Authors: Barbara Taylor Bradford
“Here you are,
little lady. It's okay.” She looked down at the beautiful little girl, who
looked back at her and, astonishingly, smiled.
“What a brave
girl you are.” Fiona cuddled the baby to her, and slowly began to work her way toward
the window Luke had opened.
already managed to get the baby’s mother out of the train through the window.
He took the baby from Fiona and put her into the outstretched arms of the grateful
woman, who began to cry with relief, thanking them through her tears.
“Get away from
the train,” Luke ordered. “As far away as possible. It could move again any
“Now you,” he
said to Fiona. She slithered toward him, was half way out of the window, when
from the other end of the car they heard a muffled cry for help. They froze, lifted
their heads, listening, hoping to locate the source of the sound.
from the front of the car,” Fiona said at last.
going,” Luke said. “I’ll check it out, catch up with you in a minute.”
back inside the train. “We can do it faster together,” she said, moving slowly toward
the sound of the man’s voice. Luke was right behind her.
was curled up in her favorite chair, cocooned in a terrycloth robe two sizes
too large for her. She took the last bite of her sandwich, wiped the grease off
her hands and washed it down with the last drops of her Coke.
meal,” she said. “Fat, salt, nitrates, and whatever they put in Coca-Cola to
make it so yummy. You may be a genius.”
telling you that, but you don’t believe me,” he said, winking at her.
“At least your
wasted youth taught you something. And, of course, if I ever need a car
hot-wired I know where to go.”
“It’s a gift,”
Mikey said, flipping through television channels with the remote. “How do you
for a moment. “Actually, I might live. You should have ordered something for
“I don’t feel
right about you spending money on me, if you're that hard up.” He gave her his
sweetest, most sincere smile.
“I can afford
to buy my little brother a sandwich.”
“I’m fine,” he
said, settling on a wrestling match.
quietly, thinking about the debacle the day had become. She tentatively touched
her hair, or what was left of it. Although she thought no haircut was worth
eight hundred dollars, she had to admit it was easy to handle. After her shower,
all she had had to do was towel it dry and it fell back into place.
What does it
matter, she thought. No one looks at me anyway.
kiddo?” Mikey had been watching her keenly, attuned to her moods. She didn’t respond.
“Hayley, you okay? You look like you lost your last friend.”
“Maybe I did,”
she said, “now that I think about it.”
“You and Fiona
have a falling out?”
shut that thing off? It's making my headache come back.”
off the television, looking hurt. “Are you going to tell me what's wrong, or
are you just going to bark at me?”
“Let me ask
you something,” Hayley said. “Do you think I'm sexy?”
don’t be gross. You're my sister.”
“I’m talking in
general. Do you think I’m a woman a man would find attractive?”
“Any man, you
idiot.” Hayley stormed into the kitchen with the dishes.
“Don’t get mad,”
Mikey said, following her. “I think you’re pretty. And you’re funny. What’s not
Hayley had her
back to him and didn’t respond.
“Did some jerk
make you feel bad? Cause if he did—”
it, okay?” Hayley cut in and tried to get past him to the living room, but he
blocked her way.
crying? Hey, you’re crying. You never cry.”
Mikey. I never cry. I never feel anything. As a matter of fact, I’m a robot.”
“Jeez, is it
that time of the month or something?”
Close your lips, okay? Do not speak. Just go back to your wrestling match. Forget
we ever had this conversation.”
past him into the living room, and turned on the television, with Mikey on her
weird. What did I do?”
did nothing. Now sit down and watch your show.”
She tossed him
the remote, and he immediately started channel surfing.
“I know what
will cheer you up. It’s time for your boyfriend’s program!”
off! I don’t want to watch Luke right now,” she exclaimed, heading for the
bedroom once more. “I’m going to bed.” She slammed the door behind her, and had
just curled up on the bed, when Mikey started calling her.
Hayley! Get in here fast!”
her head under the pillow, but Mikey was at the door, banging on it.
happened to Luke!” her brother shouted.
out of bed and rushed past him into the living room. It was the desk Luke
always sat at, but another reporter was in his place. Her heart clenched as she
stared at the screen.
have a helicopter over the scene now. Here’s what we know. The four o'clock
Acela, from Penn Station in New York City, to Union Station in Washington, D.C.,
derailed just as the train crossed the Delaware River, from New Jersey into
The images on
the screen made Hayley stiffen. She was rigid as the aerial shots showed train cars
scattered all over the landscape. The scene shocked her. It looked like a toy
train had been tossed in a fit of anger by a five-year-old. Nobody had lived,
she was certain.
Some of the
cars were on their sides, a few were completely upside down. One car, the last
one apparently, had not made it off the bridge. It was now resting precariously
on a small cliff that hung over the rushing river below.
voice penetrated Hayley's numbed brain. “It is believed that our own Luke
Thompson was aboard that train. Staff members report he always rides in the
Hayley let out
an anguished scream. “Oh, God! Oh, God! No, no, Luke can’t be dead. He can’t,” she
“He’s been in
tough places before,” Mikey answered, but not too convincingly. He was also worried.
