We have a book review today. The blurb and info is below, along with a sneak peek at the first chapter.
Mabry does a terrific job at translating the medical jargon into “people speak.” I really felt like I was shadowing a doctor. For me, Cathy was hard to get close to. We don’t get drawn into her emotions as much as we could. I think that’s a particular challenge for men writing a female point of view. Also I found it surprising that Cathy didn’t have a girlfriend to confide in and no reason why. It’s unusual for a woman not to have a close girlfriend. Occasionally the dialogue felt a bit unnatural.
The plot is good and twisty and keeps us guessing. . . Good freshman effort and I look forward to reading more. If you like medical mysteries and suspense then there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy this book.
It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Abingdon Press (April 1, 2010)
***Special thanks to Susan Salley of Abingdon Press for sending me a review copy.***
After his retirement from a distinguished career as a physician and medical educator, Richard turned his talents to non-medical writing. Code Blue is his debut novel, the first of the Prescription For Trouble series, featuring medical suspense. Richard and his wife, Kay, make their home in North Texas, where he continues his struggles to master golf and be the world’s most perfect grandfather.
Visit the author’s website.
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Abingdon Press (April 1, 2010)
AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:
For a moment Cathy felt the fearful thrill of weightlessness. Then the world turned upside down, and everything went into freeze-frame slow motion.
The floating sensation ended with a jolt. The screech of ripping metal swallowed Cathy’s scream. The deploying airbag struck her face like a fist. The pressure of the shoulder harness took her breath away. The lap belt pressed into her abdomen, and she tasted bile and acid. As her head cleared, she found herself hanging head-down, swaying slightly as the car rocked to a standstill. In the silence that followed, her pulse hammered in her ears like distant, rhythmic thunder.
Cathy realized she was holding her breath. She let out a shuddering sigh, inhaled, and immediately choked on the dust that hung thick in the air. She released her death-grip on the steering wheel and tried to lift her arms. It hurt—it hurt a lot—but they seemed to work. She tilted her head and felt something warm trickle down her face. She tried to wipe it away, but not before a red haze clouded her vision.
She felt a burning sensation, first in her nostrils, then in the back of her throat. Gasoline! Cathy recalled all the crash victims she’d seen in the emergency room—victims who’d survived a car accident only to be engulfed in flames afterward. She had to get out of the car. Now. Her fingers probed for the seatbelt buckle. She found it and pressed the release button. Slowly. Be careful. Don’t fall out of the seat and make matters worse. The belt gave way, and she eased her weight onto her shoulders. She bit her lip from the pain, rolled onto her side, and looked around.
How could she escape? She tried the front doors. Jammed—both of them. She’d been driving with her window partially open, enjoying the brisk autumn air and the parade of orange and yellow trees rolling by in the Texas landscape. There was no way she could wriggle through that small opening. Cathy drew back both feet and kicked hard at the exposed glass. Nothing. She kicked harder. On the third try, the window gave way.
Where was her purse? Never mind. No time. She had to get out. Cathy inched her way through the window, flinching as tiny shards of glass stung her palms and knees. Once free from the car, she lay back on the grass and looked around at what remained of the orchard, blessing the trees that had sacrificed themselves to cushion her car’s landing.
She rose unsteadily to her feet. It seemed as though every bone in her body cried out at the effort. The moment she stood upright the world faded into a gray haze. She slumped to the ground and took a few deep breaths. Her head hurt, her eyes burned, her throat seemed to be closing up. The smell of gasoline cut through her lethargy. She had to get further away from the car. How could she do that, when she couldn’t even stand without passing out?
Cathy saw a peach sapling a few feet away, a tiny survivor amid the ruins. She crawled to the tree, grabbed it, and walked her hands up the trunk until she was almost upright. She clung there, drained by the exertion, until the world stopped spinning.
Something dripped into her eyes and the world turned red. Cathy risked turning loose with one hand and wiped it across her face. Her vision cleared a bit. She regarded the crimson stain on her palm. Good thing she was no stranger to the sight of blood.
