“Over here, Jack!” Cory’s order rang out like a bell thrown through a plate glass window. His voice was changing, sounding intermittently like nails on a chalk board and Barry White. Jack tossed the ball to his friend, but his eyes were nowhere near the target.
He was watching Jessica Mitchell and falling in love.
“Cory Wilson, watch your language young man.” Jack glanced toward the reprimand and saw Mrs. Cox standing near the side door of the school. She was fifty feet away from them, but her ears were finely tuned instruments. He smiled and waved to her, earning a stern frown and a shake of the head.
“Jack, did you see where it went?”
Jack sighed, took another look at Jessica sitting on the bench with Kathy Martin, then tromped toward the bushes to join Cory on his quest for the baseball.
“Sorry,” he said, as he bent down next to his friend and began parting the branches.
“Yeah, I bet. Why don’t you talk to her?”
“I don’t think she likes me,” Jack said. “I mean-“
“Got it!” Cory reached in and pulled the ball out. He stayed low though and glanced over his shoulder to the girls on the bench. “What do you mean?”
“You know, stuff. She looks at me funny.”
“I think that’s the girl version of leering.”
“No, it’s different. Like she’s, I don’t know. Sizing me up for a fight.”
“Huh? Why’d a girl want to fight you?”
“Okay, so maybe not that.” Jack shook his head and stood up. “Come on, there’s like two minutes left of recess.”
“Ugh, don’t remind me. I’ve got a test.”
Cory dusted off the ball and tossed it underhand to Jack. A moment later the bell went off and Mrs. Cox began clapping her hands together, throwing her own voice into the din of children’s groans.
“Everyone line up. That’s a good one, line up now.”
“At least we won’t have Mrs. Cox to deal with next year,” Cory muttered.
“No recess at all.”
“Yeah, but they have lunch outside and stuff.”
Jack thought his point would be lost on Cory so he said nothing further. At his advancing age of thirteen, his father was on his case non-stop with talks of responsibility, adulthood and living up to expectations. He suspected it was a Frost family tradition, a lecture handed down from father to son going all the way back to the Mayflower.
He was feeling the first painful grip of adulthood’s shackles, a sensation made even more urgent when he looked around the front yard of the school where he and the other older kids took recess. Few groups spent the period playing. Most just hung out, sitting in twos, threes and fours talking about one thing or another.
He thought about it as his feet assumed the responsibility of navigating his thin frame into the line for the march back into the building. Ten feet from the door, Jack felt a hand clamp down on his shoulder. He turned his head and looked up into Mr. Howard’s eyes.
“Morning, Jack,” the principal said. His mouth was set in a wide smile but his eyes were anything but happy or friendly.
“Morning, Mr. Howard.” Jack saw Cory’s head snap around, his redheaded friend giving him a look of profound sympathy laced with fear. Mr. Howard led Jack out of the line.
“Can you come with me for a moment?”
“What’d I do?”
Mr. Howard laughed. “No, it’s nothing like that. It will only take a minute, then I’ll have you back in class.” Jack felt the hand on his shoulder tighten and knew the principal wouldn’t be taking no for an answer. He let himself be led away from the door, the older man guiding him not-so-gently to the parking lot.
“Over here, Jack!” Peter shouted through the sound of the wailing car alarms, but his voice was nearly a whisper to Jack’s ears over the chaos. Jack had made it half-way across the road when he had to jump out of the way of a speeding Volkswagen. The driver made no effort to avoid him, missing Jack’s hips by less than an inch.
He looked up and saw his friend holding open the front door of the hotel they’d seen from the car. Peter’s arm was moving in frantic circles, trying to conduct him into the building as if he were a symphony. Jack went in and Peter followed.
The lobby was small, but fine, like a New York City hotel done in miniature. Jack saw two men standing behind a large counter to his left, with several men and women milling about the room with looks of fear and confusion on their faces.
One woman stood out from the rest. She was blonde, her hair pulled back in a loose bun. The clothes she wore looked completely out of place among the designer labels the other people sported. She had on a white tee shirt, faded blue jeans and had a white and black checkered shirt tied around her waist.
“What’s going on out there?” The question belonged to one of the men standing behind the desk. Jack turned to speak, but Peter jumped in.
“We’re not sure, but the important thing is that we’re safe.”
“Safe?” A woman in her fifties, wearing a dress far too young for her, spoke up. “What’s happening?”
