Close To Home (Westen Series)(2)

By: Suzanne Ferrell



“Oh, dear no,” Mama agreed. “The poor child gets all pale and splotchy when she’s running a fever. You remember last winter when she had bronchitis, don’t you?”

Harriett nodded. “Sure do. Wasn’t a pretty sight at all. What we need is a minor injury.”

“I can hear you, you know.”

What she needed wasn’t a man. What she needed was a month’s vacation in a sunny place, with a masseuse, good margaritas and a hot tub. Somewhere far away from Weston.

“Oh, yes. Something where he’ll have to stitch her up.”

“See her as a damsel in distress.”

“That’s it! Lorna, I’m taking my break.” Emma dropped her knife, pulled off her apron, grabbed her tea and stomped out the back door.

“What are we going to do with all these chopped vegetables and chicken?” Lorna called after her.

“Add mayo and cranberries for chicken salad, or make potpie. I don’t care!” Emma yelled over her shoulder just before the screen door slammed.

“Poor dear, she really does need someone to help her.”

“A man to love her.”

“What we need is a good accident.”

* * *

STRIPPER SENTENCED TO LIFE IN ABUSED SON’S DEATH.

Clint Preston shook his head at the headline and laid the paper on his desk. Despite the court’s decision, his own sense of failure flooded every pore of his body. If only he’d acted in time he might’ve prevented it.

A silver-haired woman dressed in white entered his office without knocking. Harriett handed him two charts. “You’ve got some customers in exam room one waiting for you, Doc.”

Clint read the names and birth dates on the outside of the files. Then he looked back at the efficient nurse he’d inherited along with the country family practice from his uncle for the next six months. “Twins?”

“Yup. The Lewis twins. Two of the orneriest boys in Doc Ray’s practice. And two of his favorite.” She headed out of the room. “He said they reminded him of you.”

“That bad, huh?” Clint shook off his moroseness and followed her down the hall. “What’re they here for? Check-ups?”

“No. Broken wrist.”

“Which one?” he asked.

“Both.”

Clint looked up from the charts. “Both wrists?”

“No,” Harriett replied. “One wrist.”

“Then both what?” he asked, completely confused.

“Boys.”

“Each boy broke a wrist?” Clint knew he’d lost control of this conversation somewhere back in his office.

Harriett nodded. “What one does, the other one does, too.”

When he arrived at the exam room, two redheaded, six-year-old boys sat on the exam table. Dried tears left paths on their freckled faces. Each boy gently cupped a limp hand. One boy held his right wrist, the other boy held his left.

Suddenly the vision of another little boy filled Clint’s mind. A small body, broken and limp on the table of the emergency room. No breathing. No pulse. Battered. Broken.

“You ain’t the doc,” said the boy on the right, snapping Clint out of his own nightmare.

“This is Dr. Clint, Benjamin,” Harriett explained.

“You a real doc?” asked the second boy. He was missing his two front teeth.

“Just like Doc Ray...” Clint looked at the second file in his hand for the boy’s name, who was apparently younger by mere minutes. “Brian.”

“Must be a real doc, Ben…” the second boy said to the first.

“…’cause he can tell us apart,” the first one finished. His smile matched his brother’s, missing tooth for missing tooth.

Clint smiled. They certainly weren’t shy. He pulled up a seat next to the table. “So, guys, tell me what happened here.”

“I jumped out of the tree,” Benjamin said.

“And fell on your brother, right?” guessed Clint.

“Nope.” Brian grinned up at him. “I jumped too.”

Clint looked at Harriett for an explanation.

She simply shrugged and turned away. “I told you. What one does the other has to do, too. I’ll set up the x-ray machine.”

“Wait a minute, Harriett.” Clint stopped her at the doorway. “Where’s their mother?”

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