He pushed the car faster.
"Mr. McGill?" came a male voice, choppy over the speaker but audible. "I'm Dr. Conley. I treated your wife when she arrived."
"What's the surgery for?" he shouted, gripping the steering wheel.
"To set her left leg. Compound fractures, both femur and tibia. They'll be inserting pins --"
"I was told there were head injuries," he cut in. A person didn't die from a broken leg. "Has she regained consciousness?"
"No. There's some cranial swelling. We don't yet know what direction it'll take."
"I want a specialist called."
"Our man is on his way. When will you be here?"
"I'm just leaving San Francisco."
"Two hours, then?"
"Less," Jack said and, slowing but barely, sailed through a red light. "Here's my cell number." He rattled it off. "Call me if there's any change, will you?" When the doctor agreed, Jack punched out another set of numbers. He wasn't as quick to press send this time, though. He didn't know what to say to the girls. They weren't babies anymore. And teenagers today were a different breed from the ones he had known. Add the fact that he no longer lived with them, and that they were girls, and he was at a triple disadvantage.
But this time he couldn't pass the buck. There was no one else to take it.
Katherine. That was the friend's name. Katherine.
Rachel had never mentioned her, but then, Rachel never mentioned anything that didn't deal directly with the girls. The girls had spoken of her, though. He thought he remembered that.
They definitely had mentioned Duncan Bligh, and more than once. He was the rancher who shared Rachel's canyon. The sloping meadow where his herd grazed lay above her redwood forest. Both meadow and forest were part of the Santa Lucias, rising east of the Big Sur coast.
Jack had a bad feeling about Duncan. He didn't like the affectionate way the girls described his cabin, his beard, or his sheep. He didn't like the way they grinned when he asked if Rachel was dating him. Oh sure, he knew they were trying to make him jealous. The problem was that he could see Rachel with a man like that. Mountain men had a kind of rugged appeal. Not that Jack was a slouch. He was tall. He was fit. He could hammer a nail with the best of the carpenters who built what he designed, but he didn't chop down the trees from which the two-by-fours came, and he didn't shear sheep or shoot deer.
Did he want to talk to Duncan Bligh in the middle of the night? No. Nor, though, could he let his daughters think that the rancher was the only man around.
He pressed send.
The first ring was barely done when there came a fast and furious "Hello?"
He lifted the phone. "Hi, Sam. It's Dad. Are you guys okay?"
"She's okay." He kept his voice light. "I'm on my way to the hospital. I just talked with the doctor. They've taken her into surgery. It sounds like she smashed up her leg pretty good."
"Katherine said it was her ribs, too."
"It may be, but the leg is the thing that needs setting. Refresh my memory, Sam. Who is Katherine?"
"Mom's best friend," Samantha said impatiently. "I gave her your number."
"You could have called me yourself."
She grew defensive. "I didn't know if you were around, and if you weren't, you'd have had to book a flight and wait at the airport, and then if you missed a connection, you'd have taken forever to get here. Besides, Katherine says Mom has good doctors, so what can you do?"
"I can be there," he said, but the words were no sooner out than he imagined her retort. So he added a fast "Let's not argue, Samantha. This isn't the time."
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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