Chapter 71: The Outsider
Later that evening, Leo sat in his room doing his homework, not really enjoying any bit of it as usual. The sooner he got done school that year, the better. That was the only point glued in his mind.
Of course, that meant when his phone went off, he immediately paid attention to it, answering it without research.
“Hello?” He says as he kicks back in the chair.
“Hey Leo,” he hears a female voice, immediately cluing in to who it was. “It’s Emma. How are you?” He had to smile, already having recognized her voice before she had said her name.
He hadn’t spent a lot of time with Emma Vitty over the years, but had no problems with her. To him, she seemed like a nice girl within the racing community. Of course, he knew what others thought of her, as she was Chase’s ex-girlfriend, but he didn’t have the reservations that others had. Even when she quickly got with Marshall, he didn’t have any ill feelings.
“I’m doing okay, just doing homework,” he tells her. “How are you?” Emma flips her hair around as she glances over at Marshall with a smile.
“I’m doing great, just relaxing. I just wanted to call and see how you were. Everybody is so focused on Chase and Alyssa that it’s sort of left nobody to care about you and how you’re feeling. I was just….worried.” Leo lets out a sigh as he had seen the media following the pair had gathered since announcing their relationship. He saw the media’s questions, followed by the social media comments. He also saw how it lit up like crazy yesterday with Alyssa’s tweet.
He had his opinion on them, and it wasn’t pretty. He wanted to believe that the pair – he and Alyssa – had broken up for the right reasons. However, as he watched her quickly go to Chase without reservation, it did make the break-up sting a little more, despite the fact that he had to admit it had been coming. Seeing how close they were and how open things were quickly off the bat didn’t make it any easier, either.
When he and Alyssa first got together, the parents had reservations about how and where they spent time together. Why was she so easily allowed to sleep with him at night? Where had those previous reservations gone?
“I have to admit that it’s been tough, Emma,” he confesses. “There are nights where it hurts more than others. There are nights I feel heartbroken, times I feel angry and other times that I’m glad that we broke up before we got even more serious. That comes with any break-up, right?” Emma smiled as she made a couple of notes on a piece of paper with a smile towards Marshall. This was almost perfect.
“I understand, completely,” she replies. “It must also hurt because you guys were such good friends for so long, as well being close with Jimmie’s kids, Keelan and….the garage kiddies as it was called. I guess that’s out of the window, huh?” It hurt even more to hear those words come out so openly. However, he knew it was a possibility. He and Alyssa had agreed originally to stay friends, but was that really possible given the circumstances?
“I don’t know, Emma. We’ll just have to wait and see.” She then lets out an aggravated sigh as that put a kink in the plans.
“I understand. Well, look, I got to go but I just wanted to check in with you. If you ever need anything, just let me know. Talk to you later, Leo.”
“Bye Emma.” She then hangs up the phone, turning off the recorder as she glances back at Marshall with a smile.
“It seems that things aren’t as pretty as Chase and Alyssa commented.” Marshall shakes his head with a small laugh.
“Does that honestly surprise you?” He questions as he wraps his arms around her.
“Not at all,” she comments as she looks down at her phone. “I kind of hate screwing Leo in this deal, but it’ll look great on Chase and Alyssa….more so on Chase.” Marshall smiles as he kisses her lips. It was nice to have a buddy that was willing to do whatever it took to screw things up for the ‘pretty boy’.
“We also have that deal with Karsyn. She didn’t seem pleased, either, that night.” Emma shakes her head, remembering the discussion between Chase and Karsyn after they were stuck a dinner with Ty.
“What about Dillon?” Marshall thinks it over, having not heard much from Ty in the aftermath.
“I think he’s actually cool with things, surprisingly. But that doesn’t surprise me. Remember, the silver spoon fan favs stick together.” Emma laughs as she puts her phone up for the night.
“Now we just have to wait till the right time…and the right gossip magazine. Have I mentioned how much I love you lately?” Marshall laughs as he kisses her lips.
Meanwhile, Cameron had shown up at Chase’s place along with Cole, looking for some hang out time with him as they had done plenty of times previously. However, they were both met with a surprise as Alyssa was already over, sharing a video game with him.
“What’s this?” Cameron questions as he looks over at Alyssa. “Tired of being beat by us that you throw us away for your girlfriend?” Chase laughs as Alyssa looks over at Cameron intrigued.
“Why don’t you sit your ass down and see if those words come true, Cammy?” She asks as he looks at her surprised.
“She’s actually beaten me a couple of times,” Chase confesses as Cole laughs.
“Let me guess – you let her so you could get lucky!” Cole lets out as Chase gives him an instant smack.
“No….just no…” Cole then puts his arms up in innocence.
“I didn’t mean anything by it. I know that you’re both being behaved.” He then sits down and grabs a controller. “So, are the nights of us bombarding your house for video games with just the guys over?” Chase thinks it over as he glances over at Alyssa before looking back over.
“I’d never give up my hang out nights,” he tells them. “We’re just going to have plan a bit. We can work it in everybody’s schedule. When she’s out with friends and we’re not hanging together and I have a moment, then we’ll do it. Just like normal.” Alyssa glances over at the boys, catching their drift with a sigh.
