Part #7 of The Mediator series by Meg Cabot
I flashed her a brittle smile. “Yeah, I’ve heard that one before about him. So can I go see Father Dominic now, Sherry?”
“Of course, but I’m afraid he won’t be very talkative. Dr. Patel is keeping him heavily sedated to help make him more comfortable.”
“Wait.” I gaped at the nurse. “Is he . . . is Father Dominic going to die?”
It felt like the bottom was dropping out of my world. Why hadn’t I hugged Father Dominic good-bye when he’d left? Why had I let him leave in the first place?
The nurse smiled and put a reassuring hand on my arm.
“Susannah, don’t worry. Dr. Patel, who performed his surgery, is the best in the area. And he says the father is doing very well for a man his age who took a fall down a flight of stairs. He’s listed in serious, but not critical, condition.”
“Oh,” I said faintly. Serious, but not critical, condition? Was that supposed to be good?
And a fall down the stairs? That’s what the Walterses thought happened? Lucia had them living in total and complete denial, especially given what I now knew about the first—and second—Mrs. Walters.
“If you wait a minute,” Sherry went on, “you can go up with your fiancé. I overheard Dr. Patel filling him in on the case over the phone a few minutes ago.”
I stared at her, only half conscious that Peggy, the redhead, had whipped her purse out from under the reception desk and was dabbing on some lip gloss. Peggy evidently had a thing for old souls . . . or at least hot Latino residents.
Sherry smiled. “Yes. I heard Dr. Patel say that Dr. de Silva was just pulling into the parking lot.”
“Oh,” I said. “That’s great.” I wondered if my smile looked as frozen as it felt. “I’ll just run outside then and see if I can find Jesse—er, Dr. de Silva. Those three little girls over there by the candy machines—they’re my nieces. Their father is coming soon to pick them up. In the meantime, can you tell them where I went?”
“I’ll keep an eye on them for you,” Peggy volunteered. She was now checking her eyeliner in her compact mirror. “Dr. de Silva must be looking forward to becoming an uncle. He’s so great with kids.”
“He really is.” When he wasn’t trying to send their souls to hell. “I’ll be right back.”
I thanked them and turned to leave, heading like a robot through the sliding doors to the parking lot.
This was a disaster. Not only that Father Dominic was so severely injured, but that I hadn’t had a chance to talk to him before seeing Jesse.
Even though his chosen profession now was healing the little children, Jesse had been raised on a sprawling ranch in the hardscrabble California of the 1800s. He hadn’t spent his youth, as Paul and my stepbrothers had, skateboarding, surfing, and playing video games. Jesse had grown up chopping wood, putting up fences, and killing things—and I’m not talking about chickens. As warm and loving as Jesse was, there was a part of him—a part that had nothing to do with the time he’d spent trapped in the spirit world—that was coldly practical when it came to putting suffering things that couldn’t otherwise be saved out of their misery.
Another good reason never to tell him what had happened between Paul and me that night at graduation . . . or what was going on between us now.
Then suddenly there he was, striding across the parking lot, his head down, his fists stuffed into the pockets of his suede jacket, unaware of my presence.
A second later I saw that ink-dark head lift slowly, as if we had some sort of telepathic bond—which I prayed we did not, or he’d know the dirty thoughts I was having about the way he looked in those tight-fitting, strategically faded jeans. Our gazes instantly locked.
And then somehow I was across the few dozen yards of pavement that had separated us and in his strong embrace.
“Querida,” he whispered in my hair as he held me. “It’s going to be all right. Father Dominic is going to be fine.”
“You don’t know that.”
“I don’t, but he’s strong. So much running around, chasing after students and spirits, has kept him healthy all these years.”
He slipped a finger beneath my chin to tilt my face toward his. “Susannah, are you crying?”
I released him and stepped quickly, though reluctantly, away. His embrace was my favorite place to be, besides his bed, which smelled deliciously of him.
