"I don't know. It could be a fuel leak. I'm not sure," he said tersely, as his jaw clenched. He was fighting to control the plane as they lost altitude rapidly, and with that the engine caught fire, and he guided the plane down looking for a clearing to land. Jane said not a word. She just watched as Bill fought to level them out again, but he couldn't. They were listing badly and heading down at a frightening speed as he called in to the controller and told him where he was. "We're going down, our left wing is on fire," he said calmly, and Jane reached out and touched his arm. He never took his hand off the controls, and he told her he loved her. They were his last words as the Cessna hit the ground and exploded in a ball of fire.
Annie's cell phone rang again just as she was erasing a change she had spent an hour making on the plans. She didn't like it and was delicately changing it back. She was concentrating intensely, and then glanced at her phone lying on the drafting table. It was Jane, they had obviously gotten home. She almost didn't answer it, she didn't want to break her concentration, and Jane always wanted to chat.
Annie tried to ignore it, but the ringing was annoying and persistent, and finally she picked it up.
"Can I call you back?" she said as she answered, and was met by a flood of Spanish. Annie recognized the voice. It was Magdalena, the Salvadoran woman who took care of Jane and Bill's kids. She sounded frantic. Annie knew these calls well. Magdalena had her number for when Bill and Jane were away. She usually only called Annie when one of the kids got hurt, but Annie knew that her sister would be home within minutes, if she wasn't already there. She couldn't understand a word Magdalena said in rapid Spanish.
"They're on their way home," Annie reassured her. Usually it was Ted who had fallen out of a tree or off a ladder or bumped his head. He was an active boy and accident prone. The girls were a lot more sedate. Lizzie was almost a teenager, and Katie was a fireball, but she was more verbal than athletic and had never gotten hurt. "I talked to Jane two hours ago," Annie said calmly. "They should be home any minute."
With that, Magdalena exploded in another torrent of Spanish. She sounded as though she was crying, and the only word Annie understood was la policia. The police.
"What about the police? Are the kids okay?" Maybe one of them really had gotten seriously injured. So far it had only been small stuff, except for Ted's broken leg when he fell out of a tree at the Vineyard and his parents were there. "Tell me in English," Annie insisted. "What happened? Who got hurt?"
"Your sister . . . the police call . . . the plane . . ." Annie felt as though she had been shot out of a cannon and was spinning in midair. Everything was in slow motion, and she could feel herself reeling at the words.
"What did they say?" Annie managed to grind out the words through the shards of glass in her throat. Every word she formed was a physical pain. "What happened? What did the police SAY?" She was shouting at Magdalena and didn't know it. And all Magdalena could do was sob. "TELL ME, DAMMIT!" Annie shouted at her, as Magdalena tried to tell her in English.
"I don't know . . . something happen . . . I call her cell phone and she not answer . . . they say . . . they say . . . the plane catch fire. It was the police in New London."