Authors: Belinda Frisch
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Medical, #Women's Fiction, #Contemporary Women, #Contemporary Fiction
Copyright © 2014 Belinda Frisch
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
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Printed in the United States of America
First Printing, 2014
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This e-book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This e-book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this e-book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this e-book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to persons living or dead (unless explicitly noted) is merely coincidental.
, A Strandville Zombie Series Short
, Strandville Zombie Series Novel #1
, Strandville Zombie Series Novel #2
Better Left Buried
One of the most rewarding feelings is to hear that a reader has enjoyed one of my stories. Writing is a time-consuming, solitary venture and most often it is word of mouth that encourages others to take a chance on an author unknown to them.
Thank you for reading
The Missing Year.
I hope you’ll consider leaving a brief review.
Special thanks to fellow author Matt Schiariti for being a second set of eyes, to my mother for listening to me talk about writing and managing to always be excited, to my online friends who encourage me daily: Julie Cassar, Michelle Muto, R.A. Evans, Marissa Farrar, and to all the others I’ve undoubtedly overlooked, but haven’t forgotten. Most importantly, thank you to my loving husband, Brent, who has supported me throughout this journey and continues to stand proudly by my side. I wouldn’t have the strength to do this without you.
What drove a seventeen-year-old girl to commit murder?
Dr. Ross Reeves hated that he had to visit the worst section of Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood to find out.
Stepping off the “L”, an elevated train that was the fastest way to get where he needed to be, Ross wished he had driven. The Wilson Red Line Station was dangerous, regardless of time of day.
A wafer-thin hooker with rotting teeth eyed him the moment he stepped onto the platform. He hurried in the opposite direction, but the woman’s high-heeled steps clapped against the concrete as she struggled to catch up with him.
“Excuse me, sir. I think you dropped something.”
Ross didn’t acknowledge the obvious attempt at engaging him.
“Sir, are you looking for a date?”
“No, thank you.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, I’m positive.” He walked faster.
A row of androgynous homeless slept along the stairway, adding to the thick smell of urine that had him holding his breath.
A man wearing at least four layers of soiled clothing approached Ross and extended a tattered gloved hand.
“Spare some change?”
“I’m sorry,” Ross said. “I don’t have any change.”
“Man, twenty-five cents gets me a forty.”
Skilled after over a decade of living in Chicago in the art of out-maneuvering panhandlers, Ross moved faster. When he offered no further acknowledgement, the homeless man moved onto another mark.
“Can you spare some change?” Ross heard the man say again.
” Someone answered.
Ross checked over his shoulder for the hooker, who had seemingly vanished.
While not everyone getting off at Wilson Station fit a particular stereotype, Ross stood out. Five-foot-eleven, close-cropped dark hair, and a clean-shaven, youthful face for a man of forty-two years, it was his clothing that fit in least. Having come directly from the hospital, he was dressed in a not inexpensive charcoal business suit and blue tie. He carried a monogrammed briefcase, which had been a gift from his late wife, Sarah, and had the air of someone with money. His watch alone—a very nice Cartier—was enough to make him a target.
Ross hurried out of the crumbling station and onto Broadway, making a three block dash to the address he’d been given as Arlene Pope’s. He had broken out in a sweat by the time he reached the twelve-story brick apartment building. He dabbed at his forehead and upper lip with a tissue before ringing the buzzer.
A scruffy twenty-something pushed the door open. The tattoo across his neck said “Trouble,” but it was the switchblade in his left hand that had Ross nervous. The young man flipped the blade opened and closed repeatedly, like a nervous tic.
“The buzzer don’t work, man.”
“I’m sorry. I’m looking for Krystal.”
“You don’t look the ‘crystal’ type, suit. Take a hike.”
Tattooed guy started to close the door and Ross stopped him. “I’m not looking for drugs. I’m looking for a woman named Krystal Pope, apartment 4C.”
Ross nodded. “Her mother, yes.”
“You with the cops?”
“Then what’s your business with Arlene?”
“I’m her doctor. May I come in?”