Now she was upright, but could she walk? Maybe, if she could stand the pain. She wasn’t sure she could make it more than a step or two, though. A stout limb lying in the debris at her feet caught her eye. It was about four feet long, two inches thick—just the right size. Cathy eased her way down to a crouch, using the sapling for support. She grabbed the limb and, holding it like a staff, managed to stand up. She rested for a moment, then inched her way along the bottom of the ditch, away from the car. When she could no longer smell gasoline and when her aching limbs would carry her no farther, she leaned on her improvised crutch to rest.
Cathy stared at the road above her. The embankment sloped upward in a gentle rise of about six feet. Ordinarily, climbing it would be child’s play for her. But right now she felt like a baby—weak, uncoordinated, and fearful.
Maybe if she rested for a moment on that big rock. She hobbled to it and lowered herself, wincing with each movement. There was no way she could get comfortable—even breathing was painful—but she needed time to think.
Had the SUV really tried to run her off the road? She wanted to believe it was simply an accident, that someone had lost control of his vehicle. Just like she’d wanted to believe that the problems she’d had since she came back home were nothing more than a run of bad luck. Now she had to accept the possibility that someone was making an effort to drive her out of town.
She’d never thought much about the name of her hometown: Dainger, Texas. She vaguely recalled it was named for some settler, long ago forgotten. Now she was thinking the name seemed significant. Danger. Had the problems she’d left behind in Dallas followed her? Or did the roots lie here in Dainger? Possibly. After all, small towns have long memories. Of course, there could be another explanation. . . . No, she couldn’t accept that. Not yet.
Cathy turned to survey the wreckage of her poor little car. She saw wheels silhouetted against the sky, heard the ticking of the cooling motor. Then she picked up new sounds: the roar of a car’s engine, followed by the screech of tires and the chatter of gravel. It could be someone stopping to help. On the other hand, it could be the driver of the SUV coming back to finish the job. She thought of hiding. But where? How?
She watched a white pickup skid to a stop on the shoulder of the road above the wreckage. A car door slammed. A man’s voice called, “Is anyone down there? Are you hurt?”
No chance to get away now. She’d have to take her chances and pray that he was really here to help. Pray? That was a laugh. Cathy had prayed before, prayed hard, all without effect. Why should she expect anything different this time?
“Is someone there? Are you hurt?”
How should she react? Answer or stay quiet? Neither choice seemed good. She tried to clear the dust from her throat, but when she opened her mouth to yell, she could only manage a strangled whisper. “Yes.”
Footsteps crunched on the gravel shoulder above her, and an urgent voice shouted, “Is someone down there? Do you need help?”
“Yes,” she croaked a bit stronger.
“I’m coming down,” he said. “Hang on.”
A head peered over the edge of the embankment, but pulled back before she could get more than a glimpse of him.
In a few seconds, he scrambled down the embankment, skidding in the red clay before he could dig in the heels of his cowboy boots. At the bottom he looked around until he spotted her. He half-ran the last few feet to where she stood swaying on her makeshift crutch.
“Here, let me help you. Can you walk?”
Blood trickled into her eyes again, and even after she wiped it away, it was like looking through crimson gauze. Cathy could make out the man’s outline but not his features. He sounded harmless enough. But she supposed even mass murderers could sound harmless.
She gripped her makeshift staff harder; it might work as a weapon. “I don’t think anything’s broken.” Her voice cracked, and she coughed. “I’m just stunned. If you help me, I think I can move okay.”
He leaned down and Cathy put her left arm on his shoulder. He encircled her waist with his right arm, supporting her so her feet barely touched the ground as they shuffled toward the slope. At the bottom, he turned and swept her into his arms. The move took her by surprise, and she gasped. She felt him stagger a bit on the climb, but in a moment they made it to the top.
Her rescuer freed one hand and thumbed the latch on the passenger side door of his pickup. He turned to bump the door open with his hip, then deposited her gently onto the seat. “Rest there. I’ll call 911.”
Cathy leaned back and tried to calm down. His voice sounded familiar. Was he one of her patients? She swiped the back of her hand across her eyes, but the image remained cloudy.
