The Runaway – Chapters 36 Thru 40

Chapter 36: Sick

December 17, 2015

Over the next couple of days, the three of them could only sit back and watch, helplessly. It was easy to tell that he was sick and his body was fighting it.

They watched as while he tried to stay strong, there was weakness shown. The doctors assured them that he’d get better over the next couple of days, but that didn’t make it easier to watch, or hear a couple moans of pain.

For the most part, all he wanted to do was sleep. His body was tired – fighting the sickness, everything that he had been through – and sleep was a peaceful thing amongst that. Cindy had questioned the doctors on the amount of sleep, but the doctors assured her that it was fine.

“His body is fighting it off in combination with the medicine,” the doctor had explained. “Sleep is the best thing as sleep gives him energy, and energy gives him fight. He’ll get better, Mrs. Elliott.”

With the passing days, they sat in the room, taking turns between the chair beside the bed and the couch, and taking turns to go get food. At the days end, Dale and Regan would leave to head back to the hotel to get some sleep there – while Bill would sometimes join them, sometimes staying with Chase and Cindy. It just depended on how everyone was feeling at day’s end.

“Ugh…” Chase let out as he woke up at some point that afternoon. Cindy shifted from her spot in the chair, catching a glimpse of his eyes.

Normally he’d wake up, sometimes in a bit of a pain and sometimes not, which would result in comforting from whoever was closest. He would then sometimes wake up and stay awake for awhile, or other times he’d go back to sleep once he was comfy, again.

“Honey?” Cindy asks as she wipes a bit of hair out of his eyes. He then glances over at her, keeping his head laid back against the pillow.

“I can barely move….I can’t keep my eyes open…,” he let out as he stared up the ceiling. “Am I ever going to get better?” Cindy often asked herself that question many times, but kept faith as she knew how strong her son was, and kept faith in the doctor’s words. If the doctors remained confident, then she’d stay confident.

“You’re going to get better sweetie. The doctors said that you’d get better. This is just part of the process. Your body is fighting it, which makes everything else weak in return. Once you fought it off, you’ll work at getting your strength back and things will be okay.” He then shivers a little, trying to get comfy.

“I feel cold…” She feels his forehead before fixing his blankets.

“You’ve got a bit of a cold sweat – sometimes they say a cold is leaving you when you’re sweating it. Plus, you kicked the blankets off of your feet in your sleep.” He knew why he had done that.

It was the dream. He found himself back to those nightmares again at times. Sometimes they were about the recent deal with Randy and Demi, sometimes about the time before. He knew that needed to focus on getting better so he could get out of there and focus on getting back over those nightmares.

He needed those nightmares gone by race season.

He knew it was only December, but race season would be there before he knew it. That meant 36 grueling weeks with his first full season in the Sprint Cup Series. Sure, he should focus on taking care of himself, but the racer in him couldn’t stop thinking about the season. How was he supposed to be ready for that with this going on?

Though before he could worry about race season, he needed to worry about getting better and getting out of there. He wanted to be home for Christmas. He had promised his parents that he’d be home for Christmas. That gave him eight days to get better. Considering that he’d been sick with phenomena for three days already and on the medicine, he couldn’t honestly be stuck with it for eight more days, could he?

He lets out a sigh, just hoping that things worked out as not being home for Christmas and would feel weird and he wasn’t up for that. It wouldn’t be same as sitting around the Christmas tree with his parents and his sister, telling stories and opening presents. It wouldn’t be the same as sitting in the dining room, indulging in the meal that Cindy had cooked. He couldn’t wait to taste her stuffing or her lovely delightful apple tie that he always craved.

“Sssh…it’ll be fine…” Cindy comments as she watches his eyes close once again as he focuses on the happiness of Christmas, hoping that brings a happy filled sleep.

He needed to get his rest. He needed to get better. He needed to get home for Christmas.

 

Chapter 37: Christmas Looming

“Any updates?” Regan questions as he and Dale head for a food run. They promised to bring Cindy and Bill back something.

“The doctor said that he’s getting a little better,” Dale answers. “He says that he feels a bit better, but still feels that weakness.”

“Strength will come as he heals.” Dale shakes his head in agreement. They then glance around looking at their food options.

“Pull in there. We need a change.” Regan notices the sandwich shop that Dale is pointing at, pulling into the parking lot. “Have you talked to Megan?”

“We talked last night for an hour. She says that things are good and plans are coming together for our families to get together at my parent’s place. I apologized for not helping plan and she told me that it wasn’t a big deal as I had bigger fish to fry.” Regan then glances over at Dale. “What about you? Have you talked to Marie?”

“We talked last night, as well. We just had the usual conversation, as always. I also talked to Alyssa this morning. She told me that she misses me and wish Chasey get better, but she seemed alright when we were done. After all, I’m supposed to take care of Chasey and Winnie.” Regan chuckles as he thinks back to the teddy bear.

“That teddy bear has made it’s rounds.” Dale shakes his head in agreement.

“As long as Chase gets home for Christmas and the teddy bear makes it back to Alyssa for Christmas, it’ll be fine. That’s all that matters at this point.” Regan takes a deep breath, having done some thinking over the past day or so.

“I know Christmas is a big deal. She’s a four year old so she’s going to want the presents and everything. If you combine that with the fact that you have to buy presents for the nieces and cousins, there’s a lot of shopping to be done. Marie is also pregnant – due early next year. I was thinking-”

“Don’t say it.” Regan looks over at Dale.

“Excuse me?” Dale glances down before returning his eyes to Regan.

“You want me to go home so I can help Marie get things ready for Christmas for Alyssa and the family. You’re right to be worried as she’s pregnant. However, she told me not to worry about her and that Chase was the number one priority. She wants me here to take care of hi-”

“He has Bill and Cin-”

“And who’s going to watch out for them?” Regan points to himself. “Right. What about your little boy?”

“Megan isn’t pregnant, Dale. She can handle things. Besides, he’s just a toddler. It’s not a big deal. Alyssa is older and understands, and you have Wyatt, Karsyn and Kennedy to get stuff for – as well as the rest of the family.” Dale knew the point was valid. However, he also remembered the conversation with Marie.

“Marie told me tha-”

“She just doesn’t want you to worry, Dale. That’s why she told you that.” Dale shakes his head.

“She also told me that she had gotten some help in getting things for Christmas so I didn’t need to worry. We talked about some gift ideas on the phone, anyway.” Dale lays his head against the back of the seat. “I told you on day one in the hospital that I would not leave here unless I had Chase with me on a plane set to take him home. That doesn’t change. Besides, he’s going to make it home for Christmas and we’re going to make it home for Christmas.” Regan was hopeful of the same, but knew of the possibility.

“What if he doesn’t?” Dale looks over at Regan, sharply.

“Trust me – he will. I’m going to make sure that he makes it home, one way or another. Even if we need to have him transferred to a hospital near home, he’s going to be home for Christmas.” Regan looks over with a slight smile. It was nice to see the hope and determination, despite being annoyed with the stubbornness.

“I hope you’re right. However, if we get to Christmas Eve and it doesn’t look like its happening, you’re heading home.” Dale keeps his eyes locked on Regan’s.

“Fine, but it won’t come to that. Now lets go eat.” The pair then head into the sandwich shop, set to get some food for lunch.

At the hospital, Chase had been sleeping – like he had been the majority of the day – though started to shiver a bit in his sleep. A couple tears come down his face as he finds himself locked in the dream.

“Say goodbye Chasey!” Randy says before pushing Chase back further closer to the ice hole. Chase reaches with his hands, grasping for anything that he can, but nothing can be found for grip on the slippery surface on that side of the hole. Randy gives them him one extra shove and watches as the young man goes splashing into the water. “Should’ve behaved.” Randy then hops on the snowmobile, placing the key in the ignition before heading off.

Feeling the ice water around him, covering every inch of his body, Chase knew he had to escape as soon as possible. He splashed in the water as much as he could, making sure to keep his head above water.

“Help! Help!” He screamed, hopeful that someone, anyone would hear him. Somebody had to be ice fishing that day.

Feeling his body grow colder in the ice water, he knew that he had to get out there before he froze and drowned. Feeling helpless, he kept making sure to keep his head above, grabbing an edge of the ice. It felt thick and if he could hold his body there, perhaps he had a chance.

He then noticed on the opposite side of the small hole that there was a pair of silver objects stuck in the ground. Whoever dug this hole for fishing had placed them incase they got stuck in the hole themselves to use to pull themselves out.

He makes his way around the small hole, continuing to hold on to the thick ice, reaching the side where he saw the pair of silver objects sticking out. He reaches his one arm out, hoping to grab hold to pull himself up. First reach – no success. He then tries to add a bit of jump before reaching, and gets closer but doesn’t reach it.

“Shit!” He lets out, glancing around to see if there was any sign of help.

With nobody in sight, he knew that he had to do it himself. Body looking to give up soon with the coldness set to overcome him, he knew he had to give it one more shot.

He reaches once again for the silvery objects, looking to grasp a little…but misses…falling back into the water…

“Help!!” He lets out as he starts to sink further down in the water, energy leaving him….

“Help!” He lets out as he shivers in the bed, arms flapping out in the open as if to grasp something. “Help!” He reaches his arms out straight in front him, if a motion to grip a handle, or whatever was there.

“Chase!” Bill says as he makes his way over, grabbing Chase’s hand with his own. He then grabs the other hand, bringing them both down as he holds them securely in his grasp. “You’re dreaming. Wake up!” Chase’s eyes flutter open as he glances around the room, each breath coming out rapidly, as he looks to his father.

“The water….the hole….” Bill immediately pulls him close as he wraps his arms firmly around him.

“Don’t think about that…” A couple more tears fall down Chase’s face as he buries his head in Bill’s shoulder.

“I could’ve drowned. I could’ve not reached the bar.” Bill rubs his back as he takes a deep breath, knowing that reality himself. The fear of that possibility happening had ran through the older man’s mind a couple times over the past couple of weeks. It was why he woke up each day, thankful that things had worked out, willing to accept whatever battles were thrown their way and willing to fight through them. He had the chance to continue to hold his son in his arms and he wasn’t going to let that go.

“But you did. You reached the bar and got out of the water. You escaped and made your way to the lodge. Don’t think about the possibility of what could’ve been, but be thankful for what happened. You were able to escape and you’re going to be okay.” Bill gives him a kiss on top of his head as he feels his shirt becoming damp with more tears falling. “It’s okay, Chase. I got you. I’m never letting you go, ever.”

The pair stayed like that for a while till Chase was out of tears and had managed to calm himself down. He then slowly got out of the grasp, lying back in the bed.

“You okay now?” Bill asks as he sits down in the chair beside the bed. Chase shakes his head yes as he turns his eyes to his father.

“When is it going to get easier?” He questions as Bill takes a deep breath, thinking.

“It’ll get easier over time. The further you move away from it, the more you come to grips with what happened, and the more you find ways to move forward, it’ll get easier. It takes time, Chase, but it will get easier.” Chase lays his head back against the pillow, closing his eyes. He wished that time was now. He didn’t want to think about the cold water. He didn’t want to think about Randy. He didn’t want to think about being sick. He didn’t want to think about Demi.

“Why can’t we just make it go away, like they make sickness and soreness go away?” Bill looks over and shakes his head.

“Because it’s not that easy. The mind works in mysterious ways and simply making it go away isn’t something that you can just have happen. The mind has to come to grips and see whatever meaning it wants before it will let that happen.” Bill then gives him a pat on the leg. “But it will happen. You’ll get through this. I promise you. I’ll also be here with you every step of the way.”

 

Chapter 38: Parental Discussion

December 19, 2015

After a heave of comments from both Regan and Dale, Bill and Cindy finally backed down from their spots in Chase’s room and agreed to go out to dinner one night.

“I mean it – full dinner at a proper restaurant,” Dale told them. “You’re both going to go out and spend some quality time together. I don’t want to see you back here for a whole hour. You can then come back and see him, but you’re both sleeping back at the hotel tonight. You both need to take care of yourselves. Regan and I can handle the night shift tonight.”

They both resisted on both accounts, but finally agreed to it after the Regan and Dale wouldn’t give up, and Chase got in on the bargaining.

The dinner was a quiet experience. Both shared a couple topics of discussion, with one of the topics surrounding Christmas. They were both set that Chase would be home for Christmas no matter what and Bill had continued to go ahead with plans.

He shared the details of his latest conversation with Starr, as she promised to be there along with her daughter. She was also worried about Chase, but conversation assured her that things would work out. He also had some ideas as to what would be on the menu, as well as the late minute gift shopping that they’d do once getting home.

The last thing – he made a promise to put the tree up upon the first night at home since it wasn’t Christmas without the tree.

He was also curious as to what Cindy wanted for Christmas, but she didn’t share any thoughts on that. The only thing she wanted was for her baby to be home, and feeling better. Bill kept his word, promising that would happen no matter what.

They went back to the hospital after dinner to check on him, seeing that he was fine with his friends. He had gotten a bit more of his strength back as he continued to get over the pneumonia. Regan had settled in the chair beside him, reading some of the text messages that he had received over the past few days. Chase told him the replies to send back, in which Regan followed suit.

There were even a couple chuckles heard at the jokes. Darrell and Ryan were the jokesters, and it seemed they’d send one each day, as a way to try and help lighten the mood for Chase.

After they were assured that he’d be fine for the night, and virtually kicked out of the room, the pair headed back to the hotel.

Getting changed into some pajamas, they laid in the bed beside each other a couple hours later, both thinking about what was on their mind. It was obvious as to who was on their mind, as he had been on their mind all month so far.

“You know, he woke up the other night from a nightmare, saying that he could’ve drowned if he hadn’t reached out far enough,” Bill breaks the silence as Cindy looks over. “It took everything that I had to not cry. I thought about the fact that we could’ve lost him in that minute. I thought about how close he came. I thought about how lucky he was.” He then looks over at Cindy. “I don’t know what the plan is, but I know there’s a reason that he made it out of there. He’s going to be okay, and he’s going to go on to do great things.”

“What are those things, ‘ol wise one?” Cindy questions as he lays her head against Bill.

“Well, we know that he’s one great racecar driver so I’m betting that he’s going to have a really good season. But beyond that, there’s a reason – or at least they say God has a reason.” Cindy smile a little as she tries to think about the possibilities.

“He’s always been my little boy – shy, quiet and perhaps naïve at parts. This whole experience has taught not only him, but myself, that he is going to be a great man. He has the strength to take on everything by himself and come out swinging. No matter the battle, he’ll be able to face it straight on and come out on top.”

“We did a good job raising him, Cindy. Some parents aren’t so lucky to have such a great kid.” Cindy shakes her head in agreement.

“He made it easy on us, though. He wasn’t ever a real bad kid.” She then lets out a sigh. “I could never picture him growing up, though. Every time I look into those eyes, I keep thinking about the little boy when he was first born. I keep remembering how I held him in my arms as he grew bigger, and then helped him tackle the challenges of school.” Bill chuckles, remembering some of the late nights doing homework.

“I thought you were going to go insane with those math problems.” Cindy chuckles as she gives him a little shove.

“You never helped with those.” He looks over at her in surprise.

“I did help. I told you both to tell the farmer to just buy a bunch of fence and surround the whole yard without checking to see how much he needed first. That, or use measuring tape instead of a darn math question. Oh, and I also told you both to tell y that you’re never finding his x.” Cindy shakes her head, remembering that.

“I’m sure the teacher will love you for that.” She then lays her head back against him. “Bill, when did our baby grow up?”

“He grew a little more each year and now he’s his own young man. However, you know this already, but he’ll always need his mama. He always comes to you if there’s a problem and if he needs cuddles.” She shakes her head as she lets out a sigh.

“I just wish that he’d get through these nightmares and they’d go away.” Bill rubs her back as he leans down and gives her a kiss.

“They’ll go away with time. Give it time, Cindy. Time heals all wounds. It’ll get better as we head into the new year.”

 

Chapter 39: Christmas Looming…

December 20, 2015

Dale sits in the chair beside the bed, texting back and forth with a couple different people. He sets the phone down as he glances over at Chase, who was playing around on his phone.

Dale couldn’t help but smile as a little as he saw the familiar color returning to the cheeks of the young man beside him. He also saw the gains in strength as Chase was staying up more throughout the day, talking more and playing on his phone more. He almost looked bored at parts of the day, just wanting to make his escape.

The past couple of days had been filled with discussion, but yet today, Chase was oddly quiet. He had been focused on his phone, playing a game or checking some messages, but hadn’t said a single peep out loud.

“You’re quiet today,” Dale breaks the silence between them as Chase glances over at him.

“I’ve got nothing to say,” he comments before turning his eyes back to his phone. Dale knew that look – it was look of not wanting to bothered or talk about things. He had grown used to it in their previous interactions.

“Nah, there’s something on your mind.” Chase then sets his phone down as he looks back at Dale.

“Why aren’t you home getting ready for Christmas? Why aren’t you home doing your Christmas shopping? Why aren’t you home helping Marie get things ready for Christmas?” Dale sets his phone down, knowing that Chase deserved the honest answer to that question.

