” she lets out. “Mariela kidnapped him, didn’t she? Dale has been kidnapped, right?” The officer slowly shakes his head yes as Marie feels hot tears seeping down her cheeks immediately in worry.

What did her crazy sister have planned now? Where was Dale? Where would she take him? What was she planning? She hated every bit of the thought….and worse, the previous night was starting to come back to her. She remembered hearing the nose. She remembered looking around. She remembered the mask on her face…fight against it….. Why hadn’t she done more?

“Please find him, please find him soon,” she pleads as the officer kneels down to her level.

“We’re doing what we can in following every lead possible that we have based on the security footage,” the officer begins. “We’ve confirmed by facial recognition despite the wig and contacts that it was Mariela as you fear. We tried to wake you earlier, but figured that had happened and was why you wouldn’t awake. We have contacted his mom and his sister already, in which his sister said that she’d make sure others found out. We are doing what we can. We’ll make sure to find him.”

The officer then leaves the room as Marie lays there, thinking. She was worried. She was upset that she hadn’t done more to stop Mariela. She was ready to blame herself because it was “her” sister. She was angry. Why wasn’t the staff at the hospital watching closer? Why did it seem that Mariela could sneak around unknown and continue to do this?


Chapter 54: Kidnapped


“How did she get her hands on him again?” Kelley questions as everyone in the room shrugs their shoulders. “Weren’t they watching for her?”

“Supposedly, she was wearing some sort of disguise,” Kelley’s husband L.W. summarizes as Kelley rolls her eyes.

“A wig and contacts – no excuse still,” Brenda comments from her spot on the couch. They had gotten together after Kelley had received the phone call from the police officer stating that her brother was missing. Needless to say, she was now furious well worried sick now.

“I didn’t say it was! They should have been briefed about her appearance! There should have been a security guard posted till she was arrested!”

“That all sounds great now after the fact…” Kelley comments before cuddling up closer to L.W. “I just hope that he’ll be okay.

“He will be, don’t worry,” L.W. assures her as he rubs her back. “They’ll find him and take proper care of Mariela this time. Your brother is strong. Everything is going to work out.”


“So I take it you all have been briefed about Dale’s disappearance, right?” Jason Burdett questions and the crew members shake their heads yes. Rick Hendrick had pulled all of the Hendrick crews together to tell them about what had happened.

“Listen, I know it’s hard because this is taking it’s tear on me right now being here getting set to do this while he is kidnapped,” Regan starts carefully. “But we got to do our jobs for the sponsors and for this team. We have to show the fans that we’re a strong unit and we’re going to do what it takes. We have to show that we’re strong for our driver. So for that reason, I say we go out and win that Gatorade Duel today and then win the Daytona 500 on Sunday!”

“Taking lessons from Steve on cheerleading?” Regan shrugs his shoulders as Steve moves from his spot and wraps an arm around Regan.

“I give him a perfect score as he took the words out of my mouth,” Steve comments before looking over the guys. He still was curious about the weasel in the group. All suspicions kept pointing back to Randy, however there was no way to prove it and move further on the accusations.

“Well let’s do what they said!” Jason says. “And boys, he will be fine. Keep believing in your driver.” The crew shakes their heads in agreement before heading off to their jobs, leaving Steve and Jason alone in the trailer.

“Are you okay to handle this today by yourself?” Jason shakes his head yes as he wraps an arm around Steve.

“I told you that you could trust me and trust me, I got this. It’s not easy but I can handle this. I’m not letting those boys down.” Jason then heads towards the garage, set to go over the pre-race checklist.


Mariela walks into the room as she flips on the television, turning it to the Gatorade Duels.

“I figured that I’d give you something to watch,” she comments as Dale gives her the death stare the whole time.

“Thanks….I guess,” he replies as he looks around the room. He had been awake for a good couple of hours now and definitely was surprised by his surroundings when he arrived. He was also surprised that besides one wrist being clamped down, he was left free from any bindings.

“You’re welcome.” She walks over and sits in the chair before him. “So are you starting to warm up to me? If so, that’s pretty sweet because I don’t plan on hurting you. I just want to see what someone else has to think about this.” Dale looks at her confused by her words, surprised to hear that she didn’t have any ‘hurting’ plans. Though he knew the inflex of her words by the second half.

“So you’re doing this because of your hatred towards Marie? Listen, aren’t we past that now?” Mariela shakes her head no as she sits back, glancing towards the television.