“Of course I’m not crying,” I said, brushing a quick hand against my cheek. “I never cry. It’s allergies. They’re terrible this time of year.”
Jesse gave me one of his lopsided grins, which they should trademark and sell on TV as a female sexual enhancement supplement. They’d make millions.
“It would be all right if you cried,” he said. “I like it when you do. It gives me an excuse to play that overprotective nineteenth-century macho man you’re always talking about.”
“Like you ever need an excuse to do that. I heard you spoke to Dr. Patel. What did he say?”
“He says the father faces a long recovery, but if he can make it through the next twenty-four hours without infection, he should pull through.”
I had to turn away to look very closely at the statue of St. Francis that stood beside the hospital’s entrance, because I sensed a leak from the corner of one eye. Fortunately it was an old-fashioned statue in the same vein as the statue of Junípero Serra in the courtyard outside my office at the school (only the head had never been severed by an irate NCDP), so there was a lot to look at. Gathered at the feet of St. Francis were bronze sculptures of grateful animals he’d saved, instead of the Native Americans Father Junípero had enslaved.
“Susannah,” Jesse said, reaching out to stroke my hair. I don’t think my trick of staring at the statue was fooling him.
“So in other words,” I said, trying to keep my voice steady, “he really could die. Emily said so.”
“Emily? Emily’s only five, and not a trained medical professional.” Jesse put his arm around me and pulled me close again. His warmth was comforting, especially as the sun had begun to go down, and the air had become cooler. “He’s very badly hurt. But he’s also very stubborn, as you know.”
I shuddered and buried my head against his chest the way Jesse’s cat, Spike, sometimes did on the odd occasions when he was feeling affectionate.
“Jesse, it’s my fault.” My fingers tightened on the soft brown suede of his jacket. It was a coat I’d bought him for Christmas last year, one he’d chastised me gently for spending too much money on, but I’d refused to exchange it for “something more sensible.” “I should never have let him go over there alone. I don’t know what I was thinking. He said he could handle it, that Lucia was angry with me, not him, and so wouldn’t hurt him, and that it was his responsibility because he should have seen her when he married Kelly and Becca’s dad. But I should have known something like this was going to happen. He’s so old, so far from the top of his game, and she’s so strong, I should have—”
“You should have what? Tied him to his chair? You know Father Dominic better than anyone, Susannah. Once he has an idea in his head, no one can stop him. He has to have things his way.”
“I know. But if he dies . . . if he dies . . .”
I couldn’t even form the words out loud. If Father Dominic died, I would have lost the best mentor I’d ever had, and, absurdly enough, one of the best friends I’d ever had, as well. If someone had told me that the first day I’d walked into his office so many years ago, I’d never have believed it. What could an agnostic girl from Brooklyn and an elderly Catholic priest from California possibly have in common?
The ability to help wayward spirits find their way home, it turned out . . . even if, as Father Dom had pointed out, we hadn’t always agreed on our methodology.
Without Father Dominic, I’d never have learned it was better to ask questions first, and save my punches for later. I’d never have f
Even though I said none of these things out loud, Jesse, as usual, knew what I was thinking.
“If he dies, we’ll have lost the only person who ever believed in us,” he said. “And who’ll marry us? It won’t be the same to be married by anyone else, Susannah. I won’t have it.”
“Jesse.” I lifted my head from his chest. I felt his arms tense, and knew what he was about to say next. “Don’t—”
“Don’t tell me don’t, Susannah.” He dropped his arms. “You know why I came here.”
I did, but for some reason I felt like if I didn’t say it out loud, it wouldn’t be true. My boyfriend didn’t want to exorcise anyone. He couldn’t. “To see Father Dominic, of course.”
The darkness in his gaze had nothing to do with the color of his irises. I won’t lie. It frightened me. “No. There’s nothing I can do for him. He’s in good hands. The best. I came to see you, to find out what you’ve learned. I need to know where she’s buried, Susannah.”
