The Bruises – Chapters 11 Thru 15

thebruises

Chapter 11: Stewart

Dale Jr.’s House – Morning Night, post Daytona July race

Tony reached the bedsroom door, hearing the scream of pain coming from inside the room, just shaking his head. There was no question that he was doing the right thing.

“You better listen to me or else,” he said as he opened the door, causing Jeff to freeze on instant of it being open. Jeff wondered who was there, haven’t turned around yet to face the doorway. He thought it was probably Lindsay, curious as to what was happening. Though with a glance over his shoulder, he was surprised that it was indeed Tony standing there, instead. What was he doing there? Hadn’t Dale told all of his friends to stay away knowing that this was “their night”?

“What is he doing here?” Jeff asked aloud as he looked back towards Dale. He then turned his glance towards Tony, trying to think of something to say to get him out of there without complaints. “What are you doing here, Tony?” Without saying a word, Tony grabbed Jeff’s by the sleeves of his shirt, pinning him right up against the closet door. Their visit together would be short and sweet and Jeff would know then and there to stay away. “Let go of me. We were just havi-”

“Don’t try your lies on me, Gordon.” Jeff then looked towards Dale, anger written across his face. How could Dale tell somebody? Weren’t the threats enough to keep him quiet?

“How could you tell him, Dale? You do realize what will happ-”

“You better watch what you’re about to say and do after leaving this room because you could be in for a rude awakening. See, you’re not the only one that is clever with their knowledge of blackmail. Once I heard what you were doing to Dale, why and the reason he was scared, I knew what I had to do.” Jeff’s anger turned to concern as he looked back towards Tony, who had yet to loosen the grip that he held.

“What are you going talking about? What have you done?” Jeff watched as a smile grew on Tony’s face, now really concerned about what Stewart had up his sleeve as everybody knew that Tony didn’t ever play fair. “Stew-”

“I haven’t done anything, yet, but I will if you don’t start listening to me. After you leave this room tonight, you are not to set foot in Dale’s house again ever nor are you to ever hurt him or his daughter or his girlfriend EVER.” Tony looked back towards the bed, eyes looking towards his best friend that he now saw there laying in pain, crying.

“Tony, I told you not to interfer-” Dale then starts as Tony shakes his head.

“You can’t live through this private hell the rest of your life, Dale,” Tony comments aloud, before turning his gaze back to Jeff. “You are also to keep all three secrets safe without revealing them. If you dare reveal any of the secrets or hurt him, Lindsay or Angelica ever, I will make your life a living hell.” Jeff then laughed, not believing the words that were coming out of Tony’s mouth. How could he do that? There was nothing that Tony could do that would equal what Jeff was doing now.

“And do you plan on doing that, tough one?” Jeff asks. “There’s nothing that you could do to sto-”

“Everybody has secrets that they wish for nobody to find out, ever.” Dale eyes then turned to shock as he watched Tony pull some pictures out of his pocket to show Jeff. The pictures contained photos of Jeff sleeping with Denny.

“How’d you get your hands on those?” Jeff couldn’t believe that Tony had those pictures as he tried to grab them, but Tony kept them far enough out of Jeff’s reach, putting them back in his pocket. Jeff remembered that night vividly, remembered the couple of weeks that he spent with Denny before Denny met his girlfriend and cut things off. How was there pictures of the event? He thought that they were private, alone! “Who gav-”

“Somebody owed me a favor – that’s all you need to know.” Tony knew some photographers who were in the business of getting star photos. He called them up, asking them if they had anything on Jeff, saying that he needed them as blackmail due to some things that had happened on-track. The one photographer called him back, sending him the photos at a small price. The price though was worth it to Tony if it meant stopping Jeff in his tracks.

“How’d they get the-”

“Ever heard of the paparazzi? That beach that you went to – exclusive sex club beach in L.A. I hear. Well, there were some photographers who managed to get their way into the club and boom, they shot photos of all the stars that were there that day. The only reason that this photographer didn’t reveal it was because he has a heart. But when I agreed to pay him three million dollars without argument for the photos, he agreed. Now, if you notice, they’re dated the fall of last year. Hm, I wonder what your wife would say if she saw these. I wonder what the world would say if they saw these printed on the internet.” Jeff then shrugged his shoulders, knowing what Tony had was pity to what he had.

“Go ahead and send those out as I’m sure I can make up a good excuse for that.” As Tony caught his eyes looking back at Dale, he could see the heartbreak written on Dale’s face as Dale was probably thinking that the secrets would be revealed and life would be flipped upside down. However, to his surprise, Tony wasn’t done yet.

“There’s also a sex tape of you and Johnson together at Hendrick. It seems that you and Johnson fucked in the boss’ office one night. I wonder what Rick will say when he sees that tape lying on his desk. I wonder what the world will say to that.” Seeing as his words were having no effect on Jeff and seeing the heartbreak still written on Dale’s face, Tony knew it was time for the final straw. “Of course, there’s one final secret that I hold that could ruin your life forever. See, I never gave Kelley back the key the other night to Dale’s house. So earlier today, I came over here and checked out the bedsroom myself, knowing this is where you would bring him tonight as you have other nights.” Jeff swallowed, curious as to where Tony was taking this.

“Well, looks like Dale can get you arrested for trespassing and some other charges then.” Tony then laughed, not believing how Jeff couldn’t figure this one out.

“I set up some cameras in the bedsroom, and to your surprise, every thing that you’ve done tonight is recorded. So here’s how it’s going to work. If you keep your mouth shut and don’t hurt anybody or say any secrets, then I won’t say anything. However, the minute you cross the line, I will reveal the other secrets to those who need to see them. I also forward the record of tonight to the police, along with Dale’s confession and Lindsay’s confession of what you’ve done, plus the marks that are on Dale from what you’ve done. As a result, your life will be ruined worse than anybody’s here. You’ll be arrested on charges of abuse, rape, harassment, threats, among others and be put away in jail for years. Once word gets out for what you did, then I don’t think your fellow cellmates will play nice with you either.” A slight smile crossed Dale’s face as he watched the reaction on Jeff’s face turn to complete shock. He was glad that he had told Tony about everything now, not believing how smart Tony was in dealing with all that had happened. “I suggest you think about your decision very carefully.” Tony then gave Jeff a punch in the eye before letting him go and turning his attention to Dale. As Tony walked over to where Dale laid, tied to the bed, his heart was in pieces. He couldn’t believe that Dale had let Jeff do this to him for months. How was it humanly possible to let someone go through this for months on end?

“I guess you have a deal, bitch.” They both then watched as Jeff left the room and headed down the stairs and a smile came across Tony’s face. The plan had worked just like he’d hoped.

“Now he won’t be bugging you.”

 

Chapter 12: Thank You

Dale Jr.’s House – Morning Night, post Daytona July race

Tony leaned untied the final rope, freeing Dale from the tied position that Jeff had him in only moments prior. Tony couldn’t believe the tears that he saw on Dale’s face, or the ones that had continued since Jeff had left the room. He could see the pain there, more easily than other nights that he had been at the house, and it just broke him in two. Even if Jeff and Dale had some sort of past, this was isn’t fair at all.

Tony threw the rope to the side, sitting on the edge of bed, unsure what he wanted to do next. The biggest part of him wanted to cuddle up next Dale, wrap his arms around him and assure him that things would be fine. He wanted to be there to comfort his best friend. The other part of him was scared of what Dale’s reaction would be, not wanting to ruin the friendship that they had forged.

Dale looked towards Tony, before looking back down, still not believing what happened only moments earlier. He was proud of what Tony had done. He wanted to thank him and not ever stop thanking him. However, part of him was worried. What if Jeff didn’t listen? Then what would happen?

“Are you going to be okay?” Tony finally asked, breaking the silence. He couldn’t take it anymore as he wanted to do something to help. “Do you want me to go get Lindsay? I can do whatever you need.”

“No, don’t leave please,” Dale answered as he slightly glanced in Tony’s direction. He was afraid and he didn’t want to be left alone. With Tony there, he felt safe and he didn’t want to lose that feeling.

“Okay – I won’t leave you; I promise.” Tony knew that he was going to live by those words, not wanting to see Dale hurt worse than he was. Tony watched as Dale grabbed a pair of his sweatpants and pulled them on, followed by a t-shirt. As they sat there, all Tony could think about was how this would continue to be covered up. Everybody in the world would look towards him, thinking that he had the perfect life and there was nothing wrong. However, behind the sunglasses, behind the eyes, there was a battle there that nobody understood.

“Thank you. Thank you for what you did. I appreciate it.” Tony smiled as he kept his eyes focused on his best friend.

“I told you that I was going to help you, one way or another.” Dale then laid back on the bed once again, pain still filling his insides and legs from the horror that he had just went through minutes earlier. How could Jeff do that to him? He had been able to deal with the arguing, the slaps, whips – but that sexual abuse? It was beyond any level he could comprehend on his mind.

“How could he do that to me? How could he fucking tie me up like that and then stick a fucking bottle up my ass?” As Tony heard the words, he just shook his head and disbelief. There was no explaining what had happened. There was no human way of comprehending those actions. If Tony didn’t care about Ingrid and the kids as much, he would have just done away with Jeff totally. But knowing that would break both Ella and Leo’s hearts, he held back, hoping that the threats he laid down would be enough.

“I don’t know.” Tony focused his eye back on Dale, not knowing how to answer. “I don’t know what to tell you.” Dale sniffed back the tears that were still forming his eyes, not wanting to cry, but not able to stop them. The pain was too much. He could handle the physical – he was used to it, but the emotional pain that he was now feeling was too much to ever hold back an ounce of the tears that were coming.

“He knew that it would hurt me and torture me to no end; he knew it from when we were together and I told him that I couldn’t handle that. I know he wanted me to feel the pain that he felt, but that was just unbearable.” Tears came to Tony’s eyes as he heard the pain in Dale’s voice, feeling hurt as he knew there was nothing that he could say that would make it go away.

“Just be glad that it’s over.” Tony then crawled closer to Dale, scared of his reaction still, but wanting to be there to comfort him. “You’re safe and he’s gone and he’s not going to hurt you ever again. The second he tries to touch you, you just tell me and I will make sure that he doesn’t see another second without pain of his own.” Dale looked towards Tony, sniffing back the tears that were still there, just wanting the pain to disappear. He knew in his heart there was only one way how, but it was taking a huge chance after everything.

“Hold me, please.” Dale looked down as he felt Tony’s arms wrap around him instantly, pulling him close in a cuddle. Dale, feeling nervous with what had happened, instantly relaxed, the safety and security that he so badly wanted coming instantly as Tony’s warm body touched his.

Tony smiled as he watched Dale get even more comfortable by the second, cuddling in more, eyes slowly closing. The tears had slowly come to a stop, the breaths had calmed down and with his eyes closed, Tony knew that Dale had fallen asleep right there in his arms.

“I love you and I’m not going anywhere,” Tony whispered as he didn’t move an inch, even when he knew Lindsay was right there standing in the doorway. If this made Dale feel safe, then he wasn’t moving. He wanted to make the pain go away, no matter what it took. “Jeff won’t be bugging you guys. I gave him my own dose of threats.”

“I know – I heard,” she replied quietly as she leaned against the door post. “Thank you.”

“You don’t need to thank me, Linds. I’d do anything for him.” Tony then looked up from Dale when a blanket was thrown his direction, wrapping it around them both as he was meant by sparkling eyes and a smile. “You sure you’re okay with this? I mean, I don’t want to mess up things for you gu-”

“I’m fine, Tony. I know you care about him and I’m okay with it. If it makes him feel safe in your arms, then I’m not going to be one to bitch. I know he loves me, but I also know that right now, you’re offering a certain special type of comfort that he needs. I’ll go sleep in the guest room and see you in the morning. Night Smoke.” Tony just smiled as he laid down quietly on the bed, arms still cuddling Dale, blanket now wrapped around them both.

“Night Lindsay.” As she left the room, turning off the light, Tony closed his eyes slowly. It felt peaceful to lay there with Dale in his arms. It gave him a certian comfort that he knew that he had never felt before with anybody. He knew that this was exactly where he belonged.

 

Chapter 13: The Next Morning….

Dale Jr.’s House – Tuesday Morning, post Daytona July race

Dale walked into the kitchen, seeing that Tony was standing leaning on the counter while Lindsay was making breakfast. He wondered if they had talked about last night. He wondered what Lindsay had to say about Tony sleeping with him. He had woken up in the middle of the night, but with a quick snuggle back close to Tony, he found himself quickly back to sleep. It was odd at he could never get that comfortable that quickly with Lindsay, or even Jimmie before. He just kept thinking that it was due to circumstances and not thinking beyond that.

“Morning,” he said as he walked over to Lindsay and gave her a kiss on the cheek.

“Morning babes,” she replied as she turned and kissed his lips. Tony stood there, watching, a smile coming to his face as he was glad to see that they were in a good mood that morning. He could already see the effects of things being over taking their effect.

“And good morning to you too, Tony.” Dale walked over to where Tony stood, giving him an unexpected hug. Tony hadn’t seen it coming, but embraced it. “Thank you for what you did last night and thank you for being there for me after he left. I really appreciate it.” Lindsay then got three plates down, putting the food out as she brought the plates over to the table.

“Breakfast is served.” They all then sat down, beginning to enjoy the meal. Some may say it was odd for them to be sitting there as a group, especially with the dynamics of the relationship and the previous night. However, none of them complained as for some reason, it felt right. Lindsay felt that Tony deserved a nice well fed breakfast for taking care of Dale last night. Dale felt safe having Tony there with them, somewhat unsure of the connection beyond that, and knew that his heart belonged to Lindsay. For Tony, he knew that those feelings he felt earlier in the year were true.

“This breakfast is really good,” Tony finally broke the silence as he looked in Lindsay’s direction. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” she replied as she kept eating, curious as to where the conversation would go. Before Dale had come down, Tony and Lindsay had shared some thoughts between them. They both were fine with what happened the night before, though they both had concerns for Dale. They didn’t know what the next days would hold with what happened that night and what happened the previous nights. The only thing they agreed on was both being there for him.

“So, how are you feeling this bright morning?” Tony turned his attention to Dale, curious. While he had thought about not mentioning anything, his curiosity and worry were pegged. “I mean, if you want to talk about it.”

“I’m still pretty sore but I’ll be okay,” Dale replied as he kept his eyes focused down on his plate, trying to put the thoughts of what had happened out of his mind for the time being. “I’m just glad that it’s over.” Tony smiled, slightly. He could tell that it was still hard on Dale, emotionally and maybe even physically, but the positive comment at the end gave him a sense of hope.

“That’s the spirit.” Dale then turned his focus up towards them both, knowing that the thoughts that had filled his mind since waking up that morning needed to be said. With things being done with Jeff, there was some unsettled business.

“After breakfast, I’m going over to Rick’s to talk to Angelica.” Tony set his fork down, curious by those words in what intentions Dale had.

“What about?” Lindsay also looked up from her plate, curious also, as they both weren’t expecting Dale to say that.

“She doesn’t need to know what Jef-” Lindsay started.

“I would never, ever think of telling her that,” Dale snapped back, and then took a deep breath, calming down. He knew that Lindsay probably didn’t mean to come out with it and face that strong of a comeback, but the comeback was warranted. How could he ever tell her?

“Is there any other particular reason that you’re going to see her then?” Tony then asked, somewhat quietly. He didn’t know if he wanted to touch the buttons after what Dale had just said to Lindsay. “Wait, how much does she know about Amb-”

“She knows everything,” Lindsay cut Tony off, knowing where Tony was going with his comments. “Dale explained that to her a couple years ago. As an 11 year old, she took it quite lightly, surprisingly, and understood.” Dale then took a deep breath, knowing the next 24 hours in making all of this work out right would be tough.

“With the Jeff deal sorted out and the fact that I love her so much, I want her to come live with me,” he started. “So I’m going to go over and talk to Rick, Linda and her to express my thoughts. Rick has always said that the minute I want her to come live with me, there was no problem with it. He was only doing the living arrangements this way because of my feelings.” Tony smiled, feeling pride inside in what Dale was about to do. He never understood from the moment that Dale spoke of Angelica to him as to why things were done the way they were, no matter the thoughts on what Brenda and Kelley would think.

“That’s a pretty big step,” Tony commented and then looked down, knowing the next batch of words would once again test the waters. “What about your mom and Kelley?”

“I’m going to tell them tonight at dinner. I’m going to tell them the whole story and they can think what they want. If they want to accept things and not be angry, then that’s great. If their angry at me or about the situation then I really could care less, honestly.” Inside though, Dale knew that it would hurt a lot if Brenda and Kelley came back mad or unaccepting for some reason at all. However, it had to be done. He wanted to be close to his daughter and have her at the house, no matter what.