“Before you start bugging and pouting, I’m not going to screw up things,” she starts. “I get it – he needs his time with his boys, just like I need my time with the girls. We’ll find a balance….just like everything.” She then hits the menu button, choosing her racecar. “Now, who’s ready to get their ass kicked by a girl?”
“Good luck,” Cole replies as he glances over at her with a smile. “And for the record, I wasn’t concerned. I’m not one of those who are against the pair of you being together or anything. I get it and you’re utterly adorable.”
“No hard feelings, Cole?” He shakes his head no. “Awww he’s still my buddy, Chasey!” Cameron laughs as Chase rolls his eyes.
“And how old are we again?” Chase questions, remembering all the years she called him that.
“You’ll always be my Chasey,” she tells him before kissing his cheek. “Doesn’t mean I’m letting you win.”
“Bring it on.”
Chapter 72: Morning
Dale glances out of the kitchen as he watches Alyssa come through the front door and head for the stairs.
“How is it that she can not even show up for breakfast and I have to sit here and eat this?” Elsa complains as Dale looks over at her.
“Because your sister had breakfast already,” Dale informs her as he stands up and makes his way through the house. He then heads up the stairs, going to her bedsroom. He notices the door is closed, knocking on it.
“Getting dressed!” She tells him as she slips on her t-shirt. She then glances in the mirror, pleased with her appearance before opening the door. “Hey daddy!”
“Hey sweetheart. You don’t even say hi anymore?” She then lets out a little sigh.
“Sorry. I’ll remember to come say hi in the kitchen in my pajamas before coming up to get changed and ready to go.” He then shakes his head, not believing how quickly his baby girl was growing up.
“Did you eat break-”
“Chase and I ate before I left to come get changed.” She then grabs her brush and heads down the hall to the bathroom. She flips the light on, brushing her hair in the mirror as Dale peaks in.
“Have you guys talked about anything?” She then freezes and looks over and shakes her head yes. He then looks at her curious as she turns back to the mirror. “So you’ve started the proces-”
“Just barely, okay?” She then looks over at him. “He told me a little secret about what happened because I asked him a question. We haven’t gotten into the big details yet, and I haven’t said anything yet.” She then looks back at the mirror with a sigh. “I want to talk about it. I want to do the right thing that I need to do. I just haven’t got the chance to do it yet. We’ve had the time, but just not the right…..I don’t know to explain it.” He then walks up behind her, snatching the brush as he finishes up her pony tail for her.
“I get it, okay? You’re comfortable with him, but haven’t found the right comfortable time that feels right to divulge all of your secrets, either way.” She shakes her head yes, glad that he understood. “I’ve been there, Alyssa. I know what you’re going through. It’s okay – I’m not mad or concerned that you haven’t talked about it, yet. At least you’re getting your sleep and you’re starting the process. When the time feels right, you’ll know and you’ll tell him. The same goes with what he wants to tell you. It won’t be easy, but it’ll be worth it.” He then finishes putting her pony tail up and gives her a kiss on the cheek.
“Thanks….” She then turns to face him. “But I’m not a little girl anymore. You don’t need to do my hair.” He then raises his eyebrows, surprised.
“Right….because every time you do your own pony tail, it ends up crocked or falling out halfway through the day.” He then gives her a pat on the head. “I just was trying to be nice.”
“I appreciate it – honestly. And thank you for the advice, too.” He then looks into her blue eyes.
“You also know that you can come and talk to me abut anything, whenever, right?” She shakes her head yes as she takes a deep breath.
“I know, dad. If I need to talk to you about something, I’ll come to you. Can I go?” He shakes his head yes as she leaves the bathroom, returning to her bedsroom to get something as he heads back down the stairs.
He returns to the kitchen, catching a glance from Marie as the other two kids head out of the kitchen to finish getting ready for school.
“Regretting that you let her go move in with her boyfriend?” She questions and Dale looks back at her and shakes his head no.
“There’s no issues, Marie,” he answers. “That’s not why I went up to see her. I just offered some advice and wanted to see if they had talked yet. She said that they started the process but haven’t got into details yet.” Marie crosses her arms as she leans back against the counter.
“Right, because they’re probably too busy hanging out with friends and making out.” She then flips her phone on, showing him the Instagram photo from the other day. “Do you need a reminder?” Dale rolls his eyes as he pushes the phone away.
“I know my daughter. I trust my daughter. I know Chase. I trust Chase. They’re not up to anything wrong. It’s just cuddling together and nothing else. The cuddling helps her sleep easier, knowing that he’s there to protect her. You can stop worrying and start trusting your child more.” He then returns to the table to finish his breakfast as she watches him closely. She then walks up behind his chair, leaning over the back.
“I trust my daughter. I also know what trouble teenagers can ge-”
“I also know a ton of people who were very responsible as teenagers and not doing anything wrong, including Chase and the guys that he hung out with.” He then looks up at her. “If you’re so concerned, then why don’t you ask her?” Marie lets out a sigh as she goes and sits down in the chair at the end of the table.
