She’d been hoping and praying for it, but when the phone finally rang, at 2:30 a.m., she nearly jumped out of her own skin.
“Christina?” A hoarse voice, barely more than a whisper.
“Who is this?” Father! Help me!
“It’s Denny, Christina. I hate to call you like this, but Poppy said—“
“Jake! What’s happened to Jake? Talk to me!”
“There’s been an accident, Christina. It’s all my fault…all my fault…” His voice faded and she could barely hear him.
This is no time for me to be foolish. Lord. I trust You to give me what it takes for whatever happens.
She took a deep breath, inhaling by faith the strength of the Holy Spirit.
“Denny, you are in God’s hands and so is Jake. And God is good. All the time, even now. Whatever it is, Denny, God knows all about it.” She heard herself speaking and sweet peace swept over her.
“Please tell me.” She didn’t want to ask, but she had to know. “Is Jake…is he…did he…die?” She crumpled onto the bare floor, pressing the phone against her head so hard that her ear hurt. “Denny?”
“No, no, he’s not dead. But he’s hurt real bad. Burned!” He choked again.
How terrible this must be for him, Tina thought, given his memories of his wife’s tragic death.
“Where is he? Denny, listen to me: I’ll be there as soon as I can, and so will Alex. Where is he?”
“You’ll tell his brother? Poppy and Kate—they called all over trying to find us—I shoulda called them—“
“Denny, pull yourself together, do you hear me? We can talk later. Where is Jake?”
After she hung up the phone she stared at it for only a few seconds. No time to waste. She punched in Alex’s phone number.
It sounded as if he answered before it rang.
She filled him in quickly. His voice sounded amazingly calm.
“My Trooper is gassed and ready to go, so I’ll be leaving within ten minutes.”
“I’ve packed a few things and I’m ready to go, too. You want to caravan?”
“Why don’t we drive together?”
“Because I’ll have my dog with me and I don’t know how soon I’ll come back here.”
“That’ll work. Schotzie will love my little truck, and I don’t know when I’ll return, either. Leave your pretty new car in the garage. I’ll pick you up. I expect we have a few things to talk about.”
She didn’t want to complain, but she didn’t understand why Alex had to drive the whole way as if a patrol car were following them, especially during those dark hours before dawn when it seemed as if the world had ended and they were the only ones left on earth. Most of the way she didn’t think about it; they had so many more important matters to discuss.
“Gloria Stoner came to see me today,” Tina ventured softly. “That was quite a haircut!”
“You should have seen it when she came in! She said she was turning her back on all her pretentions and didn’t want to bother with all that ‘vanity’ any more!”
“She cut it herself?”
“Yes! Just hacked it all off to shorter than chin length. She had it in a zipped plastic bag and told me to donate it to ‘Locks of Love,’ a program to provide wigs for kids going through chemo.”
“You did a great job of shaping it. She looked ten years younger. Very chic.”
Tina paused and sat up a little straighter. “Gloria told me that you asked her to visit me.” She watched him for any reaction, but he continued to drive, eyes straight ahead. “Thank you.”
Finally, after seven almost non-stop hours, they had run out of issues to wrestle with and plans to coordinate, but they were both still too keyed up to sleep. After a gas and coffee stop they turned on the radio and happened to tune in at the beginning of a feature story:
Good morning. Our Ozark hero of the week, Jacob Garret, an over-the-road trucker based in Lincoln, Nebraska, would have qualified as villain of the week just six days ago. This morning he lies in Mercy Hospital in Harrison with serious burns he suffered in the explosion of a methamphetemine lab while rescuing two young children who had wandered from a nearby farmhouse. Four year old Chance Mudrow and his sister, five year old Lacey Mudrow, both listed in good condition, owe their lives to the trucker who happened on the abandoned lab just moments before it exploded, burning him and his companion.
Chance and Lacey were not the only lives saved. Their little dog, an all-American little-bit-of-everything dog and an abandoned Rottweiler were rescued from certain death by Mr. Garret’s companion, Denny Turco, a native Ozarkian.
Amber Mudrow, the children’s mother, told authorities that the children often explored the area together and that she didn’t remember when she had last seen them, but when she heard the explosion at a trailer near the rural house where they live, she had a terrible feeling that they might be involved.
Mr. Turco also required hospitalization when he sustained injuries while pulling Mr. Garret and the older Mudrow child from the door of the trailer where they had been knocked unconscious by the force of the explosion. He declined to talk to our reporter and refused to explain why he and Mr. Garret had been investigating the trailer.
A further mystery is how quickly Air-Evac arrived at the location. The dispatcher would only say that they had received an urgent call for a helicopter ambulance and that directions to the scene were ‘uncannily specific.’
Tina had laid her hand on Alex’s arm when the report began and left it there while the radio personality detailed Jake’s story from the original charge four years ago, including a quote from Faye Waters predicting that he would cleared of all charges and allowed to have overturned the custody ruling by the Lincoln, Nebraska, Department of Family Services.
“I have to see him with my own eyes,” Alex said.
“Me, too,” Tina said. “Now stop driving like such an old lady! I’ll pay the fine if we get picked up for speeding.”
Excuse me? She heard the still, small voice in her spirit.
“Never mind, Alex. Don’t exceed the limit. If we want the cloud of protection we had better not speed out from under it.”
Alex agreed. “Gloria once told me that the guardian angels jump off the fenders when you exceed the speed limit.”