Home > The Sky Is Falling(7)

The Sky Is Falling(7)
Author: Sidney Sheldon

"It's nice that you have such an easy job, darling."

"Thank you, Mother."

"You'll come and see me soon, won't you?"

"Yes, I will."

"I can't wait to meet that darling little boy."

It will be good for Kemal to meet her, too, Dana thought. He'll have a grandmother. And when Jeff and I are married, Kemal will have a real family again.

As Dana stepped out into the corridor of her apartment building, Mrs. Wharton appeared.

"I want to thank you for taking care of Kemal the other morning, Dorothy. I really appreciate it."

"It was my pleasure."

Dorothy Wharton and her husband, Howard, had moved into the building a year ago. They were Canadians, a delightful middle-aged couple. Howard Wharton was an engineer who repaired monuments.

As he had explained to Dana at dinner one night, "There's no better city in the world than Washington for my kind of work. Where else could I find opportunities like this?" And he answered his own question. "Nowhere."

"Howard and I both love Washington," Mrs. Wharton confided. "We're never going to leave."

When Dana got back to her office, the latest edition of theWashington Tribune was on her desk. The front page was filled with stories and photographs of the Winthrop family. Dana looked at the photographs for a long time, her mind racing. Five of them all dead in less than a year. Incredible.

The call was made to a private phone in the executive tower of Washington Tribune Enterprises.

"I just got the instructions."

"Good. They've been waiting. What do you want them to do with the paintings?"

"Burn them."

"All of them? They're worth millions of dollars."

"Everything's gone perfectly. We can't allow any loose ends. Burn them now."

Dana's secretary, Olivia Watkins, was on the intercom. "There's a call for you on line three. He's called twice already."

"Who is it, Olivia?"

"Mr. Henry."

Thomas Henry was the principal of Theodore Roosevelt Middle School.

Dana rubbed her hand against her forehead to wipe away the headache that was about to start. She picked up the telephone. "Good afternoon, Mr. Henry."

"Good afternoon, Miss Evans. I wonder if you could stop by and see me?"

"Certainly. In an hour or two, I'm - "

"I would suggestnow, if that's possible."

"I'll be there."

Chapter Three

SCHOOL WAS AN UNBEARABLE ordeal for Kemal. He was smaller than the other kids in his classes, and to his deep shame, that included the girls. He was nicknamed "the runt" and "the shrimp" and "the minnow." As far as his studies were concerned, Kemal's only interest was in math and computers, where he invariably got the highest grades of anyone. An offshoot of the class was the chess club, and Kemal dominated it. In the past, he had enjoyed soccer, but when he had gone to try out for the school varsity team, the coach had looked at Kemal's empty sleeve and said, "Sorry, we can't use you." It was not said unkindly, but it was a devastating blow.

Kemal's nemesis was Ricky Underwood. At lunchtime some of the students ate in the enclosed patio instead of the cafeteria. Ricky Underwood would wait to see where Kemal was having lunch and then join him.

"Hey, orphan boy. When is your wicked stepmother going to send you back where you came from?"

Kemal ignored him.

"I'm talking to you, freak. You don't think she's going to keep you, do you? Everyone knows why she brought you over here, camel face. Because she was a famous war correspondent, and it made her look good to save a cripple."

"Fukat!"Kemal shouted. He got up and leaped at Ricky.

Ricky's fist went into Kemal's stomach, and then crashed into Kemal's face. Kemal fell on the ground, writhing in pain.

Ricky Underwood said, "Anytime you want more, just tell me. And you better do it fast, because from what I hear, you're history."

Kemal lived in an agony of doubt. He did not believe the things that Ricky Underwood said and yet...What if they were true? What if Dana does send me back? Ricky is right, Kemal thought. I am a freak. Why would someone as wonderful as Dana want me?

Kemal had believed his life was over when his parents and sister were killed in Sarajevo. He had been sent to the Orphans Institution outside of Paris, and it was a nightmare.

At two o'clock every Friday afternoon, the boys and girls in the orphanage would line up as prospective foster parents arrived to evaluate them and select one to take home. As each Friday approached, the excitement and tension among the children rose to an almost unbearable pitch. They would wash and dress neatly, and as the adults walked along the line, each child would inwardly pray to be chosen.

Invariably, when the prospective parents saw Kemal, they would whisper, "Look, he's got only one arm," and they would move on.

Every Friday was the same, but Kemal would still wait hopefully as the adults examined the line of candidates. But they always picked other children. Standing there, ignored, Kemal would be filled with humiliation. It will always be someone else, he thought despairingly. No one wants me.

Kemal wished desperately to be part of a family. He tried everything he could think of to make it happen. One Friday he would smile brightly at the adults to let them know what a nice, friendly boy he was. The next Friday he would pretend to be occupied with something, showing them that he didn't really care whether he was chosen or not, and that they would be lucky to have him. At other times, he would look at them appealingly, silently begging them to take him home with them. But week after week, it was always someone else who was chosen and taken away to wonderful homes and happy families.

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