Something was not right. She tilted her head unconsciously, and for a moment the surroundings of luscious green—pond, flower beds, and strategically pruned bushes and trees—disappeared as she stared at the man approaching fast. None of the employees she knew looked quite like that. And he wasn’t carrying a set of clubs either. Someone called her name from behind, one of the women in the party of four. She ignored the call, intrigued by the sudden appearance.
The stranger grew in size and shape as he got closer. And boy, did he look out of place.
“Hello there. I’m looking for Dr. Julie Freeman,” he shouted.
The voice of one her companions sounded impatient now. “What’s the holdup?”
She did not speak until he was near enough to touch her. “Who is looking for her?”
The stranger took the sunglasses off, and his eyes went beyond her, all the way to where the other women stood waiting a few yards up the gentle hill, suspicion and curiosity all over their faces. “I spoke with her husband this morning, and then someone at the clubhouse told me she had tee time at eleven.”
“You spoke with Robert this morning?”
“Your husband was very helpful. I got him on the driveway, going to his own golf outing,” the stranger said with a smile, now that he confirmed who she was. “He described how you were dressed. We tried your cell, but you were not picking up. He told me I’d find you here. Wonderful place! Wish I could’ve learned to play years ago,” he added, looking around. “I’m in my forties now. Is that too late?”
He had striking blue eyes, almost a violet hue. The shapeless sweat shirt had once been navy blue but had now faded to a washed-out purplish color. His wrinkled tan pants looked as if he had been sleeping in them. Old shoes completed the outfit of somebody who obviously didn’t care much for appearances. Not his own, at least. In sharp contrast with his pale face, more often exposed to indoor luminosity than sunlight, it seemed, and in desperate need of a good shave, the unruly hair was dark, thick, and straight, turning gray around his ears.
“Vincent Mills. I’m currently the profiler working with the Philadelphia Special Investigations Unit.”
“You are not here for golf lessons.”
“I wish. Have you heard of the Philadelphia murders?” Vince plunged right in, counting on the subject’s popularity to capture her attention.
“I’ve heard of them, but I don’t have time to follow the news.”
Vince could tell by the choice of words and posture she was more curious than annoyed. Her I don’t have time to follow the news had sounded one note shy of apologetic. She had not stepped back or aside, attempting to put more distance between them. And her arms had remained relaxed along the body. Julie Freeman was not trying to shield herself from him. Therefore no need to flash any credentials; he had never liked that part anyway. Vince moved on. “You had a patient not too long ago whose name may be implicated in that case.”
“I hope that by paying me such an informal visit you are not implying that I should relax my ethics. You know how privileged patient information is in our world.”
Vince had been counting the seconds for that to come up. Behind thick lenses, the middle-aged woman had delicate features. He did not expect to be greeted with fireworks. After all, in that profession, he almost never was. Dr. Freeman belonged to the group of professionals to whom people came of their own free will, looking for answers, solutions for a healthier mental life. Whereas his presence—for as long as he could remember, far into those first years fresh from graduation—had always been imposed. Patients had always come to him because a higher authority so dictated. A school principal to a troubled student, the state and the people of Pennsylvania to a manic depressive accused of assault. Or worse.
“Besides, this is hardly the place for us to be discussing your cases, my patients, and ethics. Why don’t you call my assistant at—”
He sympathized with her resistance. From within the rolling greens of Overbrook Golf Club on the Main Line, and in old mansions built with even older money, life and reality seemed all too perfect. The Philadelphia murders had no place in those 120 acres and eighteen-hole course. Who wants to hear about violent death when life looks and smells that good?
“I tried both numbers. Got your voice mail at the university and your secretary in the office. She said you’ll be on your way to a series of conventions in Toronto and San Francisco after tomorrow. This couldn’t really wait for your return two or three weeks from now.”
Julie raised her eyes to the group of women still waiting at a distance, the golf cart parked by them. It was such a gorgeous morning, and she had longed for her Sunday golf. The early October breeze was just the right touch, and after her many trips, scheduled for the upcoming weeks, there would be no such days again for golf. The trees were already turning orange, yellow, and burgundy. One day you wake up, and it’s just too cold—winter is here. Julie would have to retire her brand-new set of clubs until next spring.
“What’s the patient’s name?”
From the back pocket in his pants, Mills produced a leather wallet, as overused as everything else in his attire. And from the wallet, a color photo cut in half. Whoever the other person was who had been in the picture, he or she had been carefully cut off. “Sorry for this. I’m not at liberty to disclose the second individual in the picture.”
Julie’s Sunday plans had suddenly changed. Nobody knew how close she had once been to losing that one.
The text above is an excerpt from my next novel Wheel of Life, to be released in April. It will be available in paperback and Kindle via Amazon.com.
Thank you for reading and commenting on my writing; fiction and blog alike. As an independent author, without the mass marketing tools of a large publishing house, the support of each reader is key. Every time a co-worker stops me down the hall to say a few words about a character she liked in The Traveler’s [K]Night or a movie he watched and enjoyed after reading the blog, it makes my day. My week! My month! Thank you for all the nice emails as well. It thrills me that a reader finds the time in his or her busy schedule to write a few lines or send me a Congratulations on your Novel! card.
We are now working on the interior design of Wheel of Life and next is my favorite piece in the process – the cover designing!
I will keep writing and I hope you keep reading. Most of all, I hope you come to enjoy Wheel of Life – A Novel. I will let everyone know when the book has been released.
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