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First pages

Prologue

Late September

 

 

In the last minute of her life, Cate Caldwell was thinking about donuts and high heels. Donuts because she’d been goaded into eating a piece of a maple-glazed Cronut and now she felt bloated from all that grease and sugar. High heels because she was in love with her new Saffiano leather pumps.

There were other things drifting through her mind as she got off the Metro-North train. The upcoming all-breed show in Florida the following week for one. Cate had high hopes about their prospects. If they could take a ribbon in Miami or even just win another major in the hound division, Harper, her lovely Afghan bitch, would be an AKC champion for her second Westminster. Cate and her mother knew dog flesh, and they spotted a winner in Harper while she was still nestled with her chubby littermates.

Plus, it was decision time for window treatments for the front of their newly acquired English mews house or she wouldn’t have them in time for the holidays. She’d narrowed it down to the plantation shutters or the white-on-white linen Roman shades.

A little over an hour ago her husband, Mason, had texted, reminding her to pick up his dry cleaning—he wanted to wear his navy Armani to the ballet the next evening, and he was out of town until midday tomorrow. She’d be in the city all the next day, so she needed to get the suit tonight. Cate was rushing because she left the office late today and the dry cleaner closed at seven. It was now 6:39.

Walking briskly through the commuter parking lot toward her car, Cate was distracted by her thoughts and paid no heed to what was going on around her. Though her silver M4 was in sight, her eyes were riveted on her textured leather shoes. Prada makes perfect.

From a parked car came a single muffled report. The kill shot was fired out of the Sig Sauer P226 with deadly efficiency. It hit Cate squarely in her left temple, the hollow point expanding on impact and pureeing her brain as efficiently as a Ninja Master. Though it took only seconds, the kinetic ballet of the bullet as it disrupted synapses, shattered bone into lethal shards, and blasted its way into the cerebral cortex caused massive tissue damage, all while the victim was still upright. She was dead before she face-planted into the concrete, breaking her perfect nose to pile on to the other indignities wreaked upon her supermodel-like face and body.

Cate had no time to see her own end coming, no time to effect a transition, not even a fleeting moment to consider who delivered her this fate. If she had, she could probably figure it out quickly. But Cate didn’t even have quickly. She jumped from one moment of cognitive clarity to the next of dead as a doornail.

When she fell, the momentum of gravity sent one shoe flying off her foot, and it landed in the middle of the sidewalk, sitting jauntily cocked and waiting to greet returning commuters. It was to their misfortune that it wasn’t the only thing that was awaiting their witness.

Though it was dark out, and people were rushing to their cars, eager to get home after a long day, Cate’s death stood inconveniently in their way. Because a silencer was used, bystanders merely saw a woman drop to the ground. It was only when they got near enough to her that they were able to see that half her head was destroyed. One brave but misguided commuter crouched down and half-turned the body to ensure she was beyond human help: one arctic-blue eye stared back at him; the other one was distorted from internal pressures.

“Don’t touch her,” a woman yelled at him.

The man got to his feet. “I had to check to see if she needed first aid. She doesn’t,” he added in a quiet voice.

Several people called 911 from their cells, pleading for an ambulance. By then the killer was already driving away from the crime scene, late to meet someone for dinner.

 

 

Twenty-nine days earlier (late August)

 

 

The car door swung closed with a muted thud. After a casual glance around the lot, the man pointed the key fob at the vehicle and locked it. Noting that the car parked immediately next to his was the same make, model, and color made him smirk. Yet another one was parked a few cars down. Turning, he adjusted his tie and sauntered toward the entrance to the restaurant, his eyes continually scouring his surroundings. If he noticed anyone he knew even in passing, he’d abort and leave the premises.

The old trope said the best way to hide was in plain sight so he tried to blend into the background: he wore a navy suit, his dark brown hair was neatly combed back, and he wore a bandage over the tattoo on his middle finger. He kept quiet, avoided eye contact, and left his Porsche back at the office, instead taking his assistant’s four-year-old silver Honda.