“I can’t bring myself to do it because like you’re saying, I know it doesn’t sound like something that she’d do. I know she’s responsible and smart, and I know Chase will treat her like a princess. If it was Elsa, I’d be hiding a camera in the bedsroom.” Dale laughs as he looks over at Marie.
“Hence why she’s not dating till she’s out of high school.” Marie laughs as she rolls her eyes.
“You’re dreaming babes. If you try to instill that rule, she’ll just sneak around our backs. We might as well let it happen so we can at least meet the guy.” Dale then crosses his arms, watching Marie curiously.
“So you’re going to let Elsa date despite the concerns, but yet you won’t let Alyssa and Chase live together even though she’ll be 19 in a couple months?” Marie shrugs her shoulders as she relaxes back.
“I guess I’m just worried about our baby.” Dale then smiles.
“Listen, she’s growing up faster than we both could’ve imagined. However, at least we know that she’s a good kid who will smart decisions.” Marie shakes her head in agreement as they both finish up breakfast, satisfied with the discussion.
Meanwhile, after Alyssa had left, Chase had snatched his phone out, calling Ryan immediately. He wanted to catch Ryan before he headed out to talk about a couple of things.
“Can I ask your opinion on something?” Chase questions after they had talked about a couple of various topics for a while.
“Go ahead,” Ryan offers as Chase takes a deep breath.
“Alyssa and I both have a lot that we want to talk to each other about. She wants to tell me about her dreams, and I want to tell her what truly happened with Mariela and Randy. I don’t know how to go about bringing that all up, though.” Ryan relaxes as he remembered the couple of nights that he and Darrell spent time being the person for Chase to lean on through those couple of years.
“It’s going to take time to explain everything so you’re going to want to have time that you both have available. Don’t do it on a race weekend as you don’t want to be distracted – either of you. Perhaps within her school schedule, you could both agree to talk for a couple of hours each night before bed about some things. So say you both say that from 7 to 9, you talk about what happened and start to go through the details. Then after that for an hour, you focus on something positive so that way you can both sleep. There’s not much else that we can do within your schedules.” Chase shaeks his head, agreeing. It seemed to be the only idea that he had.
“I guess, but that may bug her sleep even more. I was thinking during Spring Break in March so that way she doesn’t have to get up each morning for school. We try and keep no sponsor stuff scheduled for that week and then we have as much time as we need.” Ryan thinks it over, knowing that time to explain was of importance.
“That could work, bud. I think you have this figured out better than I do. Why are you calling then?” Chase lets out a sigh.
“I guess I’m nervous. I haven’t talked about it much sine then. I put it all in the rearview.” Ryan could understand as there hadn’t been much talk since then, even with the fact that Demi was in the midst of her final months in jail as it was only a 15 year sentence.
“Well, if you need someone to talk to, you have my number. You can do this bud. It’ll just make you both stronger together in the end.” Chase knew that Ryan was right. He just hoped that they got through revealing it together without too many breakdown moments.
“Thanks. I appreciate that.”
Chapter 73: Las Vegas
Despite concerns of the day going by slowly, Thursday flew by like a quick breeze. Classes went easily and Alyssa was able to get through her homework quickly, set for her trip to Las Vegas. Chase had flown out with her and they had agreed to stay in Chase’s motorhome together for the weekend, since they were staying at home together anyway.
With XFINITY practice finishing up, Chase headed out to the garage area, set for Cup practice which was going to begin shortly.
“Having fun sacking up with the princess?” He hears as he walks through the garage and immediately turns in the direction of the voice. He immediately rolls his eyes as he sees Ty standing there. He had heard of the younger Dillon brother’s comments about the relationship.
“Still riding on the short tails of your Pop-Pop?” He questions in response, figuring that two could play the game of smart remarks. In truth, he hadn’t had the cleanest past with Dillon. They had their run-in during the truck race in Canada when they were first getting started in the big leagues, but had also crossed paths on-track a couple of times. Chase had thought of borrowing Harvick’s silver-spoon comment during those occasions.
“Well, at least I’m not sleeping for my ride, right?” Chase then laughs as he continues walking towards the garage area.
“Right – because I’ve already won a couple championships and found my way here virtue of beating your ass in the XFINITY Series. But hey, you’re right – I guess that’s what I’m doing. Seriously, grow some balls and grow up. I’m done with kiddy drama.” He then heads to his stall as Ty just shakes his head in disgust.
“You seem like you’re in a peachy mood this fine morning,” Alan comments as Chase walks into the stall. Chase just rolls his eyes as he glances back over towards Ty’s direction.
“Let’s just say that someone should knock off his smart ass comments and focus on driving,” he replies as Alan glances over, seeing Ty with a sigh.
“You knew the moment that you both came out, there’d be comments about the pair of being together. You knew that it’d irk some people. Dillon is one of them, but you can’t let it get under your skin. Just focus on what you need to do in the car, focus on your relationship and ignore the BS.” Chase looks over at his crew chief with a smile, already focused on that. It’d be great satisfaction to finish in front of Ty on Sunday.