“Do you have a phone?” Peter asked, ignoring the woman for the time being.
“Of course we have a phone,” the guy at the front desk replied. Jack took an immediate dislike to him. “Not that it will do any good. It went out about ten minutes ago.”
“And the cells,” the woman in the tee shirt added. “We’re cut off.”
Jack turned back to his friend. Peter just stared for a moment, then shook his head and looked back out through the glass to the street beyond. They heard another gunshot, this one closer. Jack took a step closer so he could speak to Peter without being overheard.
“Cellular service, landlines and satellite communications. All of them cut?”
“Impossible,” Peter said. “There’s nothing that could do that.”
“There’s one thing, isn’t there?”
Peter looked at his friend, his lips turned down into a tight frown. He shook his head again. “The pulse from a nuclear weapon would have shut down all the electronics, not just communications. Besides, it’d be pretty hard to miss a mushroom cloud.”
“So where does that leave us?” Jack asked. Peter looked outside again. A long minute later, he spoke.
“I think we’re in your territory here, Jack,” he said. “I hope to God you’ve got a theory now.”
Once out of the view of the teachers and students, Mr. Howard’s face lost its smile and took on a look of frustration, purpose and anger. The principal had told him he’d done nothing wrong, but Jack saw just the opposite in the man’s face. It was a look that meant trouble with detention to follow.
They strode into the parking lot and made their way between the cars until Mr. Howard’s hand yanked Jack’s shoulder back, drawing him to a stop before the principal’s brand new Pontiac. The young man looked at the car and groaned audibly.
The gray paint hadn’t just been scratched, it had been destroyed. In some places, the gouges were nearly a quarter inch wide. There was no pattern to the marks beyond sheer enthusiasm.
“This!” Mr. Howard pointed to his car with the hand not holding Jack in place. “You tell me who did this!”
Jack looked down at his feet. “I don’t know, sir.” The principal’s hand gave him a shake.
“That’s a lie, Jack. You know damned well who did this.” The curse word surprised him. Mr. Howard kept a strong hold on his tongue even for the worst offenders. But then gum chewing, class cutting and fights weren’t the same thing as having your new car’s paint job stripped.
“How could I know?” Jack said, the man’s fingers digging savagely into his shoulder. He’d have bruises there for sure. Mr. Howard brought his face down to his level, his lips in line with Jack’s ear. Jack was tall for his age, but the older man had been a star basketball player in college and easily beat his height by a foot.
“You listen to me, you freak, and you listen good. You’re gonna tell me which of the little bastards did this to my car. ‘Cause if you don’t, mister, I’m taking this out on you.”
Jack struggled not to cry, fought to remember his father’s words about weaknesses the young can get away with but are off limits to teenaged boys.
“Who the fuck did this to my car?”
Jack closed his eyes and reached out a trembling hand. Mr. Howard shoved him forward so his shins barked off the front bumper. Jack’s hand hit the hood and he began tracing the lines left by the vandal. He opened his eyes, feeling tears spill down his cheeks. In spite of the iron grip Mr. Howard kept on him, and his own fears, Jack felt himself begin to relax.
It felt horrible. His guts began to twist as a cold sensation formed in the pit of his stomach. He hated every second of that feeling which he sometimes got even without trying. It felt like an icicle was being worked up inside him, a hand turning it, winding him up.
“It was a wood chisel,” he said. He was faintly aware that Mr. Howard had taken a step back, his hand yanked away from Jack’s shoulder. Jack kept going. He didn’t have a choice anymore. Once he let that cold thing in, he had to see it through to the end.
“Rusty, old. He got it from his grandfather’s toolbox. It makes his hand smell like dirty grease.”
“Who, Jack? Who did this?”
Jack saw a flash of the vandal’s face and even in that emotionless place, he felt fear trying to creep in.
“Tim Johnson, sir,” Jack said, pulling his hand away from the hood. He looked at his palm and saw slivers of paint, some laying just on the surface, others plunging cruelly beyond the skin. His hand stung.
Jack turned and saw Mr. Howard watching him. The older man’s face had gone white, but his expression was blank. Finally, the principal forced a smile.
“That’s good Jack,” he said. “Very good. Thanks for your help. You can go on into class now.”
