Authors: Barbara Taylor Bradford
Or had she
always been jealous? Had it been this way all along? Maybe she had just been pushing
down her envy, because she felt she didn’t deserve anything better than second
more wine. Maybe it would turn out to be just another business meeting between
her two best friends. It had better be, she thought. Fiona could have everyone
else, and be the superstar of the world.
But she couldn’t
have Luke. Hayley would never let that happen.
and Luke were sipping their drinks and talking as easily as if they had known
each for a lifetime.
“I grew up on
the campus of the college,” Fiona told him. “And because my father was the Professor
of Ethics, every time I got into the tiniest bit of trouble whoever caught me
would administer a lecture on my extremely non-ethical behavior. My parents finally
took pity on me, and let me go to Miss Porter’s.”
how people think you’ll be like your parents.” He laughed sardonically. “Of
course, in my case, my mom took off when I was four years old, and my dad was a
drunk who couldn’t keep a job. People didn't have great expectations for me.”
him. “I guess you showed them,” she said quietly. “Was that important to you?
To prove you weren’t like your father?”
“I think it
was.” Luke looked out of the window, thinking about it. “Sure. It has to be why
I am so driven.”
“I think you
can take a break now,” Fiona said. “This award you’re getting is about the
highest recognition a television journalist can have.”
“It was a tough
story to do. Dangerous too, I suppose. But we managed to relocate over two
hundred women and children, who had been brought here from the Far East with the
promise of a better life.” Luke’s jaw tightened. It was the kind of story that
stayed with you. “Instead, they were being held against their will, and sold to
the highest bidder.”
“I saw part of
the series,” Fiona told him. “It took a lot of courage for those women to come
forward, to be interviewed.”
ones who deserve this award,” Luke said, “not me. The sad part is that even
though we got a couple of hundred to safety, more women, more children are
brought here every day to take their place.”
anything that can stop it?”
to the kingpin, the guy who makes it all work,” Luke said. “Everyone knows who
it is, but without hard evidence he can’t be touched.”
“How awful. So
he gets away scot-free?”
“So far. But it’s
only a matter of time until he bullies the wrong woman. I’m not going to stop
until I find a way to nail Mr. Eddie Rivers.”
Fiona froze. “Eddie
Rivers? He’s involved in this?”
Luke gave her
a hard look. “How do you know about Eddie Rivers?”
out of the window, trying to get her emotions under control. “We’re about to
cross the Delaware River. We must be heading into Pennsylvania.”
“Fiona? Do you
know Eddie Rivers?” Luke pressed.
continued looking out of the window as the train sped onto the bridge without
slowing down. “Look how the river is churning, seems threatening somehow.”
Those were the
last words either of them said before the train car began to shimmy violently. Fiona
was thrown out of her seat, but Luke managed to grab her and keep her from
hitting the floor. He held her tightly as the train rocked violently from side
were drowned out by the terrible screeching of brakes. People around them were screaming.
Fiona clung to
Luke, filled with fear as the train car left the tracks. And then they were
falling…falling into empty space.
empty wine bottle lay on its side next to the bed. The curtains were closed,
and the only light in the room came from the flickering images on the muted
television set. In the darkened room Hayley’s slender body barely made a ripple
under the down comforter.
door to the bedroom burst open, the overhead light was switched on, and the tranquility
was shattered by Mikey’s booming voice. “Hayley! Where the hell are you?”
He turned to
go back to the living room when there was a moan from under the bed covers.
unceremoniously threw off the bedclothes to reveal his sister, a tiny lump of
misery, curled up on the bed.
“Go away.” Hayley
pulled the duvet back up over her head.
down on the bed, munching on a chicken leg he had purloined from her
refrigerator. “What are you doing in bed? It’s only seven thirty!”
“Just let me
die in peace.” She groaned. “But first, can you get me some water?”
up the empty wine bottle, and laughed. “Somebody got themselves sloshed! Hayley
girl, I’m proud of you!”
“Go to hell.”
better.” He laughed. “Now you’re showing signs of life. Water coming up.”
He went into
the bathroom and returned with water in a toothpaste-tinged glass. “What you
really need is a grilled cheese and bacon sandwich, and a Coke. Best cure ever
for a hangover. I know these things.”
discuss food with me right now,” Hayley said, emerging from under the covers.
She drank the glass of water in one gulp.
He stared at
her. “My God! What did you do?”
“Your hair is
gone! What did you do with your hair?”
the duvet over her head again. “I don’t want to discuss it.”
Mikey tugged the
duvet back. “No, let me look at you.” He examined her hair as though he were a
connoisseur of women’s hairstyles. “I like it. It’s like that movie star, what’s
her name? Hiawatha.”
Anne Hathaway. You think?” Hayley tentatively touched the strange new arrangement
on her head.
a smile. “Thanks, Mikey.”
“So how come
you got smashed?”
“It’s a long
story.” She sat for a moment, hoping the room would stop spinning. “I don’t
feel so good. Do you think that grilled cheese thing works?”
“Like a charm.”
“Order me one
from the deli, would you? I’m going to take a shower. There’s money in my
ask!” Hayley replied. “I emptied my savings account today. I can't help you
“I got myself
in a bit of a bind, or I wouldn’t ask.” Mikey gave her his most doleful smile.
out, Mikey. I’m not kidding. I barely have enough cash to get through the week.
Now order that cheese thing for me, before I die.”
