Read an Excerpt
Remember Tuesday Morning9/11 Series
By Karen Kingsbury
ZondervanCopyright © 2011 Karen Kingsbury
All right reserved.
Chapter OneSmog hung over the San Fernando Valley like a collapsed Boy Scout tent, filling in the spaces between the high-rise office buildings and freeway overpasses. The Pacific Ocean hadn't produced a breeze in three weeks, and by two o'clock that August afternoon temperatures had long since shot past the century mark.
Alex Brady didn't care.
He picked up his pace, pounding his Nikes against the shimmering asphalt. Salty sweat dripped down his temples and into the corners of his mouth, but he kept running, filling his lungs with the sweltering, stifling air. Something about the sting in his chest made him feel good, stirred the intensity of his run. The intensity of his existence. If chasing bad guys on the streets of Los Angeles didn't kill him, he wasn't going to keel over on the Pierce College running track. Whatever the weather.
Five miles and ten hill sprints every off-day, that was his mandate. And he never made the trip without Bo.
They were alone on the track today, no one else crazy enough to push this hard in the suffocating heat. He glanced at the German shepherd keeping pace alongside him. His dog, his partner for every on-duty call. His best friend, his only friend. "Atta boy." The dog wasn't even breathing hard. Alex slowed long enough to pat Bo's deep brown coat. They both needed a drink. Alex's ribs heaved as he ran to the bleachers and slowed to a stop. He grabbed one of his water bottles from the lowest row and downed half of it. Bo found his bowl a few feet away and lapped like crazy. This was a two-bottle day if ever there was one.
Alex slammed the bottle back down on the bench and kicked his run into gear again. His dog was a few seconds behind him, but he caught up easily. "Alright, Bo ... let's get this." Alex could feel the workout now, feel his legs screaming for relief the way they always did when he had a mile left.
Bo's earnest eyes seemed to say he would stay by his master whatever the pace, whatever the distance. Alex wiped the back of his hand across his forehead and squinted against the glare of the afternoon sun. Without question, Bo was the best police dog in the Los Angeles Sheriff 's Department. Every bit as fit as Alex, and with a resumé of heroism unequalled among K9 units.
Another lap and Alex noticed something on the surface of the track. His running shoes were leaving an imprint. The asphalt was that hot. Good thing Bo was running on the grass. Push through it, he ordered himself. Dad would've done this without breaking a sweat.
And then, like it did at least once a day, a rush of memories came over him so hard and fast he could almost feel the wind from its wake. His dad, Captain Ben Brady, New York City firefighter. His hero, his best friend. Suddenly it was all real again. The sound of his voice, the feel of his hand ... firm against Alex's shoulder when he lost the big game his junior year ... running alongside Alex when he was six and learning to ride a bike ... or even before that, when he lifted Alex up into the fire truck that very first time.
Two more laps, Brady. You can do it. Alex clenched his teeth and pushed himself, but the memories stayed. There was his dad, hovering over his bed that September Tuesday morning, placing his hand against the side of Alex's face. "Buddy ... time to get up. You gotta ace that math test ... we'll talk about the other stuff when I get home."
The other stuff. Alex blinked and the hillside that surrounded half the track appeared again. The other stuff was Alex's determination to parlay his years as a fire cadet into an immediate position with the FDNY. As a teen, Alex could already see himself in the uniform, rushing into burning buildings, climbing atop blazing rooftops, rescuing families and putting out fires. His dad saw things differently. College would be better. His grades were good, his SAT scores in the top ten percent. Why battle fires in Manhattan when you could work in an office with a view of Central Park? Alex was sure that was the message his dad was going to deliver that night.
Only the message never came.
The terrorists ... the terrorists picked that day to —
Alex found a reserve of energy for the last lap. "Come on, Bo." He could feel the heat in his face and neck and arms, but he pushed ahead. Of course he hadn't gone to college, and he hadn't spent another day desiring a job with the FDNY. He'd done the only thing he could do. He moved as far away from New York City as he could and threw himself into earning a sheriff 's badge. That way he could consume himself with the one job that mattered after September 11. Get the bad guys.
Didn't matter if they were drunk drivers or gang thugs, bank robbers or terrorists plotting the next big attack, Alex wanted them off the street. That desire was all that drove him, the only purpose he felt born to fulfill. Get rid of the evil. He and Bo. So that some other high school senior wouldn't have to sit in his Shakespearean English class and watch his dad murdered on live television.
He took the last ten yards at a sprint, his heart bursting from his chest, and then he dropped back to a walk. The smog didn't pass for oxygen, and he couldn't catch his breath. But he'd been here before. He knew how to work with the heat and dirty air. He pursed his lips and blew it all out, emptying his lungs, making space for his next breath. "Go on, Bo ..." He followed the dog to the water, and by the time he reached the bleachers he was breathing again. Ready for the hills.
