Authors: Sandra Brannan
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Published by Greenleaf Book Group Press
Copyright ©2013 Sandra Brannan
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the publisher.
Distributed by Greenleaf Book Group LLC
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Ebook ISBN: 978-1-62634-018-3
A warrior, raised by angels
Sandra Brannan’s Liv Bergen Mystery Thriller Series:
In The Belly Of Jonah
Lot’s Return To Sodom
Noah’s Rainy Day,
THE GOOD NEWS IS
I think I broke my leg.
The bad news is I don’t know if anyone at school would ever believe how it happened. Or worse, I’m not sure if anyone will ever figure out how I got here.
It’s getting cold now and I don’t do so hot when I get cold. Ha! I made a funny. Emma would have laughed at that one. I wish she were here right now. Well, not really. I’m glad she’s not. She’s safe, at home where she’s warm and not somewhere so moldy and smelly. And dark. I just meant I wish I could tell her my story. She’s the fastest at listening to me with her “five-finger” method, and she’d understand why I think it’s so cool that I broke my leg, even though Mom would be sad and Dad would be worried.
Emma didn’t listen to me yesterday. Maybe if she had, I wouldn’t be in this pickle. That’s what my dad calls a sticky situation. A pickle. It makes me laugh, the way he says it. My foot keeps sliding on the ground beneath me like I’m standing on a slippery pickle, which helps me forget about the pain in my other leg. And the sound of whimpering beneath the pile of clothes nearby. Right now I can barely hear the whimpering. My ears keep plugging up because I can’t stop wrinkling my nose at the rotten smell. Not
like pickles. Worse. But I try to listen. Listening is important, especially for a spy like me.
My little sister didn’t not listen to me because she was mad or anything; she was just distracted. That’s the word my mom always uses for Emma when she’s too busy to spend time with me. Distracted. Since it was Christmas and knowing how hard it is for me to focus on anything but Santa this time of year, my mom might be right.
But normally she’s not. Not about Emma being too distracted when it comes to me. I know better.
Emma has a life, too. It shouldn’t always be about me. We’ve talked about that. Emma and me, when Mom and Dad aren’t around. Well, not really talked. More like Emma talks for the both of us. But at least she’s honest about what I’m trying to say even if she disagrees, and she gets it right more than she gets it wrong.
She’s pretty good for a nine-year-old whose older brother is trapped in his own body.
Let me back up because I think I’m getting ahead of myself. Story of my life. Getting ahead of myself. It’s my destiny, considering my mind is constantly outpacing my body.
I’m twelve, almost a teenager. I’m in the same grade as my little sister, Emma, who’s nine. Mainstreamed. I was born premature and weighed less than two pounds.
I have severe cerebral palsy.
My brain works like any other kid in my grade. Maybe better, according to one of my doctors, since the gray matter seems to be the only part of my anatomy that works normally. Nothing else seems to. My mind tells my hand to move or my mouth to open, but for some reason, the signal gets lost somewhere along the way. My body won’t cooperate. My stomach doesn’t work so good with food going in or all that other stuff coming out. I have trouble swallowing. And I overheard a teacher say that an older kid with cerebral palsy died of a heart attack in her class a few years ago. My hearing is better than people think, although my sight isn’t so great. I was born so early that I had to be on oxygen therapy, so I have only a little vision with one eye and see only shadows with the other. Unless I have my contact in. Then I can see great. It’s like a bionic eye.
I can’t run.
I can’t walk.
I can’t even crawl.
If I work at it—concentrate really hard—I can roll over on my own. It takes every bit of my strength and if I land wrong, my muscles are too tired to move. Sometimes I pin my arm beneath my body and it starts tingling really bad. And sometimes when I flip over I land on my nose, which makes my eyes water and my contact lens pop out. Then I’m nearly blind again.
My muscles stay all bunched up and tight. “Contracted muscles” is what the adults say when they talk. But they also talk about contracting a disease, which I know I don’t have, or signing a contract, which I couldn’t do even if I wanted to. So it’s just easier to talk about muscles being bunched up. At least that’s how Emma describes it. So I do, too.
One time, a specialist warned my parents that my contracted muscles would someday shorten so much that the bones in my wrists and arms would break. My mom covered my ears, but it was too late. I heard her scolding the specialist as my dad wheeled me out to the waiting room. She asked him what he was thinking and why he felt it was his place to have such an adult conversation in front of me. I heard her remind him that I wasn’t deaf and that I was just a kid.
But I heard it all the same. And I’ve felt my muscles getting tighter—can almost hear them growing shorter—which makes me wonder when my bones will snap like twigs. SNAP! SNAP! I never dreamed I’d be lucky enough to have my first broken bone from such an exciting event like tonight. Or last night. It might be after midnight. I can’t tell what time it is anymore.
