Comes the Blind Fury (6 page)

BOOK: Comes the Blind Fury
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“Now what on earth would I do with it?” Carson replied. “You keep it, and enjoy it. And keep it at home.”

June looked at the old doctor sharply. “Keep it at home?” she repeated.

She was sure Carson hesitated, but when he spoke his voice was ingenuous. “It’s a beautiful doll, and obviously an antique. I don’t think Michelle would want anything to happen to it, would she?”

“She’d be brokenhearted,” Cal agreed. “Take it back up to your room, honey, and then we’ll get going. Josiah, shall we follow you?”

“Fine. I’ll wait in my car.” He said good-bye to June, then left the Pendletons alone together.

Cal gave June a quick hug. “Now don’t do anything you shouldn’t. I don’t want to be up all night with you in labor.”

“Don’t worry. I’ll do the dishes, then curl up with a good book.” Cal started out the door as Michelle came downstairs once more. “Be careful,” she suddenly added, and Cal turned back.

“Be careful? What could happen?”

“I don’t know,” June replied. “Nothing, I suppose. But be careful, anyway, all right?”

She waited at the open door until they were gone, then slowly started clearing the table. By the time she had finished, she knew what was bothering her.

It was Josiah Carson.

June Pendleton just didn’t like him, but she still wasn’t sure why.

Josiah Carson drove quickly, so familiar with the streets of Paradise Point that he had no need to concentrate on the road. Instead, he wondered what was going to happen when Cal Pendleton had to examine Sally Carstairs. Cal, he knew, had been avoiding children ever since that day in Boston last spring. But tonight Josiah would find out just how damaged Cal Pendleton was. Would he panic? Would the memories of what had happened in Boston paralyze him? Or had he regained his confidence? Soon, Josiah would know. He pulled up in front of the Carstairs home and waited while Cal parked behind him.

They found Fred and Bertha Carstairs, a comfortable-looking couple in their early forties, sitting nervously at their kitchen table. Carson made the introductions, then briskly rubbed his hands together.

“Well, let’s get at it,” he said. “Michelle, why don’t you keep Mrs. Carstairs company here in the kitchen, just in case we have to take Sally’s arm off?” Without waiting for a response, he turned and led Cal into a bedroom at the rear of the house.

Sally Carstairs was sitting up in bed, a book precariously balanced in her lap, her right arm lying limply at her side. When she saw Josiah Carson, she smiled weakly.

“I feel dumb,” she began.

“You were dumb the day I delivered you,” Carson deadpanned. “Why should today be different?”

Sally ignored his teasing and turned to Cal. “Are you Dr. Pendleton?”

Cal nodded, momentarily unable to speak. His vision seemed to cloud, and in the bed, Sally Carstairs’s face was suddenly replaced by another—the face of a boy, the same age, also in a bed, also in pain. Cal felt his stomach churn, and the beginning of panic welled up inside him. But he fought it down, forced himself to be calm, and tried to concentrate on the girl in the bed.

“Maybe you can teach Uncle Joe how to be a doctor,” she was saying. “And then make him retire.”

“I’ll retire you, young lady,” Carson growled. “Now what happened?”

The smile left Sally’s face, and she seemed thoughtful. “I’m not sure. I tripped out in the backyard, and it felt like I hit my arm on a rock …” she began.

“Well, let’s have a look at it,” Carson said, taking her arm gently in his large hands. He rolled up the sleeve of the child’s pajama top and peered at her arm carefully. There was no trace of a bruise. “Couldn’t have been much of a rock,” he observed.

“That’s why I feel dumb,” Sally said. “There wasn’t any rock. I was on the lawn.”

Carson stepped back, and Cal bent over to examine the arm. He prodded tentatively, feeling Carson’s eyes watching him.

“Does it hurt there?”

Sally nodded.

“How about there?”

Again, Sally nodded.

Cal continued his probing. Sally’s entire arm, from the elbow to the shoulder, was in pain at his touch. He finally straightened up, and made himself look at Carson.

“It could be a sprain,” he said slowly.

Carson’s brows rose noncommittally. He carefully rolled Sally’s sleeve down again. “How bad does it hurt?” he asked.

Sally scowled at him. “Well, I’m not going to die,” she said. “But I can’t do anything with it.”

Carson smiled at her and squeezed her good hand. “I’ll tell you what. Dr. Pendleton and I are going to talk to your parents for a while, and we brought a surprise for you.”