“Because I care about you. When you called me and told me that you wanted me to come get you because of some crazy mad man on the loose, I made the promise that I wasn’t returning home without you on that plane. That promise still stands there today, Chase. Besides, Kelley is helping Marie with getting things ready for Christmas and taking care of her. My shopping list – Karsyn offered to take care of it in her way of helping out. The only thing that isn’t on the list of things that she’s bought is, obviously, what I’m getting her. I just have to buy that one gift and something special for Marie that I didn’t want Karsyn getting and I’m done. We’re going to busting your ass out of here sooner than later, and I’ll have enough time to do that.” Chase then lays his head back against the pillow, understanding what Dale was saying. However, within all that, there was one lost thought on his mind. He kept being told that he ‘d get to go home for Christmas, but the days were running out and he hadn’t been let out of the room yet.

“Do you honestly believe that I’m going to be home for Christmas?” Dale shakes his head yes. He was going to make sure of it, for not only Chase, but Bill and Cindy.

“You’re going to be home in Georgia for Christmas, one way or another. I’m not letting you miss Christmas because of that jackass. You’re pretty much over the pneumonia, and your strength is pretty much back. That shows signs of a release paper showing up in your lap.” Chase hoped that those words were the truth, however he felt a tinge of worry that it wouldn’t happen.

“What if that doesn’t happ-”

“It’s going to happen, Chase. Trust me. I’ve made promises before and I’ve kept those promises. I’m not breaking this one.” Dale then stands up, glancing back at Regan. “I’m going to go for a walk. I’ll be back after.” Regan shakes his head as he gets up off of the couch and sits beside Chase.

“So why are you still here?” Regan relaxes in the chair.

“Because I believe the same thing that Dale said,” Regan states as Dale leaves the room.

Dale heads down the short hallway to the nurses’ station, leaning over the edge as he catches the attention of the one nurse.

“May I help you?” She questions as he crosses his arms.

“Is Dr. Grayson around?” He asks and she points to the doctor’s office across the hallway. “Thanks.” He then walks across the hall, knocking on the door.

“Come in,” Dr. Grayson says as he looks up from his desk. Dale enters the office, walking up to the desk. “Is there a problem?”

“I need you to answer me this one question and I need the truth.” The doctor then looks up, curiously. “Will Chase make it home for Christmas?” The doctor leans back in his chair.

“He’s over the pheumon-”

“Will Chase make it home for Christmas?” The doctor sits up and gives Dale a glance.

“I’m trying to explain the situati-”

“And I just want an answer. It’s a yes or no question, doctor.” The doctor takes a deep breath as he thinks it over.

“More than likely, the answer is yes. We need to make sure that he stays clean of any pheumonia so therefore we have to keep him 48 hours. If everything comes back clear then, he is free to go home. Given his progress, that should be fine.” Dale knew by that comment that the prognosis was good, but still saw the tint of worry in Chase not making it home.

“And if there’s a trace, then you have to keep him, correct?” The doctor shakes his head yes. “Fine. If there’s a trace and you have to keep him under hospital watch longer, is there anyway that you can get him transferred to Georgia?” The doctor sits up as he glances through some notes.

“There’s a way, but I have to warn you that it’s not easy to set-up with arranging transportation and a transfer from one country to another. Beyond that, there’s the cost that’s associated with it.” Dale knew that would come about, but that didn’t matter to him. All that mattered was the Christmas wish that a certain 20-year-old had at that time.

“Well, I’m going to tell you this. If it comes down that he’s going to still be here on Christmas, you’re going to make that transfer happen. There’s one ting that he wants more than anything for Christmas, and that’s to be home, and I intend on making sure that happens.” Dale then turns to leave the office as the doctor clears his throat.

“Why does this matter so much?” Dale stops an turns back to face the doctor.

“You’d understand if you’ve been through everything that we’ve been through this year. We just want our lives to go back to being normal. We don’t want to think about having to look over our shoulder, someone stabbing or poisoning us, or a bomb being on a plane. We want everything to go back to how they were before. The start of that is being home for Christmas with our families.”

Dale then walks out of the office and thought of heading back to Chase’s room, but headed the other direction. He took the short elevator ride down to the main floor and walked out of the hospital, getting in the rental car. He then sat back as he let everything sink in, feeling a couple tears roll down his cheeks.

No doubt the past year had brought them a lot of ups and downs, and more downs than they could’ve imagined. Who knew two people could turn your life right upside down. Everybody kept saying that the normal headaches of life were a pain, but in that moment, Dale knew that he’d rather have those than everything that they were dealing with.

He hears the passenger door open and glances over as he watches Regan sit down beside him.

“Bill and Cindy are back from grabbing lunch,” he starts as he keeps his eyes focused on Dale. “Are you okay?” Dale shakes his head yes.

“I just needed a minute to myself, to get it out of my system,” he comments as Regan reaches over and pats his leg.

“I’m here if you want someone to talk to about things. You’re also welcome to head back to Marie and Alyssa now if you need to go.” Dale then looks over at Regan and shakes his head no.

“I’m keeping my promise to Chase. I’m not letting him down.” Regan kept his eyes focused on Dale and shook his head, understanding.

“Okay, but remember – it’s not your fault that he got tangled in this mess with Mariella and Randy, no matter how it may seem that way.” Dale knew that Regan was right in those words. It was their fault for their actions. However, it was his connection to Chase that got Chase pulled in the midst of everything. It was hard to continue to tell yourself at times that it wasn’t your fault.

“I know – no matter what my brain wants to tell me otherwise. I get it, Regan.”

“Why don’t we switch seats and I’ll drive us to the local Swiss Chalet? We can each grab something and take it back to the hotel and discuss things.” Dale shakes his head, agreeing, knowing that perhaps it’d be best to get his feelings out on the table before they drove him crazy.

 

Chapter 40: My Only Christmas Wish

December 23, 2015

“Where do you want me to put your stuff?” Dale questions as they walk in the house. Chase points up the stairs as he follows them in.

“You can put it in my room,” he states as Dale heads up the stairs with the bag. “Dale! Grab the bear out of it. Someone wants him home, remember?” Dale grins and shakes his head yes.

“Just remember….take it easy…,” Cindy warns as Chase makes his way into the living room and relaxes on the couch.

“Mom, I’m fine. You don’t need to hover over me.” Cindy goes behind the couch and wraps her arms around his shoulders.

“I’m your mother – it’s my job.” She then gives him a kiss on the cheek. “Besides, the doctor warned that you’re still getting over everything, physically and mentally, so to keep an eye on you.” Chase rolls his eyes as he lies back on the couch.

“Should I plan your escape now?” Regan jokes as Cindy gives him a glance.

“Nah, I can deal with mommy’s nagging,” Chase comments. “It feels good to be home….finally. I got my Christmas wish. That’s what matters.” He then looks over at his mom with a smile. “Remember the note that I wrote you? I kept my promise.” Cindy smiles as she shakes her head.

“Don’t ever do that to me, again,” she states. “At least give me good warning of any trips and have a sit down talk with me. Don’t do the random escapes.” Chase chuckles as he grabs his phone, sending a quick text to Ryan.

“Trust me – I’m not running away, Momma. I’m staying right here.”

“Do you want anything?” He shakes his head no as he sits his phone back on the table.

“I think I’m going to have a nap, actually. I want to be able to help you and dad put the tree up later.” She then gives him a surprised glance as Chase smiles. “Dad has already left the room. Do you want to bet that he’s downstairs searching for the boxes?”

“That sounds like your father. But you’re right, a nap would be a good idea.” Dale comes back down the stairs, glancing in the room with a smile. It was nice feeling knowing that Chase was home.

“Did you get lost up there?” Dale chuckles and shakes his head no.

“I found myself glancing over a couple of the photos and posters in your room,” Dale comments. “That photo of you with my dad is beyond adorable, but I know what I can teas you about big time now.” Chase rolls his eyes.

“Yeah yeah, the Jeff Gordon poster,” he comments. “Let’s face it – every little boy during the 90s was looking up to Jeff. He was winning everything!” Dale shakes his head, understanding.

“It’ll be weird this year without him on track, and even more weird knowing that you’re driving his car.” Chase shakes his head. That was part of the motivation to get better as soon as possible – not only for the holidays, but he needed to get his butt down to the shop to make sure he was fully prepared for the full Cup schedule.

“On that note, let Rick know that I’ll be down there beginning of Jan-”

“I don’t want you worrying about that,” Cindy cuts him off as Chase rolls his eyes.

“Mom, I told you – I’m fi-” He starts.

“You need to focus on yourself and worry about that later.” He then looks over at Cindy.

“Hence why I am telling Dale that I won’t be down to North Carolina till January, probably. I’m going to take these next couple of weeks to relax here with you guys.” Cindy smiles as it was nice to hear that her baby would be staying with her for a while.

“Rick won’t mind at all,” Dale starts. “He’s worried about the main thing, and that’s the fact that you’re okay. I’ll see you later. I got to get Regan home to Megan, and then I need to go see Marie and Alyssa. Text me or call me if you need me, no matter the hour.” Chase shakes his head yes as they share a quick hug.

“Thank you,” Chase tells him quietly. “Thank you for being there, for everything.”

“Just focus on yourself and getting better.”

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

Dale walks up to the front door, takes a deep breath before turning the door handle and walking inside. Clutching the bear underneath an arm with a backpack thrown over his back, he closes the door behind him. He sets the backpack down as he slips off his shoes, hearing voices and the sounds of movement in the distance.

“You’re due soon; you should be resting and taking care of yourself!” He hears his sister yell and can only chuckle. “I can handle getting dinner ready.”

“You shouldn’t be taking care of me, Alyssa and your kids all at once,” he hears Marie comment back as he makes his way down the hall.

“L.W. can handle the kids while I help you take care of yourself. Stop worrying.” He then makes his way into the kitchen, a smile forming on his face as he smells what his sister is making for dinner. He glances between the girls, only with a smile on his face.

“How about I help you take care of yourself, Marie?” He questions, causing both ladies to look up and look over at him.

“You’re home!” Marie lets out as she immediately makes her way over and wraps her arms around him, giving him multiple kisses on the cheek. “I can’t tell you how much I’ve missed you. I love you so much. I’m so glad you’re home.” He just wraps his arms around her, holding her close as he gives her a kiss on the lips.

“I love you and our little girls, too. I’m also glad that I’m home back in your arms. But now that I’m home, no barking orders and you’re going to accept that we’re going to take care of you.” Marie lets out a sigh as she goes and sits down.

“Happy?” He shakes his head yes as he joins his sister in the kitchen.

“Do you need any help?” Kelley shakes her head no as she gives him a quick hug.

“Everything okay with Chase?” Kelley questions and Dale shakes his head yes.

“He’s home with Cindy and Bill, which is where he needs to be more than anything,” he comments. “He was happy and fine when we left, and Cindy was just glad to have her baby home. They’re going to have a good Christmas together.”

“And you and Regan?”

“Regan is home with Megan and they’re heading out for family fun in the morning to get set for Christmas. I’m fine – I’m glad to be home with Marie and Alyssa.”

“Karsyn has your shopping list complete.” Dale smiles as he had tried to keep the list as basic as possible. “She also wrapped everything, as well.”

“Your daughter is amazing. I owe her big time.” Dale then glances around, still holding the bear. “Where’s the little one?” Marie points into the backyard, where Marie was running around with Wyatt and the dogs.

“Even as it gets colder outside, they want to play out there,” Marie comments. “We told them it was fine – as long as they bundled up.” Dale then heads out in the backyard, watching them for a bit.

“Wyatt, time to come in!” He hears L.W. yell and gives a quick wave, before watching Wyatt run off. Alyssa then glances towards the house and an immediate smile forms on the little girl’s face. She runs as quickly as she can to the house, clutching her arms around Dale’s legs.

“Daddy!!” She yells as she hugs him tightly. He then kneels down and picks her up into his arms. “You’re home! You’re here for Christmas in…two day. Momma say Santa come 1 night.” Dale shakes his head yes as she was right – Santa came tomorrow night for Christmas on Sunday.

“Did you miss me?” He asks and she shakes her head yes. “Did you miss Winnie?” She shakes her head yes as she grabs the bear out of his arms.

“Daddy, Winnie stay safe?” He shakes his head yes.

“Winnie did a good job keeping daddy safe, and Winnie made sure that Chase was home with Bill and Cindy for Christmas.” Alyssa thinks it over, before looking back at Dale.

“I see Chase?” Dale brushes a bit of hair out of her face as they head inside.

“He said he’ll come see you soon, okay? We can call him later tonight and you can talk to him.”

“Yay!!”

Advertisements

Mayday #9 – Chapters 31 Thru 35

Chapter 31: First Steps

Friday July 10, 2015

“So, do you think you’re ready for today?” Dr. Mae asks as she makes her way over to him.

While he was wishing that he was in Kentucky at that very moment practicing the car for qualifying and the race that night, he was set for a big moment that afternoon in his room. All the small exercises that they had been doing over the course of the week had led to this moment and it was now the moment of truth.

He was set to take his first steps.

“I think so,” he offers with a small smile as he sits up in the bed.

The exercises had gone pretty good. From lifting the leg off of the bed, to bending the leg at the knee, everything seemed to be in working order. There was at times, a lot of pain – and he meant a lot – but Dr. Mae told him that was part of the healing process as the muscles and nerves got back to working order. Given the possibility of minor nerve and muscle damage, it was part of the course. She kept assuring him when the pain would get bad that it was just part of it and to keep pushing as it’d ease over time. There was also the nice period afterward that included icing it to ease the muscles, followed by a heat wrap for even more easing.

Now with the topic of walking before him, he felt that he was ready as it was just one more step closer to getting back on his feet, out of the hospital and back to the race track.

He wondered how Dale was making out in practice.

“I think so?” She repeated his words, snapping him from his thoughts. “Mr. Chase Elliott, I believe that you’re ready and you should believe that to. You’ve done a great job all week with the exercises that this only seems fitting for you to be up on your feet.” He knew that she was right and it was that uplifting spirit that seemed to make things easier through the week. But….

“You’re right, Dr. Mea,” he comments. “But what if I get up and it doesn’t go well? What if I fall? What if it’s not as healed as you think? What if there’s something el-”

“Chase, you need to put those thoughts of your mind,” she cuts him off as she keeps her eyes locked on him. “You can’t let yourself think like that as I know and believe that you’re ready. If I didn’t’ believe that you were ready and were scared of all that happening, I wouldn’t be here getting you out of bed right now. Besides, you’re not going to fall as I or if you want, your mom or dad, will be holding your hand the whole time.”

“It’s going to be fine kiddo,” Cindy assures him as he swings his legs off of the bed, letting them dangle above the floor. He could only hope that they were right if he wanted to get back in a racecar as soon as possible.

“Alright. I’m ready,” he states. “Let’s do this.” Everybody smiles that is in the room as she walks over, holding both hands out for him.

“We’re going to do this one step at a time, very carefully,” Dr. Mae starts. “We’ll go through each step easily and see how you’re doing. I want you to be honest with me and let me know how much it hurts and what hurts so that way I can help you. But, I believe that you can do this. First step is getting you standing so why don’t you grab on to my arms and pull yourself up?”

He then grabs on her arms, firmly, feeling a bit of fear slide into his mind. He could already picture himself collapsing upon putting pressure, any pressure, on his left leg.

He then grips his arms a little more, pulling his body up. He feels his right leg move with a bit of stiffness, but it comes to him with ease. The leg definitely knew what it wanted to do. To his surprise, though, his left leg did the exact same. It came with the same ease at the knee, straightening so he was in standing form. Getting himself fully standing was a bit of work and pain, though, as he felt a shot of pain shoot up from where the wound was on his left leg to his waist. Biting his tongue, hiding the screams begging to escape, he got himself up and let out a deep breath.

“Oh man…” He commented as Dr. Mae kept her eyes focused on him.

“Pain?” She questions and he shakes his head yes. “Stiffness?”

“Everything is so stiff and the pain…oh man…shot up from my leg.”

“That’s understandable. You haven’t moved around since the stabbing occurred on Sunday night – that’s five days, resulting in limited blood flow in the body and that brings forth being stiff. The pain that you felt is also understandable as that’s the nerve that was severed a little by the edge of the blade. It’s part of the healing process…” Dr. Mae then takes a couple steps back. “Let go of my arms. Stand by yourself and get used to that feeling again.” Chase then slowly lets go of her arms, glancing down at his legs as the stiffness that he felt is slowly fading. Sure, there was still a touch of pain but he was going to have fight through it if he was going to keep moving forward.

“Feels natural…a little pain, but feels right.” She then smiles.

“That’s good, that’s what its supposed to feel like. You also didn’t fall on your ass so you have good balance. Now, let’s get into the hard part – actual steps. Are you ready?” Chase shakes his head yes, feeling a tinge of determination filling him to do it no matter what.

“Bring it on, doc.” She then smiles as she holds out her arms again.