“Well you’re over at Rick’s, I’ll clean out the guest room somewhat so she can put her stuff in there when she gets here,” Lindsay then commented. She wasn’t sure what to think of the idea, but knew that it wasn’t her decision. Angelica was Dale’s kid and this was Dale’s decision to make as to what would happen. Lindsay had seen Angelica a couple of times and so far, they had gotten along. If they could keep things that way, then why would there be any reason to complain? “Like Tony said, though, this is a big step, but I’m proud of you.” She then gave him a slight kiss on the cheek, knowing that the rest of the day would now be an adventure.

“Oh, and as far as Wednesday, I’ve got plans,” Dale then added as they both looked at him shocked. What else did he have up his sleeve? “There’s a certain short track that I should go to. She’s been begging me to come so I think I better listen.” Tony then looked towards Lindsay, curious, and Lindsay just shook her head.

“It’s not me that’s been begging him.” Tony then looked towards Dale, full of curiousity.

“Who is it? Karsyn?” Dale shook his head no, making Tony very confused. “Then who?” Noticing the smile on Lindsay’s face, Tony had only one other person in mind. “Angelica?”

“And he figures it out! Ms. Angelica has been running the legends, if you haven’t heard. She’s been running under her mom’s last name – Jamieson. That’s why you haven’t heard much, yet. Oh, and she’s been winning, too.” There was an instant moment of shock that came over Tony as Lindsay released the details.

“Wait – Angelica Jamieson? Holy shit! Why didn’t it click a couple weeks ago when Kasey mentioned her name to me?” Dale then looked towards Tony, now curious. What had Kasey said about his daughter?

“So what did Kasey say about my daughter, Tony?” Dale asked as Tony just smiled.

“Kasey was saying that he went by the short track and he could tell that this girl, Angelica Jamieson, had killer talent and had that racer’s instinct. He was thinking of bringing her into the midgets and wanted my opinion. I told him that I hadn’t heard much about her so I couldn’t comment. But wait till he hears that she’s your daughter.” Lindsay then smiled as Dale shook his head and disbelief. He had heard that Angelica had won some races, but didn’t know that she was that good. “I’ll keep it secret till you’re ready to speak with Kasey. But he mentioned something about seeing her after Daytona so maybe it’s a good idea that you’ll be there.” Dale then smiled as he thought about what Kasey would say when Kasey found out the details.

“Wait till he hears the news.”

 

Chapter 14: Meet My Daughter

Oh, and this story is basically written like year 2014-ish.

Brenda’s House – Tuesday Evening, post Daytona July race

Speaking with Rick and Linda had gone great earlier that day. They were perfectly fine with Dale’s decision, fully supporting him in what he was about to do. Linda had also made him agree to making sure they stayed in close contact, which Dale couldn’t deny. There was no way he could thank Rick and Linda enough for what they’d done.

Angelica, now 15, was excited by the news. She couldn’t wait to move in to her dad’s house. It was a moment that she had been waiting for. The relationship that she’d built with her dad over the past two years while living with Rick and Linda was incredible. She was excited about continuing to build that.

“Just relax,” Dale told Angelica as they walked up to his mom’s house with Lindsay. He was nervous about telling his mom and Kelley, but it had to be done. “It’ll work out. No matter what is said tonight, I love you.” He then gave her a quick kiss before knocking on the door. They were all surprised with Karsyn opened the door, as much as Karsyn was surprised to see Angelica.

“Hey Uncle Jr, hey Lindsay,” she said as she moved back for the three of them to come in. “Hi Angelica. How come Angelica is here?” Karsyn had met Angelica while she was at Hendrick Motorsports with Kelley the one day and as the story was, Rick simply explained her as a close friend.

“Rick and Linda went out so Dale agreed to bring her with us so she wasn’t home alone,” Lindsay pulled out the lie as she gave Dale and Angelica a wink. She knew they couldn’t spit it out that quick. They had to first tell Brenda and Kelley before moving to the nieces and nephew.

“Okay!” Everybody then trade hugs, saying hello to each other.

“Brenda, this is Angelica,” Dale introduced Angelica as the pair shared a handshake. “She lives with Rick and Linda. As I told Karsyn, they were going out and Rick asked if I’d keep her company. I accepted, before remembering family dinner is tonight. I hope you don’t mind.”

“It’s great to meet you,” Angelica commented, slightly nervous but calming rather quickly. She was meeting her grandma for the first time, not in proper fashion, but still, a special time.

“It’s nice to meet you, too,” Brenda replied as she kept her eyes focused on Angelica’s. “You have beautiful eyes, sweetie.” Dale then looked down, knowing from others that had found out – like Tony and Rick – that she had his eyes. He was curious as to what his mom was thinking, whether she was guessing what was to be said that night.

“Thank you. I can see where Da…Dale gets his looks from.” Angelica bit her tongue, having almost spit out the Dad word without thinking. It was odd to call her dad by his name.

The rest of the night continued on nicely as everybody talked about different things and enjoyed a nice dinner. After dinner, Dale looked towards Lindsay and Angelica, knowing that it was time to spit out the news.

“Mom, Kelley, can I speak to you in the other room?” He asked as he wanted to explain everything to them away from the kids and Kelley’s husband L.W. This was something he wanted to share privately, still unsure of how they would react.

“We’ll help the kids clean up and amuse them with some sort of game,” Lindsay commented as she grabbed a cloth and began wetting it, seeing how Wyatt had gotten food all over his face. He had started eating by himself not that long ago and it showed.

“Okay,” they both replied as they followed Dale out of the room. Kelley and Brenda sat on the couch as Dale stayed standing, now beginning to pace. He was beginning to remember why he had kept it a secret.

“So what is it?” Kelley finally broke the silence as she watched her brother.

“Does this deal with Lindsay?” Brenda then asked and Dale shook his head, not wanting to go down that road. Seeing as how Lindsay and Dale had been together for three years now, his mom had already taken him down the marriage road of discussion. That was a topic that Dale wanted to avoid as well, not wanting to think about what could come with marriage.

“This deals with Angelica,” he finally spoke as he stopped and turned towards the two females he trusted more than anyone else in his life. “She’s my daughter.” Seeing both of their jaws drop, he awaited the response that they would have for him. “She’s been living with Rick the past two years, as per my request.”

“Why not with you? Why haven’t we met her sooner? Who’s her mother?” Dale was taken back by his mom’s reaction and instant questions. Seeing the touch of anger in her voice, he was scared to continue, to tell her that he once ignored Angelica. How could any father do that no matter what was going on in their life?

“Mom, let Dale explain before you pounce on him,” Kelley advised as Dale took a deep breath, knowing that it meant it was his turn to continue. “Dale, I trust that there’s a good reason for this. Before we say what we have to say about it, why don’t you tell us the whole story? But no matter what you say, I will support you and your daughter.” Dale smiled, glad to see that his sister still had his back no matter what. He just hoped it stayed that way once she heard what he had done.

“Kelley, she’s a teenager,” Brenda then started. “You’d think my son would want me to meet his daugh-”

“I was scared of how you would react so I kept it a damn secret!” Dale cut her off, growing frustrated already. He then looked up at his mom, seeing the shocked expression on her face by his anger. He had never, ever, yelled at his mom like that for any reason at all. “Her mom is Amber. She called in February after I broke up with her and told me that she was four months pregnant with our kid. I ignored her, not wanting the responsibility.”

“How could you even think of doing that, Dale?!? Nobody, ever, no matter what abandons their own child. How could you tell Amber that no matter how you thought of her? I thought you were different than that!” Dale took a deep breath, keeping his eyes back focused on the ground, knowing this reaction was expected.

“I was young, having the time of my life then. I didn’t want the responsibility of a kid on my shoulders. Fuck – I still felt like a kid myself. That’s why I brushed it away, not thinking of it. I know that was wrong now that I’ve grown up and learned responsibility. I regret doing that to her because of how much I love her. I’m just glad that I have her in my life now. I know I can’t go back in time and fix that, but I can make sure that it never happens again.” He then looked away, tears forming in his eyes, as the heartbreak of what he did came to him. For years, he had put those emotions away, not wanting to face them after he came to realization of what he did. Though bringing it out and telling his mom and Kelley, it was enough to make him cry as the pain was all he could think of.

“Okay, whatever, you’re right – we can’t go back in time. So how did she end up with you?” Dale then wiped the last bit of tears that were forming, knowing he had to tell the rest of the story.

“End of 2004, I called Amber and told that I wanted a relationship with my daughter. We set up times to meet up and times to spend together and it was wonderful. A couple of years ago, Amber came to me and told me that she didn’t want Angelica anymore; she said Angelica was in the way of her becoming a dancing superstar. She was going to put Angelica up for adoption. Not wanting to face you guys and tell everybody, wanting to keep it as my own secret, I told Rick the whole story and he agreed to help keep it under the wraps.” Dale then looked up at both his mom and sister, curious of their reaction. He didn’t want them to be angry. He didn’t want it to change what he had with them. That would just cause more heartbreak. “After some careful thought lately, I decided that I wanted her to come live with me so I told Rick and now I am telling you the truth.”

“Why did you keep it a secret for so long? You know that even though we’d be mad at you partly, we’d be there for you because of the fact that you have now done the right thing. I’m proud of you for stepping up and being part of her life and forming a relationship with her.” Dale smiled as they traded hugs, glad that things had gone decently then planned. While there was some anger and frustration to start, at least things were calmed down. His eyes then lied down on his sister, curious as to what she had to say.

“I don’t know what to say except that I am proud to be an aunt and look forward to getting to know my niece,” Kelley said as she stood up to face her brother. “But don’t ever keep a secret like that away from us again.” They all then smiled as they walked back into the kitchen with the rest of the gang, seeing how they were wrapped up in a game of Kennedy’s favourite – Candyland.

The news was shortly revealed after that, filled with more shocked faces, but happy ones at that.

Lindsay caught herself watching Dale with his nieces and Angelica, seeing that crystal sparkle form in his eyes and a true genuine smile. It was probably the first true moment since everything that had happened with Jeff. While she wanted to be happy herself, there was a small pit of worry in her stomach What if Jeff failed to listen to Tony’s careful instructions? Then what would happen to their family?

 

Chapter 15: Revenge is Sweet

Indianapolis – Mid July

The week following at New Hampshire, there was still anger on Tony’s mind over what Jeff had done. Even though he had stopped things, it wasn’t enough. He wanted Jeff to pay in his own way for what he had done. It was only at that point would he consider them to be somewhat even. So when Tony found himself behind Jeff 100 laps into the race, there was only one option – turn him. The resulting contact had Jeff ending up in the outside wall, going down multiple laps before pairs.

Jeff knew exactly why Tony had done it, but bit his lip. He knew with what Tony had told him that he had no option but to take the abuse. The minute he made a move, the minute Tony would scream. Why did Tony have to get himself involved in this?

The following week it was one of the biggest race of the year – the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis. It was a race that meant a lot to both Tony and Jeff as they had both grew up wanting to win at Indy. Both had won there in the past, but they wanted to win again to savor that moment again.

In dramatic fashion, the race came down to the pair running first and second, Jeff leading Tony around the oval. Jeff had managed to find his way out front with some strategy, but it was Tony that had the quickest car all day long.

Going into the final two laps, Tony had caught Jeff and was determined to get the win no matter what. He knew how much the race meant to Jeff and knew that it’d be sweet to steal that away in good fashion. Tony rode Jeff’s bumper through turns one and two, giving the four-time champ a couple small taps. Tony knew that once they got to the other end of the track, it’d be over.

Tony drove it into turn three, going for the look underneath, before Jeff threw the block. Down in turn four, Jeff tried the same thing – except this time it didn’t work. Their bumpers caught and around went Jeff while Tony went on to claim the victory. As Tony crossed the finish line, a big smiled appeared on his face at not only winning on his favourite track, but also taking the win that Jeff wanted most from him.

“What’s Tony problem with you?” Alan asked as Jeff climbed from the car in the garage. In the end, Jeff was credited with a 15th place finish, to go with finishing 37th a week ago. Jeff bit his tongue before even attempting to respond to his crew chief, knowing that he couldn’t tell him the truth. There was no one in the world that he could tell that would probably agree with what he’d done.

“I don’t know,” Jeff lied to Alan as he threw his helmet and HANS back in his car, shaking his head in disgust. He wondered how long Tony would keep this up for, or whether this was the hand that he was dealt. If that was the case, then why bother keeping the promise? It wasn’t like he had a shot at winning with Tony’s games and he was just hurting his team. They had put so much hard work into both cars. They didn’t deserve this no matter what Jeff had done.

“You’ll get them next week,” Jeff heard, turning to see Rick was standing there behind him. ”I don’t know what you did to piss Tony off, but you don’t deserve that two weeks in a row.”

After talking with the media and once again explaining his displeasure with Tony, he knew there was one place that he needed to go. If there was a chance of making this stop, he had to confront Tony and tell him how he felt. So that’s what Jeff set his heart on doing as he made his way to victory lane.

Once he was there, he went up to Tony, pulling him away from everyone else. He wanted to have this conversation in private, knowing that nobody else could hear what they were to discuss.

“Is there a problem?” Tony asked, causing Jeff’s frustration to grow. “You blocked me twice. I don’t like when I get blocked.” For Tony, that was only worth about 2% of the reason as to why he had turned Jeff. The anger and pain that filled him from seeing the look on Dale’s face two weeks ago, from seeing what he had to go through, filled the other 98% of his reasoning. “You knew that you had it coming, Gordon.” Jeff then lifted his fist, frustration continuing to grow, and connected it with Tony’s cheek, delivering a punch that was full of his bottled up anger. He then went to lay another one before Tony grabbed his wrist. “I wouldn’t do that if I was you.”

“And why’s that?” Jeff asked as he kept his eye locked on Tony’s, ignoring the group that had gathered around them. Tony then let go of Jeff’s wrist and quickly delivered a punch to Jeff’s jaw line. “Fine – you got me, twice now. Can’t you lay off for the guys on my team?” Tony shook his head, knowing that wasn’t an option as this was his way to dish back his fair share of revenge.

“No because maybe you should explain to your team why you’re such an ass.”

“You told me if I stopped, it’d be over. This doesn’t look like it.” Jeff then turned around and left victory lane as Tony then smiled.

“It’s called you had to feel what he felt.” As Jeff heard those words, part of him wanted to spin around and spit he anger that he held inside from getting his heartbroken. However, that’d be just a waste of time. There were other things that he could do to get back at him.

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Flight 88 – Chapters 61 Thru 65

Chapter 61: Emotions Con’t

Dale slips off the couch and walks into the kitchen, finding Bill and Cindy sitting at the table together.

“He’s asleep on the couch,” Dale informs them. “I finally got him to relax and get into a deep sleep.”

“Thanks,” Cindy comments as Bill just smiles. It was why he was so adamant to let Chase and Dale talk things out as he knew that they could probably help each other, or at least one help the other. “I thought he was asleep a couple times before you came over and he’d just wake up crying.”

“He’s scared and has every right to feel that way after what happened. I just….” Dale takes a deep breath, knowing that he’s got to follow the advice that he gave Chase to get through things himself. “I’m sorry it happened.”

“It’s not your fault and as I told you earlier – neither of us are mad at you,” Bill tells him.

“I know and I keep telling myself that. However, it’s hard because it was my….okay, it wasn’t my fault but Mariela’s plan against me that got him mixed up in that mess.”

“And you couldn’t had done a darn thing differently to change what happened so stop it.”

“We mean it Dale, we don’t want to hear anymore,” Cindy adds as she pulls him over to her into a hug.

“You may not want to hear it, but I still feel bad,” Dale comments as she gives him a stern look. “Okay, I’ll stop.”
“As you were saying to Chase – to move on, you first must allow yourself to realize that it wasn’t your fault,” Bill starts as Dale looks over at him. “What? I heard a little of what you both shared with each other. I knew that it’d be good to let you both talk it out.”

“I didn’t realize that he was going to say as much as he did, but if it helps, then I’m fine with being the person for him to lean on.”

“You both get the pain of what happened so it makes it easier to understand, versus Bill and I,” Cindy states, reminding herself of what Bill told her earlier in the kitchen. He had explained then about why the pair would be good for each other. “Now, you should get home and get some sleep.”

“You sound like my mother,” Dale comments. “She was already at me to get up to bed and not to carry Alyssa. I had to come make sure that Chase was okay first, though.”

“Well thank you for checking on him and for what you’ve done for him. If anything, it gives me more comfort now than before about him staying with you here on your property.”

“Mama Bear instincts 101 – she was all worried about how things would go with him moving out here but wouldn’t say anything,” Bill starts as Cindy rolls her eyes. “I kept telling her that he’d be fine as he was grown up now, and had both you and Kelley to lean on. She’s finally seeing the light!”

“Well if it makes you feel even more better, you’re always welcome to visit as much as you want,” Dale tells her before heading out of the kitchen. “Bye Bill. Bye Cindy.”

