Friday, November 9 – ISM Raceway
Sarina was standing by the 18 hauler, sipping on a bottle of water, trying to remember the rules of hydration. It was going to be a long day in the desert with both practices, qualifying, and the race all scheduled for one day. She just needed to pace herself accordingly, and do what she needed to do behind the wheel and everything would be set for Miami.
She then glances over towards her left, surprised to see Chase headed back her way. He had told her that he wanted to catch up with Alan and Josh before practice, but yet instead was coming back to her. What was on his mind?
“Would you like to start off your weekend with some good news?” He offers, as she looks back slightly intrigued. “Shelley was arrested trying to come into the garage area this morning.”
“Seriously?” She questions, earning a nod from Chase as he shows her e-mail. “Arrested on allegations and charges of conspiracy to assault, conspiracy of kidnapping, harassment, and conspiracy….of….sexual…” She then glances slowly up at Chase.
“You can say it.” He then takes a deep breath, thinking back to that day at Talladega. “Sexual assault, although I don’t believe that she had anything to do with what happened there personally.” Sarina hoped not as that’d be just another level of sick and disgusting in this mess. “So they told me that they’re going to try and question her as much as they can in hopes of getting her to reveal Alison’s locations, and any future plans. They’re also not publically announcing as they may use her as bait for Alison.”
“And they expect something like to work? I mean, have they not realized already they’re working with a criminal genius?” Chase then gives her a ‘seriously’ glance. “I know you’re going to tell me that she doesn’t deserve that much credit, that she’s just a little wired different in the head and been lucky. However, you do not escape being arrested twice by accident. You do not escape a mental hospital by accident. You do not go on the run for an entire year without being arrested by accident. Let’s face it, Chase – she’s a genius, an evil genius.”
“I know….” Sarina immediately noticed the change in his tone, reaching out for his hand.
“It’s no secret that you were scared of her before; I remember you telling me that. It’s no secret that she twisted your world so much that you couldn’t think straight – and that’s fine as the same would happen to anybody. You can talk to me about it if the feelings are there, again.” He then shakes his head no. “Yes, you ca-”
“I know I can trust you, but I promise those feelings aren’t there. Instead, I’m focused on doing whatever it takes for you, to take care of you and this baby.” She smiles, though makes sure to hold his hand back so it doesn’t reach while keeping her eyes on his. “Take care of yourself today, okay?”
“The same goes for you, too. You don’t need to always be my superman.” Chase knew that, but he also knew he couldn’t just let everything that happened go. He wasn’t about to let this cycle with Alison continue.
“I care about you. That’s why I can’t help but worr-”
“I’m a big girl, Chase. I can take care of myself. You just focus on the number goal one this weekend – winning. You’ve got a good car, a good crew behind you, and we both know that you have the talent to get the job done. Show the world.” He had to chuckle as her speech was right out of his playbook for her plenty of times.
“Do what you do best. I love you.” He then gives her a kiss, before heading back off into the garage as she lets out a sigh. While he’d constantly worry about her and the baby, she couldn’t help but do the same with his emotions.
The first of the two practices went smoothly, as Sarina was able to time in second quickest – right behind her teammate Harrison – and felt happy with the handling of the truck. The debrief had also gone quickly, with Rudy taking a focus on trying some stuff to see if they could be even faster during the second session.
“Something seems off….” He comments once they’re done, catching her by surprise. “Yeah, something is off..”
“I’m fin-” She starts, having grown used to people with their comments. It seemed everybody was worried about the pregnant lady in the garage.
“No, that’s a lie Sarina.” The conversation got the attention of the teammates who glanced over.
“We can all see it Sarina,” Todd offers, as Sarina feels her stomach do a flip-flop. Was it that obvious that she was pregnant?
“It’s like your demeanor changed as Chase walked away, and then returned to normal for practice, but has changed back again,” Harrison analyzes, as Sarina looks over surprised. Were her young teammates always watching her that intently?
“Ahhh I think our girl is missing her boo right now.” Sarina just rolls her eyes as Harrison chuckles to Todd’s comment. “Are you infected with an Elliott addiction? Do we need to call Chase so he can make you feel better?” She shakes her head no.
“It’s not that….” Rudy comments, earning a stern glance from Sarina as she was worried that he’d let the truth slip. While she knew she could trust her teammates, she didn’t need anybody else knowing the truth yet – till after next week that was. “What did Chase tell you earlier, anyway? It looked important.”
“Shelley has been arrested,” Sarina confesses, wanting to say anything to take the suspicion off her pregnancy in her mind. To be honest, though, that was still on her mind at this point. “She’s my aunt by the way, but stopped by the motorcoach last night to share some Alison tidbits, as if she knew privileged information. We put out word to the police, and they got her this morning.”
