McRae was curled up on the couch watching television. It had been another late night cooking for her rock band client and she was still trying to wind down. She glanced at the clock. It read midnight, yet she wasn’t tired. She shifted back to the movie she was watching and turned up the volume a little higher to drown out the noise of the pouring rain. The band had a busy morning tomorrow and wouldn’t need her, so she knew she could sleep in.
Lightning lit up the small compartment as thunder rattled the window.
“How are you doing, Jerry?” she asked, glancing toward the front of the bus.
“I’m good. Just concentrating on driving.” the bus driver replied.
“Crazy out there, huh? Do you need a coffee refill on your travel mug?”
“That would be great, McRae. Thanks. Add a little cream and sugar. I’ll take it however you make it.”
“Coming right up,” she said, walking to the front and grabbing the travel mug. She filled it with hot, steaming brew and splashed some milk, vanilla creamer, and sugar in it. Then she stirred it, twisted the top back on, and returned to the front of the bus.
“Oh, crap!” Jerry swore just as she set the mug down. McRae looked outside the windshield to see the band’s tour bus hydroplane through a guardrail and tumble down the side of the ravine. She came down hard on the floor, striking her head as glass shattered around her.
McRae laid still for a minute. She hadn’t even realized her eyes were closed as she opened them. The scene that met her eyes was a disaster. The windows had blown out and there were shards of glass everywhere. She lifted her head and bits of glass fell out of her hair. She had landed at the entrance to the bedroom. Slowly, she got on her knees and crawled to the bed. There were no windows in the room, so she knew it would be the safest place. McRae grabbed a pair of socks and her shoes and put them on. McRae didn’t care that she was in her pajamas, but she knew she had to be careful. Then she started making her way to the front of the bus.
McRae could hear Jerry groaning the closer she got. What she saw when she got there freaked her out. Jerry was sitting with his head lolled towards her, pieces of glass embedded in his face. But the worst thing was, he had a large shard of glass sticking out of his neck.
“Oh, God! Jerry?!” she gasped. He let out a low groan.
“Can you hear me? Jerry?!” she asked, panicked. A flash of lightning lit up the cabin. Jerry let out another low moan.
“Oh God, somebody help me!” she screamed hysterically. Suddenly, she heard a knock and yanked the door open.
“Ma’am, are you okay?” a male voice asked.
“Yes, but the bus driver needs help!”
“Is anyone else on the bus?” he asked, climbing the steps.
“No, just us.” She undid Jerry’s seat belt and stepped back as the man scooped him up gently and carried him out. McRae looked out the smashed windshield to see dozens of strangers all around, helping. Suddenly, she heard the police and ambulances coming in the distance. The wind had picked up as the rain died down and was blowing her hair all around her face. She shoved it away, held in a trance as she watched people going down the ravine and standing along the road. She glanced across the highway and saw two mangled cars.
“Miss?” The voice of the man who helped Jerry penetrated her thoughts. She turned her head in his direction.
“Are you okay to walk?”
“I think so.” She picked up her feet only to stumble towards him. He caught her in a blanket and wrapped it around her as he carried her out of the bus. By then, the police had arrived on the scene. She saw the paramedics working on Jerry a few feet away. The man had sat her on the side of the road and then went to help others. She pulled the thin blanket closer around her as a police officer walked towards her.
“Hello, I’m officer Gillington. Can I ask you a few questions?”
“Let’s go to my patrol car,” he said, offering her his hand. She took it and stood up. They made their way to his car a few feet away. Once settled, he started asking questions.
“McRae Torrinson.” He pulled out a handkerchief and pressed it to her temple. She looked at him in confusion.
“You’re bleeding,” he said.
Her fingertips grazed his as she reached up to hold the handkerchief. “I didn’t even notice.”
“It’s okay. Tell me, how are you involved with the band.”
“I’m their personal chef.”
“And what is the gentleman’s name on the bus with you?”
“His name is Jerry. I don’t know his last name. He’s been with the band as long as I have, if not longer.”
“All right,” he said, writing the information down. “Can you tell me what happened tonight?” he asked.
McRae took a shaky breath. “It happened so fast. It had been raining for a while and we were just rolling down the road. I had just gotten some coffee for Jerry when I saw the bus carrying Schizophrenic Breakdown careen out of control and go down the ravine. She stopped and swallowed hard as a wave of nausea washed over her. “A second later, we lost control as well.”
“Is there anything you need off the bus before I take you to the hospital?” Officer Gilligan asked.
She shook her head. “I don’t understand. Why are you taking me there?
