“Andi, why don’t you find someplace more comfortable to take a nap?” Justin suggested. “There’s a couch in the outer office that might suit you, you know.”
“Uh-huh,” she agreed but didn’t move.
“Come on, sleepyhead.” Justin started around the desk. “There’s a small settee in the waiting room. You’ll be much more comfortable—”
The sudden, tremendous crack of shattering glass caught Justin and Andi off guard. Andi’s head snapped up, and she turned toward the window. It was gone. In its place, a fist-sized rock had crashed to the ground a few feet away.
Andi jumped up. “What’s that?” Her heart skipped. Some schoolboys would sure be in trouble for this!
“I don’t know,” came Justin’s puzzled reply. He took a step toward the stone and narrowly missed being hit when another, larger item came flying through the hole in the window.
“Justin!” Andi gulped, frightened, “What’s going on?”
This new object was no rock. It was a funny-shaped tied-up bundle of dark tubes. And it was rolling closer to them. Then Andi heard it. A sharp fizzing sound. Her eyes grew wide. “Justin, it’s—”
“Dynamite!” Justin shouted. He reached out and gave the deadly bundle a hard kick across the room, away from the door—their only exit. He yanked Andi’s arm and sprinted for the doorway. “Let’s get out of here!”
But even as her brother pulled her along, Andi knew they wouldn’t make it to safety in time. Justin found a corner closest to the exit and shoved Andi to the ground just as the dynamite went off.
Andi felt her ears explode at the blast. All breath left her body. She groaned just as the world came down on top of her. First Justin, then everything else.
Then everything went mercifully dark.
“Beautiful!” Sandy whispered to his companion. They scurried off down a side street. “Ain’t never seen one timed to perfection like that.”
“Yep.” Gordon grinned. “There ain’t no way anyone had time to escape that blast. The boss’ll be happy.” He noticed a huge crowd beginning to form. “Come on. Let’s make ourselves scarce.”
The searchers found them quickly enough. Chad and Mitch, along with Elizabeth and Melinda, had just arrived in town when the explosion went off. It didn’t take them long to discover from where it had originated. The brothers joined those who were digging through the ruins of Justin’s office while Elizabeth and Melinda stood outside, barely breathing as they waited for news.
“It’ll be all right, Mother,” Melinda said, trying to sound certain. “Maybe it was empty, after all. Maybe Justin’s down at the courthouse already and—”
“He was inside,” Elizabeth said calmly. “And so was your sister.” She stood there numbly, watching the men make their way through the rubble, preparing herself to accept the unacceptable.
My firstborn and my baby are probably both dead.
A sudden shout of discovery brought Elizabeth out from her dismal thoughts. She took off running towards her son’s office, Melinda close behind. When she arrived at the scene, Chad and Mitch were in the forefront, carefully removing the plaster and boards that covered the two figures.
Elizabeth sucked in a shocked breath. It was worse than she imagined. She couldn’t keep her tears back at the destruction all around them. “Chad!” she whispered. “Are they—“ She broke off, unable to continue.
“We don’t know yet, Mother,” Mitch answered, lifting a heavy plank which had fallen dangerously close to the still figures. He laid it aside and joined Chad.
For a moment, nobody moved.
Justin and Andi were sorry sights. They lay still as death.
“Can they be moved?” Elizabeth whispered. Of course they must be! They couldn’t be left lying in the rubble!
Chad nodded. “I think so. We have to get them out of here.”
The two brothers lifted Justin and laid him carefully onto a makeshift litter, which had appeared seemingly from nowhere.
Then Chad reached out and gathered his small sister into his arms. “Oh, dear God, let her be all right,” he whispered. Then he handed Andi to their mother
Elizabeth sat down in the middle of the rubble and cradled Andi’s still form in her arms. Tears flowed down her face, and her lips moved silently in a desperate prayer for her child’s life.
Dr. Weaver arrived just then. He wasted no time on niceties. Instead, he made a brief examination of Justin and looked up. “He’s alive, Elizabeth, but just barely. And I don’t know for how long. The concussion from the explosion knocked him out. It’s difficult to tell what other damage has been done until he regains consciousness.” He paused. “If he regains consciousness.”
The doctor squatted down beside Elizabeth and Andi. “By protecting his sister, it looks like Justin took the brunt of the flying pieces of glass, wood, and plaster. It could have hit him anywhere—including his head.”
He shook his head sadly. “We’ll just have to wait and see. For now I suggest we get them both back to the ranch and comfortable in their own beds.”
Elizabeth accepted the news with a slight nod. “Of course.” Then she whispered, “What are his chances, Jim?”
“I really can’t say right now, Elizabeth. I’m sorry. It’s bad.”
“I understand.” She looked down at Andi, who lay unmoving in her arms. Her face was scratched and bruised, her hair filled with flying chips of plaster and wood splinters. Other than that, there was no sign of injury.
But that didn’t mean she hadn’t been injured on the inside.
“Let me look at her,” Dr. Weaver said. He examined Andi then sighed. “She must have had some protection from Justin, but how much difference that will make in the long run is beyond me. I am truly at a loss here. There are no visible signs of serious injury, but being caught in an explosion is serious enough. There could be internal bleeding that I’ll never find. Like I said, we’ll just have to wait and see.”
He stood up and turned to the crowd of curious, shocked townsfolk. “Thank you for all your help. Now, we’ll just let these people take their sick ones on home.”