“That’s the plan, boss.” Alan smiles as he gives Chase a pat on the back and heads back over to the crew. He just hoped that the drama kept to a minimum over the weekend and the rest of the season.
He was then able to get through practice without any problems, timing in quickest on the charts at the end of the session. It was defiantly an added piece of satisfaction and no doubt the goal of the weekend. With a win to already lock him in the Chase, he was set on having fun for the rest of the year till September.
With another XFINITY practice scheduled, Chase headed out to pit road, watching the session closely, keeping his eyes on one car in particular. He watched as she came off the corner, glancing at the lap times in hopes that she found more success. Seeing that she was currently sitting 12th on the board, he couldn’t complain as it was solid for a rookie.
“Keeping an eye on your princess?” He hears a familiar voice and immediately smiles. Darrell then walks over, sitting beside Chase as he takes in the session. “She looks good out there right now.”
“Solid laps, car looks to be under her well – I say that she’ll be in good shape tomorrow,” Chase offers as he glance at Darrell, before returning his eyes back to the track.
“I heard someone was giving you trouble earlier. Do I need to kick some ass?” Chase laughs and shakes his head no. He had honestly put the exchange between himself and Ty behind him, focusing on the keys to success as Alan had discussed.
“Nah – I don’t feel like bailing you out of jail and explaining to Shelby what happened.” Darrell smiles as he relaxes back, keeping a close eye on his friend.
“So, how close have you two gotten? You’ve been hanging out all the time.” Chase grins as he had been enjoying the time spent with Alyssa. However, in the back of his mind, he knew that the pair hadn’t addressed the one thing that they were supposed to be addressing.
“We’re enjoying the time together, and figuring out how the transition from friends and buddies to a couple really works. So far, things are going good. We’ve got an understanding and have started to open up to each other.” Darrell shakes his head, understanding. He knew the road of opening up was going to be a long run, and had heard the reasons via a conversation with both Chase and Ryan. He just wondered whether his friend could get through that conversation easily. There was also another reason why Darrell had wanted to come see Chase, knowing the significance of this year.
“That’s great to hear. Now, please, let me bring this up and don’t shut me off. But, have you looked into anything about Dem-” Chase’s eyes immediately cut to Darrell, anger building.
“I don’t want to talk about her, or anything to do with her.” Darrell takes a calming deep breath, having expected a sudden reaction.
“Chase, I know that you don’t prefer to talk about her. However, she is getting her relea-”
“She shouldn’t even be allowed to step out of that jail cell with everything that she did!” Darrell knew the anger that Chase felt, and had to agree based on what she had done to Chase, and others through her crime ring.
“I understand, and I agree. I was just wondering if you’ve talked to the lawyers or anything about the timing.” Chase keeps his eyes focused on the track as he takes a deep breath. With thinking over everything to discuss with Alyssa, it had certainly crossed his mind lately and didn’t go unnoticed. There was also a couple phone calls that brought everything back to the surface.
“The lawyer called me and told me the date that she’s released – it’s basically next week. There is an offer to where I could be at her release and share some thoughts, but I declined. I’m through with talking to her and….I just didn’t want to go back down that road. I’ve gotten past what happened, and I’d rather leave it in the past.” He then takes a deep breath, remembering all the things that he taught himself at that time to move forward. “He called me a couple days later and wondered if I wanted a restraining order, just incase Demi had any thought of coming near me. We went through the required steps, and if she dares to step near me or any family of mine or poses any threat of any kind towards me, she’s arrested for violation.” Darrell shakes his head, understanding. It didn’t give him much confidence as it was just a simple piece of paper – but it did add a bit of confidence.
“Well, hopefully she listens. Are you sure you’re a-okay on everything?” Chase shakes his head yes.
“Darrell, I’m over what happened. We’ve been through this. I’d just rather leave it where it is and move on with Alyssa. Yes, I’m going to go back to that to tell her, but that’s it. I’m done.” Darrell shakes his head understanding as he stands up.
“That’s fine, but you also know where to find me – as always. I’ll see you later.” Darrell then headed off pit road to the garage to meet up with the team for a meeting as Chase went back to watching Alyssa.
The more he thought about the recent conversations, the more he realized the sooner Alyssa learned everything, the better. As they say, better be safe than sorry with everything.
When practice finished up, Alyssa chatted with the team about a couple adjustments before heading off to the motorcoach lot.
She couldn’t lie – there was a lot on her mind, as well. She had heard tidbits of the Demi story and knew, like others, that her release from jail was soon. She could only wonder how much it was on Chase’s mind, and how much he was truly letting on.
Though in the midst of that, she was also dealing with her own emotions and the re-occurring dream. While there were nights that she’d simply wake up screaming, she started to be able to remember other pieces and wondered what they all meant.
As she headed into the motorcoach, she texted her dad a message, in hopes that he’d available later that night. She knew it was odd to have a conversation of this nature on a race weekend, but she couldn’t hold it back any longer. Besides, he had told her anytime she wanted to talk.