“Bye Dale!” Cindy says down the hallway.

“Bye Dale….” Bill says as he watches him closely walking down the hall. “Wait…” Bill then stands up and follows as Cindy looks on confused. Bill reaches the end of the hall where Dale is waiting. “Are you honestly okay?” Dale then looks at Bill confused as Bill leads him out the front door, closing it behind him. He then motions for them to sit on the porch together. “Listen, I know you’ve been through a lot over the past couple of months so I’m asking an honest question.” Dale then glances over the property, looking anywhere but directly at Bill. It was a good close to heart question to ask as there were certainly a lot of emotions there.

“Bill, I don’t want to talk about it, okay?” Dale states as Bill looks over at him.

“It doesn’t help to not talk about it.” Dale looks down, as he shakes his head as he thinks over his own emotions. There was so many places that he could start as he knew that Bill was right in needing to talk about it.

“I’ve been through it all with anger, sadness, pain, fear and confusion with what has happened.”

“I figured much. Where do you want to start?” Dale then looks at him confused.

“It’s 1 in the morning. Are we seriously having this discussion right now?”

“You can’t move forward till you talk about it and you probably won’t sleep tonight with everything that is on your mind, on top of the excitement from winning.” Dale smiles as he thinks back to the race and everything that happened. With everything else, though, it seemed like such a far away thought.

“That was a pretty cool win, huh?”

“You showed a lot of determination, drive, strength and heart….Stop trying to change the topic!” Dale then throws his arms up in the air innocently.

“You brought it up, didn’t you?” Bill lets out a sigh as he knew that Dale was right as he had mentioned the word. It seemed strange to be sitting there like they were. Normally after a big win – especially the Daytona 500 – they’d be partying at this point. However, instead, there were an odd quietness from everyone due to what happened as everybody’s emotions were in a different place. “The win hasn’t been on my mind as what has been on my mind has been Marie, Alyssa, Chase and what happened.”

“Well you know that Chase is okay so why don’t you start with either your fiancé or daughter? When it comes to your daughter, I can only imagine what she was going through those days that you were missing. I had enough emotions of my own with what happened today with Mariela and Chase so I don’t even know what Alyssa would be thinking.”

“Regan said that Alyssa felt lost and confused with being as young as she was. They kept it hidden from her for awhile, but couldn’t any longer and the confusion and worry and pain and…..it hurt a lot, per Regan, so I can only imagine.” Bill shakes his head understanding as he knew from seeing it first hand with Chase being one of the ones to primarily help take care of Alyssa so that way Marie could have her space.

“The good news is that you’re okay and will able to cuddle her for months to come. Now dealing with her fear of something happening is another difficult thing.”

“Trust me, I’ve heard it already.” Bill then looks over at Dale confused, as Dale thinks back to their discussion. “She told me that I broke her promise that nothing would happen to me or her. Hearing her say those words was difficult to hear because I hated breaking her heart. She’s my little girl, Bill. It hurts worse than anything to know that I broke her heart. I handled it well, I think, as I told her that sometimes all promises can’t be kept, but this one will because Mariela is definitely gone now like the big bad witch.”

“That’s impressive that you used a Wizard of O-”

“You can thank, Marie. Marie started singing the song.” Dale then lets out a sigh as bringing up Marie in the discussion brought forth a whole other ton of emotions. He wondered what was going through Marie’s mind what had happened due to how much it involved her family. “What do you think is going through Marie’s mind? She killed her own father by herself, and now her twin sister is dead because she attacked us both not once, not twice but three times. What goes through someone’s mind?”

“I’m not a min-”

“I know you’re not, but what do you think? I don’t know to handle dealing with her emotions. There’s got to be confusion because of what happened as to how her own family can do this. There’s got to be sadness because no matter how crazy your father and sister go, you will always love them…right? Then the fact that she killed her father is probably going through her mind. I mean, how do you handle the feeling of knowing that you killed a man? I want to comfort her and tell her that everything is fine, but I don’t know where to start. There’s so much there.”

“You just need to be there for her by her side and offer comforting words whenever she needs it. When she’s ready to tell you about her emotions and needs to spill them, be there for her. When she’s needs to be held so she can be cuddled or cry, hold her. Every person reacts differently. She’ll react in her own way and when she breaks down or lets it go, just be there for her. The same way that you and Cindy have been there for Chase. The same way that Steve has been there for you. The same way that I am right now offering you someone to talk to.” Dale then looks over at Bill with a sly smile.

“Thanks.”

“And you thought that there was nothing to say at this time in the morning. Oh boy were you wrong.” Dale shakes his head, knowing that he had to admit it now. Bill was totally right when he made the mention that Dale probably wouldn’t be able to sleep with everything on his mind. Oh sure he’d probably fall asleep due to exhaustion, but it’d be a restless sleep based on different thoughts. Being able to get some of them out was certainly comforting as it helped heal the wounds that were there.

“I guess I didn’t want to talk about it. How’d you know?”

“You’ve been through a lot. That’s all that anybody needs to know. Now, do you want to talk more or should you be able to sleep now?”

“I should be able to sleep.”

“Good. Get a good night sleep and feel better. As your mom has probably said, take care of yourself.” Dale then stands up as he rolls his eyes.

“Don’t remind me.”

“I want to take bets that she’s waiting on the porch to yell at you. She’ll probably go, ‘I told you that you should be taking care of yourself’ and ‘you need to rest’.”

“And if she’s not sitting on the porch, you owe me dinner tomorrow night.”

“Deal. Remember, I’m a parent. I know how parents work.” Bill then heads inside as Dale rolls his eyes.

As he made the trip back to his house, there was comfort in the conversation that they had been had – both with Chase and with Bill. They both gave him comfort in getting some things off of his mind, knowing that Chase was alright and having that advice from Bill. Though, the exhaustion was certainly setting in as he made his way over, knowing that bed would feel extra special that night.

“What did I tell you?” He hears and looks up surprised, freezing in his steps as he sees his mom sitting on his porch.

“I was just checking on Chase and now I’m heading to bed,” Dale tells her as he walks up the stairs. “Shouldn’t you be sleeping? Isn’t it past your bed time? I thought you went to bed at 10.”

“10? Are you crazy?” She then stands up and wraps her arms around him, kissing him on the cheek. “I meant what I said. Take care of yourself. I love you. I’m glad that you’re okay. Don’t scare your momma like that again.”

“I love you too and I’m sorry that I scared you.”

“I mean it – I don’t want to have to worry that much about you again.”

“You won’t have to, mom. Now go get some sleep yourself. I need mine.” He then heads inside the house, closing the door as he peaks out the window and watches her head back to her house.

He then heads up the stairs and walks in the bedsroom, slipping off his pants and shirt without bothering to look up. Once he does, a smile forms on his face as he finds Marie and Alyssa cuddled up in the bed with the dogs, sound asleep. Not wanting to disturb any of them, he carefully climbs in with them, snuggling behind Marie as he wraps his arms around her. Giving Killer the ‘sssh’ sign, he curls up even tighter, letting his eyes close and sleep fill him.

 

Chapter 62: Sleepless Nights

Chase leans against the counter, sipping on a warm glass of milk as Cindy peaks into the kitchen.

“Are you okay?” She asks and Chase shakes his head yes as he looks over. He then focuses his eyes back to the ground as she makes her way over, leaning against the counter with him. “It’s like 3 in the morning. You should be sleeping.”

“Couldn’t sleep…” he answers as he finishes off the glass of milk. She then wraps an arm around him and holds him close. “Mom, I’m fine. You can let go.” She then slowly lets go as he leaves the kitchen. “I had a bad dream. You should get some sleep.”

“I can’t sleep knowing that you ca-”

“I’m fine, mom. I’m going to lay down now and go back to sleep.”

“Are you sure you’re okay, Chase?” He shakes his head yes as he heads down the hall to his bedsroom. “If you need me or dad, don’t be afraid to wake us.”

“I’m fine mom. Go to bed.” He then goes in his room and lays in the bed, pulling the blanket back tight as he closes his eyes once again.

He had been sleeping soundly on the couch from the time that Dale left. Talking about the joy of winning at Daytona and everything that happened in that race was a good diversion. It helped in getting his mind on a different thought track so he could sleep.

Though in his sleep, nightmares began to flutter in. From being in Mariela’s hold to the police officer shooting off the gun and her dead just mere feet away from him. He had been unable to get back to sleep with his thoughts in a mix, hence why he had gone to get himself a warm glass of milk.

He knew that it probably would’ve been wise to tell his mom the truth, but he didn’t want to do that. He didn’t want to bring up those thoughts – the fear, the sadness, the anger, the pain – as he wanted to push it away as far as possible. He knew from talking with Dale that it’d happen over time, but how long? It didn’t seem as though it could happen soon enough.

Now lying in his bed, pulling the blanket tighter around himself, he lets out a long sigh. Everything was okay. He was okay. He was home, safe in his bed. His parents were just down the hall. Mariela was gone. Anybody could do anything couldn’t bother to try or get in. he was safe. He could sleep without worry.

Assuring himself that he was safe and thinking to happy moments – victory lane, the year prior – he allows his eyes to close and sleep to fulfill every inch of him.

Sleepless nights weren’t something that was just happening for Chase. It was happening for another person on the same property.

Marie had found herself in a deep sleep, cuddled up with Alyssa, feeling Dale lying against her. Though as the night wore on, flashbacks to what happened intertwined with dreams, leading to tears rolling down her cheeks. Slowly, carefully, she got herself out of the bed and made her way out of the room to the bathroom.

Making her way inside, she grabs a bunch of toilet paper and wipes her eyes as she sits down on the floor, tears leaking down her cheeks. She remains in that spot for a good 15 minutes, before the door slowly cracks as Dale enters.

“Go back to bed with Alyssa….” Marie starts as she grabs another handful of toilet paper. “You need sleep. You need to take care of yourself.”

“You’re right – I need to take care of myself, but I also need to take care of you,” he tells her before sitting down beside her. He then wraps both arms around her and pulls her close as he runs a hand through her hair. She buries her head in chest, unable to argue against the comfort that she feels close to him, as the tears continue to fall.

“It hurts. It hurts more than it should.” He then rubs her back, trying to calm her down as he hates seeing her upset like this.

“Talk to me…What hurts, Marie?”

“Mariela and dad being gone!” Dale takes his own deep breath, continuing to rub her back, remembering Bill’s words from earlier. This was to be expected.

“No matter what happened over the past couple of months, you loved them long before then and what happened doesn’t make that love disappear. You’re obviously going to miss them both because of the fun times that you had together and love that was there. It hurts to know that your own family tried to do what they did because of how much you love them. It hurts to know that they’re gone and you couldn’t help them – because you love them. It’s okay to feel that pain. You just need to learn to work your way through it with each day.”

“But I should be mad at them – not missing them!”

“You can miss them and be mad at them at the same time. You can miss them because you loved them, and miss them because you think you could’ve found a way to help them. Marie, it’s okay sweetheart. You don’t need to go through this alone. I’ve got you.” He then kisses the top of her head as he keeps her held close. “Don’t ever feel that you need to deal with this alone. I’m always here for you. I love you.” He then tilts her head so their eyes are facing each other, leaning in to lightly kiss her lips as he wipes a couple tears away.

“I love you. Thank you. Thank you for taking care of me. Thank you for not running away when you met my crazy family.”

“I could never leave you, and don’t ever let the thought of me leaving you cross your mind ever. I love you so much and I couldn’t imagine being without you. I know what that feels like and trust me, I don’t want to feel that pain again. I love you, Marie.”

“I love you too, Dale.” She then kisses his lips as her breathes start to even out and the tears begin to cease.
“Ready to go back to bed?” She shakes her head yes as they both slowly stand up.

“If I don’t get your ass back to bed, your mom will be over here kicking my ass.” He then laughs as he wraps an arm around her.

“Would you believe that when I got back from seeing Chase earlier that she was sitting on the porch ready to kick my ass to bed?”

“She loves you, just like I love you and agree with her that you need your rest. By the way, how is Chase?”

“He’s going to be okay. He has his own emotions, but he’ll be okay. He’s got the two best parents that he could have to help him through in Bill and Cindy.” The pair then walk towards the bedsroom, though stop in the doorway, both shaking their heads as they look at the bed. Killer (the boxer), Stroker Ace (great dane) and Bud (cat) had taken over the bed with Alyssa in the middle of them.

“I don’t think we have to worry about anybody attacking Alyssa with those guards.” Dale shakes his head no as he grabs his phone, snapping a quick photo.

“I don’t think we’re getting in that bed. Come on…” He then leads away as she thinks that they’re headed to the living room. Though instead, he leads her out to the back porch, leaving the door open behind them. They both sit in the chair out there together. “Sunrise will be soon. Figured it’d be much more peaceful than fighting with the animals.”

“It’d be perfect right now. It feels just perfect being home with us like this together and Alyssa with the pets.”

“I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else but here.” He then wraps both arms around her as she lies against him. “Close your eyes and get some sleep; the little rugrat will be awake before we know it.”

“Oh geez. Nothing like a return to reality than seeing her crazy self in the morning.”

 

Chapter 63: Return to Normal….maybe….

As the week went forward, everything seemed to get back to normal in everybody falling into the routine that they had been used to.

Alyssa was enjoying life as the sweet little three-year-old, the thoughts of the past totally out of her mind. She was enjoying spending time with her parents, Chase, her aunt Kelley and her kids, as well as the rest of the family. Needless to say, everything was great in her world.

The past couple of days of relaxation had helped in Dale feeling better. Certainly his back was a little sore – expected with a stab wound only coming the week prior – but definitely doing better. The emotions of everything were still there as there was a sleepless night, but he was making his way past it.

The same could be said with Chase as he had gotten back into his normal swing – going to the shop during the day, grocery and other shopping if necessary, and hanging out at night. It was nice to have his parents there for the week certainly with how it started, but each day was a welcome sight in moving further away from what happened.

As for Marie, it had been toughest on her and rightfully so with the family ties to what had happened. She battled with the thoughts of missing her father and sister, though also the anger and frustration that lied with that. It was something that she knew she’d face as an inner battle for weeks to come as she came to terms with what happened. She was glad, though, to have her family by her side as she moved forward as they brought forth some welcome support.

Late Thursday afternoon, she walks into the house after going shopping for some things and makes her way to the kitchen. Taking in the smell, she knew that there was a great dinner being cooked by her lovely fiancé that would be a welcome sight.

“Now that is a beautiful smell,” she comments, taking in the barbeque smell as she wraps her arms around him and kisses his cheek.

“Then barbeque chicken wings and Caesar salad is a good idea for dinner?” He asks and she shakes her head yes before kissing his lips.

“It smells delicious. I can’t wait to eat it.”

“It should be ready soon.” He then leans against the counter as he watches her sort through the bags. “Did you get everything that you needed?”

“Snacks for this weekend, food for the dogs, food for the cats – yeah, I think so.” Marie then starts to put everything away, though freezes as she looks around. There was something off and had it not been for the last couple of weeks, it wouldn’t have had her spooked. “Where’s Alyssa?” Dale points out to the backyard as Marie looks out the back window.

Marie looks on surprised as she sees Chase out there with her as they’re playing with the little go-kart that they had gotten her for Christmas. She had gotten better with each time in it, getting to understand how to work the pedals, steer and go faster. Chase was certainly a good coach also, as he knew how to be patient with her.

“She’s been out there all afternoon with him,” Dale informs her as he checks on the chicken. “I think that’s her favourite toy.”

“Well, she keeps saying that she wants to be like her daddy. But Dale, are you sure that she’s old enough for this?” Dale shakes his head yes as he glances over at her. “Certain?”

“Absolutely. As a three-year-old, she’s right at that age where you step it up into something like this. Plus, she’s being careful in wearing all the safety stuff and making sure that someone is with her. Relax, Chase will take care of her.”

“I hope so…” Marie then goes back to the bags as she continues to put things away as Dale watches. He was used to Marie’s uncertainty as she had expressed the same concerns when he had bought the go-kart and wrapped it for Alyssa for Christmas. However, he still went forth with it because he knew that it was the perfect gift for her and she’d enjoy it. He also knew that they’d be safe with it, as proven so far.

“I wouldn’t do anything with our daughter if I didn’t believe it was safe. You should know that.” He then walks up behind her and wraps both arms around her as he holds her close. “You’re not mad at me, are you?” She shakes her head no as he smiles. That was a welcome sigh as he reaches around and kisses her lips. He just hoped that things stayed that way when it came to Alyssa’s birthday the next month as Marie was certainly going to throw a fit if she heard what Dale had been talking to Kasey and Tony about. “I love you.” He then lets go as he heads back over by the counter.

“I love you, too. I just worry about her a lot. It’s not that I don’t trust you as I do, okay?”