A couple of men picked up the litter and started for the wagon Mitch had brought. Elizabeth passed Andi over to Chad, who took her gently and passed her up to Mitch in the wagon.
Curious by-standers watched with obvious horror as the Carter family made their way out of town. Elizabeth acknowledged their words of comfort and sympathy automatically, without really knowing who had spoken.
It was a quiet, somber ride home. Melinda sat beside Justin, begging him softly to wake up. He didn’t move. Her tears flowed freely, and she wiped them away as quickly as they came.
Halfway home, Andi groaned. Her eyes fluttered open. Where am I?
Just above, Mother was staring at her. Her cheeks were wet with tears. Mother weeping? Why? What—
Waves of pain made Andi cry out. She hurt all over. The jouncing, bumping wagon didn’t help matters much. “M-mother?” Andi whispered painfully. She tried to pull herself up so she could see what was going on.
“Hush, Andrea,” Elizabeth soothed her. “Lie back. We’re almost home.”
“What happened?” Andi asked, confused. Everything hurt!
“You and Justin had an accident.”
“There was an explosion.”
“Where? At school?”
Elizabeth frowned at her daughter’s confused speech. “No, Andrea. In Justin’s office.”
Silence fell. A dark, heavy blanket of silent terror that wrapped itself around Andi and threatened to smother her. Her heart slammed against the inside of her chest. Her head throbbed.
The crash. The broken window. The . . . dynamite!
Andi’s hand reached out. She clutched her mother’s sleeve. “They tried to kill us, didn’t they?”
Of course they had! Mr. Henderson and his gang of ruffians. All because they’d found out she’d told her family. Tears gushed. No, no, no!
“They did not succeed, sweetheart,” Elizabeth said softly. “You’re safe now. You’re going to be fine.”
Andi shook her head. She would never be safe. Or fine. Never again. Neither would—
Her head snapped up. “What about Justin? He pushed me—hard—into the corner. I remember that much. It hurt. Then . . . nothing.”
“Justin’s alive,” her mother assured her, “but he hasn’t regained consciousness yet.”
Andi started crying. “It’s because I told. I know it is.” She wouldn’t say another word. She just held onto her mother and cried softly the rest of the way home.
Elizabeth rolled over in bed and gazed at her daughter with a worried expression. Whatever had happened was not going to go away in a few days. Andrea had refused to sleep in her own bed. She wanted to be with her mother, and no one could dissuade her.
Right now, for a wonder, she was asleep, but it was not the sleep of a child at rest. Andi tossed and turned, cried out occasionally, and made it impossible for Elizabeth to get any sleep at all.
With a sigh, Elizabeth gave up trying to sleep and rose from her bed. She wrapped a housecoat around her and padded down the dimly lit hallway to check on her oldest son.
Her heart skipped a beat. It had been two days, and Justin had not yet regained consciousness. Dr. Weaver was not sure how long he would stay that way. She shuddered and slipped into Justin’s room.
“Mother, what are you doing up?” Chad was sitting up with Justin and gave her a disapproving look. “I told you I’d sit up the rest of the night. Go back to bed. You need some sleep.”
Elizabeth managed a weak smile. “That’s impossible. Andrea is spending a most restless night, and I haven’t fallen asleep yet. I thought I would come in and see if there has been any change.”
“Not yet, but don’t give up hope,” Chad said. He looked worn out. “Doc Weaver says he could some out of it any—”
Suddenly, a low, agonized moan came from the bed.
“Justin!” Elizabeth rushed to her son’s bedside and took his hand. “Justin,” she repeated, urging him to consciousness.
Justin slowly opened his eyes and peered into his mother’s worried face. “Mother,” he whispered. His words came slowly, slurred. “Where’s Andi? Is she all right?” His eyes slid back and forth. He tried to lift his head, but he fell back with a moan. “It happened so quickly.”
Elizabeth patted his hand. “Yes, Justin. Andrea’s going to be fine. A few bruises, minor scratches, but you took the brunt of the blast.”
Justin managed a weak smile. “That was my intention.” He let out a long, slow breath and seemed to relax. “It was worth it, so long as she’s all right. This was all my fault. I shouldn’t have pressed her into testifying. I should have insisted she stay on the ranch until the trial was over.” His eyes looked haunted. “She could have been killed. I never should have—”
“Justin,” Elizabeth admonished. “Don’t do this to yourself. Try to rest. Don’t worry about anything. Your sister is resting. She’ll recover. Nothing’s broken.”
Justin shook his head. His voice grew stronger. He was wide awake now and clearly beating himself up over what had happened. “She’ll recover physically. But what about emotionally? She’s been terrorized for two weeks. Then, when she trusts me to take care of her, what happens? I nearly get her killed.”
He closed his eyes and let out a disgusted breath. “A fine older brother I’ve turned out to be—more concerned about my client than my little sister.” With his good hand, he squeezed Elizabeth’s arm. “Tell her I’m sorry, Mother. Sorry for letting her down. Sorry for not protecting her better.”
Justin’s voice trailed off. With a soft sigh, he fell back to sleep.
I hate to tell you this, fans, but that's all I have. You have come to the end of this "Lost Story." It will continue to stay lost unless you all give me ideas on where it can go and how this whole thing can be solved. In other words, what happens next?