She had originally wanted to discuss everything with Chase, but it made sense to go to her father first. He was there that day on the plane with Steve. He knew the exact events that occurred. He’d more likely be able to fill in all the gaps that surrounded her brain. With those gaps filled in, she was certain it’d make it easier when it came for that time with Chase.
As she grabs herself a snack, she hears her phone go off, reaching over to grab it off the counter. She then reads the reply and smiles, sending back a quick response.
Taking a deep breath, she knew that evening/night would be an interesting conversation.
Chapter 74: The Conversation
Following dinner, the pair agreed to meet up just outside of Dale’s motorcoach. They had debated places to talk – whether inside or outside – and had settled on the trailer in the garage area. The trailer would be empty with it being night time and privacy was the best policy right now.
“Are you ready?” He asks as he comes out and she simply shakes her head yes. They both get on the golf kart and head to the garage area portion of the infield. They then head to her XFINTY hauler, parking the golf-kart by the door. The pair get out of the golf-kart and she unlocks the hauler, before they head inside. They go up into the lounge as Dale closes the door behind them. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine,” she answers as he sits on the couch beside her. He could tell that she had grown a lot quieter since the text message earlier that afternoon.
“Are you sure you’re ready for this?” He offers and she shakes her head, yes.
“I need to do this if I’m going to move forward. I need to get it out on the table and know fully what happened. I was going to tell Chase first, but I figured it’d be best to talk to you. You were there and know the exact events that happened. I figured that you could fill in the pieces of what I am recalling.” He shakes his head, understanding. He hadn’t wanted to do the conversation on a race weekend, but knew that he had to help her clear her mind if it meant that much to her.
“I just want to apologize for not talking to you about this sooner and telling you everything that happened. It’s just I was so afraid of losing you and your mom that day that I couldn’t bring myself to tell you. I just wanted to leave it in the past.” Alyssa shakes her head, understanding, as she knew it had to be a difficult topic one way or the other.
“It’s fine, Dad. I understand. You don’t need to apologize for anything.” He then gives her a quick kiss on the forehead as he sits back, waiting for the details of how she wanted to go about the conversation. He was ready to detail everything if that was what she required.
“So, should I begin or do you want to begin?” She thought it over as she looked over at him. She felt herself stumbling on the images and knew that perhaps a start of explaining would result in some explanation.
“You may go ahead.” Dale then relaxes as he thinks back to that fateful day, taking a deep breath as he tries to keep himself calm.
“We had taken a trip to England during the off-season. It was supposed to be the perfect getaway for the three of us. You were just in love with the thought of the castles.” She laughs, as she remembers her enjoyment of dressing up as a princess as a child, while wanting to go as fast as possible.
“I guess I was always meant to be a princess, huh?” He smiles and shakes his head yes. He then lets out a sigh, knowing that they couldn’t stay in the happy realm forever.
“We were a couple days into the trip and I woke up one morning. Your mom wasn’t there so I just immediately thought that she went out to get something. So, I went about my normal morning routine and found you sitting on the couch watching cartoons. As I went to get us some breakfast, there was a knock at the door.” He then takes a deep breath, as he remembers the conversation and the instant sadness that he felt that day. “The man, who claimed to be an officer and had identification, said that your mother had been involved in a car accident and died.” Alyssa takes a deep breath, remembering hearing brief details of something along these lines.
“I remember hearing about that lie when I was around 13. Mom told me about that. She told me to always make sure that an officer had proper identification and double check the facts that I was being told before acting upon something.” Dale shakes his head, remembering the conversation that Marie had with the children. She had given them the ‘don’t talk to strangers’ and ‘make sure people are who they truly are’ speech.
“That was a tough lesson to learn at the time. Immediately, feeling upset, I was set to fly back to the United States. They told me that they’d have her body transferred in good time. I then packed up all our stuff and headed to the airport, taking the first flight that was available. I was then introduced to Mariel-”
“Was she really a federal agent?” Dale thinks it over, remembering the investigation that followed after everything.
“She had managed to get a job, somehow, working for the airline. It’s crazy to believe with her record and everything.” Alyssa shakes her head in disbelief. “We then got on the plane and we were set to fly back to the United States. I sat down in the one seat, and you sat down in the seat beside me with your bear.” Alyssa grins as she had kept the bear over the years, with the bear sitting now on the shelf in her room.
“I took that thing everywhere.” Dale shakes his head yes as he thinks back to the flight.
“Emotionally drained and everything else, I fell asleep on the plane. I then found out afterwards the water I drank had a sleeping agent in it to make me fall asleep, more so. During that time, Mariela led you away from me, suggesting you tour the plane. She then made you drink a drug-infused drink – telling you it was a nice juice – before hiding you in the luggage compartment as you were passed out.” Alyssa swallows the lump that had formed in her throat as her father’s words match to images that had flashed through her mind at night.
“There are some nights that I dream of this scary looking witch dressed lady standing there with a red glass over my head, pouring it down on me and forcing me to swallow it.” Dale then remembers back to one of the conversations that he had with Alyssa after Mariela’s arrest.