Jack nodded and walked quickly toward the school. As he passed the principal, Mr. Howard took a step away, putting an arm’s length of distance between them. It was a movement filled with fear, as though the idea of being touched by him filled the older man with horror.
Jack wiped his eyes, dusted his palm on the thigh of his blue jeans and ran inside.
“It’s another piece. But we’re still missing something.”
“Are we still talking about Frank?” Peter didn’t take his eyes off the scene outside, though there was little to see. Nothing moved outside, though the car alarms kept sounding. The chaos seemed to have moved beyond their block, abandoning the center of town for the outskirts.
“I think so.”
“How? How is this related?” To Jack, Peter didn’t sound incredulous, more confused. His friend’s manner frightened him, in some way, perhaps more than the riot they’d witnessed. Peter put his faith in facts and was now diving head first into Jack’s intuitions. It reminded him of the man in the business suit, throwing himself under the wheels of the van.
“I don’t know. I just know they are.”
“You said you didn’t even think that was Frank’s body,” Peter said. “So start with that, Jack. Who’s the guy in the morgue?”
“It’s not human. Doc’s autopsy proved that, we just didn’t want to accept it.”
“No internal organs.” Peter nodded, his face grave. When Doc Harley had cut open Frank Burns, they’d found nothing but a partial skeleton and what the medical examiner had called “undifferentiated tissue.” He’d been nothing but a mass of cells inside, like a giant human embryo.
“It was something made to look like him.”
“Don’t you mean, how?”
Peter shot Jack a look. “Fuck the how, Jack. Leave that for the scientists. I’m talking about motive.”
“Alright. Why? Well, what did they get? Two FBI agents.”
“Right. Assuming whoever or whatever…made that thing, assuming they knew Frank was FBI, they get this investigation.”
“Me.” A female voice made the two men turn around. It was the blonde in the blue jeans. She’d come up behind them as they were talking and had been listening in on their conversation.
“Excuse me?” Peter said. Jack knew he was annoyed by the intrusion.
“I said they get me,” she said. “You’re agents Peter Driscoll and Jack Frost, aren’t you?” The two men exchanged looks.
“How did you know that?” Peter asked. The woman frowned and shifted on her friend.
“I’m a journalist. I was tipped off to the Frank Burns case and came here to poke around.”
“Fantastic,” Peter said, shaking his head and resuming his vigil out the window.
“Tipped off to what?”
“That you found him in the lake, seventeen years after he and his wife vanished and that he hadn’t aged a day.” She shrugged as if that explained everything. “It’s a story.”
“For the tabloids, maybe,” Peter said with a chuckle that sounded too forced for even the most naive of people to believe.
“The tabloids don’t have a monopoly on the weird.”
“What’s your name?” Jack asked.
“Sam Devlin.” She extended her hand out of reflex. Jack smiled and shook it, finding himself more at ease with her than he thought he should be. Maybe it was her looks or the way she carried herself, but Jack knew instinctively that she was good at her job. She had a way about her that made you want to relax and open up.
“Nice to meet you.” Jack turned to Peter. “And I think we might have our answer.”
“How’s that?” Peter said.
“She’s right, it’s a story. It would bring a lot of attention.”
“Are we falling back on good old fashioned narcissism?”
Jack shrugged. “Maybe. How would we profile a killer in this situation? The body wasn’t weighed down, the victim-“
“Which there wasn’t,” Peter interjected. “I mean, if we go on the theory it was somehow created and not natural.”
“It still fits. The killer intentionally chose someone that would bring us in, and they chose circumstances that could bring national attention.”
Peter considered Jack’s words for a minute, listening to the howling car alarms. He nodded. “Attention sounds like a possibility. But what about the cold case theory?”
“I don’t know.” Jack shook his head. “That’s part of the missing piece.”
“What cold case?” Sam asked. Peter laughed.
“No, I think we’ve said quite enough for your ears.”
“Sure,” Sam said. She looked back at Jack. “But I think you’re right. I think someone wants to get Cedar Mills in the headlines.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Because I think someone else has been trying to keep it out of them.”
“I think Brenda likes you.” Cory’s words fell on deaf ears. Jack was too busy worrying about Tim Johnson and what he’d do when he found out who’d ratted on him. Tim was fifteen and built like a freight train. He’d been held back twice and was already shaving. Once Mr. Howard got through with him, Jack knew he’d come looking for payback.
“Did you hear me?”