“I believe you – and I’ll remember those words carefully.” She then looks back at him, looking into his eyes curiously. There was something about the tone of those words that she knew something was up. She had also overheard him one day talking to Kasey about a ‘birthday surprise’. “Oh, your mother called again for you.” Marie looks down as she takes a deep breath, closing the cupboard.

She hadn’t talked to her mother since hearing from her mom that Mariela was going to be released. She hadn’t talked to her mother since they crossed paths or the events of Daytona. It wasn’t that there hadn’t been an opportunity – she just didn’t want to face that music, yet. She wondered what her mother wanted to say and whether there’d be regret in her mom’s voice, or whether there’d be anger, sadness or something else. It was something that she wasn’t ready to tackle yet with her own emotions based on what had happened.

“Marie….” Dale says quietly, noticing the immediate change in her attitude. “What’s wrong? Tell me what’s on your mind.”

“Noth-” Marie starts as Dale walks over to her.

“Bullshit. Talk to me about your mom.” She then looks up at him surprised.

“I’m scared to talk to my mom, Dale. I’m scared of what she’ll say about what happened.”

“You have a right to be scared based on what happened, however is avoiding her for the rest of your life solving anything?” Marie shakes her head no as she lets out a sigh.

“I keep thinking that I should call her back and hear what she has to say, but then I get all worried again.” Dale then leads her over to a pair of chairs as they sit down.

“Why are you worried?”

“What if she’s mad at me for what happened? What if she says that it’s my fault and I could’ve done something different? What if she says that she hates me because it’s my fault? What if…..There’s so many things that she could say that it scares me.”

“If she’s mad at you, then she needs to have her head examined. If she says it’s your fault, she needs to learn that Mariela was nuts and what she was about to Chase. If she says that you could’ve done something different, she needs to understand the situation better. If she hates you for all that, then she doesn’t deserve to be a part of your life. However, what if she’s regretful because she was part of the reason that Mariela was loose? What if she wants to apologize to you? You need to look at both sides of the coin. Take a chance. Call her and see what happens. The worst that happens is you disagree and never talk again. However, the best thing that could happen is a mother and a daughter could keep a special relationship that they have.”

“I guess….Maybe I’m scared to lose that relationship…”

“That’s understandable after what has happened, but you can’t be afraid. Because no matter what, you’re not alone in this world as you’ll always have Alyssa and I.” He then leans in and kisses her lips. “I love you. Give your mom a call. Find out the truth.” He then stands up and goes to get the chicken as Marie takes a long deep breath. Why was it so hard to dial a simple set of 10 numbers?

 

Chapter 64: The Phone Call

“Chasey, I ‘ave fun,” Alyssa tells Chase as he puts her go-kart away. “Did you?” Chase shakes his head yes as he turns back to face her.

“I always have fun when I’m with you, Alyssa,” he tells her before closing up the garage. “You always put a smile on my face. It’s why I wanted to play with you. Now, you can’t escape the tickle monster.” He then picks her up and tickles her, causing her to laugh really loud. He continues to tickle her as she continues to squirm in his arms, laughing. He then puts her down as they head back towards the house together. “So, are you excited to go to the race track tomorrow?” Alyssa shakes her head yes as she always loved going to the race track and watching her dad and all her friends, including Chase. “Are you going to cheer me on?” Alyssa shakes her head yes once again. “I shouldn’t expect anything else, really. Maybe I should get you a little outfit with a No. 9 on it.” Her eyes light up immediately as she tugs on his leg.

“Please? Please Chase?” He then laughs as he picks her up in his arms.

“Fine – I’ll make you a deal. You behave for mommy and daddy, and I’ll get you either a dress done up with my car number, or a little t-shirt and pant outfit.”

“Chase, I want to look like you on raceday! I want suit!” He then thinks it over as they continue walking together. “Daddy got me one. Chase get me?” He looks into her eyes, seeing those sweet blue eyes and immediately knows that he can’t deny the offer. She could always suck him in immediately.

“Alright fine – but only if you have behave.” Alyssa then lets out a big cheer as they reach the house and head inside.

“Uh oh, what’s got her excited?” Dale questions as he begins dishing out dinner. He then watches Alyssa head past him to go to the bathroom to wash off her hands. “Chase, what did you tell her?”

“I merely suggested getting an outfit with my car number on it, and now she’s convinced me with those darling sweet eyes to get her a suit that matches mine,” Chase explains as Dale gives him a glance.

“And what have I told you about giving in to those sweet eyes?”

“Yeah yeah, I know – but you should’ve seen them Dale.” Dale rolls his eyes as he turns to the cupboard to get some plates out. “Where’s Marie? I thought she’d be helping you cook dinner, or something else.” Dale then gives him a look over his shoulder as Chase simply laughs while Alyssa returns to the room.

“Mommy on ‘hone – mommy say sssh,” she tells them as she sits up in her seat at the table.

“Who is she talking to?” Chase wonders as Dale walks over to the table. “If you don’t min-”

“Her mom,” Dale says simply as he takes his seat. “And we’re leaving it at that.” Chase shakes his head, understanding.

In the other room, Marie sat patiently, hoping for a positive response from her mother as she finally convinced herself to dial the numbers needed.

“Hello?” Marie hears her mother at the end of the phone as she takes a deep breath.

“Hey mom – it’s Marie,” Marie answers. “Dale said that you called.”

“Yeah, I’ve been trying to get a hold of you all week. I’m surprised I haven’t heard back from you, yet.” Marie takes a deep breath, debating on her next words.

“Sorry mom – just been busy with Alyssa and Dale. You have to understand after everything and the emotions. I thought I’d give you a call and see what you wanted.”

“Oh dear, I understand those emotions. How do you think I feel myself? It wasn’t an easy feat getting a phone call saying that your daughter has been killed by a police officer while holding a young man around his neck. This isn’t easy for anybody. By the way, how is that young man?” Marie smiles as she glances into the kitchen, seeing the laughter being spread from whatever conversation they’re having.

“He’s okay, mom. He obviously had some emotions of his own and it hasn’t been peachy for him this week, but he’s doing well. We’re just all ready for life to return to normal – or as much as it can. He’s ready to get back to racing this weekend, as is Dale and I’m set to return to the track. How are you, mom?” With each response from her mom, Marie’s confidence grew in things remaining positive moving forward.

“I’m doing well. I’m glad to hear that he is doing well, as the same with you and Dale. Sweetheart, I just want to let you know that I am sorry for what happened with Mariela. I honestly believed her when she said that her father was the one behind everything.” Marie takes a deep breath, having thought about the possible chance of her mother saying those words. She wanted to let go of the fact that her mother had believed Mariela’s lies and led to Mariela being down in Daytona with them, but she couldn’t. Why hadn’t her mother believed the warning? Why had her mother allowed her sister to roam free? Marie takes a deep breath, knowing that she can’t lie to her own mother.

“I accept your apology, however I can’t totally forgive you, mom. I honestly warned you that it was possible and it still irks me a little that you didn’t believe that.”

“Sweetie, I understand as it will take time for wounds to heal.” Marie smiled as she was worried about her mother’s response to her explaining that part of her feelings.

“Thank you. I appreciate that and you’re right, it will take time. However, with each day, it does get easier. It gets easier to sleep and not fear that something will happen, or not fear that someone is there over your shoulder ready to cause a problem.”

“Exactly. I just hate that you and Dale and Alyssa and Chase had to go through that. It breaks my heart, honestly.”

“It breaks mine, too.”

“But you’re all together and you’re strong. Each of you is strong individually, but together you’re stronger. You’re going to get through this and have the life that you want.”

“I know. I believe in those words. I believe that I can move forward, have a great life with my family and also rule a whole country.”

“I even believe that you’re going to do a good job, doing that. I think you’ve made great decisions in who to put in charge while you’re not there already. I believe that you’re exactly what that country needs after what they’ve been through under your father’s rule. It is why I put you in charge. I believe in you, Queen Marie Calantay.” Marie smiles as it felt refreshing to hear those words from her mother. She wanted to believe in herself – but there was some fear as to what could happen in the future. What if she wasn’t the Queen that she was believed to be? What if things didn’t go as planned with Pitronia? Could she honestly do this?

“Thank you for the vote of confidence. I appreciate it.”

“Sweetie, I mean it when I say those words. Don’t think that I’m just saying them because I’m your mother – I’m saying them because it’s the truth. You showed that in fighting for your family and doing what was needed for Dale and Alyssa. The strength that you both of you showed during that whole period is what will help you moving forward.”

“I hope you’re right. We’ll just have to see how it goes and hope it goes well. Listen, mom, it’s great talking to you – but I have a dinner that I should be sitting at and eating.”

“Oh well then don’t let me keep you. Please keep in touch, though.”

“I will – don’t worry. I’ll remember to phone you here and there. I’ll make arrangements to see you soon. Bye mom and I love you.”

“Love you too, baby girl. Goodbye.” Marie then hangs up with a smile on her face in how well the conversation went, despite her original fears. She then heads to the kitchen, sitting at her spot at the table as Dale throws a glance her way.

“You were right – it was good to take a chance. Things are great. I love you and thank you.” Marie then leans over and kisses Dale’s lips as Alyssa covers her eyes.

“Yuck!” She lets out as everyone at the table laughs.

“Keep thinking that, and remember that boys have big cooties,” Dale states as Marie slaps his arm.

“That’ll only work till she’s 13 as once she starts puberty and sees boys for what they are, look out,” Chase states as Dale looks over at the table at him. “Just saying!”

 

Chapter 65: You’re a Princess

It was a known fact. Since the events that happened over the winter, Alyssa wasn’t a fan of airplanes. She hated flying in them, always playing the nervous games. In each flight since, she had to be right close to someone that she could ‘trust’ and they had to stay awake the whole time. There was no ifs, ands, or buts, or else she’d throw a fit.

For this flight to Phoenix for the race that weekend, she had made her new ‘buddy’ her person of choice – Chase. Chase couldn’t figure out how he got elected, but he had been elected and couldn’t help but agree to do the task. It wasn’t like he slept on flights, anyway.

Though to try and make the flight easier, Dale and Marie had talked about it before leaving and decided that this was the time that they’d reveal the news to Alyssa that she’s a real princess, just like Cinderella. Both of them weren’t sure how it’d go, but they knew that it’d be fun to see what her reaction would be.

“Hey Chase, I got something that I should tell you about Alyssa,” Marie starts the conversation once they’re up in the air. They hadn’t told Chase that they were revealing the news, but Chase knew enough to know that she was the ‘princess’ since he knew about Marie being the ‘queen’ – which trickled down, obviously.

“Perhaps you should tell Alyssa the news before you tell Chase,” Dale suggests as he keeps his eyes on his daughter.

“I guess that’d be a good idea.”

“What Mommy?” Alyssa asks, obviously understanding pieces of the conversation. She knew there was something that her parents wanted to tell her.

“She’s going to be a big sister?” Chase guesses and immediately Marie shakes her head no.

“Nice try but Marie isn’t pregnant,” Dale states as Chase shrugs his shoulders sitting back in his seat.

“Normally when parents start off like you both are, that is the answer.”

“Sister?” Alyssa asks, confused as Chase looks over at her.

“No, you’re not going to be a sister today or soon,” Chase tells her as she looks over at him. “Trust me, little brothers and sisters are trouble anyways. You have to share all your toys and you’d even have to share me.”

“No, me no share buddy.” Alyssa then reaches over, wrapping both arms around Chase as he looks back at Dale and Marie surprised. “Me lub Chase.”

“And I’m sure that Chase loves having a little buddy too,” Marie comments, still in awe as to how much Alyssa loved hanging around Chase and having him as her babysitter.

“By the way, you have earned yourself a permanent babysitting job,” Dale adds, reading Marie’s mind as Chase looks back with a smile.

“With pay?” He questions with a wink.

“We’ll just have to see on that,” Marie comments.

“Make sure to have your phone available because if we get busy, guess who gets the lucky call,” Dale offers.

“I’m sure Alyssa will love hearing that you’re the choice babysitter.” Alyssa shakes her head yes as she looks at Chase. “Okay, now….Alyssa, do you want to hear the news that mommy and daddy want to tell you?” Alyssa then looks back at her mother, her excitement building as she shakes her head yes. “Well, mommy is the Queen of a country.” Alyssa’s eyes widen in surprise, not leaving her mom at all. “Remember when you went to Pitronia and saw all the beautiful flowers with Karsyn and Kennedy?” Alyssa sits back, thinking and then looks back at her mom, shaking her head yes. “Well, mommy is the Queen of that country.”

“A real Queen?” Alyssa asks in disbelief as Marie shakes her head yes. Marie was glad to hear such question asked as that meant that Alyssa was grasping the idea of ‘make-belief, play’ and ‘reality’.

“With her own castle and crown,” Chase adds for emphasis as Alyssa’s eyes continue to widen in surprise. “Can you believe that mommy owns a castle?”

“I likey castle!”

“I like my castle as well. Next month when daddy has a week off racing, we’ll go and see mommy’s castle, okay?” Alyssa shakes her head yes, excited already.

“And if mommy is the queen, what does that make Daddy?” Dale adds, knowing they’re building towards the big news of the day for Alyssa.

“A king!” Alyssa shouts and Dale shakes his head yes.

“That’s right. Mommy is the Queen and Daddy is the King……which is very strange to say out loud and even think.” Dale hadn’t brought himself to truly grasp the true words of Marie being the Queen of a country, or that making him the King. It was still something that had him surprised and aw struck in believing. It was something that he didn’t think was even humanly possible, or thought of when he met Marie. However, it was slowly becoming more of a reality. He knew once they attended the crowning ceremony that it’d probably really set in.

“Mommy Queen…..Daddy King……Me?” Marie goes to say something, but Dale covers her mouth as he waits to see if Alyssa can work it out herself. “Me?”

“You’re a Princess, sweetheart,” Dale tells her as Alyssa looks back at her parents shocked, then at Chase and then back at her parents. “You’re a true princess, just like Cinderella and Belle. You have your own crown and you can wear big dresses with your hair all pretty.”

“You can even come second time in mommy’s castle,” Marie adds as they wait for Alyssa to say something in response.

“What do you think of that?”

“I’m a real princess?” Alyssa asks, no doubt still in shock.

“A real princess with your own crown, which you will get next month when mommy gets her crown,” Marie answers as Alyssa sits back.

“Are you excited?” Dale questions as Alyssa shake her head yes.

“I can get big cool blue dress?” Alyssa asks as the excitement radiates off of her.

“Hey wait – I thought you were all for the NAPA firesuit being the coolest thing,” Chase interrupts the excitement.

“I princess – I get both?” Chase then wraps both arms around her as he pulls her up in his seat with him.

“Knowing you, I bet you’ll get both, along with that awesome crown.”

“But….remember the rules,” Dale reminds. “You’re not allowed to get a whole bunch of things – only a couple of things and that’s only if you’re a good little girl.” Dale had instilled that rule on her since she was little and understood the idea of ‘gifts’, not wanting her to grow up spoiled. It was the idea that she knew that she got a lot of gifts on her birthday and at Christmas, and could get other things that she wanted during the year – but not every single thing and only if she was behaved.

“I know,” Alyssa comments as she looks back at him. “But I get suit, gown, castle and ‘rown?” Dale shakes his head yes as she lets out a cheer.

“So wait….if she’s a Queen…..he’s a king….that’s a princess….What am I?” Chase then questions as he sits back with Alyssa in his lap.

“The dirty rascal!” Alyssa shouts, causing both Dale and Marie to erupt in laughter.

“Can’t I be your knight in shining amour?” She then thinks it over and shakes her head no as Chase looks at her surprised.

“That is Stevie because Stevie chase away ‘Riella.” Everybody lets out a small sigh as they glance at each other, not sure of what to say. They knew that the incident would always be something that Alyssa would remember – noted by the comment, noted by her little fear of flying. It hadn’t been something that had bugged them, though her bringing it up brought forth a reminder of everything. “I still lub you.” She then cuddles up to Chase as he wraps his arms around her, letting out a small sigh of his own. Closing his eyes, he blocks out thoughts of what happened that are clouding his mind, opening his eyes back up and looking down at Alyssa, letting her sweetness take over the thoughts.

“I love you too – even if I’m the dirty rascal. You’ll always be my buddy.” He then kisses the top of her head as Alyssa closes her eyes, going asleep against him.

Flight 88 – Chapters 56 Thru 60

Chapter 56: Kidnapped

“Well well, it’s nice to see you again,” Mariela says as she double checks the bindings on Marie’s wrists and ankles to be sure that she can’t escape given anything.

“Where is he?” Marie questions, not caring about her current situation at the moment. The only thing that she cared about was seeing her fiancé.

“He? Who are you asking for?”

“Dale – you big dummy.”

“Now now, be nice to sister or else I may not let your fiancé be okay. Listen, he has a special plan for today so you don’t need to worry about him. You just got to hope that checker-”

“Where is he?” Mariela shrugs his shoulders.