Sally suddenly looked eager. “You did? What?”

“Not what—who. It seems Dr. Pendleton brought his assistant with him, and she happens to be just your age.” He moved to the bedroom door and called to Michelle. A moment later, Michelle came hesitantly into the room. She stopped just inside the door, and looked shyly at Sally. Her father introduced the two girls, then the adults left them alone together to get acquainted.

“Hi,” Michelle said, a little uncertainly.

“Hi,” Sally replied. There was a silence, then: “You can sit on the bed if you want to.”

Michelle moved away from the door, but before she got to the bed, she suddenly stopped, her eyes fixed on the window.

“What’s wrong?” Sally asked.

Michelle shook her head. “I don’t know. I thought I saw something.”

“Outside?”

“Uh-huh.”

Sally tried to turn in bed, but the pain stopped her. “What was it?”

“I don’t know.” Then she shrugged. “It was like a shadow.”

“Oh, that’s the elm tree. It scares me all the time.” Sally patted the bed, and Michelle settled herself gingerly at its foot. But her eyes remained fixed on the window.

“You must look like your mother,” Sally said.

“Huh?” Michelle, surprised at the observation, finally tore her gaze from the window, and met Sally’s eyes.

“I said you must look like your mother. You sure don’t look like your father.”

“I don’t look like Mom, either,” Michelle replied. “I’m adopted.”

Sally’s mouth opened. “You are?” There was a note of awe in her voice that almost made Michelle giggle.

“Well, it’s no big deal.”

“I think it is,” Sally said. “I think it’s neat.”

“Why?”

“Well, I mean, you could be anybody, couldn’t you? Who do you think your real parents were?”

It was a conversation Michelle had been though before with her friends in Boston, and she had never been able to understand their interest in the subject. As far as she was concerned, her parents were the Pendletons, and that was that. But rather than try to explain it all to Sally, she changed the subject.

“What’s wrong with your arm?”

Sally, easily diverted from the subject of Michelle’s ancestors, rolled her eyes up in an expression of disgust. “I tripped, and twisted it or something, and now everybody’s making a big deal out of it.”

“But doesn’t it hurt?” Michelle asked.

“A little bit,” Sally conceded, unwilling to let her pain show. “Are you really your father’s assistant?”

Michelle shook her head. “Dr. Carson asked him to bring me along.” She smiled. “I’m glad he did.”

“So am I,” Sally agreed. “Uncle Joe’s neat that way.”

“He’s your uncle?”

“Not really. But all the kids call him Uncle Joe. He delivered almost all of us.” There was a pause, then Sally looked at Michelle shyly. “Could I come out to your house sometime?”

“Sure. Haven’t you ever been in it?”

Sally shook her head. “Uncle Joe never had anybody over there. He was really weird about that house—always saying he was going to tear it down but never doing it. And then, after what happened last spring, everyone was
sure
he’d tear it down. But I guess you know all about that, don’t you?”

“Know about what?” Michelle asked.

Sally’s eyes widened. “You mean nobody told you? About Alan Hanley?”

Alan Hanley. That was the name of the boy in the hospital in Boston. “What about him?”

“Uncle Joe hired him to do something to the roof—fix some slates or something, I guess. And he fell off. They took him to Boston, but he died anyway.”

“I know,” Michelle said slowly. Then: “It was
our
house he fell off of?”

Sally nodded.

“Nobody told me that.”

“Nobody ever tells kids anything,” Sally remarked. “But we always find out anyway.” She shrugged the matter aside, eager to get back to the subject of the Pendletons’ house. “What’s it like inside?”

Michelle did her best to describe the house to Sally, who listened in fascination. When Michelle was finished, Sally lay back against her pillow, and sighed.

“It sounds like it’s just the way I always thought it would be. I think it’s the most romantic house I’ve ever seen.”

“I know,” Michelle agreed. “I like to pretend it’s just my house, and I live there all alone, and—and.…” Her voice trailed off, and she blushed in embarrassment.

“And what?” Sally urged her. “Do you have … love affairs?”

Michelle nodded guiltily. “Isn’t that terrible? To imagine things like that?”

“I don’t know. I do the same thing.”

“You do? What’s the boy like, when you pretend?”

“Jeff Benson,” Sally said immediately. “He lives right next door to you.”

“I know,” Michelle said. “I met him the day we moved out here, down on the beach. He’s really cute, isn’t he?” A thought suddenly occurred to her: “Is he your boyfriend?”