“Well, we did tell you that Mariela was a witch and that she would be locked away in the dungeon with the bad wolf. Then we told you that she was dead, recalling Wizard of Oz.” Alyssa puts the pieces together, remembering the stories that she heard as a kid about the big bad wolf (and his pigs), among others. She then takes a deep breath, recalling another one of the haunting images that had left her awake at night.
“That explains that image. There are also other nights that I dream that I’m in a box, and that box continues to shrink smaller and smaller till I can’t move or escape, and I suffocate alive in it.” As he heard the details of his daughter’s dreams, he wanted to cry and scream at once. How could you feel so much pain and anger at one time? How could someone put a young, four-year-old through what she went through and leave these images in her mind for years? He was angry at Mariela when she went forth with the plan originally and hurting others in her chase after him and Marie, but felt that anger growing as the conversation continued now with Alyssa.
“That probably comes from the luggage compartment as they move around and according to Steve, who rescued you by the way, it wasn’t that big of a space that he found you in.” She shakes her head, understanding. It also explained why Steve was always there in her life, looking over her shoulder and there to help at times. Their connection had begun that day on the plane.
“That’s all that I can think of so far with what you’ve told me.” She then takes a deep breath, debating whether she wanted to hear the full story. She knew it’d give understanding to the images, but would it bring a more haunting tale in her mind to follow? She also didn’t know if she wanted to put her father through the pain of recalling one of the scariest events in his life. “You may continue, if you want.”
“You deserve to know the full story. As I told you, I should’ve told you sooner.” He then takes a deep breath, thinking back to the flight. “I woke up about 30, 40 minutes later, not feeling much better. I then asked aloud if you were enjoying the flight, expecting you to answer me. I didn’t hear anything so I looked over at the seat, just seeing the bear sitting there. I then questioned for you……..”
“I’m Mariela Kats – remember?” He hears and glances past the seat to see a dark brown haired lady sitting there. He certainly remembered her as he remembered them meeting at the airport after he had gotten the tickets. “Is something wrong, Mr. Earnhardt? You look frazzled.” He picks up the teddy bear as he keeps his eyes locked on the lady beside him. “The bear. You brought it with you.”
“I also brought my three-year-old daughter Alyssa with me,” he tells her as Mariela slowly shakes her head.
“Your daughter? I don’t remember mention of a daughter.”
“I was holding her at the airport when we met, Ms. Kats. I carried her on to the plane and sat her in the seat beside me with her bear on her lap. So tell me something – where the hell is my daughter?” Mariela continues to look at him confused. “You mean to tell me that you didn’t see a blond three-year-old with eyes like mine sitting here? I know she was with me! I carr-”
“Sir, you need to calm down, please. If I saw your daugh-”
“Where is my daughter?” Mariela shrugs her shoulders, still confused. “I carried her on to the plane.”
“Well then she has to be on this plane as we were the last to board and they closed the doors after we boarded.” Dale then looks around, feeling his heartrate rise and nerves growing.
“Okay, fine. Where on the plane is my daughter then?”
“Sir, I honestly don’t know.” He then looks at her and she can tell that he’s frazzled. “I wasn’t honestly watching as I was looking forward to make sure that people kept their distance – as the airline instructed.”
“But yet you missed a three-year-old getting out of her seat and crossing your legs? That seems real smart. Where did you learn to be a FBI agent? I want to know where my daughter is.”
“Sir, I can’t be more honest with you than I am being. If you’re 100% certain that you carried your daughter on the plane then she’s on the plane somewhere. You just stay here and I’ll start looking for her.” Mariella then slowly stands up as she backs away, as Dale stands with her.
“I’m coming with you because I want to find her. I want to know where my daughter is and besides, I don’t trust you right now.”
“I understand. If you want, I can take you to the captain and we can have the flight crew search as well per protocol. Perhaps that’ll help calm you down. Follow me.” He then follows her through the halls as they head to the front of the plane.
“Don’t expect me to be calm till she’s back in my arms. How would you feel if your daughter went missing shortly after losing your girlfriend?”
“I’d probably be scared just like you are, sir.”
“That’s what I thought.”
Once they reached the front of the plane, they made a report to the pilot about his daughter being missing on the plane. Immediately the passengers were notified and told if they saw a three-year-old blond girl to notify a flight attendant. The pilot also instructed all flight attendants to begin looking everywhere on the plane for the daughter, including spots that normally people couldn’t access. Like Mariela had told him, everybody had a job per protocol and place to look as they stayed waiting at the front of the plane.
Chapter 75: Conversation Con’t
“So you were just left standing there, worried and wondering where I was while they looked?” Alyssa questions and Dale shakes his head yes. He then takes a deep breath, thinking back to that day.
“I was so worried and I could’ve almost broken down in tears if not for the anger at Mariela’s behavior,” Dale answers. “I was also mad at myself for allowing it to happen. Who lets their child go missing on an airplane? Who doesn’t keep their eyes opened and peered to make sure that everything is alrig-”
“You can’t beat yourself up over it. Besides, you were having a mix of emotions that you can’t probably explain to anybody. As you told me, you were emotionally drained and sleep just took you over.” Dale shakes his head, knowing that his daughter was right. Besides, this had happened years ago. He couldn’t beat himself up for it now. “What happened next?”
