“Your husband is dead, Mrs. Wells.” Detective Larson sat down in the armchair across from Megan, his expression grave. “His body washed up on the shore a few hours ago.”
Megan clutched her abdomen, the horror of finally hearing her fears confirmed seeping through her body like a slow-spreading virus. It had been six agonizing weeks since Tom had disappeared. Six weeks of not knowing.
Nausea rose to Megan’s throat at the images that speared her. She dropped her head forward into her hands and tried to breathe.
“I’ll get you a glass of water.” Megan nodded, too numb to do anything else, while the detective hurried to the kitchen.
Behind her, Megan heard the officer opening cabinet doors, turning on the faucet, but the sounds barely registered. Seconds later, he returned and handed her the glass. Megan sipped slowly, grateful for the wetness soothing her parched throat. “Do you know what happened to him?”
The cop’s muddy complexion paled as if he, too, had seen the grisly images that had come unbidden to Megan’s mind. Had he been there when they’d dragged her husband from the sea and actually seen Tom’s body? The ice clinked in the glass as Megan’s hands shook. She didn’t want to know the details.
“Most likely drowned, but the coroner’s doing an autopsy.” Detective Larson shrugged. “I’m not sure how much he’ll be able to determine …”
He let the sentence trail off and Megan clenched the glass of water as if it were a life jacket and she was being dragged into the undertow herself.
“You said he liked to fish sometimes, to take his mind off his work. My first guess would be that he was out late, and didn’t realize how far he’d drifted off shore, got caught in the tides and fell overboard.”
Megan’s gaze swung to his. “But Tom was an excellent swimmer.”
“You know how difficult it is to fight an undercurrent, even for the best of swimmers. A bad thunderstorm came through that night, too.”
She nodded, silently admitting Tom had been drinking a lot those last few weeks, and had been a daredevil when it came to the weather. He’d been drinking and secretive. And tired. And disturbed about something. Only he wouldn’t talk to her.
She’d known he was unhappy. Had worried he’d stopped loving her, that he’d planned to ask for a divorce, but hadn’t gotten up the nerve. They had finally separated, but she’d hoped they could work out their differences.
Now she would never know. But she couldn’t bring herself to ask the questions that had haunted her for the past six weeks.
The detective shuffled, his breathing noisy. “We’ll let you know as soon as the body is released so you can make plans for the burial.”
Oh, God, there would be so much to do. Nausea gripped her stomach again. She’d have to make funeral arrangements. Tell his parents. The people at the research foundation.
Tom had been so young. Barely thirty-one. They’d only been married two years. They’d temporarily sublet this flat because they hadn’t decided for sure where they were going to live. They’d had so many plans when they’d married.
They’d picked out new furniture, not burial plots. The cop gently patted her shoulder. “Well, let me know if I can do anything for you, Mrs. Wells I’ll let myself out.”
“Thank you.” She hugged her arms around her middle until she heard the click of the door, and the police car drive away. Finally she forced herself to stand on unsteady legs. But her stomach convulsed and she rushed to the bathroom, sank to her knees and let the tears fall.
The pregnancy test she’d taken earlier mocked her from the sink.
It had been negative. Again. Tom had wanted a baby so badly. She’d felt like a failure when their attempts at conceiving had failed.
Now he would never have a child. And she had nothing left of him but troubled memories.
And questions. Lots of unanswered questions.
* * *
“You said my name was what?” The man pivoted to study the doctor as he unwound the last of the bandages from his face. He was too afraid of what he might see when the last one fell away.
Dr. Crane peered over his silver spectacles, worry creasing his brow. “Cole Hunter. You’re a psychiatrist. You’ve just signed on at the Coastal Island Research Park on Catcall Island. You are -”
“Yeah, yeah, you told me. Thirty-five, single, a workaholic.” Frustration clawed at him. “So, why can’t I remember all this?”
“Because you suffered severe head trauma in the car accident. Your memory should return in bits and pieces. Hopefully you haven’t lost that scientific mind.”
The doctor chuckled at his own joke, but Cole remained stoic. Nothing about the past few weeks had been funny.
He strained for the memories again, for any snippet of his past life. Cole Hunter. A psychiatrist. Somehow during all those painful hours of lying in the hospital he hadn’t imagined himself being a doctor of any kind.
Of course, until a few days ago he’d been in too much pain to care about the past. He’d been struggling through every minute. The long hospital stay, the surgeries, the bandages. The fear of not waking up. The fear of being paralyzed. The fear of looking like a monster.
“Now, see what modern medicine can do.” Dr. Crane spun the stool around so Cole faced the mirror, placed his hands on Cole’s shoulders and directed him to look. “It may not be quite the same as your old face, but it’s not bad. There’s a little swelling and bruising, but it’ll fade.”
Cole stared at the stranger in the mirror, cold terror sweeping over him. Not only did he not remember his name, but he didn’t recognize the face staring back at him, either.