Tattooed guy pushed the door the rest of the way open. “Elevator’s broken. Stairs are at the end of the hallway.” He retracted the blade and stepped aside.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t catch your name.”
“I didn’t give it.”
“‘Trouble’ it is,” Ross muttered as he walked away.
The tattooed man slammed the door to an apartment just inside the doorway.
Not much cleaner than Wilson Station, the building where Arlene Pope had grown up, looked like it ought to be condemned. Peeling paint, stained carpet, and the distinct bitter odor of makeshift meth lab had Ross wondering what, exactly, went on here. One thing was for sure. It was no place to raise a baby.
Ross unbuttoned his jacket as he climbed the stairs to the fourth floor, vigilant of his surroundings and out of breath. He walked down the hallway and knocked on the second door on the left.
“Go away,” a woman barked. “I ain’t dealing with no questions today.”
“Ms. Pope, it’s Dr. Reeves, from Southeast Memorial.”
“I don’t care who you are. I said, ‘Go away’.”
“Ms. Pope, I need to talk to you about Arlene. It’s important.”
Arlene Pope’s had been Southeast Memorial’s legal case of the year so far. The Psychiatry Department usually had several. Public outcry and media coverage had Ross under pressure to determine what had happened, and if mental health issues were being used as a scapegoat for a cold-blooded killing. Seventeen-year-old Arlene Pope had been placed under psychiatric care when she claimed the voices in her head told her to swaddle her newborn infant in a trash bag and bury her in the alleyway dumpster. The police, at the request of Arlene’s Public Defender, permitted a seventy-two hour psychiatric observation period before remanding her to jail. Twelve hours had already passed.
“Ms. Pope, I’m sorry, but I need to speak with you.”
“Come back tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow will be too late. Please, fifteen minutes of your time. Twenty, tops.”
The door opened as far as the security chain would allow. Ross didn’t need a drug-sniffing dog to know what Krystal was hiding. A cloud of marijuana smoke wafted out of her apartment.
“What d’you want?” Krystal said, the one eye visible through the crack narrowed and bloodshot.
“I need to speak with you about Arlene. Please, may I come in?”
The door closed and, after a brief moment for Krystal to slide the chain, reopened. She crossed the cluttered apartment and opened the two windows on the far side of the room. One had been broken and mended with a sheet of plastic and duct tape.
“Thank you for seeing me,” Ross said, looking for a clean place to sit.
Krystal flopped down on the sunken couch and huffed out a breath. “Like I had a choice?”
A cold breeze blew across the cramped space, knocking over the disposable plastic drinking cups on the coffee table. The place looked as if Krystal—who didn’t look a day over twenty-five in her cut off shorts, tank top, and pink-streaked hair—had hosted one hell of a party the night before. The remains of two joints sat crushed out on a chipped saucer. One of them was smoldering.
“Ain’t you gonna sit down?” Krystal said.
“Yes, thank you.” Ross brushed aside the magazine covering a mismatched chair and took a seat.
In Ross’s experience, patients were a product of heredity, environment, and circumstance. He did whatever he needed to—including internet research and home visits—to get to the bottom of difficult cases. Sometimes, that meant crossing a line. Work had chastised him on more than one occasion for his methods, but it was those same techniques that had him at the top of the list for evaluating patients like Arlene. He enjoyed his work, even if it was often an all-consuming double-edged sword.
“I would like to start with some questions about family history, if that’s all right. Is there any history schizophrenia in your immediate family? Anyone diagnosed as having bipolar disorder, or maybe someone treated with medication?”
“You askin’ if I’m crazy?”
“I’m asking about mental illness in the family. Maybe Arlene’s father? Or her grandparents?”
“Arlene’s father, huh? That’s a long story, but I don’t think he’s crazy, no.”
“Nothing with her grandparents or siblings, maybe?”
“No and Arlene’s an only child.”
“Had Arlene ever been diagnosed with mental health issues before the incident?”
