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Copyright © 2014 Dawn Kopman Whidden. All rights



Edited by Cynthia Rose and Lindsay McDonald



Cover Design and Formatting by Lindsay McDonald

© Can Stock Photo Inc. /

© Can Stock Photo Inc. /



No part of this publication may be reproduced,
distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including
photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the
prior written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations
embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by
copyright law.


Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Names,
characters, events, locations and incidents either are the product of the
author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any actual resemblances to
actual persons, living or dead, or locales are entirely coincidental.


would once again like to
several of my friends for
allowing me to use their names as characters in my novels. I hope the readers
understand that this is a work of fiction and the characters are make-believe,
only the names are real.


, you have been an inspiration to me and a great friend.

Doidge, Donna and Norma Barrie
, my first U.K. fans.

, the very first man to give me the courage to continue.

Sundberg Family: Katie, Pat and Michaelah
. You are so brave to allow me
to use your names in these special characters who find themselves dealing with
such a sensitive subject.

I promise if I get to write another, you will be included!

and Tammy Sanders
, I hope to one day turn you into a spin off!

and Vanessa Lubin
(I snuck you in there, see if you can find

Hunt, Sophie Harris and Sue Ward
. My three friends from the U.K. who so
graciously critique and review my novels and spend endless hours promoting

Gary Cohen
for your wonderful advice and medical consultation.

Nusbaum Kolakowski
, I can’t thank you enough. There is never a day that
goes by that you have not “shared” or “liked” one of my endless posts trying to
market my books.

Lercher and Peter Putt, Vicki Ray and Tawnya Jenkin, Carole Abbiss
. I
can’t thank you enough for being there from the beginning and making me feel
like I really am an author.

To all the others that I have yet to
make a character in my novels—be patient! One day you may find yourself as some
sociopathic psycho who kills and maims!

I also would be remiss if I left out
the following people whose only first names were used. Unfortunately, your last
names have been already used as part of the storyline or it is the same as mine
so it just wouldn’t work. You know who you are.

Mason, Morgan

Shane, Troy, Talia Whitley.

There are so many of you who have
inspired me and kept me on my toes. I wish to thank you all one more time!

Jo Padilla
, my friend and neighbor. You make me laugh and help this sick
mind come up with some crazy ideas.

Rene Schultz, Lorraine Carey, Richard Rochford, and Patrick Scattergood
authors in their own right who have given me such wonderful advice and

husband Horace
; you are incredible.

my editors Linds and Cindy
 . . . . This book is
as much you as it is me. I would be no where without your expert talent and

first of the nine-one-one calls came in at 8:14 a.m. A small group of hunters
witnessed a small child running and screaming through the woods. The caller told
the dispatcher that it appeared the boy was shirtless, and possibly shoeless,
and he was concerned because the child seemed to be alone and frightened. He
explained to the operator that they had tried to intercept and detain him, but the
boy was too fast and disappeared into the darkness of the woods.

The second of the nine-one-one calls came in a minute later
at 8:15 a. m. The call was from a young couple hiking through the woods. They reported
seeing what appeared to be a half-dressed child running from a cabin, not far
from the path they were on. They told the dispatcher they noticed the boy just
moments after hearing what they thought to be gunshots. Normally, the gunshots
wouldn’t have caused any concern, this being hunting season. Being gun owners
themselves, they determined at least two of the shots were fired from a handgun—not
a hunting rifle or shotgun. After a short discussion of what they should do,
they decided to call nine-one-one and report the incident.

The third of the nine-one-one calls came in at 8:17 a.m.; one
minute after the first car was dispatched towards the vicinity. The first group
of hunters, in an effort to find the boy, came across the cabin that the second
call mentioned.

It was there the hunters came across the two bodies. “One
male, approximately twenty-five years of age,” the caller told the nine-one-one
operator, “was laying just inside the cabin, with multiple gunshot wounds, one
to the stomach and one to his chest.” The caller confirmed the victim was still
alive, but barely.

The second victim was also male, but definitely older. His
body was further inside the cabin and the caller told the nine-one-one operator,
“There is no question, he is deceased.”

“Are you sure, sir? Is it possible you are mistaken?” The
dispatcher asked the man.

“Damn sure,” the hunter answered, “I’m a physician. He’s
definitely deceased.”

By the time the fourth nine-one-one call came in, the first
officer, who was dispatched to the scene, arrived on what he thought was a
possible DOMESTIC ABUSE CALL. It was what everyone found in the cabin next that
turned the whole case into a lot more than just a possible domestic homicide.

had always despised the sterile white walls and cold beige-colored floor tiles
of hospital waiting rooms. He didn’t care how homey the administration tried to
decorate this particular room or how many air fresheners sprayed out through the
air conditioning vents; the smell of death permeated the room like a dead skunk
on a highway. Today the walls seemed to come alive; he could feel them begin to
slowly entrap him, like an insect about to be ingested by one of those carnivorous
plants found in the jungle.

The doctors may had been cutting into his father’s hard
head, figuratively as well as literally, but he could feel the sharp surgical
instruments physicians used, as if they were cutting deep into his heart.

