#4 in the series:
Part IChapter One
Brian Deveraux was mad. Hell, he was pissed. After he’d swept his arm across the side table and the lamp lay in pieces on the floor, he felt a little better, but not enough. He gave a brief thought about throwing his twenty-five inch television to the depths of Hell next to the lamp, but decided he may need it later. He rubbed both big hands over his hard face and swept them into his dark hair. Pacing around his tiny apartment, he grumbled curses to himself and God, pulling with all his might on those thick locks.
Only after he’d regained some of his composure, he sat down on his threadbare sofa and stared at the television. He locked eyes with the frozen image of the bastard who’d put his brother in jail. Thanks to that scrawny little prick, Brian Deveraux had no more family—and that pissed him off. After five minutes, the digital video recorder shut off and replayed the last bit of the program.
“What happened after you subdued the suspect?” a pretty little reporter lady asked the prick.
“I called the police and they put the bloody bastard in jail!” the scrawny little guy said. He had this pompous little British accent that made Brian even madder.
“What happened after the police dragged him off?” the reporter lady inquired, her full red lips frozen into a constant plastic smile.
“I went away. I left everything I loved behind because I was afraid he’d kill my family and me if he ever escaped.”
“Where did you go?”
“That’s for me to know, Love,” the prick said, giving the woman a stupid wink. The pretty reporter lady flushed and turned to the camera to address the public with the conclusion of the story. Brian smashed his hand down on the remote and the television muted. He stood and clenched his fists, digging his nails into his palms.
“Malcolm Holmes…you’re gonna die.” Chapter Two
“Describe your symptoms to me again, Ms. Delaney.”
Catherine pulled the flimsy gown tighter across her shoulders and took in a deep breath. She looked up at the doctor through earnest green eyes and let out her sigh in a long whoosh.
“It’s like, all of a sudden, my heart just skips a beat. That’s the only way I can describe it, really. I’ve taken my pulse twice, and in the span of twenty seconds, it’ll do it three times,” she answered.
“And has this happened before?” the doctor asked, coming closer and taking her face in his hands. His gentle fingers probed her glands. He smelled like medicine and aftershave and Catherine felt her heart take a sudden jolt at his close proximity. Ever since the incident with her ex-lover dragging her through a hospital garage with rape on his mind, she found it difficult to be around any man other than her own.
“Yes,” she answered at last. “I’ve had them ever since I can remember. But usually they just happen once and then go away. For the last three days, it’s been happening all the time.”
The doctor—whose name was Jones—stood back and pulled out his stethoscope. He plugged the buds into his ears and reached for the tie on the top of her gown. Catherine pulled back.
“It’s all right, Ms. Delaney; I just want to give your heart a listen,” he said.
Catherine cleared her throat and nodded. She let him open her gown just enough to see the valley between her breasts. He stuck the cold thing in the crevice and listened for a moment. As he moved the device to several other locations, asking her to breathe on occasion, she felt the flutter happen twice. Each time, Dr. Jones nodded.
“Any other symptoms—shortness of breath, fatigue, fainting…pain?” he asked.
“No pain at all. It’s more annoying. Although…every time it happens, I feel like I can’t get enough air,” Catherine explained.
Dr. Jones nodded again and straightened, taking the stethoscope from his ears. Catherine pulled her gown closed and waited for his answer.
“Well…since there’s no pain, I can say you’re in no immediate danger,” he said with a small grin.
“Great…” she answered flatly.
“How’s your work life? Any stress?” he asked. She knew she wouldn’t be able to get out of there without at least one question about her profession.
“Everything’s fine at work,” she said, not wanting to elaborate.
“I saw that spread you did in Individual Live last month. I don’t mean to be forward, but you looked fantastic,” he said.
“Business is going good…” Dr. Jones marked something on his clipboard. “What about family life?”
“There’s the gold you’re looking for,” Catherine joked. “Where do I start? My oldest daughter called me a week ago and told me she’s pregnant with my first grandchild…my eighteen-year-old son is on his honeymoon in Vegas, my youngest has been in an out of the hospital for the last few months because of an accident she was involved in, and I’m getting married in six months to my former husband who I hadn’t seen for five years. I hope I’m not forgetting anything…” she explained, counting out each occurrence on the fingers of her right hand.
“My, my…” Dr. Jones retorted. “So, I guess asking you to lay off the caffeine isn’t going to do a damn thing.”
“I need the caffeine…”
“Well,” he said, leaning back and inspecting her down the bridge of his bird-like nose. “What you have is called PVC.”
“Like the pipe?” she asked—knowing very well it wasn’t.
“No, no,” he replied, chuckling. “PVC stands for Premature Ventricular Contractions. Essentially, one of your ventricles in the upper part of your heart beats before it’s supposed to.”
“Oh…is it serious?”
“Not really. Unfortunately, there isn’t a pill I can give you to take care of it. I can have you go get an EKG, but your insurance probably won’t cover it,” he explained.
Catherine shrugged. “If I don’t need it…”
“You don’t. Knowing which ventricle is the culprit isn’t going to help us. It’s not like we can replace it. I’m just going to suggest that you take up Yoga or meditation, go easy on the caffeine, and take one day a week to go for a jog or the spa, okay?”
“And if you develop any additional symptoms such as fainting or pain, call me right away.”
“That easy, huh?” she asked, standing from the cold metal table.
“That easy,” he agreed. “Can you imagine what a doctor would have told you a hundred years ago? He probably would have said you’d only have a month to live.”