Nightchildren

(Subtitle: The Colony)

By J. B. Tilton with Teri Thibeault

PROLOGUE

Stephen White pushed his brown hair out of his eyes as he helped load the stretcher into the ambulance. There was a makeshift emergency room a couple of blocks away that several local doctors had set up in a restaurant. The injured that couldn't wait to get to a hospital were being taken there as quickly as possible. This one, however, would be going to the hospital.

"How are you doing?"

Steve looked over at the Catholic priest who had just walked over to him. Like everyone else on the street, he was covered in dust and sweat.

"Fine, Joe," said Steve, wiping the sweat from his brow. "They're starting to come faster now. I guess more people are making it out of the buildings. Too bad my law degree isn't of much help here."

"You're doing as much as can be expected," replied the priest. "Without volunteers like you the doctors wouldn't be able to treat the injured. I just hope it slows down soon. Everyone is quickly wearing themselves out."

Steve looked down the street at the twin buildings burning in the distance. When the first plane had hit the first tower he had hurried immediately downtown. He had barely arrived when the second plane had hit the second tower. Then the injured had started coming out of the building.

He was a lawyer by trade but his legal training was the last thing that was needed here today. Today it would be those with medical training that would be one of the most help. Along with the fire and police personnel who had arrived on the scene. The need for lawyers would come much later. When this horrendous event was finally over.

But he could still be of help. He could help get the injured to the hospital for the treatment they desperately needed. As he turned to help with another gurney, his thoughts kept going back to the first tower. Maria would have been in that building by the time the first plane had struck. She hadn't wanted to take the new job as executive secretary at her father's company. But Stephen had convinced her to take the job. Now she was somewhere in that burning building probably trying desperately to make her way out just as hundreds of others were.

He knew there was little he could do to help there. In fact, he would probably have been more in the way than anything else. He would have to rely on the police and fire departments to see that she – and all those trapped in the burning buildings – made it safely out. He was needed here. As Joe had said, without him and the hundreds of other volunteers helping to get the injured to safety there was no telling how many would die.

"She'll be okay," said Joe, staring at the twin buildings. "The police are very good at their jobs. And those are two of the best built buildings in the world."

"I know that, Joe. But I can't help but worry."

"That goes without saying. But have faith. I know how bad it seems right now but I'm sure it's not as bad as it looks."

"I hope you're right," said Stephen, looking again at the towers. "The injured are getting worse. I just hope the worst of it is over."

"All things work together for good," the priest quoted the scripture. "At the moment only God knows why such a terrible tragedy has happened. But I'm sure he'll use it for good somehow. You just have to have faith."

"You always did have more faith than I did, old friend," replied Steve, putting his hand on the priest's shoulder. "I guess that's why I chose to become a lawyer while you became a priest."

"I became a priest because God called me to the priesthood," said Joe. "There was little I could do but answer the call."

"You could have said no. You always say that man has free will to do what he wants. I just wonder who used their free will to commit this terrible act."

"You don't think this was an accident?" questioned Joe.

"Do you? One plane hitting one tower maybe. But two planes hitting both towers in so short a time? That's just too much of a coincidence. And I've heard reports that the Pentagon and maybe even the White House were hit. No, my friend, this was no accident. This was deliberate. But there will be time to lay blame later. Right now there are injured that need to be treated."

"And unfortunately there will a great many that will need my aid as well. I have a feeling I'm going to be performing more of the last rites today than I have in the last six months combined."

"I'm afraid you're right. Maybe we'll get lucky and you won't have to perform the rites as much as you . . . ."

Suddenly one of the paramedics that was nearby working on a patient gasped, "oh my God". Steve and Joe turned to see what she was exclaiming at when the sight that greeted them chilled them to their bones. Everyone watched in mute horror as one of the twin towers suddenly began to collapse in upon itself. As the building fell to the ground below a huge dust cloud billowed out from it.

"God on his throne," Joe gasped under his breath.

"Maria," screamed Stephen as he turned and headed for the building.

Before he had taken more than three steps Joe reached out and grabbed his arm. The Priest pulled him back restraining him as Stephen struggled against his grip.

"There's nothing you can do," the Joe whispered to him.

"Maria's in that building," Stephen cried frantically. "I have to get to her."

"Steve," said Joe, "I know how you feel. But there's nothing you can do. You'll just be in the way down there. And you're needed here. Don't loose your head. Everything is in chaos right now. If you leave here now there are people who might die that you could save."

Steve looked at his old friend. He knew Joe was right. The collapse of that tower meant that the injured would be coming in with more serious injuries. Many of them would be life-threatening. Dejectedly he turned back to the ambulance that had just pulled up.

"I'll pray for her," whispered Joe knowing how much Steve was hurting.

As Steve began to help load another gurney into an ambulance Joe stared at the single tower still standing. He knew how Steve felt. He, too, had friends in the twin towers. As he stared at the cloud of dust still settling in the distance he knew it was nearly impossible that anyone had escaped. There was no telling how many people had just died. He crossed himself and turned back to those in need of his services.

Steve finished with the gurney and turned for another. He had to force himself to concentrate on his duties and not on Maria. As he turned to the next gurney he noticed the patient was dressed in what appeared to be an expensive suit. It was ripped and torn and covered in dirt and debris. The man was badly hurt and bleeding heavily. The man holding him was dressed in a very expensive three-piece suit that was also torn and dirty. Unlike the previous man this man seemed barely injured; the only apparent injury was a cut over his left eye. Steve found it odd somehow that the man was still wearing sunglasses even though the thick cloud of dust was blocking most of the sunlight.