His problem was that people tended to notice him. His natural good looks combined with a body he earned with obsessive dedication to weights and running kept attention, especially of the female variety, coming his way. True, his looks served him well in multiple ways, but in others they were a huge pain in the tit.

Glancing at his phone, he saw he was early. Once inside Rasputin’s Inn, he scoped out a secluded table in the rear of the dimly lit dining room, away from any windows. Pointing with his chin, he politely asked the hostess—the one who approached him so quickly she teetered on her high heels—“May I have that corner table?”

Greedy eyes roamed him up and down, accompanied by a covetous smile. Or more accurately, a leer. “Of course, sir. Follow me.”

Trailing behind her, he could tell she was swaying her ass more than was natural. Even though he was used to women flirting with him, today he found it irritating. He was trying to fly under the radar, for fuck’s sake.

The table was cloistered from the view of most of the other tables yet positioned so that he could still watch for her entrance. “Thank you,” he told the hostess. She stepped aside slightly to allow him to sit, but he had to wedge past her to do so—her obvious intention. She probably didn’t see his eye-roll at her pathetic ploy. Lately, he had even less patience than usual for aggressive women.

“I’ll send a waiter over to take your order.” Her smile stretched wide, revealing a scarlet lipstick smear on her right front tooth.

After a curt nod at her, he sat back and picked up the menu, but his eyes were on the room. Scanning left to right, he made sure there weren’t any familiar faces. Someday soon they’d be able to do away with this covert shit, these clandestine restaurant meetings, but not yet. Patience was requisite and happened to be one virtue he had in abundance.

The cafe was alive with the din of chatter and boisterous laughter as diners streamed in and out in even exchange. Crowded and noisy suited their purpose.

About five minutes later, she appeared in the doorway. As soon as she walked inside, he recognized her. Since it was easier for her to disguise herself, they’d agreed she’d be the one to do it. Sporting a wig and sunglasses, she was incognito, but it didn’t matter what she wore—not to him. He knew her in and out: her gait, her body, and her posture. He knew her in other ways too. He knew her, in fact, down to her DNA.

Patient as always, he watched as she slid her sunglasses down her nose and her eyes panned the intimate interior. He held up a finger, and as her gaze zeroed in on him on the second pass, her expression changed, and she began to thread her way toward him. He stood as she kissed his cheek in greeting before they sat down across from each other. Their close proximity allowed him to stare into her eyes—he needed her to believe that he thought her a goddess.

“So?” she placed her shades on the table and looked at him. Her eyes held a glint of what he interpreted as nervous anticipation. His probably did too.

He tried to smile. “It’s zero hour. We need to do this or kill it.”

“So to speak. It could go bad,” she whispered.

“It could,” he agreed, maintaining his neutral expression. “We could move to plan B instead. Just take off.”

“We could… but… why should we?”

He said nothing, studying her face. She wore a solemn expression but her eyes reflected her characteristic resolve. In fact, her entire demeanor evinced her purpose: brows pinched, hands folded, spine oaken. The woman knew what she wanted.

“After what she’s done…”

Reaching across the table, he covered her hand with his own, trying to convey affection. “I know. I just want you to understand that if we go ahead with it… it could all go south on us—you’re right about that. We’re aiming for a big win. The bigger the reward, the greater the risk.”

She laughed quietly. “I wonder how many times you’ve said that to me in the last few months.

Now he chuckled. “More than once, I’m guessing?” Head down, his eyes fixed on the table. “I just want to make sure you fully comprehend what the risks are going in—”

“No, I get it,” she interrupted as his eyes rolled up to hers. “I do. I know the risks… it’s going to be so difficult for a while…” She swallowed hard and he could see the muscles in her throat contract. “Even so, I think we should go for it. Starting all over would be a bitch… and then there’s the payback. I want it too.”

“That’s important to you, I know.”

Her face went slack. Leaning back in her chair, she crossed her leg under the table, bumping his knee. “Why isn’t it to you?” Her tone had crisped from a few moments ago.

