Andrea looked lost when Miranda came near, and she inhaled sharply when their hands touched. "I saw you," Andrea said. "I saw you on the news. He had the tv on for a while, and you were there in the crowd. I saw you right away. Your hair," she said, her voice breaking. "I knew it was you. You were like a beacon. And when I saw you I knew it was going to be okay. You wouldn't put up with anything else."
Miranda sat gingerly next to Andrea, holding her hand lightly, afraid to startle her. "That's right. I would have been very unhappy."
Andrea's breath began to come a little faster. "I was really scared for a while. I was so scared. And he hit me when it started, and he hit Maria too, but it wasn’t bad. I mean, it wasn't. I was just so scared, and after a while I saw you. It made me feel better, even later. When--I mean, it wasn't bad. It was just awful," she babbled. Her breathing was quick now; she was losing the control that had probably kept her sane for the last six hours.
Miranda nodded. "It's all right, darling. You're all right. You're safe now."
Andrea's face collapsed then, and she sobbed and leaned against Miranda, who held her, and stroked her back, and kissed her hair, as the paramedics and detectives tried to look like they were occupied with other, more important things.
The snow fell, heavier now, and the noise around them began to quiet as the minutes passed. Miranda shifted, sliding her arms under the blanket to touch Andrea's skin. But when Andrea flinched, Miranda pulled away. "What?"
"Nothing," Andrea said. "It's just… nothing."
But Miranda's hand came away bloody, and her stomach tensed. Instantly she pulled open the blanket and realized that Andrea's left arm was indeed injured, as Samuelson had suggested. She couldn't see the wounds well, but they were there, and they needed immediate attention. "You're hurt, Andrea," she said, unwilling to wait another moment. "Let's get in the ambulance--"
"No!" Andrea barked, grabbing the collar of Miranda's coat. "No, I don't want to get in. They can fix it here. Can't you?"
"Darling, we have to go to the hospital--"
"I don't want to get in there!" Andrea cried, her voice frantic. "Please," she begged. "Please."
Samuelson came around into Miranda's line of sight then, and he put his hand out in a calming gesture.
"Okay," Miranda said, almost to herself. "Okay. Perhaps our friends here can do something…" Miranda was at a loss.
"Maybe if we put on the light inside," Samuelson said, crossing behind one of the EMTs and flipping on the blinding white light in the cab of the truck. "See. It's a pretty big space. And it's bright. You'll be able to see everything, even better in here than outside. Besides, with the snow, it won't be long before its dark. I think it's better in here."
Andrea's panting began to ease as she glanced back, watching him suspiciously.
"And there are windows, you know. You can see out the back." He pointed.
"I'm not an imbecile," Andrea said, sarcasm lacing her voice. "I'm fine. I just--" She couldn't finish.
Samuelson bobbed his head. "You can say it. Go ahead."
"I was in a closet for a while." Miranda gripped her hand more tightly. "I kept talking, telling him that it would be best to speak to the cops, because with two hundred police out here he wasn't going to get away. I mean, obviously, right?" She laughed bitterly. "So he put me in the closet. And jammed the door with something. I don't know what it was." A few more tears escaped, and Andrea wiped at them angrily. "I was scared. I thought he would shoot me through the door. And kill Maria and Pedro and Lucy."
"But they're not dead," Samuelson said. "They're right over there." He pointed, and Miranda turned to see the three other hostages together, being looked over by medics. A cluster of police hovered around them as well. "Whatever you did, or said, it worked. It kept you alive. Okay?" He glanced at the other detective, who hadn't said a word, and who was writing things down on a small notepad. "Get that?" Samuelson asked.
The silent one nodded.
Miranda offered, "What if we started inside with the doors open? You're bleeding. And it's very cold. You need to get warm."
Andrea shivered on cue. "You'll stay with me."
"Oh, yes," Miranda said. They would have to drag her away now.
"Okay, I guess."
As the medics helped Andrea inside, Miranda looked at Samuelson, who nodded at her in quiet communion. Tears filled the back of her throat, and she fought them valiantly.
After a moment, he looked off in another direction, shifting uncomfortably in the cold.
"Will you be at the hospital?" she asked.
"I got another case I'm on. But I'll come. Later."
Miranda held out her left hand, and briefly, Samuelson grasped it. "Thank you," she said.
"Yeah." He dropped her fingers, and looked over at the other quiet detective. "This is Detective Rodine. He's going to get Andy's story when she's ready. No rush. But the sooner the better, while it's fresh. Good for her, good for us. She's going to need to talk. And get her a shrink, okay?"
"Miranda?" Andrea called nervously.
"I'm coming," Miranda said, before looking back at Samuelson a final time.
"See you." As he strode by her, she thought he touched her shoulder once, but it was too hard to tell.
Miranda wiped her runny nose indelicately with her hand. She owed the man everything. Strange how crisis could forever bind one person to another in such a short period of time.
But there was no time for deep thoughts now. Andrea needed her. She climbed into the back of the cab, and looked away from the blood that trickled down a delicate arm. One EMT made room next to Andrea, and she eased into the space carefully. "I'm here, darling."
"Miranda," Andrea said. "I'm okay." She sounded almost surprised.
"I didn't want to die."
"Ow, fuck," Andrea said, flinching when one particularly painful piece of glass slid out of her flesh.
