As he shuts and locks the door on his black Mini Cooper, Andy feels the exhaustion of the long day. Getting sleep is just about the only thing on Andy's mind, after the constant array of noises permeating the hospital waiting room, even though nobody else was there after midnight. Tossing his keys down on the kitchen counter he sees the blinking light on his answering machine and punches it to check messages. The first is from his father about traveling to the area to be with Amanda. Will dad behave himself, he wonders. It would be nice, for once. Then there is a message from Sarah, his ex-wife. He cringes but decides to listen.
“Andy, it’s Sarah. I don’t know what to say, this is such a horrible day for you. I wanted to offer my sincere condolences about Ron and Rochelle. And then when I heard about Amanda I couldn’t believe it. What a miracle! I don’t know what else to say, but if there’s anything I can do please let me know. I hope to hear from you.”
Andy divorced Sarah in the middle of handling the 9/11 cases after five years of marriage. Sarah and Andy had met at Georgetown law school and he thought their marriage was meaningful until one day she announced that Andy wasn’t paying enough attention to her and was too much in love with his job.
Sarah, being a lawyer herself, was the top Capitol Hill aide – commonly called an “AA” – to Republican Senator Mike Pierce of Indiana. She didn’t want to have kids, not right away anyway; she said she felt it would interfere with her job, and she was probably right. It was only later, through happenstance that Andy learned that Sarah was having an affair with Sen. Pierce, a fact that still had never been made public. Although there is no such thing as a good divorce, the fact that they had no children made it a smidge easier. Psychologically it took a heavy toll on Andy, but he kept himself immersed in his cases.
Andy punches the button on the machine and listens to the next message. How ironic he thinks, when the next caller is Rebecca, the woman he’s been dating for nearly two years. At least the messages are in chronological order with his life, he rationalizes.
“Andy, it’s Rebecca again. I wanted to know if there’s anything I can do to help. I’m definitely coming by the hospital tomorrow and will take time off work. When you get this message please get back to me. Love you.”
Just hearing her voice brings a smile to his weary face. Rebecca and Andy have a good thing going. She owns and manages her chic clothing store, Becca’s, right on Wisconsin. Amanda loves Becca’s shop, and seems to love Becca too. Andy hovers in her store sometimes after work, waiting for her to close up. He tries to be invisible and patient, sitting in one of the comfortable customer chairs wedged between the clothing racks, near the full length mirrors in the rear of the store. He casually flips through fashion magazines she subscribes to that he would never really look at otherwise, but it’s better than having nothing to read while he waits for her to free up.
After listening to his messages, Andy heads to his bedroom. He doesn’t even remember his body hitting the bed.
The warm light streams through the hospital window between the slats of the vertical blinds, creating linear patterns on the hospital room wall. Barbara sits in one of the chairs reading the morning paper.
The security guard peeks in the room and tells her there are two men here to see her “from the government.” Barb puts the newspaper down, and walks out the door to find two clean-cut official-looking guys in slacks and black shoes.
One of the men says, “Good morning, I understand you are the aunt of Ms. Michaels?” At the same time he lifts a small billfold from the inside pocket of his jacket and flashes a badge. Barb notices the words “Federal Bureau of Investigation.”
“I’m Charles Barnes, and this is Mr. Zelniak, from Homeland Security.” Zelniak also slides a badge out of his inside pocket and holds it up for Barbara to inspect.
“Well, this is unexpected,” Barbara says. “Are you here because…actually, why are you here?”
“This is really just routine due diligence. Because your niece is the only survivor of the jet crash, we are hoping to interview her, that is, if and when she’s capable of talking with us.”
Barbara scratches her nose a moment and looks past the both of them. “Are you suggesting that there was something like terrorism involved in the crash?”
Zelniak speaks up. “Whenever there is any type of domestic crash and the cause is not yet identified, it is standard procedure since 9/11 to rule out any possibility of sabotage. Having said that, no ma’am, there is no evidence of any type of sabotage or terrorism here. Nonetheless, we would like to talk to your niece.”
“We understand that Amanda is in a coma now, but at the appropriate time, please give us a call. We’d like to ask her some very routine questions so we can close this file.” At that Barnes hands his card to Barb, and Zelniak follows suit.
Barb shuffles them in between her thumb and forefinger a moment.
“At this moment you can understand the most important thing for us is that Amanda wakes up. But we will definitely let you know if and when she can speak to you.”
I wonder what that was really about, Barb thinks, as she watches them walk down the hall.
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