“So does that mean everything is over?” Todd wonders, and Sarina shakes her head no. Until Alison was locked in a maximum security jail cell, she would never admit to it being over.
“They haven’t found Alison yet. They’re thinking of using Shelley as bait to catch her, or at least get information with the slew of charges that they have coming for her.” She then glances down at her lap, with a sigh. “It just drives me insane that my family is so freaking crazy that they continue to torment me. First my brother, then my cousin, and now my own aunt. I thought I left this chaos behind when I started to establish myself, reset my life as I wanted, and yet here we are in the cycle once again.”
“Sarina…..” Rudy says as he wraps an arm around her to comfort her. “It’s not your fault, any of this. You can’t control or decide the decisions that others make. So you better not be blaming yourself one bit for what anybody has done to this point because it is never your fault. I also know, in my heart, that it will work out for both of you because it’s meant to be. You deserve your happy ending, your forever after.”
“Wow, Rudy does have a heart,” Todd comments, earning a slight chuckle from Harrison.
“With every person in my family seeming to have this, though, it worries me,” Sarina confesses as she looks up at the crew chief. “What if I am a bad mother?” The timing of the question brought shock over the room – Rudy with her mentioning that while trying to keep a secret, and the teammates wondering how that fit into her schedule. However, Harrison and Todd knew that question was really not important right now in seeing how upset Sarina appeared.
“I think you’ll make a wonderful mother when the time is right,” Rudy starts. “You have a very sweet heart. You’re always looking out caring for people, whether it’s Chase and what he’s going through, or your cousin Lindsay. You’re also sweet, and adorable with the fans. Look at how you spend time with the children in the garage, speaking at their level, and giving them extra time. Remember how you handled the situation at media day? Those are all examples that prove to me that you, Sarina Ott, will be an amazing mother. I know you’ll show that child the love that it deserves, and I know he or she will be glad to have you as their mother.”
“Thank you Rudy,” she comments as he gives her a squeeze closer. “I can’t believe I am saying this considering we started the year ready to bite each other’s head off, but I have really enjoyed working with you. I’ve enjoyed each weekend together, and I am going to miss your guidance every week. Thank you for the lessons and advice, on and off the track.” Rudy smiles as he had to admit – working with her was certainly making him a little softer at times.
“Marcus told me that you were special, and I sort of half believed hi-”
“I can understand that after working with Christopher and Eri-”
“But he was right, though. I still say that Christopher has more natural talent behind the wheel in what we’ve seen. However, you’re special in every other sense of the way in who you are, the young lady you’ve become, and everything moving forward. I admire your strength sometimes.” He then gives her a quick wink, knowing what that was in relation to, as she just smiles back in response.
“Good luck with those two next year.” Rudy looks over at the pair, before letting out a long sigh.
“I am going to have my hands full….”
Sarina climbs from the truck, smile firmly planted on her face as she walks over to where Rudy was standing. The changes had worked as they were able to gain speed over the session, giving her even more confidence heading into the night, despite once again being second to Harrison.
“I think we can beat him toni-” She starts, as she grabs a cold bottle of water from the cooler.
“There was a bomb found in the Cup Series garage,” Rudy cuts her off, which causes her to drop the bottle of water immediately, spilling it all down herself as she had loosened the cap.
“A…bomb….” Rudy slowly nods his head as he places a hand on her shoulder.
“It was foun-”
“You don’t need to tell me where it was found because we know who obviously planted it and why!” Rudy then reaches out, placing his other hand on her other shoulder. “Rudy….”
“You need to stay here wit-”
“Spit it out!” He then takes a deep breath, glancing over at the crew members, who scurry back to work rather than staring. “Rudy!”
“The timer is set to a full two hours. They haven’t found a way to deactivate it yet.” Sarina takes a deep breath, trying to remain calm as possible. The fact that there was a timer and they were still looking for a way to turn it off, it meant that it hadn’t gone off to cause any damage.
“So why are we still standing here? Isn’t the obvious to just clear the gara-”
“There’s a camera above with a note. Do something different than normal, and she’ll set it off earlier than scheduled.” Sarina takes a calming deep breath, resisting the urge to run right away as she knew Rudy would grab her anyway. Besides, risking tripping while pregnant wasn’t in the cards, either. “Alan texted me as soon as he found out and told me to keep you here so Chase isn’t worrying about you while trying to focus on practice like normal as they try and figure it out.”
“So we’re just going to pretend nothing is ticking in the garage stall right now?” Rudy slowly nods his head yes.
“They figure they’ll follow the instructions of the note for the duration of practice. If no answer is figured out by the end, they’re going to work with NASCAR on some sort of plan.” Sarina then glances towards the garage area, trying to maintain her composure. “Sarina….”
