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Authors: Jess Mcconkey

Tags: #Mystery, #Contemporary, #Adult

Love Lies Bleeding (23 page)

BOOK: Love Lies Bleeding
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“Do you think I was drugged?” Sam asked, her voice rising with hope.

“Hmm,” Dr. Douglas said, scanning his notes. “How long have you been off the sertraline?”

“The one to help with depression and anxiety?”

“Yes.”

Sam gave Anne a sheepish look. “I can’t remember the exact date, but it’s been at least a week.”

“And you’d been on it for several weeks, prior to staying at the lake?”

“Yes.”

Tapping his pen on the clipboard, he looked over at Sam, sitting on the examination table. “Your fiancé is correct—one really should taper off this kind of medication. What about the diazepam? How—”

Sam broke in. “The sleeping medication?”

Dr. Douglas nodded.

Her lip curled. “I didn’t like the way that made me feel, so I only took it a few times.”

“And you were also taking the sertraline?”

“Yes.”

“Other than the blackout, how have you felt?”

“Good,” Sam replied quickly. “I’ve felt stronger and had more energy.”

“No dark thoughts?”

“You mean of suicide?”

“Yes.”

“No.”

“Hallucinations?”

Sam paused. Was she remembering the late-night visitor on the dock? Anne wondered. She was so sketchy about when she’d gone off both of her medications that Anne couldn’t tell if the visit coincided with her failure to take them. She thought about the cigarette butts Fritz had found by the dock, but they could’ve been left there by anyone. With a mental shrug, Anne let it go. She had faith in Dr. Douglas. He’d come up with the right diagnosis.

He stood and placed the chart on the counter. “If you’re feeling better, I don’t recommend resuming the medications. If you start feeling anxious again, or have trouble sleeping, we’ll take another look.” Crossing to the door, he turned. “Anne, why don’t you step out in the hall with me while Samantha gets dressed? Samantha, if you have any more questions, give me a call.”

Stepping out into the hall, Anne shut the door behind her and looked at Dr. Douglas expectantly. “You think she was drugged, don’t you?”

“It’s possible,” he answered, rubbing his chin, “but it’s too late now to test for flunitrazepam. The medication Dr. Van Horn prescribed?” He hesitated. “Since I haven’t seen Sam’s entire case history, I don’t like to question another doctor’s choice of treatment.” He shook his head. “But I usually don’t prescribe a combination of those two particular medications.”

“Are they out of her system now?”

“Again, hard to say. Every patient is different. Keep an eye on her and call me if she has any problems.”

Anne watched Dr. Douglas enter the next examination room. Leaning against the wall, she took a deep breath. Who would’ve thought this job would come with so much drama? She’d never found herself being so drawn into a patient’s life. In the past, she’d done her job then gone home. Not this time. With every passing day, she was becoming more embroiled in Sam’s struggles, and not only the one Sam was fighting to regain her physical strength. Thanks to the last two days, she was now aligned with Sam in her battle to overcome her family’s control. Pushing off from the wall, she moved to the door, but paused before opening it to say a little prayer that this was a fight she and Sam would win.

They were almost to the car when a voice called out Anne’s name. Turning, she saw Edward Dunlap hurrying toward them. She stopped and waited for him.

“Edward,” she said, surprised, “are you here to see Dr. Osgood?”

As he rubbed his arm, his gaze slid toward Sam then quickly away. “Just did.”

“And?” Anne asked with a hopeful note in her voice.

“He wasn’t encouraging,” he answered with a shake of his head, and Anne felt her hope plummet.

“I’m sorry,” she replied, placing a hand on his arm. “Did he have any recommendations?”

“Not really. He suggested that I try a pain management program.” He shuffled his feet. “But I’d have to drive down to the Cities.”

“Okay, then drive down to the Cities.”

“I can’t. Too much to do here.”

Exasperated, Anne dropped her hand. “Edward, I’ve told you before—you need to take care of yourself. Your mother can get along without you for a few hours.”

He gave a bitter laugh. “I’m sure you’re right. Most of the time I think I’m more of a hindrance than a help, but it’s no use, Anne.”

“That’s not true!” she exclaimed.

He ignored her statement and turned toward Sam. His shuffling stopped as he studied her face. “You remind me of someone.” His voice dropped to almost a whisper. “Why did you sing that song at the party?”

Sam shifted uncomfortably and her eyes sought Anne’s.

How could Sam answer Edward’s question when she didn’t remember her performance? Anne tried to think of a way to cover for her, but came up empty.

“Ah, I don’t know,” Sam said awkwardly.