He downed the rest of the first bottle and paced a few yards in either direction. Bo stayed by his water bowl, but his eyes moved from Alex to the hill at the other end of the stadium. "Give me a minute." He grabbed his towel from the bleachers and buried his face in it. The hills were the best part. For a few intense minutes, he could feel what his father had felt, the way he must've pushed himself up the stairs of the North Tower, looking for victims, seeking the wounded and trapped on one floor after another.
He tossed his towel on the bleachers and stretched hard to the right, lengthening his core muscles and bringing relief to his tired body. The left side was next, and when he finished he nodded to the dog. "Come on." He jogged to the base of the hill with the German shepherd on the grass at his side. Then, without waiting, he lowered his head and dug into the hillside. The ground was steep, all craggy dirt clods and forgotten weeds, but his footing stayed sure and steady.
Move it ... push harder, he ordered himself. Halfway up the hill the burning began and Alex welcomed it. Again his surroundings faded and Alex could see the stairwell, the way it must've looked as his father climbed higher and higher. People rushing down the stairs, firefighters rushing up. He would do this as often as he could, every day when he didn't don the uniform, and he would remember everything his father stood for. Everything that drove him and gave him purpose in life.
Bo made it to the top of the hill ahead of him, tongue hanging from his mouth halfway to the ground. But even then the dog was ready for the downhill, ready for the next nine trips back up. Faster ... don't let up. He wiped the back of his hand across his wet forehead and focused on the path back down. At the base of the hill he glanced at his watch. He needed to push through this thing. He still had to grab a shower and run a few errands before dinner at the Michaels' house. And he wouldn't miss dinner.
The evenings with Sergeant Clay Michaels and his wife, Jamie, were the only social invites Alex received. Most times he didn't really want to go, didn't want someone worrying about him or probing around in his personal life. But he promised himself he'd show up every time Clay and Jamie asked. Otherwise, he'd become a machine, an unfeeling robot whose sole purpose in life was to round up crooks and lock them away. Alex squinted at the hill and attacked it a second time. Not that he minded being a machine. He sort of liked the idea. But if he lost touch completely with people, he might forget one very important aspect of his job —
The pain of it.
A driving force for Alex was the way people were hurt by bad guys, because there was way too much mind-boggling sorrow out there. Deep life-altering sadness like the kind that had ripped into him and his mom on September 11, 2001. If he lost track of the human suffering, he could just go ahead and hang up his gun, because the hurt was why he was here in the first place. So yeah, he would keep his dinner invitation tonight and anytime Clay and his wife made room for him at their table. Because being around them kept alive what was left of his heart. That and times like this, when his workout actually allowed him to think beyond the next few minutes.
The workout did something else, too — if only for a few hours.
It made him forget the girl he'd left back in New York City, and all the reasons he'd walked away from her. A girl whose indelible fingerprints stayed on his heart and whose contagious laughter and easy smile had a way of catching up to him, no matter how hard and fast he ran.
A girl named Holly Brooks.
Chapter TwoClay Michaels reached into the pantry of his Calabasas, California, home, pulled out a plastic pitcher, and handed it to his wife, Jamie. "Everyone here?"
"Not yet." She took the pitcher and filled it with three scoops of powdered lemonade. "We're waiting on Alex. Everyone else is out back." She leaned close and gave him a quick kiss. "Time for you to work your magic."
He caught her by the waist and eased her close to him. "You mean ..." he kissed her again, long enough to take her breath away, "... like this?"
She took a step back, starry-eyed, and inhaled sharply. "Later." She glanced over her shoulder at the window that separated the kitchen from the backyard. "They're hungry." She straightened her shirt, spun around to the fridge, and pulled out a tray of raw burgers. "This magic."
Clay took the tray and grinned at her. "Where's Sierra?"
"In the garage with Wrinkles," she frowned. "That cat's been sleeping all day."
"Yeah, well," Clay made a silly face and balanced the tray of burgers on the palm of one hand. "With a three-year-old running around, sometimes I think we could all use a nap in the garage."
Clay's brother Eric opened the slider door and stayed beside him while the burgers cooked. Not far away on the patio, Jamie sat with Eric's wife, Laura, across from Joe and Wanda Reynolds. The six of them did this regularly, getting together at one of their homes for a weekend barbecue.
Eric was talking about a deal at work, an acquisition of some kind, but Clay was catching only every other word, distracted by Michael Bublé playing in the background and the happy voices of the kids on the swing set across the yard. Three-year-old CJ was running his Hot Wheels car on the slide with Joe and Wanda's little boy, Will. The two looked like miniature versions of their fathers — one blond and blue-eyed, one black with sparkling brown eyes, the best of buddies. On the nearest swing, Eric and Laura's little red-headed girl, Lacey, was giggling at them.
