By Marie Prato
The answers Jenny seeks only lead her to more danger ...
Lying in his hospital bed, Jenny's father warned that she was in danger .... now divorced, orphaned, Jenny is alone in Prague.
Her only ally is the computer nerd back in New York who feeds her information via the Internet, Jenny finds the Infant of Prague, a statue that gives her visions, perhaps even answers. But those answers lead her into more and more danger.
ISBN 1-59431-038-6 Romance/Suspense
Cover Art/Maggie Dix
Also available in RTF and HTML formats.
Wednesday, January 12, 2000
I had been in that twilight world between wakefulness and sleep when a piercing sound shattered the air. Groping in the dark, I managed to find the ringing phone on my nightstand.
"Jenny?" said a familiar voice. "Are you there?"
"Dad?" I asked, looking at the clock beside my bed. It was after midnight. Outside the wind howled and balls of ice pelted against the glass.
"You have to come here. Now."
"What's wrong?" I asked, swinging my pajama-clad legs over the side of the bed. Images of my elderly father calling from his cell phone as he lay crumbled on the bottom of the cellar stairs floated through my mind. "Are you all right?"
"I'm at the Veteran's Hospital," answered my dad, sounding extremely agitated. "I recognized someone but he didn't see me."
"You're in the hospital?" I asked, trying to make sense out of what he was saying. "Did you fall down and break something?
"The doctor thinks I have pneumonia," snapped my father as if I had asked a stupid question. "That's not important. You have to come here."
"How did you get to the hospital?" I asked, still half-asleep. "Have they done anything to help you breathe?"
"An ambulance took me," said my father, gasping for air. "He's here. You'll recognize him. But he mustn't see either one of us or we're both dead."
My father is delirious, I thought, trying to ease the fear that was creeping over me.
"Who would want to hurt you, Dad?" I asked.
"I know it's him," hissed my dad, gasping harder as he became more agitated. "I'm not mistaken. Believe me, Jenny, it's him."
I had always considered my father a rock. From a broken toy to a broken heart, my father was the one I had always counted on to solve my problems. But I had to accept the fact that seventy-four was getting on in years. Maybe being taken to the hospital in an ambulance had temporarily put my dad over the edge.
"Who's taking care of Susie?" I asked, trying to divert my father's attention. He had adopted the gray Llaso Apso from the dog pound a few years ago. In spite of the way my dad usually complained about Susie, I knew he had grown to love her.
"My neighbor," answered my father, filling his lungs between sentences. "If she wants to waste food and time on that fat, mangy mutt it's up to her."
My dad sounded just as crusty and ornery as usual. Could he be totally rational in most things yet be hallucinating about seeing someone that he recognized? Someone who could harm him?
"Have the doctors given you any medicine?" I asked, hoping that was the cause of my father's phobia.
"They gave me too much oxygen," answered my dad, sounding smug. "I told that dumb nurse it was too much but she wouldn't listen. The gauge was supposed to be on two but the nurse put the dial on four."
I sighed. Too much oxygen was probably as bad as too little. No wonder my dad is talking crazy.
"Are you alone in the room?" I asked.
"No," whispered my father. "Ralph is in the next bed."
"I'm glad you have company," I answered.
"Ralph has cancer in his bones," continued my father in the same hushed voice. "The hospital has been treating him for the wrong disease. Three men were here last night trying to get Ralph to take money."
What next? I thought, shaking my head. First my father rambles on about someone he recognized that might kill him and me; then he accuses the nurse of giving him too much oxygen; and now my dad tells me that three men were trying to get his roommate to take money to hush up the hospital's mistake.
"Calm down, Dad," I said, standing up. My mother had died when I was five. I didn't intend to lose my father. "I'll leave right now. In less than an hour I'll be standing beside your bed." Whether my dad was high on oxygen or not didn't matter. He thought he was in danger and it would make him feel better if I was there.
"They won't let you in," answered my father.
"I'll get in one way or the other," I said, mentally ticking off my options. If the guard gave me a problem about visiting in the middle of the night I would rattle off what my father said about being given too much oxygen while I handed the guard my bosses' card.
I worked for a lawyer who was relatively new to the legal world. He hadn't made a name for himself in any one field yet so he took in matrimonial, personal injury, medical malpractice, some criminal law and whatever other cases he could get to pay the bills and keep up his wife's lifestyle.
"No," my father whispered. "You can't come tonight. You have to come during the day when there are a lot of other people around so that you can blend in."
I sighed. My father calls me up at midnight to tell me to get to the hospital right away because he is in danger from a mysterious man and an incompetent nurse then, when I'm about to run over there in my pajamas, he says it can wait until tomorrow.
"I'll tell my job I won't be in tomorrow and come to see you first thing in the morning," I said. "You'll be your usual self by then and we can talk."
"The coffee is lousy here," said my father, laboring for breath. "Stop somewhere and bring Ralph and me large containers of coffee. We're in Room 212. And don't forget the milk and sugar. Ralph likes his coffee really sweet."
"Anything else you want me to bring, Dad?" I asked, happy that my father sounded like his old demanding self again. A very out of breath self, but definitely rational.
"No," answered my father. "But be careful, Jenny. The statue walked in Prague and the false king will kill both of us to get what is yours."
The phone went dead.