“She needs to pay for breaking the law and she needs to pay for killing our father.” Mariela then watches the race on the television, seeing that Kyle Busch is currently leading while Regan rides solidly in fourth driving Dale’s car. “So how much luck is involved in restrictor plate racing, and how much skill is required?” She then looks back at Dale, waiting for an answer. “What? I’ve done some research.” Dale rolls his eyes as he watches, waiting to see when Regan was going to make his move. It was also a good distraction from Mariela.

“There’s skill in putting yourself in the right position and finding the lane that is moving towards the front, as Regan has proven to be good at here so far. However, there’s luck in being in that right spot at the right time, and also avoiding the big wreck when it happens.”

“Hm, interesting. And you’re supposedly good at this, right?” It felt weird to be having a solid conversation with Mariela, but if it kept her from doing anything till he was found, so be it.

“Sure, I guess. I mean, I have won the Daytona 500 twice.” Mariela smiles as she sits back, relaxing. It seemed interesting based on some of the ideas that had crossed her mind the past couple of days. “May I ask why you’re so curious about it? Are you slowly becoming a race fan?” She then laughs as she looks over at him.

“You’d just wish for that to happen, wouldn’t you? Listen, I’m curious because I may have a special plan for you at the end of this week.” Dale then looks at her confused once again, yet also scared of what she has to say.

“May I ask what that plan is? Or are you going to hide that from me?” Sitting up, she was sure about the idea that had flashed through her mind.

“So you’re good at restrictor plate racing and you have some wins at both Talladega and Daytona. You’re also a Daytona 500 winner. There’s a good chance that you could win this year’s event – if say, you weren’t here….or I hadn’t stabbed you.” She then sinks in her seat, letting out a long sigh. “I actually feel bad for stabbing you and hurting you. I feel bad for kidnapping you, too, for some reason and making your precious daughter worry. I mean, it’s not your fault that you broke my country’s laws and regulations, as you didn’t know what they were.”

“So if you feel so bad, why am I sitting here where I am right now?” Mariela smiles as she thinks that over.

“Simple – I need to teach my sister a dear lesson for what she has done. However, perhaps I could help both of your cases. Perhaps I could give you a chance at freedom in being allowed to be together. Sort of win your way out of this mess. However, your freedom won’t come easy dear one.”

“I’m listening….”

“You have one way to get freedom – win the Daytona 500 on Sunday. If you do that, I will make sure that you get reunited with Marie. If you for some reason don’t win the race, she will have to pay for breaking the laws and killing my father.” Dale then chuckles at the thought. How did she expect him to win the race where he was? It wasn’t like she’d let him go as she knew that he’d spoil the plan, probably. “You seem amused by this.”

“You’re not going to let me loose because what if I say something? So with that said, how am I going to be in the car on Sunday?”

“I will handle getting you in the car per my ‘helper’ – you just handle what you need to do once there. I suggest you keep your strength up so you’re prepared for whatever you must to do to win the race.” Dale then looks at her cautiously, obviously being caught off guard by the word ‘helper’. “Yes, there’s someone on your own team that is helping me before you bother to ask. Why do you think you ended up with a new engineer?” She then leaves the room, closing the door behind her and locking it as Dale relaxes back and watches the rest of the race.

Unfortunately, Regan didn’t have the day that he truly wanted as he ended up finishing fourth behind Austin Dillon, Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart. Though that wasn’t on Dale’s mind at that moment. He was more so thinking about Mariela’s whole plan for the Sunday.


Chapter 55: The Beginning

The next 48 hours passed by very slowly as many thoughts pondered through Dale’s mind. He thought about Mariela’s words and her plan. He thought about whether she could really get him in the car without being noticed. He thought about whether he could go forth with winning the race and his back being as sore as it had been the past couple of days. He thought about what would happen if it didn’t come together. Would someone figure it out? Would it work out? Fear and worry crawled at every turn, but he knew that he had to do what it took.

The worry had crept into Marie’s heart as well as she couldn’t believe that in 48 hours of looking for him, the authorities had yet to turn up anything. It was taking it’s toll on her and Kelley both in worrying about Dale and what Mariela was doing. There was no telling what she could do based on how she had kidnapped him and the items that she had in her procession.

In the process of the passing hours, Steve LeTarte had kept a close eye on the guys. He was sure that it was Randy that was the snitch, rat, whatever you wanted to call it. However, there was no proof so there was no way to pin him for it. He had spoken to Jason about the occurrence, making sure that Jason was careful in the notes that were being passed from Randy.

While they had the ordeal of Dale missing, Regan Smith was stuck in his own situation. He was supposed to be the relief driver and run Dale’s car in the Daytona 500. However, he woke up on Sunday morning, feeling very sick to his stomach. On top of that, the Nationwide race hadn’t gone well as he got caught up in a wreck, flipping over on the backstretch. Needless to say, he wasn’t ready to tackle the job at hand.