Edward looked past Sam while his hand stroked the arm hanging uselessly at his side. His face took on a faraway expression. “It was her favorite song.”

Anne’s eyes narrowed. Whose favorite song?

“Edward,” she said softly, trying to draw him back to the present. “Who are you talking about?”

His expression didn’t change. “Blanche.” He bit out the name.

“Blanche Jones?”

“She loved ‘Make Me Your Baby.’ ” His attention returned to Sam, and he took a step toward her. “She sang it at parties, too.”

His words had a strange effect on Sam. Her face paled and she backed away.

Anne’s eyes darted from Sam to Edward as she tried to figure out what was going on. It was as if they were both thinking about something of which she knew nothing, but how could that be? They’d never laid eyes on each other until Fritz’s party.

Edward continued to stare at Sam. “You’re back to cause trouble, aren’t you?” Suddenly his shoulders slumped and he pivoted on his heel. With his head down, he shambled across the parking lot.

Anne made a move to go after him, to ask why he seemed so beaten. Dr. Osgood hadn’t given him the answer she’d hoped for, but she knew the key to helping him was out there. She simply had to find it. She stopped, glancing over her shoulder at Sam then back at Edward, who was now on the far side of the lot. Her attention returned to Sam. She looked shaken, and it was pointless to chase after Edward. He had his pride and he wouldn’t appreciate her pushing him toward another type of treatment. She’d go to Dunlap’s tomorrow, and if she could get him away from Esther, she’d convince him not to give up. And even though the subject of Blanche was taboo, she’d like to understand why he had suddenly mentioned her.

Anne turned back to Sam. “What was that about?”

“I—I—don’t know,” Sam answered, hurrying to the car. She yanked the door open and slid inside. Anne followed and, once in the driver’s seat, shifted toward Sam.

Eyes closed, Sam sat with her head resting against the back of the seat.

“Did you recognize the song I sang?” she asked without opening her eyes.

“Not really—it was an old one, I think.”

Sam lifted her head and sat forward, looking out the windshield. “One thing I do remember from that night is the dream I had.” She hesitated and gave a small shudder. “I was at a party—at Fritz’s—but things were different.”

“In what way?”

Sam shook her head. “Everyone was dressed differently—like they were all back in the eighties or something. And Fritz was there, but he looked a lot younger.” Rubbing her forehead, she shut her eyes again as if she were trying to remember. “A woman was flirting with some man I didn’t recognize and then she began to sing.”

Anne wondered if she had told Sam that this was exactly how she had acted at Fritz’s. No, she’d wait and hear the rest of her story.

Sam’s eyes popped open and she leaned back. “The dream shifted and I was in the woods, by the lake. A woman was crying on a dock, but in the dark I couldn’t see who it was.” She let out a long breath. “That’s it.” She fell silent.

Tapping on the steering wheel, Anne tried to think of an explanation. Unable to think of one, she turned on the ignition and backed out of the parking space.

“Don’t you think it’s odd?” Sam asked.

Anne shrugged, pulling out onto the street. “Most dreams are odd. And after everything that you’ve been through . . .” She let her voice trail away.

“But it’s as if I dreamed of something that happened in the past. And haven’t you noticed how Blanche Jones keeps popping up? Fritz mentioned her—Edward mentioned her.”

“Look, the cabin’s been empty for a couple of seasons,” Anne said with a glance Sam’s way. “Now you’re living there and it’s stirred up some memories.”

“But even Jackson mentioned her.”

Anne cocked her head. “Dr. Van Horn knew Blanche?”

“I don’t think he really knew her. From what he said, the summer he stayed here she simply fueled a few of his teenage fantasies.”

“Is that why he rented her old cabin?”

“I don’t think so,” Sam replied.

“I wouldn’t worry about it.” Anne gave Sam a confident look. “Forget about the dream. If what you suspect is true and you were drugged—chalk it up to that. Concentrate on getting stronger.”

Sam pulled on her bottom lip. “I suppose you’re right. It could be that the talk about Blanche filtered into my subconscious and it came out in the dream.”

Anne breathed a sigh of relief. Sam had enough problems without becoming obsessed with a woman who was long gone from the lake. The next time she ran into Fritz, she’d drop a couple of hints about not regaling Sam with any more stories about the “good old days” and specifically any dealing with Blanche Jones.