I squared my jaw. “What good will that do?”
“You know what. So I can send her back to hell, where she belongs.”
I dragged him beneath the atrium that covered the circular drive where families pulled up to drop off nonemergency patients. There was a little gazebo not far from the St. Francis statue. The shelter was probably intended, with seating inside and mounted ashtrays nearby, for smokers who needed to step outside the waiting room to take a break, but we were the only two occupying it at the moment.
The sound of the bubbling water in the fountain would hopefully keep our voices from being overheard, and the bright pink and purple flowers on the bougainvillea vines crawling up the gazebo’s walls would mask us from prying gazes.
“Jesse, you can’t exorcise her.” I pushed him onto a concrete bench inside the gazebo, then sat down next to him. I was glad for my leggings, since Father Dominic had been right: my skirt really was too short, and even through the cotton/Lycra blend, the stone was freezing against the back of my legs. “You don’t know what happened to her to make her the way she is.”
“I don’t care what happened to her,” he said evenly. “I care about what she did. She caused that man, the best friend we ever had, a concussion, three fractured ribs, and a shattered hip bone.”
“But you don’t know how Lucia died.”
“I don’t care how she died. All I care about is making sure she can’t hurt the living, especially you or anyone else I care about. And I have everything I need to do that in my car right now.”
“Oh, that’s just great, Jesse. And did anyone at the mission try to stop you when you broke into the tabernacle?”
He raised one of those dark eyebrows. “I didn’t have to break in. Father Dominic gave me a key years ago.”
That stung. Father Dominic had never trusted me with a key, and he’d known me longer than he’d known Jesse.
“Besides,” Jesse went on, “everyone who might have noticed is upstairs in the ICU, waiting to see how the father recovers.”
“Which you should be doing, instead of running off to the cemetery to exorcise the soul of a frightened little girl.”
“That ‘frightened little girl’ as you call her nearly murdered my future wife.”
I had to suppress a smile at the word wife—I couldn’t help it. I was still annoyed with him, though. “CeeCee found the article about the alleged accident that killed her. Will you read it first before you go tearing off to cast out Satan?”
His jaw tightened. He was annoyed with me, too. “Only if it says where she’s buried.”
“Jesse, that’s harsh. What if I’d exorcised you when we first met?”
“Not on purpose. And I felt terrible about it later, when I found out you weren’t so bad.”
“That isn’t fair, and you know it. I fell in love with you, not your looks. How could I not, when you’ve saved my life so many times?” I reached out to squeeze one of his biceps—impressively large, especially for a physician—through a suede sleeve. “Of course your looks don’t hurt.”
I must be losing my touch, because he was unmoved. “This girl is trying to destroy lives, Susannah, not save them.”
“Agreed. But there could be mitigating circumstances.” I tugged my phone from my bag. “Read the article. It does say where she’s buried.”
He held out his hand. “Then I’ll read it.”
I pulled up the article CeeCee had sent me, then passed the phone to him. “I doubt you’ll still think she’s evil after you read this. More scared, like Aunt Pru says.”
He lowered his eyebrows with disapproval as he took the phone. “CeeCee’s aunt Prudence suffers from delusions.”
“Right,” I muttered. “Doctors. Everyone’s got a disorder.”
“Counselors,” he shot back. “Everyone needs therapy.”
I rolled my eyes, then put my hands into the pockets of my leather jacket to keep them warm as he read, glancing from his face toward the triplets, whom I could view past the bougainvillea, through the windows of the waiting room. They’d run out of money for snacks, and were now ricocheting around the triage area, jacked up on all the forbidden sugar they’d consumed. Peggy, the receptionist, had risen from her post behind the reception desk, looking stricken, begging them to stop. The girls were ignoring her.
Good luck, Peggy.
I’d read the article CeeCee had sent so many times I knew it practically by heart, along with her text.