“Megan?” Regan calls as he sits near the toilet in the bathroom for what seemed like the millionth time that morning. She comes in as instructed, kneeling down to his level. “Can you call Chase and ask him if he can…”

“Take over your spot?” Regan hears and looks towards the bathroom door to see Chase standing there.

“He just got here a couple minutes ago,” Megan explains. “I was waiting till you came out of here.”

“I know it’s a lot to ask, but can you?” Regan asks and Chase shakes his head yes. He was confident that he could do the job that was necessary for the day after winning yesterday’s Nationwide Series race.

“I have no problem doing it,” Chase answers. “You can’t possibly even give it your best shot with how you’re feeling. I can handle it.”

“I’m going to keep Alyssa here though so Bill and Cindy can concentrate on what’s going on,” Megan explains as she wets a wash cloth before wiping Regan’s face once again.

With Marie being upset with what had happened, Chase, Bill and Cindy had kept Alyssa for the past couple of days to make it easier. They got through the first 24 hours without saying anything, however finally Alyssa broke them down and Cindy explained that ‘daddy had been taken by a bad person but not to worry as daddy was really strong and they’d find him’. That left Alyssa sad and worried,
however Cindy’s comfort had eased it to a degree.

“Thanks for offering Chase,” Megan comments as she helps Regan up and back into the bed. She then tucks him back in, before closing the door slightly. “He kept telling me last night when he was throwing up that he’d be fine. I’m glad that he came to his senses and you’re able to do it.”

“We all have to stick together,” Chase says before walking over to where Alyssa sits on the couch. He then sits beside her. “Alright bud, I go to go run daddy’s car today, okay?” She then looks at him surprised.

“You drive daddy car?” Alyssa asks and Chase shakes his head yes. “No Chasey.”

“Yes Alyssa, I need to. Your daddy can’t right now and Regan isn’t feeling too good. He kind of puked in the toilet.”

“Yuck!” Alyssa then curls up closer to Chase. “Chasey, I see daddy soon?” Chase takes a deep breath as he runs a hand down her back, a couple tears forming in his eyes. He hated to see her upset about it.

“I promise you’ll see him soon. He can’t stay away from you much longer. He loves you too much.”

“I love him. I miss him.”

“I know sweetheart. I miss him too.” He then kisses the top of her head before sliding out from beside her. “Now, you need to be good for Megan, okay?” Alyssa shakes her head yes. “Okay. I’ll try and bring you a trophy to make that smile come back bigger.”

“Okay. Kissy?” Chase htne looks at her surprised.

“I thought we were buddies, not girlfriend-boyfriend. Don’t I have kooties?” She then giggles.

“Good lucky kissy?” Chase then kneels down to her level.

“That’s fine.” She then kisses his cheek and gives him a hug before he heads off to meet up with the rest of the team.


“So it looks like Chase is running the car because Regan is still sick,” Steve comments as he sits in the motorcoach with Marie. After having breakfast, he had gone to check on her before going to see what the rest of the team was doing. “He texted me that he dropped off Alyssa with Megan.” Marie shakes her head yes, as she slowly eats her breakfast after Steve forced her.

“That’s fine,” she replies quietly. “I can’t thank Chase and Bill and Cindy enough for what they’ve done for her.”

“The Elliotts are great people and so is Megan and Regan. If I was to be stuck in a situation like this, I think we’re surrounded by the best people that we can be surrounded by. So, are you going to stay here all day? Or what?” Marie looks over at Steve, knowing her decision. She didn’t want to go out and about with how she was feeling about Dale being missing.

“I’d rather stay here.” Steve shakes his head, understanding. “Steve, do you really believe that he’ll be okay?” Steve then looks over at her surprised. “As the days past by, I can’t help but worry more about him. What if? I know my sister is completely nuts. What if she’s crossed the line?”

“You can’t let yourself think that. You have to believe that he’ll be okay and back in your arms soon. I keep picturing the smile that will be on his face when he and Alyssa see each other again.” Steve then pulls Marie close. “I know it’s hard, but keep believing. That’s the only choice that you have. I believe and I know that you do, somewhere deep down.” He then lets her go and heads towards the door. “Text me if you need me.” He then leaves, heading towards the garage area set to meet up with Jason and Chase.

As the rest of the morning goes on, Marie slowly makes her way around the motorcoach, keeping her phone clutched to her as she hopes for any phone call with any news possible. She numbly turns on the pre-race coverage, figuring that it’s better than doing nothing.

As she begins to watch one of the pre-race features, she feels arms creep around her, covering her mouth and tying her up in a quick motion, before taking her out of the motorcoach.