Sliding his tongue over his front teeth, he tilted his head, taking a moment to check her out from head to heels. The heels alone made him hard. An erotic image popped into his head: drilling her from behind when she had nothing else on but those shiny black stilettos—every man’s fuck fantasy. “It is,” he insisted as he expelled the breath he’d been holding. “So it’s a go—win or lose. Hopefully, we’ll get the win.”

She smiled and nodded, reaching for her glass of water.

Decision made. They’d waited long enough. One bitch would be dead before the next month was out.

The other one would take the fall.

Chapter 1

Dutchess County border, NY, September 10th

 

 

“Pyscho killer, qu’est-ce que c’est, fa fa fa fa fa fa fa…”

Jane squealed, cranking up the volume of the car stereo to duet with the Talking Heads. The sinister sky was about to rip open and deliver its wrath, but she wasn’t paying too much attention to the impending storm. She was busy feeling good.

Cool relief sluiced through her bloodstream like a fast-working sedative now that the dreaded meeting was finally over, and she was on her way back to the city. After so much time, she finally felt calm and even slightly giddy now that it was behind her. The looming prospect of today’s appointment had been stressing her out for weeks, and her anxiety level had steadily climbed to the point of physical illness: nausea, headaches, and a rash on her forearm that might or might not be poison ivy. While getting dressed this morning, she’d noticed that her nails were chewed down to ragged nubs—an icky habit she’d managed to break years ago.

Bright-siding all of that agita was that she lost another five pounds because of it. The size-ten formfitting charcoal sheath dress she’d purchased last month was actually a little loose on her today. For a former fat girl, size ten was a triumph in and of itself, but Jane was still shedding weight. With every pound gone, she felt more empowered and in control of her own fate.

As she cruised around the bends of the scenic roadway, she thought with a measure of disbelief about the turns her life had been taking—one-eighty pivots in almost every facet of it. At twenty-five, she was an efficiency expert wunderkind and up-and-coming it girl. Well, that was the joke since she worked in IT. Everyone called her and Melanie the MT it girls.

But old habits die hard, and no sooner had she acknowledged her cautious optimism than the usual doubts and self-loathing crawled back in like scurrying cockroaches when a light is flipped on—feelings she endlessly recycled from the landfill of her personal despair. He was the reason for it all: both her fragile hopes and disbelief that anyone could appreciate her, much less a man like him. Jane wasn’t stupid: she knew she was unlovable and had known it ever since kindergarten—maybe even before that. Maybe the self-knowledge had germinated in utero with the first cell divisions. Probably.

Useless. That’s what her mother used to call her. Her father preferred pigheaded.

It was much more than about looks, though that was important. When Jane was in high school, her mother used to nag at her to wear some makeup or maybe consider more fashionable clothing. In her high-pitched voice, she’d badger her daughter relentlessly: Jane, you could be passably pretty with a little damn effort. Maybe you can try a shorter skirt? You could get away with it if you borrow my high heels—they will make your legs look less heavy. How about wearing a little makeup today? God forbid, you try to look nice. I got a new lipstick shade that might possibly work on you. Give it a try, why don’t you?

Jane wanted to fight back at her critical mother with one of the few talents she possessed—her extensive repertoire of word missiles—but bit her tongue till it bled out the salt in her, keeping the insults from flying from her mouth like RPGs.

Maybe she could look better, but Jane felt it was important to display on the outside the way she felt on the inside. Disguising her congenital hideousness behind makeup and clothes seemed patently dishonest.

Jane’s shortcomings included major personality deficits as well. She recognized it and had long ago come to terms with it. Though she had a wry sense of humor, it was often misunderstood by others. Patience was also something Jane found in short supply in herself.