Sally shook her head. “I like him, but I guess he’s Susan Peterson’s boyfriend. At least that’s what
she
says.”

“Who’s Susan Peterson?”

“One of the kids at school. She’s really kind of stuck-up. Thinks she’s special.” Sally paused. Then: “Hey, I have a neat idea.” Her voice dropped into a whisper, and Michelle leaned closer so she could hear what Sally was saying. The two of them began giggling as each of them added details to Sally’s plan. When Bertha Carstairs came into the room a half hour later, they exchanged a conspiratorial glance.

“You two behaving yourselves?” Bertha asked.

“We’re just talking, Mom,” Sally answered with
exaggerated innocence. “Would it be all right if I go over to Michelle’s tomorrow?”

Bertha looked at her daughter doubtfully. “Well, that depends on how your arm is. Doctor thinks you might have sprained it—”

“Oh, it’ll be fine by morning,” Sally cut in. “It doesn’t hurt much at all. Really it doesn’t.” There was a pleading tone to her voice that Bertha Carstairs chose to ignore.

“That’s not what you said when you made me call the doctor away from his dinner,” she said severely.

“Well, it’s gotten better,” Sally announced.

“Let’s see how it is in the morning.” She turned to Michelle. “Your dad says it’s time to go home.”

Michelle got up from the bed, said good-bye to Sally, and went to the kitchen to find her father.

“Have a nice visit?”

Michelle nodded. “If she’s better, Sally’s coming out to our house tomorrow.”

“Great,” Cal replied. Then he turned to Carson. “See you in the morning?” The old doctor nodded, and a moment later Cal and Michelle left the Carstairses. But as he opened the car door, Cal had an odd feeling, and glanced back toward the Carstairses’ front door. There, like a dark shadow against the lights inside, stood the tall figure of Josiah Carson. Though he couldn’t see the old man’s eyes in the darkness, Cal knew they were fixed on him. He could feel them, boring into him, examining him. Feeling a sudden chill, he quickly got into the car, and slammed the door.

He started the engine, then impulsively reached over and patted Michelle on the leg. “Don’t be too
disappointed if Sally doesn’t make it tomorrow, princess,” he said gently.

“Why?” Michelle asked, her face filled with concern. “Is something really wrong with her?”

“I don’t know,” Cal replied. “Neither of us could find anything particularly wrong.”

“Maybe she sprained it like you said,” Michelle offered.

“That would hurt either the elbow or the shoulder, depending on which she sprained. But the pain seems to be
between
the joints, not
in
them.”

“What are you going to do?”

“Wait until morning,” Cal said. “If she isn’t much better, and I don’t think she will be, we’ll take some X rays. I suppose there could be a hairline fracture.” He gunned the engine and pulled away. Michelle turned to look back at the house.

Something caught her eye—a movement, or a shadow, very close to the house. She had a feeling—the same feeling that she had had earlier in Sally’s room. A feeling of someone being there. Nothing she could see, or hear, but something she could sense. And it wasn’t, she was sure, an elm tree.

“Daddy! Stop the car!”

Reflexively, Cal’s foot moved to the brake. The car came to a quick halt. “What’s wrong?”

Michelle was still staring back at the Carstairses’. Cal’s gaze followed his daughter’s. In the darkness he could see nothing.

“What’s wrong?” he said again.

“I’m not sure,” Michelle said. “I thought I saw something.”

“What?”

“I don’t know,” Michelle said hesitantly. “I thought there was somebody there—”

“Where?”

“At the window. At Sally’s window. At least I think it was Sally’s window.”

Cal pulled the car over and shut off the engine. “Stay here. I’ll go take a look.” He got out of the car, shut the door, and started to walk the few steps back to the Carstairses’, then returned to the car.

“Princess? Lock the doors, will you. And stay in the car.”

Michelle looked at him with disgust. “Oh, for Pete’s sake, Daddy. This is Paradise Point, not Boston.”

“But you thought you saw something.”

“Oh, all right,” Michelle said reluctantly. She reached across and locked the driver’s door, then her own.

Cal tapped on the glass, pointing toward the back door.

Making a face at him, Michelle stretched over the seat and pressed the buttons locking the other two doors of the car.

Only then did Cal go to investigate the Carstairses’ yard.

A few seconds later he was back, and Michelle dutifully unlocked the door for him.

BOOK: Comes the Blind Fury
8.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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