Clay turned his attention to the burgers. "Looks like they're just about ready."
Eric peered inside the grill. "I'll get the buns." "They're inside on the counter." Clay surveyed the scene again. The thick smell of burgers mixed with the warm summer sweetness from the gardenias, the ones Jamie planted along the back of the property the week they moved in. Clay breathed in deeply. He wanted to freeze the moment, wrap his arms around it, and never let it go.
Times like this, he could almost forget the pressure of his job, the responsibility he wore like a heavy yoke when he headed off to the LA sheriff 's Monterey Park headquarters. Tonight he wasn't a sergeant with the Special Enforcement Bureau or one of the most respected men in the department. He wasn't training the next group of SWAT guys or worrying about threats from local environmental terrorist groups a few weeks shy of what could be the area's worst fire season ever.
No, tonight he was a married man, longing to stretch out the weekend hours. He was a daddy who didn't mind wearing a jester hat when the kids played dress-up and a friend who had stayed faithful through too many highs and lows to remember. He was a brother and an uncle, a God-fearing family man who prayed daily for the people in his life. Most of all — no matter what work threw at him — he was a believer.
All the things he feared Deputy Alex Brady might never be.
He was sliding burgers off the grill and onto the open buns on the tray in Eric's hands when he heard someone at the patio door. He turned in time to see Alex walk through the door, his expression marked by an unspoken apology. "Traffic on the 101," he shrugged as he set his keys on a table just outside the patio door. He wore a white T-shirt and jeans, his short dark hair streaked with a few blond highlights and styled more like a contemporary pop star than a sheriff 's deputy. Alex gave Clay a half-grin. "Your famous burgers again, huh, Sarge?"
"That's why they call me 'Magic'." He kept his tone light. Alex came for dinner once a month or so, and usually they never got past shoptalk. But Clay had a feeling about tonight, that maybe they could find their way to something deeper, like why it was Alex had trouble connecting with any other human being. "Did you bring Bo?"
"He's out front. Tied him up on the porch."
"We'll save him a burger."
The men headed to the table and Clay called the kids. Eric and Laura's son Josh came in through the side gate, a basketball tucked beneath his arm, his face damp with sweat. He was fifteen now and almost as tall as Eric. Behind him were Joe and Wanda's older two — both in middle school and fascinated with basketball.
"They're good." Josh waved his thumb at the Reynolds kids. "I barely beat 'em."
"Yeah right." The oldest of the Reynolds kids rolled his eyes. He used his tank top to wipe his forehead. "He schooled us again." The three older kids took their plates and headed out front once more.
As the younger kids finished eating, they ran to the swings, leaving the seven adults sitting around Clay and Jamie's patio table. Joe took a long drink of his lemonade and sat back in his chair. He shaded his eyes and watched CJ, Will, and Lacey. "The miracle babies are growing up."
Clay smiled at the term. Miracle babies. That's what the couples had called their youngest children ever since the three of them arrived — all within a year of each other. Lacey was the baby Eric and Laura never would've had if not for a fateful business trip on September 11, 2001. If Eric hadn't spent three months in New York City recovering from his injuries and learning how to be the father and family man he had never been, their marriage wouldn't have survived.
Joe and Wanda's marriage had been over as well, their love for each other lost in the aftermath of heartache when their firstborn son was hit and killed by a car. Years passed with the two of them living separate lives on opposite coasts, but then Joe dragged Clay to New York City for police training and something more — a chance to reunite with Wanda.
Joe was laughing now, telling a story about little Will. Clay studied his friend. There were no signs of the near-fatal gunshot wound he'd gotten while on that New York trip. All that mattered was he'd come back with Wanda ready to start over again. Their son Will was proof that God could bless even the most broken people with a second chance.
And, of course, his and Jamie's own little CJ. It was still hard to believe that on that same New York trip, Clay had connected with Jamie — Jamie Bryan, the very woman who had nursed Clay's brother, Eric, back to health in the months after 9/11. Love for them had been sure and fast — beauty borne of ashes. By then Clay had all but given up on marrying and having a family, and Jamie never for a moment thought that someday her daughter, Sierra, would have a sibling.
But here they were, all of them — embracing life and raising their miracle babies.
Joe nodded toward the kids. "Lacey's definitely in charge." He was holding Wanda's hand, the two of them relaxed and happy together. Little Will had his mother's milk chocolate skin, and his father's sense of humor. The boy loved nothing more than to tease the lone girl who rounded out their trio.
Excerpted from Remember Tuesday Morning by Karen Kingsbury Copyright © 2011 by Karen Kingsbury . Excerpted by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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