Honesty, though. That was crucially important to her—one of the few attributes Jane both respected and possessed. And she was brutally honest about herself. Looking at her own reflection used to fill her with cold dread and bolster her self-hatred, yes, but it was liberating at the same time. She didn’t have to worry about losing popularity over some imagined high school infraction because she never had it to begin with. An author Jane read in high school, Zora Neale Hurston, said it best: the game of keeping what one has is never so exciting as the game of getting. Not that Jane ever tried to get it, nor did she even consider the possibility, but she could recognize the authenticity of the sentiment. Not only is it not exciting to try to keep what you have, but it also must be massively stressful.

The clique girls had to deal with such bullshit high-school drama on a daily basis. Jane didn’t.

She also didn’t have to worry about what she was going to wear every day because it didn’t matter. Jane was plain and overweight, yeah, but she embraced it, instead spending her energy on honing her sarcasm and wit into something as sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel. Those glossy, popular girls at school with perfect bodies were like an alien species to her, one that she couldn’t even entertain the notion of belonging to, but in some ways, she actually felt sorry for them. The strain of keeping up their pretenses must have been almost unendurable because Jane was pretty sure that underneath all that makeup and fashion were other ugly girls.

Lately, though, things had begun to change for Jane, both outer and inner alterations. Today, wearing the new dress that she hadn’t yet dared to wear to work, her hair styled in soft waves, and light makeup meticulously applied, she was actually pleased instead of horrified when she took a peek in the mirror. It inoculated her with a small burst of confidence, a word that wasn’t listed in her personal dictionary until very recently. She smiled again, thinking of the main reason for her surge of self-esteem and the reason she was going to all of this trouble.

Scanning the sky through her Subaru’s windshield, she decided she would probably just beat the monster storm bearing down on New York City. Her gray suede pump pressed a little harder on the accelerator as one of her favorite Radiohead songs came on the radio.

About twenty miles back, a black SUV had begun to pick a fight with Jane. There was no reason, no provocation other than asinine sport. It kept passing her and then slowing down—passive aggression, highway-style. Jane tried to avoid road rage by keeping clear of the vehicle but the other driver seemed to be out looking for trouble. For the last mile, however, the SUV stayed away.

Just as she passed a busy exit, navigating a sharp curve, she saw it. It was unmistakably a bald eagle, sitting on the grassy swale off the wide shoulder. Jane’s eyes remained glued to the bird as she drove past. She’d never seen one in the wild and at so close a distance and wished she could pull over to take a photo, but it wasn’t safe and she wanted to get back to the city before the nor’easter hit. She said a quick prayer that the bird wouldn’t venture onto the road. She’d heard that the eagles were coming back to New York in greater numbers.

Then it happened.

Jane was in the left lane to pass a compact car going just under the 55-mph speed limit. The black SUV came roaring up behind her, then zigzagged first into the right lane in front of the other car and then back into the left lane just ahead of Jane’s vehicle, leaving her no out, no choice, but to swerve to avoid a high-speed collision.

Her panic made her overcompensate and she lost control, the car sailing over the narrow grass median. She saw the pickup flying directly at her, saw the horrified shock in the driver’s face, in the whites of his eyes, a terror that he surely saw reflected back at him in Jane’s expression. At the moment of impact there was a thunderous boom, followed by gruesome screeching as two fast-moving opposing forces collided head-on to an abrupt stop.

It all went down so fast that she never even got to project the scream that lodged in her throat, making it impossible for her to breathe past it.

Her world became incomprehensible pain… and then spiraled into black oblivion.

Chapter 2

 “Looks like a head-on,” the young state trooper shouted over the roaring wind as he hurriedly approached Peter Perez, the first paramedic to leap out of the ambulance.

