Sunday, April 8 – Texas Motor Speedway
Chase wakes up, grabbing his phone immediately as he checks for any text messages or phone calls. Seeing nothing, he lets out a long sigh as he puts it back on the small night table. He wanted to believe that last night was a nightmare, but the text that did remain on the phone told him otherwise.
Taking a deep breath, he slowly gets out of the bed, making his way into the small kitchen of the motorcoach. He was actually taken by surprise when he smelt breakfast, giving him another bleep of hope that it was a nightmare, but seeing just Jordan at the table said otherwise.
“Hey,” Jordan says quietly, unsure of really what to say in response. “I heard you wake up, so I made you breakfast.” Chase simply sits down quietly.
“Thanks,” he replies as he picks up the fork.
“Was there any updates?” He shakes his head no as he tries to eat a piece of the egg. “Damn. Listen, you’ll get something soon, I’m sure. They’re going to find her. You have to belie-”
“Alison is the master of the hide and seek as she’s played that game with me all season, Jordan. It really gives me so much hope that they’re going to find her.” Jordan understood the response, but wanted to believe otherwise.
“I get it, I really do. But you can’t ever stop believing in Sari-”
“Don’t you dare go questioning that, Jordan…” Jordan lets out a sigh.
“Look, I don’t know what to say to make you feel better. I just know that things are going to work out somehow.” Chase glances up, simply nodding his head in return.
“And I didn’t mean to cut your head off, either – today or last night.” Jordan knew that as it wasn’t like Chase, but he understood with the current circumstances. That’s why he just let the attitude continue to slide off his shoulders.
“From what I’ve heard, Alan says that your parents are going come by and stay with you – or even let you head out to Nashvi-”
“Why would I leave the state when I have a race today?” Jordan’s jaw almost dropped immediately in hearing those words. He was all set to get the car ready for Elliott Sadler to drive. “Oh, that’s right. Everybody is concerned about me so arrangements have been put in place for either Elliott or Justin.”
“Chase, your mind is elsewhere right now as we know you’re worried sick over Sarina. We both know that you were up late last night. We both know that you’re not thinking the clearest because you want to make sure that she is okay. It was just an executive decision made by Alan, Rick, and Jeff because of what happe-”
“I understand, and trust me – I appreciate everybody being so caring. But, I am racing today.” Jordan just shakes his head in return as he texts Alan. “I’ll be fine, and I can handle i-”
“Are you even listening to yourself right now?” Chase nods his head as he sets his fork down.
“Jordan, I know myself better than anybody else, right? I also know what Sarina would say to me right now. Whether it’s this way or if the roles were reversed, we’re both racers at heart. We would want the other to go out there and try our hardest to win that race for the other. She was in the hospital, and all she pushed was for me to go race. I did the same to her. I will be fine today because I am going to do everything in my power to win for her.” Jordan could understand where Chase was coming from, and believed in his best friend. He just wasn’t sure if that was going to be an understanding across the board.
“I texted Alan and told him what you said. He told me to send back to you that you don’t have to feel pressu-”
“I’m not feeling any pressu-”
“I already told him, Chase.” Jordan takes a deep breath as he reads the next message. “Alan says if you’re insisting, then we’ll go with it. But the minute that there’s something off, we’re switching drivers. Morgan has also cancelled morning appearances.” Chase nods his head as he picks his fork back up. “You know, you can tell me what’s on your min-”
“I told you last night, didn’t I? I just want her to be okay.” Jordan nods his head accepting.
“Let me know when you’re ready and we’ll head out…”
Jordan sat back quietly allowing Chase to go through whatever morning ritual or whatever he wanted. It wasn’t long before they were ready to go, though, meeting up with the rest of the team who expressed their support and concern. With that out of the way, Alan made the call in the meeting for everyone to simply focus on their jobs for the rest of the day – while noting he’d watch Chase’s phone for updates during the race.
The pair then went to the driver’s meeting together, receiving the same comments of support and concern from fellow competitors. There were even a couple who wondered why Chase was even there, but understood once they heard the explanation.
Chase then retreated back to the hauler, changing into the fire suit, before giving his phone another glance for a possible update. With a simple nod, the trip was made out to pit road and once again – all eyes laid on his shoulders. There were some fans and other team’s pit crew members who felt the worry they knew he had, while others wanted to lend a hand of support. And just like his competitors, some even had doubts in the back of their mind.
For Chase, it didn’t matter what everybody was thinking around him. taking a deep breath, he was there to do a job and for the next four hours, he could forget about the worry – and hope that once the race was over, maybe they’d have the answer he wanted.
Starting 20th on the grid, the race started out strong for Chase as he was able to put himself in the top-10 before the end of the first stage. It seemed the plan to do something special for Sarina was going along fine. A ninth in the first stage, followed by a sixth in the second, and it was easy to see why the team was happy.
