Dr. Heller faded back and now the man loomed over me. His head was too big for his shoulders so that you feared his neck would collapse from the weight of it. His hair was crew cut all around, except in the front, where it hung down in a Caesar line above his eyes. A soul patch, an ugly smear of growth, sat on his chin like a burrowing insect. All in all, he looked like a member of a boy band gone to serious seed.
He smiled down at me, but there was no warmth behind it. "I'm Detective Bob Regan of the Kasselton Police Department," he said. "I know you're confused right now."
"My family" I began.
"I'll get to that," he interrupted. "But right now, I need to ask you some questions, okay? Before we get into the details of what happened."
He waited for a response. I tried my best to clear the cobwebs and said,
"What's the last thing you remember?"
I scanned my memory banks. I remembered waking up that morning, getting dressed. I remembered looking in on Tara. I remembered turning the knob on her black-n-white mobile, a gift from a colleague who insisted it would help stimulate a baby's brain or something. The mobile hadn't moved or bleated out its tinny song. The batteries were dead. I'd made a mental note to put in new ones. I headed downstairs after that.
"Eating a granola bar," I said. Regan nodded as if he'd expected this answer. "You were in the kitchen?"
"Yes. By the sink."
I tried harder, but nothing came. I shook my head. "I woke up once before. At night. I was here, I think."
I reached out again but to no avail. "No, nothing."
Regan flipped out a pad. "Like the doc here told you, you were shot twice. You have no recollection of seeing a gun or hearing a shot or anything like that?"
"That's understandable, I guess. You were in a bad way, Marc. The EMTs thought you were a goner."
My throat felt dry again. "Where are Tara and Monica?"
"Stay with me, Marc."
Regan was staring down at the pad, not at me. I felt the dread begin to press down on my chest.
"Did you hear a window break?"
I felt groggy. I tried to read the label on the drip bag to see what they were numbing me with. No go. Pain medication, at the very least. Probably morphine in the IV pump. I tried to fight through the effects. "No," I said.
We found a broken window near the rear of the house. It may have been how the perpetrator gained entry."
"I don't remember a window breaking," I said. "Do you know who-"
Regan cut me off. "Not yet, no. That's why I'm here asking these questions. To find out who did this." He looked up from his pad.
"Do you have any enemies?"
Did he really just ask me that? I tried to sit up, tried to gain some sort of angle on him, but there was no way that was going to happen. I did not like being the patient, on the wrong end of the bed, if you will. They say doctors make the worst patients. This sudden role reversal is probably why.
"I want to know about my wife and daughter."
"I understand that," Regan said, and something in his tone ran a cold finger across my heart. "But you can't afford the distraction, Marc. Not right yet. You want to be helpful, right? Then you need to stay with me here." He went back to the pad.
"Now, what about enemies?"
Arguing with him any further seemed futile or even harmful, so I grudgingly acquiesced. "Someone who would shoot me?"
"No, no one."
"And your wife?"
His eyes settled hard on me. A favorite image of Monica - her face lighting up when we first saw Raymondkill Falls, the way she threw her arms around me in mock fear as the water crashed around us - rose like an apparition.
Reprinted from No Second Chance by Harlan Coban by permission of Dutton, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. Copyright © 2003, Harlan Coban. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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