Trooper Birkin, on scene four minutes after the call came in from a passing motorist, had just swallowed the last delicious bite of an overstuffed burrito when he got the call, and this accident scene was doing his digestion no favors. High-speed car collisions were never fun to look at, and this one was pretty gruesome, with both vehicles twisted into such a damn mess, as if the hand of God himself reached down and scrunched them into a fucked-up sculpture, complete with organic components. Mixed-media art. He snorted a laugh at his own black humor. Birkin was seriously not looking forward to having a look-see at the bodies inside the mangled metal. If the Gs could do that to steel…

Lucky for him the EMTs reached the site less than ninety seconds later, before Birkin was forced to make any assessment himself. He radioed in for a medevac to stand by, waiting only for the paramedics to confirm life in either vehicle. From the looks of both, it was doubtful. He just prayed there were no kids involved. That would ruin his whole night and follow him into sleep. Head-ons were always the worst, trailed closely by T-bones—and of course when bikes laid down. Nasty business.

As Perez and his partner got to work, Birkin again got on the radio, asking for backup, and set about securing the scene and detouring traffic, which would start to get heavier with the evening rush hour approaching. The wind was blowing something fierce, and his eyes and nose were running nonstop, commingling, and making it difficult to see a fucking thing. The heat had been oppressive all day, humidity making the air heavy like goo, and now a nor’easter was about to drop, the sky already dark as midnight at barely three o’clock. Looked like all lanes of the highway needed to be shut down since the debris field spread across the narrow grass median, extending to one lane in both directions. Maybe they could keep the outer lane open each way? Regardless, rush hour was gonna be a hot mess. Wet mess.

Perez yelled to Birkin as he checked inside the compact Subaru SUV. “I got a pulse, single female occupant. We’ll need an airlift to Danbury or Westchester, stat.”

Birkin radioed the update as Perez’s EMT partner checked the cab of what was left of the pickup. He shook his head when Birkin came over to check. “One occupant, male, deceased.”

“You sure?”

The paramedic shrugged. His usual unfazed expression slipped a tiny bit. “Can’t live without a head, last time I checked. Dog’s alive, though.”

Birkin grimaced, glad he didn’t go do it himself. “A dog?”

“Yeah. Needs medical attention. Can you drop it off at the closest vet until we notify his next of kin? The dog would go to them—if it lives.”

“Yeah,” Birkin said, “I could do that. Would you bring it over to my squad car?”

“Can do. Here comes the chopper.” He whistled. “That was fast. Looks like he’s landing over there, where the median widens a bit. I’ll have to bring the woman there first and then get the dog. Sit tight.”

Birkin nodded and shifted his attention to detouring traffic. What a crappy end to a long day.

******

It was already a busy night in the emergency room at Westchester General and only promised to get worse as the storm hit and traffic accidents began streaming in. One was arriving ahead of the storm. As they wheeled the young woman in, the team was already in place.

Emily Lopez was on her first shift in the ER. Last month she’d requested a transfer down from neonatal, having watched three preemies die in a single week. Though the other nurses and even a few doctors assured her that it was an unusually high mortality rate for the department, Emily couldn’t hack it. She could deal with blood and gore but not dead babies.

When the EMTs unloaded the gurney from the ambulance, Emily was by the door to do escort and get details. She took one look at the young woman’s nose that was hanging off her face and Emily felt her stomach acids gurgle. Poor girl. Taking a deep breath, she forged ahead. The ER might take some getting used to as well.

They got the young woman situated in the farthest cubicle, hooked up to an IV drip, and were prepping her for surgery. Emily was assisting until Chrissy came on shift and relieved her in triage, so she was able to grab a quick bathroom break. Afterward, she headed over to reception to help out there since she was currently an ER floater and went where needed. As she approached Rosie at the desk, a young man rushed in. He wore business attire and an urgent expression.

“Can I help you?” Rosie’s calm was in direct opposition to the man’s panic.

“Uh, yeah. I just heard my friend was brought in here. Car accident?”

“Your friend’s name, sir?”

“Jane Jensen.”

Emily looked at Rosie. “That’s the young woman who just came through ten minutes ago.” She shifted her attention back to the man. “Your name, sir?”

“Er… Ed… Jensen.” At their look, he added quickly, “No relation… just a coincidence. Is Jane going to be OK?”

“So you’re not a relative of Ms. Jensen?” Rosie inquired.

“Uh… no, a friend.”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Jensen. We cannot release any information to anyone other than relatives. Do you know a family member we can contact?”

