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Authors: P. J. Parrish

She's Not There

BOOK: She's Not There
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PRAISE FOR P.J. PARRISH

DEAD OF WINTER

Edgar Award Finalist

“A wild ride with a really fine writer.”

John Sandford

“Moves along briskly, pulling the reader along for an invigorating ride.”
—Baltimore Sun

“Brisk, fast-paced, well-conceived yarn.” —
Chicago Tribune

AN UNQUIET GRAVE

Michigan Notable Book

International Thriller Award Winner

Shamus Award Winner

“A standout thriller. With fresh characters and plot, a suspense novel of the highest order.”
—Chicago Sun-Times

“Gripping and atmospheric . . . a quality read that will remind many of Dennis Lehane.” —
Publishers Weekly

“A wonderfully tense and atmospheric novel. Keeps the reader guessing until the end.” —
Miami Herald

A KILLING RAIN

Shamus Award finalist 2006

Anthony Award finalist

“Opens like a hurricane and blows you away through the final page. It’s a major league thriller that is hard to stop reading.”

Robert B. Parker

“Not many authors today so successfully combine an examination of the characters’ psychological lives with hardcore action and unrelenting suspense the way that Parrish can . . . This combination of suspense and thoughtfulness makes for truly compelling reading.”

Oline Cogdill
, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

“If you haven’t discovered the fast-paced action, terrifying suspense and hair-pin plot twists of rising star P.J. Parrish yet, now’s the time.” —Mystery Guild

“From the startling opening to the stunning finale, a masterpiece of shock and surprise, a gritty Florida tale told with relentless skill. P.J. Parrish’s best book yet.”

Ed Gorman
, Mystery Scene

A THOUSAND BONES

“Crime fiction at its finest. Beautifully written, beautifully imagined and packed with raw power, like an iron fist in a velvet glove.”

Lee Child

“High class suspense . . . stunningly crafted page after page, on the way to a thrilling climax.”

Linda Fairstein

“A riveting page-turner, I was kept up half the night reading because I just had to know what happened next.” —
Spinetingler Magazine

HEART OF ICE

Shamus Award Winner

“Louis Kincaid is one of my favorite protagonists in all of crime fiction. P.J. Parrish is one of the best in the business and this book is clearly their best yet.” —Steve Hamilton,
Edgar Award author of
Die a Stranger

“Easily one of the best books of the year.”
—Ray Walsh
, Lansing State Journal

“Tense, thrilling. You’re going to bite your nails!” —Lee Child

ISLAND OF BONES

“The tension builds to a near palpable level . . . secrets as dark and warped as the primal landscape. Parrish’s second Kincaid mystery,
Dead of Winter
, earned a nomination for an Edgar, and this book merits another.”
—Publishers Weekly
(starred review)

“A killer ending will have you looking forward to the next entry in the series.”
—Orlando Sentinel

“A stunner of a book. Amazingly skilled at creating a sense of place, P.J. Parrish stays true to her characters.”
—Romantic Times

 

OTHER TITLES BY P
.
J
.
PARRISH

DARK OF THE MOON

DEAD OF WINTER

PAINT IT BLACK

THICKER THAN WATER

ISLAND OF BONES

A KILLING RAIN

THE UNQUIET GRAVE

A THOUSAND BONES

SOUTH OF HELL

THE LITTLE DEATH

THE KILLING SONG

CLAW BACK

(A Louis Kincaid Novella)

HEART OF ICE

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

Text copyright © 2015 P.J. Parrish

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.

Published by Thomas & Mercer, Seattle

www.apub.com

Amazon, the Amazon logo, and Thomas & Mercer are trademarks of
Amazon.com
, Inc., or its affiliates.

ISBN-13: 9781503945043

ISBN-10: 1503945049

Cover design by David Drummond

To our midwives Neil, Sharon,
Christine,
and Miriam

 

Why I come here: need for a bottom, something to refer to; where all things visible and invisible commence to swarm.
—C.D. Wright,
“Lake Return”

CHAPTER ONE

She was floating inside a blue-green bubble. It felt cool and peaceful and she could taste salt on her lips and feel the sting of it in her eyes. Then, suddenly, there was a hard tug on her hair and she was yanked out of the bubble, gasping and crying.

Her eyes flew open. It was dark and cold. And her hands . . . When she tried to bring her hands up to her face, she couldn’t move them.

The voices were back. She had heard them whispering before, but now they sounded sharper and closer. And now she could understand what they were saying.

She’s awake.

You better page Haskins.

A light came on, making her squint. She blinked hard, and a woman’s face came into focus, hovering above her. She could feel the gentle press of something warm on her forehead, and it took her a moment to realize it was the woman’s hand. She tried to talk but it came out in a strangled moan. The woman was stroking her hair now and making shushing sounds.

“It’s all right. You’re going to be okay.”

She closed her eyes
.

She had dreamt it, she realized, the floating in the blue-green bubble. But she knew it was a real memory from long ago, one that she had forgotten until now. She was six years old and had walked out into a lake and the sand beneath her feet had given away. Her mother told her later that she would have drowned if someone hadn’t pulled her out by her hair.