Marty’s experience as a Homicide Detective gave him a great
deal of insight into the widespread nature of evil and horror; but the fear he
felt as he sat there brought back the nightmares he had had as a child.

He knew, now, it was the only way his father knew to deal
with the situation back then. His nine children had been about to lose their
mother to cancer. At the time, Marty had been nine years old and resentful
towards the woman he barely knew. She had been keeping his seven brothers and
himself (one of which included his identical twin) from playing outside in the
last remnants of a significant snowfall of the season.

His father thought the weak breath of his dying mother was
something his nine children needed to experience in order to say their goodbyes;
but Marty had already said his goodbyes, years earlier, when she first became
ill. In the last five years of her life, his mother was in and out of the
hospital, always bedridden. To be honest, to his young mind, it was as if she
was more of a guest in their home than his mother. Marty’s ‘mothering’ came from
his father and his only female sibling, Mary. It wasn’t until he became an
adult that he realized how much he felt the loss of his father’s first and only
love, his mom. Today, he realized, he was not ready to lose his dad. He knew,
now, he probably never would be.

So many of the Keals had invaded the hospital while the
doctors pranced around in his father’s brain . . . . The administrators
were compelled to give the clan their own waiting room so as to not disturb the
other patients and their families. No matter what the occasion or circumstance,
with all of these Keals in one room, there was a tendency to drown out all of the
other visitors. Earlier, Marty’s twin brother, Tommy, asked for someone to
volunteer and take the littlest offspring home, but no one was unselfish enough
to take on the task. It wasn’t that they didn’t want the job of taking care of
the brood of toddlers who were getting antsy and increasingly boisterous; it
was that they would rather hear firsthand the Captain (a title he retained
after years employed as the head guard at the local prison) would be okay. That
everything would be fine; and the tumor, which had the audacity to invade this
man’s brain, was eliminated forever. Gone, poof, disappeared, never to be seen

Marty was so lost in his own thoughts, he became startled
when his fiancé, Hope, sat down beside him and handed him a container of what
the hospital had the nerve to call
. Up until this moment, every
time someone passed by or whispered, he had jumped, expecting to see a
physician in a white coat with word of how his dad’s surgery had gone.

“What the hell is taking so long?” Marty asked her, even
though he knew she was just as clueless as the rest of them. To give her credit,
it was Hope who originally insisted that their father have an MRI after they
experienced a few strange incidents while in his company. Like the time he
thought he lost his wallet and Marty found it in the freezer, cohabitating with
a box of frozen Birds Eye sweet peas. His unusual absentmindedness and his
suddenly calling people he knew well by wrong names they had all attributed to the
natural progression of getting on in age. Callously, Marty would tease him, not
at all considering the seriousness of it. A brain tumor was the last thing he
had expected.

Although a physician herself, and on staff here at St.
Katherine’s, Hope’s field was in Child Psychiatry; and she had no more
information on how things were going with the Captain’s surgery than any of
them did. Occasionally, she would get a sympathetic nod from a familiar nurse
or two as the morning progressed. Hope had fallen hopelessly in love with not
only Marty, but with his dad, and was on pins and needles as much as the rest
of the family.

“It hasn’t been that long, Marty,” Hope told him, as she
glanced at her watch; as if she needed to dignify her answer with solid proof. Marty
took her hand in his as she sat down beside him, her knee barely reached
halfway up his leg. Hope was so petite, barely five feet tall and all of ninety-nine
pounds; next to all six-foot-three of Marty, she looked almost pixie-like. But
looks could be deceiving and that was indeed the case here. This tiny woman had
become his strength, his rock. Marty often wondered how he had ever gotten
through the first thirty-four years on this earth without her.

Every time he laid his eyes on her, he felt amazed at his
luck. The circumstances that had brought them together were cruel and sad, something
they both have been exposed to in their lines of work. When they met two years ago,
Marty was still an officer for the Fallsburg Police Department and Hope was
making rounds at this same hospital. It was the day ten-year-old Brad Madison had
been brought into the Emergency Room. Marty was the first officer to arrive on
the scene that day. Mr. Madison, young Brad’s father, hadn’t shown up for work;
his employer and several co-workers became concerned after several attempts to
contact him or anyone in his family had failed. When Marty entered the home, he
saw young Brad, bloodied and dazed, sitting in front of the television, engrossed
in a video game. The bodies of his deceased parents lay upstairs, bludgeoned to

The nightmare case and the young boy, the main suspect of
the crime, brought Marty and Hope together. It took Marty quite a while to
convince this pixie of a woman to trust him and, if he was being honest, it
took just as long for him to trust her. They both were on the raw end of bad
relationships, which left them with tender wounds.

Marty squeezed her hand, careful not to put too much
pressure on the finger that now possessed the diamond engagement ring he had slipped
on her finger six months ago. He was about to tell her it had felt like an
eternity when the room suddenly got quiet. Marty looked up to see all of the
Keals’ eyes focused on the doorway and immediately recognized his father’s
surgeon, who had just entered the room and was heading towards them.