“Shit, no. I don’t. Can you at least tell me if she’s going to make it?”

Emily watched Rosie shake her head. “I’m sorry, sir, but we cannot. Only family members. You can help tremendously if you can have one of her relatives contact us.”

Running his hands through his hair, he spun around indecisively. “All right, all right. I’ll try to get in touch with one of them. Can you take my name and number and ask her relative to call me with her condition in case you reach one first?”

Rosie nodded, her voice hesitant when she said, “I suppose I can do that.”

He had to look at a paper in his wallet to give her a contact number. He wrote down Ed Jensen, followed by one of the numbers he’d taken off another piece of paper and handed it to the woman. She accepted it with a frown, her hackles gone up for some reason.

“Thanks,” he grumbled as he turned to walk out and under his breath added, “for nothing.”

******

As soon as he stepped through the hospital doors and walked outside, the man who called himself Ed Jensen took a moment to try to collect himself and organize his thoughts. Standing under the awning as the storm beyond quickened, a panic like he’d never known before rolled through him—he tried to power through it. What the hell should he do? Just wait to see what happens?

Damn it. He stomped his foot so hard on the ground that sharp needles of pain radiated from his heel and shot up his leg. Raking his hands through his hair, he grabbed fistfuls of it as he spun around in place. Go back and try again? Damn it all to hell—he should’ve said he was fucking family.

He knew it was stupid to come to the hospital in the first place—security cameras were everywhere. But this shit wasn’t supposed to happen. What if she died? The plan would have to be changed. Things were already going horribly wrong before it was even off the ground. He began taking deep breaths and holding them for as long as he could.

He stood there for a long minute staring into space before he snapped back to reality and made his way to his Porsche.

He felt like choking someone to death, and he knew just whose throat he was itching to strangle.

Chapter 3

Her brain was on fire.

Jane couldn’t move, couldn’t do anything to stop the explosive violence happening inside her brain. The pain was unbearable and like nothing she’d ever endured. It forced her outside of her body, right into a hallucinatory state.

There was less than nothing that she could do about it. The paroxysms were ceaseless, excruciating, and growing in severity. She needed it to stop, but she didn’t know how to make it. She couldn’t even scream, and she didn’t know why.

Sounds were coming at her. They started as a low murmur, gradually increasing in volume as if traveling closer from a long distance but at a fast speed. Through a tunnel maybe. She couldn’t identify them.

A bright light was bearing down on her. Headlights? The light shone directly into Jane’s eyes and it hurt too. She tried to turn her head away from the offending light but couldn’t move an inch. Her head was immobilized. She grimaced and her face hurt from even that small motion. Every inch of her throbbed, she realized, as consciousness unfolded over her, revealing itself piece by piece.

“Jane? Can you hear me?”

The disembodied male voice was deep and suddenly loud. Jane wanted to answer him but was somehow unable to. She attempted to nod but was quickly reminded of her inability to move more than a quarter of an inch.

“Jane?”

She couldn’t answer; she tried, but nothing came out.

“Jane, I’m Dr. Lavelle. You’re in the ICU of Westchester General. Do you know how you got here?”

“No,” she finally managed, the word croaked out. Her throat was a parched ruin. Dry, desiccated, a desert arroyo in deep summer, in drought. She yearned for cool, clear water. Nothing else would slake her thirst.

“Do you remember what happened?”

Jane scrabbled through the jackhammering in her head for the answer that she should know. “I-I… I’m not… not sure.”

“Do you know your full name?”

“I…Water.”

She heard him say something in a lower voice. Asking for ice chips… Someone else must be in the room. “Your name?” he asked again.

“Jane. Jane Jensen.”

“Good. What’s the last thing you remember, Jane?”

“I…I don’t know. School, I guess. It’s over.”

“School is over?”

“Yeah. For the year.”

“And?” the doctor prodded gently after a pause.

“And,” she repeated, “now… it’s summer.”