The man pulled a flip-phone from his pocket and punched in three digits. “There’s been a one-car accident.”
She listened as he described the accident location in detail—a mile south of the Freeman farm, just before the Sandy Creek Bridge. This wasn’t some passer-by. He knew the area.
“I need an ambulance, a fire truck, and someone from the sheriff’s office. Oh, and send a flatbed wrecker. The car looks like it’s totaled.”
“I don’t need an ambulance,” Cathy protested.
He held up a hand and shushed her, something she hadn’t encountered since third grade. “Yes, she seems okay, but I still think they need to hurry.”
Cathy heard a few answering squawks from the phone before the man spoke again. “It’s Will Kennedy. Yes, thanks.”
Will Kennedy? If she hadn’t been sitting down, Cathy might have fallen over. She scrubbed at her eyes and squinted. Will? Yes, it was Will. Now even the shape of his body looked familiar: lean and muscular, just the way he’d been—. No. Don’t go there.
Will ended his call and leaned in through the open pickup door. “They’ll be here in a minute. Hang on.”
He took a clean handkerchief from the hip pocket of his pressed jeans and gently cleaned her face. The white cotton rapidly turned red, and Cathy realized that the blood had not only clouded her vision. It had masked her features.
“Will, don’t you recognize me?”
He stopped, looked at her, and frowned. “Cathy?”
“Yes.” There were so many things to say. She drew in a ragged breath. “Thanks. I appreciate your stopping.”
He gave her the wry grin she remembered so well, and her heart did a flip-flop. “I’d heard you were back in town, and I wondered when you’d get around to talking to me. I just didn’t know it would be like this.” He paused. “And forget about telling me not to have them send an ambulance. I don’t care if you are a doctor now, Cathy Sewell. I won’t turn you loose until another medic checks you.”
Cathy opened her mouth to speak, but Will’s cell phone rang. He answered it and walked away as he talked, while she sat and wondered what would have happened if they’d never turned each other loose in the first place.
* * *
As the ambulance sped toward Summers County General Hospital, Cathy wondered what kind of reception she would get there. Who would be on duty? Would they acknowledge her as a colleague, even though she hadn’t been given privileges yet? When her thoughts turned to recent events, she forced herself to shut down the synapses and put her mind into neutral.
The ambulance rocked to a halt outside the emergency room doors. Despite Cathy’s protestations, the emergency medical technicians kept her strapped securely on the stretcher while they offloaded it. Inside the ER, Cathy finally convinced her guardians to let her transfer to a wheelchair held by a waiting orderly.
“Thanks so much, guys. I’ll be fine. Really.”
At the admitting desk, the clerk looked up from her computer and frowned.
“Cathy?” She flushed. “I . . . I mean, Dr. Sewell?”
“It’s okay, Judy. I was Cathy through twelve years of school. No reason to change.” Cathy looked around. “Who’s the ER doctor on duty?”
“Dr. Patel. He just called in Dr. Bell to see a patient. Dr. Patel thought it might be a possible appendix.” She lowered her voice. “Dr. Bell took one look and made the diagnosis of stomach flu. I couldn’t see the need to call in another doctor for a consultation, but Dr. Patel is so afraid he’ll make a wrong diagnosis.” She pursed her lips as she realized her mistake of complaining about one doctor to another.
“Just be sure Dr. Patel doesn’t hear you say that.” Cathy tried to take the sting out of the words with a wink, but the blood dried around her eyes made it impossible. “Can you call him? I’ve been threatened with dire punishment if I don’t get checked out.”
Judy reached for the phone.
“Don’t bother, Judy. I’ll take care of Dr. Sewell myself.”
Cathy eased her head around to see Marcus Bell standing behind her. He wore khakis and a chocolate-brown golf shirt, covered by an immaculate white coat with his name embroidered over the pocket.
This was a trade Cathy would gladly make—finicky Dr. Patel for superdoc Marcus Bell. In the three years he’d been here, Marcus had built a reputation as an excellent clinician. He was also undoubtedly the best-looking doctor in town.