CeeCee Hey here’s the info you wanted. Lucia Martinez, 7 yrs old, died 9 yrs ago. I think I remember when this happened. Sad.
You owe me dinner and a movie.
PS He called!
NOV 17 2:15PM
She meant Adam had called. He’d called because I’d reminded him that he should, but of course she didn’t need to know this.
I was happy he’d called her. The article, however, hadn’t left me feeling nearly as good.
SACRED TRINITY STUDENT KILLED IN HORSEBACK-RIDING ACCIDENT
Carmel, CA—A student who attended the Academy of the Scared Trinity all-girls school in Pebble Beach died Saturday afternoon from an injury sustained after falling from a horse.
The Monterey County Sheriff’s Office confirmed the identity of the student as Lucia Martinez. Martinez was 7 years old.
The accident took place in Del Monte Forest along one of the many riding paths maintained by the Academy of the Sacred Trinity Equestrian Center, at which Martinez was taking riding lessons.
According to witnesses, Martinez lost control of the animal after it became startled during a routine trail ride.
“Both horse and rider disappeared into the woods,” said Jennifer Dunleavy, spokeswoman for Sacred Trinity. “One of our instructors went after her, searching and calling, but couldn’t find either of them. There are more than thirty miles of trail that run deep into the forest. The school sent out additional riders to help with the search, and notified police, as well, who sent reinforcements. Even if they’d found her sooner . . . but they didn’t.”
Martinez was reported missing at approximately 10:30 a.m. Saturday, said Deputy Eric Robertson, a sheriff’s spokesman. She wasn’t found until approximately 5:30 p.m., seven miles from where she was last seen.
Authorities believe Martinez became dislodged from her horse after it attempted to jump a small ravine, and fell, striking her head. She was wearing a helmet, but suffered a broken neck.
“Lucia was an exemplary rider for her age,” said Martin Shorecraft, director of athletics at Sacred Heart. “But we still took every precaution for her health and safety. Sometimes accidents like this simply happen.”
Martinez, who lived in Pacific Grove, was declared dead at 8:30 p.m. on Sa
A spokesperson for Sacred Trinity who asked not to be identified said that the horse that the child was riding has been put down.
Martinez’s death elicited immediate and mournful responses from the community.
“Lucia will live on forever in the hearts and minds of all those she touched here at Sacred Trinity,” said Father Francisco Rivera, the headmaster at Sacred Trinity. “We are deeply saddened to hear of her passing.”
“Lucia was a sweet and happy girl who lived life to the fullest,” said Anna Martinez, the victim’s grandmother. “She always wanted a horse, and to learn to ride. Both those wishes came true. She died at the happiest moment of her life.”
Lucia’s funeral will be held at 1 p.m. a week from Saturday at the Sacred Trinity Chapel. She will be laid to rest at the San Carlos Cemetery in Monterey, California.
There was a photo that accompanied the article. In it, a solemn, round-faced little girl with long blond bangs and curls down to her shoulders gazed into the camera, her chubby hands folded neatly on a table before her. It was a school photo—she was in her Trinity uniform—so smiling wasn’t strictly encouraged, but her large brown eyes weren’t smiling, either.
Maybe Lucia was just a kid who’d always been unhappy, despite her grandmother’s assertion.
Or maybe she’d sensed her tragic fate to come.
When Jesse lowered my phone, I asked, “Well? Do you still want to kill her?”
“She’s already dead,” he said calmly. “I can’t kill her. But I can keep her from killing someone else.”
“You know what I mean, Jesse. Look at her photo. That girl was scared to death of something. And I don’t believe she died from falling off a horse.”
“I don’t see how you got that from reading this article.”
Jesse was nothing if not stubborn. Well, you sort of had to be if you were going to survive what he had and come out of it with your sanity intact.
Remembrance by Meg Cabot / Romance & Love / Fantasy / Young Adult have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes