“Is Luke here today?”
Gloria’s eyes light up at my question. But she has no idea why I want to talk to Luke, and I have no intention of telling her. “Yes, he’s here. He’s helping Dr. Griffith out in the documentation room in the back.”
My first patient at the free clinic is scheduled in fifteen minutes. I came early today so I could talk to Luke. I wasn’t certain if he would be here, but I’ve noticed he’s found an excuse to show up whenever I’m scheduled to work. Coincidence? Perhaps. We’ll see.
“Also,” Gloria adds, “you got another card. And some chocolate.”
She slips me a small box of cheap drug store mixed chocolates with a little rectangular pink envelope on top. “Dr. Hale” is scrawled on the envelope in ballpoint pen. Even though I’m desperate to find Luke, I take a second to rip open the envelope. I slide out a small card with a lone bird pictured, flying through a blue cloudless sky. I open the card and read the shaky script:
Dear Dr. Hale,
I can’t tell you how much your help meant to me. When I saw you, I was going through a dark time in my life. If not for you, I’m not sure I would be here anymore. You saved my life. Bless you.
I slide the card back into the envelope and slip it into my jacket pocket. This is one I will save. I have a collection, and sometimes I read through them on my own dark days. But there’s no time today to dwell on it and pat myself on the back. I have to save my career.
“Don’t forget the chocolate, Dr. Hale,” Gloria speaks up.
The card was thoughtful, but the chocolates are undoubtedly of poor quality. I shake my head. “You can have them, Gloria. Give them to your grandchildren.”
“You should eat them. Put some meat on your bones— men like that.”
I flinch. Gloria isn’t the first person to comment on multiple occasions that she feels I’m too bony. Like a skeleton. I can’t imagine how anyone could possibly think my body habitus is any of their business. I don’t even dignify her comment with a response. Instead, I turn on my heels and head down the hallway to the documentation room, leaving the box of chocolates behind.
When I’m about ten feet away from the room, I can hear Luke and the elderly Dr. Griffith speaking together. Dr. Griffith sounds frazzled, which isn’t out of the ordinary for him.
“So I just want to look at the note. But every time I click on it, it opens the note for editing or tries to add an addendum.”
“That’s because you’re double clicking on the note. You just want to click on it once to view it.”
“I am clicking on it once. See—look what it did.” “Right. That’s because you double-clicked.”
“No, I didn’t.”
I enter the documentation room just in time to hear Luke patiently explaining to Dr. Griffith the difference between single clicking and double clicking for what I’m sure is the third or fourth time. I can tell by the way Dr.
Griffith’s bushy white eyebrows knit together that he doesn’t get it. He will never get it.
I rap my fist gently against the door. Luke’s brown eyes light up when he sees me. Today I have worn a red dress that I located in the back of my closet. Psychological studies have demonstrated that men have more amorous feelings towards women wearing red than any other color. They are more likely to express the desire to take a woman wearing red out on a date, and are also willing to spend more money on the date. Moreover, the men in these studies could not identify the origin of these feelings. They just liked the girl in red.
“Adrienne!” Luke says happily. “What’s going on?” “Do you have a minute, Luke?”
He looks between me and Dr. Griffith, obviously torn between his promise to help the elderly doctor figure out how to click on a note and wanting to help me. Thankfully, Dr. Griffith takes pity on him and rises unsteadily to his feet. “No worries, Luke,” Dr. Griffith says. “We can try to
figure it out later.”
Luke rises from his seat to face me as Dr. Griffith leaves the room. He looks different today. His sky blue dress shirt has been ironed, and he’s wearing a brown tie, although the knot could be a little tighter. And he’s shaved this morning. Usually, he smells like soap, which is not at all unpleasant, but today I detect a different musky scent. Cologne or aftershave.
“What’s up?” he asks.
I wring my hands together. “I need your help with something.”
His lips curl. “Fair warning—if you need me to teach you the difference between double-clicking and single-clicking, I’m going to lose it.”
My laugh sounds forced to my own ears. I tried my best to look put together this morning even though it was difficult because my sleep has been terrible ever since that
video appeared on my phone. It took three layers of makeup to cover the purple circles under my eyes. “No, it’s something else. I… I was hoping you could help me install a home security system.”
He blinks his brown eyes behind his glasses. “What?”
“You mentioned you did it for your mother.” I clear my throat. “So I thought you could help me out.”
He rubs his thumb along his clean-shaven jaw. “Right, but—”
“I’d pay you, of course.”
That’s the wrong thing to say. His face drops. “It’s not that. I don’t need you to pay me. I just think… You’ve got that big house and you’re probably better off hiring a company to do it for you. I mean, I put something together for my mother but she’s just got a tiny little cottage.”
I cringe at the idea of a bunch of strangers on my property, installing cameras and equipment so that they can spy on me. I don’t want this equipment so that they can watch me. I want to be the one watching.
“I’ve already bought the equipment,” I say. “I just need somebody to help me install it. I don’t know how to do it myself.”