“Let’s get you into Treatment Room One,” Marcus steered Cathy’s wheelchair away from the desk. “Judy, you can bring me the paperwork when you have it ready. Please ask Marianne to step in and help me for a minute. And page Jerry for me, would you? Thanks.”
Cathy had been in treatment rooms like this many times in several hospitals. Now she noticed how different everything looked when viewed from this perspective. As if the accident and the adrenaline rush that followed hadn’t made her shaky enough, sitting there in a wheelchair emphasized her feeling of helplessness. “I feel so silly,” she said. “Usually I’m on the other end of all this.”
“Well, today you’re not.” Marcus gestured toward the nurse who stood in the doorway. “Let’s get you into a gown. Then we’ll check the extent of the damages.”
Marcus stepped discreetly from the room.
“I’m Marianne,” the nurse said. Then, as though reading Cathy’s mind, she added, “I know it’s hard for a doctor to be a patient. But try to relax. We’ll take good care of you.”
Marianne helped Cathy out of her clothes and into a hospital gown. If Cathy had felt vulnerable before this, the added factor of being in a garment that had so many openings closed only by drawstrings tripled the feeling. The nurse eased Cathy onto the examining table, covered her with a clean sheet, and called Marcus back into the room.
“Now, Cathy, the first thing I want to do is have a closer look at that cut on your head.” Marcus slipped on a pair of latex gloves and probed the wound.
Cathy flinched. “How does it look?”
“Not too bad. One laceration about three or four centimeters long in the frontal area. Not too deep. The bleeding’s almost stopped now. We’ll get some skull films, then I’ll suture it.” He wound a soft gauze bandage around her head and taped it.
Marcus flipped off his gloves and picked up the clipboard that Cathy knew held the beginnings of her chart. “Why don’t you tell me what happened?”
At first, Cathy laid out the details of the accident and her injuries in terse clinical language, as though presenting a case to an attending physician at Grand Rounds. She did fine until she realized how close she’d come to being killed, apparently by someone who meant to do just that. There were a couple of strangled hiccups, then a few muffled sobs, before the calm physician turned into a blubbering girl. “I’m . . . I’m sorry.” She reached for a tissue from the box Marcus held out.
“No problem. If you weren’t upset by all that, you wouldn’t be normal.” Marcus took an ophthalmoscope from the wall rack and shined its light into her eyes. “How’s your vision?”
“Still a little fuzzy—some halos around lights. I figured it was from the blood running into my eyes.”
He put down the instrument and rummaged in the drug cabinet. “Let’s wash out your eyes. I don’t want you to get a chemical keratitis from the powder on the air bag. I’ll give you some eye drops, but if your vision gets worse or doesn’t clear in a day or so, I want you to see an ophthalmologist.”
“Oh, right.” The fact that she hadn’t thought of that underscored to Cathy how shaken she still was.
“Now, let’s see what else might be injured.” Marcus took her left wrist and gently probed with his fingers. Apparently satisfied, he proceeded up along the bones of the arm. His touch was gentle, yet firm, and Cathy found it somehow reassuring. “We’ll need some X-rays. I want you to help me figure out the right parts.”
“I can’t help you much. I’m hurting pretty much everywhere,” Cathy said. “But, I haven’t felt any bones grating. I think I’m just banged up.”
Marcus turned his attention to her right arm. He paused in his prodding long enough to touch her chin and raise her head until their eyes met. “You’re like all of us. You think that because you’re a doctor you can’t be hurt or sick.”
“That’s not true. I don’t— Ow!” His hand on the point of her right shoulder sent a flash of pain along her collarbone.
“That’s more like it. We’ll get an X-ray of that shoulder and your clavicle. Seatbelt injuries do that sometimes. Now see if you can finish telling me what happened.”
This time she got through the story without tearing up, although Marcus’s efforts to find something broken or dislocated brought forth a number of additional flinches and exclamations.
“I really do think I’m fine except for some bruises,” she concluded.
“Okay, I’m also scared. And a little bit mad.”
A tinny voice over the intercom interrupted her. “Dr. Bell, is Marianne still in there?”
