CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

Jenny told herself she'd been impetuous and childish to walk away from Alex, but she was furious at his implied accusation against her father. His insistence that they must leave without finding her dad was unacceptable. If necessary, she'd visit every hospital in the area.

       Finding a cab was the hard part. She walked swiftly along Victory Boulevard staring at the battered buildings. Aftershocks rattled the area, setting off car alarms and jangling her nerves.

       She waved frantically at a passing taxi carrying two passengers. Mercifully the driver stopped.

      "Oh, thank you," Jenny smiled. She nodded to the solemn, middle aged couple.

       "Where you headed, lady?" the driver called back.

       "The nearest hospital. I'm looking for someone."

       "So is half the valley looking for someone," he quipped.

       The grey-haired woman spoke quietly. "We arrived last night to visit my sister. We stayed at a hotel and awakened to this nightmare."

       "Is your sister okay?" Jenny asked politely.

       "Her apartment was demolished. She...she didn't make it. We're on our way to a mortuary to make arrangements."

       "Oh, I'm so sorry." Jenny said. "I'm new in town. My father was injured. I'm looking for the hospital where they took him."

       She turned to gaze out the window at the chaotic sight of dazed people stumbling aimlessly, and autos maneuvering through broken

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streets. The earth's sudden shift had changed the face of the west San Fernando Valley.

       The driver stopped the cab at the curb of a brick mortuary, got out and opened the door for the middle-aged passengers.

       Taking his wife's hand, the man turned to Jenny. "I hope you find your father."

       "Thank you," Jenny said, "and I'm so sorry about your sister."

       The cab driver drove off. "Okay, lady, where to?"

       "Start at the nearest hospital." Jenny leaned forward. "I'll check each one if I must."

       "Hey, listen, there are a lots of people looking for a ride. I don't know..." She caught his glance in the rear view mirror and understood the implication. He would need a generous tip for personal door to door service. She nodded and he took off.

       "Don't know which hospitals are operating." The driver called back. "We'll start with West Valley Hospital. I'll wait five minutes. No more."

       Jenny sprinted to the patient information desk. Her father wasn't there, the harried receptionist told her. She received the same response at the next two hospitals.

       Valley Presbyterian Hospital is our last stop, lady. "I've trucked you all over the valley and now I gotta report to my manager."

       He drove into the entrance of Valley Presbyterian Hospital. The parking lot was filled with doctors, nurses and emergency crews serving the first wave of critically injured, the broken, bruised and shaken-up victims.

       "Good luck, lady." The cabby called after her. "Find another cab home."

       Jenny handed him a generous tip, smiled her thanks and dashed to the information center.

       "Yes, we have a Philip Lansing. Are you a relative?"

       "His daughter."

       "He's on the 4th floor."

       She paid no attention to the receptionist calling after her. "There's a U.S. Marshall guarding his room. He may not let you in."

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       Since the elevator was inoperative, Jenny raced to the staircase. Intent and focused on seeing her father and joyfully imagining their reunion, she didn't hear footsteps directly behind her until a hand was roughly clapped over her mouth.

Chapter 18  ||  Table of Contents