“It’s just that whatever you bought will never be as good as what a professional would install.”
“I don’t want a professional.” I dig my nails into the palm of my hand. “I want you to do it for me. Please.”
“I’ll treat you to dinner. Anywhere you want.” “But—”
His shoulders sag. “Okay, fine. I’ll do it.”
It feels like a weight has been lifted. Having a security system won’t protect me from EJ, but I feel better about it. I don’t like the idea of him lurking outside my property and following me. I want to know what’s going on. I’m not used to this feeling of a lack of control, and I don’t like it.
“Thank you, Luke.” Before I can stop myself, I reach out and touch his arm. I’m not a touchy-feely sort of person, but I feel a rush of gratitude towards this man. “I really appreciate it.”
“No problem.” He smiles at me. He looks different with the ironed shirt and tie, and with his face clean-shaven. He’s unexpectedly handsome. “And you don’t have to treat me to dinner.”
“I want to.”
“Well, why don’t you think about it?”
I consider protesting again, but there’s something firm in Luke’s voice. I appreciate that he doesn’t want to go out to dinner with me unless I want to do it. He’s not going to bulldoze me into anything. “Fine then.”
“So…” He rubs his hands together. “When do you want to do this?”
“As soon as possible.”
He arches an eyebrow. “I’m free tonight…” Somehow I knew he would be.
Luke parks his blue Toyota right behind my Lexus, in front of the house. He had my address plugged into his GPS, but I told him that the signal would likely give out after we turned off the main road, so he was better off following me. I usually give my patients specific directions on getting to my house.
“Jesus, Adrienne.” Luke is tugging on his tie to loosen it as he gets out of the Toyota. “You’re really isolated out here. This is the only house for miles.”
It’s actually 1.9 miles from the last house we passed.
But I decide not to point that out. “Yes.”
He glances around at the trees surrounding the narrow, unpaved road to my house. “What do you do when it snows hard? You must get trapped here.”
“I have an arrangement with a plowing company. They plow the entire road for me.”
I brace myself for more questions, but they don’t come. Instead, he pops open his trunk and pulls out a box of tools, then follows me to the front door. When I open the door and Luke steps onto the threshold, he lets out a low whistle.
“Wow,” he comments. “I know.”
“This place is huge.” “Yes, I know.”
Luke flashes me a sheepish grin. “Sorry, I’ve just never known anyone who lived in a castle before.”
I ignore his comment comparing my home to a castle. “So I’ve got the kit I bought to set up the security system over there.” I nod at the cardboard box pushed against the wall. It arrived yesterday, and I spent twenty minutes looking through the instructions and verifying that there was no way on earth that I could set it up on my own.
He chews at the corner of his lip. “You sure you want me doing this? A professional would—”
He lets out a long sigh. “Okay. I’ll do it.”
He crouches down to rummage through the cardboard box. I shuffle between my feet, concerned that this job could be too big for him. From my perspective, he’s a genius with electronics. But my standards aren’t exactly high. The vast majority of employees at the Apple store fall into that category. Still, I’m heartened that he carries around a toolbox in his trunk.
“Do you think you’ll be able to do it?” I ask. “I can’t see why not.”
My shoulders relax slightly. “And can you install the camera to overlook the front door? So I could see who’s there from my phone?”
He pulls out a small plastic bag of screws and squints at them through his glasses. “Do you have any objections to me putting a couple of tiny holes in your wall?”
“Do what you need to do.”
He glances up at me. “Don’t feel like you have to stand there watching me. This won’t be quick. Why don’t you do some work or something and I’ll let you know when I’m done?”
Truthfully, I would not have minded watching him. I find this sort of thing fascinating. And while I hate to admit it, I’m finding Luke more attractive as I watch him rummaging through his toolkit. As a rule, I don’t date. I rarely find a man who seems worth the effort. I always felt like I was immune to the urges most women have.
But as I watch Luke, I wonder if that’s true.
I cough, pushing away unwelcome thoughts. “I’ll be working over there, in the room where I see patients. Let me know if you need anything.”
I spend the next ninety minutes answering emails in my office. I’m dying to go out there and check up on how Luke is faring with the setup, but I don’t want to hover over him. So I wait patiently for him to come to me. With every minute, my guilt escalates at how long he’s spending helping me.
Finally, when I’m contemplating getting up to check on him, a fist raps on the door to my office. “Adrienne?”
“Just a moment!”
I quickly finish up the email I’m working on, then get back on my feet. When I come out of my office, Luke is near the door, standing by my bookcase. He’s holding one of my books, and it takes a second to realize it’s my newest one— soon to hit bookstores all over the nation. The Anatomy of Fear.
“Oh, hey.” His cheeks color. “Sorry, didn’t mean to snoop. I saw the book with your name on it and I got
“It’s just a proof copy.”
“It looks really interesting.” Again, that sheepish smile. “I read your other one. It was great. Intelligent, but down to earth. The sort of thing that would appeal to anyone.”
“You probably hear that all the time though.”