“I can’t give you those details. Just hope that checkered flags are in your future and we won’t have to think about each other anymore.” Marie then looks at Mariela confused as she watches Mariela turn the race on.

“What are you talking about?”

“You’ll see.” Mariela then leaves the room, locking the door behind her before heading to where the other half was.

*************

Chase gets done driver introductions and heads over to the car, leaning it against it with the team surrounding.

Nothing felt natural about the current situation that he found himself in. This wasn’t his car; it was his boss’ car. He wasn’t supposed to be running this race; that’s why he had run the race the day before. He hadn’t made any laps in the car so how was he to know what to do come the first laps in the race?

Beyond that, Dale was missing – Marie had now gone missing just moments prior – and yet here they were, set to start the 500 mile race that day, acting as if nothing was wrong. It was supposed to be ‘business as usual’ and ‘try to get the win’. How could they do that while worrying about where Dale and Marie were?

His heart also thought back to Alyssa and how worried she was when he finally told her that he daddy was missing on Saturday. He couldn’t bare to understand the pain and confusion that certainly she was feeling. Adding in the race with Chase running her daddy’s car and having to stay with Megan, the situation felt worse with each second that passed.

“So, are you ready to go?” Chase snaps out of his thoughts as his father walks over to where he is standing. “Nervous?”

“It doesn’t feel right, dad,” Chase reveals as he looks out over the roof of the car at the crowd in the stands. There was no hiding his feelings from his dad as his dad could read him like a book. “I shouldn’t be driving his car. I shouldn’t be standing here right now on pit road where I am.”

“I know it doesn’t feel right, but it’s the situation that we’re dealt. We just have to deal with it the best that we can.”

“That doesn’t mean that it’s easy, dad. I’m not focused on today’s race or winning – I’m focused on wondering where he and Marie are, and whether they’re okay.”

“They’re both going to be fine; just focus on the race today. Everything is going to work out.” Bill then gives him a small pat on the back before walking away, knowing that Chase needed some alone time before the start of the race.

“It’s going to work out. Why wouldn’t it work out? It’s not like anything has gone to plan lately.” He then rolls his eyes as he tries to shift all the thoughts of his mind.

“Listen to me and listen smartly,” he hears as he almost gets into what he calls ‘race zone’, snapping his eyes open to see the new team engineer Randy standing directly beside him. His eyes immediately focus off of Randy to the phone that lays in the young man’s hand, seeing a photo of Dale currently in his kidnapped spot. A cold shiver goes down Chase’s back immediately.

“Ja-” Chase goes to start.

“Don’t call Jason, or anybody, or else I will send word to end the pieces.” Chase takes a deep breath, feeling another shiver down his back as fear creeps in.

“What do you want?”

“You’re going to tell everyone that you need to go to the bathroom and I’m going to volunteer to lead you there. You’re then going to follow me to where I am going to take you without a single word. If you say anything, there will be no Dale, there will be no Marie.” Chase takes a deep breath, trying to clear his mind of fear and everything that is surfacing through it. He wanted to say something. He didn’t want to listen to what Randy had to say. However, every time he thought of saying something, he pictured a dead body at the other end of the spectrum.

“Fine…” Chase then turns around, straightening up as he gets set for their little plan. “How much longer till start time?”

“About 20 minutes till opening ceremonies. Why?”

“I need to run to the bathroom.”

“Uh no, please tell me that Regan didn’t share his stomach flu with you,” Jason chimes in from his spot with a couple of crew members. “You didn’t hang out with him, did you?” Chase shakes his head no, debating whether to break the cover of whatever thing Randy had planned.

“Listen, I’ll take him and make sure that he’s back in time, okay?” Randy offers as Jason shakes his head.

“Okay – hope you’re not catching the bug. Oh, and kill those nerves. No matter how today goes, it’ll be fine.” Chase gives a thumbs up as he heads off with Randy in toe, not letting him stray off.

The entire walk off pit road towards the garage area, a million different thoughts ran through Chase’s mind in what Randy could be thinking or doing next. Why did Randy have that photo? Why did Randy want to lead him away from the team? Why were they going through the garage area? What sick plan did Randy and Mariela have up their sleeve?

“May I ask what you want?” Chase finally breaks the silence as Randy continues to leave the youngster through the garage area. “Where are you taking me?”

“You’ll see very shortly and I suggest you move fast,” Randy answers as Chase looks at back at him confused.

“May I ask why?”

“You’ll see.” Randy then leads him around another couple of corners, before opening the door to a trailer and sending him inside. They then walk through the trailer and at the back, Chase’s jaw drops immediately as he sees Dale sitting there before him.

“Dale!” Chase runs over and wraps both arms around him, glad to see that he is alright.

“Hurry up and swap firesuits – you got about 15 minutes,” Randy instructs before leaving the room and closing the door, standing guard. Chase then looks at Dale confused, totally caught off guard by the comment.

“Pull the suit off, and the shoes, and give them to me,” Dale instructs as Chase sits down beside him, beginning to do so, confusion clearly written over his face.

“What’s going on Dale?” Chase wonders. “Why am I changing out of my stuff?” Dale then looks down, taking a deep breath, not feeling confident in saying the words himself.

“They’re forcing me to run the 500 today and if I don’t win, Mariela is going to kill Marie.” Chase’s jaw drops immediately as he hands his stuff over, watching Dale get into the suit. “Little tight but oh well.”

“You can’t run this race.” Dale then looks over at the young man.

“I hav-”

“You can’t run this race, Dale. I can tell by looking at you how sore you still are from what happened earlier this week and this latter half while you have been kidnapped. You may think that you’re some kind of superman, but you can’t run this race.”

“I hav-”

“You can’t humanly do it!” Dale fixes the suit once again as he looks in the mirror at himself. He could see what Chase was saying by how he felt at the current moment. He knew that it was going to be hell trying to complete this, but what choice did he have?

“I have to – I have no choice. If I don’t go out there, she has Marie – she’ll kill her now.” Chase shakes his head in disbelief as he sits back in the lounge area.

“I….I don’t know what to say, Dale. I guess I wish you the best and hope that it turns out okay.” Dale then looks back at him with smile. “I just wish there was something that we could do to stop this. I wish I would’ve hinted something to Jason when Randy dragged me away. I wish….”

“Chase, don’t beat yourself up over it, okay? It’s not your fault. It’s going to work out, kid. Just be careful with Mariela and try to listen to her as much as possible, no matter how annoying, to minimize what she does.” Chase looks up, fear clearly written on his face in the thought of what Mariela could possibly do to him. “I can promise that your parents will find you as soon as they hear that your ass is missing.”

“Have you seen my mother when she’s mad?” Dale chuckles, shaking his head yes as he remembered one experience where Cindy was right upset and it wasn’t pretty at all.

“See, that’s the spirit. Just be careful kid.” They then watch the lounge door open, seeing both Randy and Mariela standing there.

“Well well, look at you cutie,” Mariela comments, her eyes immediately darting over to Chase. “Aren’t you just adorable?”

“Hurt him and I can promise you that you haven’t seen nothing yet from any of us,” Dale starts as he walks towards the door. “He isn’t part of this at all. Once I’m in the car, let him go and don’t hurt him, please. He doesn’t deserve it.”

“Oh don’t you worry about a thing dear.”

“Good luck Dale,” Chase states. “I believe in you.” Dale gives him the thumbs up before leaving with Randy, helmet in hand. Mariela then closes the door and flops down on the couch beside him, turning on the race.

“I guess we can sit here and watch this together to learn how fate goes,” she comments as Chase curls up in the corner, fear starting to enter more and more based on what he had heard about Mariela’s past stunts with Dale and Marie.

“I guess….”

“Oh don’t worry. I won’t touch you. Like he said, you’re not involved. There’s only one dear that really matters to me at the end of the day, and she has a good view of what’s going on as well.” Chase knew who Mariela met immediately in the form of Marie, however her words didn’t give him any comfort. He just wanted to get out there as soon as possible.

He then looked up at the monitor when he saw Dale and Randy walk towards the car, Dale slipping into the car without being noticed by anybody as Randy did the belts up. Chase shook his head in disbelief as he was certain that someone – anyone – would’ve noticed.

 

Chapter 57: Caught in the Act

The entire time he watched the person dressed in the NAPA Suit walk across the pit road with the helmet securely on, till the time that he watched them climb in the car and get belted in, Steve LeTarte’s eyes never left the subject. There was something that was odd and different. Something that he noticed immediately. How could nobody else had noticed it? How could it had slipped by without a word? He had noticed it. Why hadn’t someone else on the team?

Though while noticing it, he didn’t say a word – out of fear. He knew that if Dale was there, that meant that Mariela had close hands on Marie and Chase. Based on what he had learned so far in the actions of Marie’s deranged sister, he wasn’t about to test the waters. He just hoped that Dale knew what he was getting into by getting in the car, and hoped that he could unravel the second half of the puzzle in the quickest way possible. It was nice to know that Dale was alright, though.

With his new found knowledge, Steve doesn’t let it go to waste as he knew that he had to tell certain people the truth. He figured if these certain people knew, they could help make the rest of the puzzle easier. Steve went directly up to the pit box, climbing the steps and sitting beside Jason, as he had planned to anyway.

“I got something to tell you and don’t say anything on the radio yet about it,” Steve starts as Jason looks over at him confused.

“That Chase is nervous?” Jason questions and Steve shakes his head no. He knew that was the least of their worries now.

“That’s not Chase in the car.” Jason then looks at him surprised, though immediately puts the pieces together as he sits back against his seat.

“Dale is in the car….but why?” Steve shrugs his shoulders as he wasn’t sure yet.

“I don’t know why Mariela wants him in the car, but I know that he’s in the car. I also know for certain now that Randy is our snitch, and that the wicked witch has Marie and Chase. For that reason, just keep going about the day as normal in doing pit stops and adjustments. I’ll unravel the rest of the puzzle.”

“Got it. Thanks for the heads-up.”

“I was surprised that nobody else noticed.” Steve then climbs down the steps, set to find the second person that he knew needed to know the truth.

He was honestly afraid to tell this person, based on the worry that they’d have immediately in hearing these words. However, as a parent, he knew that it was better to tell them the truth than to keep it a secret. Plus, having them on his side in trying to find Marie and Chase could be helpful.

“I got something to tell you,” he says as he walks up behind Cindy and Bill on pit road. Cindy was standing there with camera in hand set to take photos, while Bill had a radio on, set to go back to the transporter and stand up top watching, as he normally would. “Chase isn’t in the car. Dale is and I can guarantee you that by what I saw.” The pair look at him as if he is crazy.

“Are you 100% certain?” Bill questions and Steve slowly shakes his head yes.

“Then where’s Chase? What’s going on?” Steve shrugs his shoulders, as he honestly didn’t have the answers at the current time.

“From what I’m thinking, Mariela wanted him in the car for some reason and made Randy play the classic switcheroo.” Bill immediately wraps his arms around his wife as he keeps his eyes on Steve.

“So you’re saying that right now Mariela has Chase and Marie?” Steve slowly shakes his head yes as Cindy shakes her head in disbelief.

“No…no…Stevie….you can’t be telling me the truth,” she starts as she turns her camera on, going through some of the photos that she had just shot. Though immediately upon watching the driver climb in and how the suit fit, it became reality right in their face.

“Cindy, you need to relax as it’s going to work out,” Bill tells her calmly, continuing to keep his eyes on Steve. “What are we going to do?”

“Find him! We need to find him, Bill. Where the hell is he?” Steve takes a deep breath, trying to remain calm.

“I don’t know where he is, Cindy,” Steve tells her. “I can only suggest that you both start checking any spot that you can think of – get a hold of Regan and see if he can think of something. I’m going to get a hold of an officer and tell him what’s going on, and then I’m going to get Randy to tell me the damn truth.”

“What do we do if we find them?” Bill wonders. “Get security?” Steve shakes his head yes.

“And listen, Cindy, he’s going to be fine. If Dale is in the car, there’s something fishy about the whole dea-”

“She wants him to go out and win the race,” Cindy interrupts Steve’s thoughts, causing both men to look at her confused. “She wants him to win the race. That’s the only reason that she’d put him in that car, and depending how he does probably will affect the future for everybody involved. So in other words, we’ve got 200 laps to find Marie and Chase.”

“It’s going to work out,” Steve tells her once again before heading off down pit road in search of the next person to talk to.

The first security officer he found, he explained the situation so that way they understood. The officer radioed the details through the system, before following Steve down pit road back towards the 88 pit.

Steve walks into the pit, noticing the person that he wants to speak with immediately, as he walks up behind them as they analyze their computer screen.

“So you figured it out, huh?” Randy questions as he turns away from the computer screen to face Steve.

“I know that he’s in the car and I know that you’re the snitch,” Steve answers. “I have two questions for you and I suggest you answer them immediately. Where are Marie and Chase? What the hell plan is Mariela thinking?”

“I don’t know the plan nor their location. I just did as I was instructed to do by her.”

“You had to take Chase to some location to meet up with Dale, before returning. Can I have that location?” Randy just laughs as he turns back to the computer screen, which no doubt doesn’t sit well with Steve. Steve then grabs the engineer by his shoulder, pulling him back and pushing him up against the pit cart, catching the attention of the rest of the team.

“I’m not giving you any information, LeTarte. I’m not allowed to tell you anything. Now can you get your paws off of me? I have a job to do. Can’t you see that?”

“The only job that you have is rotting in hell.” Steve then lets him go as the officer steps in, placing Randy in handcuffs before hauling him away. As Steve watched the pair head down pit road, he could only hope that the officer got the details out of Randy.

Though just in case he didn’t, Steve began his walk towards the Daytona infield, hoping to unravel something himself. He also hoped that possibly Bill and Cindy did, as well.

“Is it true that Dale is in the car?” Steve hears a voice, catching him off-guard.

“Aren’t you supposed to be on bed rest and not moving an inch out of your motorhome?” Steve questions as he looks towards Regan.

“I escaped Megan’s hold when I heard that Dale was in the car. Now, is it true?” Steve shakes his head yes as Regan lets out a long sigh. “So that means that Mariela has Chase. Great, that’s my fault. I should’ve been the lined back-up driver. I should’ve been standing there. I could’ve done something to stop it. I could’ve possibly caught everything in the act!”

“Regan, stop beating yourself up as I’m sure if there was an option, Chase would’ve utilized it.”

“Yeah…..I guess. It’s still not fair. He’s only 18. He doesn’t deserve this! How is this fa-”

“Are you going to keep blubbering or are you going to help me find him?”

“I got no choice but to help now. I feel terrible as it is.” The pair then head off as Steve keeps in constant communication with Bill where he and Cindy is, and in communication with Jason about how the race is going.

 

Chapter 58: 50 to go….

“How many more laps?” Dale asks under caution for Denny Hamlin blowing a motor as Jason checks the scoring monitor.

“52. It’ll be 50 when they put the green back out boss,” Jason answers.

“10-4. What have I said about calling me boss?” Jason rolls his eyes as he sits back.

“Not supposed to. Sorry. I’m just used to that from being car chief with Stevie.”

“I’m not mad. You’re done a good job. This car is really fast and whatever you and Regan hit on yesterday was right.”

“Glad that it’s handling so well for you. Now let’s get up there and get that lead. This is the 500 and you’ve got 50 laps!”

“Dude – your cheerleading isn’t as good as Stevie,” TJ Majors chimes in on the conversation from the spotter stand.

“It’s not bad though,” Dale comments. “It got me pumped up a bit and he’s right – it’s now or never. We can do this.”

“I believe in you and I know this team believes in you,” Jason says, checking to see that they’d line up in 21st for the restart. They had been taking a conservative approach all race, taking care of the car since they had to start from the rear due to an engine change following Saturday’s practice. Now with 50 laps to go, it was time to make the moves that counted and get to the front.

Jason hadn’t brought up the reason for Dale being in the car, nor had he wanted to even discuss it. The details made sense to him in his mind after talking with Steve – Mariela had set it up, and there was probably a must-win scenario over his head. With that said, Jason’s focus for the next 50 laps was going to be on that win. He didn’t want to think about the other possibilities at hand.

He had tried to convince himself to ask how Dale was feeling, but didn’t want to touch that topic either. If there was something over his head, emotions would be on a high. Beyond that, the obvious answer would be that he is sore. Everybody knew that so why bother stating it? It was just better to keep business as usual and hope somehow, someway, things worked out.

Sitting up in the seat, he was set to watch the drama unfold as the green flag waved for the restart.

*****************

“This is going to be interesting,” Mariela comments from her perch as she glances over at Chase.

“He can still do it,” Chase says as he knew there was enough time for Dale to get to the front.

“You sound so very confident, but we all know that you’re just a sweet little boy who is naïve of reality and admiring a hero.” Chase looks over at her as if she’s crazy.