“I’m here,” the nurse replied.
“Can you help us out? There’s a pedi patient in Treatment Room Two with suspected meningitis. They’re about to do a spinal tap.”
“Go ahead,” Marcus said. “We can take it from here.”
No sooner had the nurse closed the door than there was a firm tap on it.
“Jerry?” Marcus called.
The door creaked open, and Cathy turned. The pain that coursed through her neck made her regret the decision. A man in starched, immaculate whites strode into the room and stopped at an easy parade rest. A smattering of gray at the temples softened the red in his buzz-cut hair.
Marcus did the honors. “Dr. Sewell, this is Jerry O’Neal. Jerry retired after twenty years as a Marine corpsman, and he’s now the senior radiology technician at Summers County General. He probably knows as much medicine as you and I put together, but he’s too polite to let it show.”
“Pleasure to meet you, Doctor,” Jerry said.
Marcus handed the clipboard chart to Jerry. “Dr. Sewell’s been in an auto accident. She has a scalp laceration I’ll need to suture, but first, would you get a skull series, films of the right shoulder and clavicle?” He thought a bit. “Right knee. Right lower leg. While we’re at it, better do a C-spine too.”
“Yes, sir,” Jerry said. “Is that all?”
Marcus looked back at Cathy. “If you catch her rubbing anything else, shoot it. Call me when you’ve got the films ready.”
Cathy half- expected Jerry to salute Marcus. Instead, he nodded silently before helping her off the exam table and into a wheelchair.
“Don’t worry, Dr. Sewell. You’re in good hands.”
She tried to relax and take Jerry at his word. “Why haven’t I seen you around before this?”
Jerry fiddled with some dials. “I work weekdays as a trouble-shooter for an X-ray equipment company in Dallas. I’m only here on weekends. It fills the empty hours.”
That’s why I was taking a drive on Saturday afternoon. Filling the empty hours. That started a chain of thought Cathy didn’t want to pursue. Instead, she concentrated on getting through the next few minutes.
The X-rays took less time and caused less discomfort than Cathy expected. She could see why Marcus thought so highly of Jerry. Soon she was back in the treatment room, lying on the examination table. Jerry put up two of the X-rays on the wall view box and stacked the others neatly on the metal table beneath it.
“I’ll get Dr. Bell now. Will you be okay here for a minute?”
Cathy assured Jerry that she was fine, although she finally realized how many bumps and bruises she’d accumulated in the crash. Every movement seemed to make something else hurt.
When she thought about what came next, her anxiety kicked into high gear. Would Marcus have to shave her scalp before placing the stitches? She recalled her own experiences suturing scalp lacerations in the Parkland Hospital Emergency Room. Maybe it was a woman thing, but she’d felt sorry for those patients, walking out with a shaved spot on their head, a bald patch that was sometimes the size of a drink coaster. She hated the prospect of facing her patients on Monday in that condition. Truthfully, she even hated the prospect of looking at herself in the mirror. She was thinking about wigs when Marcus reentered the room.
“Let’s see what we’ve got.” He stepped to the view box and ran through the X-rays. “Skull series looks fine. . . . Neck is good. . . . Shoulder looks okay. . . .The clavicle isn’t fractured. . . . You are one lucky woman. Looks like all I have to do is suture that scalp laceration.”
Cathy was surprised when Marcus didn’t call for help, but rather assembled the necessary instruments and equipment himself. When he slipped his gloves on, she closed her eyes and gritted her teeth. The fact that she’d been on the other end of this procedure hundreds of times just made her dread it more.
Marcus’s touch was gentle as he cleaned the wound. Soon she felt the sting of a local anesthetic injection. After that, there was nothing except an occasional tug as he sutured.
Cathy processed what she’d just felt. “You didn’t shave my scalp.”
“Now why would I want to mar that natural beauty of yours? I didn’t paint the wound orange with Betadine, either. I used a clear antiseptic to prep the area and KY jelly to plaster the hair down out of my way. The sutures are clear nylon that won’t be noticeable in your blonde hair. When I’m finished, I’ll paint some collodion over the wound to protect it. In the morning, clean the area with a damp cloth, brush your hair over it, and no one will know the difference.”