“You can hold my arms if you want, or you can attempt it on your own. I want you to do whatever you feel most comfortable doing. Let’s try first lifting your left leg and taking a tiny step forward with it. Bend and place, small space. Let’s get the leg thinking about how the movement is supposed to take place.” He then shakes his head, taking a deep breath. He knew it was now or never.

Determined to do it on his own, he keeps his arms at his side, eyes glancing down at the leg. It stared back at him as if it was a sign of weakness, something that was holding him back from all of his dreams. He hadn’t let anything else stand in his way and this was the approach that was set to take today.

He then slowly bends the knee, lifting the leg, the small bit of pain still residing in the place that it had taken residence since standing. He then pushes the leg out forward, placing it down a small step length forward, feeling the pain shoot up again as he places the foot down on the tile ground. As the pain shot up unexpectedly, his body swayed slightly – the fear of falling returning – but with a deep breath, he was able to settle himself down.

“That’s it….” Dr. Mae slowly lets out as she watches him closely. “How’d that feel?”

“Pain, a lot of pain,” Chase comments as he glances back down at the leg. The thigh muscles felt like they were on fire from that simple motion as he began to wonder if he as doing the right thing. Was this too soon? Did the leg need more rest to heal? “That shooting pain that I felt before came back and it was big. I…I don’t know….”

“Relax, it’s okay. It’s part of the process. It’s going to hurt a ton to take these first couple of steps as the wound area gets used to moving and flexing with the stitches and such. The muscles also are healing and remembering what they’re supposed to do. It’ll get easier, trust me.”

“Do you want a hand?” Bill offers, holding out his hand. Chase shakes his head no, pushing it away as he focuses on the ground ahead.

“I’m fine,” he tells his dad as he takes a calming deep breath.

“Stubborn as always,” Cindy comments with an eye roll as Chase glances over at his mom.

“I wonder who I get it from.” She then goes to yell at him as he just smirks. “Love you, mommy.” She then just shakes her head.

“Saying love you isn’t going to get you out of trouble all the time. You should know that.” He then shrugs his shoulders before returning his eyes back to the doctor. She may claim that it didn’t work, but she hadn’t yelled at him as she had planned.

“Whenever you’ve ready, you can take your second step – this time using your right leg,” Dr. Mae interrupts the fun. “Now, the right leg is going to be easy to lift and set down. Its’ going to be about how your left leg accepts the added weight and pressure, and how that affects the pain. Make sure you watch your balance and whether you’re stubborn or not, hold on to a hand if needed. Don’t be afraid. It’s not a sign of weakness as you’ve done a lot today already.” Seeing how much pain he had experienced already and not wanting to fall on his ass, he holds out his hand as he looks over at his dad.

“Please?” He questions and Bill grabs hold of it.

“I told you that you needed a hand,” Bill says as Chase just rolls his eyes. “Take your time and listen to what she said.”

Taking a deep breath, allowing himself to get set for the moment, he then slowly lifts his right leg. As soon as the foot left the ground, he felt the pain increase in his left leg, no doubt reasoning with what Dr. Mae had to say. The pain was bearable though, as he shifted his right leg forward. He then placed it down, immediately feeling the pressure leave his left leg as some of the pain subsided.

“I can do this….I can do this,” he commented to himself with a smile. While it was a small feat, it was a good to be up and moving around.

“Forget you can – you did,” Dr. Mae comments with her own smile. “Feel free to keep taking more steps. We’ll walk around the room for 10, 20 minutes – as long as you want. This is good progress. The way you’re moving, I could have you released by tomorrow morning.” Chase then glances over at his parents.

“Can we go to Kentucky and watch the Cup race?” Cindy shakes his her head no immediately as Bill just laughs.

“He sounds like a little kid begging to go play,” Bill comments as Cindy crosses her arms.

“And we’re going to be the strict parents that make sure he takes care of himself and fully gets healed before stepping foot near a race track,” Cindy states. “It is bed rest and taking it easy for you. Understood?” Chase lets out a sigh and shakes his head yes.

For the rest of the afternoon, he took turns taking a couple more steps, and then spending some time resting. With each step, it did get easier as he got back comfortable with moving around and forward.

While his mom had her own plans in mind for the next couple of weeks, Chase could only grin. He had his own plans in mind and while she may not particularly approve them, he was going to go forth with making them happen.

 

Chapter 32: Chase’s Plan

Tuesday July 14, 2015

He had a plan, but knew that it’d take a lot of convincing to let it go through. However, he was determined to be at the race track, on the track, that weekend in Iowa without any doubt in his mind.

After being let out of the hospital on Sunday, he had returned home to the happy news that the boss had not only won the XFINITY race in his car, but also won the Sprint Cup Series race. Though while the news was happy, it just made him that much more anxious to get back behind the wheel of his racecar.

Throughout Monday, he had kept quiet about his idea, debating how to go about doing it. He thought about calling Dale and talking things over with him. However, that would likely be thrown out the window as Dale would probably say the same things that his parents were telling him right now. He thought about calling Regan, but again it was another caring barrier and what could his teammate do? so he was left within his own thoughts.

The next day brought forth a visit to see Rick Hendrick. Rick had been asking how he was, so the agreement was made for Bill, Chase and Rick to go out for lunch together. It turned out to be a great idea with some conversation about how Chase was getting better, but even more around racing and possible plans for the 2016 season. It only made Chase want his leg to heal that much faster.

That want to heal and return to his racecar had him fueled on adrenaline when they left the restaurant, as he was determined to make his plan fall in place. Whether it was the right topic or not to bring up with his father, he knew that he had to.

“Dad, I want to go racing this weekend,” he states as they pull out of the parking lot. Bill keeps his eyes pointed forward, taking a deep breath and immediately shaking his head no.

“Let your leg properly heal before you think about going back racing, Chase,” Bill instructs as Chase lets out a sigh. “You’re out of the championship hunt so you might as well wait an extra week or two and let it heal. You don’t need to go back sooner than you should and cause more issues.”

“But they won’t cause anymore issues as I talked to Dr. Mae about it and she said there was no reason medically that I couldn’t be in a racecar this weekend.” Stopping at the stoplight, Bill throws a glance Chase’s way in disbelief. He hadn’t heard that conversation at all.

“When?”

“That was when I sent you to get me some lunch because mom thought I deserved a treat for working so hard. I asked her, and she wrote a medical clearance note that has already been forwarded to NASCAR.” Bill lets out a sigh as he should’ve known that Chase would’ve taken advantage of the opportunity.

“I get what she’s saying, but you should listen to me and do what’s right. What if you get in a wreck and injure it further?” Chase shakes his head with a glance out the window. This was the exact response that he expected from his parents.

“That won’t happen as I will make sure to have the right padding in place and be careful. Besides, there’s no way that I can injure it….okay, so I may aggravate the muscles but I will deal with that when the time comes.” The reasons to sway his son off of the idea were thinning by the second.

“And what about the pain?” In honesty, the pain was a bit of a….well, pain. It was there anytime he moved his leg just a little, and it hurt a ton. That shooting pain that he experienced upon the first steps was still there, and per Dr. Mae, that pain would last for another week. It was a good reason to wait another week before returning to driver’s seat. However, he wasn’t about to let that happen. Chase knew he couldn’t take spending another weekend at home out of the racecar.

“I can take Tylenol, but nothing more. The Tylenol kills the edge and the rest I can handle by myself.” Bill didn’t know what to say next as he wanted to lay down the simple law, perhaps even tell Chase that he as grounded or had to listen because this was daddy speaking. He also knew that he could possibly reason Dale and Kelley to not allow it, either, but if Chase could convince him then it was likely that he would move his way through the food chain easily. “Dad, if you were in the same situation that I was in, you would be getting back in the car. We saw that ourselves when you got hurt before. You fought through it and drove. So you’re allowed to do that but I can’t? Seems fair, Dad.”

“This is…different.” Chase shakes his head no as he looks over at his Dad.

“No, this isn’t. This is just another injury, like any injury you had in your career. The only difference is that I’m your kid and you’re worried about me. How about using the driver’s mind instead of the father’s mind?” Bill lets out a sigh.

“Chase, I can’t do that and you know that. Besides, this is a different injury – it was a deliberate stabbing by someone. That carries additional weight in the discussion.” Chase turns his eyes back out of his window, with his own sigh. He knew that he couldn’t escape everything, even if he wanted. There was always a reminder there of what happened, whether in conversation or a simple glance down his leg, or a simple glance towards his arm which still bared the bandages. It was a thought that entered his mind 24/7, no matter what he did to escape. There was only period of time that he knew he could escape everything and that was in the thick of the battle, behind the wheel. Why couldn’t anybody understand how badly he wanted this? “Chase, talk to me. What are you thinking?”

“Nothing….just how stubborn you’re being.” Bill knew there was more on Chase’s mind than that as he saw how distant Chase grew immediately upon a comment about what happened.

“If there’s something on your mind, I’m willing to listen, no matter what it is. You know that you need to talk about what happened eventually. You can’t keep avoiding it.” Chase lets out a sigh as he knew that his dad was right. However, the time wasn’t today.

“There’s nothing to talk about. Besides, I already talked about it. Now, since you won’t let me go racing this weekend, can I at least go by the shop? The guys keep calling and texting to see how I’m doing. Let me go see them, please.” Bill shakes his head, agreeing. Cindy had left him with a list of things to grab for dinner, and he had some things that he wanted to do. If seeing the guys helped boost the mood, than he was for it.

“That’s fine. I have some errands to do anyway. I’ll come back at 5?” Chase shakes his head yes as that sounded fine. It’d give him a good three to four hours to discuss things with Greg and the guys. It’d also mark a good three hours that he wasn’t left thinking about things.

 

Chapter 33: Shop Visit

Tuesday July 14, 2015

As discussed, Bill dropped Chase off at the JR Motorsports shop with strict instructions to take it easy. Chase then made his way inside, first catching up with the receptionist before heading back to the shop.

He watched as the guys gathered around, working on the cars as he quietly made his way through the shop. He didn’t want to be noticed quite yet, but figured he’d go with a surprise. He also kept an eye out for Greg as he knew that the pair needed to talk somewhere along the next couple of hours.

“Need a hand?” He finally called out, catching the attention of the whole team. They all then turned around, big smiles forming as they all headed his direction. “Easy guys…”

“Group hug!” Car Chief Travis Mack commented as he moved forward first, wrapping his arms around Chase. The whole team then joined in as Chase could only grin in the center. Finally, the guys let go and took a couple steps back as they watched their driver.

“Shouldn’t you be resting somewhere?” Will Coats questions as Chase shakes his head no, and silently wishes that he could smack the thought out of brain. If they turned into a bunch of caring people, there’d be no way to let the plan come into action.

“I did enough of that last week,” he comments. “Besides, I had to come check on my guys and make sure they were behaving.”

“Does that ever happen with this group?” Travis questions as Chase laughs and shakes his head no. “Do you want to sit somewhere?” Chase shakes his head no, with a slight eye roll, as he leans back against one of his racecars that were sitting in the shop. He didn’t want to move from where he was. He was back in his element with his guys, with one of his cars. A glance towards the car and he wished that he could call that cockpit his own at that moment.

“I’m fine right here. Don’t worry about me. I’m fine. I can be up on my feet. I can be moving around. You don’t need to tend to every need.”

“I’m just glad that you’re alright,” Scott Radel comments. “Dude, you gave us quite a scare as we were all worried. It’s great to see you. How are you feeling, anyway?” This was a question that Chase had expected, based on the phone calls and text messages already.

“I’m doing well,” he comments. “Little bit of pain here and there, but it’s healing. Give or take a couple more weeks and I should be back to normal.”

“So no crutches?” Travis then questions as he was surprised when he turned around to see Chase without any crutches.

“The doctor said it was up to me whether I wanted to use them or not. I feel fine right now walking without them, as long as I take it slow, so it’s okay. I have them at home, though, if I do need them.”

“I’m surprised that your mother isn’t here cuddling her baby,” Scott comments as Chase just laughs with an eye roll. The guys were always picking on him about how much Cindy was around.

“Oh trust me, she hasn’t been far from my side,” Chase informs them. “She was there the whole week I was in the hospital, and she’s currently staying at the pool house with me. I somehow convinced Dad to drop me off for a couple hours while he runs some errands. I needed to see my guys.”

“Pst, we don’t need you right now – we got the boss on our side,” Brent Wentz comments, earning a curious glance from Chase. “Did you not see how Friday night went? Talk about domination.”

“I saw, and thought you did a very good job. Well done and congratulations.” Chase then moves his way around the car, glancing inside the cockpit at the steering wheel. His body was craving for him to lift a leg and work his way into the car to see how it felt, to simply test the water, to get back sooner. “So who is driving this weekend at Iowa?”

“William Bryon,” Greg answers as Chase shakes his head. Chase knew of William as he was part of JR Motorsports’ late model program. The kid had also had some success with a couple wins under his belt, too. He was no doubt a good choice for the car. The thought of William almost made him forget the plan that he had in mind. “Dale decided that the companion races that you miss he will drive, while William does the non-companion events. The agreement is on for that to continue till you announce that you’re back.”

“So when do we get our champ back?” Travis questions as he watches Chase closely. He could tell what Chase was thinking in wanting to be back behind the wheel that weekend. It was obvious by how Chase’s eyes kept darting to the cockpit, and thinking to the plans that were put in place. Now did Travis feel comfortable with the idea? That would be a separate discussion.

“As soon as I can get back in the car,” Chase answers as that was the plan. In honesty, the plan was to be in the car that weekend at Iowa. “If I could, I’d be driving this weekend at Iowa.”

“Woah….” Will lets out, not expecting to hear that comment in Chase coming back so soon.

“What?” Will then looks up as he notices Chase’s eyes are locked on him. “You said something, didn’t you?”

“I just…I did….I just….That soon? Really?” Chase then looks back down towards the car.

“I’m a racecar driver, through and through. This is the place that I want to be no more than any other. It shouldn’t surprise you that I would want to be back this weekend coming.” Chase then glances up, glancing towards Greg. He knew that he had to make the point that he was wanting to make all along. Of course, he wanted to do it privately, but this would work, too. “Actually, I have doctor’s clearance for this weekend. Dr. Mae signed the papers and sent them to NASCAR on Sunday. She warned that I’d need to watch the stitches to make sure I didn’t pull on them and rip them out, but I’d be fine to go back as soon as I wanted, depending on pain tolerance.”

“Chase….you’re not thinking of racing this weekend, are you?” Scott questions as Chase glances inside the car once more, popping the steering wheel off.

“Why else would I be in the shop looking over the car to see if it was ready for the weekend?” Chase asks before turning his eyes back to the car. “Will, I’m going need a bit more padding on the left side, please. Other than that, I think it’s fine.” He figured if he kept talking about it that eventually they’d fall into what he was saying and allow him to go play.

“Uh….okay,” Will states quietly unsure as he walks over to Chase. “But, are you sure about this? Are you sure that you’re ready? Are you sure that you can handle the pain that may be there?” Chase then looks over at Will and shakes his head yes.

“I want to be back this weekend at Iowa, and there’s nothing that I will let stand in my way to do it. I was hoping that my own team would have my back and be willing to help.”

He then glances inside the car, thinking it over. If he was going to drive that weekend, there was one thing that he’d have to get used to. Also, it may give the guys a clue that he was serious about what he was saying.

Taking a deep breath, he lifts his right leg off of the ground and puts it over the edge. No doubt the simple motion had brought forth a huge pain in his left leg, but it was nothing that he couldn’t handle. Besides, that was just part of getting in the car with the muscles. Once in the car, things would be fine.

Thinking it over, he lifts his left leg, slipping it inside the car with ease and not as much as pain as he expected. He then slips himself down in the seat, letting his legs slip down into the pedal area as he grabs the steering wheel, snapping it on. He then runs his fingers along the steering wheel, knowing that he’d have to get used to one-handed driving with how much his arm seemed to bug him lately.

“Well, what do you think?” He questions as he looks at the guys, who are standing there stunned. They had expected Chase to simply visit, find a comfy spot to sit, talk for a bit and then leave to get more rest. They hadn’t expected anything of this nature, and certainly not this soon.

“I think you fit just nicely in there driver,” Greg comments with a deep breath as he walks over. If Chase felt confident in what he was doing, then Greg wasn’t about to step in and say otherwise. He had always been taught to trust the driver and that’s what he was doing here. “How does it feel?”

“It feels just right, just like home. I think we can go out and pull off a win this weekend, crew chief.” Greg grins as he knew they had a good car. It was just gong to be a question as to whether their driver could handle it.

“I know that I’ve built a good car because that’s what I do best. I believe in you, kid. If you want to go racing this weekend, you have my vote of confidence. Just…don’t push yourself. Make sure you’re ready before you do it.” Chase looks up at Greg with a grin.

“I’m ready – more than ever.”

“I’ll make sure to do those adjustments as you said…but are you sure about this?” Will questions as he glances in the car. It did seem real nice to have their driver back in his car, but it also just didn’t feel right in parts. He wondered too much whether they were pushing things. “I mean, you don’t have to do this yet. You could take your time and relax. Why come back now?” Chase then looks over towards the passenger side with one thought on the mind.