Of course, their happiness was subsided a little when about 20 laps into the final stage, Chase reported a vibration. Citing the better safe than sorry route, he headed down pit road, giving up fourth-place, for four tires and fuel under green. Chase’s concerns were also valid as Alan confirmed a loose wheel with the pit crew.
“Come on guys – let’s stay on task here,” he reminds them. “Remember we’re trying to make something special happen today for someone….” The crew just gave the crew chief a nod, not needing another word as Alan made his way back on top of the pit box.
Thankfully, there were no wrecks or incidents during the entire pit cycle, allowing everybody else to pit that was on the lead lap and cycle Chase back to the front. Nothing like a double lucky whammy in watching the caution fly shortly after, allowing them to pit under yellow and remain on the lead lap.
“Get a drink here,” Eddie says, as per his usual duties and like any other caution. However, it was extra requested here in wanting to make sure driver took care of himself with everything going on. Alan also had the extra duty in keeping tabs on the radio for any signs that a switch was needed.
“Hydrated here,” Chase reports back. “How about you?” Eddie had to roll his eyes as normally he didn’t get asked back in response. Besides, it wasn’t a good reminder of the his current situation either.
“I have to pee….” The entire team chuckled on pit road in hearing the news, wondering if they had binoculars they could see Eddie doing the potty dance.
“I do too, actually. it’s cold here…” Eddie could’ve smacked him almost in that moment as if it was cold in the car, that meant freezing on the roof top – and that was exactly the case.
Back under green, Chase was able to work his way back up to fourth as the leaders began to make their way down pit road. With debate whether to go the full fuel run hoping for a caution but losing time to those who pitted, or to come down early, Alan elected for the lather of the pair.
Once they were back on- track, Chase had fallen a lap down and back in 14th. However, if it continued to cycle out, they’d be back in the top-10 about where they felt they were car-wise in eighth position approximately.
Then it happened. A blown tire for Ryan Newman brought out the caution, trapping him a lap down, as four other cars hadn’t pitted yet along with Newman.
“Four tires and fuel,” Alan made the call on the radio as Chase came down pit road with the leaders. Another glance at the leaderboard and Alan wanted to smack himself silly. He hadn’t realized that Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was still up there and lead lap, meaning they were a lap down. On top of not being able to take wavearound now, they would be stuck starting tail end of longest line for pitting too soon. “We’re fucked. That’s my bad. I didn’t even realize. It’s on me…” Alan just shook his head as he glanced back down at his own notes.
“Dude, are you okay?” Kevin Hulstein asks as he takes off the headset so only the pair could hear each other.
“I’m fine – I just made an honest mistake,” Alan tells him as Kevin nods his head.
“Kevin and I can take over if you want,” Tom suggests as Alan looks over confused. “You don’t need to explain it to us. We know Chase may be off his game because of what’s going on, but we also understand if you are as well. We can handle the rest if you wa-”
“I’m fine, and this had nothing to do with Sarina being missing. I literally made an error in not letting it register in my mind that Ricky was leader when I checked the monitor as everybody pitted. I fucked up as I said – and for no other reason that you’re trying to convey.”
“Okay – we’re just looking out for you.” Alan simply nods his head back in return as he focuses back on the on-track action.
Following the restart, Chase was able to work his way up from the 14th spot to 11th in the lucky dog position with 20 laps to go. Unfortunately, no more cautions resulted in being trapped there, handing them an 11th-place finish.
Alan immediately apologized following the race to Chase, stating that he had screwed up on both occasions with strategy and the final pit sequence.
“We all make mistake,” Chase tells him. “We’re getting stronger as a team, and we’re finding the speed we’ve been lacking. It’ll come together, don’t worry.” He then accepts his phone from the crew chief, checking once again for a message. “No updates?”
“Not a single thing,” Alan replies as Chase shakes his head. “I know your worry is growing because it’s a whole day, but I will keep saying it just as Jordan has – she will be okay.” Chase nods his head, accepting.
“I know. I just wish I knew something, anything. But I guess right now, no news is good news.” Alan simply accepted that as he wrapped an arm around Chase’s shoulders as they head to the garage area together.
Chase walks in the front door of the house, closing it and leaning back against it immediately.
After being surrounded by the entire team all weekend, he had asked them to give him space that night and just leave him be. His emotions were going 200 miles per hour, and he just wanted some kind to catch his breath – alone. Really, in his mind, he would prefer that Alison try something with him alone because it’d lead him to Sarina and right now, he’d do anything.
His eyes caught the phone once again, waiting, begging for any sort of message to come through. But he wasn’t that lucky or spoiled, as it remained just like before – silent.
Taking a deep breath, it almost made him sick to his stomach standing there in their house with her missing somewhere stuck with someone like Alison. How was that even humanly fair?
“I wondering when you’d get home,” he hears a female voice, taking him out of his thoughts. His hope meter pegged, wanting it to be Sarina so badly as he followed the source of the voice to the front room. However, instead, he saw the horror of sights.
