Authors: Jennifer L. Jennings
he next time I opened my eyes, I was in a hospital room with tubes connected to my arm. My brain felt all fuzzy. Turning my head to my right, Carter was slumped in a chair sleeping, just a few feet from my bed.
Didn’t take more than a few seconds to realize where I was.
For the next few hours I drifted in and out of sleep until the sun shone through the window. Carter wasn’t in the room, and I began to wonder if I’d dreamed he was there before.
The pain meds coursing through my veins were doing their job, but my body felt achy all over, my head still foggy. I tried to sit up, using my good arm. Finally, a nurse strode into the room and helped me. “Are you thirsty, dear? Need to use the bathroom?”
Yes and yes. I was able to accomplish both with her help, and I felt better after my bladder was empty. “Which hospital is this, by the way?”
“Bridgeport. You were transferred here right before they took you into surgery.”
“Was there a man here, earlier? He has gray hair and wears a leather jacket.”
“Yes. Your husband just went down to get some coffee. I’m sure he’ll be back soon. He hasn’t left your side since you got out of surgery last night.”
I wondered if she just assumed he was my husband, or if he that’s what he’d told her.
“Did they get the slug out of my shoulder?”
She gave me a funny look. “Well, I should probably let the doctor explain how the surgery went.”
I didn’t like the evasiveness of her tone. “But my shoulder is going to be fine, right?”
She patted my leg and smiled, but she didn’t look me in the eye. “Are you hungry? We have some chicken broth.”
A knot formed in the pit of my stomach. Jeesh, how bad could it be? “I’m not hungry, but thanks anyway.”
She nodded and patted my leg again. “Kay, then. The doctor should be here soon. Just take it easy, dear.”
If I took it any easier, I’d be in a coma. “Sure, thanks.”
When Carter returned, he stopped in the doorway, as if shocked to see me sitting up in bed. He quickly set down his coffee cup and was at my side in an instant. Perched on the edge of the bed, he hugged me for a long time, saying nothing.
“Why is everyone acting as if my arm’s been amputated?” I finally asked.
Carter released me and looked into my eyes. “Not going to lie to you. The surgery didn’t go as well as they’d expected.”
“What does that mean?”
“The bullet really messed things up in there. Shattered the bone. They got the slug out, but not without causing some long term damage. Physical therapy will help.”
I swallowed hard and wondered if Carter was being optimistic. “Okay. But I’ll be able to use my arm, eventually, right?”
“We’ll get the best physical therapists if we need to. I don’t want you to worry about it right now. Main thing is, you’re safe.”
I didn’t know how to react to all this. Carter was right. I should feel lucky to be alive. But all I felt was confusion. “Tell me, did Kinlaw order Zeb to kill me? Did he?”
He seemed hesitant. “You really want to discuss this right now?”
“Of course I do. I almost lost my life to that bastard. Please tell me he’s in custody.”
Carter took my hand. “James traced the last call Zeb made from his cell phone last night. They were able to recover the whole conversation. Mr. Kinlaw was trying to talk Zeb out of harming you. Zeb was the one who insisted that you had to die. He was paranoid and desperate and pissed that you knew he was going to Africa. Mr. Kinlaw begged him to let you go. He turned himself in as soon as he realized that Zeb went off the reservation. He’s been cooperating with the police ever since. Gave a full confession last night. As a matter of fact, Kinlaw has offered to pay for all your medical expenses and pay for lost work wages.”
“So he admits that he hired Zeb to kill Julian?”
“Yes. He’s taking responsibility for that. At this point, I’m not sure what he’s being charged with. The fact that he’s cooperating will help him in the long run. His lawyer will probably cut a deal with the DA.”
My shoulder was beginning to ache and I tried to ignore it. I thought about my son, Brian, and assumed Carter had called him already. Same with Andrew and my uncle Sammy.
As if reading my thoughts, Carter said, “Your family was here last night after you got out of surgery. They wanted me to call them as soon as you woke up.”
As he got on his cell phone, I stopped him. “I really want to see everyone, but I have an important question to ask you, first.”
He put his phone away and leaned toward me, clasping my hand. “Sure, what is it?”
“What’s going to happen to me? Will I still be able to work even if I’m crippled?”
The softness in his eyes warmed my heart. “The Sarah I know isn’t capable of giving up. Bum shoulder or not. Together, we’re gonna find a way to make it all work.”
I squeezed his hand and smiled. Carter knew the right things to say at the right time and I believed him. It wasn’t just to make me feel better. “Okay. Let’s go with that.”
The nurse returned to the room just in time. The pain in my shoulder had become almost unbearable. She was able to set me up with some painkillers through the I.V. I began feeling the effects within a few minutes. Thank God for modern medicine. “You’ll start to feel drowsy,” the nurse said. “Best to get some more sleep, to help you recover.”
After the nurse left the room, Carter’s face became fuzzy and I knew the meds were working their magic. Carter released my hand as he got to his feet.
“Where are you going?” I asked, worried he might leave.
“You need to rest,” he said in a calm, sincere voice. “Don’t fret. I’ll be right here when you wake up.”
I wanted to tell Carter that I loved him. I had been waiting for the perfect moment to say it. Not that I needed a perfect moment, but I also had been scared to bear my heart in that way. Even though I sensed he loved me back, the words had not yet been spoken by him, either.