“Rudy, I’m scared….” A couple tears roll down her cheeks as Rudy pulls her closer, rubbing her back. “I can’t do this. I can’t los-”
“They’re going to figure something out, sweetheart. Everything is going to be okay…”
Chase knew what the note said – follow everything accordingly, or else it’d be activated earlier than scheduled. That meant it was left up to the experts to figure out the defuse process before then while he was supposed to practice as if nothing was going on.
Thankfully, the session had gone smoother than he expected as Alan and the guys had brought a real fast No. 9 Chevrolet, which made his job easy. Despite obviously being distracted, he had managed to post the third quickest lap.
With the session done, he tried to focus on the debrief in the garage stall with the engineers and team, though couldn’t help but glance up from the computer to see what the timer said. Taking a deep breath, time was running short quickly and having heard nothing from the bomb squad wasn’t encouraging.
“What the hell?!?” Tom Gray lets out as the laptop screen goes blank. “Josh!”
“I didn’t do it this time!” Josh confesses, raising both hands in the air innocently.
“I had just about finished putting everything in and it went off. Seriously?!?”
The screen then comes back on, but does not include the notes as Tom originally intended. Instead, it was a blank white screen with typed text in the middle.
“Chase….” Tom slowly says as he backs away from the computer. He knew the IT department would be intrigued and confused to hear what happened today. However, given the familiar ticking sound, the answer to the problem was also obvious.
“Did this just pop up?” Chase asks, and Tom nods his head.
“I was trying to do my not-”
“Please….” Tom takes the sign immediately, backing away to leave the driver with the message that was left on the screen. “Of course you’d do this to me, Alison.”
He then clicks the ‘accept’ box at the bottom of the note, which loaded a map on the screen. He follows the lines, figuring out what each picture meant, trying to figure out everything as quick as possible. He didn’t need to look up to figure out time was running out quickly.
“Bomb squad just called,” Alan states as he walks over with his phone in hand. “I have a series of deactivation instructions. There’s certain wires that need to be cut, and a code that needs to be entered. We only get one chance at the cod-”
“918,” Chase cuts him off immediately. “Look at the bottom of the map. She has that number written in tiny letters at the bottom. It’s got to be the code, and it makes sense. My car number, and then Sarina’s truck number.”
“We only get one chance at thi-”
“We have two chances.” Alan then looks over at him confused. “We have two chances to save all of our lives. I just need to do what she wants.”
“Hell no.” Chase was confused as he looked over at Alan. “That’s what she wants, Chase. Think about it. It’s the same thing that she did to you before. She’s manipulating your feelings, triggering your fears so that she gets what she wan-”
“It’s better than us being dead, though.” Alan knew that, but he also didn’t feel any comfort in having Chase anywhere close to her.
“I’m sticking with the first plan.” Chase shakes his head, feeling all kinds of worry as he watched the crew chief climb up onto the box, reaching the bomb on top. “Read me the instructions, please…”
“I don’t feel comforta-”
“Start reading!” Chase takes a deep breath as he picks up the phone.
“Cut the red wire, followed by the blue wire.” Snatching the wire cutters from his pocket, Alan follows both instructions as requested. “You’re going to cut the orange wire, and then will have 10 seconds to enter the three digit code.”
“Everyone hold your breath.” Alan then snaps the wire, followed by quickly punching in the three-digit code – 9 1 8. Everybody stands frozen around the garage stall, glancing up as they wait to see the result. “Breathe…” Alan then holds up the box, hearing not a single sound from it as he slowly sets it down on the pit cart.
“Nice job.” Chase gives him a quick hug, before Alan carries it out to the officers awaiting outside of the stall. Chase then leans back against the pit cart, letting out a long sigh of relief before taking out his phone to text Sarina.
“Can I go back to my not-” Tom starts and Chase shakes his head no.
“You’re getting a new laptop,” Chase tells him. “Alison just took procession of your screen. Do you think we’re going to let you continue to use that?” Tom slowly shakes his head no. “The police are taking that into evidence, as well. We’ll get you a new lapt-”
“He can use mine,” Josh instructs, opening it up immediately and typing in his password.
“Report the incident to Hendrick’s IT department. Security being compromised is no joke.” Tom nods his head in agreement, having already filed a phone call, as he watches his driver leave the garage stall.
“That was too close to comfort,” Tom offers as Josh takes a step back to let Tom get to work.
“She needs to be caught before it’s too late because I have a feeling it’s only going to get worse from here on out,” Josh comments, causing a glance of fear in return from Tom. “She’s getting impatient and upping her game each weekend. She also knows how to kill-”
“We don’t need a reminder, Josh.” Josh then grabs his checklist off the pit box, ready to get back to work.
Unfortunately, these incidents were becoming a part of the job, and he knew that they couldn’t use the incident as an excuse for not winning Sunday.