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Authors: Lisa Scottoline

Tags: #Fiction, #Contemporary Women, #General

Don't Go

BOOK: Don't Go
4.25Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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The author and publisher have provided this e-book to you for your personal use only. You may not make this e-book publicly available in any way.
Copyright infringement is against the law. If you believe the copy of this e-book you are reading infringes on the author’s copyright, please notify the publisher at:
us.macmillanusa.com/piracy
.

 

This novel is dedicated to all of our brave men and women in the armed services, and to their loving families, with deepest respect and gratitude.

 

Contents

Title Page

Copyright Notice

Dedication

Epigraph

Part One

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Part Two

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

Chapter 49

Chapter 50

Chapter 51

Chapter 52

Chapter 53

Chapter 54

Chapter 55

Chapter 56

Chapter 57

Chapter 58

Chapter 59

Chapter 60

Chapter 61

Chapter 62

Chapter 63

Chapter 64

Chapter 65

Chapter 66

Chapter 67

Chapter 68

Chapter 69

Chapter 70

Chapter 71

Chapter 72

Chapter 73

Chapter 74

Chapter 75

Chapter 76

Chapter 77

Chapter 78

Chapter 79

Chapter 80

Chapter 81

Chapter 82

Acknowledgments

Also by Lisa Scottoline

About the Author

Copyright

 

Every war has it own signature wounds.

—Ronald J. Glasser, M.D., Major, United States Army Medical Corps

 

Part One

 

Chapter One

Chloe woke up on the floor, her thoughts foggy. She must have fallen and knocked herself out when she hit the hardwood. She started to get up, but felt dizzy and eased back down. The kitchen was dark except for pinpoints of light on the coffeemaker, TV, and cable box, like a suburban constellation.

She tried to understand how long she’d been lying here. The last thing she remembered, she was rinsing the dishes after lunch, eyeing the sun through the window, like a big, fresh shiny yolk in the sky. Yellow was her favorite color, and she always tried to get it into her painting. Chloe used to teach art in middle school, but now she was a new mom with no time to shower, much less paint.

She heard a mechanical
ca-thunk,
and the Christmas lights went on outside. Red, green, and blue glimmered on the wetness underneath her, which seemed to be spreading. Her gaze traveled to its edge, where her Maine Coon, Jake, sat in silhouette under the table, his ears translucent triangles, backlit by the multicolored lights.

Chloe reached for a chair to pull herself up, but was oddly weak and slumped to the floor. She felt cold, though the kitchen had a southern exposure and stayed warm, even in winter. She needed help, but was alone. Her sister Danielle and her brother-in-law Bob had come over for lunch, then Danielle had taken the baby Christmas shopping and Bob had gone to work. They didn’t have children, and Danielle had been happy to take Emily to the mall by herself.

We can pick out Christmas presents for you and Mike!

Chloe closed her eyes, wishing her husband Mike were here, but he was a reservist in the Army Medical Corps, serving in Afghanistan. He’d be home in a month, and she was counting the days. She’d prayed he wouldn’t be called up because he was thirty-six years old, and when the deployment orders came, she’d taken it badly. She’d simply dissolved into tears, whether from sleep deprivation, crazed hormones, or worry.

Mike, please, I’m begging you. Don’t go.

Suddenly Chloe realized something. The Christmas lights were controlled by a timer that turned them on at five o’clock, which meant Bob and Danielle would be back at any minute. She had to hide the vodka she’d left out on the counter. Nobody could know about her drinking, especially not Danielle. Chloe should have been more careful, but she was a beginner alcoholic.

She reached for the chair and hoisted herself up partway. The kitchen whirled, a mad blur of Christmas lights. She clung to the chair, feeling dizzy, cold, and spacey, as if she were floating on a frigid river. Her hand slipped, and the chair wobbled. Jake sprang backwards, then resettled into a crouch.

She put her hands on the floor to lift her chest up, like a push-up, but the wetness was everywhere. Under her hands, between her fingers, soaking her shirt. It didn’t smell like vodka. The fog in her brain cleared, and Chloe remembered she’d been loading the dishwasher, and the chef’s knife had slipped, slicing the underside of her arm. Bright red blood had spurted from the wound, and she’d fainted. She always fainted at the sight of blood, and Mike used to kid her.

The doctor’s wife, who’s afraid of blood.

Chloe looked at her left arm in horror. It was covered with blood, reflecting the holiday lights. Blood. Her mouth went dry. She’d been bleeding all afternoon. She could bleed to death.

“Help!” she called out, but her voice sounded far away. She had to get to her cell phone and call 911. She dragged herself through the slippery blood to the base cabinet, clawed the door for the handle, and grabbed it on the second try. She tried to pull herself up but had no strength left. She clung to the handle.

Chloe spotted her laptop to her right, on its side. She must have knocked it off the counter when she fell. Her best friend Sara was always online, and Chloe could g-chat her for help. She slid the laptop toward her and hit the keys with a slick palm, but the monitor didn’t light up. She didn’t know if it was off or broken.

She shoved it aside, getting a better idea. She would crawl to the front door and out to the sidewalk. The neighbors or someone driving by would see her. She started crawling, her breath ragged. The front door lay directly down the hall, behind a solid expanse of hardwood and an area rug. She dragged herself toward it, smearing blood across the kitchen threshold.