“I’d have you know that it’s more like watching my boss and knowing how much that he has helped me and what he has done in his career to date. Beyond that, I’m not a sweet little boy as incase you forgot, I’m 18.”

“16, 17, 18, 19…..you’re still in your teens and that means sweet little boy.” Chase rolls his eyes as he was just hoping that he’d find his escape from her soon. So far, things hadn’t been that terrible as she had behaved in keeping her hands away from him. She hadn’t even bothered to tie him up or anything, but yet just keeping an eye on him. It gave Chase some comfort, though also had him nervous of what was to come and where Marie was. “What was that?” Chase then looks around confused as he watches Mariela stand up and glance out the window.

“I didn’t hear anything…” In truth, he had heard the voices outside, though wasn’t sure who they belonged to. Had they found him?

“Oh bullshit! You wish that’s how I treat it!” She then grabs him by a piece of his hair to pull him over to her and force him to look out the window. “Recognize those people?” A smile came to be on Chase’s inside as he certainly recognized the group immediately – Steve LeTarte, Regan Smith and his parents.

“No….no clue who they are. Do you know who they are?” He wasn’t about to give in that it was them in fear that she’d pull some drastic measure in knowing that there was a chance of her being caught soon.

“Don’t play dumb with me.”

“I honestly don’t….” She then gives him a slap across the cheek, cutting off his words.

“I know one of those people is Steve LeTarte, sweetheart, so why don’t you just spill who the other three are?” Chase takes a nervous deep breath as he quickly evaluated his own options.

“Regan Smith and my parents – Bill and Cindy – are the other two. Happy?” Mariela just shakes her head in disgust as they both hear doors open, knowing that the group is coming closer. No doubt someone had given away Chase’s location – and Mariela had a good idea of who to blame.

“Chase?” A female voice calls out as Mariela keeps her eyes on Chase.

“That’d be my mother,” Chase assures her. “Ever wondered what happens when you kidnap someone’s baby?”

“Chase?” Chase just smirks at Mariela, knowing that his captive time was coming to an end in a matter of moments.

“I’m in here, Mom! Watch your step as Mariela is here!” Chase then darts towards the door, set to open it for the group to enter – when a hand grabs his hand and thrusts him back against the couch. “Shit!”

“Stevie! Bill! Come quick!”

“Them being here is actually going to make things worse on you sweetheart,” Mariela says in a teasing tone as she inches closer to him.

“You got that backwards, dear,” Chase comments as he slowly stands up, feeling the pain throughout his body. “I think it’s time that revenge comes your….” Chase feels his voice caught his throat as he notices Mariela’s hand go in her pocket, pulling a knife slowly out.

“You were saying?” Chase backs out away slightly, putting a bit of distance between himself and Mariela as he hopes that the door can be busted open in a hurry.

“That I am ready to listen to what you have to say.”

“That’s more lik-”

“Help!! Someone! Mom! Dad! Steve! Regan!” Panic instantly started to come over Chase as he saw the tip of the knife pointed in his direction. His breathing picking up, eyes locked on the knife, there was only one end that he could see based on the position that she had put him in. “Get in here now!” Stuck in his own panic, Mariela took advantage of the moment, grabbing him and pulling him close to her as the door busted open with the mad foursome standing there. she brought the knife to neck level as Chase closed his eyes, predicting pain coming in his future as his breaths got even quicker.

“Okay….everybody….remain….calm…” Bill tells the group as he holds them behind him as he focuses his eyes on Mariela and his son. “You must be Mariela, I assume, right?” Mariela slowly shakes her head yes. “That’s nice. I’m Bill, his father. Listen, I know that you have some crazy strange plan with Dale and Marie, so how about you just let Chase go and be done with what you have going on here?”

“That cannot happen sir as your son is now part of this mess,” Mariela informs them as Regan takes a couple steps out from behind Bill and closer to the pair.

“You’ve got Dale in the car and you have Marie hidden somewhere – why do you need Chase now?” Regan wonders as he and Bill trade glances, thinking what to do. Regan knew that the officers were on their way here, per the phone call made before entry, however wondered whether they’d make it in time.

“Please……let…..me….go…,” Chase slowly lets out as he tries to keep himself calm in her grasp, though feeling every breath come quicker than the previous.

“If you let the kid go, we’ll let you go as well without doing anything to stop you,” Steve adds as he keeps his arms wrapped around Cindy, trying to give her comfort. “You just have to let him go before the authorities get here.”

“Please…..”

“Stay calm kid,” Regan coaches as he reaches for Chase’s hand, grabbing a firm hold on it.

“They’ll be here soon so I think you should take our suggestion,” Steve continues his pleading.

“None of us will stand in your way as we just want to see Chase make it out of this, alive,” Bill adds.

“Please…” Chase begs once again as he feels the grasp that Mariela has on him tighten.

“Chase…” Steve states calmly as he notices Chase’s panic grow with Mariela’s tighter grasp.

“Please let him go,” Bill begins his side of the begging. Regan goes to say something, though feels vomit coming up his throat, then flying out of his mouth, hitting both Mariela and Chase.

“Yuck!” Mariela yells, not releasing her grasp at all as she holds Chase as tight as she can, while keeping the knife at just about skin touch.

“Regan?” Bill asks as Regan shrugs his shoulders.

“Sorry – I’ve been sick all weekend,” he answers. “I feel much better now.”

“Let him go!” They then hear the voice of a police officer behind them as he makes his way through the group and up to Mariela. “Ma’am, please let the young man go.”

“Why don’t you go to hell?” Mariela offers as the officer draws his gun at her.

“Ma’am, please don’t force us to do something that we’ll both regret.”

“You won’t dare shoot that while I have him.”

“Let…me…go….” Chase says as he tries to focus on taking deep breaths. “Can’t….breathe…”

“Let him go!” The officer yells.

“Can’t…” Everything then seems to freeze as a bullet goes off, coming through the back window and directly into Mariela’s back, forcing her down. As she goes to fall, Chase pushes her arm out of the way, and falls forward the other direction, into Steve’s arms.

“I got you kid,” Steve says as they both sit on the floor together, Chase taking a glance back to see Mariela lying dead on the floor behind him.

“I….couldn’t….breathe,” Chase lets out slowly as Steve rubs his back.

“You’re going to be okay.” Cindy then kneels down to their level, immediately wrapping both arms around Chase and holding him close as she kisses his cheek. “Everything is going to be okay.”

“Marie….”

“We’ve got her. She’s fine. She’s just getting checked out at the care center and then going to Dale’s pit box for the end of the race.” Chase then lets out a sigh as he buries his head in his mom’s neck, feeling his own nerves unravel. “You’re going to be okay, Chase.” Steve then stands up, motioning for Bill to come over as he heads towards the door. “I’m going to tell the team that things are okay.”

“I’ve got him,” Cindy assures Steve before Steve leaves. “I’ve got you and I’m not letting you go.”

“I don’t want you to let me go,” Chase tells his mom as he sits there, panic still set in based on what happen.

“Chase…..”

“Can’t….breathe…panic…sore….Mariela…..”

“Chase?” Bill questions as he turns to them after finishing talking to the officer, seeing Chase trying to calm down while clinging to Cindy.

“We’re going to take him over to the care center and get him checked out,” the officer states, noticing the same thing.

The group then makes their way over to the care center and once in a room, the doctor instructs Chase to wear an oxygen mask to get his breathing back to normal after everything that he had been through as they check him over. The entire time, though, all that Chase can focus his mind on is the panic and fear that went through his mind, forcing his fingers to keep curled around his mother’s hand the entire time.

 

Chapter 59: Daytona 500 Victory?

Steve climbs the steps of the pit box, sitting behind Jason and Marie, as Marie does a quick glance back at him.

“Everything okay?” She asks and Steve shakes his head yes.

“Mariela is dead,” Steve states bluntly, catching the attention of Jason. “Beyond that, Chase is okay. Slight panic attack, stuck in her strangle hold for a bit – but he’ll be okay.” Marie lets out a sigh of relief as she sits back in the seat. “Regan puked on Mariela, too, which was good personal satisfaction. He said he felt better afterwards.” Marie chuckles slightly at the thought as she checks her text messages once again.

“Megan is going to bring Alyssa over when I say too. I haven’t given her the okay yet because I don’t know how Dale will be feeling once this is over.”

“Did you te-” Marie knew where Steve was going with the question. She had killed the worry that filled her fiancé’s heart immediately.

“Jason told him under the caution with 20 to go. Now sssh!” Steve shakes his head in agreement as he checks the monitor seeing that it’s five laps to go. Dale had done well in getting himself in position, having moved up to the fifth spot. Given the strength of the car and how he was climbing through the field, their chances looked solid. Plus, it’s Daytona – anything is possible, right?

Four to go – moved up a couple more spots.

Three to go – set to make the move.

Two to go – running solidly in third.

Final lap – moved up to the runner-up spot as they head towards turn one, on Jimmie’s bumper. The entire team watches in anticipation down the backstretch, waiting for the move. However, Dale doesn’t make the move, keeping himself tucked behind Johnson. He repeats the process through turns three and four, allowing the pair to draw a small gap between themselves and the rest of the field.

Coming down to the tri-oval, the move of the hour is made as Dale tucks out of line, going to the outside with the run. At the start-finish line, no doubt it’s one of the closest finishes ever as everyone looks at each other in disbelief, trying to see which of the Hendrick Motorsports teammates won.

“Scoring monitor?” Spotter TJ Majors asks, not sure from his vantage point, though certain that he saw the nose of the 88 car out front.

“Woohooo!” Steve lets out a scream as he is the first look at the scoring monitor, knowing that the boys had done it again. They had won the Daytona 500. “Go ahead Jason….” Jason smiles as he looks back at Steve and then cues the radio.

“You’re looking at a three-time Daytona 500 Champion baby!” Jason screams on the radio. “Scoring monitor says you got it and NASCAR just released the official call!”

“Wooohooo Way to go everybody!” Dale congratulates the team on the radio as Jason locks eyes with Steve.

“I’m proud of you,” Steve tells him. “I told you that you could do this and you could lead this team to destiny. Have fun this year and don’t forget – I’m watching you.” Steve then gives Jason a pat on the back before heading down the steps of the pit box. As he high-fived the guys on the team, he knew that they’d be fine with the weeks to come in Jason’s hands. He could lead the team to the next level that they needed to be at without failure.

“Way to go Dale!” Jason yells as he puts the radio set back on. “Helluva move that last lap! Helluva drive all race long! You did a spectacular job!”

“I can’t believe that you did that,” TJ comments from his vantage point. “I thought you were crazy for doing this today. Way to go! Way to go! Now, take care of yourself and those girls of yours.”

“It’s why I did what I did today,” Dale says.

“Megan has Alyssa, Marie is up here with me ready for her victory lane kiss and Chase is going to be okay,” Jason reveals on the radio, knowing that the questions had to be on Dale’s mind to ask.

“10-4.” Hearing those words and affirmation that everything was okay was a great feeling. It was better than perhaps winning the race as what mattered at the end of the day was that he could hold both of his girls close, and that Chase made it out fine. Of course, Marie had the surprise of the day to tell him in the fact that Mariela was dead. “I’ll see you in victory lane. Thanks for everything, everybody.”

“10-4. I can’t wait to see that smiling face of yours.”

*********************

“I can’t believe this…” Marie comments as she stands in victory lane waiting, not taking her eyes off the car as she watches it come towards the entrance to victory lane. “I can’t believe we’re standing in Daytona victory lane again.”

“I can believe it…” Jason lets out as he keeps a close eye was well. He had it planned that he was going to let Marie be the first person to get to him as the pair hadn’t seen each other since earlier in the week.

“I can’t…..after….everything. Can you believe that this will be the first time that I’ve seen him since Wednesday?” Jason shakes his head no, still in disbelief that Mariela was able to keep Dale hidden and out of sight till she chose. He was also in disbelief in how she had planned getting him in the car, but that was all forgotten now. All that mattered was that Dale was okay, Marie was okay, Alyssa was okay, Chase was okay and the wicked witch was dead.

“Go….” Jason gives Marie a slight shove, pushing her towards the car as Dale stops in victory lane. Marie didn’t need to be told though, as her feet were carrying her already over, arms reaching in the car and wrapping Dale in a tight hug, kissing his lips.

“I love you. I missed you so much.”

“I love you too,” Dale replies simply as the pair lock eyes together.

“I missed you so much. I was scared that I wouldn’t see you again.”

“I’m just glad that you’re back in my arms.”

“God I love you so much.” Marie then kisses his lips once again as Jason and the Hendrick PR team work at keeping all the media patient, knowing that the couple needed this time together after their separation period. “It’s over, by the way. The wicked witch is dead. If nobody was around, I’d be doing the dance from Wizard of Oz. It’s over –truthfully this time.”

“Best news…ever….” Marie then kisses his lips again, not wanting to lose touch of them as the pair continue to look at each other in the eyes as a third person joins their small party.

“Glad to see that you’re both okay,” Rick says as the pair smile. “Don’t worry about making the world wait – you both deserve this together.”

“Perhaps we’ll save the affection for later and let the world in on our celebration,” Marie comments as Dale keeps his eyes on her.

“I’m sure there’s also a little girl that badly wants to see her parents later, too. Can’t wait all day here, can we?” The pair shake their head no as Marie backs away.

“Climb out superstar….or should I say, Daytona 500 Champion baby!” Both her and Rick back up, giving Dale the space that he needs. He then climbs out of the car, standing up on the edge and raising his fists in the air as the confetti goes off while screams erupt through the entire victory lane.

Hopping off the car, he does the standard victory lane interview – obviously with some bonus questions added with the media finding out details about everything that had happened over the past week. As he finishes the interview, he feels arms instantly wrap around him, knowing exactly who it is immediately.

“Great job on the car,” Dale says as he turns to face Jason. “You did a spectacular job this week despite everything that was thrown your way. I look forward to working with you all year.”

“Championship?” Jason offers as Dale shakes his head yes.

“We can do it.” Jason’s smile fades as he keeps his eyes on Dale, knowing that everybody has avoided the question that is certainly on everyone’s mind, though afraid to ruin the moment.

“How are you feeling, honestly?” Dale lets out a sigh as he leans back against the car.

“It was tough. It was tough. I’m sore, without a doubt. My back is sore and now I understand why the doctors said on Monday that racing would be a bad idea. I’m wore out. I’m tired, perhaps even a little dehydrated. But I’m going to be fine, Jason. I’m going to be fine and I’ve got my girls to take care of me so that’s all that matters.” Dale then wraps an arm around Marie and pulls her back close to him. “Do you know how spoiled I am to have someone as awesome as this girl right here?”

“Hey, I heard that she was a Queen.”

“She’s my Queen.”

“Well, how about a princess to make the family complete?” They hear as Megan walks closer, holding Alyssa’s hand.

“Daddy!!” Alyssa screams as she runs over, wrapping both arms around Dale. “Mommy!” She then turns to her mom and does the same thing. “You won!” Dale then leans down to her level.

“Of course I won – because I knew there was a special girl who needed a win to make her feel better,” Dale tells her as he pulls Alyssa close and hugs her tightly, not wanting to let go. “I love you, Alyssa. I love you so much.” He then kisses her cheek before standing back up.

“Daddy, I miss you.” Alyssa’s words catch Dale off-guard as he looks back down at her, feeling the emotions all there once again.

“I missed you too, however I promise that things are never going to go wrong again.”

“Daddy, you ‘romise before. You lied.” Marie goes to say something, though Dale stops her.

“Let me handle this, please.” Marie shakes her head as she watches Dale pick up Alyssa with as mile on his face. “Daddy did lie, didn’t he?” Alyssa shakes her head yes. “Sometimes, certain promises are hard to keep. Daddy tries to keep every promise that he makes for you, but sometimes, the odd promise goes wrong. This time – I know I can keep my promise.” She then looks at him confused.

“Why daddy?” he then smiles as he glances towards Marie.

“Because a certain Mariela is gone. As they say in the Wizard of Oz….”

“Ding dong the witch is dead!” Marie and Jason chant together, bringing forth a smile on Alyssa’s face.

“Now, what do you say you help daddy with celebrating?” Dale offers before carrying her up to the stage.

“Are you okay?” Jason asks as he looks over at Marie, causing her to look back at him confused. “I know everything is great with the win and everybody being okay. But….Mariela was your sister…..There’s got to be some emotions there.” Marie takes a deep breath.

“There is, Jason. I loved her as we grew up together having the time of our lives as twins. However, she turned crazy and sometimes, certain things need to be done. I look back and feel sadness and even sometimes regret on killing my father. I will probably be the same with Mariela. However, I know that I can’t change the circumstance because it had to be done. It had to be done to protect my family.” She then walks away and heads up on stage with Dale and Alyssa.

