Unlawful Harvest

chapter-1

drop-cap-macKenzie reached for the ringing phone, trying to drag herself from sleep, but her hand encountered only the empty base of the phone, the wireless handset missing.

She pried her eyes open while feeling for it on the bedside table, knocking off keys and a glass and an empty bottle and other detritus. She swore and blinked and tried to focus. Where had she left the handset and who was calling her so early in the morning? The phone rang five times and went to her voicemail. Too late to answer it. She sank back down onto her pillow and closed her eyes. Whoever it was would have to wait.

But no sooner had it gone to voicemail than it started ringing again. MacKenzie groaned. “Are you serious? Come on!”

She turned her head and squinted at the clock next to her. It was hard to see the red LED display in the bright sunlight. It was almost eleven o’clock. Certainly not too early for a caller, even one who knew that she would sleep in after a party the night before. She rubbed her temples and scanned the room for the wireless handset.

There was a man in the bed next to her, but she ignored him for the time being. He wasn’t moving at the sound of the phone, so he’d probably had more to drink than she had. She slid her legs out of the bed and grabbed a silk kimono housecoat to wrap around herself. The caller was sent to voicemail a second time. MacKenzie took another look around the bedroom without spotting the phone, then went out to her living room, also bright with sunlight streaming in the big windows. Outside, the pretty Vermont scenery was covered with a fresh layer of snow, which reflected back the sunlight even more brilliantly. MacKenzie groaned and looked around. The newspaper was on the floor in a messy, well-read heap. The remains of some late-night snack were spread over the coffee table. Some of their clothing had been left there, scattered across the floor, but no phone.

It started ringing again. Now that she was out of the bedroom and away from the base, she could hear the ringing of the handset, and she kicked at the newspaper to uncover it. She bent down and scooped up the handset. She glanced at the caller ID before pressing the answer button and pressing it to her ear, but she knew very well who it was going to be.

No one else would be so annoying and call over and over again first thing in the morning. She couldn’t just leave a message and wait for MacKenzie to get back to her, she had to keep calling, forcing MacKenzie to get up and answer it. Her mother didn’t care how late MacKenzie might have been up the night before or how she might be feeling upon rising. It was a natural consequence of MacKenzie’s own choices. MacKenzie dropped into the white couch.

“Mother.”

“MacKenzie. Thank goodness I got you. Where have you been?”

Her mother had been calling for all of two minutes. Where had MacKenzie been? She could have been in the bathroom, having a shower, talking to someone else on the phone, or at some event. Granted, she didn’t go to a lot of events at eleven o’clock in the morning, but it could happen. Mrs. Lisa Cole Kirsch had a pretty good idea where MacKenzie had been. In bed, like most any other morning.

“What is it, Mother?”

“It’s Amanda. She’s sick.”

MacKenzie nodded to herself and scratched the back of her head. One of the things that would definitely set Lisa into a tizzy was Amanda being sick. She worried over every little cough or twinge that Amanda suffered. She had good reason, but it still made MacKenzie roll her eyes.

“What’s wrong with Amanda?”

“I don’t know. Maybe it’s just the flu, but I’m really worried, MacKenzie. The doctors said to just wait and see, but they don’t understand how frail Amanda is. They think that I’m just overreacting and being a hypochondriac. You know that I’m not just a hypochondriac.”

“I know. So, how is she?”

MacKenzie had to admit that even though her mother worried about Amanda, her worry was well-justified. Amanda’s health could get worse very quickly, and with the anti-rejection drugs suppressing her immune system, she was prone to picking up anything that went around.

“She’s not good. She was up all night, throwing up, high fever, she’s just not herself. I called an ambulance at eight o’clock. She just can’t keep anything down and I don’t like the way she’s acting. So… weak and listless.”

MacKenzie felt the first twinge of worry herself. Amanda had spent much of her life sick, but she was a fighter. She usually did her best to look like nothing was wrong, not letting on unless she was feeling really badly. She would laugh and brush it off as just a bug and smile and encourage MacKenzie to tell her about what was going on in her far-more-interesting life. MacKenzie closed her eyes, focusing on Lisa’s words.