Actions speak louder than words, it’s true. But I wanted to let him know how I felt with words. Tell tell him that I loved him. That I appreciated everything he’d ever done for me. That he would be the only man I’d ever love again. I felt so certain of that.
As I opened my mouth to speak, my mind went blank and no words came. The medicine had rendered me incapable. But Carter must have known what I was thinking. The last thing I saw before I closed my eyes was his smiling face, looking down at me.
hank you for reading the Sarah Woods Series.
I am excited to announce a brand new series for my dedicated readers. In this new series, the stories are told from Carter’s point of view.
I have enlisted the help of my writing partner, Al Boudreau, who will be writing as Carter. I think you are going to love the new direction we are going in. This first book takes place a few days after the end of book 18. Sarah is still in the hospital, recovering from her gunshot wound.
If you would like to read the first chapter, please continue. At the end of the sample, you will find a link to pre-order the book on Amazon.
A Case Too Close
(Carter Peterson Mystery Series Book 1)
“Do I want her belongings sent by courier? I just left her room ten minutes ago. She’s not due to be released till after her doctor examines her at three.” I checked my watch. 1:45pm. “What do you mean she’s already gone? Hold on, are we talking about the same patient? Sarah Woods, my partner, room 307, gunshot wound to the shoulder?” I stood on the brakes and pulled over to the curb. ”My name? This is Carter Peterson. I just left … yes, Sarah Woods. Her birthday is April 8th, 1971.” The on-hold click in my ear clinched it. I cut the wheel of the Buick hard to the left, dodging heavy two-way traffic, and accelerated back toward Bridgeport Hospital, a lousy instrumental rendition of “Here Comes the Sun” marking time in my ear.
How could the hospital have screwed this up? Why hadn’t Sarah objected, or called me? I put the phone on speaker and tossed it onto the passenger seat then reached in the glovebox for a burner phone I’d used for our last investigation. I called the hospital switchboard. “Yes, hello. Sarah Woods, room 307, please.” The phone pulsed over and over. No answer. I ended the call just as the nurse from the first call came back on the line. “What? How can my signature be on the release form?” I floored the accelerator. “Give me your name. I’ll be there in five.”
I began running possible scenarios in my head of what might have taken place, but the only ones that made sense were those I didn’t want to think about. Sarah and I had worked together for the past 2-1/2 years doing private investigation work, living together as a couple for the last six months. I rarely felt fear --- fifteen years as a Boston beat cop will take it out of a man --- but when it came to Sarah, I often worried about her safety. Especially now that she was carrying a weapon and had taken a slug to the shoulder while on our most recent case. Her life had been threatened and she rose to the occasion, shooting and killing the man who’d tried to end her life. What made it so tough is that in all my years as a cop I had never shot another human being. Not once.
I reached into the back seat while slowing for a red light and grabbed some files containing photos of individuals involved in our most recent cases. “C’mon, c’mon, let’s go.”
I began weaving in and out of traffic as the light changed, horns and rude gestures the result of my haste. The hospital parking entrance was just ahead now. As luck would have it a delivery van pulled in right ahead of me, the driver appearing to be in no hurry. I careened into the first available parking spot, opting to sprint across the lot to the lobby instead of waiting for a better parking space. Case files in hand I covered ground at a pace my fifty-four year old legs hadn’t attempted in quite some time, doing my best to avoid the dozens of people coming and going.
I burst through the double doors and shot a glance over toward the elevator bank. Too many folks waiting. Stairwell it is. Fortunately, the climb didn’t seem to be anyone else’s first choice at the moment. I bounded up all three flights taking the steps two at a time and reached the nurse’s station more quickly than I probably should have. “Hi.” I paused to catch my breath, looking at the young woman’s nameplate. “Are you the Jen I just spoke with on the phone?”
“Oh dear,” she replied. “Could I see some ID please?”
I fumbled for my license. “I need to speak to the person who signed off on Sarah Woods’ release. And the individual who left with Sarah. I need to know what that person looks like.”
Jen looked at my ID and nodded. “Thank you, sir. Yes, of course. Kendra Pratt took care of that paperwork. She’s on break at the moment, Mr. Peterson. However, I did take the liberty of having our head of security print several still photos from our video feed.” She handed me the images. “This is the man who signed Ms. Woods’ release. Um … he’s obviously not you.”
I tried to maintain my composure as she handed my ID back. “I’ve been in this hospital almost constantly for the past four days. I don’t understand how a screw-up like this could happen.” The nurse remained silent while I studied the images. Sarah was seated in a wheel chair with her head tilted to the side, eyes closed. The man pushing her wheel chair was clad in the same style leather jacket and boots I always wore. His face was vaguely familiar. I opened the files and spread every single photo out atop the counter, my eyes darting from one to the next to the next. Much to my irritation none of the faces matched that of the individual in the surveillance stills.
I let go a sigh, closed my eyes and pinched the bridge of my nose when a woman’s voice got my ear. “Didn’t you hear me calling you?”
I turned and encountered a short, stout woman in her sixties standing before me.
“I had a tough time figuring out where you got off to,” she said. “You nearly ran us down at the entrance. Here. You dropped these.”
She handed me a group of photos that must have slipped out of the files as I was dodging the crowd. “Thank you, ma’am, I ….” Before I could finish my thought the image on the top photo made my head swim. It was him. It was the guy.
ere is a list of all the books in the Sarah Woods Mystery Series in order: