Tears streamed down Jackieâ€™s face as she circled the block for the third time looking for a parking spot in front of her favorite coffee shop. Her head felt as if it were going to explode, and her whole body was screaming out in pain. Glancing at her watch, she pleaded, â€śSomebody, please move your car. I could use a break after the morning Iâ€™ve had.â€ť
It was 8:15, which didnâ€™t leave much time before she had to be at work. Jackie circled the block one more time, then gave up and parked a few blocks away, not far from the Laster County Courthouse. If she hurried, there would be just enough time to walk to the coffee shop, get her morning fix of caffeine, walk back to her car, and drive to the parking garage near Talon and Greer Law Firm.
Despite her horrendous headache and aching body, Jackie smiled when she thought about her job. She had been at the firm six months as an intern learning the ins and outs of investigating crimes and loved every minute. The work was exhilarating, and chasing clues gave her an adrenaline rush. Occasionally, she had to pinch herself to make sure it was real.
Looking into the rear-view mirror and seeing the ugly marks on her face, Jackie flinched and her smile quickly changed to a frown. I look horrible, she thought as she put on sunglasses to cover her black eye. Choking back tears, she pulled her scarf tighter to hide the red marks on her cheek and her hat down to cover the cuts on her forehead. This will have to do for now, but how am I going to conceal the marks when I get to work? Iâ€™ll have to come up with a convincing story to bluff my way through this one.
After taking some cash from her billfold, Jackie stashed her purse under the seat. She got out of the car and walked as fast as she could to Sherryâ€™s Coffee Shop, praying there wouldnâ€™t be a long line. Luck was with her, only two people in line.
Keeping her head down, she waited impatiently until her time to order. â€śFrench Vanilla Latte,â€ť she said softly. After paying for her drink, she checked the time again: 8:25.
An ear-splitting boom rumbled throughout the shop as cups, dishes, and coffee pots fell off the shelves and scattered all over the floor. Whatâ€™s happening? Is this an earthquake? Jackie thought as she grabbed onto the counter to keep from falling.
As soon as the building stopped shaking, pandemonium broke out. People began screaming and running out the door. Jackie just stood there in shock, not sure what to do. She watched in disbelief as a frantic woman ran into the shop and shouted, â€śSomeone has blown up the courthouse!â€ť
â€śOh, no,â€ť Jackie whispered, â€śhow could anyone do something that horrendous?â€ť Looking out the window and seeing all the chaos, she knew there was no chance of arriving at work on time. I think Iâ€™d better stay here until I know for sure whatâ€™s happening out there. Iâ€™ll call Cheryl and tell her Iâ€™m stuck in traffic. I really donâ€™t want to face everyone and try to come up with an explanation of my messed up body.
Jackie walked across the room, legs wobbling and hands shaking, and sat down at one of the tables near the TV. Picking up her latte, she lifted it slowly to her lips. Her hands were shaking so much that some spilled onto her lap and burned her leg. As she wiped the coffee off her skirt and leg, tears began flowing down her cheeks again. This is by far the worst morning of my life! Hanging her head in despair, she tried to make sense of what was happening to her.
Breaking news interrupted the TV program and brought her back to reality. She watched as heart-wrenching pictures of the devastation were flashed on the screen. Her stomach churned, and she felt as if she was going to throw up when she saw bodies being carried out of the courthouse.
The reporter at the scene seemed frantic as he described the mayhem that was going on around him. Then he said something that made Jackieâ€™s head reel and was forever ingrained in her memory: â€śThe blast was so extreme that we may never know how many have been killed. Those walking close to the vehicle containing the bomb would have disintegrated with no trace of them.â€ť
Jackieâ€™s thoughts went wild and she whispered, â€śThis is my way out.â€ť