Okay, since it’s been a while–a long while–since I did one of these, a few words of introduction are probably in order.
Once upon a time, I decided to write a story in weekly installments and post it here, more-or-less live. It went along pretty well for a while, but then Life Happened and I kinda got out of the habit.
So this is me trying to get back into the habit. But since it’s been so long, and I know I’ve picked up a number of new readers/followers in the interim, a bit of a refresher is probably in order. You can access past entries via this link, or by clicking on the “Dragon Friday” button on the menu above. They’re fairly short, quick entries, averaging around 750 words apiece.
Once you’ve caught up, here’s the latest, hot-off-the-wordpress installment:
The Dragon, The Wench, and Her Wardrobe
© 2013 Sheila McClune
Over at the bar, the manager–his name tag said, “Drew”–poked a forefinger at the register’s computer screen. He scowled. “I see two charges on your card here. This one,” he held up Lucinda’s ticket, “and another one for…seven dollars and eighty-five cents more.”
“That’s what I was afraid of.” Lucinda took a deep breath. The manager didn’t deserve the full brunt of her anger. He was trying to fix things, after all. “I only had a burger, a side salad, and two house margaritas.”
Drew nodded. “Got it.” He prodded the screen again. A few seconds later, a charge slip spat out of the printer beside the register. “Okay. Here’s the slip showing the cancelled charge.” A second slip emerged. “And this one shows I’m comping your drinks, for your trouble.”
Lucinda blinked. She hadn’t expected that. “Oh. Thank you.” She took the second slip, marked an emphatic zero on the tip line, and totaled and signed it.
Drew took the slip back and raised an eyebrow. “So your service wasn’t great tonight?” A grin teased the corner of his mouth.
“Well, let’s see.” Lucinda peeked at her cell phone. “It’s what, almost eleven now? I’ve been here since eight-thirty. Plenty of time for more than two drinks, don’t you think?”
“I’m really sorry about that. For what it’s worth, Dee Dee’s going to be looking for a new job about five minutes after you leave.”
“Thanks for that, at least.” She slid her charge slip into her purse and started to turn away.
“Say, wait a minute. Let me give you a couple of gift cards for the next time you come in.”
“You don’t need to do that. Really.”
“But I want to. Wait here just a sec, let me run back to the office to grab them.” Flashing her a grin, Drew ducked down the short hallway that led to the restrooms, the back door, and–presumably–the office.
Lucinda let her attention wander back to the television screens over the bar, then did a double-take. The three that had been showing sports recaps had all switched over to news reports–all showing reporters with DIA’s distinctive roofline in the background.
Unfortunately, the sound was turned down on all of the sets. She was just scanning the counter beside the cash register in hopes of finding one of the remotes when Drew returned.
“Something must’ve happened out at the airport.” She gestured toward the televisions.
Drew pulled a remote out of a drawer beneath the cash register and pointed it at the nearest television.
“…don’t have a final word as to what caused the collapse, or whether there are any injuries or fatalities. We’ve seen a number of emergency vehicles go by, including several ambulances. In the meantime, the airport is officially closed pending an investigation of the tunnel collapse, with flights being diverted to Colorado Springs, Salt Lake City, and Cheyenne.”
The screen split to show a news anchor sitting behind a desk. A frown creased his immaculately groomed brow. “And how long ago did the collapse happen, Brenda?”
The newswoman hunched her shoulders and covered her ear for a moment. Then she straightened up and pinned her steely gaze back on the camera. “Just after ten this evening, Ed. At least, that’s what we’ve heard from passengers who were evacuated from the B and C concourses by bus. They were stranded in the remote concourses when train service stopped.”
“And do we have any idea how many people might have been on board the train involved in the collapse?”
Brenda shook her head. “No, though I’m told there were only a handful of flights left to go out tonight, and that there probably weren’t many passengers on board the train.”
“Thanks, Brenda. We’ll check back in with you in a few minutes.”
The picture shifted to show just the news anchor. “And if you’re just tuning in, one of the train tunnels out at DIA appears to have collapsed this evening, and that at least one train was operating in the tunnel when it collapsed. We’ve not received any word of the cause of the collapse, though authorities don’t suspect terrorist activity at this time.”
Drew hit another button, and the word “MUTE” flashed on the television screen. “Huh. I always thought those trains were a bad idea.”
Lucinda pulled her phone back out. “My sister was supposed to be flying out to Boston today. I hope she wasn’t involved. Though I think her flight was supposed to have been earlier.” She punched in Maddie’s number and hit “send.”
The call went straight to voice mail. Lucinda waited for the beep. “Hi, Maddie. You’re probably asleep or something right now, since you’re two hours ahead of here, but when you get this message, can you please call me? I just saw the news reports about the train thing out at DIA, and I wanted to make sure you’re okay. Thanks. Talk to you later.
“Didn’t answer?” Drew leaned forward, elbows on the bar.
“No. But if she’s still in the air, her phone would be turned off, wouldn’t it?” Lucinda bit her lip. “I’d better get going.”
Drew might have said something to her as she left, but she was too distracted to notice. Yeah, the odds were thousands to one against Maddie being at the airport at just the right time to have been caught in the tunnel collapse. But she hadn’t answered her phone, and that was unusual for her.
Lucinda didn’t even make it all the way to her car before her phone rang. She snatched it out of her purse and hit the answer button without even looking at the caller information. It had to be Maddie, didn’t it? Who else would call at this hour? “Hello?”
“Is this Lucinda Anderson?” a woman’s voice asked.
A chill ran down Lucinda’s spine. “Yes, it is. This is about Maddie, isn’t it? Is she…is she dead?”
“God, I hope not. This is Teri Sardachowski. I’m Maddie’s supervisor. She has you listed as her emergency contact.”
“Oh.” Lucinda reached her hatchback, clicked the button to unlock it. “So is this an emergency?”
“As I said, I hope not. Have you been able to reach Maddie at all?”
Lucinda plopped into the driver’s seat. “No. Have you?”
“No, and that’s why I called. You see, we had a big project we had to finish up today, so I changed Maddie to a later flight, and….”
“Oh. My. God. And you think she might have been involved in that thing out at the airport?”
“I really hope not. But her flight was scheduled to leave just after eleven, and I put her in a car to the airport at about nine o’clock, so chances are good she was there when it happened.”
“And now she’s not answering her phone.”
“Yes. I’m sorry.”
“There could be lots of explanations for that, though, couldn’t there?” Lucinda pulled her legs into the car and closed the door, pushing the button to lock it. That small action made her feel a tiny bit better. “I mean, if I know Mads, she’s probably just run her battery down, or lost her phone, or something. She’ll figure it out pretty soon and find a way to call us. Or maybe she caught a cab and is already back at her apartment. I’m on my way there now.”
“I hope that’s it. Can you do me a favor and call me back at this number, either way?”
“Sure thing. Right after I finish yelling at her for making us worry.”
Lucinda cut the connection and started the car, turning the heater on full. But before she pulled out of her parking space, the forced herself to take several deep breaths. Maddie would be at her apartment. She had to be.