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Murder On The Mind

Murder On The Mind

Murder On The Mind 4

CHAPTER 3

  The dark figure was back, stalking its prey with a calculated viciousness. Terrified, the white-tailed buck ran blindly across a field of short-cropped hay.

  I watched the hunter pull the cross-bow’s trigger, let the arrow fly. It hit with a smart thwack, ripping through the deer’s heart. The buck ran ten yards before dropping in the snow.

  Confident, the hunter strode to the kill, hauled the animal onto its back, crouched down. The wicked knife flashed in the waning light as the hunter gutted the carcass.

  Sensations pummeled me. Startled fear, helplessness, and an overwhelming sense of victory. But the mix of emotions didn’t gibe; the deer was goodness crushed, while the stalker radiated a sense of triumph, as though evil had been destroyed, instead of the destroyer snuffing out an innocent life.

  I killed time putting away the clothes and toilet articles Richard had packed for me. Running out of things to do, I headed for the kitchen.

  Brenda was alone at the counter. I took a breath to steady myself before entering.

  She looked up from the sausage she tended on the stove. “Feeling better?”

  I pulled out a chair at the table. “Maybe a little shaky. I could sure go for a sugar fix.”

  In seconds a glass of milk and a plate of chocolate chip cookies materialized before me. I ate three, feeling better with every bite. When I finished, I took the dishes to the dishwasher. Leaning against the counter, I dipped my right hand into my sling, scratching the skin around the top of the cast.

  “Itches, huh?”

  “I was gonna bend a coat hanger to scratch way down, but figured I’d end up a bloody mess.”

  She leaned across the counter to a ceramic crock filled with kitchen utensils and grabbed a chopstick. “Try this.”

  The stick reached my elbow from the top of the cast, and nearly as far from inside my wrist.

  “Keep it,” she said when I offered it back. “Just don’t tell Richard where you got it. He’d tell you horror stories on infection and stuff. Doctors don’t understand a patient’s needs at all.”

  “So says the nurse.”

  “You got it, baby.”

  “Where is Rich, anyway?”

  “In his study, where else?” Was there resignation in her voice?

  I tucked the chopstick into my sling and glanced around the kitchen. “It’s weird being here again.”

  “I can imagine.” She adjusted the flame under the skillet.

  “Looks pretty much the same.”

  She glanced around the old-fashioned kitchen. “Sort of like living in a museum. Still, maybe we can make it homey. If we decide to stay.”

  If? That wasn’t the impression Richard had given me.

  “I was surprised you guys had moved back.”

  She covered the sausage and moved to the counter to chop celery for the salad. “No more surprised than me. Richard sold the condo and here we are. Most of our stuff is in storage.”

  I wasn’t about to press her on what was obviously a sore subject.

  “Rich’s grandmother had a housekeeper and other help around the house. You do everything yourself?”

  “No. A cleaning service comes in once a week. Cooking’s fun, but even that’s starting to wear thin.” She sliced a tomato. “I’ve heard a few stories about Mrs. Alpert from Richard. I’ll bet you could tell some, too.” She looked up from her work, a mischievous glint in her eyes.

  I took the bait. “Old Mrs. Alpert hated me. I was a constant reminder that Rich’s mother was . . .” I considered my words carefully, “. . . not her choice of maternal material for her only grandson. The fact that I looked like our mother didn’t help.”

  “So I heard.”

  “One Halloween a friend in the school’s drama club loaned me the lead’s costume from The Headless Horseman. I got a flashlight, and the tall ladder from the garage. . . .”

  “You didn’t—”

  I grinned. “Around midnight I climbed outside her window and tapped on the glass until she woke up.”

  Brenda laughed. “God, you were a rotten kid.”

  “She screamed, woke up the whole house. She threatened me with reform school—made Rich come straight home from work at the hospital. I thought he’d kill me.”

  “What did he do?”

  “Lectured me about the old lady’s bad heart, but I always thought he was secretly proud of that stunt. Poor Rich, he always had to behave.”

  She smiled. “It means a lot to him that you’re here, you know.”

  I fell silent, feeling awkward again. Why was it so easy to talk to her and so hard to relate to my own brother?

  “Brenda, is something bothering Rich?”

  “You catch on fast.” She looked thoughtful. “It was harder for him to lose his job than it was for me. He’d worked at the Foundation almost eighteen years.”

  “I can identify with losing a job.”

  Her frown deepened. “It’s more than just that.” She was quiet for a long moment, then forced a smile. “Now that you’re here, maybe we’ll have some fun.”

  Did that mean there’d been a distinct lack of fun in their lives? It never occurred to me that Richard could have problems. Or was he living proof that money can’t buy happiness?

  I glanced down at the counter, noticing a large manila envelope with my name on it. “What’s this?”

  “I called the local brain injury association. Probably none of the info will apply to you, but it might give you some answers.”

  Back in my hospital room in New York, I’d been impatient with Dr. Klehr’s explanations. The stocky man smelled of stale cigarette smoke, and looked like he over-indulged on cheeseburgers and fries. We hadn’t built a trusting doctor/patient relationship in the short time I’d known him. He and Richard had been exchanging professional pleasantries when I’d interrupted them.

  “Can you just give me the bottom-line diagnosis?”

  Nonplused, Klehr turned. “Mr. Resnick, you suffered a classic coup-contrecoup injury.”

  “Which means?”

  “The injury occurred in a part of the brain opposite the point of impact. The injured tissue resulted from changes in pressure which traveled through your brain. Very simply, you’ve suffered some brain damage.”

  Klehr kept talking, but I didn’t hear a word.

  Brain damage? How could something like that have happened to me—be that wrong with me?

  Dr. Klehr paused; I picked up the sudden silence.

  “It sounds a lot more ominous than it really is,” Richard said.

  I’d looked at him in disbelief.

  “You were lucky,” Klehr continued. “The swelling was minimal. You haven’t suffered seizures.”

  Yeah, that made me feel lots better. I couldn’t get past that phrase “brain damage.” Did that mean I’d never balance a checkbook again, or was I likely to go out and kill for kicks?

  “What does that mean?”

  “Memory loss, as you’ve already experienced. And you might notice a loss of emotional control. One of my patients cries at McDonald’s commercials. You might get angry easily.”

  “Is this permanent?”

  “Perhaps, but not necessarily.”

  “When will I know? How can I tell? When can I go back to work?”

  He shrugged. “I wouldn’t push it. An injury like yours takes time to heal.”

  “Weeks? Months?”

  “We’ll talk later. You’ve got enough to think about for now.”

  With a few parting words, Klehr left us alone. Richard chattered on, refusing to even consider worst-case scenarios.

  I’d eyed him with distrust. He’d already known. Klehr explaining the extent of my injuries to me had been just an afterthought.

  Was paranoia a side effect of a bruised brain?

  I fingered the envelope, hefting its bulk. “Thanks, Brenda. I’ll look it over later.”

  Much later.