[Author’s Note: This is another one where I have the plot outlined in broad strokes, but the Devil’s in the Details, and there’s a connection between either Nora and Rachel or Nora and Mrs. MacIntosh that I haven’t figured out yet. And for me, that’s OK. Good stories take time, and I don’t mind letting them percolate so long as they let me sleep sometimes…
Meanwhile, please enjoy this…]
Dr. Rusty MacIntosh needed this time away. He and his wife of six months hadn’t had time for a real honeymoon, as work was always calling. He had come home Thursday afternoon to find their bags packed; she was waiting by the door.
“Either you are coming on this trip with me, no questions asked, or you are taking your bags to a hotel by yourself – I kid you not.”
Dr. MacIntosh knew better than to ask any questions. Surely the rest of his team would be able to function without him. And it would be great to get away.
These were all great things to be thinking when the hotel that you are evacuating is on fire. May not exactly be romance, but something was sure to hell igniting. His wife was just ahead of him – constantly looking backward to make sure he was following, but at the same time not stopping to wait. This was not a drill, people.
“Sorry, mister.” The small voice broke Dr. MacIntosh from his reverie.
“That’s OK, sweetie,” he said. “Have you found your parents?”
“Nope. I ain’t gots none. And I can’t hear the other girls over all the fuss. And the smoke smell is real strong.”
Dr. MacIntosh couldn’t smell anything, but he realized her other sense had taken over. She was blind.
“Do you need any help?”
“I’ll be alright once I get outside.”
But just then, a couple of rowdy boys passed them, knocking the girl down in the process. People were coming so fast and in such a panic, the good doctor just knew she would be trampled if he didn’t intervene. Without another thought, he swooped down and picked up the little girl.
“Let’s get outside. Then we’ll find your friends.”
“OK. I’m Rachel.”
“I’m Rusty. Rusty MacIntosh.”
“You’re a rusty Macintosh? Like an apple? With rust on it? That’s funny.” Rachel giggled.
“Well, you’re Rachel…” Rusty was stumped for a comeback. “Let’s just get out of here.”
“Yes, sir, Rusty MacIntosh.” Rachel giggled again.
The nun habit itched fiercely. Nora wished she’d had time to wash it after the last job. But Larry was always in a hurry, and the wimple was so hard to lay just right. So she scratched her arm instead. Maybe she could get some lotion at that airport sundry shop. Maybe.
Larry had the get-away van engine revving. “C’mon, Nora. Trouble waits for no man!”
Nora sighed. “I’m no man.” She muttered. She pulled the wimple down in what she hoped was authentic for a woman of the cloth. Then she hitched up the skirt and climbed in. She didn’t even have a chance to shut the door before Larry was off the brake and they were rolling.
“Dammit, Larry! Don’t I at least have time to shut the damn door?”
“Darlin’, you’ve gotta start living more dangerously. I think the habit might be wearing off on you.”
“Suck it, Larry.”
With some effort, Nora got the door closed and put her seat belt on.
“So what’s this job, and why are you in such a hurry?”
“We’re going to Shreveport. There’s a big shipment come in and we’re going to go sail with it.”
“So why did I have to put this thing on NOW? Don’t tell me I’m stuck wearing this thing all the way to Shreveport.”
“I just told you to be ready. I didn’t tell you that you had to be in costume.”
“What do you think ‘be ready’ means?”
“In the van, Nora. With your stuff – in the van.”
“Only if you’re coming with, babe.”
It wasn’t always like this, Nora reflected. Once upon a time, she was young, beautiful, and smart. She was fast-tracking her way to a full ride at Auburn or Berkley or somewhere. She was going to leave everyone else behind. She guessed she did that with Larry, after all, but not the way she’d wanted. Larry was a good guy, beyond all the flaws. He had picked her up when she was all broken and sad. She adjusted the habit and rode on.
Larry was explaining about the jewels that were being brought to Shreveport – specifically, the XYZ hotel there. It was big hush hush news – the kind Larry never got – but he happened to have been following a line and when it blipped off the radar, he knew it had to be there. Larry wasn’t very smart, but he was usually right. Whether the jewels were part of some big-wig’s wedding trousseau or an armored van was making a deposit, they were going to be part of the hotel.
The Shreveport Home for Girls had been Rachel’s home since she was six months old. They realized she was blind after she turned about a year old. It took them so long to notice because Rachel was always happy, always smiling, and always in a gaggle of other children. In fact, until she started school, it was really hard to tell that there was anything wrong with her. She just followed the other kids and did what they did. At a year old, not much was expected.
But by the time she was supposed to start school, the blindness affected her more and more. She could listen attentively as the other girls talked about the books they were reading, but she couldn’t read them herself. She could only parrot back what she’d heard other girls say. And the girls, once her best friends and appreciative of the way Rachel’d hang on to their every word, began to tease and torment their little tag-along. Rachel tried hard to hide her disappointment. She made extra jokes at dinner and could still make the smallest children laugh. But more and more she found herself by herself. The home was competitive, after all. The girls had this idea that new parents would only come for the prettiest, smartest girls. Hanging out with Rachel would not help their chances. So the older girls got adopted and Rachel stayed on. She couldn’t lead the younger girls, and she needed a lot of help. So she eventually drifted apart.
When she was six, Rachel got her first cane. Although it helped her navigate to the classroom in the event someone left a toy or a shoe in her way, and even allowed her to cross the street or head to the small candy store on the corner, she didn’t like it. Most of the time, she left it by her bed. When she wanted to go somewhere, she just followed a group…