Cathy couldn’t believe what she’d heard. “Natural beauty?” This was certainly at odds with what she’d been told about Marcus Bell. Since the death of his wife, Marcus apparently wanted nothing to do with women. Rumor had it he’d turned aside the advances of most of the single women in Dainger. Was he flirting with her now? Or was this simply his bedside manner?
Marcus snapped off his gloves and tossed them in the bucket at the end of the table. “See me in a week to remove the stitches—unless you want to stand on a box and look down on the top of your own head to remove them yourself.”
“Okay, I get it. I’ll stop being my own doctor,” she said.
“How about something for the pain?”
“I think I’ll be okay.”
“Then how about dinner with me next Thursday?”
Once more, Cathy felt her head spin, but this time it had nothing to do with tumbling. about in a runaway auto.
* * *
Cathy had always dreaded Monday mornings, but none so much as this one. Today it was time to show her face to the world.
She took one last look in the mirror. Cathy had figured that her fair complexion would make her bruises show up like tire tracks on fresh snow, but the judicious application of some Covermark had done its job well. The redness she’d noticed in her eyes two days ago had responded well to the eye drops Marcus prescribed. And, true to his prediction, she’d been able to style her hair so that the blonde strands almost hid the stitches in her scalp. A little more lipstick and blusher than usual, drawing attention to her face instead of her hair, and maybe she could fake her way through the day.
No matter how successful she’d been in covering the outward signs of the accident, it was still impossible for her to move without aches and pains. She popped a couple of Extra Strength Tylenol, washed them down with the remnants of her second cup of coffee, and headed out the door to face another week. If the medication kicked in soon, maybe Jane wouldn’t notice that Cathy moved like an old woman. Maybe Jane hadn’t heard the news about the accident. Yeah, and maybe the President would call today and invite Cathy to dinner at the White House.
Cathy tried to sneak in the back door, but Jane’s hearing was awfully good for a woman her age. She met Cathy at the door to her office, clucking like a mother hen and shaking her head. “Dr. Sewell, what happened to you?”
What a break it had been for her when Jane—a trim, silver-haired grandmother with a sassy twinkle in her eye—answered her ad for a combination office nurse and secretary. She’d helped Cathy set up the office, given her advice on business, and provided a sympathetic ear on more occasions than she could count.
Cathy recognized Jane’s question as rhetorical. Having grown up in Dainger, Cathy knew how quickly news spread in her hometown. She’d bet that Jane had known about the accident before Cathy had cleared the emergency room doors on Saturday. By now, probably everyone in town knew.
“I was out for a ride in the country. I needed to relax and clear my mind. Then someone ran me off the road out near Big Sandy Creek. My car went out of control, flipped, and took out a row of Seth Johnson’s peach trees.” Cathy winced as she dropped her purse into the bottom drawer of her desk. “Dr. Bell sutured a laceration on my scalp.”
“Any other injuries? Do we need to cancel today’s patients?”
Cathy shook her head, aggravating a headache that the Tylenol had only dulled. “Other than the fact that I feel like I’ve just finished a week of two-a-day practices with the Dallas Cowboys, I’m okay.”
“It’s good that you have a nice light schedule today. You can take it easy.”
Cathy frowned. A “nice light schedule” for a doctor just getting started as a family practitioner wasn’t exactly the stuff she dreamed about. She needed patients. The money from the bank loan was about gone, and her income stream was anything but impressive. But, she’d do the best she could. Anything had to beat living in Dallas, knowing she might run into Robert.
Speak of the devil. Cathy actually shuddered when she saw the return address on the envelope sitting in the middle of her desk: Robert Edward Newell, M.D.