“Because I want to be back behind the wheel and driving as I told you already,” Chase states. “How many times do I have to say that?”

“Does Dale know?” Chase shook his head no as he glanced up towards the offices. That would be his next stop.

“Let me out of here and I’ll go tell him. Simple as that, Will.”

“What about your parents?” Greg questions as he backs up so Chase can climb out.

“Let’s just say that they have their opinions, and I’ll tell them as I see fit,” Chase answers as he slowly makes his way out of the car, biting his tongue a little on the way. No doubt he had felt another dose of pain. As far as his plans with his parents, it was simple – keep working on small tale convincing and if nothing, just come out and say it Friday before leaving for Iowa.

“Good luck with that,” Will comments as he lets out a sigh. “I wish we were allowed to go testing.” Chase then looks at Will with raise eyebrows, getting annoyed of the continued questions. “I think it’d make everybody feel more comfortable, including yourself, if you could get some laps and know what it’s going to feel like.”

“Why did NASCAR invent a stupid test policy anyway?” Scott questions as the guys shrug their shoulders.

“Cost saving measure,” Greg answers before looking over at Chase. “Go tell the boss of your plans. We’ll get to work on what needs to be done.”

“Wait…who says we can’t test?” Travis blurts out, catching everyone’s attention. “We can’t test an XFINITY car, but we have a late model team here at JRM. Why can’t we go steal William’s car?”

“It wouldn’t be a bad idea, actually,” Will comments as he really wanted to see Chase do some laps, any type of laps, before they dived into the weekend, perhaps it would help his confidence in the plan that their driver had in mind.

“If it’ll make everybody feel better, let’s head over to Hickory and have some fun,” Chase says before making his way towards the stairs. He lets out a sigh before making his way up slowly as the guys watch on.

“Are we actually going to Hickory with the late model? Are we actually doing this?” Travis lets out a sigh as he glances over at Will.

“Do you think we’re going to convince him to not go racing this weekend by just standing around and saying reasons? The kid is determined to go racing this weekend.” Will then looks over at Travis.

“You suggested the late model test for a reason. You don’t think it’s going to go smoothly and then he may change his mind?” Travis shakes his head yes.

“Exactly. Now I got to go convince L.W. to let us borrow one of the precious late models.”

“Take him cookies!” Scott yells as Travis heads off towards the late model shop.

Greg could only stand there and smile at the guys and back up towards the office. He knew that Chase was in for a discussion with Dale in getting the boss to allow his return this weekend, but he also knew that Dale would cave for Chase. Dale would understand Chase’s want to return, having been put in the situation himself before to sit out. He also knew that Dale trusted Chase a bunch and if Chase believed he was ready, that would be enough convincing,.

Besides, there was the ever-important late model test. It would prove one way or another whether this was a good idea. If it went well, they were going racing. If not, Chase would finally understand why everybody had put him in denial so far.

While many of the guys seemed to have doubts so far, Greg was in the belief that things would go well and Chase would be driving that weekend. He believed in his driver based on what he had seen in the shop, and the determination that he felt from each encounter with him.

 

Chapter 34: Late Model Test

Tuesday July 14, 2015

“Boss, are you okay?” Greg asks as he stands outside of the hauler waiting for Chase to come out. Dale shakes his head yes as he crosses his arms, leaning back against the hauler.

“Am I doing the right thing allowing him to do this?” Dale questions as he looks over at Greg.

About an hour ago, Chase had made his way up into Dale’s office and made it clear that he wanted to run the following weekend at Iowa Speedway. The young man pleaded his case well, submitting doctor clearance as well as reasons that he could make it work.

Dale had argued in response, though. He questioned Chase whether he was coming back too soon. He questioned Chase whether he was letting his want to get back in the car interfere with the need to take care of himself. He also brought up whether he wanted to get back in the car just for a distraction from what happened. All of the reasons seemed legit in Dale’s mind, but yet Chase deflected each one, stating reasons that were in contrary.

Dale knew of the want to get back in the car despite injury. He had been there before himself. Sometimes, he had convinced himself to do it and for the most part, it worked. Other times, though, it had been questionable and didn’t work as well. there were times that he gave in and accepted defeat.

Though based on what Chase had to say, his determination and his reasons, Dale was left with no reason to at least accept the late model test that they were doing that afternoon at Hickory. Then, if the test went well, perhaps he’d be more open to letting the kid head to Iowa.

“What’s the harm in allowing him to simply test and see how it feels?” Greg asks in response. “Actually, I think the test is the best idea that we had. It’ll give a good indication whether he is ready or not so there’s no question heading into this weekend. I think you’re doing the right thing accepting – with the test in place.” Dale then looks back towards the trailer before returning his eyes to the crew chief.

“And what do you think is going to happen this afternoon?” Dale wonders and Greg shrugs his shoulders. Truthfully, he was positive that it would go well and they’d be headed into the right direction for the weekend. He believed Chase’s word in saying that he was ready and could handle it; he was just accepting the test to make everyone else happy.

“I think we’ll be racing this weekend in Iowa.”

Chase then emerges from the trailer, dressed in his firesuit with a smile on his face. Thankful that it was a little loose in the legs, he was able to fit the suit snuggly over the bandaging that was still there over the stitches. The arms – that was a tighter fit as he had to peel off some of the bandaging that covered the marks over his left arm, but he was suited up and that’s what mattered.

He had to admit, though, that there was a little bit more pain that he expected in working through getting ready and being in the snug fit suit. It did cling a little to the sensitive spots and bugged him a bit. But, that was just something that he would have to work through. Besides, once he got in the car, he knew that thought would be a long distance memory.

“Ready to go?” Greg asks and Chase shakes his head yes as they head out to pit road where the car was sitting.

The walk was silent as there wasn’t much to be said. Greg knew that he could offer the ‘you don’t have to do it’ speech, but why bother? Chase had already heard it from the boys in the shop, followed by Dale. It seemed pointless.

He also knew that he could offer some points in running the late model, but that wasn’t needed. Chase knew how to drive a late model, having won a bunch of big races across the United States.

“Will made a couple adjustments to the seat so that way it fits you, but you and William were close in size so it made it easy,” Greg comments as they reach the car. Chase then glances inside, taking a look around, before looking across the roof at L.W. and William that are sitting on the wall.

“Thanks for letting me borrow it,” he comments as he reaches in and grabs his helmet.

“Hey, you’re a series champion,” William starts. “Maybe you can give L.W. some pointers on how to improve these cars.” L.W. then shoots William a look as he shakes his head.

“Keep talking, but remember who set that car up so you could win last weekend,” L.W. reminds him as William just rolls his eyes. “I just can’t believe that you’re getting back in a car so soon after what happened.” Chase then rolls his eyes.

“I don’t want to hear it,” he starts. “It seems Will and Scott are the masters of that speech already.” Chase then slips the helmet over his head, getting Will to help with getting the HANS attached.

“Start off by doing 20 laps and then come in,” Dale instructs as Chase gets in the car. “I want to know – complete honesty – how you’re feeling and whether you feel comfortable enough to go a longer distance. Then we’re going to go 75 laps and see how that works. If you can handle both of those without any problems, I’m fine with letting you return this weekend.”

“Deal,” Chase answers as he finishes getting the seatbelts on.

Following a quick radio check, he starts the car and heads out for the first 20 laps.

To the much of the surprise of the team, the test went smoothly that day.

Following the first 20 laps, Chase felt comfortable and fine. In honesty, the pain wasn’t bugging him at all as it was completely out of his mind. He had to get used to using the brake and gas pedal with his right foot, but he was able to get that sorted out within the first half of the run. He also had to get used to not using his left arm that much and that was a little more tricky as he got right sideways – almost spinning at one point – but eventually everything was buckled down to the point.

The second run wasn’t as positive, though. It seemed the comfort was fine – or at least in what he told them. He said that the pain was minimal – present, but not enough to distract him from what the driving that he was doing.

However, the driving wasn’t up to par. He was a good half a second off of the lap times that he had set in the first 20 laps and William’s laps from the week prior. The team blamed it on lack of comfort, while Chase knew it was finding his handling with driving. Once he got a good 40, 50 laps in, his left arm started to bug him more and more, resulting in wanting to just drive with his right hand. That hadn’t gone as good as hoped as he had yet to find that spot where he could hold the wheel strong enough to keep the car straight with the car just being a tick loose.

“Let me run another 50 laps and I’ll get the lap times to where they’re supposed to be,” he pleaded after the discussion. “I just got to find the perfect spot to rest my left hand on the bottom of the wheel to grip, but not enough to hurt. If I can just hold bottom and let it slide within my hands as I turn with my right, I can do this.”

“I say you should take another week off,” Will comments as Chase rolls his eyes. He wasn’t about to accept that. The late model test was just a taste and it was increasing that craving for the weekend.

“No, I don’t need another week off. I can do this. Give me a chance. I just need to get more comfortable with how I have to drive now.”

“50 laps,” Dale starts. “50 laps. No more. No less. If I don’t see those lap times stay consistent, we’re done. I suggest you figure out what you have to figure out.” Dale then walks away, headed back to his spot atop the hauler as Chase stands up off of the wall and heads back to the car.

“He seems like he’s in a peachy mood. I wonder if Marie cut him off.”

“Chase!!” Greg yells as a grin forms on Chase’s face.

“Nah – it’s her pregnancy hormones,” L.W. comments as they all laugh. “Woman are crazy when they’re pregnant.”

“I’ll be sure to tell mom that’s what you thought of her while she was pregnant,” Karsyn states as L.W. looks over at her.

“And I will make sure that your car is no where close to how it should handle this weekend if you do that, missy.”

“In other words, you’re beat,” William adds as Karsyn just rolls his eyes.

Chase’s extra 50 laps turned out to be the right course of action as he was able to figure out what he needed to do, popping off a consistent batch of lap times. They weren’t as strong as Dale would’ve hoped, but they were strong enough to be given the thumbs up at the end.

Leaning against the car at the end of the session, he could only smile as he watched his dad walk up to him. His plan had worked out perfectly. He was going to Iowa that weekend.

“I should’ve known you had something up your sleeve,” Bill states as Chase just smiles.

“I told you that I was running this weekend,” Chase comments. “Dale called you. I know he did. He told me that he called you. He told me that you saw those final 25 laps. Are you okay with this weekend?” In truth, his dad’s answer didn’t bother him whether it was a yes or a no. he was going to do what he wanted. As a grown 19-year-old, he felt that he could make his own decisions without consequences.

“I’m fine with it. You proved that you can do it. But, good luck telling your mom.”

 

Chapter 35: Post Test

Tuesday July 14, 2015

“Bill!” Cindy exclaims as soon as Bill and Chase walk into the house. Bill lets out a sigh as he was hoping to get at least 10 minutes inside the door before she mentioned anything.

“Cindy?” Bill questions as he heads into the kitchen while Chase slowly makes his way into the living room, flopping on the couch.

“How could you let him?” Bill immediately freezes upon hearing the question. He thought that he’d be telling her what happened, followed by her reaction.

“How do you know?” Cindy gives him a slight smack on the arm. She couldn’t believe that he just wasn’t coming out and saying it. Worse, she couldn’t believe that he knew and didn’t say anything sooner to Chase.

“Did you think you could keep it hidden? It’s all over twitter!” The sound of cars on the short track caught the attention of some people as they stopped by. Upon seeing a driver climb out of the car wearing a NAPA suit, the spectators had snapped photos – just for interest. However, one they saw the helmet removed, these couple of fans knew they had stumbled upon something special. “Kelley told me when I stopped by the shop this afternoon.” She had texted Bill earlier in the afternoon asking how things were with Chase. He had told her that Chase was stopping by to see the boys and then coming home. She thought she’d pick him up with having to goby the shop anyway to see Kelley about some business things. So much for that. “You’re lucky I didn’t come straight to the track and kick both your asses.” Bill then throws his arms up in defense. He should have known to expect this. He had expected this – but not quite so soon.

“It wasn’t my idea. I told him no when he kept mentioning running this weekend.” Cindy rolled her eyes. She had been around drivers all of her life and knew how things worked with them.

“Then how did it happen?” Bill takes a careful deep breath. He knew he was safe as he wasn’t to blame. He felt bad for Greg now, though. He knew that he’d have to text the crew chief later to make sure he stayed away from Cindy that weekend.

“I dropped him off at the shop because we agreed that he could simply stop in and check in with the guys. I told him I’d be back in about three hours as I had some errands to run. I texted his phone two and a half hours later and it was Dale who told me they were at Hickory. I thought maybe the team was testing – never thought that he’d be in the car.” Cindy shook her head in disbelief, ready to shoot Dale when she saw him. Drivers were drivers – no matter what, they couldn’t resist being in a car. And then Dale also had a sweet, caring side for Chase and no doubt Chase probably used that to his advantage.

“And when you got there?” Bill knew he was in shit now. He knew he should’ve said something. Perhaps he should’ve pretended that he never showed up at Hickory.

“I saw him on track and questioned it at first. Though once he assured me that he was being careful, and the pain wasn’t that bad, I let it go. Besides a bit of pain and the bandage, he’s fine sweetie. He’s a racecar driver. Racecar drivers will do what it takes to race.” Cindy rolls her eyes in disbelief. She should’ve known this would happen.

“And parents will do whatever it takes to keep their children from doing something stupid.” Chase could hear them and could only roll his eyes. He knew to expect this but would take it if he could race that weekend. “Chase Elliott, what were you thinking?” Chase then looks up at his mom. It was his turn to get a lecture.

“That I want to race this weekend and I feel well enough to race,” he comments as she rolls her eyes. She wasn’t about to let this happen under her watch.

“You are not racing no matter what you think,” Cindy tells him “I don’t care what you say. You’re crazy for even trying!” Chase takes a deep breath, trying to remain calm about it. He was a grown adult. He could make his own decisions. He knew how his body felt and what he could handle. He knew that he would be fine.

“Mom, I promise to be careful. If it’ll do further harm or hurts too much I won’t do it. However, besides some minor discomfort, I felt fine so I am going racing this weekend.” She then kneels down to his level, knowing that she has to see where she is coming from. Why were racers so hardheaded?

“Chase, take a couple weeks off and let your body fully heal. You’re out of the points and Kelley has someone to fill in. Do what’s right for your body.” Chase shakes his head as he knew that wasn’t an option.

“Mom, I’ll be fine.” She stands up and shakes her head no.

“William Clyde Elliott, you are not rac-”

“Mom, I’m an adult. I’m 19 years old now. I can make my own decisions. I am racing this weekend. The test went well and I have doctor’s approval. I also have approval from the team.” She then lets out an aggravated sigh as she goes go leave the room. “Mom, I love you.” She then stops and glances back. They had a couple fights here and there, but at the end, they couldn’t go without saying I love you because disagreement or not, they loved each other.

“Love you, too. Dinner will be ready in a half hour. We are having cabbage rolls.” Chase takes a calming deep breath. There was one part to this that was missing. Whether she agreed or not, he wanted her to be there. It wouldn’t be the same without having both his parents there for support. Since he was a little boy, they had both attended each of his races. He wasn’t going to let that change.

“I want you to be there this weekend.” She then takes a deep breath. She knew that she couldn’t stay home as she’d worry too much.

“I wouldn’t miss it because I will always support and love you, even if I don’t agree. Rest up as it seems you had a long day.” She then goes back out to the kitchen.

He hated to argue with his mom, but it had to be done. He wanted to be race this weekend and there was no way to accept no for an answer.

Making Memories for a Lifetime – Chapters 51 Thru 55

makingmemoriesforalifetime

Chapter 51: Visits Upon Visits

Dale peeks into Steve’s office, smile locked on his face as Steve looks up from his meeting with Chad, Alan (who was now crew chief for Chase Elliott) and Kenny.

“Who’s there?” Chad asks as he notices the direction that Steve is focused on. He then looks back to see Dale standing there, smiling.

“You never come to my office unless you have something important to say so speak,” Steve instructs as Dale laughs, walking into the office. “What do I owe this honor to?” Dale then drops a piece of paper on Steve’s desk as Steve reads it, also now smiling.

“You’re cleared for Atlanta?” Kenny asks and Dale shakes his head yes. “Welcome back hot shot.”

“Thanks,” Dale says as he leans against Steve’s desk. “Looking forward to kicking some butt this weekend?” Steve shakes his head yes as Kenny kicks back a bit.

“That’s if you two can catch Kasey. If he is anywhere close to where he was last year, it’s gonna be a wonderful day.”

“Bring it on as we’re ready to get back to winning,” Steve comments as he hands Dale back the piece of paper.

“Have you told Tony yet?” Kenny asks and Dale shakes his head yes. Tony was the first person that he called once he received the news. “And let me guess – you have a very happy boyfriend?” The smile widens on Dale’s face as he shakes his head yes once again.

“He said that he missed racing with me each week and it wasn’t the same,” Dale comments as Kenny just shakes his head in disbelief.