I couldn’t have him not win after everything 😉 This story isn’t done yet, I can promise you that. We’ll touch on Chase’s emotions in the next chapter, and then we still got to tell a certain daughter that she’s a princess.

 

Chapter 60: Emotions

“Aren’t you glad to be home?” Dale asks as he looks over at Marie while getting Alyssa out of the car.

“I’m glad that NASCAR let you go for go the media tour,” Marie comments as Dale shakes his head in agreement. “I could’ve gotten her out of the car, you know? You don’t need to be a total suck.”

“I’ve missed you both so give me my time please.” Dale then picks Alyssa up, letting her lay her head on his shoulder as she is asleep. “Plus, I’m fine. You don’t need to baby me. I can take care of myself like a big boy.”

“I know – I just worry about you.” They then head towards the house together, Alyssa in hand.

There was no doubt that Dale was sore and tired. It had been a long day in running all 500 miles with his back being sore. The stab wound from the prior week and the surgery had taken it’s toll, but luckily he had made it out on the more positive scale. However, that didn’t mean that he wasn’t in pain at that moment as there was no lie that his back was pretty sore. It was why he was extra glad that NASCAR told him to forget about the post-Daytona 500 victory media tour due to everything that happened. He knew that having some days to rest up would be great.

Though beyond the simple pain, there was also physical exhaustion. He hadn’t gotten much rest under Mariela’s captivity and he could feel it in the final laps that his body was just purely exhausted. It was why post-race, he had downed a couple bottles of water, and stopped for food before flying home.

Being home was perhaps the best cure, though, as there was a special feeling in being back home. Being there with the whole family and knowing that their own personal hell was over was refreshing and relaxing. It was great to know that life would return to normal in the days to follow.

“Ralph Dale Earnhardt Jr., should you be carrying your daughter right now?” They hear as they walk through the door and Marie shakes her head, knowing that voice immediately. “You should be taking it easy and you know that mister.”

“It just feels so nice to be home,” Marie comments as Dale laughs. “It wouldn’t be the same without such a comment.”

“Well?” The voice reins again as Dale walks over and immediately pulls his mom into a hug.

“It’s nice to see you,” Dale tells her before kissing her cheek. “Considering I just drove a racecar, I don’t think I need to worry about carrying Alyssa.”

“You should be lying on your ass right now resting after what you’ve been through. Don’t you know that you should take care of yourself?”

“Mom, easy on him…” Kelley comments as she walks over and gives Dale a hug, before carefully slipping Alyssa out of his arms into hers. “Relax. I’ll take her up and tuck her into bed.”

“He should follow you up and go to bed himself,” Brenda says as Kelley looks over at her mom.

“Lay off of him as I’m sure he’s fine and…” Kelley then looks back at her brother. “…will take care of himself.” Kelley then turns and heads up the stairs with Alyssa, set to put her to bed.

“I know I’m being a pain, but can I have another hug?” Dale then chuckles and gives her another hug. Though he tries to pull back, she keeps him held there in her arms.

“Mom…” He starts.

“I’m so glad that you’re okay,” Brenda starts. “I was really worried about you the whole time. I’m glad that you’re okay and I can hold you and yell at you and kiss you.” She then kisses his cheek before pulling back from the hug.

“I’m sorry I worried you as much as I did and regardless, I’m glad to see you, even if you’re complaining. Thanks for caring.” He then walks towards the door before glancing back. “I’m going to see how Chase is. I’ll be back after.”

“That’s fine,” Marie comments as she flops down on the couch. “I’ll be here waiting for you.”

“I promise I won’t keep you waiting long or disappear from you ever….again…,” Dale replies before heading out, closing the door behind him.

He then makes his way over the lake house, knowing that Chase was there. Chase had moved on the property last year after graduating high school and was staying there while driving for JR Motorsports. It was a pretty good arrangement as Chase was close to the shop and behaved so it brought no complaints. It also gave Bill and Cindy some comfort when Chase moved away from home that he would have Dale and Kelley close if he needed anything.

He had talked to Bill earlier, hearing about how Chase was feeling. He heard about what had happened with Mariela through Steve and heard about how the emotions for Chase were all over place. He could understand that, based on his own feelings on what had happened. He couldn’t imagine what could be going through Chase’s mind at his age.

Letting out a sigh, he walks up to the door of the lake house. He wanted to check on Chase for himself to see, and make sure that things were squared away between them. In every other thought, Dale blamed himself for it. It was his fault that Mariela had kidnapped him because Mariela had wanted Dale in the car. It was his fault that nothing was done to stop it as Dale knew about it before anybody else. Why hadn’t he done something or warned someone, somehow?

Dale snaps out of his thoughts as he sees the door open with Bill standing there. Bill and Cindy had flown back with Chase, wanting to be there with him for the time being after what had happened.

“Hey,” Bill says as Dale clears his throat.

“Hey,” Dale starts. “I just came by to see how Chase was doing.”

“Come in.” Dale then comes in the house as Bill closes the door behind him. “He’s still pretty upset about it, honestly. He hasn’t left Cindy’s side since we left Daytona as he doesn’t want her to go anywhere. She got up about two hours ago to go to the bathroom – and he only let her since I stayed with him. He hates the thought right now of being alone. Beyond that, he’s tired and he should honestly get some sleep. He’s tried to go to sleep a couple of times, but keeps waking up about 20, 30 minutes later, crying because of some flashback or something happening because of what happened.” Dale shakes his head in disbelief, looking down at the ground as the guilt of what happens increases more.

“I’m sorry, Bill. I should’ve done something to stop her from getting her hands on him.”

“Dale, I’m not mad at you because I know that you would’ve done something if you could’ve. Don’t put the blame for what happened on your shoulders. It’s not your fault as it was all Mariela’s doing and plan. You couldn’t change what happened, no matter what.” Bill then pulls Dale into a hug as they stand in the hallway together. “Beyond that, I know Chase doesn’t blame you either. He was worried about you and Marie, but when I told him that you were both fine, it helped. Everything is going to be fine. He’ll get through it and you’ll get through your half of the emotions, too. Through it all, though, know that none of this – anything that has happened the last two months – is not your fault. It’s not Marie’s, it’s not yours, it’s not Chase’s – it was Mariela’s fault for these sick, psychotic thoughts that she had going on. Just be glad that everybody is okay and can get through this together.” Dale then looks up at Bill, feeling a couple tears in his eyes as the emotions of the past two months surface on his mind.

“So you’re not ma-”

“I’m not mad, Cindy isn’t mad nor is Chase. It wasn’t your fault.” Bill then lets him go as he points into the living room as Dale peaks in, seeing Chase lying on the couch in his mom’s arms. “Cindy said that when he moved away, she’d never get to hold or cuddle her baby boy again. I told her after today that we were all right when we said that he’d always need his momma.”

“I just hate that he has to go through this. It’s not fair.”

“Life sometimes isn’t fair. We’ve learned that the hard way, haven’t we?” Dale shakes his head yes.

“Everybody keeps saying that he’s going to be okay. I hope they’re right. I….I just worry about him. It isn’t fair!”

“Complaining about it isn’t going to make it better, either.”

“It gets it off my chest.”

“Dale?” They hear as Dale and Bill peak into the room more, seeing a pair of eyes looking at them. “I didn’t know you were here.”

“I came over to see how you were,” Dale comments. “I didn’t want to bother you if you were sleeping.”

“Cindy…” Bill calls as he motions for Cindy to come over to him. He knew that it’d be best to leave the boys to talk between each other as it may help things.

“Go Cindy. I’ve got him.” Cindy then slowly stands up and heads out of the room with Bill as Dale sits down on the couch beside Chase.

“Congratulations on the win,” Chase starts off the conversation after a couple minutes of silence. Neither of them knew which way to take the conversation. Dale wanted to know from Chase himself how he was feeling and what was going through the young man’s mind, but didn’t want to intrude. Chase wanted to know how Dale was feeling and whether he was truly okay, but also didn’t want to bring it up.

“Thanks,” Dale comments. “It wasn’t easy at all, but got the right run at the right time.”

“I saw the finish – I still can’t believe how close and Johnson were.”

“Neither could I.” The pair felt at ease in talking about racing, but the nerves were there as both walked towards the unknowns at hand. “Chase, listen, I’m sorry for what happened.”

“It’s not your fault. You weren’t the one that tried to kill me. You weren’t the person that thought it’d be great idea to strangle me.”

“I left you wi-”

“You didn’t do it by choice; you did it because she forced you. I’m mad at you for what happened. I can’t blame you for what happened.”

“I still feel terrible. I should’ve said something to her when she had Randy kidnap you. I should’ve gotten her to let you go free somewhere while she fulfilled the rest of her plan for me.”

“When Randy told me to follow him, I had no clue what was going to happen. He showed me a picture of you kidnapped and of Marie kidnapped. I thought I was being straight up kidnapped as if they were going on a kidnapping party. I had no clue that you were going to drive. I had no clue what was going to happen. I went to say something to Jason when Randy told me but he stopped me – he said that he’d make sure you were dead. I should’ve said something. Maybe I could’ve stopped the whole day’s events.”

“You can’t play the what if game, Chase. It’ll drive you nuts. It’s driving me nuts thinking what I could’ve done to not have that happen to you.” Chase then takes a deep breath as he looks down at the floor, multiple thoughts swirling through his mind in regards to the past 24 hours.

“Dale, can I ask you something?” Dale then looks over at Chase, intrigued by the question.

“What is it?” Dale keeps his eyes on Chase as he notices a couple tears fall down his cheeks, slipping onto the carpet below.

“Does it get easier over time?” Chase then takes a deep breath, trying to keep the tears in as he lies back against the couch. Given what Dale had gone through the previous couple of months with the plane incident and the incident with Marie’s father, Chase figured that Dale would know from experience in how the days that followed would play out. “Do the memories start to fade and become less apparent?” Dale takes a deep breath, thinking back to how he has dealt with things since the plane incident.

“You never forget what happened as it’s with you everyday moving forward for the rest of your life. You just learn ways to cope with the memories and move forward with your life.” Dale knew it was a touchy subject, given the fact that the emotions were there still for him. There were nights where he wakes up in a cold sweat, relieving the events that happened on the plane, sometimes with a different ending. Even in Daytona, he had nights that he woke up, tears crawling down his face, as his mind flash backed to what happened in Marie’s country of Pitronia with her father.

“How have you learned to deal with them?”

“I still don’t know the perfect answer, honestly.” Chase takes a deep breath, debating how much detail he wanted to say. It was soothing to talk about with Dale as it gave him some comfort.

“Every time I close my eyes, I keep picturing her standing there before me as I am laying by the couch below her after she pushed me.”

“I keep picturing her walking off the plane with the button to strike the bomb off in hand, knowing that my daughter is tied up just below me. I’ve also pictured, over and over, the look on her father’s face, a look of pure evil, when he held the bottle that he wanted to drink.”

“When does it become easier to move on with your life and go about it as if nothing happened?” Dale shrugs his shoulders.

“For me, I don’t think I’m going to go back to that life like it was before. I think from now on, I’m going to keep looking over my shoulder, scared someone is there. I’m going to walk on to planes thinking that I’m walking into a trap.” Chase lets out a sigh as he thinks it over, debating how things would change for him moving forward.

“I just want to be able to close my eyes and not think about her or what happened.”

“It’s hard at first because it’s fresh in your mind, but I will tell you that it does get easier with each passing day as you get more comfortable once again.” Dale then takes a deep breath, remembering how he had made his nightmares at least a little easier to deal with, knowing that Chase deserved the advice to move forward. “Whether then just close your eyes and go to sleep, try to remind yourself before you go to sleep that you’re safe and you have people around you that love you. Remind yourself that she’s gone forever. Remind yourself that you’ve got your parents, I, Kelley – everybody who would anything for you. Assure yourself of how safe you are and it makes it a little easier. It doesn’t cure it as there’s no magical cure for what you’ve been through. However, it makes it easier and with each day as you move beyond what happened, you’ll be able to sleep without thinking about it.”

“I’ll try to remember that. Thanks.”

“You’re welcome and Chase, it’s going to work out. We’re both going to get through this together.” Dale then pulls Chase close to him as a smile forms on Chase’s face, perhaps the first smile that had found his face since his escape. “Alright, now let’s forget about that for a while. Let’s get that off your mind as you don’t want to think about that. I heard that you had a great Daytona Speedweeks in winning the Nationwide Series race. Tell me how that went because I am not pleased at all that I missed it.”

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

Thursday

“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.

A Haunting Past – Chapters 21 Thru 25

Chapter 21: Lindsay

Lindsay shakes her head a she looks in the rearview mirror of the Camaro. How long were they going to follow her for? She then stops and pulls to the side of the road as she watches the pair of girls stop behind her.

“Finally!” Kelley yells as she climbs out of Georgina’s mustang first. She then makes her way up to the side of the Camaro.

“When the hell are you going to stop following me?” Lindsay asks as Kelley looks at her confused. She had never heard Lindsay use that tone with her.

“I wasn’t going to stop following you. I damn well want to talk to you about what you said back there. It’s not your fault! It was Johnathan and Lauren’s! Dale is not going to be mad at you. More than likely, he probably wants you there with him and Tony to comfort him. Don’t you want to help him?”

“You told Michael and I how much you love him,” Georgina starts as she walks up to the other side of the car. “If you love him as much as you do, then you should be helping him right now.”

“God you married my brother!” Kelley then adds. “When you married him, you said that you’d be there always!”

“Yeah well maybe I should not have done that now, should I?” Lindsay questions in return, causing a total look of horror on Kelley’s face.

“Excuse me? In what mind do you have a right to say that?”

“I never should’ve married him. I never should’ve brought you, him, Angelica, Tony – everybody into my life like this. I put all of your lives on the line and in possible danger because of my own goddamn secret. I put all of your lives on the line for selfish reasons. I should not have done that.”

“You can’t turn your back on it now. What’s done is done.”

“Girl, Johnathan would’ve found you anyway,” Georgina then starts. “That boy was determined to find your ass.”

“When we accepted the secret, we accepted you into the family and what came with it,” Kelley then adds. “We knew there was a chance of this – I yelled at my brother for that, but I couldn’t change his mind because of how much he loved you.”

“Wish you would’ve done better,” Lindsay comments in a low tone. “He shouldn’t have gone through what he went through.”

“What’s done is done!”

“Just please, please come home to us,” Georgina begs. “They need you. Your family loves you and you love them.”

“I’ve only created a worse mess for them,” Lindsay says as Kelley shakes her head no. “I’m sorry, Kel. I can’t do this anymore. I can’t continue having the relationship that I have with your brother always wondering if something else will happen. It’s time I face my own life and deal with my issues. I’m sorry.”

“Leigh….you know this is the wrong thing to do. Please think about it.”

“What about your daughter?” Kelley questions referring to Chelsea.

“She’ll be fine with Tony and Dale,” Lindsay replies as Kelley shakes her head no. She had been through a divorce with her parents and herself. She couldn’t let this happen.

“What about yourself?” Georgina continues pressuring her. “What about how you feel? You know you’re going to miss them. You know that you’ll miss Dale and crave to be with him. You’re also going to regret not being there for your family.”

“She’s right,” Kelley comments.

“Please Leigh…”

“No – I can’t do it,” Lindsay states. “There’s no changing my mind. I’ll drive back tomorrow, grab my things and fly back. I’ll then submit the divorce papers and it’ll be done.” Lindsay then puts the car in drive and pulls away from the pair as they both stand there shaking their heads in disgust.

“She’s doing what she does best – runs away when the going gets tough, scared to face the music,” Kelley states as she heads back to the car, remembering the previous time Lindsay ran away. “We can’t let her do this. I can’t let her do this.”

“Then what are we going to do?” Georgina asks as she climbs back in her mustang.

“I don’t know. I just hope Tony and Dale get to her in time and can maybe change her mind.”

“Let’s hope. I hate to see this happen. She’s such a great girl and when I heard she was happy with you and your family, I felt so great for her.”

“When she told me the secret, I was scared. But my brother’s convincing and her sweet personality and ability to love openly made me go with it.” Georgina then smiles as they head off towards the diner as Kelley texts Tony. There had to be a way to convince Lindsay otherwise.

Chapter 22: Lindsay’s Words

Georgina and Kelley walk into the upstairs apartment as Tony looks over from his spot on the couch.

“Where is she?” Tony asks and immediately both Georgina and Kelley know who he is referring to.

“She’s staying at a hotel tonight and I suggest not going to see her,” Georgina comments as she plops into the chair. Tony then looks between the girls confused. “She’ll be by tomorrow to say goodbye to me and Michael.”

“So she’s heading home? Or am I missing something?” Georgina then looks over at Kelley and Kelley nods her head as she takes up the other chair.

“She’s driving the Camaro back home to grab her stuff and then flying back to here.” Tony’s face immediately turns to disbelief.