She clamped her jaws shut, snatched up a brass letter opener, and ripped open the envelope. Inside were two newspaper clippings and a few words scribbled on a piece of white notepad with an ad for a hypertension drug at the top of the page. The first clipping announced the engagement of Miss Laura Lynn Hunt, daughter of Dr. Earl and Mrs. Betty Hunt, to Dr. Robert Edward Newell. The second featured a photo of Laura Lynn and Robert, she in a high couture evening gown, he in a perfectly fitting tux, arriving at the Terpsichorean Ball. The note was brief and to the point: “See what you’ve missed?” No signature. Just a reminder, one that made her grit her teeth until her jaws ached. Leave it to Robert to rub salt in her wounds.
She forced herself to sit quietly and breathe deeply, until the knot in her throat loosened. Then she wadded the clippings and note into a tight ball, which she consigned to the wastebasket with as much force as she could muster.
No use rethinking the past. Time to get on with her life. “Jane,” she called. “May I have the charts for today’s patients? I want to go over them.”
Jane returned and deposited a pitifully small stack of thin charts on Cathy’s desk. The look in Jane’s eyes said it all. Sorry there aren’t more. Sorry you’re hurting. Sorry.
Cathy picked up the top chart but didn’t open it. “Do you think I made a mistake coming here to practice?”
Jane eased into one of the patient chairs across the desk from Cathy. “Why would you ask that?”
“I applied at three banks before I got a loan. When I mention to other doctors that I’m taking new patients, they get this embarrassed look and mumble something about keeping that in mind, but they never make any referrals. Several of my patients tell me they’ve heard stories around town that make them wonder about my capabilities. And my privileges at the hospital have been stuck in committee for over a month now.” Cathy pointed to the stitches in her scalp. “Now the situation seems to be escalating.”
“You mean the accident on Saturday?”
“It was no accident. I’m convinced that someone ran me off the road and intended to kill me.”
“Did you report it?” Jane asked.
“Yes, but fat lot of good it did. If Will Kennedy hadn’t insisted, I think the deputy who came out to investigate the accident would have written the whole thing off as careless driving on my part.” Cathy grimaced. “Of course, he may do that anyway.”
“What was Will Kennedy doing there?”
“He came along right after the wreck. When I couldn’t manage under my own power, Will carried me up the embankment. Then he insisted I go to the emergency room, and when they were loading me into the ambulance he slipped his card into my hand and whispered, ‘Please call me. I want to make sure you’re okay.’” Cathy pulled a business card from the pocket of her skirt, smoothed the wrinkles from it, and put it under the corner of her blotter.
“Did you phone him?”
Cathy shook her head. “I started to, but I couldn’t. I’m not ready to get close to any man. Not Will Kennedy. Not Marcus Bell. Not Robert Newell.” She took in a deep breath through her nose and let it out through pursed lips. “Especially not Robert Newell.”
Before Jane could finish, Cathy spun around in her chair and pulled a book at random from the shelf behind her. “Not now. Please. I need to look up something before I see my first patient.” She paged through the book, but none of the words registered.
Jane’s voice from behind her made Cathy close the book. “Dr. Sewell, you asked me a question. Let me answer it before I go. I don’t know if someone’s really making an effort to run you off. I’ve heard some of those rumors. They’re always anonymous, like ‘Somebody told me that Dr. Sewell’s not a good doctor.’ Or ‘I heard Dr. Sewell came back to Dainger because she couldn’t make it in Dallas.’ You have to ignore the gossip and rumors. They’re part of living here.”
Cathy swiveled back to face Jane. “I thought it would be easier to get my practice started in my hometown.”
“It might be, except that people here will compare you to your daddy, who was the best surgeon Dainger ever saw. In that situation a young, female doctor will come up short, no matter how qualified she is.”
Cathy tossed the book on her desk and held her hands up, palms forward. “If someone wants to get rid of me, they’re close to succeeding. I don’t know how much longer I can go on.”
“You’re a fighter, and I’m right here with you. Just stick with it.” Jane turned and walked toward the doorway.
“Thanks. I appreciate it.”
Jane stopped and faced Cathy once more. “Have you been out to visit your folks?”
“It won’t do any good. There’s nothing for me there. I don’t have anything to say.”
Jane shook her head. “Sometimes you don’t have to say anything. Sometimes you simply have to make the effort and go. It’s the only way you’ll ever put all that behind you.”