“Of course, because there’s probably rewards when he beats you right?” Kenny then ducks as Dale goes to smack him. “Hey! I was just stating the truth. When is that a crime? You know it’s true; it’s okay to admit it.”

“Watch your back because I’ll be getting you back for this one. I’ll see you later, Steve.” Steve shakes his head yes as he watches Dale leave the office and the crew chiefs return back to their meeting.

*********

Kyle walks up to Angelica, handing her a glass of gingerale before sitting in the chair beside her.

“Is it okay?” Kyle asks as he watches her take a sip and she shakes her head yes. “I didn’t know how much ice to put in it.”

“You put enough,” she informs him as she continues to sip on it. She then sets the glass on the table beside her before lying back and letting out a sigh.

“Are you okay?” Angelica shakes her head yes as Kyle grabs her hand with his own.

“I just want this over with. I don’t want to deal with this any longer.” Kyle shakes his head understanding as he rubs her hand.

“I know how you feel, but it’ll be worth it in the end. You just have to be patient and deal with it. I believe in you, your family believes in you, your friends believe in you so now it’s time for you to believe in yourself.” She smiles as she closes her eyes.

“I do, but it’s just hard at times. Going through it all, it takes its toll on you.” Kyle shakes his head, understanding once again, as he glances over to see her sleeping. He then stands up, reaching over and kissing her cheek.

“Love you sweetheart. Everything will be okay. I’m not going anywhere.” He then sits back in the chair as he puts his feet up. “Please let my words be true. I’m not ready to let my angel go.”

*********

“What are you doing?” Tony asks as he looks over Lindsay’s shoulder while she’s on the computer. She then smiles as she looks back at him, before resuming what she was doing. He watches the websites as she looks at them, quickly realizing what she is looking up.

“I can’t let it go…” Lindsay comments, surprising Tony. “I still can’t believe the words that I heard that day.” Tony knows immediately what she means as he rubs her shoulders. It was no doubt in any of their minds that she was still upset about the news about not being able to get pregnant again. “How do you let that sink in? How do you accept that?” She then flips to another website. “I just figured looking some things up it would make it easier to accept.”

“Give it time, Lindsay.” She then looks over her shoulder, looking into Tony’s eyes.

“How much time?” He then reaches down, kissing her cheek as he continues to rub her shoulder. “It’s been three weeks and it still hurts like it did in Daytona. What will change that feeling? What will make it okay?”

“You’ll find your way to feeling better about the news, Lindsay. Just give it time.”

“I’m sick of waiting.”

“Then let the pain go and stop burying it inside.” He then walks away, going to check on the roast that was cooking for dinner that night. “Once you let it go, you’ll feel better.”

 

Chapter 52: Hotlanta

“Ready to get back to driving?” Steve asks as he glances at his driver before the first practice.

“Of course,” Dale answers with a smile on his face.

“Just double checking.”

“You don’t need to do that, Steve.” Dale then puts both legs in the car, sitting on the edge as he watches Tony walk by and give him a smirk. “Watch that sexy ass Smoke!” Tony then stops and glances into the garage stall, smile showing immediately.

“Why is that Earnhardt?” Tony questions as Dale just smiles.

“Because someone may come up behind and pinch it.”

“Oh please. Nobody wants me – all the girls want you.”

“Can you please not distract my driver?” Steve interrupts them as they both laugh. Steve then walks over to the side of the car. “You’re as bad as a pair of toddlers. Don’t you have work to do Tony?”

“Yeah – aren’t you supposed to be making laps right now instead of showing off your ass?” Dale adds as he watches Delana sneak up behind Tony and pinch his butt. Tony jumps and spins around, shock written over his face as Dale and Steve both laugh. “Told you to watch your ass.”

“Better watch yours cause its next on the list if Kevin doesn’t run good this weekend,” Delana advises Dale as Dale looks at her surprised. She knew of their game together, but never thought he’d get roped in.

“Don’t you have a husband to bug instead of my driver?” Steve questions as Danica looks towards him surprised. “I was trying to get him to get his ass back to work this weekend.”

“Are you turning into Chad Knaus, Steve?” Tony questions as both Dale and Delana laugh.

“Are you feeling okay?” Delana adds as Steve rolls his eyes.

“Tony get to work and Delana, go find your son and husband,” Steve instructs as Tony just rolls his eyes.

“See ya later prince,” he says to Dale before continuing to walk down the garage area.
“Now can we get started with this weekend?” Dale shakes his head yes. “Finally.”

“Are you sure you’re feeling okay?” Dale questions with a smirk on his face. He laughs as Steve walks away and then slips into the car, ready for practice.

***********

“Are you sure you’re feeling okay?” Kelley asks as she walks into the spare bedsroom, checking on Angelica. While Lindsay and Chelsea joined the boys in Atlanta, Angelica was staying at Kelley and L.W.’s place so they could both take care of her.

“I’m fine Kel,” Angelica tells Kelley for what seems like the millionth time already in the day. She knew she’d be annoyed if Kelley was like this the whole weekend. “Shouldn’t you be in Atlanta?” For Angelica, she was surprised that Kelley wasn’t in Atlanta with her oldest daughter Karsyn. This year marked Karsyn’s first year in the Nationwide Series after winning the championship last year in the trucks. Kelley seemed like the type that’d be there for each of her daughter’s races so this surprised her.

“Jimmy (Elledge, Karsyn’s father), your father, Tony, Lindsay, Tony Jr., T.J – everybody that needs to be in Atlanta with her is with her. I have two other darlings to take care of, each with dirt races of their own on Saturday night.” Kelley, of course, was referring to both Kennedy and Wyatt. The pair had taken the racing trade into their hands as well and were both successful in their own right. It wouldn’t surprise anybody if they weren’t racing in the top tier NASCAR ranks in the next couple of years.

Angelica shook her head understanding as she hadn’t thought about that originally. She wondered what would happen when Chelsea began racing for KKR next year in the quarter midgets. Would Lindsay go to Chelsea’s events or stay with Dale? What races would Tony and Dale be able to see within their own schedules? How would responsibility be sorted there?

“Can I come with you on Saturday to watch them?” Angelica asks as Kelley goes to leave the room. “It’s been forever since I’ve hit up the dirt track.” Kelley shakes her head yes, smiling. That had been the plan anyway as she knew that Angelica needed her racing fix as well.

“Call me if you need anythi-” Kelley starts.

“I’m fine Kelley!” Kelley just rolls her eyes as she heads down the stairs to check on the kids. There was no questioning who Angelica’s father was.

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

Dale shakes his head as he looks up at the scoring pylon, seeing that he had qualified 23rd. That was nowhere near where he wanted to be at this point.

“You can make your way through the field easy here babes,” he hears as he feels arms rap around him, recognizing the voice immediately. “Qualifying doesn’t matter here. Stevie and you will figure the car out. I have belief in you.”

“I hope you’re right Smoke,” Dale comments as he glances back and gives Tony a quick kiss.

“I know I’m right.” Tony then walks away to go meet up with his crew chief.

 

Chapter 53: Hotlanta Success

Lindsay, Chelsea, Dale and Tony sat on the pit box with Tony Jr. and Karsyn’s team watching the Nationwide Series race together. They each wanted to see how well she would do given that Atlanta was one of her best tracks. The year before, it was the sight of her first truck win. They were hoping that history would repeat itself.

“She’s doing pretty well,” Lindsay comments as she watches Karsyn make a pass on Kevin Harvick for fourth. She had come off pit road in the sixth position with 30 laps to go.

“She just may have the right set-up under it to win,” Dale adds as he looks to the front of the field to see it’s the Kyle-and-Kyle show with Kyle Larson and Kyle Busch. If Karsyn couldn’t win the race, then he was all for Larson picking the win to make Angelica happy.

“Come on Karsyn!” Dale then turns his eyes back to Karsyn, watching her move into third with a pass on Sam Hornish Jr. “Two more spots….20 laps…”

“She’s going to catch them before it is over,” Tony comments as he looks over Tony Jr.’s shoulder at the lap times.

“The question is – will they all stay out of trouble?” Dale questions as he points to the pair of leaders, noticing how hard they are racing each other.

“She’ll past them both so she doesn’t have to worry about it,” Lindsay points out as Karsyn began to close the gap between herself and the pair of Kyles.

“She’s there,” Tony announces, five laps later, as Karsyn is riding in third right behind Larson and Busch. “She just has to play it smart.”

“She’s got a quicker car than both of them,” Dale adds as he sits there nervously.

With 10 laps to go, Busch got alongside Larson once again and grabbed the lead down the backstretch. Karsyn used it to her advantage as she got under Larson heading into turn three and came off the corner ahead in second spot.

“And Kelley said she’d be fine with missing this race…” Tony comments as he looks towards Dale, knowing that Karsyn had a good chance to win it with nine laps to go. “She’s gonna get herself a win.”

“Don’t. Jinx. It,” Karsyn’s father Jimmy then speaks up as he keeps his eyes focused forward as he watches the ticker go down to eight laps to go.

“Sorry.”

“If she doesn’t win, it’s your fault Tony,” Lindsay adds with a smile on her face. “Go Karsyn Go!”

“Go Karsyn!!” Chelsea yells as the lap ticker goes down to seven laps to go.

Six to go.

Five to go.

Four to go.

Three to go.

Two to go.

Final lap.

It seemed like it’d take forever for the race to end as they watched Karsyn keep tightly tucked behind Kyle Busch, ready to strike.

As they watched the pair head down the backstretch, they waited for Karsyn to make her move. As the pair headed into turn three, Kyle Busch took his normal high lane while Karsyn went for the low lane, drawing alongside him in the middle of the corner. The whole team stood up as they watched the pair come off the corner, cheering as they waited to see what would happen….

“Did she get him?” Lindsay asks as she watches the pair cross the finish line side-by-side.

“Congratulations baby girl – you’re a Nationwide Series race winner!!” Jimmy yells over the radio as the whole team and family erupts in cheers.

“Nice job calling that race,” Dale congratulates his cousin Tony Jr. with a hug. “I didn’t know if you made the right call putting the four tires on there.”

“I knew what she needed to do it,” Tony Jr. replies before they head to victory lane.

In victory lane, many hugs are shared between everybody as they celebrate with their favourite little girl. She hugs each of them, shedding tears of her own and made a special call to her mother. She told her mom that she wished she could’ve been there, but was happy to be bringing the trophy as well. She then told her siblings good luck that night and hoped that they could keep the winning going.

“One day, I am going to win just like you!” Chelsea yells after Karsyn gets off the phone. Karsyn smiles, picking up her cousin and sitting her on the roof of the racecar.

“I have no doubt that you will Chelsea,” Karsyn replies as Chelsea smiles.

“I get to race soon!” Karsyn shakes her head, remembering that Chelsea would begin racing in a month, running quarter midgets for Kasey Kahne’s team. After some light persuading, Angelica had convinced everybody that it was a good idea as it was a way for Chelsea to start young and learn some valuable racing lessons. “I going to win! I want a big trophy like you!” Karsyn just smiles as she leans against the car.

“Don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll win many races princess.”

 

Chapter 54: Playing in the Dirt

“I am so happy you get to see me race!” Wyatt said excited as he slipped his firesuit on as they got ready for the race that night. The youngest of Kelley’s children had been so excited that his favourite cousin ‘Angie’ was going to be at the track with them that night to watch him race. He wanted to show her that he could drive a car just as quick as she could and be just like her. While most children looked up to the men in their lives, Wyatt had always kept his eyes focused on Angelica from when he met her and knew she raced in amazement. She was everything that he wanted to be. “I am going to win just for you!”

“I wish I could say the same,” Kennedy commented as she walked into the hauler, plopping down on a box. She had just gotten done her final practice before racing that night and the sprint was far from working to her favor. If things kept like they were, she was going to be in for a long night. “The thing is slipping and sliding all over!”

“Daddy will fix it.” Kennedy looks over at Wyatt, eyes full of surprise as her little brother shakes his head yes. “Daddy always fix it.”

“I don’t know if he can fix this one. It’s the worst it’s been all year.”

“Daddy will fix.” Wyatt then puts his helmet on and hops in the sprint, putting his seat belt on.

“Are you running the bottom or the top?” Angelica asks Kennedy as they watch Kelley help Wyatt get strapped in.

“She was running the bottom because she heard that was the quick groove from Ryan,” L.W. comments before walking over to join Kelley with Wyatt.

“The bottom has always been the quick line here,” Kennedy points out as Angelica shakes her head in disbelief. She had remembered hearing those words herself one night at the same track with Kale when she was running quarter midgets.

“Wyatt is ready to go.”

“Go up and watch me!” Wyatt yells as he keeps his eyes focused on Angelica.

“You better come with us,” L.W. instructs and Angelica shakes her head yes as she walks out of the trailer.

“Try running the cushion in your heat as sometimes it can be a better line,” Angelica suggests to Kennedy as Kennedy looks at her like she’s gone crazy. “I mean it. The bottom gets slippery with everybody running it and packing the dirt down so the loose dirt up top can sometimes be to your benefit.”

“Good luck Wyatt!” Kelley yells before Wyatt heads out to line up with his group.

“I guess it’s worth a shot,” Kennedy says to Angelica’s suggestion as Angelica smiles. “I mean, it can’t make it any worse right?” Kelley then wraps an arm around Kennedy as they head up to watch Wyatt’s race.

“Have some faith; you’ll figure it out. You always do.”

“Yeah, that’s when the problem makes sense.” They then turns their eyes on to the track as they watch Wyatt head out for his qualifying heat.

Wyatt didn’t do as well as he would’ve hoped as a late race spin saw him near the back of the pack. He pulled the midget in, slowly climbing out as he shook his head, looking at the ground.

“Sorry I no win,” he comments quietly as Angelica and the group return to the pit. “I tried my best. It just got loose.” He then looks up at Angelica, sadness written on his face. “I wanted to win for you. I sorry.”

“It’s okay – you tried your best,” Angelica tells him as she pulls him into a hug. “You’ll win the big race later tonight.”

“Here goes nothing,” Kennedy comments as she climbs in her midget, ready to head out.

“Try what Angelica said the first couple laps and if it doesn’t, try the bottom again,” L.W. advises as he looks over at Angelica. He wasn’t sure about her being at the track with them that night as he didn’t want her to be up to too much. He walks over to her. “Are you okay?” Angelica shakes her head yes.

“Are you sure?” Kelley asks, also concerned and Angelica once again shakes her head yes. “If you start to feel really tired or anything, just let us know.”

“I take care of Angie,” Wyatt speaks up as he walks his arms around her as both Kelley and L.W. smile.

“Seems like someone has it under control already,” L.W. comments as he wraps an arm around Kelley as they head up to watch Kennedy’s race.

“I can’t believe how much that kid loves her,” Kelley replies as L.W. smiles. It had surprised him also, though it didn’t bug him. He was glad that his son had chosen someone like Angelica to look up to instead of someone that caused problems.

They then watch as Kennedy heads out for her qualifying race and it didn’t go as planned as she would finish mid-pack. Though L.W. smiled as he looked at the lap times, noticing an improvement from the earlier practice.
“Now my turn to win!” Wyatt cheered as he went to get in his car.

“Good luck buddy,” Angelica says as she helps him do up the belts once he is in it.

“Be careful,” Kelley adds as Wyatt shakes his head yes before heading out.

With them returned to the hill, they were ready to watch the feature. With Wyatt starting at the rear, expectations were set at finishing top five at least by the parents. They felt that’d be good considering the traffic that he had to deal with and the number of laps that night. However, it went better than that as he was able to work his way to second with a couple laps left and made a last lap pass to grab the win. They all cheered, immediately joining him in victory lane with hugs.

“I told you I’d win for you!” Wyatt yells as he hugs Angelica and she just smiles.

“Way to go!” Kelley cheers as they set up for a picture together. Once the picture is over, Wyatt picks up the little trophy and hands it to Angelica. She looks at him puzzled as a smile forms on his face.

“It’s yours ‘cause the win was for you.”

“Awww thank you little buddy,” she replies as she hugs him again. “I’ll put it right beside my championship trophy, okay?” He shakes his head yes with pride as he hops back in the car to drive it back to the parts.

“1 more win tonight and this momma will be a super happy one,” Kelley comments as it’d be perfect to have all three kids win in a day.

“Kennedy will do fine if she remembers what I told her, what L.W. told her and the adjustments work.”

“So in other words, I should have a storybook ending to my day?” Angelica shakes her head yes as they head back up to watch the next race.

“Let’s hope.”

As L.W. and Wyatt joined them – Wyatt sitting in Angelica’s lap – they were set to watch the final race of the evening. Kennedy drove a hard and strong race, carefully making her way to the front. However, she would run out of laps as she finished a solid second. They all smiled as it meant a solid finish on the day and Kennedy was happy with it considering where she had started the night.

“I win – you no win!” Wyatt teased as they started to pack up.

“Wyatt!!” Kelley yelled from her spot with Angelica. Wyatt then turned on a sad face, looking at his old sister.

“Sorry Kennedy.” He then hugged her, smiling afterwards. “You did great tonight.”