Mother . . .

She realized suddenly she couldn’t remember what her mother looked like. She couldn’t even remember her mother’s name.

The cold swirled around her and she began to shiver violently. She couldn’t remember her own name.

“Get her another blanket.”

The salt taste was on her lips again and she licked away a tear.

Who are you?

The voice was back again. She opened her eyes and the blur of pink slowly formed into a woman’s face. But not the same woman as before. This woman was wearing a white coat and glasses.

“I’m Doctor Haskins. You’re in the hospital. You have a very serious concussion. Can you tell me your name?”

She tried to open her mouth but couldn’t. Her jaw hurt but she wasn’t able move her hands to touch it.

“You had no purse or ID when you got here,” the doctor said. “Can you tell me who you are?”

She felt a hard knotty pressure deep inside her breast, and when she tried to take a deep breath, she couldn’t.

“Can you tell me your name?”

“I . . . don’t . . .”

“Do you know what day it is?”

She stared at the doctor.

“Do you know what year it is? Do you know who the president is?”

What year? President? Why was this woman asking such stupid questions? But then she realized she didn’t know the answers. She swallowed hard, and the pain shot through her chest. She tried to move her hands but again she couldn’t. When she looked down at them, she saw that her wrists were tied to the sides of the bed.

“I think we can get rid of these now,” the doctor said. She began to untie the gauze. “We had to do it because you kept trying to pull out your IV.”

When her wrists were free, she tried to massage them but the pull of the IV line made her arm ache so she gave up and just lay still. She ran her tongue over her lips. They were cracked and dry and the lower one felt fat and tender.

“The light hurts my eyes,” she whispered.

The doctor got up and went to the window, closing the blinds. “That’s normal,” she said, coming back to the bed. “Do you have a headache?”

She nodded.

“How bad is it?”

How bad? It felt like her brain was sloshing loose in her skull.

“On a scale of one to ten.”

“Ten.”

“Well, we’ll give you something to help, but first I need you to stay awake for a little while longer and try to answer some questions, okay?”

She nodded.

“You suffered a hard blow to your head, some bleeding in your skull, and you have a brain bruise,” the doctor said. “You’re going to have headaches and dizziness for a while and some amnesia, likely retrograde and possible anterograde.”

The doctor kept talking, her words tumbling out, and she had to watch the woman’s lips move to try to make sense of them. It was the harsh B-words she grasped: Blow to the head. Brain bruise. Bleeding. What had happened to her? Why couldn’t she remember anything? Why couldn’t she even remember her own name?

Amnesia. The doctor had said amnesia.

She tried to concentrate, tried to conjure up something from her memory. Faces, names, images . . . but nothing was coming. It was like being back in that blue-green bubble. She was just floating, with no strength to swim up to the surface.

“How did I get here?” she whispered.

“Someone dropped you off here in the emergency room.”

“Dropped me?”

“Yes, a man brought you into the waiting room.”

A man . . . she was trying to see a face, any face, but nothing was coming. “Who?”

The doctor let out a slow breath. “We don’t know who he was. He sat you down in a chair and left. The admitting nurse found you, and you were brought up here to the ICU. We only know this much because he was caught on the security camera.”

She stared at the doctor. “What happened to me?” she asked.

Again, the doctor was slow to answer. “We don’t know. I suspect, given your injuries, you were in a car accident. In addition to the concussion, you have a large bruise across your chest and two broken ribs. You might have hit the steering wheel.”

She struggled to remember, but there was nothing in her head but a black swirl, like a dark sheet of hard rain advancing toward her. Then came a wave of nausea, and she had to swallow hard to fight it back.

“How long have I been here?” she asked.

“About forty-eight hours,” the doctor said. “We called the police, but no one with your description has been reported missing.”

Missing . . . no one was missing her?

She reached up to touch her throbbing lip, but the doctor gently pushed her hand back down to the bed.

“Your lip has a bad split, but it will heal.” The doctor paused. “You have a very bad cut on your chin, and you have some stitches there. You might have a small scar.”

“Can I see a mirror?” she asked.

“Maybe tomorrow, okay?”

She shut her eyes. Red flashes exploded on the screen of her eyelids, and for a second she could glimpse a man’s blurry face and dark hair but then he vanished.

When she opened her eyes she blinked hard to keep from crying. She realized there was a television mounted on the wall. The sound was muted and all she could make out on the screen was a blur of moving colors.

A scraping sound made her look back to the doctor. She had pulled a chair near the bed and was typing something on a black tablet. The doctor was so close she could see every detail on the woman’s face, right down to the mole near her upper lip.

Why could she see this but not the TV?

Something clicked in her mind. “I wear contacts,” she said.

“Yes, that’s right,” the doctor said. “We had to take them out.”

The doctor began to tap on the tablet again and the
click-click
of her nails sounded very loud.

“We need to figure out who you are so we can call your family,” the doctor said.