“Incident?” Krystal rolled her eyes. “Is that what we’re calling it? You’ve seen Arlene, right? The girl wears sweatshirts with the hood pulled up in the heat of summer. She mopes around here, all depressed and complaining. She ain’t here much, but when she is, she’s locked in her room.”
“May I see her room?” Ross asked.
“No.” Krystal glanced at the closed door on the right side of the hallway and chewed her chapped lip nearly to the point of bleeding.
“Do you mind me asking why?”
“A girl’s room is private.”
“I see. Even if it’ll help me understand what happened?”
“I said no.”
Ross, realizing he was fighting a losing battle, moved onto other questions. “You say Arlene had been acting depressed. Had she received medical treatment, something I can verify?”
“I took a part-time job over at the check cashing place on Broadway to help make ends meet and Arlene’s Medicaid got cut. The county says I make too much money.” Krystal looked around. “Does it look like I make a fortune to you? No.” She answered her own question. “I couldn’t afford a shrink for Arlene if I wanted to. Besides, what would I say was wrong with her? I got a mopey teenager? They’d tell me to take a number.”
“Did Arlene ever mention hearing voices?”
Krystal shook her head. “She never said anything to me about it, but we stopped talking a long time ago.”
“Is there someone else Arlene might speak to?”
Arlene’s bedroom door opened. A thin, shirtless man—early twenties, with a mop of greasy blond hair and a sleeve of black and gray tattoos—stumbled out of the room.
“What’s all the noise out here?”
Ross angled for a better look beyond the half-open door. A pink and black comforter spilled over the side of a twin bed. A teddy bear lay on the floor. The walls were plastered in band posters, but the man leering at Krystal didn’t look like a Paramore fan.
“I’m sorry, Toby. I didn’t mean to wake you up.” She turned to Ross. “He works nights.”
“Who’s this?” Toby wiped the sleep from his eyes, scowling.
“Dr. Ross Reeves.” Ross introduced himself and reached out to shake the man’s hand.
“Doctor?” Toby crossed his arms.
“He’s here ‘cause of Arlene.”
“What about her?”
Arlene sighed. “I’ll tell you what I told the cops, Dr. Reeves. Arlene’s home alone most nights … well, not
, obviously. She hasn’t been staying here much since she started hangin’ around with Dwight from downstairs.”
Toby rolled his eyes.
“I knew that kid was trouble,” Krystal said. “Says so right on his neck.”
Ross recalled the tattooed man who had let him in the building. “Do you suspect he fathered Arlene’s baby?”
“You’ve seen Arlene, right? I mean, she’s not a
“Who says that about their own daughter?” Toby sat on the couch next to Krystal, shaking his head.
Krystal glared at him. “I don’t mean anything by it. She just didn’t have a lot of options. She spent so much time downstairs. I mean, who else could it be?” Krystal lit a cigarette and took a long drag, tracing her nails down Toby’s arm. “Dr. Reeves, you asked if Arlene was hearing things, and the truth is, if she was, she didn’t tell me, just like she didn’t tell me she was knocked up. If I’d have known ….”
Ross waited for the first maternal words to come out of Krystal’s mouth.
“If you’d have known
“If I’d have known Arlene was pregnant, we could’ve gotten money for that baby. Lots of people willing to pay a fair price.”
“We’re talking legal adoption, of course?”
“Do I look like the kind of person traffics Black Market babies? It’s a shame what happened, but I couldn’t stop what I didn’t know about.”
“You say you didn’t know Arlene was pregnant—”
it. It’s the truth. Girl wore baggy clothes all the time and as heavy as she is—which she
don’t get from me—how was I supposed to know?”
Toby lowered his head.
“Do you think Dwight knew?” Ross kept his eye on Toby, waiting for an admission that never came.
“Dr. Reeves, Dwight wouldn’t know his own name if it weren’t tattooed on him, but you want to know what Dwight knew or didn’t know, ask
. Apartment 1A.” She gestured for Ross to leave.
“I’m sorry. Did I do something to upset you?”
“I’m not upset,” Krystal opened the apartment door, “but I