“I said, ‘I think Brenda likes you.’ That’s why Jessica’s giving you the evil eye.”
“Oh.” Jack looked up toward the front of the room and saw the two girls whispering. Jess and Brenda had been best friends for who knew how long, but while Jess had the face of an angel and the figure of a blossoming goddess, Brenda was sort of plain. She wore too-thick glasses and had a reputation for being a book worm who spent almost no time playing outside. She might be a little cute, sometimes, but that was it.
“So?” Jack asked.
“What’s got into you? What’d Mr. Howard want, anyway?”
“Didn’t look like nothing,” Cory said. “Was it about his car?” Jack looked up, horrified.
“You know about that?”
“What? I know he got his car keyed. That’s been all over the school since the opening bell.”
“Do they know who did it?”
“Don’t know. Don’t think anyone’s taking credit for it.”
Jack folded his hands on the desk in front of him and rested his chin on them. He felt a small amount of hope creep into his heart. If the kids all knew about the principal’s car, then maybe enough knew it was Tim Johnson to give him plausible denial.
“It was about his car, wasn’t it?”
“No,” Jack lied. He liked Cory, but when it came to keeping a secret, he was the last person Jack would tell.
“Oh man, Howard made you finger someone.”
“No, it wasn’t like that.”
“Jesus, that really sucks.”
“Shut up, Cory!”
“Jack Frost!” Mrs. Reed didn’t have ears like Mrs. Cox, but Jack’s voice was loud enough in that moment for the deafest of teachers to hear. “Maybe you can tell us what’s so much more interesting than photosynthesis.”
Anything, Jack thought. “Sorry,” he said.
The teacher clicked her tongue in disapproval and continued giving her lecture.
“Who did it, anyway?” Cory asked.
“I don’t know,” Jack said. “How could I?”
His eyes flicked in Jess’s direction and he caught Brenda staring. Her brown hair was held back in a blue ribbon, her thick glasses perched on her nose so that she looked over them to see him. She blushed and turned quickly away, making Jack smile in spite of his foul mood.
Jack thought he might be wrong about her. Brenda was more than cute when she blushed. Right then, he thought she was downright pretty.
As quickly as the chaos began, it stopped. All at once the car alarms cut out, the distant sounds ceased and the air was filled with a still silence that, to Jack, seemed much, much worse. Sam stepped past the two men and looked out the window next to them. Behind the three, Jack heard the other people in the lobby begin to approach, taking halting steps toward the front doors.
“Nobody go outside,” Peter said, his voice little more than a whisper, but it carried a sense of authority Jack knew the others wouldn’t question. At least not yet.
“Is it over?” Sam asked.
“Appearances can be deceiving. We still don’t know what it was.”
“I don’t see any movement,” Jack said. His eyes scanned the street out front, flicked between the windows in the buildings across the road and found no evidence of life. Even the wind was dead calm.
“Everyone left?” One of the men manning the front desk had stepped away from his post to join them. Jack looked at his face and saw fear, but the panic that had been writ large only minutes ago had gone from his expression. He glanced around the room, looking at the other people and noticed the same change.
“You feel that?” Jack asked.
“The adrenaline rush,” Jack said. “The fear, the need to get away. It’s gone.”
“I can’t say it’s gone completely, Jack.” Peter gave him a look that said he was still struggling with his own emotions.
“But it’s not as urgent?”
“No,” Peter said, shaking his head slowly. Now his eyes drifted to the others and he seemed to pick up on Jack’s thoughts. “There’s no sense of panic.”
“Speak for yourself! What the fuck’s happening?” A man of about twenty-five spoke up. He had wrapped his arm around the older woman wearing the low-cut backless number that belonged on someone half her age. His gesture might have seemed protective to some, but Jack read it as possessive and controlling.
“We’re not sure,” Peter said, turning to face the group. “Right now, we’re all going to stay here and plan our next move.”
“Who the fuck are you?”
“My name is Special Agent Peter Driscoll. Now let’s just all take it easy and remain calm.”
Jack watched Peter begin to work crowd control. He’d seen the act dozens of times but it had never felt this forced. His friend was attempting to gain the group’s trust and respect, while implanting the suggestion that he could enforce his words if it came to that. In other situations, Peter could get a much larger crowd to cooperate eagerly, but even this small group was too scared to hear anything but Peter’s uncertainty.
“Calm?” The older woman’s face was a mask of scorn. “Why are government agents here?”