Marty couldn’t tell by the look on the surgeon’s face what
he was about to say, but he could tell by the tension in the room that he was
not the only one holding his breath. Marty felt Hope’s hand tighten around his
and the diamond cut into his skin, but he didn’t feel any pain. Marty glanced
over to see if he could read her face. He knew, as a physician herself, Hope was
more in tune with the expressions of other medical professionals and would be
more apt to accurately read the look on Dr. Gary Cohen’s normally stern face.

“The surgery went well; and I believe the hemangioblastoma
has been completely and successfully removed, although it was quite a bit
larger than we expected. Your father is headed over to the recovery room now,
and should be able to receive visitors in about an hour or
so . . . depending on his reaction to the anesthesia,” he told them
as he wiped his horn-rimmed glasses with the sleeve of his lab coat.

As he spoke, his eyes had drifted over each one of them, and
finally focused on Hope. Marty didn’t know if it was because the surgeon was
attracted to her or if he was more comfortable discussing the outcome with the
only other physician in the room—and not the eight Keal brothers who towered
over him physically.

All of the male Keals were civil servants: four with the
FDNY, three with the NYPD, and Marty himself, who was a detective with the
Fallsburg, New York Police Department. Each and every one of them attacking the
man with questions all at once was probably a little intimidating. Marty’s
sister, Mary, the only female Keal sibling and non-civil servant (her belly still
swollen from the recent birth of her fifth child), and who was definitely the
most practical in this roomful of Keals, got loud enough to shut them all up. As
soon as the noise died down, she bravely asked what the rest of them were all
thinking. “It won’t come back, will it?” Mary questioned him, her arms full, as
the youngest of her brood tried desperately to find his way to his mother’s breast
and his afternoon snack.

Dr. Cohen went off on a medical tangent and they waited,
paying attention as if they were completely comprehending what the hell he was

“Hemangioblastomas are the rarest central nervous system
tumors, only two percent on average. They can occur sporadically, or they can
be in association with Von Hippel-Lindau Syndrome.” He explained further as he noticed
their bewildered looks. “Von Hippel-Lindau Syndrome is a rare, autosomal
dominant genetic condition on chromosome three, specifically. Autosomal
dominant, it is a genetic condition in which both parents pass the gene on to
the patient. These tumors usually have a good prognosis if diagnosed early and are
surgically removed. But there is usually more than one tumor associated with

He stopped when he realized he was losing them with the medical
mumbo jumbo.

It was Hope that put it all in prospective. She turned to
Mary and smiled, answering Marty’s big sister with a seemingly confident, “Nope,
probably not. It won’t likely be coming back.”

Hope’s answer seemed to satisfy the rest of the family—but
there was something . . .  something in those big green
eyes of hers that troubled Marty.

“If there is nothing more?” Dr. Cohen asked, his short,
muscular neck straining as he tried to maintain eye contact with the adult
Keals in the room. An obvious and difficult task, since the youngest and shortest
of them, Marty’s brother Danny, stood at six-foot-two. It hit Marty then, the
reason the good doctor spent most of his time focused on Hope was not only because
she was easy to look at, but because she was more in his line of vision.

“What happens now?” Tommy asked, one arm around his wife
Shavon, her belly swollen with twins, the other lifting his three-year-old
daughter, Morgan, who was starting to verbalize her displeasure at being stuck
in the waiting room all this time.

“As soon as your dad is out of recovery and cognitive enough
to go over a protocol for his medical options, I will sit down with him and
anyone else who cares to participate, and discuss those options. I don’t
believe there will be any residual effects, and he won’t need any physical
therapy; but that is something that remains to be seen once he is fully conscious.
If there is nothing else, I need to make my rounds. Please keep the visits
minimal for today. Your father needs as much rest as possible.”

He turned and smiled as he shook a few hands, including Marty’s.
Before he exited the room, Dr. Cohen took one long last look at the Keal
brigade. He couldn’t hide it from Marty. The expression on the man’s face
betrayed what could only be his amusement at the size of the group that had
been staring him down.

To be perfectly honest, they could be an overwhelming bunch.
Marty must admit, and not to be egotistical, but they were a very good-looking group.
They were all physically fit, due to their professions, not to mention their
competitive nature of trying to outdo each other in the gym—or anywhere else,
for that matter. Hope often complained that when situations arose like this one,
when she found herself among all of them at the same time, she feels as if she
is caught in the middle of a Playgirl magazine shoot. In fact, she wasn’t too
far off. All of the brothers have posed, at one time or another, as shirtless models
in the FDNY and NYPD calendars. Marty’s brothers, ironically, often called him
the ugly duckling because he has never been anyone’s month. (Not because he was
hard to look at, but because Fallsburg, New York doesn’t have its own

Shavon suggested that they should go down and get something
to eat in the cafeteria since most of them hadn’t eaten in hours. They had been
too nervous to stomach the thought of food. They were all just beginning to
exit the waiting room and head down to the cafeteria when the ruckus began.

Marty had never heard anything like the guttural sound that came
out of the child’s throat before in all of his life. At first, he couldn’t tell
where the screams were coming from; the hallways were tiled and noise had a
tendency to echo off of the walls. Everyone on the floor of the hospital stopped
in their tracks to listen to the same strange sound he was hearing.

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