I glanced at Guy. His face was pale, and mine probably was too.”When did it happen?” I asked.
“Hop in and I’ll tell you about it,” Mr. Kinney said. Guy and I climbed into the long van and slid the side door shut.
“That young lady . . . what’s her name–your friend–she’s going to ride with us as soon as she gives her responsibilities at the orphanage to someone else. She says she wants to deliver something to someone named Bundo.”
I saw Victoria’s Pocahontas backpack propped precariously on the seat beside us as though flung there quickly. The top was unzipped about six inches.”So how did my dad’s accident happen?” I asked.
“It seems your dad,” continued Mr. Kinney, “was on a ladder, up pretty high, at the orphanage building project. He was helping adjust one of the corrugated roof panels when all of a sudden he shouted. The next thing anybody knew, he was on the ground flat on his back.”Is he hurt badly?”
“We hope not. One of the women helping on the project is a retired nurse. She said his right arm is broken for sure. I guess your dad went into shock for a little bit, and somebody put his hat over his face so the sun wouldn’t get to him. I drove him and Al and the nurse down to the clinic and then came back here to find you.”
My face felt numb, and I heard my voice, as if from a great distance, ask, “But is he OK?”
“I think he’ll be OK. And I’m sure he’ll feel better instantly when he sees you.”
Mr. Kinney twisted around and stared in the direction of the girls’ dorm. “Where is that girl, anyway? She said she definitely wanted to go along and give something to that young man I mentioned.””Want me to run and get her?” Guy asked.
Mr. Kinney looked at his watch, and then back toward the dorm.
“No,” he said. “Let’s go. I know more Spanish than that nurse does, but Al doesn’t know any at all. Just between you and me, he has a tendency to get a bit impatient with people who don’t know English. I want to get back on the building site to make sure everything is going well.”
Mr. Kinney started the motor of the van and pulled down the bumpy road, trying to avoid the many potholes.
Guy and I had to hold on to the back of the front seat so we wouldn’t be slammed against the side walls. Victoria’s backpack lurched and sagged on the seat beside me.
“Lord,” I prayed, “keep Dad safe. Help him be OK.”
Whumpffff! The van’s right front wheel hit another pothole, sending Victoria’s backpack toppling forward off the seat and clunking upside down on the van’s floor.
When I reached down for it, Guy advised me, “Leave it there. It’ll just fall again.” “Good point.” I left it where it was.
After threading our way through the bumpy streets, we drove through the public square. A huge dilapidated church stood at one side, and the other three sides were filled with stores and colorful open-air markets. I saw one large booth that sold nothing but machetes, the long broad-bladed knives with which the local people cut vegetation.
“There’s Bundo,” Guy said. “Back there.” I looked where he was pointing. Bundo sat on a bench in the square talking with several other teenagers.
“Shall we tell him Victoria didn’t make it this trip?” “No time,” Mr. Kinney said. “My first priority is your dad, Mark.”
On a side street just beyond the square we found the clinic.
“Guy,” Mr. Kinney said, “I’m afraid you’ll have to stay with the vehicle. You can lock yourself in if you want to. If we left it unattended, we’d have kids prying into it trying to steal the radio. But they won’t touch it if someone’s here.”
Guy’s eyebrows showed that he wasn’t sure he liked the idea of staying by himself, but he nodded. Mr. Kinney and I hurried into the clinic.
We found Dad lying on a low cot in a small room. The retired nurse and Mr. Denton were puzzling over a piece of paper written in Spanish.
“Thank goodness,” said Mr. Denton as he caught sight of Mr. Kinney. “Chuck, can you decipher this?”
“Mark, hi!” Dad’s voice sounded strong and comforting. He lifted his head and grinned at me. The lower half of his right arm was in a plaster cast.”Dad, are you OK?” “Oh, sure.” I breathed a quick Thank You, God!
“Since I finished installing those computers at the school last Friday, I worked at the building site today. I should have been a little more careful, I guess.” He moved his arm slightly. “I’m very fortunate, though–it’s not a bad break–just a matter of keeping it immobile in the cast here. These folks really know how to treat a broken bone.”
“Dad,” began Mark with fear in his voice, “Mr. Kinney said someone else might have caused the accident on purpose. Is that true?”
Dad twisted his head around. “Chuck, where did you get that idea?”
“That’s what Al told me,” Mr. Kinney said apologetically.
“And that’s what I heard too,” Mr. Denton agreed firmly. “I didn’t want to get anyone all worked up about it while you were getting fixed up–”
“Listen,” said Dad. “Nobody pushed me. Nobody was anywhere near me. I just took a false step on that ladder while I was adjusting the last roof panel, that’s all. It was a careless mistake.”
“Who had hold of the other end of the panel?” Mr. Denton asked suspiciously.
“Jensen did,” Dad said. “One of our group. Let’s keep the facts straight.”
Mr. Denton scowled. “Look, you didn’t tangle with them the way I did. That day when they got all bent out of shape about our working through noon, some of those guys looked pretty murderous to me.”
“But Al,” Mr. Kinney said soothingly, “we had offended them. Those two or three guys were strange characters with chips on their shoulders. The majority were really decent.”
“Right,” said Dad. “Salvadorans, in general, are sweet people and pretty upbeat, considering all the revolutions and oppression they’ve been through. Mark,” he said, turning his head toward me. “Any news of my camera?”
I shook my head. “Bundo’s asking questions about it in town. His dad might have come up with something too. Guy and I are keeping an eye out for it too.” “I’d sure like to get it back.”
“I know,” I said, remembering our conversation of the night before. “How’re you feeling? Does your arm hurt a lot?”
“Now it’s just a dull ache, that’s all,” Dad said, wiggling his arm experimentally. “Your mother’s not going to let us out of her sight after this, is she? Remember all that hullaballoo she kicked up when I first mentioned the idea of this trip?” I grinned. “I sure do.”
A few moments later the clinic staff released Dad, and we went outside to the van, where Guy was looking thoughtfully out the window. “Any trouble?” Mr. Kinney asked him.
My friend shook his head. “A lot of people gave me curious looks is all.”
Dad sat in the front seat beside Mr. Kinney, who was driving. Betty, the nurse, and Mr. Denton took their places just behind them. Guy, sitting in the last seat, picked up Victoria’s backpack, which had slid to the rear of the van. I crawled in beside him. He whispered, “I’m going to show you something, but you’ve got to keep quiet. OK?”
I stared at him and then nodded.
His eyes on me, he fumbled with the zipper of the backpack, spreading it wide. “Look.”
I glanced inside, and icewater trickled down my spine and my face got prickly.
There was Dad’s camera!
It was leaning upside down against a bulging paper sack. Dad’s initials and Social Security number stared up at me.
“Quiet!” hissed Guy warningly. “But how . . . what . . .”
“Now we know,” he whispered, “what she was going to deliver to Bundo in town today.” “No,” I said. “Not Victoria. It can’t be!”
“Quiet,” Guy hissed again. “Here’s the camera, man. That’s all I’ve got to say. She’s probably a member of the gang just like everybody else.”