“We were here on an unrelated matter, ma’am,” Peter said. “Now if-“
“Bullshit!” Her male companion had jumped in again. “No, you fuckers knew something was going to happen.”
“Experimenting on citizens!” Jack didn’t know who had said this last, but it didn’t matter. Panicky people are ready to believe anything and it was clear that Peter was losing control of the situation before he’d even gained it. Besides the two agents, there were nine other people in the room and most of them began to speak all at once.
“Enough!” Sam hollered, her voice cutting down the waves of protest. “Jesus, let’s not string anyone up yet. Who’s got a cell phone?”
“They’re all dead,” explained the desk clerk standing near them.
“Mine’s dead,” Sam said. “Yours is dead. What about everyone else? Pull them out, maybe someone has a signal.” Less than a minute later, they’d had no such luck.
“What about you two?” Sam asked Peter. “Uncle Sam give you any gizmos? Ear buds? Anything?”
“Cell phones and a laptop with a satellite uplink. All dead.”
“Landline is out too, along with our internet.” The clerk remaining behind the counter called out after checking both again.
“We’re wasting our time!” The man dropped his arm from the woman and took a step forward. “We’ve got to get the fuck out of here while the coast is clear!”
“I don’t think that’s the smartest move,” Peter said.
“I’m with Derrick,” the woman said, putting her own arm around the man. Jack couldn’t work out the relationship between the pair, but the man was obviously the dominant personality. He shrugged off her arm almost violently and pointed toward the door.
“My wife and I are leaving.”
“Who here has counter terrorism training? Raise your hand!” Sam was shouting again. She stared at the agents and Jack nodded, trying to not smile in spite of the circumstances. He’d already decided he liked the journalist more than he should. “What about weapons training? Tactical maneuvering? Riot experience?”
“There’s nothing going on out there!”
“You see anything moving outside?” Sam gestured to the window. “Take a look! It’s fucking dead out there. Nothing! I can’t even hear anything, can you? Are you really that fucking eager to leave this room?”
The man and his much older wife said nothing, nor did the others.
“My point,” Sam continued, “is that right now these two men are the only ones even remotely qualified to make a decision and I say let them have it. We stay here, calm down and figure out what the next move is.”
“Is there anyone else in the hotel?” Peter asked the clerk behind the desk. The man nodded.
“A few. Some staff and three other guests, although I believe the guests might have gone out. I mean, before.”
“I’ll do a sweep of the building,” Jack said, turning to the man standing next to him. “Mister…”
“Todd Healy.” The clerk reached out his hand on instinct. Jack gave him a quick shake.
“Todd and I will start at the top and work our way down, get everyone here. We’ll bring some food and something to drink when we get back.”
“I’m not sure if I’m authorized to do that,” Todd said. Jack smiled.
“It’s alright, I’m sure the owners can write it off.” He looked at Peter and Sam. “The two of you going to be alright?”
“We’re fine,” Sam said. Peter stepped up and whispered in Jack’s ear.
“I heard gunfire and saw a lot of people not in their right mind. Be careful.”
“Understood.” Jack turned to Todd. “Lead on. We’ll take the stairs.”
When the final bell rang out, Jack headed home. If he’d run into Cory his friend would no doubt have protested and tried roping him into an after school romp through the nearby cemetery or otherwise waylay him. As it happened, Cory was nowhere to be seen once Jack hit the wide front steps of the school. He was happy to have avoided him.
By one o’clock, the school was abuzz with the news that Tim Johnson had been kicked out of school for wrecking Mr. Howard’s car. Worse, more and more eyes began to fall on Jack as he went from one class to another. Whether it was Cory’s big mouth spreading the rumor, or his own guilty face that had given him away, Jack felt like a marked man. He wanted to get far away from the school and back to the safety of his house.
He kept his eyes down as he crossed the lot and hit the sidewalk, doing his best to remain invisible. Once on the street, he walked quickly to the corner and crossed, taking Church Street which led past the big white Temple of the Blessed Virgin. Jack thought of the route ahead and decided cut around Spring Street. He usually walked that way, but it led past the library and a lot of the bigger kids like to hang out on its back lawn.
Big kids like Tim Johnson and his high school friends.
