The hour-long drive home took nearly two. The roads loomed slick with black ice. A gloomy mist clung to the ground, swirled around Allison’s headlights and enveloped the silver Volvo in gray. Allison felt numb. She tried to push away the image of her mother huddled under the blanket. What if they hadn’t found her? And her father—the family despot now turned into a child: helpless, whiny, and demanding. If the dementia progressed, soon he would need care, too. Faye was struggling as it was. Two infirm parents would break her.
A few miles from her home, Allison checked her voicemail. A few referrals, an insurance salesman, her client Midge Majors, her literary agent. And Congressman McBride.
Allison pulled into her driveway. The Colonial, with its stone façade, three dormers, and landscaped lot, was a welcome sight. Unlike the cramped and gloomy interior of her parents’ house, here she had room to breathe. She pushed away thoughts of Arnie Feldman’s murderer and poked at the buttons on her cell, trying to recall the number the congressman had provided when they met about his troubled daughter. Any time, Ms. Campbell. One ring, two, five...she thought maybe she’d luck out and get voice mail when Hank McBride answered.
“Finally,” he said. “Sunny and I have arranged for you to visit tomorrow.”
“I don’t know what my schedule—”
“I spoke to your assistant, Vaughn. He said you’re free at ten o’clock. Sharp.”
“Fine.” Firmly, she said, “I don’t need to remind you that I don’t work with teenagers, Congressman. I am only agreeing to meet with her.”
“Maggie needs help. Once you meet her, I’m sure your heart will see to it that you say yes. Your heart...and your purse.”
Allison swallowed. A face flashed before her, pale and pretty and haunted. Violet. It was a night for painful memories, it seemed. Allison shoved the image away. She thought of her mother—ill, lost, in need of more care than she was getting now.
“You understand that First Impressions is an image-consulting firm?”
“Yes. And I also understand that you have a background in psychology. A PhD.”
“I’m not a practicing psychologist, Congressman. With all due respect, if you need a therapist, you should look elsewhere—”
“I told you earlier, I don’t. Please. Just meet her tomorrow.”
Allison felt a strange urgency to get him off the phone and out of her life. If she’d been more superstitious, she would have called it a premonition. Instead, she chalked it up to her mother’s ordeal and the unrelenting exhaustion that had a hold on her body.
Allison gripped the container of pierogies Faye had handed her. Her knuckles glowed white from the pressure.
“Okay,” Allison said finally. “Tomorrow at ten.”
“Thank you. You have no idea what this means to us.”
She said good-bye, clicked off the phone, and stormed inside. Determined to put the day out of her mind, Allison tossed her pumps and purse down in the foyer, then pulled off her hose and threw them on the steps to bring upstairs later. She walked through the short hallway that led from the foyer to the kitchen and unbuttoned her pencil skirt. She used the kitchen doorframe to support her weight and pulled the skirt down over her hips, then slipped her Donna Karan blouse off her shoulders and let it fall down to the floor in a crumpled heap.
In the kitchen, she pried open the food container, grabbed a fork out of the dishwasher, and ate cold pierogies over the sink. With each mouthful, that looming sense of foreboding slipped further into the distance.
Wendy Tyson wrote her first story at age eight and it’s been love ever since. When not writing, Wendy enjoys reading other people’s novels, traveling, hiking, and playing hooky at the beach–and if she can combine all four, even better. Originally from the Philadelphia area, Wendy has returned to her roots and lives there again with her husband, three kids and two muses, dogs Molly and Driggs. She and her husband are passionate organic gardeners and have turned their small urban lot into a micro farm. Killer Image is Wendy’s first novel in the Allison Campbell mystery series.
Wendy has also authored The Seduction of Miriam Cross, a mystery that will be released by E-Lit Books on November 1, 2013.
Find Wendy at:
www.WATyson.com and on twitter (www.twitter.com/wendytyson) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/wendytysonauthor).