“Summer? Of what year?”

Her hand, IV tubes dangling from it, reached for her forehead to gently rub it, as if that would trigger her memory but stopped when it touched bandages. “I’m not sure. I think… I think I… ninth grade?”

The doctor’s words came through the dark slowly. “All right, Jane, there appears to be some memory loss and—”

“Why?” she interrupted, rising panic in her tone.

“Please don’t become alarmed,” came the soothing voice. “You were in an automobile accident, and you’ve sustained a head injury. It’s not uncommon to experience some temporary memory loss.”

His volume dropped to a near whisper but she could still hear him despite the distant murmur of other voices. “Right now, I can only say it seems to be more extensive than anterograde amnesia—the inability to create new memories after the traumatic event. We’ll have to wait and see—”

“Is the baby OK?” Jane’s rusty voice spoke over him, panicked.

The room fell silent except for the hum of machines. “Baby?” the doctor echoed. “Was there a baby in the car with you?”

He turned to the nurse standing just behind the resident trailing him today. “Can you check to see if there were any passengers in her vehicle?”

Then he turned back to her. “Jane, don’t be alarmed. Everything is being taken care of.

The doctor continued speaking in a low volume, not to Jane but to the resident he had shadowing him, probably believing that his patient was barely lucid. His voice remained in a soothing monotone, no doubt hoping to reassure her since she was conscious, however minimally.

He must have assumed she couldn’t hear him but she did, every word. She just had a hard time responding.

“There seems to be some long-term memory involvement as well.” He patted Jane’s hand. “In all likelihood, you will recover all or most of it as you heal. Right now, we’re going to help you feel better and begin to get back to yourself. For now, I just want you to rest.

“OK.” Her voice was so faint that the doctor had to bend over to hear.

Dr. Lavelle exited Jane Jensen’s ICU room, stepping just outside to speak with someone. Jane could hear a female voice and though the conversation was soft, somehow, she heard the words.

“Lois?”

“Yes, Doctor?”

“I want Ms. Jensen to be closely monitored for the next twelve hours. Understood?”

“Yes. Should I put organ procurement on alert? Her driver’s license indicated her as a potential donor.”

“No, that’s premature at this point. Right now, keep her stabilized and watch closely for significant swelling—that’s the most immediate danger and almost inevitable. I’ll be back to check in on her within the hour.” He paused for a split second. “Do me a favor, Lois. Check the intake report on Ms. Jensen to see if there is any mention of other occupants in the patient’s car. We ran a pregnancy test and it came back negative, but the patient mentioned a baby. I’m fairly certain she’s delusional, but it’s worth a check. I hope to God there’s no child at home waiting for her.”

“Of course, Doctor. I’ll be happy to look into it.”

Neither of them heard Jane’s moan at the mention of organ donation. A single tear slipped down her cheek as she thought of her own imminent death and the fact that there was no child at home waiting for her. Or so the doctor said.

The only thought running through her head at the moment was her resignation that it was her time to die. And she didn’t want to go.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

I’m a NYC girl, born and bred, though I’ve lived in a few other places over the years—Chicago, Los Angeles, and Santa Fe. I’ve been writing in one form or another for my entire life, but fiction has been my definite thing for the last ten years. When I’m not writing—or hiking with my golden retriever and little scrappy terrier (my dog’s rescue dog)—I teach English and writing to skeptical college freshmen and copyedit manuscripts for other authors.

Q. What books have influenced your life the most?
A.
My favorite books run the gamut of genres. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy is among the top five. I loved Caleb Carr's books, especially The Alienist. And anything by Patricia Cornwell. So many books, so little time.
Q. What draws you to this genre?
A.
I've written other novels in different genres (under pseudonyms), but mystery is my favorite fiction genre to read so why not write one? I've read every Agatha Christie book ever written. I like to be surprised, and even when I can predict an end, I still enjoy getting there.
Q. What books are you reading now?
A.
Right now I'm rereading 1984 by George Orwell (for obvious reasons).

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