Just asking,” he said. “You shower. I’ll order the cure for you.”
was in the bathroom, Mikey picked up her bag. He took out a twenty-dollar bill for
the sandwich. Glancing over his shoulder, to make sure she had closed the door,
he searched through her bag, until he found what he was looking for. Inside the
flap of her checkbook he found a stack of one-hundred-dollar bills, as he knew
he would. He removed four, stuffed them into his pocket, put the rest back in
you a Coke, too. With lots of ice,” he called to the closed door and headed for
could not move, and she didn’t know why. She tried to sit up but something was
holding her down. Not an inanimate object, but something warm that carried with
The noise around
her was deafening.
screaming. Some were crying softly. Others prayed. She heard sirens, lots of
them. Men, somewhere in the distance, were shouting things she couldn’t make
out. The sound that was loudest of all was the creaking and grinding of twisted
metal, as the train carriage seemed to be moving, inching along toward
she had no idea.
choking on the dust and smoke that filled the carriage, making it difficult to
see anything or breathe.
you all right?” The voice was so ragged, it took her a moment to make the
connection. Then she realized the rasping tones were actually the voice most
Americans connected with Luke Thompson. It was not as mellifluous as it usually
“I don’t know,”
she said, sounding like she’d swallowed gravel herself.
carefully,” Luke said. “Very carefully.”
When he pulled
himself off her it was only then that she realized Luke was the warm
that had been holding her down, keeping her safe. Apparently he had thrown his
body on top of hers, to protect her from the shattered glass that was
everywhere. On the seats, under her body, in her hair.
Fiona tried to
pull herself into a sitting position and realized the train was on its side. She
was not on the floor of the carriage, but on one of the few windows that had
not been shattered in the crash.
It seemed just
minutes ago that she had been looking at the powerful Delaware River through
this very window. Now there was nothing but blackness where the window rested
on the rugged ground.
brushing against her hair. She reached up to push whatever it was away, and discovered,
to her horror, that she was touching a hand. It was a cold, dead hand dangling at
an odd angle from the seat above her.
Fiona began to
shake. A scream was forming deep inside her. Seeing panic overtaking her, Luke
slid down next to her, held her face in his strong hands. He looked straight
into her eyes.
breathe,” he instructed, his voice beginning to normalize.
back at him, trying to comprehend what he was saying and comply. She couldn’t
“Listen to me.
Slow breath in, slow breath out. Just breathe with me. That’s it. Nice and slow.”
took her eyes away from his, and eventually her breathing slowed. And the
shivering began to subside.
better. We need to think clearly. We don’t have much time.”
After a moment
the tension, the panic, began to leave her body. “Okay, I'm okay,” she said.
“In and out.
Deep breaths,” Luke whispered.
nice,” she said absently.
made him smile. “And you smell like Krispy Kremes,” he replied. “Delicious.”
She forced a
things. One at a time,” he suddenly ordered. “Fingers, arms, ankles. Not too
much. Just make sure nothing is broken, that you can walk.”
Fiona did as
she was told. “Good to go,” she said. “Except that I’m very thirsty.”
that to people. Sorry to say, my martini spilled, so you'll have to stick it
out. We need to move on, leave here as fast as we can.”
happened?” she asked in a low voice.
“The best I
can make out is that the train derailed, just as we crossed the Delaware from
New Jersey into Pennsylvania,” Luke explained, speaking casually so as not to further
panic her. “Most of the railway cars made it to the other side, but we are in
the last car.”
still in New Jersey? Bummer.”
out loud, in spite of the situation. “Do you know,” he said, “that I just might
fall in love with you?”
There was a
moment of electricity as their eyes met.
“Happens to me
every time I’m in a train crash,” she said lightly, trying to break the
intensity of the moment. She licked her fingers, and wiped a dried patch of
blood from his forehead. “So what’s the plan?”
could answer, the car shifted and they were sliding. The train car was twisting,
and turning over, as it slid downward toward the river, taking a stand of
willow trees with it. She clung to Luke, shaking, swallowing the scream in her
throat. He held her against him, his arms tight around her.
screaming again. And then, miraculously, the car bumped up against something, a
tree, a rock, or a small clump of bushes. It stopped with a jolt. The carriage
had somehow managed to right itself in the process.
you out of here,” Luke said. “But you must stay put. Don’t move.” He crawled to
the other side of the car, where the window was partially shattered. Pulling himself
up onto the seat, he lay on his back. Using both feet, he kicked out the rest
of the glass.
“Come on.” He
held out his hand to Fiona who started crawling up toward safety. “Small,
careful movements. Nothing big. Just work your way to me.”
She kept her
eyes on him, and did as he said. Just as she reached the window, a baby cried
somewhere behind them. Fiona froze. The cry was not loud enough. A baby in this
situation should be screaming its head off.
Without a word,
both Luke and Fiona started crawling on their bellies, Marine style, toward the
whimpering. Hands clutched at Fiona.
seat,” a woman’s voice said weakly. “She's under the seat. I couldn’t hold on.”
The baby’s mother was pinned under the crushed wall of the carriage.
“I’ll get her,”
Fiona told the desperate woman. “Don’t worry. I’ll get her.” And she inched her
way toward the baby sounds, brushing broken glass away from her path as she did.
with the woman. It took almost super-human strength, but somehow he managed to
pull her out from under the twisted metal of the train wall.
The baby gave
another little cry, and Fiona slid under the seat. “There you are! Hi. Hi,
baby. Don’t be afraid. Everything’s going to be all right.”
out, and carefully, very carefully, using the blanket the baby was wrapped in, pulled
the little girl toward her.
The baby gave
another cry, and Fiona started singing softly, some long-forgotten song from
her childhood. She pushed herself backwards, holding the child, until they were
both out from under the seat. She cradled the baby in her arms, gingerly picking
shards of glass from the blanket.