Chapter Ninety One
Carrie heard about the blown bridge and faced Stephen with a new flare in her eye. “Someone’s gonna pay for this.”
She looked down at her torn and dirty blouse, her dirt stained jeans, and the bandages on her hands from the flaming debris. “I don’t know if I should go on air lookin’ like this, or not? But the people gotta know.”
She grabbed Stephen by the front of his shirt, causing him to focus on her upturned face. “They gotta know, an’ I’m the only one who can tell the real story. Will you? Um, can you come with me? You know, back me up in this?”
Stephen waited as he thought the moment through. “Hold on a minute and think. Do you really want to go on air, as you are, with your hair in such a mess? Your eye is puffed up and turning color, and that bruise on your forehead is too.”
Stephen looked down at the bandages on his hands, feeling the sharp sting of the antiseptic and burns. “I don’t think I look any better. But hey, if you’re game to make the report, then yeah, I’ll stand by you and more. I’ll call my dad.”
Carrie looked up at him sharply. “Your dad?”
“Yeah, my dad. He’s a vice president with your company. You’ve maybe heard of him. George Hammond.”
Carrie’s good eye widened at the name. “You mean Mr. Hammond is your dad? The Mr. Hammond? The one who did the Cairo report…, and that disaster off the coast of Russia?”
Stephen gave her a hug to confirm it. “Yup, the same. An’ if you don’t want him to come down here and steal the show from you, you better get on air, and soon, with full report. You sure you’re okay, ’cause, ah, you look sort of beat up.”
Carrie squared up her shoulders and responded to his challenge. “Yeah, I am, or was. Beat up, and discouraged. But I can do this, black eye and bruised forehead and all. ‘Cause tonight I am the news, an’ so are you. Come on. Let’s get this show on the air.”
Carrie dragged Stephen away from the multi-purpose building toward her trailer. Halfway there, they met her panicky crew, looking for her, trying to find out what happened.
She lifted her headset into place and motioned for her crew to follow. “I know guys, we’ll be on battery for a bit, so I’ll make it brief. Then we’ll get the van over here for in depth coverage. Hey, don’t look at me like I’m crazy. I know I look a mess, but hey, now I’m an eye witness to the attacks, as in, ‘I was there when it happened, get it?’”
Carrie positioned herself so the burning house stood over her shoulder, then stared into the glare of the spotlight. “This is Carrie Malone, coming to you from the scene of the latest in a series of terrorist bombings at the little white church on the bluff. Behind me is what’s left of the house where, less than a half hour ago, I was in and about to share some pizza with my friends, including Stephen Hammond, son of our network executive, Mr. George Hammond. You can see the home burning brightly in the background. Stephen found backpack bombs in the kitchen moments before the blasts, literally just enough time to rush out on the lawn before the house blew up into what you’re seeing on the screen.’
“Joe, try to focus over to the right. See that other blaze? That was the home of Pastor Herb and Diane, whom you’ve seen so much at the services from the little white church on the bluff, carried by this network. Shortly after those two blasts, another explosion took the home of another couple from the church, Ralph and Elise Sorenson, good friends of ours. We’ve one unconfirmed report that they escaped from their home after the blast. A fourth, much larger explosion, which we now understand as a truck bomb, blew up at a security checkpoint, with the death of the driver, and minor injuries to our troops. One of the terrorists was caught, less than fifteen minutes ago by my count. Just a minute.”
Carrie listened into her headset. “We have confirmed report that the main highway bridge just north of here is gone, taken out by terrorists, just minutes ago. The entire Mississippi River corridor is shut down for safety and inspection by Homeland Security in Chicago.”
A secondary explosion from inside the blazing structure behind Carrie made her flinch involuntarily and duck down. Her cameraman held to his spot as flaming debris blew out from the house, making great video for the network.
Carrie shivered at the thought of them still laying in the house as it burned, but she forced herself up and returned to camera. “This is Carrie Malone, from the little white church on the bluff.”
Carrie turned in a burst of directions. “Joe, get the van positioned right up here by the church. Use your press pass. We’ll go back on in five minutes, or less, with a backup report. This is so exciting. The entire nation will be watching, and soon the world, when this goes viral.
Carrie reached out to Stephen who just finished his call. He looked away from her. Out toward the night sky, drawn away from the scene. “That was my dad. We, um…, we haven’t spoken in over five years or so. Kind of, um, don’t get along, see?”
He snuffled a bit, then brought up his news. “He caught your report. Said it was spot on, and you did well, in spite of what happened. You and I, well, now it’s our story, yeah, our story, you and I. Our story to tell, an’ get this, we have the support of the entire network. Whatever you need, we need, just name it. We’ll be the face of the news until this blows over.”
He looked at her shocked face. “Oops sorry. Bad choice of words.’
He gave her a big hug, lifting and twirling her around before planting his kiss on her upturned lips. “Oh, an’ this too…, I love you!”