"See there, That's a good sign." She kissed Hope's forehead. "I'd better get the book. I'm running late."
"Want me to get it?" Hope asked.
But Rachel remembered what she had been drawing before the otters had recaptured her eye. She wanted to make sure that that drawing was put safely away.
"Thanks, sweetheart, but I'll do it." When Hope looked reluctant to let her go, she begged, "Help Sam. Please," and set off.
The book was where she had left it, on a corner of the large worktable. Hope had arrived while she was at the easel. The drawing -- a charcoal sketch -- still lay on the desk by the window.
Rachel lifted it now and carefully slipped it into a slim portfolio. As she did, her mind's eye re-created the image her sliver of charcoal had made, that of a man sprawled in a tangle of sheets. Even handling the heavy paper, she felt his trim hips, the slope of his spine, and widening above it, dorsal muscle, triceps, deltoid. Had it not been for the hair, it might have been an innocent exercise in drawing the human form. The hair, though, was dark and just a little too long on the neck. The identity was unmistakable; this figure had a name. Better the girls shouldn't see.
Taking care to tuck that last portfolio behind the desk, she retrieved the book and hurried back through the house. She gave the girls quick kisses, promised to be home by eleven, and went out to her car.
WHEN JACK McGILL'S phone rang at two in the morning, the sound cut sharply into the muted world of a soupy San Francisco night. He had been lying in bed since twelve, unable to sleep. His mind was too filled, too troubled. The sudden sound jolted already jittery nerves.
In the time that it took him to grab for the phone, a dozen jarring thoughts came and went. "Yes?"
"Is this Jack McGill?" asked a voice he didn't know. It was female and strained.
"I'm Katherine Evans, one of Rachel's friends. There's been an accident. She's at the hospital in Monterey. I think you should come."
Jack sat up. "What kind of accident?"
"Her car was hit and went off the road."
His stomach knotted. "What road? Were the girls with her?"
"Highway One, and, no, she was alone." Relief. The girls were safe, at least. "She was near Rocky Point, on her way to Carmel. A car rammed her from behind. The impact pushed her across the road and over the side."
His feet hit the floor. The knot in his stomach tightened.
"She's alive," the friend went on. "Only a few broken bones, but she hasn't woken up. The doctors are worried about her brain."
He pushed a hand through his hair. The disquieting thoughts about work that had kept him awake were gone, replaced by a whole different swarm. "The girls --"
"-- are still home. Rachel was on her way to book group. When nine o'clock came and she hadn't shown up, I called the house. Samantha said she'd left at seven, so I called the state police. They told me there'd been an accident, and ID'd her car. They were still trying to get her out of it at that point and didn't know how she was, so I called her neighbor, Duncan Bligh. He went down to sit with the girls. I called them a little while ago to say she's okay, but I didn't tell them about the head injury, and I didn't know whether to tell Duncan to drive them up here to the hospital. That's not my decision to make."
No. It was Jack's. Divorce or no divorce, he was the girls' father. Clamping the phone between shoulder and jaw, he reached for his jeans. "I'm on my way. I'll call Samantha and Hope from the car."
Reproduced with the permission of Simon & Schuster.
Copyright © 1998 by Barbara Delinsky.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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