Chapter Twenty-one

S
am’s fingers tapped a rapid beat on the car seat as Anne drove back to the lake. Bags of art supplies, which she hadn’t purchased in years, filled the trunk. The small store hadn’t had a great selection, but she’d bought more than enough to get started. If she found that she needed more, she’d call down to the Cities and have additional supplies shipped to the cabin. It had been exciting wandering around the store and making her selections. The lingering aroma of turpentine and oil paints had carried her back to happier times and college days spent lost in her work. The world had seemed full of possibilities back then. In those days, she’d dreamed of exhibitions, not meeting ad campaign deadlines. She’d envisioned having her own studio, one she had designed. As she thought about it, her fingers stilled and curled into a fist. But those dreams had died in the face of reality and the need to earn a living. Was it too late to see them reborn? It had been so long since she’d created anything. What if she’d forgotten every technique she’d learned in college? What if—

Anne’s voice broke into her thoughts. “What’s wrong?” she asked with a quick glance toward Sam. “You looked worried. Aren’t you pleased with your purchases?”

Sam’s fingers resumed their tapping. “It’s not that.” She looked down at her restless hand and swiftly tucked it under her leg. “I just haven’t painted in years.” Turning her head, she stared at the tall pines whizzing past the car window before returning her attention to Anne. “What if I’ve lost it?” she finally asked in a small voice.

“Lost it?”

“Yeah.” Sam shook her head, trying to put her thoughts into words. “When I was a kid, all my mother had to do to keep me occupied was hand me a box of crayons and a piece of paper. I’d spend hours drawing whatever struck my fancy, and I grew up taking that ability to create for granted.”

“And now you’re worried that it might have disappeared? I’m no art expert, but Fritz was really impressed by your work.”

Sam brushed away Anne’s words. “I did those two paintings straight out of college and haven’t worked on anything since.”

Anne frowned. “It seems to me that talent isn’t something that goes away from lack of use. You may be a bit rusty at first, but I would think either you have it or you don’t.”

“There’s a little more to it than that,” Sam answered in a wry voice. “It takes practice to learn how to use light against dark, to create emphasis, to—” She broke off with a frustrated shake of her head. “There are a million tricks that an artist uses to get his point across.”

“Okay,” Anne answered reasonably, “so maybe you won’t be happy with your first piece, but in time, I’m sure you’ll remember those tricks.”

“What if I can’t?”

“What do you mean?”

“What if I can’t remember? Thanks to that crack on my skull, what if that part of my brain’s been damaged?” Sam’s voice rose in desperation. “What if I’ve been robbed of more than just the strength in my leg?”

Pulling into the yard at the cabin, Anne stopped and shut off the engine. “There’s one way to find out,” she said, reaching into the backseat and grabbing one of the bags. She plopped it on Sam’s lap. “Here. Let’s get everything inside, and while I’m putting it away, you can sit on the couch and sketch.”

Keeping her hands clenched at her side, Sam fastened her eyes on the sack lying in her lap. A sketch pad. It might have been fun buying all this stuff, but the reality of using it terrified her. Unless she made the concessions he wanted, her father wouldn’t let her eventually come back to the agency. And things were dicey with Jackson. All she had left was her artwork that she’d abandoned years ago, she thought, staring at the sketch pad in her lap.

Anne’s sudden nudge startled her. “Oh, stop—that sack isn’t a snake, and quit being a wuss.”

Sam’s eyes widened. “I beg your pardon,” she exclaimed. “I’m
not
a wuss.”

“Then tackle your fear head-on.” Anne opened the car door and stepped out. “Get in there and get going.”

A few minutes later, Sam sat curled up on the couch with Roxy next to her while Anne stood in the middle of the room with her hands on her hips.

“Where do you want the easel?” she asked.

Sam’s eyes scanned the room, noticing the play of light throughout the cabin. “I think over there,” she said, pointing, “close to the French doors.”

“Alrighty, then,” Anne replied, rubbing her hands together.

While Anne went to work setting up the easel, Sam opened the sketch pad and, picking up a piece of charcoal, gazed at the pure white paper. Her hand, poised above the sketch pad, trembled. Where to begin?
Let your mind go,
she told herself. Taking a deep breath, she made a swift line then softened it with the pad of her thumb. After glancing up at Anne, who was now studiously reading the easel’s assembly instructions, she made a second line, followed by another, then another. Her shoulders relaxed and the world fell away as an image began to appear on the paper. She paused and rubbed her nose.
No, too harsh—more shadow.
Sam smeared the outline. Another swoop of the charcoal, and the image gained definition. A smile tugged at her lips.
Not bad—the focal point is good, but the balance is a little off.
She concentrated on adding more emphasis on the left. She was adding detail when a shadow fell across the sketch pad. Tearing her eyes away from the pad, she looked up to see Anne towering over her.

BOOK: Love Lies Bleeding
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