TITLE: Side Effects
All ex-army anesthetist, Rae MacKenzie, wants is peace from secondary PTSD and takes a low stress job in a small Texas hospital only to be plunged into the middle of the murder of her best friend, a series of menacing calls and messages, and an encounter with a former lover, D. A. Josh Hunter, who has trust issues. Can they let down their guard and uncover the truth before Rae becomes the next victim?
The first time Rae Mackenzie saw blood seeping up through fat, she felt sick to her stomach. She got accustomed to seeing blood but she avoided watching surgeons make the initial incisions in the skin. Instead, she used her skills with anesthetics to keep patients unconscious or numb. After the past year in Afghanistan, she longed for peace and she’d found a measure of it in Donkey Shoe Springs.
She punched in Patrick’s number before heading to his place. Three calls had gone unanswered. Odd. A cell phone was always glued to his belt. ESP was a funny thing.—that sense of fear and trouble raising its ugly head—speeding her pulse, quickening her breath. She knocked on his front door. Receiving no answer, she walked around the porch.
The French door to the den was covered in flies, their somnolent buzzing filling the air. Rae nudged the cracked door,and it opened easily on silent hinges. The heavy rank air hit full force and she struggled against the desire to run and never look back.
She forced herself to step into the darkened room,clamping a hand over her face to stifle the overpowering odor. It didn’t help. Flies swarmed and she slapped them away from her face. When her eyes adjusted to the dimmer light, the acidic taste of vomit rose in her throat at what she saw. “Oh, my God, Patrick.”
Light from the open door illuminated the scene. Dried brain matter and blood spattered on the wall. Rivulets of fluid snaked across the floor and puddled. Maggots squirmed in and out of his half gone face,his protruding tongue and sunken eyes.Staggering outside, she sat down on the steps, leaned over and threw up in the flower bed. The constant sound of the humming flies and the whining of Patrick’s dog magnified. The roaring began in her ears. Control. She needed to get some control. Breathe in two, three, four; hold two, three, four; out, two, three, four…
“Suck it up. Don’t panic. Do the job,” she repeated the mantra as she ran shaky fingers through her hair. With trembling fingers Rae punched in 9-1-1