That wreckage he saw on the screen was enormous.
workers from surrounding cities are converging on the scene. Unfortunately,
their efforts are being hampered by the fact that this is farmland. There are few
roads the first responders can take to reach the crash site,” the TV reporter
whispered. “Fiona is on that train too.” She began to sob.
to console her, without much success. His sister was growing more distraught by
the moment. And when the reporter brought up the suggestion this might be an
act of terrorism, she began to shudder, and her sobs grew louder. Mikey was
frightened himself and tried to comfort his sister. But the situation looked
hopeless to him. Nobody could’ve lived through that, he thought, not even Luke.
and Luke had worked out their own triage system. People with the most serious
injuries went first. After that they took those who were seated closest to the window
Luke had kicked out. The dead were left where they were, until the living had
seamlessly together, with few wasted words. It went unspoken, but they knew it
was only a matter of time before the train car lost its fragile grip on the
cliff. Thankfully, the first-class carriage had not been crowded.
They had a routine
in place. Fiona would take one arm and Luke the other, and they would slide the
injured person on their back, as gently as possible, until they reached the
window. There was no time to follow standard procedure with accident victims – to
make sure moving them wouldn’t be harmful. Staying aboard this train was far
more dangerous than any injury caused by getting them out.
conductor, and several of his co-workers had made their way to the cliff where
the last train carriage rested. When Fiona and Luke could get a person to the
window, these crew members could pull them through.
Fiona and Luke made had to be properly coordinated. The train car was perched
so precariously on the cliff that one wrong move could unseat it, sending it
plunging into the river below.
moving an elderly man to the window very gently; he appeared to have multiple
fractures. He was so frail that it felt like he could splinter into a hundred
pieces at any moment.
“Leave me,” he
whispered. “I’ve lived my life. Help the others.”
last one,” Fiona said gently. “And what a story you’ll have to tell your
“You and your
husband make a good team,” he said. “It’s lucky when you fall in love with your
Fiona and Luke
looked at each other. Neither bothered to correct the man’s impression of their
relationship. At the window, Luke was able to pick up the fragile man and hand
him out to Charlie.
last of them, I think,” Luke said.
“It’s a wonderful
thing you two have done. Amazing,” Charlie said, holding the old gentleman
carefully. “Let me pass him down the line, and then I’ll come back for you.”
going to make one last search, to make sure we didn't leave anyone,” Luke told
him. “Fiona, you go. I’ll be right behind you.”
staying. You check the front. I’ll check the back.”
had time to move away, the train car wrenched free from the cliff edge and began
its slow slide down the hillside toward the river. A scream involuntarily
escaped Fiona’s lips. The train workers were running after the carriage but were
powerless to stop its deadly progress downward.
“Give me your
hand!” Luke shouted.
Fiona was just
able to grab hold of his wrist, and he began pulling her up toward the end of
the car, toward the vestibule where they had shared Krispy Kremes. A lifetime
ago, it seemed.
continued to slide down. Luke and Fiona were at the door to the vestibule now. It
took both of them to push it open. The door was bent from the accident, but
they managed to crawl out into the vestibule.
“Now what?” Fiona
to jump,” Luke answered, leaning out of the carriage door.
“Are you crazy?”
she asked. “We’ll land in the river.”
fine. Haven’t you ever seen ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’?”
And with that,
the carriage suddenly started to freefall. He reached his hand out to her, just
as he had earlier at Penn Station.
“Jump,” he said.
“I won’t let anything happen to you.”
And so she
was frantic. She had been calling Fiona’s cell phone non-stop since she had
seen the news of the crash on television. She had tried calling Luke as well,
but both phones went straight to voicemail.
Getting to the
crash site was the only thing on her mind. But so far, trying to accomplish
that had become a nightmare. It was impossible to find a rental car, at eight o’clock
in the evening in Manhattan.
just about to ask Mikey to go down to 86th Street, and
he used to do when they were kids. Luckily, she finally located a car rental in
an obscure parking lot, on the West Side of Manhattan.
problem facing her was how to get to the remote area where the train crash had
taken place. The authorities were warning people to stay away, and had stopped
giving out details of the location. It had taken time on her iPad to cross-check
the Acela route, with the list of bridges that crossed the Delaware River from
New Jersey into Pennsylvania. But nothing was going to keep her from getting to
that crash site.
Mikey to go with her, but he had to “see a man about a dog,” which in
Mikey-speak meant he had to make a payment on one of his many outstanding loans.
It was nine o’clock
before she was ready to flag down a taxi, and head for the West Side and her
rental car. She had planned to pay for the car with the cash she had taken from
the bank, meant for gratuities for the serving staff from last week’s event.
But when she looked in her checkbook at the garage, she realized she was four
hundred dollars short.
Mikey,” she muttered to herself, remembering how he had refused a sandwich
because he didn’t want to spend her money.
She got out
her credit card. She had no time to deal with him right now; she had to get to
Pennsylvania. She must find Fiona and Luke. When she finally got in the car and
headed for the West Side Highway, she was determined nothing and no one would
The lights from
the oncoming traffic were blurred by tears of frustration and regret. How could
she have been so stupid! How could she have been jealous of Fiona, her best
friend in the whole world? Of course there was nothing going on between Fiona
and Luke. She’d never even met him before today.
into a psycho,” she shouted at herself, as she sped through the Lincoln Tunnel,
heading for Morrisville, PA, wherever that was. She just hoped the GPS on this
heap was working.
was dark. Nonetheless, the massive lights set up by the rescue teams gave the
crash scene an eerie luminosity.
swept up and down the river, focusing their searchlights on the water and the
shoreline, looking for any sign of life. Or anything to indicate there had been
more loss of life.
So far, there
had been no sign of the train carriage. Nor of the two passengers, who were on
board when its long, terrifying slide into the water began.