"He's very badly injured," said the man holding the injured man. "He saved my life. I'm afraid he may have sacrificed himself to save me."

"Not if we can help it," said Stephen. "The doctors will do everything they can for him. We'll get him to one of the doctors as quickly as we can. You need to see someone about that cut."

"I'll be fine," said the man. "Please, do whatever it takes to help Johnson. Money is no object. Whatever it takes."

"We'll do everything we can," Stephen repeated. "Now, please, let the medical personnel do their work. There are a lot of people injured and we can't waste even a minute."

"Certainly," said the man, stepping back.

Joe came over and led the man over to a nurse who began to check the man's injury.

"Your friend has a very good bedside manner," said the man as the nurse began to treat him. "He should have been a doctor."

"Yes, he does have a good manner about him," said Joe, looking over at Stephen. "He chose to become a lawyer instead of a doctor, though. It's amazing really. His wife was in the first tower. I can imagine what he must be going through right now."

"That's quite a testament," said the man. "Everything he must be going through and he still doing everything he can to help other people. He's a very caring person."

"He is," said Joe. "I'm Father Joseph."

"Abeleve Adamson," said the man shaking Joe's hand.

"Adamson?" questioned Joe. "S. Abeleve Adamson? The industrialist?"

"Amongst other things," said Adamson, smiling at the priest.

"This is quite an honor, Mr. Adamson. My congregation is made up predominantly of some of the poorer families in New York. It's not often I get to rub elbows with one of the richest men in the world."

"Please, I'm no different from anyone else," said Adamson. "I've just been very lucky in my business dealings. And I find it very gratifying to be able to give back to the community when I can."

"Your philanthropic endeavors are quite well known," said Joe. "You've even donated do St. Joseph's, my church. We appreciate the help."

"Father Josephs and you work at St. Joseph's Catholic church?" questioned Adamson. "I can imagine some of the jokes you must get."

"Oh, you have no idea," said Joe. "My first name is Joseph, named after my paternal grandfather."

"Father Joseph Josephs of St. Joseph's church? Oh my, that sounds like something out of Ripley's Believe It Or Not."

"Well, I've heard my share of jokes about it," said Joe.

"I recall the donations I've made to your parish," said Adamson glancing at Stephen. "Is he a member of your parish?"

"Steve? No. He's not Catholic. We've been friends for many years, though. In fact, I married him and his wife in 1996"

"Is that why he's here now? Because his wife was in the tower?"

"Yes. It was her first day at a new job. Executive secretary for her fathers' company. Steve talked her into taking the job. He felt it was the least he could do for everything she's given up for him. I guess right now he's blaming himself for convincing her to take the job."

"He can't blame himself. He couldn't have foreseen this. No one could have. It was just bad luck she was in that building when the planes struck. It was luck that my chauffeur and I were late getting to the towers for a meeting or we'd have been caught in the middle of it as well."

"I understand that," said Joe. "And intellectually I think Steve does, too. But emotionally it's a different thing. I only hope Maria, his wife, was able to get out before the building collapsed."

"To see him work you wouldn't think he would have such a burden on his mind at the moment."

"He's always been a very dedicated man. It's one of the reasons he became a lawyer. He wanted to help people who couldn't afford decent legal service. He'll never get rich but he does do a lot of good."

"Well," said Stephen walking over to the two, "one of the doctors said your friend will be laid up for a while but he should be okay."

"I appreciate everything you've done for him," said Adamson. "He's been with me a very long time. He's almost like a member of the family."

"Well," said Stephen, "if there's some place you could take him there are a lot more people coming in who are going to need help. Just make sure he rests and have him looked at to make sure there aren't any complications."

"Thank you," said Adamson, shaking Stephen's hand. "If there's anything I can ever do for you please don't hesitate to contact me."

"Sure," said Stephen, noticing more injured people being brought over. "Excuse me. Looks like I have a lot more work to do here."

"Certainly," said Adamson.

As Stephen went to attend to another patient, Adamson turned to Joe.

"Well, I suppose I should get Johnson out of here. This place is about to get very busy very fast and if he's not that badly injured he shouldn't be here taking up space someone else might need. By the way, what is your friend's name?"

"White. Stephen White."

"Thank you. And once things have settled, you can expect another contribution for your church. A lot of people are going to have to begin rebuilding once the dust settles, so to speak. And I'm sure many of them will be looking to the church for that help."

"I don't know what to say," said Joe. "I can assure you it will go to a good cause."

"I have no doubt," said Adamson. "Well, I suppose I should see to making arrangements for getting Johnson somewhere he can rest. Mr. White is right about one thing. There are going to be a lot of people coming in here for medical help. I'll see about getting you some help in here. I think you're going to need it."

"Unfortunately I think you're right. I really should get back to the injured. I'm afraid I'm going to be performing a lot of last rites in the next few days."

"Of course," said Adamson. "I'll have Johnson moved as quickly as I can arrange it."

"Thank you again," said Joe.

Adamson turned and walked out of the diner. As he did Joe saw him take a cell phone out of his pocket and dial a number. Adamson glanced back once at Steve and then disappeared into the crowd outside. Joe picked up his sacrament book and turned to find someone else who might need his help.