Chapter Four ~
Faith went straight to the second floor where the station was. Normally she didn't pass the soda machine without grabbing one, but today she was in a hurry. She wanted to see that monster twister on radar.
Michelle hollered at her before she got to her desk, "Sis, are you guys okay? Daddy, I heard about the house, I'm so sorry." She held a stack of papers in one hand, and a cell phone in the other.
"We're okay." Faith cuddled Scooby. She was hoping her sister wouldn't say anything about the dog under the circumstances.
"Faith, you know Scooby isn't supposed to be here, so hurry and take him to your office.”
"You love him and you know it," Faith said as she passed her sister to do as she said.
"Yes I do. Daddy, are you gonna stay with me until we figure out what to do?”
"No, I'm gonna stay with Faith, she has an extra room. Thanks for asking though. I'm gonna go watch her for a bit. I've never seen her at work.”
When Faith got to her desk there was a huge tornado on the radar. She saw the pronounced debris ball and gasped at its monstrous size. She sat Scooby in a wicker basket she usually kept clean towels in for the rainy days. He looked up at her with his sad-looking, dark eyes and whined loudly. "Scooby, I have to work Buddy. Lie down and go to sleep, there's a good boy." He gave her one more pitiful look, turned a circle, and flopped down in the middle of the basket. The blue fuzzy towel on the bottom was more than enough to make him comfortable.
Faith sat at her desk and began the work of sorting out what storm system looked dangerous and which she figured would pass over. There were a string of super cell storms from Texas all the way up the Ohio Valley. They were all potentially tornadic, with several hook echoes plainly visible on her screen. But the storm that worried her most was the one Jim's spotter had found. There was a debris ball evident on radar and she knew it was 'eating' its way downtown toward the biggest population in the city. She typed her findings as fast as she could and sent them to Michelle's desk.
She was getting ready to join Michelle when her father walked through the door. Scooby raised his head, but didn't bark. He gave a tail wag, stood up, turned, and then lay back down in his new bed. "Do you mind if I hang around with you for awhile?" He asked.
"I don't mind at all, daddy." She emptied all the cardboard boxes off the couch and patted it. "Go ahead and have a seat. You can even take a nap if you'd like." The reassuring smile she gave him was full of love.
"I don't want to nap. I couldn't sleep right now if I tried. I can't get the image of what's left of the house out of my head. I don't really even care about the house. It was what was in it that was so important to me. I don't have anything of your mother's left now." He began to sob and Faith ran over to comfort him.
She rubbed his back to calm him and said, "Daddy, why don't you let me take you to the hospital so they can check you out? They’ll give you something to make you sleep so you can get some rest."
"I don't want to go to the hospital, Faith. If you don't want to be bothered with me just tell me so and I'll go get a motel room," He blubbered.
"Oh Daddy, you know that's not what I want. I just want to make sure you're okay.”
“Okay, I guess I can at least get checked-out.”
"Good, let's get you to the hospital then. I'll stay long enough to get you admitted and then I'll call for updates. I'm sorry Daddy. I know that seems cold and heartless, but you know I love you, don't you?" She picked up her bag and slung it over her slender shoulder. Scooby automatically got up and jumped up into her arms.
"Yes I know. How are we going to get to the hospital, though? Both our cars are demolished under trees back at the farm."
"We'll take a Taxi. I need to call and arrange to pick up a rental car, though. Thank you for reminding me."
They retraced their steps back down to the lobby. She'd called a Taxi while they were waiting on the elevator and arranged for a rental car. She'd pick it up at the hospital before she came back.
An hour later Faith left the hospital in her rental car. Her father had been sedated so he could get some rest. He was suffering from shock and a slight concussion. He couldn't remember being hit by anything, but he must’ve been. She'd told the nurse she'd call for updates every couple of hours and the nurse assured her she'd call her if anything worrisome came up.
She was pulling into the studio parking lot when her sister called. "Is something wrong?"
"No, not really, I called to ask if you'd like to go out in the field tonight," Shellie said.
"What do you mean 'go out in the field?"
"Jim Anderson, the storm chaser, called and invited you along for the chase. There's plenty going on out there tonight and we could get some good video that would enable us to study the movements of these super cell storms. I've been thinking about it for a while, but I just don't have the guts to go out, but I know you've always wanted to."
"Jim called you?" Faith asked. Her mind had gone into a daze. Her heart tripped in her chest and she said, "I'd love to go, but I need money to pay bills."
"I'll pay your same wage, silly. It'll be like scientific investigation. You can go down to the locker room and get the good camera and one of the better laptops. He said you needed to call him right away. Hurry Sis, don't let this one get away." Shellie ended the call.
Apparently her sister wasn't above some match-making of her own. She must’ve been watching from her office window to know Faith was already in the parking lot. Faith realized then that she didn't have Jim's number. She'd given him hers, but he hadn't bothered to give her his.
Faith called her sister back and asked, "Did you happen to catch the number he was calling from on the caller-ID?" Her sister read her the number and she hung up and dialed it. When his smooth-as-honey voice came over the line she said, "I'm ready to go. Do you want to pick me up, or should I meet you somewhere?"
"I'm already out in the side lot waiting for you. Your sister assured me you'd jump at the chance to chase a monster tornado." He laughed in amusement.
"I did." She answered wryly. "I took my Dad to the hospital. They're keeping him overnight. He has a concussion, although I don't know how he got it and neither does he." She kept him on the phone as she went down to the locker room, not even sure herself why.
"I'm sorry to hear that. Did he seem okay?"
"Yeah, just exhausted, and I know he's still in shock. That's a big thing to go through. The overnight rest will do him good." She walked out of the locker room with an expensive DSL camera and a fancy laptop with all the trimmings. She walked down the hall and out the side door. Jim was sitting in his SUV right in front of it, grinning like a satisfied cat.
"Where's the rest of your crew?"
"They're still up the road a couple miles. A tornado hit up on Shield's Boulevard and they're up there helping with the rescue efforts. I slipped away to offer a pretty lady an adventure of a lifetime."
"I’m glad you did.” She threw him a shy smile. “How did you manage to talk her into it, anyway?”
"I told her I needed someone with your expertise to help me out in the field because my meteorologist is impaired at the moment."
"Uhm, aren't you the meteorologist?"
"Yes, and I'm impaired without the cute little lady I met earlier today."
Faith’s face grew hot and she said, "Wow, are you serious? Do you like me?"
"I find I actually do. My friend Bobby said if I didn't come back and get you he was gonna go after you, and I couldn't let that happen."
The hard note of sincerity in his voice sent a rush through Faith's system. Jim Anderson liked her, she couldn't believe it. "I don't know what to say."
"You don't have to say anything. Just come along on this chase and have an experience few ever get to have. If we hit it off, maybe we can go out sometime."
"That sounds like a plan to me. I've always wanted to do this," She squealed enthusiastically. And it’s so much more exciting doing it with you, she thought.
"Whoa now, calm down before you scare the storm away." He threw a teasing grin in her direction.
Faith laughed as she turned her laptop on. It brought up the radar she was looking for when she clicked the proper link. "It's a big super cell," She said excitedly. She bounced in her seat like a child, eliciting a chuckle from her new partner. “I see the hook right here." She stabbed a finger on the screen.
"Is there a debris ball?"
"I don't see one yet. It looks like its gaining strength, though." Hail stones began to pelt the SUV and she gasped in awe.
Jim slowed the car and scanned the sky. It isn't here yet, but it’s coming."Jenny's voice came over the radio. She was saying, "I see it, Jim, it's absolutely huge. Oh my, it's eating everything in its path," She cried before the radio went silent.