As I grow colder, the only thing that runs through my head is that awful bedtime prayer about “if I should die before I wake.”
die before I wake—and I am hoping I’ll eventually fall asleep so I can forget about the cold for a little while—I know I will die happy, because I broke my leg doing the best I could to protect the boy who was kidnapped, the one from TV who everyone’s talking about.
I don’t want to die.
I want to live.
And after thinking about my life, after hours of sniffles and tears in the dark, I can honestly say I tried my hardest to save the little boy.
Now it’s up to Auntie Liv to find me. To save the day.
I’ve decided to call this my rainy day. Mom always told Emma and me to save up for a rainy day, so I’ve saved up all my hopes and prayers for today. I’ve prayed hard several times already for God to let Auntie Liv figure out my story. The story I’ve been trying to tell all day. Since Christmas morning.
As the night keeps getting colder and darker, I’ve been trying to find a sliver of sunlight, something that will bring me hope. And in the dark, I feel thankful for what my parents told me about my birth. They said when they laid eyes on me they understood how Noah must have felt seeing that first ray of sunshine after forty days and nights of rain.
And if I had to be honest, I’d admit that I’m scared. Really, really scared.
And it feels like I’m trapped in the rainiest of all days.
My name is Noah.
. Everyone was too busy to notice each other, let alone him.
A tinny version of “Jingle Bells” scraped through the airport PA system. Occasional reminders that smoking was not allowed in the airport punctuated the obnoxious and too-frequent warnings—“Trains from other terminals are arriving. Please stand clear of the doors to allow passengers to disembark before boarding”—that floated up the escalator from the floor below.
He hated the holidays. The loneliness. Everyone but him feeling so happy.
Tugging at the blue vest that had ridden up over his expansive belly, he pushed the empty candy wrapper with his broom and watched the crowd scurrying about through the main terminal. He kept a careful eye on the smallest of holiday travelers, particularly any whose parents made detours to the nearby restrooms.
Just one. He only needed one.
The tattered candy wrapper, companion to the sentinel line of dust gathered by his push broom, had tumbled across every inch of the tiled
floor over the past three hours as he backtracked over this particular section at least a dozen times. The same wrapper. A wrapper that once contained his breakfast. This wrapper never quite made it from the floor to the garbage can, despite his diligence and effort to sweep it away.
No one noticed.
No one ever noticed a janitor. The simple disguise was his favorite, like an invisible cape. He could have chosen scrubs, a park ranger outfit, a construction vest, or a security guard’s shirt and cap and gone somewhere else. But nothing was more effective than pretending to be a janitor.
And he needed today to go well.
He was nervous enough as it was, forced to try again. He had vowed to himself it was over. Never again. Especially after what had happened last year. He couldn’t afford to lose another one. Couldn’t afford to choose unwisely. Couldn’t afford to make a mistake. But he knew it was the right thing to do. For them. Even if no one had come to save him when he was a child.
He needed to give a child the best Christmas gift that could ever be given to another human being. A better life. With him.
So above all else, today he needed to be at his best.
A janitor. Invisible. He’d felt no indecision this morning as he rifled through the choices in his basement. Today he needed to be expedient and effective. He needed a win. Not even those who legitimately worked at the airport would notice him, especially since he had no intention of going anywhere near the watchful eyes of the TSA agents at security screening. If they realized his blue vest wasn’t quite the same color as theirs or that his name badge wasn’t quite the same size, they may ask Denver International Airport employees whether they recognized him, revealing him as an imposter.
That wouldn’t do.
He planned to linger between the ticketing entrance near short-term parking and the security screening area just above the escalators that led down to the trains. Plenty of shops and restaurants in the main terminal rimmed the restricted rope lines that led to security screening, which was crowded with travelers who were awaiting security checks before they headed toward the concourses.
And there were plenty of bathrooms.
On the occasions when he could no longer resist his duty to help free a child from its situation, his cover as a janitor had been his most successful to date. Particularly in crowded public places—at the Rockies stadium, at Larimer Square, and at Cherry Creek Mall. His past experiences had helped bolster his confidence this morning, along with the good fortune of finding an open parking spot in short-term parking right near the door. It was just yards from a family bathroom with a door that he could lock from the inside.
When he had sat in his parked car hours ago, readying himself by pulling on the blue vest over his coveralls and slipping on the glasses with white tape wrapped around the plastic frame between the lenses, he had noticed the gleam of excitement in his eyes and the angle of the nearest security camera mounted on the concrete wall nearby. It had a busted lens—a good omen. He would succeed today, he had thought. And this would be the last time. He’d get it right. Prove his father wrong. Possibly in record time.
But he hadn’t expected it to take this long. And as his confidence had dwindled, he felt his anxiety growing. Only his resolve to help those who suffered as he had as a child compelled him to keep looking. And the idea of being successful on Christmas Eve further motivated him.