“How did you get in?” He immediately questions, only to hear a laugh back in response.
“I can find my way anywhere I want – remember?” He takes a deep breath, not wanting to let her words mess with his thoughts. There was only one goal now.
“Where’s Sarina?” That was meant with another laugh.
“I’m not telling you.” He wasn’t surprised by the answer.
“Look, this is between you and I; it has always been between us from day one. Let her go, and let’s settle this between us. I don’t care what happens to me – I just want her to be okay, please.” Alison licks her lips as she keeps her eyes locked on the young man.
“I can’t just obey your orders, but you’re going to obey mine.” Chase makes his way further into the room, feeling as though there’s nothing to lose. If she gets caught right now in his house, then at least she’s away from Sarina and it’s a matter of just finding her.
“Really? Because all I want to know is one thing – where’s Sarina?” Alison shakes her head no. “You’re going to tell m-”
“Actually, I’m not, because I have something in mind for you.” She then stands up, standing face-to-face with him as she pulls a phone out of her pocket. “There’s a video feed I can show you on here that show your little pretty little girl, as well as a friend of mine. All I have to do is press send on my phone, and he will do what I request – finish her. However, we can make a deal.” As Chase had said, he would do anything for Sarina – and he meant those words. There was no way that he was going to watch Sarina get hurt further because of Alison.
“I’m listening….” Alison smiles as it was the reaction she expected.
“You’re going to do as I request right here and now and I won’t hurt her. You’re going to let me leave without holding me back, and I won’t hur-”
“How can I trust you?” It was a question worth asking based on history.
“Because I’ll be back tomorrow. I want something from you each day in return for her safe keeping. Consider it payment for my hospitality.” Chase felt disgusted immediately, but knew there was no other choice.
“What do you want?” A smirk forms on her face as she pushes him back on to the couch.
“I think you know what I want…” He felt disgusted immediately, and wanted to scream with all his might, but bit his tongue instead in knowing the stakes.
“Fine….” She places the phone beside him, pressing a button as the video feed comes into view. “Sarina….”
“She can’t hear you, babes….” She immediately straddles herself on him, pushing her lips against his, deepening the kiss as much as she could while reaching underneath his shirt. She rubs his chest a little, before pulling her hand out, and backing away. “I need to go before I am caught. Remember the deal. I’ll see your sweet ass later.”
“Just promise me you won’t hur-”
“You have your answer already.” Alison then picks up the phone, heading back out through the back door where she had broken in.
Closing his eyes, running his hands through his hair, feeling the hot tears roll down his cheeks, all he could do was wish it was over as soon as possible. For the rest of the night, it was like he couldn’t get the disgusted taste of Alison off his lips, continuing to feel it despite washing his lips off as many times as he could.
Monday, April 9 – Charlotte, North Carolina
“Are you sure you’re going to be okay?” Alan asks as he stands by the doorway of the house.
The pair had spent the entire day together as Alan had picked him up in the morning, not wanting to see him driving right now with the worry meter pegged. They had gone over to Hendrick Motorsports for a series of meetings, before spending some time talking about his worry in the office. They even accepted visit from the officers who, like always, had no further leads or updates for them. However, the questions they had were answered for whatever it was worth.
They made a quick stop over at Kyle Busch Motorsports, wanting to double check how everybody was doing there. Kyle wasn’t lying when he said Marcus was upset beyond anything, but Chase assured him that the crew chief did what he could, and Sarina would be okay.
Now back at the house, it was dinner and another round of discussion, followed by Chase assuring Alan it was okay to head home for the night as he would be okay.
“I promise,” Chase assures him as he looks over from the couch. “I’ll call you or text you later if it makes you feel better.” Alan nods his head, accepting.
“Stay strong, kid,” Alan says, before heading out the door, still not sure about the whole leaving him alone aspect.
Chase spent the next two hours sitting on the couch, contemplating his nerves. He so badly wanted to say something to someone, anyone about Alison’s visits but couldn’t bring himself to say the words. What it if meant further harm for Sarina? He couldn’t risk that. So instead, he kept it to himself, and waited for her to come.
Just like before, she came through the back door and just like before, she loaded the video so Chase could see that Sarina, indeed, hadn’t been harmed any further.
“A deal is a deal,” Alison says as she once again assumes the same position, pressing her lips once again against his, as he debated grabbing her and returning the favor. However, seeing Sarina on the screen, he held back every bit of resistance, as Sarina pushed her body further against his. Satisfied after a good 20 minutes, she gets up and leaves without a trace.
“You can’t keep doing this,” he tells himself as he remains stunned on the couch, tears once again rolling down his face, part of him ready to reach for the phone and almost doing so. However, a deep breath and another attempt to wipe the taste away, and he stayed frozen.
Nobody could know – not yet anyway. He had to put a plan in mind first.