“I’ll meet you girls at home,” L.W. says as he gives Kelley a kiss. Kelley and Angelica head off as L.W. and the kids finish packing up.

“Hey Kel?” Angelica starts as they get in Kelley’s car.

“Yea?” Kelley asks as she looks over at her niece.

“Thanks for the night of fun. I needed a night like that.” Kelley smiles as she turns the car on, pulling out of the parking lot.

“Anytime girl. I think both kids enjoyed your company as well.”

The smile on Angelica’s face didn’t seem like it’d ever disappear as it stemmed right across her mouth. Well it was just a simple night of racing at the local dirt track, it had done wonders for her mood. It gave her a chance to get away from everything for a couple hours. It reminded her why she worked hard for everything that she had. It reminded her why she had to continue to fight to get back to the fun that she had before. most of all, it reminded her of the family that she had by her side – even out of her own house. Being at Kelley’s for the weekend wasn’t a bad thing one bit as it meant special times with Wyatt and Kennedy.

 

Chapter 55: Down The Road

At the present time, the Atlanta weekend seemed like it had happened forever ago. But in reality, it was only a month ago.

For a month and a half, Angelica had gone through going in each week, getting the dosage and returning back home. She spent days at home, doing what she could, and weekends at the Earnhardt-Elledge household. Some weekends it was a welcome gift as it meant special time with Kennedy and Wyatt. Wyatt was like a breath of air. Though other times, it felt more tiring than anything.

It was certainly taking its toll on her as her energy level was down, fatigue setting in. she could spend five or six hours awake, but other times, she would sleep. It wasn’t to wash it all away, but because she couldn’t keep her eyes open any longer. That one day a week was eating up every bit of energy that she had.

As she lies there, thinking everything over from what she’s been through to how she was feeling, she couldn’t think that it’d be worth nothing if she was told bad news that day.

“Can you please eat something?” Tony asks as they sit in a hospital room waiting. On top of feeling tired, her appetite had shrunken big time over the past couple of weeks. Instead of eating three meals, she went down to two and now at most a meal a day. Breakfast may be a piece of toast while dinner, you’d be lucky to get her to eat a piece of toast. Conversations with the doctors led to learning that it is just part of it and to not fuss. As long as she was getting something, continuing to drink and had some vitamins in her system, they weren’t overly concerned. However, they’d keep a watch on it if it became worst and insert a feeding tube if necessary. “You haven’t eaten anything today!”

“I’m not hungry,” she replies as she looks over at Tony. She felt if she put anything in her stomach that it would just come back up. Worry shot through her. Today was a big day. They had done scans earlier that morning to see how she was doing. Today they’d find out whether the treatment had been working or whether this had been all done for no reason at all. As the thought crossed her mind not once, not twice, but multiple times, it had her twisting and turning in worry.

“Just relax Tony…please…” Kyle begged as he sat beside her, holding her in his arms. Even though she had been tired, really tired the night before, she hadn’t slept at all. She kept waking up every 20 to 30 minutes wondering how the day would go. She had asked Kyle what seemed a million questions and thought of every type of reaction they could get that day. He kept assuring her it’d work out and that she needed sleep for strength.

“She needs to eat something though,” Tony reminds Kyle as Kyle looks over at Tony.

“We’ll worry about it after the doctor comes back,” Dale tells them both, as he leans against the wall thinking. Seeing his baby girl go through this was like torture to him. He had asked himself many times why this was happening. What did she do to deserve this? Why couldn’t it be over soon enough? He could only hope that they were told good news when the doctor returned. He couldn’t tell them bad news. That just wouldn’t be fair. “Let’s just focus on that right now.” Tony then stands up and walks over to where Dale is standing, looking into the younger male’s eyes. He could see the tiredness written in Dale’s eyes from the lack of sleep that he had. He had also not slept, worried about his daughter himself. If it was up to Tony, he wished that he could have everything over that minute of the day.

“Are you okay?” Dale then looks back at Angelica before returning his eyes back out the window.

“I’m not the one lying there am I?” Tony then rubs Dale’s back as he takes a deep breath.

“You need to look out for yourself as well.” Dale takes a deep breath as he knows Tony is right. But how could he sleep and be calm with this going on? The only good thing was that life on track was going well as he had been clicking off solid runs.

“I’m fine, Tony. Just leave her be about the food issue for now and let’s just get through today.” Tony shakes his head understanding. He then goes to walk away, knowing Dale is in his own world, though is surprised when he feels fingers grab his hand. “Thank you.”

“You don’t need to say thank you.” Dale then looks back at Tony.

“Yes, I do. Thank you for being here with me during this time.”

“I love her a lot as well so you don’t have to thank me.”

“Oh will you just accept the thank you Tony?” Angelica questions, overhearing their conversation. In her thoughts, she wanted to thank Tony as well. She wanted to thank Tony for being there for her. She wanted to thank Tony for taking care of her dad. There was no way that she could erase her teenage years from her mind and it was Tony had that made the pain that she saw then disappear. “Because I damn well want to say thank you to you as well.”

“It’s not a duty – it’s because of love,” Tony tells her as she smiles.

“But still, you deserve it for what you’ve done for us, for Dale, for Lindsay,” Kyle adds. “You’ve been their rock, you’ve helped them through tough times and you saved them all. A hero deserves to be thanked. So thank you.”

“Do you finally accept it?” Lindsay asks and Tony shakes his head yes.

“Where is that damn doctor?”

“He’s taking longer than I thought he would,” Dale comments as he looks towards the doorway, hoping the doctor would magically walk through the doors.

“He probably wants to double check it first,” Kyle suggests as Angelica focuses her eyes back down on the bed.

“That could be a good thing….or a bad thing…” She muses out loud. As if their question had been answered, all the eyes looked up in the room when they heard footsteps and watched the doctor return to the room, scans in hand. “Moment of truth.”

“I have the results from the scans for you,” the doctor starts as he looks at the faces in the room, and then focuses on Angelica.

“Then tell me what they are. I’ve been waiting long enough. Has all this pain and suffering been worth 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.

Flight 88 – Chapters 11 Thru 15

Chapter 11: Aftermath

I want to apologize again for the poor spot of ending – but as I said, I wanted to keep this separate. Now everybody breathes……and reads….and is happy 🙂 Also, the Mariela-Marie issue -> Give me a couple chaps and we’ll get to her. We’re not done with Mariela yet.

“Kelley!!” Kelley’s husband L.W. yells as he grabs her before she reaches the airplane.

“Where are they?” She screams as she tries to escape from L.W.’s arms.

“Calm down!” He yells. “Everything will be fine. I’m sure they’re all okay. Let the proper authorities handle it.” He then keeps her held back as she slowly calms down.

“Please be okay….please be…..Steve!” L.W. then looks around her as a small smile forms on his face as he sees Steve with Alyssa in his arms. They both make their way over. “Is she okay?” She then takes Alyssa from Steve’s arms. She immediately feels the child’s neck and she feels a pulse as she lets out a sigh. “Where’s Dale?” Steve shrugs his shoulders not sure as he sits down. “What do you mean you don’t know? Where is he?”

“I don’t know where he ended up,” Steve answers as he grabs the back of his right leg and puts pressure on it. “I was downstairs when it went off still trying to get her out of there. Luckily, I was able to get us both down and out of the way of debris and everything…..well, except for my leg.”

“Eeeek!” L.W. comments out as he notices the cut on the back of Steve’s leg as the medics make their way over. “I’m sure he’s fine, Kelley. Stay calm.”

“L.W. is right as he probably is making his way out of there now.”

“Like that’s assuring at all,” Kelley comments as she hands Alyssa over to the medics.

“Listen – Steve is alright besides the cut and Alyssa is probably still knocked out courtesy of the drugs,” L.W. tries to reason with her. “I’m sure your brother is fine.”

“L.W. is right and getting all worked up isn’t going to help,” Steve adds as Kelley rolls her eyes.

“Just relax. Believe.” Steve then looks back over at the plane, asking himself the same question that Kelley wants the answer to – where was he.

“He told me that he’d be fine and make his way out. I know he convinced some plan with the devil so let’s hope it worked. In the meantime, don’t go crazy. They’re probably already mad about my stunt.”

“They didn’t even realize you snuck around them,” Kelley comments as Steve looks at her surprised.

“I have Ninja skills?” Steve tries to make light of the situation. “Sweet!”

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

Dale laid there, pain filling every inch of him as he looked around. There was no denying a bomb had gone off with the debris scattered every inch of the plane. He had noticed the fire that started after it went off and looking back down the plane, he saw it. He was glad that he sat where he sat rather than there.

Though that didn’t concern him at that moment. The only question that filled his mind was whether Steve and Alyssa made it off before all heck broke loose.

“Ah shit!” He yells as he goes to move, but feels a sharp pain shoot up his back. He then lies back against the wall that somewhat sill stood, knowing that he wasn’t going to make it anywhere in the near future.

He then hears a bunch of scattered voices and footsteps around the area, knowing that it’s probably the rescue workers. At least they had some hope that he was there and could probably help him out of his position. He watches as a firemen moves a couple pieces of debris around as he bites his own tongue due to the pain.

“Hello?” He yells out loud hoping the rescue worker hears him. “Anybody? Help! Someone?” He takes a deep breath as he knows that the only way out of this mess now was yelling and hopefully catching someone’s attention.

“Dale?” He hears as he looks towards the rescue worker that has made his way over.

“That’d be me.” The worker then stands up and begins to wave a flag as if to signal the location.

“Glad you’re alive, man. We wer-”

“Just tell me where my daughter and Steve are, please.” The firemen looks back at Dale with a smile.

“They both are okay and being attended to by the medical staff already.” Dale lets out a sigh. That eased every worry that filled his mind. He didn’t know how he’d ever repay Steve for the help that he had given him. “How are you feeling?”

“Really sore. Back and shoulder pain. It knocked me back against the wall.”

“You’re lucky, man. Don’t worry – help is on the way. We’ll have you feeling better in no time.

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

“So he’s going to be okay?” Kelley asks the officer once again and the officer shakes his head.

“He says that his shoulders and back hurt, but he is alive and should be fine. We’re going to transfer him to the local hospital, as well as Ms. Earnhardt and Mr. LeTarte.”

“Ms. Earnh-” L.W. starts as Kelley looks over.

“Alyssa,” she cuts him off as he shakes his head. “Thank you for your update.”

“You’re welcome ma’am,” the officer replies. “If you want, I can give you and your husband a ride over.”

“That’d be appreciated,” L.W. states before they follow the officer across the airport to his car. “You focus on your brother and niece. I’ll focus on calling your mom, Rick and everybody.”

“I don’t know what I’d say to mom anyway,” Kelley comments.

 

Chapter 12: Hospital

“Based on the x-rays, it’s been determined that the pain you’re experiencing is a result of breaking your shoulder,” the doctor reveals as he looks over the results. “You’re looking at a four-six week recovery period as it’s not that bad of a break. Beyond that, there looks to be a series of bruises and pulled muscles down your back as a result of the impact.” Dale simply shakes his head, accepting, not saying much. He wasn’t as concerned with himself and the pain, but more about his daughter.

“How about Alyssa?” Kelley questions as the doctor switches files. Kelley then looks over at the bed adjacent to Dale’s and sees the little girl lying there, still passed out.

“Is she going to be okay?” Dale asks barely audible and the doctor looks over shaking his head yes.

“As you knew prior, she was heavily drugged on the plane,” the doctor states. “We’ve completely pumped her stomach to remove every ounce out of her system. Now with that and based on test results, she should be waking up within the next 48 hours. She may be a little sick for the next couple of days, but she’ll be fine.” Dale lets out a sigh, simply thankful. “Is there anything else that I can help you with?” Dale shakes his head no. “Okay. The pain killers are set to go through your system every four hours courtesy of the IV. We’re going to keep you overnight per precautionary measures.”

“Understood,” Dale says as he looks over at Alyssa. “I wasn’t planning on leaving here anytime soon.”

“If you need anything, don’t hesitate to contact me.” The doctor then leaves the room as Dale keeps his eyes on Alyssa.

“Mariela kept saying that I was just randomly chosen to be the one for her little stupid plan. It doesn’t seem fair – especially to Alyssa. She doesn’t deserve this after what happened to her mom. How do you explain all of this to a three-year-old?”

Kelley looks up from her spots and simply shrugs her shoulders not sure herself. She wasn’t even ready to offer an explanation and wished that she’d let the trigger go on the gun earlier that day.

They then watch Steve make his way into the room with his wife Tricia. After phone calls were made, Rick had arranged for everyone important to fly up to New Jersey. Kelley takes a glance at his leg where she had noticed the gash earlier from the piece of debris.

“Stitches and tetanus shot so that way they make sure I don’t get sick,” Steve answers before she can ask as Tricia keeps an arm wrapped around her husband.

“He was more worried about the needle than the stiches,” she comments as Dale laughs.

“Aww what wrong – little Stevie scared of pointy objects?” Dale teases as Steve sticks his tongue out.

“Don’t you know they hurt?” Steve questions as he looks over at Alyssa. “Is she going to be okay?” Kelley shakes her head yes.

“Doctor says that she should wake up in the next 48 hours,” Kelley answers.

“I don’t know what I’d do in the same situation,” Tricia comments.

“You do what you got to do and hope that it pans out. As her aunt, I don’t know how much I can thank you for risking your own life to save that little girl.” Dale shakes his head in agreement.

“I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat,” Steve states.

“Well he was told to take it easy so we’re going to go relax and find out where Rick and Linda ran off with my kids,” Tricia announces. “Hope you both feel better soon.”

“And Dale, whatever is going through your mind, it’ll work out.” Dale shakes his head as he lays back. There was no questioning all of the emotions that were going through his head at that current moment with Marie’s death to what happened on the plane and Alyssa. How was one person supposed to put all that together?

“Thanks,” Dale says. “And I owe you one big time. Like Kelley said, I can’t thank you enough.”

“Friends – it’s what we do for each other,” Steve replies. They all then trade goodbyes before Steve and Tricia head off.

“Are you okay?” Kelley asks as she looks over at Dale and Dale shakes his head yes. “If you need to talk, I’m here.” She then looks over at Alyssa. “And don’t worry – your baby girl will be okay.”

“I know,” Dale says quietly. “I just….it hurts a lot. I don’t know what to think right now. There’s too much going on my mind. I’ve got too many questions and too many things to figure out.”

“Like I said, I’m here and it’ll work out. I know it hurts. I know how much you loved Marie and I can’t explain it either. But no matter what, it’ll work out, Dale.”

She then looks over and sees his eyes closed as he’s fallen asleep. No doubt exhaustion – physically and mentally – has taken over. She then takes a chair and sits in it, reserving her spot between her brother and her niece. She wasn’t leaving anytime soon.

 

Chapter 13: “Daddy”

Kelley sat there reading a magazine when she heard a little noise from her right. She looks over at the three-year-old and a small smile forms on her face as she sees sparkling blue eyes staring right back at her.

“Hey sweetie,” Kelley says quietly as she sets her magazine down and goes over to Alyssa. “It’s going to be okay, Alyssa.”

“Anutie Kelley….” Alyssa says as she reaches for Kelley’s hand.

“That’s right – I’m here for you.” Alyssa grabs Kelley’s hand firmly as she looks around, confusion setting in. “I know you feel lost but it’s okay. You’re at the hospital. You may feel sick, but you will be better soon.” Alyssa looks at her aunt in the eyes as she turns to the hand that has the IV in it. Alyssa reaches for it with her other hand when Kelley takes hold of it. “Don’t pull that out; you need to leave it in. It is helping you feel better.” Alyssa leaves it alone as she looks back to her aunt.

“Mariela gone?” Kelley shakes her head yes. “She made me sick. She made me drink ucky. Me no like it.”

“That was not nice of her to make you drink that. But you don’t need to worry as auntie told her that she was bad and is going to make you feel better.”

“Where Daddy?” Kelley moves back a bit and points to the bed beside her.

“Daddy is sleeping.” Kelley then closes her eyes, quickly debating the best way to tell Alyssa about what happened. “Daddy hurt himself as he fell and hit his back.” Alyssa makes a sad face as she continues to eye her daddy.

“I want daddy.” A small tear then creeps down her face as Kelley thinks it over. “Auntie, I want daddy!”

“Maybe when daddy wakes up. We have to ask the doctor if it’s okay.” Alyssa lies back as a couple more tears roll down her cheeks, followed by a frustrated sigh ass he crosses her arms. “Alyssa, what were we told about attitude?” Alyssa simply sticks her tongue out.

“Auntie not being nice.”

“Auntie is just following doctor’s orders.”

“Doctor no nice then. I want my daddy now!” A couple more tears then slide down her cheeks as the doctor walks in the room.

“I just came to check on these two and I see someone is awake….” The doctor starts as Alyssa looks over at the doctor, anger stuck there.

“She just woke up not that long ago,” Kelley explains. “She’s upset right now because I won’t let her cuddle her daddy. I told her that it was your orders so I’m sorry if she has a bit of an attitude.” The doctor shakes his head understanding.