“But the doctors don’t think that there’s anything to worry about?”

“No, but you know… they never do. She has to be at death’s door before they’ll admit that there might be a problem.”

“Have they given her anything or did they just send her back home again?”

“They’ve got her on an IV and have said that they’ll keep an eye on her. But you know they don’t really think there’s anything wrong. They’re just humoring me.”

“Yeah. Do you want me to come?”

“Would you? I’m really worried.”

“Okay. I’ll need a few minutes to get myself together. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

“Thank you, MacKenzie. I don’t know what I would do without you.”

The sad thing was, Lisa would do just fine without MacKenzie. Even though she said that she needed MacKenzie, MacKenzie wouldn’t really be able to do anything that Lisa couldn’t do herself. She’d been dealing with doctors for a lot of years, and though she didn’t pick up on the medical jargon as quickly as MacKenzie did, she could hold her own very well and was stubborn as a mule when it came to Amanda’s care. She would protect her baby at all costs, and Amanda would get the best of care whether MacKenzie were there or not.

But if Lisa wanted the extra comfort of having MacKenzie around, who was she to argue? She didn’t have anything else going on that prevented her attendance, and even if she did, it was easy enough to beg off of any event with an excuse, especially if the excuse were that Amanda was sick. MacKenzie had used it as an excuse even when it wasn’t true. Although technically, even when Amanda was feeling well, she was still sick, so it wasn’t really a lie.

MacKenzie hung up the phone and put it down on the brass and glass side table. She scrubbed her eyes with her fists, and when she opened them again, Liam was standing in the front of her.

“What’s up?” he asked. “Everything okay?”

He hadn’t yet recovered anything more than his boxers and, for a minute, MacKenzie just let her eyes rove over the piece of eye candy, remembering the night before through a slight haze of alcohol. They had gone to the Cancer Society fundraiser, had made the rounds there and let themselves be seen, and then had returned to MacKenzie’s apartment for more drinks, some real food, and private entertainment.

“MacKenzie? What’s up?”

“Amanda. She’s in the hospital and Mother wants me to go over there and reassure her.” MacKenzie yawned.

Liam bent over to pick up the various items of clothing he had dropped the night before. “Is she okay?”

“I’m sure both Amanda and Mother will be just fine. But she sounded pretty worried, and she said that Amanda was listless, which isn’t like her. A really bad flu, maybe. I hope that’s all it is.”

“I was going to have a shower before heading out. Do you want it?”

MacKenzie weighed the options. Amanda was in the hospital, so she would be getting the best of care. Did it really matter whether MacKenzie had to wait an extra ten minutes for Liam to shower before she got herself ready?

“Or,” Liam suggested, a dimple appearing in his cheek, “we could shower together and be done twice as fast.”

“I have a feeling I wouldn’t be out of here very quickly if we did that,” MacKenzie laughed. They could easily be another hour, and Lisa would be on the phone again, ringing insistently, demanding to know where MacKenzie was and why she wasn’t at her sister’s side yet.

“Okay,” Liam agreed. “So, do you want it?”

“Yes. I guess so. I need to pull myself together even if I am just going to the hospital.” Lisa would not want her to show up looking bedraggled. She’d expect MacKenzie to be well turned-out even if it were the middle of the night, which it wasn’t.

Liam nodded agreeably. He pulled on his white shirt from the night before, but didn’t put on the pants or the rest of his outfit. “Shall I make you some breakfast while you’re in there so that you can get out more quickly?”

“Would you? Just a couple of pieces of toast and some juice,” MacKenzie requested, heading toward the bathroom. She looked back over her shoulder at him. “And coffee.”

He smiled. “I think I know by now that you don’t start any morning without coffee.”

“Well, I need to fortify myself with something this morning before facing my mother.”

Unlawful Harvest is available as part of the Do No Harm collection of 17 medical thrillers! You can buy it now!

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Comments

  1. Love your writing Pamela!

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