Hope surged in her chest. Her arms ached but they kept churning. She pulled herself into the hallway. She kept her eye on the front door. It had a window on the top half, and she could see the Christmas lights on the porch. She had put them up herself, for Emily’s first Christmas.

The door lay thirty feet ahead, but Chloe felt her legs begin to weaken. Her arms were failing, but she couldn’t give up. She was a mother. She had a precious baby, only seven months old.

Chloe moved forward on her elbows, but more slowly, like a car running out of gas. Still she kept going. The front door was only fifteen feet away. Then thirteen, then ten. She had to make it.

Go, go, go. Nine, eight, seven feet left.

Chloe reached the edge of the area rug, but couldn’t go another inch. Her forehead dropped to the soft wool. Her body flattened. Her eyes closed as if they were sealed. She felt her life ebb away, borne off in a sea of her own blood. Suddenly she heard a noise, outside the house. A car was pulling into the driveway, its engine thrumming.

Thank God!

She heard the sound of a car door opening and closing, then footsteps on the driveway. They were slow because the driveway was icy in patches, the rock salt melting it unevenly.

Hurry, hurry, hurry.

Chloe remembered the front door was unlocked, a lucky break. She was supposed to lock it behind Danielle, who had been carrying Emily, the diaper bag, and her purse, but she had forgotten. It would serve her well, now. Whoever was coming could see her through the window, rush in, and call 911.

The footsteps drew closer to the door, but Chloe didn’t recognize them. She didn’t know Bob or Danielle by their footstep. It could be anybody.

Please God hurry

The footsteps reached the front door, and Chloe heard the mechanical turning of the doorknob. The door unlatched, and she felt a vacuum as it swung open. Frigid air blasted her from the open doorway. Her hair blew into her face, but she couldn’t even open her eyes.

Help me help me call 911

She heard the footsteps walk to her, then stop near her head. But whoever it was didn’t call her name, rush to her side, or cry out in alarm.

What is going on why aren’t you calling 911

She heard the footsteps walk back to the door.

Wait don’t go please help me

She heard the sound of the front door closing.

No come back please help I’m—

The latch engaged with a quiet
click
.

 

Chapter Two

Mike raised the scalpel, about to make the first incision. He always said a prayer before he cut, though his wife Chloe was the religious one. She’d given him a silver crucifix before his deployment, and he kept it in his ACU pocket with a picture of their baby Emily. He was about to send up his homemade prayer when he noticed Joe Segundo, their administrative medical service officer, looking at him funny from across the OR.

Mike returned his focus to his case, telescoping the task at hand and ignoring the anguished moans of the wounded, the constant talk of the docs and nurses, the
whop whop whop
of the Chinook outside, and the
crack pop
of ordnance in the distance. The 556th FST, or Forward Surgical Team, was only three to five miles behind the offensive, but Mike didn’t think about that when he operated, staying in the silence of his own mind, his fingers working on muscle memory, a result of the on-the-job training from hell, in hell.

The 556th was a twenty-person surgical team assigned to an Army combat brigade, traveling with three tents that took only an hour to assemble into a surgical facility complete with triage, OR, and recovery bays, as well as medical supplies and materiel to last seventy-two hours, including generators to power the fluorescent lights that shone overhead. The OR reeked of sickly-sweet blood and medicinal iodine wash, and the air was freezing. One of the nurses had decorated an IV stalk with homemade tinsel, but it wasn’t easy to make carnage cheery.

Mike was the only orthopedist/podiatrist of the 556th, and the three other docs were general trauma surgeons, now bent so far over their patients that they looked almost headless from behind. There was Phil DeMaria from Providence, chubby enough to be called Phat Phil, and Adam Goldstein, who was in his mid-forties, so they called him Oldstein. Their FST commander was Stephen Chatham, a hotshot from Darien who never shut up in the OR. Mike called him Chatty Kathy, but he called himself Batman. Everybody loved Chatty, especially the nurses, who made him a Batman cape out of a body bag, which he never took off.

Mike never felt like a superhero, and podiatry was far from a prestigious branch of medicine, which was why his nickname was Dr. Scholl’s. Ironically, blast injuries to the extremities were the signature wound of Operation Enduring Freedom, due to the overwhelming number of IEDs, so Mike was the busiest doc in the 556th. Supporting the team were three nurses, two nurse anesthetists, three medics, three surgical technicians, and Joe Segundo, who kept track of them and the paperwork the Army loved so much.

Mike focused his attention on his case, Nestor Salinas. Salinas was twenty-one, and his right calf and ankle were riddled with AK-47 fire that had shredded his gastrocnemius, the large calf muscle, and the smaller soleus, underneath. Salinas must’ve sprinted in high school track, his calves were so well-developed, but Mike didn’t have time to think about that. The FST docs limited their surgeries to an hour or two, then evacuated the case to a Combat Support Hospital, or CSH, out of the battle zone, similar to the old-school MASH units. Salinas would end up in CSH Bagram, but the more severely wounded were flown from Bagram to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.

BOOK: Don't Go
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