Recap: Shoshana is held captive in her home by Gator, who demands she hand over her father’s valuable papers. Ruty sneaks in and frees her but Gator catches Ruty and there’s a gunshot.

The howl of police sirens broke the stillness of the night. I saw the cars surrounding the house. Officers stood with guns pointed.

I stumbled towards the police.

An ambulance arrived and Ruty was whisked inside and driven away.

The police handcuffed Gator and Wolf and Barrie and took them away.

A kind woman officer helped me into the car and drove me to the hospital.

I was grateful she didn’t ask any questions. She handed me my phone.

I couldn’t hold it. I asked the other officer in the car to call Penina.

Then, on speakerphone, I told Penina that her sister was in an ambulance on the way to the hospital and she was a hero. Penina gasped. “Is she all right? What happened?”

I was too upset to talk long. “I’ll tell you later. Just tell your parents to go to General Main Hospital quickly.”

I closed my eyes and tried not to focus on the excruciating pain in my arms.

When I got to the emergency room, a doctor took me in right away. He manipulated my arm and it suddenly felt better. Then he did the same thing to the other. “Your arms were pulled out of the socket,” he explained. “How did that happen?”

The relief from the pain was so overwhelming that all I could do was say, “Thank You, Hashem” over and over.

The policewoman who brought me interrupted. “We’ll get all the information. This is a criminal investigation. Someone hurt this girl and we will get to the bottom of this.”

Hours later, I was at Ilana’s house. The police finished their investigation and promised I would not be bothered by any of the Alligators again. Ilana was making me hot tea and toast, and coddling me, and I was trying to stop feeling so scared.

“It’s understandable you’re feeling that way. That was such a scary experience,” Ilana said.

I was half-lying on the couch in the den with pillows propped behind my head. I was dizzy and shaking. “It was like the responsibility for everyone’s health in the world was on me. I don’t know how my father does it.”

“Your parents, by the way, are on the way home. Your mother reached your father and they’re both flying back tonight.”

Penina sat beside me. “I’m heading back to the hospital soon. My parents are camped out in the waiting room. Ruty had surgery to remove the bullet from her abdomen. She lost a lot of blood, but the doctors say she will recover, b’ezras Hashem.”

“Did she wake up from the surgery yet?”

“No, my mom says it will be hours, so that’s why I came here. I wanted to be with you.”

“Thanks for being such a true friend,” I said. “Your sister saved my life.”

“You look so pale. Are you okay?” Penina asked, her eyes wide with concern.

“I don’t feel well. I have to tell you something. I don’t tell anyone this, but I have a heart problem. It’s, baruch Hashem, under control, but sometimes I get these dizzy spells and I have to be careful not to overexert.”

“Wow, that must be scary.” She studied my face. “Are you sure you’re okay now?”

I nodded.

“It’s so strange now. This whole thing with Ruty. I’m trying to process my parents being with her and just the whole new thing,” Penina said.

Baruch Hashem, it’s wonderful. Ruty broke from that awful gang. Her true self came through and your sister is really a hero in every sense of the word. It took so much courage to go against those powerful Alligators and Gator and her vicious dog.”

“Yeah, I’m proud of my sister. I was so ashamed of her for so long, but you’re right. The real Ruty came to the surface in an emergency. Maybe, do you think she’ll come back home and act normal and be normal again?”

“You mean frum?”

Penina nodded and wiped a tear that coursed down her cheek.

“She had some challenges. Inside, she’s always been your sister and, im yirtzeh Hashem, she’ll come home in every sense of the word. Daven for her.”

Penina hugged me. “Your cousin is giving me a ride back to the hospital. I’ll call you with updates.”

The following morning, both of my parents arrived separately from their trips. “Thank G-d you’re all right,” Aba kept saying as he hugged me. “I am so sorry I put you in danger. I never would have––”

“It’s not your fault at all,” I said.

My mother made me go to the cardiologist to make sure I was really okay.

“You know, your father never found that plant he was looking for in China. It’s eluded everyone.”

“The plant for the vaccine?” I asked.

“Yes.” We pulled up to the cardiologist’s parking lot to his office.

“I don’t need to go here.”

“Let’s make sure. You’re awfully pale. I want to make sure you don’t need any adjustments to the medication.”

I sighed.

Coming here was annoying but I understood. My mother was worried, and I did feel shaky and a bit dizzy still.

The cardiologist reassured us that I was fine. “Rest up. Stay home from school the next few days and you should be fine. Keep up the regimen of the medicine and don’t go off our plant-based diet. It’s working well.”

When I first got the plant-based diet, I hated it. I wanted my pizza and grilled cheese. I didn’t miss meat or eggs really. I was never a cake person anyway. Of course, no sugar at all was tough, but, hey, it beat heart surgery. I stuck to that diet.

Ilana came over to visit me when I was home from school.

“Here, I brought you this. I thought it might keep you distracted from being bored.” She handed me the journal.

“Oh thanks. Yeah, last time I read it, Chezky and Shmuel were missing during the raging storm…

 By Susie Garber

To be continued…