“She came back awhile later and asked if I was sure you came on the plane. I told her that I’d be sure and we argued back and forth. The pilot then reported back to say that they hadn’t found you anywhere, in which I replied that you had to be. Mariela then suggested that perhaps I was hallucinating, saying that it happens when we lose the people that we love.” Dale glances down, feeling his own heartbreak as he remembered there was a moment on that plane that he believed Mariela and thought that he was.
“Dad….” Alyssa reaches over and places her hand on top of his as he glances over at her, tears in his eyes. “It’s oka-”
“How does a father forget about their daughter?” She then reaches over and pulls himself closer, wrapping her arms around him.
“You were emotionally exhausted. You were in the midst of the biggest heartbreak that you could know, hearing that mom had died. You were confused as to what happened to mom, and upset beyond anything. Confusion combined with physical exhaustion and emotions, you start to question everyth-”.
“I forgot about yo-”
“If you had probably taken a nap and cleared your mind that confusion wouldn’t had been there.” She then looks up at him. “It’s okay. I understand. I’m not mad at you, and you shouldn’t be mad at yourself. Besides, everything worked out and you saved me….with Steve’s help.” She then relaxes back, thinking. Was it worth the emotional turmoil to hear the whole story? Or, had she heard enough to clear up the confusion of images in her mind? “We could stop-”
“No.” Dale then looks over at her, taking a deep breath. “Like I said, you deserve to know and I’m going to tell you the whole story.” He then takes a deep breath. “The pilot then suggested that he keeps two people searching, in which I accepted. Mariela then suggested that we check if there was a ticket for you purchased as you’d require a ticket. She added that it’s part of a standard investigation. If there was no ticket, she’d call back to England and report you missing ther-”
“Basically, letting everyone think and believe that you had left me behind in the midst of your confusion?” Dale shakes his head yes as Alyssa shakes her head in disbelief. “She certainly was the queen of conning. I can understand why everything she did with Chase affected him so much.” Dale then glances over at his daughter.
“Mariella had one big instance with Chase that had him upset for a good couple three months, but it was Randy that really put the kid through too much.” Dale then glances back down. “I know I shouldn’t and Chase tells me that I shouldn’t, but I still bug myself at times that he was thrown in Randy’s line of fire by me.” Alyssa then rubs her dad’s arm.
“It wasn’t your fau-”
“I know. I know that and I keep telling myself that. Sometimes, though, the lines try to blur themselves in my mind.” He then looks back over at her. “That’s why I do as much as I do for him. That’s why I’m always there looking over his shoulder, ready to help if he needs it.” Alyssa shakes her head understanding.
“So getting back to what happened, I’m guessing there was only one ticket purchased?” Dale shakes his head yes. “How is that possible?”
“Mariela changed the system, according to the investigators. She went into the system and showed in system that the second ticket had been voided, without voiding the actual ticket so I could still board the plane.” Alyssa looks over shocked and surprised as she shakes her head in disbelief.
“So she started to plan this from the minute that she met you at the airport?” Dale shakes his head yes.
“It makes sense now that I think about it. Her father takes your mom back to the country under kidnapping, and then Mariela makes sure she’s placed in the right spot to complete the rest of the plan.” Alyssa just continues shaking her head in disbelief.
“Congratulations. I have an aunt and a grandpa that are known criminals, know how to con people and the dirtiest people that I could know.” Dale shakes his head, knowing that she was right in that regard. “Not that I am implying anything….”
“It’s fine, I get it.” He then chuckles to himself a little. “Perhaps that’s where your sister’s evil planning genes of trouble for your mom and I come from.” Alyssa then looks over at her dad surprised.
“I don’t want to sleep in your house ever again with that girl if that’s the case. She could be planning something else!” Dale then laughs.
“Don’t worry – Elsa isn’t that bad of a person. Admit it – you love your sister and have fun with her at times.” Alyssa lets out a sigh, knowing that her dad was right.
“Okay, so she has a sweet side and I’ve had fun sharing stories with her and she’s alright when she isn’t being a pesk. Perhaps you’re right.” Dale then smiles.
“Thank you.” He then thinks back to what happened. “So once they told that there was no ticket purchased, Mariela said that she’d make the necessary calls to the London Police, asking me to give her a photo. I then handed her a photo – which confirmed I wasn’t hallucinating. She then offered for me to go back to my seat, in which I declined. I then remember thinking back to the hotel room that morning, remembering everything that happened. I knew for sure that you had come with me. I knew for sure that something was up.” Alyssa relaxes back as she thinks it over. It seemed the pieces were coming together.
“So what’d you do when you realized that Mariela was playing you?” He then glances over and shakes his head.
“Nothing. I hadn’t figured out that she was playing me yet. That was later on during the flight when I realized it. I stayed there waiting and she got a phone call, asking for them to forward a copy. I then asked why I had to wait and she said it was protocol. She then told me that once I heard this news, I had to watch my behavior and stay in check as the boundary between sanity and insanity was easy to cross on an airplane.” Alyssa then laughs.