"Sorry," the EMT replied, wincing in sympathy. "Listen, can you drink some water? I know you didn't want it, but it will help. I swear."
Miranda looked down encouragingly, and Andrea accepted a bottle. She drank, slowly, while Miranda traced gentle fingers along Andrea’s chilly neck. “I have to call home, and work, and your parents.”
“My parents? Do they--”
“Your editor called them.” Miranda glanced at her watch. “They’re hopefully on the ground by now.” She directed her next question to the EMT. “I assume we’re going to New York Presbyterian?”
“Yes, ma’am. I’d like to get on the road if we can.”
Andrea tensely eyed the doors of the cab, but agreed. The silent detective Rodine finally spoke. “I’ll meet you there. Here’s my card in case we don’t find each other. It can be a busy place.” After he handed over his card, he pulled the collar up on his coat and headed out into the evening.
When the female EMT stood to close the doors, Andrea stiffened, but Miranda leaned close. “I’ll call your parents first. If you want to talk to them, just nod.”
Miranda dialed the number, but it went to voicemail. Andrea nodded, and she took the phone. She grimaced when she heard her father’s voice. “Hi Dad,” she said shakily, “I got rescued. We’re going to the hospital, but I’m okay. Call this phone number as soon as you get this. I love you. Bye.” A tear streaked down her cheek when she gave the cell back to Miranda. “Did you speak to them?”
“Just your father.”
“What did you say?”
“Not much. He told me when he was coming in, and where. Come to think of it, I need to reach Emily.” Miranda hit speed dial three and Emily came on the line. “Call the car and tell them to take Andrea’s parents to New York Presbyterian Hospital.”
“But she’s all right?” Emily asked. “We heard the news, that the police shot the man who held her hostage, but they haven’t said much else.”
“She’s fine. Banged up, but alive and well.” Miranda’s smile matched Andrea’s tremulous one.
“Oh, thank god. Nigel, she’s fine,” said Emily. Miranda thought she heard a shout of “Hallelujah” in the background. “I’ll take care of it.”
An unexpected pang of gratitude filled Miranda’s heart. She said quietly, “Thank you, Emily.” For everything.
There was a short pause. “You’re welcome.”
“I’ll be in touch. Goodbye.” She hung up and immediately dialed Caroline.
"She's okay," Miranda said, and there was a boisterous round of screaming that Andrea could hear even through the tiny cellphone speaker. "Darling?" Miranda interrupted.
"Yeah?" Caroline said, breathless.
"We're going to the hospital. I'm not sure when I'll be home. Elissa will have to stay; if there's a problem tell her to call me."
"Sure, Mom. She said she could already. When can we come see Andy?"
"I'm not sure. We'll have to see what the doctors say about keeping her--"
"I'm not staying at the hospital," Andrea said firmly.
Miranda looked over at one of the EMTs, who shrugged and replied, "She doesn't have a concussion, and aside from a few stitches, she'll be good to go."
That meant they could sleep next to one another tonight. If she slept at all.
It took Miranda an entire week to plan the birthday dinner. One sleepless night, she came up with four different menus, and found herself debating the merits of keeping it simple or going over the top. When she finally began discussions with Curtis, she went over every detail repeatedly. “No red onions in the salad, or anywhere else,” she reminded him.
“Yes, Ms. Priestly.”
“And she’s allergic to crabmeat, so no shellfish.”
“Yes Ms. Priestly.”
“Avoid Worcestershire sauce. I read that it can contain anchovies.”
“Anchovies aren’t shellfish, Ms. Priestly.”
She’d narrowed her eyes. “No Worcestershire.”
Curtis swallowed convulsively. “Of course.
That night, the twins looked adorable, in similar but not identical Ella Moss dresses. Miranda had warned them to behave, and they’d nodded solemnly. She had also apologized to Andrea already about having to stay in for the occasion; she didn't want the girls to ruin what she hoped would be a lovely night.
The twins had not seen Andrea since they'd been caught kissing, nor had they spoken once of their mother's new "girlfriend." Miranda was far more nervous than a woman of 51 should be about a dinner with three of the people closest to her in the world, but she was. If the girls didn't learn to like Andrea, how would she handle it? She could hardly bear the thought.
They all went to sit down for the meal, and Miranda had just started to relax when Andrea popped up from her chair with a squeal. Her eyes were wide, and she rubbed her rear end.
“What?” Miranda said, immediately suspecting sabotage. The girls tried to look innocent.
Andrea just raised her eyebrows and glanced at the twins. “Am I supposed to say it’s rheumatism?”
“What?” Miranda repeated.
“You know,” Andrea said, patting her rump and clearing her throat. “Rheumatism.” She held up a pine cone she took from the seat. “It’s from one of my favorite movies.”
Cassidy gaped. “It is?”
“What is?” Miranda said, raising her voice.
Andrea rolled her eyes and ignored her. “Of course it is. I have excellent taste.” She lobbed the pine cone at an open-mouthed Caroline, who caught it. “What, you think no one over the age of 15 has seen it? Please.”
“Can we watch it tonight? Mom never watches it with us,” Caroline said eagerly.
“Sure. It’s been a while.” Andrea finally turned to look at Miranda. “So what’s for dinner? I am starving!”
Miranda gaped open-mouthed as her girls shared a secret smile, and Andrea winked at her. In that moment, her anxiety dissipated.