The Reckoning Online - Jana DeLeon

Chapter One

Psychiatrist Alexandria Bastin clutched the cell phone at her cousin’s words. “Repeat that.” She couldn’t possibly have heard her correctly.

“The witch took her! She took my baby!” Sarah’s wailing pierced Alex’s ear, even through the phone.

“Calm down, Sarah,” Alex said and waved off a nurse who had paused during her rotation to see if Alex needed help. “Take a deep breath and tell me everything.” She hurried down the hall and into her office to escape the normal noises of the busy hospital. “How long has Erika been missing?”

“Since this afternoon. She went down the street to play with her friend.” The hysterical tone in Sarah’s voice continued to rise with each sentence. “She was supposed to be home at three, but she never came. I waited and waited and she never came.”

“What did the friend’s mother say?”

“That Erika left in time to get home. She’s gone, Alex, and no one will believe me. My baby! What happened to my baby?” Sarah began sobbing. “I called and called but you never answered.”

Alex grabbed her purse from her desk drawer and locked her office. “I’m on my way. Sarah, can you hear me?”

The sound of frantic sobbing was all Alex heard as she rushed into the elevator. As soon as the elevator door closed, the call dropped. Alex looked at her display and cursed when she saw the list of missed calls from her cousin. She’d been tied up all afternoon giving a videotaped statement for a commitment hearing and had turned off her phone, but now she wished she hadn’t.

Mentally, she willed the elevator to move faster and as soon as the door opened to the parking garage, she ran to her car, pressing in Sarah’s number as she ran. The busy signal had her cursing again.

She jumped into her car and tore out of the parking lot toward the highway. Even with a fast car and a lead foot, it would take her at least an hour to get to Sarah’s house. She pressed redial, and the busy signal sounded once again. Glancing in her rearview mirror, she merged onto the highway and immediately moved to the fast lane.

Out of options, she dialed 9-1-1.

“This is Dr. Alexandria Bastin. I’m a resident psychiatrist at Memorial Hospital in New Orleans. I have reason to believe that a patient is suffering from a serious mental episode and I cannot get her to answer the phone. I’m on my way, but I need someone to check on Sarah Rhonaldo at 152 Cypress Lane in Vodoun.”

She pressed her foot down harder on the accelerator and prayed that Sarah hadn’t done something foolish. Her cousin had separated from Erika’s father three months before, and it hadn’t been pleasant—especially not for Sarah’s husband, her best friend, or the bed she’d caught them having sex in, as it had met a tragic end, hatchet style.

Alex had managed, with the help of a great attorney, to get the charges reduced to destruction of private property, but Sarah’s Paul Bunyan routine hadn’t scored her any points with the local sheriff. Given that their families had been warring since the dawn of time, the bed-hatchet escapade cemented Sheriff Conroy’s belief that Sarah was worthless trash.

She could only hope Sarah hadn’t done anything to jeopardize her health…or her parole. Alex didn’t even want to think about what might have happened to Erika until she got face-to-face with Sarah and heard the entire story.

* * *

A TRUCK DISPLAYING THE sheriff’s logo on the side was in front of Sarah’s house when Alex pulled up just before seven p.m. This can’t be good. She pulled in behind the truck and parked. She’d been hoping for an ambulance, but there was no sign of a paramedic anywhere. Which meant whatever had happened to Sarah, her health was fine, but given that the sheriff was still there, her freedom might be in question.

She grabbed her purse and hurried into the house without bothering to knock. “Sarah,” she called, scanning the rooms as she rushed down the hall.

“Back here,” Sarah answered, her voice weak.

Alex ran the rest of the way down the hall and into the kitchen and ran straight into the last person in the world she expected or wanted to see.

His shoulders were wider, his upper body harder and leaner than she’d ever seen him. And she’d seen every inch. “Holt,” she said, trying to keep her voice steady. “I didn’t know you were back.”

Ten years ago, he’d run away to war—the one place