“I think she knew the boundary because she had crossed it, right?” Dale laughs and shakes his head.
“I asked her if she thought I was insane, in which she said she didn’t think I wa-”
“She couldn’t identify herself as insane.”
“This is true. She then simply said that perhaps I’m having an emotionally difficult time handling the situation surrounding Marie and you. She then received the e-mail shortly after, handing it over. It was a photo copy of a death certifica-”
“Please tell me that’s when you realized she was crazy and punched her!” Dale laughs and shakes his head no.
“I stood there in disbelief and told her that I didn’t believe her and I wanted the truth. I then went to run away to go find you or whatever, and she grabbed my wrist. She told me that wouldn’t be proper behave-”
“But telling someone their daughter is dead is?” Dale shrugs his shoulders.
“I guess. I then realized for sure that she was lying and something was up. I knew I could go running and looking, but figured that’d be a wrong move. I didn’t want to spook her as if she was crazy enough to do this, what else was she capable of? So, I played my cards. I returned to my seat like a good boy, debating how I could go about my move nex-”
“So how’d she produce a death certificate?” Dale then looks over at Alyssa.
“Her father ran a country. It’d be easy to do given that he runs the printing systems and such.” Alyssa shakes her head in disbelief.
“So I made the decision to leave her and go to the bathroom. I told her that I had to go and wanted some time to myself to think about things. The truth? I called Steve to discuss things.” Alyssa rolls her eyes as she smiles.
“That doesn’t surprise me. You always talk things out with Steve.”
“I told him the story – the fact that you were missing, the entire situation with Mariela. He then said some things that gave me more clarity that Mariela was nuts – no police checking things out in the US, and who would’ve identified your body? So I immediately hit the panic button and knew I had to do something. Steve, being the rationale one, told me to keep calm and play it sa-”
“Well, you were in the hands of a mass criminal and letting them think they’re in control gives them the power and they won’t try anything odd….or so I hear.” Dale then looks at her confused. “Criminal Minds. It’s a great show.”
“So Steve gave me the advice to simply follow orders while he contacted local authorities to make sure they were at the airport when we landed in North Carolina to figure things out. I told him that I acc-”
“Yeah, okay. I know you better than that.” Dale then laughs.
“He believed me, even though it wasn’t the truth. I then figured that I’d go looking for you myself. So I repeated the move in movies – move the tile, sneak up into the other compartment and go searching. I ended up by a control panel when Mariela found me up there. I threatened her, saying that I’d make things uncomfortable for us both. I glanced at the buttons and thought perhaps hitting one would get her attent-”
“What if you had hit like the master power button and caused the plane to crash?” Dale then shrugs his shoulders.
“I wasn’t thinking rationally. I was just thinking about getting my daughter back in my hands. Perhaps I was starting to go insane as she suggested.” He then takes a deep breath, remembering the encounter with Mariela. “It was at that moment that she realized she better start telling me details or else there’d be trouble. So she suggested that she had lied to me. We argued a bit, and then she admitted that she had a plan. She told me that if I returned to the regular deck, she’d tell me everything.”
“Did she actually come clean?” Dale shakes his hand back and forth. “Sort of?”
“She told me enough that I knew things were serious, and that I better behave or else you’d be in trouble.”
“Hands behind your back,” she states before pulling on his other arm and forcing it behind his back, hand-cuffing them together. “Per plane protocol, any patron who tries to hijack the plane or go in quarters not specified is placed under arrest and handed over to the U.S Government for questioning. Per your report, it will state that there was hallucinations involved with regards to your daughter. With that said, they will likely accept your issues and offer you the right psychological help. Also, as a result of this, we will not be landing in North Carolina – but in the first U.S state that we can land in once off this ocean; I believe that will be New Jersey.”
“I thought you were going to tell me the truth to your plan,” Dale counters as Mariela turns him around so they’re facing each other.
“Not so fast. I can’t have you knowing a lot yet. Here’s the deal. When we land in New Jersey, they will escort everybody else off the plane except myself and you – reason being we don’t want our psychologically challenged patron scaring the rest of the passengers. Once they are off the plane, then we will discuss what I have in mind for you and your daughter – just the two of us. That’s all you can find out right now. If you dare try to tell anyone else about this sort of plan that I have, there’s a trigger in my pocket that I will unfortunately have to use.” She then pulls the little keypad out of her pocket, with a big red button in the middle before pushing it back in her pocket. “Understood?”
He shakes his head yes quietly, a new fear that he wasn’t used to rushing through him as they return to their seats. He now didn’t know what to do as she defiantly had him in a box. There was no denying now that Alyssa was somewhere on the plane – but where? There was no denying that he and Alyssa both were in danger as well. Though what all did Mariela want with them? What did she have planned once they landed?
“Can I let someone know that I’m going to be landing in New Jersey rather than North Carolina?” He questions. “My sister was supposed to be picking me up when we landed.” Mariela shakes her head yes as she takes out her phone.
“Give me the number and I’ll send them the normal statutory message per protocol.”