“You can’t be serious?” Georgina shakes her head yes.

“She’s leaving him, Tony,” Kelley breaks out as Tony looks over at Kelley, shaking his head in disbelief. “She told us she’s getting a divorce.”

“No….no…..this isn’t happening,” Tony starts as both girls shake their heads yes.

“She said that this mess is her fault and she should never have entered her lives. She feels bad for the pain that she put Dale through and she doesn’t want to chance it happening again.”

“We tried everything to change her mind but nothing is working,” Georgina continues as Tony sits up in total disbelief. “We both hoped that you and Dale could do something. Maybe you can convince her. May-”

“Why didn’t you come and tell me sooner?” They hear and all look towards the bedsroom door as they see Dale standing there. Tony had told Dale earlier to go sleep in the bedsroom while he waited on the couch for the girls to come back since Dale was worried about them.

“Because we were trying to convince her ourselves and we didn’t want to bug you,” Kelley comments as she looks towards her brother.

“You should’ve told me as soon as she uttered those words! I should know first! Doesn’t that seem fair?”

“We’re sorry, okay?” Georgina states as Kelley lets out a sigh.

“We were focused on trying to fix things – not we’re telling because we’re out of ideas,” Kelley adds as Dale walks out to the living room.

“She’s not leaving me because I know she loves me and Chelsea,” Dale comments as he sits beside Tony on the couch.

“We told her that but she didn’t budge,” Georgina comments as Dale shakes his head. “Maybe you can convince her.” Dale looks up.

“Oh don’t you worry – I’m going to make sure to convince her. You said that she’s driving back in the Camaro, right?” The girls shake their heads.

“That’s what she told us.”

“Dale….” Tony starts as he can tell that Dale is thinking by the look on his face. “What are you thinking?”

“I’m going to ride back with her and use that time to convince her otherwise,” Dale answers. “If for some reason I can’t change her mind in those 10 or 12 hours, then she can leave and hold regret for the rest of her life. As for you two…” Dale then looks between Kelley and Tony. “Fly your asses out to Phoenix tomorrow. Angelica, Kyle and Karsyn need you two for support. I can’t run because I’m sore and I’ll miss a week; I can still make the Chase regardless. So Kel, I want you to be there to support her and be there for her first Cup start. Tony, it’s your choice whether you run or not, but it’d be nice to see you go for the support reasons.” The pair shake their heads as they understand what Dale is saying. “Once I get home, I’ll get L.W. and Jimmy to fly out so they’re there on Sunday for the Cup race, as well.”

“Are you 100% sure about what you’re thinking of doing?” Dale shakes his head yes. “Positive?”

“I can’t let her go without a fight and this is the only option that I’ve got.” Tony shakes his head understanding as he wraps an arm around Dale.

“I just hope that she listens to you.”

“Don’t worry – she can’t deny him; she loves him,” Kelley comments with a smile. She then notices the scratches on Dale’s back as he sits beside Tony with a top on, shivering a little. “Those hurt?” Dale shakes his head yes.

“They hurt quite a bit but I’ll be fine sis,” he assures her.

“Did you get them checked out? I mean, I don’t want to take chances.”

“I’ll be fine. They’re from when he used the belt there but I’m fine. Tony put some cream on it and I’ve put ice a couple times by it to help. There’s nothing else I can do but wait for it to heal.” She lets out a sigh, hating to see him in this situation. She was hoping this year would be the year of happiness. “Tony, can you come with me?” Tony shakes his head yes as they stand up and head for the bedsroom.

“Couch or chair?” Kelley asks as Georgina shrugs her shoulders.

“Don’t matter,” she replies as Kelley flops on to the couch where Tony was previously.

As she lies there unable to sleep, she can hear the whispers of Tony and Dale talking in the bedsroom. She was glad that her brother had Tony at times like this as she could only imagine and fear what things would be like without having Tony’s comfort.

Chapter 23: The Drive Home

“Well, I’ll see you both later…” Lindsay says as she heads out to the Camaro after saying her goodbyes to Michael and Georgina. She then reaches the car and looks over at her passenger in surprise. “What are you doing here?” Dale then looks towards her with a smile.

“I’m coming with you,” he answers as she shakes her head. “Kelley and Tony are flying out to Phoenix. I’m in no shape right now to go out there with being sore and wanting to avoid everybody for the time being. I’m heading home and I figured why not come with you? That way I can make sure my baby gets home in one piece.” She looks at him with wide eyes as she crosses her arms. “I can’t believe you took the Camaro out.”

“You know how much I love this car and I needed something that would get me here quickly.” She then throws her bag in the back before climbing in and sitting in the driver’s seat. “Dale, I don’t thin-”

“Don’t try to talk me out of riding back with you as it’s not happening. I’m set on what I’m doing and you can’t change my mind if you tried.” She lets out a sigh as he gets comfortable. “Plus, if you get tired, we can switch.”

“Yeah….I guess.” She then turns the car on and backs out, heading out towards the highway down one of the back roads she knew very well.

“So when were you going to tell me that you’re divorcing me?” She then slams on the brake pedal and looks over at him.

“Excuse me?” He then crosses his arms as he looks over at her.

“Answer my question. That’s not something that I should learn courtesy of my sister and your best friend. So when were you going to tell me? After you got home and packed your things? After you flew back and by some papers in the mail? Don’t I deserve better than that?” She lets out a sigh as she pulls to the side of the road. There was no doubt that this was going to come up eventually. She had avoided the topic since mentioning it. It was why she stayed at her parent’s the night before. It was why she was going to head home, pack and head out without a cause. Every time she thought about a way to tell him, she felt her heart telling her not too and telling her that she was wrong.

“I….I don’t know, honestly. I was debating the best way to tell you.” She looks down as she feel her emotions building up again, the same tears that she had cried the night before to her mother.

“If it’s so hard to do it, then why are you doing it in the first place?” She takes a deep breath as she keeps her eyes focused on her lap.

“It’s the right thing to do, Dale, whether we both want to admit it or not. I should never have married you in the first place.”

“Because of what happened? Because of Johnathan kidnapping me?” She shakes her head yes as she finally looks over at him.

“It’s my fault and I’m sorry. I never should’ve put your life in jeopardy because of my past. I never should’ve let you in due to the chance of this happening.”

“But you did and when I still wanted to get married to you after you told me about this life of yours, I accepted the chance of that happening.”

“Dale….”

“I don’t want to hear excuses or shit. I knew this could happen the minute you told me of your past and I still married you. I still wanted to be with you despite knowing that one of these assholes could figure out who you are and where you are and come after us. So no, it’s not your fault. You warned me and I accepted the chance. I accepted the secret and moved forward. It’s not your fault, Lindsay. It’s Johnathan’s fault for being an asshole.” He then reaches over to put his hand on her knee, knowing that she was on the verge of breaking down via the look in her eyes as he spilled his emotions. He rubs her knee as he looks into her eyes, hoping that he’s found a breakthrough.

“It doesn’t make it easier.”

“I know it doesn’t. Nothing can help make the pain easier, except time and love. You have to accept what has happened and be ready to move forward. You have to open your heart and let us all in and be there to help you. Over time, it’ll get easier. I know. I’ve been here times before.” She lets out a sigh as she knows that too well herself virtue of the past with Jeff.

“I still feel terrible. You went through all that crap with Jeff to help keep my secret and then went through a week of hell with Johnathan – because of me! God, I feel terrible. It’s all my fault!”

“It’s not your fault, Lindsay. It’s William’s fault for rapping you, it’s Johnathan’s fault for kidnapping me and hurting you, it’s Jeff fault for what he did to me and it’s my fault for not speaking up about Jeff sooner.” Lindsay feels a tear fall down her cheek, knowing herself that the emotions that she has bottled up are beginning to come undone.

“I hate this feeling.” She then releases a couple more tears as Dale wraps an arm around her, pulling her close. The tears then continue to fall as she buries her head in Dale’s neck. “I’m so so sorry. I’m sorry…”

“It’s not your fault. Stop apologizing. It’s not your fault. Everything will be okay.” They stay like that for about five minutes before she sits up and wipes the stray tears from her eyes.

“Ready for a road trip?” He then reaches over and laces his fingers with hers.

“As long as you promise to never leave me.”

“Dale, I couldn’t leave you if I tried.” Dale then smiles as she pulls back on the road and continues towards the highway.

“I love you.” He then kisses her hand before he lets it go as he sits back.

“I love you, too.” She then pulls onto the highway as they head back together. “Why did I ever think of leaving you?”

“I don’t know but I hope the thought never crosses your mind again. We’re stronger together.”

Chapter 24: Chelsea

“Chels, it’s almost time to go!” L.W. yells as he walks through the house. It was late Saturday night and time to get the kids ready to head for racing that night. Kennedy was pretty much ready and was helping with Wyatt while L.W. was in search of Chelsea.

“I don’t think she should go tonight,” Brenda comments, catching L.W. off guard. “The doctors were a little worried about her after what happened last weekend.” L.W. shakes his head, remembering the doctors spoke of possible breathing issues due to how the kidnapping went down last Sunday. However, she’d been good throughout the week and with Dale officially found, L.W. thought it was time to get things back to normal. “I jus-”

“Brenda, she’ll be fine.” Brenda rolls her eyes as she watches Chelsea come running down the stairs.

“What if Dale and Lindsay don’t want her to go?”

“I’m sure they’d be fine with it as long as she’s fine with it.” L.W. then looks over at Chelsea. “Do you want to go racing tonight?” Chelsea shakes her head yes. “Okay sweetie.”

“Can I?” Chelsea asks and L.W. shakes his head yes as he helps her put on her coat.

“But you have to promise me and grandma that you’ll be careful and tell us if you have any problems, okay?” L.W. requests as Brenda looks over, unease filled in her mind.

“I still don’t know if this is a good idea without Dale and Lindsay here,” Brenda comments as Chelsea looks over at her.

“I be fine Mamaw,” she assures her. “I be careful.”

“Trust me Brenda, I’ll take care of her,” L.W. assures her as he gives her a hug. “Maybe you should come.” Brenda shakes her head no.

“I want to be here incase Lindsay and Dale head here first,” Brenda tells him. “If you say she’ll be okay, I trust you.” L.W. smiles as they head out the door. He piles the kids up together before heading off to the track, ready for a night of racing with them.

*************

“North Carolina…” Lindsay comments out loud as they cross the state border in their continued drive.

“Home sweet home,” Dale adds as they watch the countryside go by. “So where are we headed first? I thought it’d be a good idea to go straight to Millbridge.” Lindsay smiles as she looks over at Dale.

“You think Chelsea will be racing?” Dale looks at her with a cocked eyebrow as her smile widens. “That’s right – she has my looks but your desires.” Dale then laughs.

“I think it’d be a nice surprise for her.”

“Millbridge it is darlin’.” Lindsay then keeps the drive going as they both start singing along to songs on the radio.

************************

“Come on Chels!” Kennedy screams later that night as she watches both Chelsea and her brother Wyatt race together.

“Shouldn’t you be cheering on your own brother?” L.W. questions as he looks over at her.

“Wyatt is having a good race; he can finish second this week.” L.W. laughs as he looks back to the track with a couple laps to go. “Plus, I got you a win tonight.” Kennedy smiles as she watches them come around the corner with the white flag in the air, running first and second. Kennedy had already won earlier that night for the second week in a row. “Go Chels!”

“Great race!!” Jimmy yells after their done as Chelsea takes the win for her first ever win with Wyatt second.

“She got her first win!” Kennedy yells as she goes running down the hill.

“Looks like we’ve got three talented kids to deal with all season long.”

“It’s going to be fun,” L.W. replies as he and Jimmy follow the trail that Kennedy was running as they headed to victory lane.

The celebration that night was extensive as there were many pictures taken to go with the win. As they got done the final one and the photographers started to walk away, Chelsea let out a sigh as she sat by her midget.

“What’s wrong?” Kennedy wondered as Chelsea looked over.

“I want my daddy here,” Chelsea comments as Wyatt wraps an arm around her.

“We love you,” Wyatt says before giving her a little kiss.

“Maybe daddy is here…” Chelsea hears and looks to her left, immediately causing a big smile on her face.

“Daddy!!!” She yells as she hops off the tire and runs over, wrapping both arms around his legs.

“Chelsea!” He says as he picks her up and squeezes her tightly against him. She then kisses his cheek as she looks into his eyes.

“Daddy, I worry bout you. I miss you.” He smiles as he looks into blue eyes, matching those of his own.

“I missed you baby girl, but I didn’t miss your special night now did I?” She shakes her head no as Kennedy hands her the trophy so Chelsea can show him.

“It pretty.” Dale looks over, shaking his head.

“It is pretty. I have a very special place that you can put it too when we get home.” Her eyes light up immediately as she knows where all the ‘special’ trophies go.

“With your trophy?” Dale shakes his head yes.

“Of course. It’s special, right?”

“Yep!” He then puts her down as Lindsay walks over.

“Hey Chels, someone else is here to see you….” Chelsea then looks over at Lindsay with a smile.

“Mommy!!” She then runs over and wraps her arms around Lindsay’s legs.

“I’m glad you’re okay,” L.W. comments as he gives Dale a hug.

“Everything is alright as long as we’re all together as a family,” Dale replies. “Oh, you and Jimmy are both flying out in the morning to Phoenix. I want you there for Karsyn’s first Cup start.”

“What about you?” Jimmy asks and Dale shakes his head no.

“I’m still pretty sore and a little tired. I need the time to rest. She’ll do fine and I’ll be ready for Vegas. Tony and Kelley flew out this afternoon so they’re there already.”

Chapter 25: Las Vegas

It was officially a week removed from the official rescue and for that reason, everybody was glad. They couldn’t wait to move on to the happy times.

Ah….happy times. Viva Las Vegas, right? Dale’s return came back in style. He went through the dreaded press conference of talking about what happened but kept it to small details. On-track, it was perfect. Domination led to victory.

“Where’s my princess?” He asks as he looks around victory lane after doing the required photos.

“Daddy!” Chelsea yells as she runs back up on the small stage with him, wrapping both arms around him. Surprisingly, she had handled what happened very well and was over it quite quickly. She was a little scared of strangers, though, but that’d get better with time. “You won! Yay!”

“Awww…” Lindsay coos as she watches them together. “Chelsea, look this way!” Chelsea then looks at her mom and Lindsay snaps a photo of them both on her phone, as some of the photographers left in victory lane snap it as well. “New background!” She then sets it as her background before walking up to join them. “So does it feel good to be back?” Dale shakes his head yes.

“This is where we belong – racing to victories, living the NASCAR dream,” he tells her as she wraps both arms around him while Chelsea runs off to see Karsyn.

“I can’t believe I ever thought of leaving this behind.” She then kisses his lips with a smile on her face. “I would’ve missed this celebration. But most of all, I would’ve lost the one person who truly accepts me for me.” She then kisses his lips once again. “Thank you for everything. I love you.”

“I love you. I couldn’t imagine being with someone else.” He then pulls her close.

“What about me?” Tony yells as he stands below them. Dale motions for him to get up there and join them.

“We wouldn’t be who we are without you,” Lindsay comments as she pulls Tony close to them.

“I’m the glue that keeps the crazy family together, right? You have to admit it.” They then both laugh as one of the Hendrick reps snaps a photo for them. “So are we ready to put everything crazy behind us? I think it’s time we finally enjoy our happy family.”

“I can’t argue with that,” Dale comments as he looks between them. “I’m truthfully spoiled. I admit it.”

“You deserve it superstar,” Lindsay says before kissing his cheek. “Oh, my mom called.” Dale and Tony look at her worried.

“What did she say? Is everything okay? Lindsay?”

“She finally got my dad to agree to stop all of his illegal business activity. He’s going to turn himself in and in exchange for giving up everything that he knows – and I mean everything – he’ll be set free.”

“How’d she manage that, finally?” Tony questions and Lindsay shrugs her shoulders. “So does that mean you get more time with family?”

“Oh no…” Dale starts as Lindsay laughs.

“They’re moving to North Carolina because they can’t stay in the area,” Lindsay announces, answering Dale’s thoughts. “Oh, and Michael and his sister are coming also. Looks like we finally get the perfect happy family. I have it here with you both, but it feels nice to have my parents too.” Dale smiles as he looks at her, seeing a special sparkle in her eyes.

“I’m glad it worked out then. Perhaps this mess was for good reason.” Lindsay and Tony both look at him surprised. “Or not!”

“Do you realize how worried I was about you? Do you realize what we went through?”

“Easy….” Tony coaches as he holds Lindsay back as Dale walks away to go do interviews.

“When can I smack him for that?” Lindsay questions as Tony laughs.

“Later tonight.”

“Thank you!” She then turns to face Tony. “You do realize that I owe you a lot, too. Thank you.”

“All the work was worth it in the end.” Tony pulls her into a hug.

The End