Why was no one missing her?

“Maybe if I tell you what else we know about you it will help you remember something.”

She nodded slowly.

“You’re five nine and weigh one twenty-six. I’d say that’s on the thin side for your height but you have excellent muscle tone. We did some X-rays, and you have two bone breaks in your left foot but they’re old breaks. Your feet are quite callused and you have some blackened toenails. Are you an athlete, a marathon runner maybe?”

“I don’t know.”

More tapping. “You were wearing a black cocktail dress when you came in.” She looked up. “Chanel.”

“Chanel? That’s French.” Why could she remember that when she couldn’t remember her own name?

“Yes, your dress is in the closet,” the doctor said. “But you didn’t have any shoes on when you came in.”

“What else do you know about me?”

“You’ve had a recent manicure. You’ve got hair extensions and you’re blonde, but it’s not natural. You probably go to a tanning salon. Does any of this trigger anything?”

She let out a tired sigh and shook her head. The tapping sound resumed.

“Oh, this says you were wearing a wedding ring.”

She slowly brought up her left hand. It was bare, except for a faint white tan line on her ring finger.

“Where’s the ring?” she asked.

“It’s in a safe at the nurses’ station.”

“I want to see it.”

“I don’t think—”

“Let me see it, please.”

The doctor hesitated and then nodded. “Okay, maybe it will help trigger your memory. I’ll see if I can get it for you.” She rose, holding the tablet against her white coat.

“You’re going to be all right,” the doctor said.

She didn’t want to cry, but she couldn’t help it. The tears fell, pooling hot on her neck. The doctor held out a tissue, and she took it with a shaking hand.

“I know this is very frightening,” the doctor said. “But you’re going to be all right.”

The doctor’s voice was soothing, but the voice inside her head was screaming:
You don’t understand! I am afraid! And I can’t remember why!

The doctor smiled and held up her black tablet. “Your brain is like this computer,” she said. “It’s like your memory board has been temporarily erased.”

“Temporary? When will it come back?”

“Well, I can’t tell you exactly. It will be gradual, as you heal. Little things will trigger other things, like smells or songs. But it will come back, I promise.”

She shut her eyes.

There was a murmur of voices, the doctor talking to someone, her voice brisk and business-doctor now. Then the voices were gone and there was just a soft mix of sounds—a beeping from somewhere above her head, a phone ringing somewhere far away.

She felt herself drifting into sleep, but suddenly the dark-haired man was there again. The man who had brought her here? Or someone else? And if he had helped her, why did she feel an awful tightening in her chest when she thought of him? What was she afraid of?

Maybe it wasn’t about not knowing who he was. Maybe it was about not knowing who
she
was. What if the doctor was wrong and her memory never returned? That happened to people, didn’t it? What if her life was gone forever? What if she was gone forever? What if the awful emptiness inside her never went away and the only thing she had was that faceless man?

Make pretty.

What?

No ugly. Make ugly go away. You try make pretty.

Who was talking to her? It was a man and the accent was foreign, maybe Russian.

Make ugly go away.
She pushed the dark-haired man from her mind and tried to fill the black void with something else.

Her head was pounding, and she shut her eyes tighter against the pain. Then, very slowly, images began to form. Just blurs of color at first—blues, whites, and greens—that began to move. Clouds drifting against a blue sky and stabs of green that she realized were the swaying tips of palm trees.

Next came the feel of sun hot on her face and body, and a sharp medicinal smell like . . .

Chlorine. A swimming pool.

Something cool and hard under her feet, and in her mind she looked down and saw her bare feet against white marble and the edge of a black-and-white rug, like a zebra skin. Clothes hanging in a big closet, and a red chair. The feel of fur on her skin . . .

“Brody,” she whispered.

“Is that your last name?”

She opened her eyes. The doctor was back.

“Did I say something?”

“Yes, you said ‘Brody.’ Is that your last name?”

She closed her eyes in exhaustion. “I don’t know.”

The doctor was holding a small manila envelope. “I have your ring,” she said. “Normally, you’d have to sign a form for this, but that can wait until you remember your name.” The doctor shook the ring into her palm and held it out.

She took the ring. It was a large square-cut diamond. She had been expecting a wedding band and looked up at the doctor. “You’re sure this is mine?”

“You don’t recognize it?” The doctor sounded disappointed.

“No.” She put it on her finger. It fit perfectly.

A nurse interrupted them. “Dr. Haskins, they’re still waiting for you down in neurology.”

“All right, I’m on my way.” The doctor turned back to the bed. “I’ll put in the order for something for your headache. And something to help you sleep.”

She looked up at the doctor. “I don’t want to sleep.”

“Why not?”

What could she tell her? That she was afraid that if she slept the man’s face would be there in her dreams?

She brought up her hand to look at the ring again, and that was when she noticed the white hospital band around her wrist. She turned it so she could read the writing. Some numbers, one set that looked like a date, and above that,
J
ANE
D
OE
.

BOOK: She's Not There
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