Why’d I have to say something? He wondered to himself. The principal had threatened him, but he could have bit his tongue and refused. His father was a respected officer in the Seattle Police Department and Mr. Howard’s words would have been only that: words. He could threaten a thirteen year old, but couldn’t have done any real harm.
Jack knew that was bullshit even as he thought it. He still had a year to go before he’d be out from under Mr. Howard’s watchful eye. The principal would make his life hell at every opportunity. Mr. Howard was one of the few people who knew about him, and as they say, knowledge was power.
Jack froze, terror filling him with unbreakable paralysis. It took every ounce of willpower he had to even look up. He’d been on autopilot again, not thinking where he was going. He hadn’t turned off his normal route and now stood on Spring Street behind the library.
Tim Johnson had called out, with three of his friends and two of his older brothers standing near him. The fifteen year old kid had the body of a linebacker and he was walking right toward him, down the gentle slope of lawn that ran like a skirt around the small library. Jack didn’t even have the presence of mind to run.
“You got me kicked out school you little bitch!” Tim’s fist was fast, too fast for Jack to notice it move. It collided with his nose and sent an explosion of stars through his head. Jack remembered falling on the ground, sprawling awkwardly over his backpack. His head hit the curb, narrowly avoiding the front bumper of the car that was parked there.
“Fucking faggot!” A foot came down on his stomach and all the wind in Jack’s body flooded out of him.
He didn’t remember anything else from that day.
“So why are you guys here?” Todd asked after explaining the situation to a maid they found on the third floor. She had hidden in a linen closet and refused to open the door until Jack had assured her it was safer in the lobby. He didn’t believe his own words, but she did and she hurried down the stairs to join the others.
“We’re investigating a missing person case,” Jack said.
“Have anything to do with that business at the lake the other day?”
“Yes.” Jack didn’t feel the need to elaborate and Todd didn’t ask him to. The clerk simply nodded and led Jack from room to room. The guests that had been unaccounted for were all checked in on the third floor and were nowhere to be found.
“How many more on staff here?”
“Three. Another maid and two guys in the kitchen.”
“Do you get much business?” Jack wasn’t interested in the answer, but Todd had stuck to his job downstairs. He’d questioned his authority to hand out free food and drinks, which might have been laughable, but Jack took it for what it was. It was a defense mechanism. Todd took comfort in his duties, so Jack chose to lead the conversation in that direction.
“This is our busy season,” Todd said, jumping at the chance Jack offered. He was obviously eager to talk about anything normal. “Fall foliage. It’s a little early this year, but we usually hit eighty percent capacity by the first week of October.”
“Only eighty percent?”
“We’re almost never full, which we like.”
“Why is that?”
Todd’s expression became a mix of pride and privilege, the look of someone who believed he was much better than others and leagues above his true place in the grand scheme of things.
“We pride ourselves on not being a tourist destination. Such places have a lack of character and true charm. The J.B. Hodgeman, and Cedar Mills as a whole, enjoys an air of private dignity.”
“I see,” Jack said. “The guests feel this place is special, undiscovered.”
“And unspoiled. Some towns would prefer to have thousands of tourists tramping about the streets, but with them would come gift shops and street vendors.” Todd adjusted his black coat, the same uniform worn by his companion downstairs. “We much prefer to keep our charm.”
“I can appreciate that.” Jack held open the door to the stairwell and followed Todd down to the second floor.
Jack woke up in the hospital four days later. Tim Johnson had given him two broken ribs, a broken nose, a concussion and a collapsed lung. After that, he was later told, Tim’s brothers and friends took turns. Years later, Jack would understand how close he was to dying when Mr. Miller, the head librarian, came out and dispersed his attackers.
“Cassie?” His vision was blurry and he could only see out of his right eye. He saw white and what looked like blue sky. A window. A moment later, a dark shape came over to him.
He didn’t know how long it took, but his vision cleared enough to make out his sister’s face. She was only two years older than him but in that moment she might have been thirty. Dark circles surrounded her eyes like she hadn’t slept for a week. Her hair was a mess and she hadn’t put on any makeup. Jack didn’t mind the last bit; he thought she wore too much.
“Hey sis,” he said. She smiled and he thought she was crying. “What happened?” He tried to get up and his body was wracked with pain. Cassandra’s hands moved to his shoulders and held him against the mattress.
“Shh,” she said. “You just lay still. I need to get the doctor.”
“Was I in an accident?”
“No hon,” she said. “Not an accident.”