The officer gave her a sympathetic look.” Because you are bleeding pretty bad from that gash."
McRae frowned, trying to think. “I’ll need my purse, which should be in the back closet, and I have some clothes and toiletries, but they will need to be packed up.”
The officer opened his door and slid out. “Okay, I’ll be right back.”
McRae watched him run down the highway to the bus and shivered. She pulled the blanket even tighter around her and suddenly everything went black.
“.. country music superstar Grantland Steele’s wife, Chesney, along with eighty-two others, including two pilots, perished in the crash...”
McRae clicked off the television and closed her eyes. At first, she was numb, but within seconds the flood broke loose and violent sobs wracked her body. All she could think was, “Oh God, not Grantland.” A sudden knock at the door caused her to jerk her head up, causing her to wince.
“Come in,” she called, wiping her eyes.
“Hi Officer Gilligan,” she greeted him, feeling somewhat proud of herself that she remembered his name.
“Call me Jeff,” he replied. “I brought your purse and luggage. I didn’t want anything to happen to them overnight while you were sleeping.”
“Thank you.” she smiled.
“How are you feeling?”
“Better, but I’m still waiting for the results of my CT scan. Do you know anything about the others? The nurse that had come in earlier said she couldn’t tell me because I’m not family.”
Jeff’s deep blue gaze wavered. “I’m sorry to tell you, but no one in the band survived, nor did either bus driver. The strangers in their cars did, though. They’re in stable but serious condition.”
“Oh God,” McRae gasped, clasping her hand over her mouth as tears welled in her eyes.
“I’m sorry,” he replied. “Were you with them long?”
She lowered her hand. “Six years. This was my third tour with them.” A melody from one of Schizophrenic Breakdown’s biggest hits played, and both McRae and the officer looked down at her purse.
“Do you need to answer that?”
“Just let it ring,” she said, feeling it would be rude to answer in front of him.
“It’s okay,” he said, setting her purse on the bed next to her. “I’m sure you have people that are worried about you.”
She dug her phone out and, seeing that it was Glen Hines, the band’s tour manager, swiped her thumb across the screen. “Hello?”
“McRae? Oh, thank God. I’m so sorry. Are you okay?”
“I’m waiting on test results, but I’m okay.”
“I can’t believe they’re gone. I can’t believe this happened. It’s been crazy on my end, having to cancel over half a tour. Dealing with vendors and contracts and such-”
“Glen- “ McRae rubbed her forehead gingerly. “Is there something specific you needed?”
“Oh, sorry. I know you’ve got a lot going on. I just wanted to tell you not to worry. We will pay you for the full tour via your contract. He paused and let out a heavy sigh. I just don’t know when you’ll get it.”
“It’s okay, Glen,” she replied, knowing she could fall back on her savings. “I just want to go back home and lie low for a while. This changes everything for me. I don’t know if I’ll ever tour again.”
There was another knock on the door and a white-haired man in a rumpled lab coat walked in.
“Hey, I’ve got to let you go. The doctor just walked in.”
“Okay, I’ll be in touch. Take care, McRae.” She ended the call and looked at the doctor.
“You’re very lucky, McRae. No broken bones and you don’t show any signs of a concussion. Six stitches are your only battle scars. I’ll arrange for your discharge. You should be out of here in a couple of hours.”
“Thank you,” she said. Once he left, she glanced at Jeff. “Is there anything else you needed?”
“Um, no,” he said, standing to go.
“Thank you for everything, Jeff. I appreciate it. You were a significant source of comfort last night.”
“You’re welcome. That’s why I got into this profession, to help people and make a difference. Take care, McRae.” He smiled and walked to the door. Suddenly, he paused and turned back to her. “I, um... I clocked out before I came over here and I have nowhere to be. Do you want me to stay with you?”
McRae thought for a moment. “Sure, that would be nice.” He seemed nice enough, and last night was very traumatic. She thought it was sweet of him to offer.
After a few minutes, she got on her phone and started looking for flights.
“Can I help you with anything?” he asked.
“I’m looking for flights to Peachtree, Illinois,” she responded.
“I’m on it,” he replied, typing on a travel site on his phone and scrolling. Half an hour later, she had a five o’clock flight home that night.
McRae let out a sigh of relief as she boarded the plane at five o’clock. Stephanie would be there to pick her up in a few hours. She couldn’t wait to be home, but couldn’t stop worrying about what she would do next.
Copyright 2022 Carrie Lowrance
NOTE: Someone To Catch My Teardrops releases on 5/15/2022.
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