Close to the Bone
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Blake shot out of the chair, and Henry stood his ground, his muscles tensing. The men stood eye to eye for a long second while Henry fought the impulse to take him to the floor. He’d tackled addicts several times in the LA emergency room. “Back the fuck down,” Henry said quietly. “My sister died from this shit, and it’ll kill you too if you don’t do something about it.”
Blake turned to grab his coat and then headed for the door. “Asshole.”
“And tell your druggie friends not to seek here!” Henry shouted just before the man slammed the glass door behind him. Leaping down the outside steps, Blake nearly knocked over a woman. Henry threw open the door and raced out to steady her. She appeared to be in her seventies and had a long gray ponytail.
“What’d you do to scare off your patient?” she asked with a glimmer in her eye.
“Refused to give him opioids for his back pain.”
“Ah, yes. He was clearly in pain as he rocketed down the stairs.” She tilted her head as her blue eyes studied him. “Are you Dr. Powers?”
“I am.” Henry frowned. The woman was familiar, but he was pretty certain he’d remember someone with a ponytail nearly to her waist.
“Jane Sutton. Glad to have you on the island.” She held out her hand, and he shook it. “I’d like to get your opinion on my arthritis.”
He invited her in and sat her in an exam room. She stated she was in his records, and he reviewed her medical history on a laptop.
“So fancy,” she said, eyeing the small computer. “Old Doc Hardy never had anything like that.”
“It’s taken weeks for Julie and me to computerize everything. We’re still not done.”
“I imagine folks are a little resistant to some of your changes? Us islanders have strong opinions.”
Henry laughed for the first time that morning. “That’s putting it mildly.”
“There’re only five thousand people on the island, but we’ve got ten thousand opinions.” Her eyes crinkled in amusement. “I don’t want drugs for my hands. I was hoping you had some exercises or creams to recommend.”
He did. Henry guided her through a few hand movements to help increase the joints’ natural lubrication. Jane joked with him as she practiced, and he was at ease with her, but her visit felt a bit like a job interview. Her gaze was too sharp, and she asked a dozen questions about his past.
“Why Widow’s Island?” she asked as she stretched her thumbs across her palms.
“It felt right the first time I visited. Even during the ferry ride, I knew I was about to experience something special.”
Her nod was approving.
“But it appears I have some hazing to get through,” Henry added, raising a brow.
That triggered a scowl. “What sort of hazing?”
“Locals told me I had to check out the amazing live music on Thursdays at the Harbor View Inn’s bar.” Henry paused. “One man playing oboe doesn’t qualify as amazing in my book, and it was one of the most uncomfortable experiences I’ve ever had. The musician has no sense of personal space. I didn’t appreciate his oboe three feet from my nose.”
Henry tried not to show it, but the treatment from the locals was getting to him. How long does it take to be accepted?
He’d moved to the island to help people. They could give him a little slack.
Jane’s laugh was infectious, and Henry had to grin. “We all know to avoid the bar on Thursday nights when Herb plays his oboe. But we get a kick out of recommending it to the tourists.”
“He enjoys performing,” Henry said, remembering how the musician enthusiastically played at every table, trying to persuade the patrons to groove with him and his horn. “Now I don’t know what to believe from the islanders.”
“What else have you been told?”
“Is it true married men don’t live through old age on the island?” Henry felt a bit ridiculous asking the question.
Jane nodded. “I’m a three-time widow. Most of the women my age are widowed.”
“There has to be a medical explanation . . .”
She shrugged. “No one has found one. The name stuck to the island after Camilla Bishop became a notorious widow.” She leaned toward Henry, her eyes serious. “You’ve heard about Camilla and Elias Bishop, right?”
“That’s them.” Satisfaction filled her face.
“I’ve heard bits and pieces over the last few weeks.” Cate’s statement that she was a descendant of Elias and Ruby rang in his head. “Why does the island have so many unusual location names?”
“You mean names like Harlot Harbor and Breakneck Point?”
“And Cheater’s Bookstore and Widow Maker Brewing.”
“We embrace our history. It happened. No point in hiding it.”
“Clearly no one was hiding it when the adjacent three islands were named Ruby, Camilla, and Elias,” he said dryly. “How are your hands feeling?”
She stretched her fingers, and a surprised look crossed her face. “Those few exercises made a big difference.”
“Good.” He typed a notation in her chart.
“Any other island questions?” Jane asked.
“Not right now,” Henry said, pleased with her kindness. Maybe the tide is turning. “I guess time will tell if I’m meant to be here.”
An odd look entered Jane’s eyes. “The island will either accept you or tell you to leave. You’ll know which it is. Its roots will embrace you if you’re meant to stay.”
Henry didn’t know what to say.
Her face cleared, and she gave a confident nod. “I have a good feeling about you, Dr. Powers.”
At least one of us does.
Cate’s small SUV followed the winding road to the southwest point of Widow’s Island. Her destination was the cliff edge known as Widow’s Walk. She’d avoided the area since she’d returned. In fact she’d avoided Widow’s Walk for over fifteen years, but today something pulled her to the site.
She’d taken a brisk walk at her grandmother’s, frustrated at her inability to jog without jostling her shoulder. As she’d walked, she’d had a yearning to look out over Blind Bay and see Camilla’s Island in the distance. Knowing she had work to do, she’d gotten in her vehicle, promising to keep her visit to the cliff brief.
The road rose higher and higher, and she kept an eye on the outside temperature, hoping she wouldn’t encounter ice. To her left, she caught brief glimpses of the green forested hills of Camilla’s Island. The entire island was a wildlife refuge full of the tiny black-tailed deer. Many of the deer lived on Widow’s Island and swam between the two islands. She reached the top and noticed a few vehicles parked at the Widow’s Walk. One was a county SUV.
Cate scanned the scattering of people strolling along the fence. There. Tessa’s familiar profile and blonde hair.
Why is she here?
Tessa leaned against the rails of the wood fence, her focus on the beach far, far below. Cate was nearly to her side when Tessa finally looked up. Delight crossed her face. “Cate!”