“No,” Katie said. “He’d find the idea of bringing her peace and happiness irresistible.”
For a moment, neither of them spoke as Katie watched her sleeping child. “She has reason to—look haunted, I mean. Doesn’t she?”
She looked up when he didn’t immediately answer, stilling when she saw his face. It no longer was shrouded.
“Yes,” Seth said. “Joy lives with many ghosts. Many fears. She fights them fiercely, guards herself against them.”
“Does that have anything to do with why she left this morning?”
Seth exhaled slowly. “Yes. Unlike your brother, she doesn’t believe the haunting will ever end.”
* * *
Joy’s oncologist was concerned enough about her reported symptoms that he examined her immediately upon her return to Chicago. As he finished giving her the results of some diagnostics, he told her he planned to admit her to the hospital first thing the following morning. He had scheduled a mediastinoscopy with biopsy.
Fear settled in Joy’s gut like cold lead when she’d heard a mediastinoscopy was warranted instead of a mere needle biopsy of a lymph node. They could do a lymph node biopsy outpatient with a local anesthetic, while the mediastinoscopy required general anesthesia. An instrument called a mediastinoscope would be inserted into a cut in her neck so that tissue samples could be taken from lymph nodes in her chest region. It wasn’t so much the procedure that bothered her. Ever since her first round of treatments, she had gained an illogical paranoia about general anesthesia, a nameless fear that she’d never wake up.
Dr. Chen noticed her discomfort.
“I’m just playing things safe, Joy,” he said comfortingly as he put away her X-rays. “The procedure will take a half hour, tops. Your family member can pick you up on Tuesday morning, if all goes well.”
A childish loneliness surged through her at the thought of taking a taxicab to her empty apartment.
“Can’t we do the procedure outpatient?”
“No. The incision we’ll make is small, but I’d still prefer a night of observation afterward, just to make sure.”
Joy sighed. “I hate staying in the hospital.”
He put his hand on her shoulder. She looked into his kind, round face. “Most cancer survivors do. If I didn’t think it was for the best, I wouldn’t push the issue. You’ll be groggy after the procedure. Tuesday morning will be here before you have a chance to grow a worthy aversion to the hospital food.”
Joy attempted a smile. “When will I get the results from the biopsy?”
“I’ll insist on a rush job. I know how hard it is to wait for these things. I’ll try to get you results before I discharge you on Tuesday.”
* * *
That afternoon after she’d packed a bag for the hospital, she called Seth. He listened patiently while she explained about the biopsy, downplaying the fact that it would be an inpatient surgery versus an outpatient procedure.
“Dr. Chen agreed with the doctor at Prairie Lakes. He doesn’t think it’s a return of cancer. He thinks it’s a regular old everyday infection. I wish I could get the flu like a regular person,” she added ruefully to lighten the moment.
“When will you have the biopsy?”
“Early Tuesday,” she lied smoothly. “It only takes ten minutes. I’ll be home later that morning.”
“I’ll come to the hospital to get you,” Seth said.
“No,” Joy said abruptly. If he arrived at the hospital, he’d know she’d lied about the outpatient procedure. “You’re due back in L.A. Tuesday morning. You’re supposed to be meeting with your staff about Razor Pass.”
“It’ll wait,” Seth said bluntly.
“I won’t have you ruining any of your plans to pick me up for a stupid little outpatient procedure. I’ll call you as soon as I get home, if you like. Where . . . where are you right now?” she asked, curious, but also wanting to change the subject.
“I’m standing on Katie and Rill’s front porch.”
“Did you . . . did you already pick up Amanda from the airport?”
“Yeah. I got back early this afternoon.”