“You no nice doctor,” Alyssa states as the doctor walks over.

“Alyss-”

“It’s fine,” the doctor stops her before turning to Alyssa. “How about we make a deal, okay? You be nice to me, answer my questions and leave that tube alone and maybe I can let you see daddy.” Alyssa’s eyes light up immediately as she shakes her head in agreement. “Okay. Do you feel sick?” Alyssa shakes her head yes. “Feel like you’re going to go bleh all over?” Alyssa shakes her head yes.

“I no feel good,” Alyssa tells the doctor. “Auntie say she make me better.” The doctor shakes his head as he looks back at Kelley.

“Well auntie is right as you will feel better soon. You just need to listen to me, auntie and daddy.” Alyssa smiles.

“I do that.”

“That’s a good girl. Can you stick your tongue out?” Alyssa then sticks her tongue out. “And how about we open our mouth real wide?” Alyssa then looks at him and shakes her head no. “Why not? I promise not to hurt you.” Alyssa then agrees as the doctor shines a light down her throat. “Looks better than earlier.”

“I no sicky soon?” The doctor shakes his head no.

“You should be better soon.” The doctor then makes a note on her chart. “Now, do you have to go bathroom?” She shakes her head no.

“No potty.”

“Okay. Can you make sure you tell auntie Kelley when you have to go?” Alyssa shakes her head yes.

“I tell auntie!”

“That’s a good girl.” He then makes another note as Alyssa keeps her eyes on him.

“I go see Daddy?” The doctor shakes his head yes as he helps her stand up.

“Should we wait till he wakes up maybe?” Kelley questions as Alyssa makes a face at her.

“Perhaps, or perhaps she could lay and cuddle with him as she’ll probably fall back asleep soon,” the doctor answers.

“I’m sure he won’t mind waking up to her cute face. Now you have to be careful, okay?” Alyssa shakes her head yes as Kelley helps her up beside him. She carefully crawls up the bed before finding a comfy spot beside him and lying down, laying her head on his chest.

“Given what happened to her, that’s probably the best thing to help her feel better both physically and mentally,” the doctor whispers as Kelley watches them. “Her father is the one person that she can find comfort in and she needs that with what she’s gone through the past six hours.” Kelley shakes her head in agreement.

“Ssssh auntie – daddy sleeping,” Alyssa says as Kelley smiles.

“I’ll come back after to check on them.” The doctor then leaves the room as Kelley sits back in her seat.

She looks over at them and watches as Alyssa’s eyes slowly close and she falls back asleep. She notices Dale wake up slightly, as a small smile forms on his face.

“I love you sweetheart,” he whispers before kissing her forehead.

“Love you daddy,” she whispers back as she sits up and kisses his cheek. She then cuddles back up with him and Kelley smiles as she watches the pair of them fall back asleep together.

 

Chapter 14: “Daddy” Continued

After a good hour nap, Dale opens his eyes, looking down at Alyssa as he keeps his arm firmly wrapped around her.

“Hey,” Steve says, causing him to look over surprised.

“Hey,” he replies as he lets out a long sigh.

“Sore?” Dale shakes his head yes.

“My back is just killing me.”

“Well, they said there was a lot of bruises and muscles pulled to go with that shoulder. It’s part of the deal.”

“Yeah….” Dale looks back at Alyssa before returning his eyes to Steve. “Where’s Kel?”

“I sent her and your mom to get some food in them and some rest.” Dale shakes his head understanding.

“Thank you….thank you…thank you for saving Alyssa.” Dale sniffs in a little tear. “I don’t what I’d do if something happened.”

“Let’s not think about that, man. Be glad that she’s here with you. Be glad that she’ll be okay.” Steve gets up and gives Dale a small hug, careful not to disturb Alyssa, before handing him a Kleenex and sitting back down. “You can’t let that thought cross your mind. Just focus on getting her better and focus on your emotions and Marie.” Dale shakes his head as he thinks it over.

“I can’t sta-”

“Just don’t go there. It’ll be alright. Relax and chill.” Dale wipes the tears away as he looks over at Steve.

“How do you know it’ll be alright when I’ve lost the love of my life?”

“Trust me. We’ll work our way through it.”

Behind the scenes, Steve hadn’t escaped earlier to find Rick and the kids. He had some of his thought to process as he couldn’t believe that Mariela would do something and this all would happen in a spur of events without there being a reason. There had to be something beyond each thing that happened as many clues lied along the way. Steve hadn’t acted upon these suspicions yet, as he knew the focus had to be on Alyssa and Dale healing right now.

“Daddy…” Alyssa lets out as she opens her eyes.

“I’ve got you baby girl,” Dale assures her as he gives her a kiss on the top of her head.

“Hey Alyssa,” Steve says with a smile on his face. When he carried her out originally, he didn’t know whether she’d truly make it or not based on how she looked.

“Hi Uncle Stevie,” Alyssa replies as she stays tucked close to Dale. “Daddy….Mariela no nice. I no like ucky uice.”

“I know that she wasn’t nice and I’m sorry you had to deal with her,” Dale starts. “But don’t worry – daddy told the police men and the police arrested her. So now she’ll be in the dungeon with the big bad wolf and the evil witch.” Steve smiles as he remembers the stories that Dale would tell her on the plane on the way home, with each bad person ending up in the dungeon.

“Maybe the wolf will eat her,” Steve suggests as Alyssa smiles wide.

“Yay wolfy!” Alyssa cheers as Dale laughs.

“That’d be the perfect revenge for her,” Dale adds. “Alyssa, do you want to know who found you and brought you to daddy?” Alyssa looks at him confused.

“Auntie Kelley?” Dale shakes his head no.

“I did,” Steve states proud as she looks over at Steve proud.

“Steve is right as he went and found you and carried you out,” Dale states as Alyssa’s smile widens. “Isn’t he awesome?” Alyssa shakes her head yes.

“Cooler than Winnie the Pooh?” Alyssa shakes her head yes. “Cooler than Toopy and Binoo?” Alyssa shakes her head yes. “Awesome!”

“You a hero!” Alyssa lets out as she sits up and reaches for Steve. “Huggie?”

“Of course sweetheart,” Steve replies as he gets up off his seat again and walks over and hugs her.

“Awww,” Dale comments. “I think we should both thank Steve.”

“Hank you Uncle Stevie!” Alyssa yells out before lying back down with Dale.

“So you plan on staying here the whole time?” Dale questions and Alyssa shakes her head yes. “You’re not leaving daddy’s side?” Alyssa shakes her head no. “That’s fine. I like having you here.”

“I stay wiff daddy ever.”

“Really?” Alyssa shakes her head yes.

“What about sleepovers with me and Tricia?” Steve offers and Alyssa shakes her head no.

“I stay wiff daddy!” She repeats as Steve looks on surprised.

“That’s fine sweetheart,” Dale assures her. “Why do you want to stay with daddy?”

“I scared. I no want lose you.”

“I’ll never run far away from you – ever. I promise, okay?” Alyssa shakes her head yes. “Okay. I love you.”

“Love you.” She then lies back down next to him as Steve sits back in his seat.

“I think you two are the most adorable daughter-father combination in the garage,” Steve states as Dale smiles.

“Sssh I sleepy!” Alyssa announces as Steve looks at her surprised.

“Sorry.”

“Doctor said she wouldn’t feel good for a couple days and be sleepy,” Dale states as Steve shakes his head understanding.

“Just be glad and thankful that it worked out,” Steve reminds him as Dale shakes his head agreeing. There was no doubt in his mind about that.

 

Chapter 15: Home Sweet Home

After spending 24 hours on hospital watch, both Dale and Alyssa were allowed to leave and head home. Alyssa was given instructions to follow in regards to strict bed rest so once they got home, she had quickly joined Dale in his room.

With his shoulder still being sore from being broken, he was stuck on bed rest himself for a couple days – or else Kelley threatened that she’d kick his ass completely. Once things stated to heal, then he could start getting back to the daily grind that life offered. Till then, it was probably going to be daddy-daughter bed time.

Emotions mixed through his mind, Dale picked up a scrapbook that Marie had started to put together of photos and flipped through it. His mind seemed to be in a daze, not believing the words that he was told by the officer. How could she be gone just like that? It didn’t seem fair. It felt like they were starting to put the pieces together in having their daughter together and talking about plans of expanding the family in the future.

He glanced over at Alyssa and saw how she had cuddled up once again with her teddy bear and simply just shook his head in disbelief. Just the other day, he and Marie were raising this beautiful daughter together and talking about plans that they had. However, now he was the single father that was going to have to raise her by himself. He didn’t know whether he could handle the duties of explaining where mommy went and teaching her how to be the wonderful lady that she’d eventually grow into.

He lets out a sigh as he turns back to the scrapbook, flipping the pages as he looks through to see what the book has to offer. Marie had put some of Dale’s childhood photos in, before adding some of her own. They were going to add photos of Alyssa and then give it to Alyssa when she got older. As he looks at one of the pages, he notices immediately a brown-haired girl that looks familiar to him – way too familiar to him.

“Steve!!” Dale yells, which shocks the crap out of his crew chief whom comes rushing up the stairs thinking something is wrong.

“What’s wrong?” Steve questions as Dale looks up from the scrapbook.

“Nothing serious.” Steve lets out a sigh of relief as he sits on the end of the bed. “I just wanted to show you something.”

“What’s that?” Steve takes the scrapbook from Dale’s hands and looks over the images, smiling. “Alyssa certainly has her smile.”

“We always said that she had her mommy’s smile and hair, but yet her daddy’s eyes. Take a look at the girl that is standing with Marie, though.”

“Why?”

“Just do it. There’s something odd about it.”

“Okay….” Steve then does as instructed, though sees nothing that catches him off-guard. Perhaps the girl beside her looked to be a sister, perhaps younger. But beyond that, nothing seemed to catch the crew chief’s attention. “Why does it seem odd?” Steve then hands Dale back the scrapbook as Dale looks at the photo again. “Did you know that she had a sister?” Dale shakes his head no.

“She never spoke of having a sister at all. It’s just……Every time I look at her, she reminds me of someone.”

“Maybe Alyssa?” Dale shrugs his shoulders and he lets out a sigh.

“Maybe, or maybe my mind is just wore out right now.”

“Relax. It’s normal. You’re stressed, you have a lot of emotional stuff going on with what happened and you’re sore. Take it easy these couple of days. Don’t let things worry you.”

“I guess…” Dale then flips to the next page of the scrapbook, that image still implanted in his mind. “Have you heard any details about the funeral?” Steve shakes his head no as that was a question that he wanted to ask.

“I haven’t heard anything from anybody.”

“That’s weird. Her mom was supposed to be handling it per the officer.”

“Do you want me to give her a call later?” Dale shakes his head yes, knowing that he probably couldn’t handle talking to Marie’s mom right now with what was crossing his mind. “I can handle that.”

“Thanks.”

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

A Haunting Past – Chapters 16 Thru 20

Chapter 16: Port Harry Police

“And here we are…” Tony comments as they both walk up to the police station. They had landed in New York not long ago, got a rental car and made their way to Port Harry to visit the police station. Tony had promised Kelley to keep it secret for now from Lindsay as he wasn’t sure of what her reaction would be.

“Well, what are we waiting for?” Kelley questions as she walks inside followed by Tony. They then go up to the window, catching the attention of the clerk.

“May I help you?” The clerk asks as Tony smiles.

“We’re here to talk to you about an ongoing investigation,” Tony states, wondering how this will go.

“Do you know the file number?” Tony and Kelley both shake their heads no. “Do you know who the investigation surrounds?”

“Duh! It’s a missing person’s case. Name would be Dale Earnhardt Jr.” The female then looks up them both and crosses her arms.

“Another reporter seeping investigation, huh? I’m going to have to turn you to our public relations department.”

“I’m his sister so I suggest you damn well speak up lady,” Kelley demands, catching Tony by surprise. Kelley then pulls her wallet out, sliding the ID under the small window as she crosses her arms. “Now where’s my information?” The lady slides the wallet back.

“Looking at the file, our officers haven’t found any leads yet beyond the note that a Lindsay Earnhardt turned in,” the clerk states as Kelley rolls her eyes.

“You have the name of the person who kidnapped him – Johnathan Andrews. Have you thought to investigate places that he is known to be at, as well as speak to his family? I also heard that you spoke to Lindsay’s family but turned up nothing.”

“Ma’am, we are doing what we can and I’m sorry it is not going better.” Kelley rolls her eyes.

“You’re doing all you can but when he makes a simple phone call to his wife, you don’t have a trace of it?”

“There’s also been a text message sent out since and we haven’t heard of trace work being done on that,” Tony adds as he crosses his arms. “Listen, I suggest you start honestly doing your job or we’re reporting your police station. The service that you’ve provided so far is way beyond any satisfaction standards. Make sure your trace thing works or else you will tick me right off and that won’t be pretty. You get that working and I’m sure I can make the rest of this work together.”

“I can assure you that it’s working now,” the clerk tells him with confidence. “What is your plan, by the way, Mr. Stewart? I think you have any ideas that you should share them with the investigators.”

“That won’t be necessary till you show us a reason to trust your asses,” Kelley states as she pulls on Tony’s sleeve as a sign to leave and they both head out of the station together. “I got a hold of Detective Burns and he said that he has his own trace set on Dale’s phone. As soon as something pops up, he’ll text me the location and ideas of what to do next. He knows people around here so he is going to try and work with them rather than the actual police force due to Lindsay’s words.” Tony shakes his head understanding as they both get back in the rental car. “So what’s your plan?”

“Simple – find a way to make that bastard use the phone for another call,” Tony states as he pulls out of the parking lot and heads down the road. “I have my ways and I’m going to do whatever it takes to get him back. In the meantime, what do you want to do?”

“Let’s go grab something to eat and then we’ll get a hold of Lindsay later.”

“Sounds good.” Tony then heads into the town, looking for a spot to stop and eat.

Chapter 17: Lauren Andrews

Lindsay knocks on the door, ready to get her hands on Michael’s mother Lauren. She had tried other avenues without success, leaving only Lauren as an option.

She watches the door open as the female before her looks at her confused, crossing her arms.

“What are you doing here?” Lauren demands as Lindsay takes a deep breath.

“I need to know where your son is,” Lindsay states as she grips her hand firmly around the object in her pocket. “I want to know where Johnathan is. I know he has my husband so where is he?” Lauren shrugs her shoulders. “You were always close with your boys so speak up lady.”

“I have no clue where Johnathan is. Even if I did, why should I help you after what you did to William?” Lindsay takes a deep breath as she knew it was never easy to face the mother of the person she shot.

“I know you’re upset about what I did to William, but I had to do that. How would you feel if someone raped you?”

“Bitch, that’s what you deserved for messing with my family and my boys. You should’ve took the punishment like a good little girl. If you don’t behave and follow rules, you get punished. Everybody knows that. I’m surprised that you’d come and stand on my porch after that stunt.” Lindsay shakes her head as she knows she can’t let Lauren’s words mess with her plan.

“I didn’t want to as you’re the last person that I wanted to see, but I have to do this. I have to get my husband back. None of this was his fault and he doesn’t deserve to be involved.”

“I lost my son so now it’s fai-”

“Your son deserved what I did to him!” Lindsay then looks away, taking a deep breath to calm herself down as she feels her hand gripping the gun in her pocket even more. There was a reason why she ran away.

“I suggest you walk your ass off of my porch before I do something about you.” Lauren then backs up, slamming the door shut as she walks through her house. She goes down the stairs opening the door to the dungeon as she sees her son standing there. “Someone was just by. Looks like Leighanne is hot on the trail for the location of cutie pie over there. Don’t worry – I didn’t say a thing.” Johnathan smiles as he hugs his mother.

“I knew I could trust you,” he comments as he looks over at Dale.

“Why didn’t you tell her where I was and let her come down here?” Dale questions, confused. “I thought you wanted to lead her here. What is really going on?” Johnathan smiles as he walks over, kneeling before Dale.

“She’ll find you soon enough. I just want her to feel some of the pain that I felt when she did what she did.”

“It’s time she learns the pain that both Johnathan and I went through,” Lauren adds before leaving the room.

“William deserved what he got!” Dale yells, catching Johnathan off-guard. “She didn’t deserve to be raped!”

“Is that what you truly believe?” Johnathan questions as Dale keeps his eyes on the man before him. “I thought you would be compliant with me. Guess I underestimated that.”

“I’m your bate to lure her in – you won’t kill me. We discovered that already.” Johnathan laughs as he reaches for the belt on his jeans, ripping it off.

“You’re right; I won’t kill you. That doesn’t mean that I can’t make your life a living hell, now does it?” The smile faded on Dale’s face as Johnathan lifted the belt up. Johnathan then brought it back down as fastly as he could, letting it brush against Dale’s back as a scream escaped his lips.

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

“Son of a bitch!” Tony says as he and Kelley in a local diner eating, causing Kelley to look up.