“Not that much.” I look down at the copy in his hands. “This one is coming out in a few months. I’m really proud of it.”
“It’s about… fear?”
I nod, eager to talk about it. When the book releases, there will be book tours and interviews and perhaps television appearances. But as of now, there’s been nothing. And I’m dying to talk about my book. “Basically, it’s about people who have survived terrifying situations and how they have coped in the aftermath.”
“The most striking case study is a patient PL I’ve been seeing for a few years now,” I say. “She was staying at a cabin for the weekend with her fiancé and two of her best friends. Out in the wilderness, no cell phone service, yada yada yada.”
He smiles crookedly. “Oh, you mean like here?”
“Nothing like here.” I shoot him a look. “Anyway, they were drinking quite a lot and smoking pot, so their guard was down when a crazy man with a butcher knife burst into the cabin.” I lick my lips, recalling the description I wrote in the book. “He slashed their tires so they couldn’t get away. Then he stabbed all four of them, leaving them for dead. My patient survived by pretending to be unconscious—after the assailant left the cabin, she stumbled through the woods until she came across the main road and flagged down a car for help.”
“Jesus,” Luke breathes. “That’s… awful.”
I pull the book out of his hands, flipping through the pages of my own words, recounting the story my patient told me of the horrors she had endured. “The worst part is they never caught the guy who did it. He’s still out there somewhere.”
“Oh, wow.” He shakes his head. “They never found him?
Do they know why he did it?”
“Does anyone know why somebody would try to murder four random people in the woods?”
Luke doesn’t have an answer for that.
“For a year, she woke up screaming every night.” I can still picture that girl’s bloodshot eyes with the dark circles underneath. “She had nightmares about the man being outside her window. It tortured her that he was still out there. It took a lot of counseling to get her better. Counseling and time.”
“I’m sure your help was a large part of that.”
“I’d like to think I helped her. It’s hard to get over that kind of trauma.”
“On that note…” He jerks his head in the direction of the living room. “Let me introduce you to your new security system.”
For the next half hour, Luke shows me all the hard work he put in to secure my home. There are sensors mounted on all the first floor windows. The control panel is right inside the front door, and he turns away to allow me to punch in my six-digit passcode. It’s my late mother’s birthday.
“You can arm or disarm your security system once you punch in the code,” he explains. “This control panel will even allow you to set up a schedule to disarm it at certain times of day if that’s what you want.”
“What about the camera?”
“I mounted it outside your front door. I just need to link the feed to your phone.” He holds out his hand. “If you give me your phone, I’ll set it all up for you.”
I left my phone back in my office, so I lead him over there. As soon as he gets my phone in his hands, he quickly installs the app I need and links it to the camera. When he hands it back to me, I can see the image on the screen of the area outside my front door.
“This is incredible,” I breathe. “Thank you so much.”
But Luke doesn’t answer me. He’s staring straight ahead, at the bookcase in my office. His eyes are locked on a gap between two books. “What’s that?”
In all my years of interviewing patients in this office, he is the first person to notice the tape recorder concealed between those two hardcover books. I feel a surge of annoyance mingled with respect. “It’s a tape recorder.”
“A tape recorder?”
“I record my patient interviews.”
Luke’s eyebrows shoot up to his hairline. “All of them?”
“Yes.” I shrug like it’s no big deal. In New York, it’s not illegal to record a conversation that you are a part of, even if the other person is not aware of it. “I don’t do anything with the recordings besides remind myself of the last visit if I need to. I use them in place of notes. I don’t have an electronic medical record in my home.”
I watch Luke’s expression. I brace myself for him to tell me what I’m doing is terribly wrong or threaten to inform my patients about this breach of confidentiality. But when he finally speaks, what he says shocks me. “You shouldn’t use tapes. You should record them digitally.”
“Yeah.” He shakes his head. “I mean, you must have thousands of these tapes. Wouldn’t it be better if you saved everything onto your computer?”
“I like tapes.”
“Tapes? Come on. Did I step into a time machine and get magically transported to the eighties?”
The dopey grin on his face makes me smile back. When I first met Luke at the clinic, I found him mildly annoying,
even though he was good at what he did. But he’s growing on me.
“Tapes are an excellent recording device,” I say. “And I’d be happy to offer a demonstration.”
“The Dr. Adrienne Hale experience.” I wink at him. “You take a seat on the couch and I’ll show you what I do.”
His smile falters as he glances behind him at my leather sofa. “On the couch?”
“Yes. It will be fun.” “Fun?”
“Sure. Why not?”
He runs a hand along the arm of the sofa. “The Dr.
Adrienne Hale experience, huh?”
“I should tell you, there are many people who pay top dollar for this.”
“Oh, I’ll bet.” He looks down at the sofa again. He’s reluctant to do this, but he also doesn’t want to say no. He just spent his entire evening here. Even though he’s a nice guy, he surely has an ulterior motive. “Fine. Let’s do it. Give me the Dr. Adrienne Hale experience.”