“What?” She asks as she grabs the phone from Tony. She sees the video that is attached in the text message, cringing as she watches it, shaking her head in disgust. She then hands the phone back to Tony as she pushes her plate away. “Suddenly, I’m not hungry. You better start working on that plan of yours.” Tony shakes his head as he dials the number on the phone. He gets no answer, bringing disappointment to his face.

“Hey this is just Tony calling,” Tony starts once he hears the beep on the voice mail. “I just wanted to call ya and see if you had your phone. I miss you. Kel misses you. Everyone misses you. Hang in there as we’re going to find you. I just wish you could’ve answered so we could’ve helped you. To the asshole that has you – Johnathan is the name, right? Perhaps we could work in a special trade with you.” Tony then hangs up and places the phone back on the table as he sits back.

“Seriously?” Kelley questions. “You think that’s going to work?” Tony shakes his head yes.

“If he thinks we’ll give him what he wants, he’ll be ready to hand him over in a heartbeat.” Kelley thinks it over as perhaps Tony was on to something. “Oh shit…” Kelley looks at him confused as she looks back over her shoulder, surprised to see Lindsay. “Out of all the places in town, we could’ve chosen….” They then watch as Lindsay heads back to their table, crossing her arms as she reaches them.

“What the hell are you doing here?” She asks as she looks towards Tony. “I thought I told you that I had this handled. You should be home taking care of Chelsea.” She then looks towards Kelley. “And you have your kids plus your mother to worry about. What part of I got this don’t you people understand?”

“We couldn’t sit around and do nothing,” Kelley answers, repeating Lindsay’s words from before she left.

“Don’t those words sound familiar?” Tony adds as Lindsay rolls her eyes. “Sit down so we can catch each other up on details.”

“You may be interested in what we’ve discovered so far ourselves.”

“Fine,” Lindsay gives in as she sits beside Tony in the booth.

Chapter 18: Diner Discussion

Both sides tell each other what they have discovered so far as finally Lindsay begins to warm up on the idea that maybe having Kelley and Tony there was a good thing.

“Has he called you back yet?” Lindsay asks Tony and Tony shakes his head no. “Hmmm….”

“Perhaps Tony is not enough to cause a response from him,” Kelley thinks out loud as she looks over at Lindsay. “It’s not Tony that he wants after all. Maybe you should give him a call. Ask him if you can check on Dale while you close in your sources.”

“That’s not a bad idea,” Tony adds. “You can ask to talk to Dale to check on him and tell him that you’re drawing closer on the location and can’t wait to kick his ass.”

“…which by the way, we’re both helping you on that because he has to answer to us now.” Kelley then then a sip of her drink as Lindsay sits back, thinking it over. “It’s worth a shot.”

“She’s right. What’s the worst that can happen?” Kelley shoots him a glare and Tony holds his hands up. “Okay….okay…..don’t go there. He won’t do that.”

“Perhaps it’s worth a shot,” Lindsay muses as she pulls out her phone. “Are you sure that the tracker is working?” Kelley shakes her head yes.

“Burns promised us it’d be on 24/7,” Tony informs her as he remembers the discussion they had at his office. “He said as soon as he gets a hit, he’ll notify us.”

“Once we have the location, we can move,” Kelley adds as Tony crosses his arms.

“Burns said he’d also get us some information on some people that we can trust in the area, rather than your shady police department. There’s a group of about five people that are working on taking down the department after some other interesting complaints. They can help in making sure that the arrest is secure and this is covered. All we gotta do is find out where Johnathan is keeping him.”

“Well then, I guess the phone call is worth a shot,” Lindsay comments as she goes into her numbers and hits dial. They then sit there waiting patiently for an answer….hearing it ring a couple times…..

“Hello?” They hear and Lindsay recognizes the voice immediately.

“Hello Johnathan,” she states as both Kelley and Tony listen in.

“Well hello Leighanne. I see you haven’t been able to find me yet. Lose your touch? Or have you given up?” Lindsay shakes her head as she sits back.

“Oh I haven’t lost my touch one bit. I’ve been by to see some people that you may know. I heard that Jenny contacted you after our nice discussion. She was great in helping me. Let’s just say I have a good idea where you are.” It was a total lie but it would have to do for the time being.

“Oh really? Then why aren’t you here?”

“I’m just biding my time and planning my attack right. Isn’t that what I’m supposed to do? I know that I can trust you to take good care of my husband. After all, it’s me who did the damage that you’re so upset about. Now let me ask this. How is my dear husband?”

“He’s doing just fine. He’s actually staring at me right now. You can’t talk to him, though. I can’t allow that. But I can promise you that he’s fine. Did you see my video earlier?” The group at the table all shiver as they think about the content.

“Oh I saw your video and let’s just say I wasn’t too pleased. It made my blood boil. You just wait till I get my paws on you buddy.”

“Oh don’t worry. I’m planning that you will. I just can’t wait to see you. It’s going to be sweet to return the favor. Hurry up finding me. Don’t want me to get bored.” She then hears the dial tone as she sets the phone down on the table in the center of them. “Well?”

“Did he send you an address?” Tony asks as he looks at Kelley. Kelley shakes her head yes as she hears her phone go off, showing the address to Lindsay.

“That can’t be it,” Lindsay states as she looks past them. “I was there earlier today. His mother lives there.”

“You sure about that?” Lindsay shakes her head yes.

“Were you inside the house?” A new voice chimes in as Lindsay looks up at Michael, shaking her head no. “Well then perhaps you don’t know the full story.”

“What do you mean?” Lindsay asks as Tony crosses his arms.

“Who are you?” Tony then questions as Michael holds out his hand.

“Michael Reynolds, Lindsay’s best friend from childhood,” Michael states as Tony shakes his hand.

“This is Tony Stewart, close friend of both Dale and I,” Lindsay starts. “And this is Kelley, Dale’s sister.” Michael shakes both their hands before sitting down. “Now, what were you saying?”

“Have you been inside that house in the past 10 years?” Lindsay shakes her head no.

“How about you just get to the point?” Tony suggests as Michael takes a deep breath.

“About 10 years ago, Lauren and Johnathan’s anger took them to a whole new level. There were furious with everyone for how their family was treated, espically about William’s death and a certain disappearing act. Trust me, they heard you got out of prison and searched for your ass. I’m surprised it took this long to find you. anyways, they swore to never be hurt like that again and promised to deliver that same pain and suffering to those who wanted to push it them. They took things to a whole new level. They built a torture chamber in their basement – chains and all. it has the ability to scare anybody out of their wits. They used it for the first time about eight years ago when they kidnapped and held little Johnny Williams for a total of 120 days – stripping him naked, slapping him around and raping it. He managed to get out with some careful wheelings and dealings by his parents, but it still doesn’t take back what he went through. If I have to take a bet, that’s where they have Dale. That’s where they want you to go. If you want to get him out, it’s going to take more than the normal duties of what you’d think. For that reason, let me come with you. If all four of us go, plus my sister, perhaps we can all get out of this in one piece.”

“Safety in numbers – I say let’s go now,” Kelley states as she stands up. “I want my brother back and I’m ready to do whatever it takes. Lead me to him.”

Chapter 19: The Rescue

They pull up to the house, climbing out of the pair of cars as Lindsay and Michael glance towards each other.

“We ready to go?” Kelley asks as Lindsay double checks the gun is loaded in her pocket.

“I’m ready if you’re ready,” Michael answers as he glances towards Lindsay.

“Ready,” she states as she leads the group up to the front door, knocking. She then knocks even harder, hoping for an answer, getting impatient.

“Why are we knocking when we can do this?” Tony asks as he takes a run at it, kicking his foot up and kicking the front door in with a shrug of the shoulders.

“That works for me,” Kelley comments as she follows Tony inside, followed by Lindsay, Michael and Michael’s sister Georgina.

“It’s awfully quiet on the main floor,” Georgina says as she looks around.

“What are you doing here?” They hear as they look towards the staircase and see Johnathan walk up the stairs.

“Where’s my brother asshole?” Kelley demands before kicking the man before her in the gut.

“I suggest you answer her before I use this,” Georgina then adds as she pulls her gun out, putting it to Jonathan’s head.

“Keep your eye on him,” Michael states as he motions for Tony, Kelley and Lindsay to follow him to the basement. “If he gives you any trouble, don’t hesitate.”

“You don’t need to tell me that.”

“In there….probably…” Tony suggests as he sees a big large stone door in front of him at the bottom of the stairs.

“No duh Sherlock!” Kelley snaps as a laugh escapes Johnathan’s lips.

“What are you laughing about?” Georgina questions as Tony hears both Kelley and Lindsay’s phones go off.

“Check the message,” Tony instructs as he looks for the best way in the room, considering the door is locked and needs a key to be opened. Kelley pulls her phone out, opening the text message as the face full of shock forms.

“When I get my hands on both of them, they’re dead,” she states as Tony glances back at her concerned.

“What’s wrong?”

“You don’t know want to know,” Lindsay comments as she heads back up the stairs.

“Kelley?” Tony questions as he looks towards Kelley.

“Lauren is…is….raping…” Kelley struggles to get out as Tony shakes his head in disbelief.

“Give me the damn key!!” They hear Lindsay yell as she grabs hold of Johnathan by the neck. “Where is the key?”

“Check his pockets!” Michael yells as Georgina keeps the gun firmly pointed at him.

“You’re lucky I haven’t pulled this trigger yet,” she comments as Kelley stands there, getting impatient.

“If it was up to me, they’d both be dead in a second,” Kelley says as she looks over at Tony.

“It was time for him to feel the pain that you went through….it was time to deliver the favor….I got impatient,” Johnathan lets out as Lindsay tightens her hold on his neck. “If I couldn’t repay it back to you, I knew that was close enough.”

“You son of a bitch!” Georgina yells as Lindsay pulls a key out of his back pocket and tosses it down to Tony.

“Let’s go,” Michael says as he moves back so Tony can unlock the door. Tony unlocks it and pushes it open as both he and Kelley run in followed by Michael.

“Stop it!!” Kelley yells as she runs up behind Lauren and pulls her back. She then pushes her back against the closest wall, using the restraints on the wall to chain her back.

Upstairs, Georgina found some rope and tied Johnathan up as Lindsay delivered a couple ‘stress relief’ punches. The girls then ran downstairs to see what the others were up to.

“Tony…” Dale lets out as Tony gets the last restraint undone and pulls him into a hug, wrapping both arms around him.

“I’ve got you and I’m not letting go,” Tony whispers as he keeps him held close.

“I…missed you….I love you…”

“Love you too babes.” Tony then gives him a small kiss as he continues to rub his back.

“You’re going to be okay,” Kelley adds as she gives him a light pat on the shoulder before pulling her phone out and calling her favorite detective. After a short discussion, he agreed to send someone he knew would do the correct job on arresting both Johnathan and Lauren.

“I’m sorry….” Lindsay lets out as Dale glances towards her. “It’s all my fault…” Lindsay then goes to leave the room.

“Leig….Lindsay!” Georgina yells as she runs after her.

“Lindsay!” Kelley yells also, hoping to get Lindsay’s attention. She then turns back to Dale and Tony. “Relax, it’ll work out. She’ll realize that things are going to be okay.”

“I’ve got him – you go find her,” Tony tells Kelley as Kelley looks at him unsure. “Go Kelley! I’ve got Dale. I’ll make sure everything is okay.” Kelley shakes her head as she heads off with Georgina.

“I’ll take you back to the diner and you can go to my apartment upstairs,” Michael tells Tony and Tony shakes his head.

Chapter 20: The Aftermath

This way,” Michael instructs as he leads Tony and Dale through the back door to the diner and up the stairs that late Friday night.

The detectives that were sent to deal with Lauren and Johnathan came over, doing the necessary work in arresting. Statements were given, evidence handed over and they were free to go. The detective informed them that they’d be notified when court dates and such were known.

Once the detectives finished, Michael held true to promise as he drove Tony and Dale back to his place in the upstairs part of the diner. Georgina and Kelley, meanwhile, followed Lindsay in hopes to talk to her.

“You can both either take the couch and use the bed in my room,” Michael tells them once they’re upstairs.

“Thank you,” Tony replies as he keeps his hand grasped firmly on Dale’s.

“You must hungry. I’ll go down and tell my father to make up some dinner. Anything in particular you want?”

“Just a bowl of soup,” Dale says as he sits on the couch. His stomach was still doing flipflops after the course of events. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” Michael replies as he looks towards Tony. “Anything?”

“Burger, I suppose,” Tony says and Michael shakes his head.

“Leave it to you to go with a burger,” Dale comments as Tony sits beside with him with a light laugh. “Do you have my phone?” Tony shakes his head yes as he hands the phone over. On the way, they had called everybody important to let them know that Dale was okay. They started off by calling his mom, which led to discussions with Kennedy and Wyatt. They then called Angelica and Kyle, Steve, Ron, Rick and Karsyn. Though with the list complete, Dale knew that he had to call his mom back as he wanted to talk to Chelsea. When he called earlier, she had been sleeping and he didn’t want to wake her up. Dale goes into his contacts and dials his mom’s number…..

“Hello?” He hears L.W. on the other end and smiles. L.W. had taken Kennedy and Wyatt over to his mom’s house earlier to keep his mom company and calm nerves across the board.

“Hey man,” Dale says. “Is Chels awake?”

“Yea, she just woke up about five minutes ago. Brenda told her the good news. She was so happy to hear it. Do you want to talk to her?”

“Please…” He hears silence at the other end, followed by a scream of Chelsea’s name to get her attention. In all of his time stuck, he had worried about Chelsea based on how she was when he got kidnapped.

“Daddy?” He hears a little voice on the other end and an immediate smile forms on his face.

“Hey baby girl,” Dale says as a small smile forms on his lips. “I heard Mamaw told you the exciting news. I can’t wait to see you. How are you?”

“I am okay daddy.”

“That’s good. I’m glad you’re okay. I was worried about you. I’m okay too. Tony has me now.”

“Yay! Is mommy and Kelley okay, too?” Dale takes a deep breath as he thinks over things about Lindsay. He was shocked when she ran off like she did and could only wonder what she was thinking. He just hoped that Georgina and Kelley gave her the right advice.

“Mommy is okay. Aunt Kelley is okay. Everybody is okay. We’ll be home soon and I can’t wait to see you. I want one of your big hugs. Are you going racing tomorrow night?”

“Maybe….I think so. I have to ask Mamaw. She said maybe.”

“Okay. Well, if you do go racing, I hope you win. I can’t wait to see you. I have to go sweetheart but I’ll talk to you late, okay? I love you.”

“Love you, too. Bye daddy.”

“Bye Chelsea.” Dale then hangs up the phone as he sits back on the couch, letting out a sigh. He was just glad that his baby girl was okay. He sets his phone down as he watches Tony grab it immediately. “Ton-”

“Now the detectives have the evidence off of the phone, I’m erasing it,” Tony tells him as he goes into the videos and hits delete. He then goes into the photos, deleting a series of them. “You don’t need a reminder of that.” Tony then sets the phone back on the table as he looks over at Dale. He could only wonder what was going on in Dale’s mind right now.

“Thanks…” Dale finally lets out as he grabs the phone off the table. He then goes on to nascar.com, seeing what the qualifying results were from earlier. He shakes his head in approval overall – hoping that Kyle, Angelica, Karsyn and Harrison had a good weekend. He wanted to be there, but he knew he was too sore at this point and to take it as is – focusing on next week at Las Vegas.

“Dale….talk to me…” Tony then places his hand on Dale’s knee as he looks into his eyes. Tony could tell that there was a lot on Dale’s mind and no doubt he was using the racing updates as a distraction. “What are you thinking about?”

“Nothing…” Tony rolls his eyes as he knows better than that when it comes to Dale. He then flashback to times before after deals with Jeff, before reaching the edge of Dale’s t-shirt as he remembers one of the videos. Tony goes to pull it up when Dale grabs his hand. “Tony….” Tony then looks into the eyes, seeing the pain written there. “Please….”

“I know your back is hurting. Johnathan sent a video to Angelica, Lindsay and I of the belt slaps.” Dale takes a deep breath.

“I’m fine.” Tony shakes his head no.

“Let me take it off so you can get the fabric off and give yourself some comfort, please.” Dale knew there was no way to deny Tony of his offer as Tony was right. It did hurt a lot.

“Fine.” Dale then lifts his arms up as Tony pulls the shirt off, cringing as he sees the marks on his lower back. “That does feel better – I’ll admit it.”

“Told you.” Tony then wraps an arm around Dale, carefully, and pulls him close. “Are you okay?” Dale slowly shakes his head yes as he pushes thoughts that would say otherwise to the back of his mind.

“I’ll be okay. I’m just sore.” A small tear escapes his eyes and Tony immediately notices it, wiping it away.

“Dale…”

“I just….I couldn’t believe she did that. I couldn’t believe she did that. When they both set me up there and she started, I couldn’t believe it. How could they?” Tony shakes his head not understanding himself as Dale buries his head in Tony’s chest as Tony rubs his upper back. “I hated it…”

“I know…..It’s going to be okay….” The pair then stayed that way till Michael returned back upstairs with the soup and burger.