The apartment was silent as a tomb. The only sound came from somewhere else in the building. Crying. Even from a distance, the young girl's helpless sobbing triggered a pain so deep inside him Randall Parker leaned heavily against the wall, closed his eyes and gritted his teeth to control it. So many mistakes and memories, never far enough away. But would he want to forget?
His watch beeped to signal he had to leave for work in a few minutes or he'd be late. He pushed himself into the bedroom where his wife still slept. He sat beside her. Her form barely raised the covers. She'd become so slight these past few months. Though she snuggled nearer to him when he bent to kiss her and hold her, she didn't respond to his whisper that he loved her and would see her later.
Unsmiling, he grabbed his worn leather jacket from the hook next to the front door and shrugged into it while walking down to his ten-year-old Chevy.
Amy wasn't getting any better, he acknowledged on the thirty-minute drive across the city to the multi-million dollar corporation he worked as head of security for. His wife had quit her job a month ago--just before the new school year began. He couldn't imagine Amy not teaching a passel of fresh-faced, elementary age children. She adored them; she truly believed them capable of magical feats.
Henry and Grace loved her like a mother.
The unbidden reminder brought a sting of old tears to his eyes, but he pushed the agony away. She wouldn't get any better if he never did. All that mattered now was that Amy hadn't been right since his ex-wife and children died in that freak car accident six months earlier. Repeatedly, he'd asked himself who she blamed for that. Him? Or herself?
The question was only too valid. Since his divorce from Josephine--Joey--Amy had shouldered the weight of their actions like a cross she had to bear alone.
Sharing with Amy his devastation over the loss of his kids, Henry and Grace, hadn't been easy. For the most part, he kept his grief inside, where she couldn't see it. He'd probably never heal fully because of it, but he always managed to function no matter his circumstances. Excel is more like it, he heard Joey's bitter voice in his head and pushed that out ruthlessly, too.
Amy hadn't functioned, not since the divorce a year ago. But, since the accident, she rarely left the apartment, let alone their bed. Her depression had afflicted her physically as well. She'd lost more weight than she could afford to. His wife had become little more than a ghost of the woman he'd fallen for so irrevocably.
I'm losing her. Rand's fingers gripped the steering wheel in a stranglehold. When did I stop being able to meet all her needs? He still remembered poignantly a time when Amy hadn't seemed to need anything but him. For a morally pure person like Amy, that was really saying something.
He'd lost track of the number of times he went over the options of how to help her and ultimately discarded all of them. He had to do something to bring her out of the dark place she'd locked herself inside. What was the key? While he couldn't be sure it'd have any effect, he'd taken a week-long vacation from work--beginning tomorrow--as the starting point to getting her the help she needed.
Inside the locker room at work, he put on his uniform and gun holster. An hour into his shift, he was called down to the main desk to take a call. "Rand Parker," he said, his voice a monotone.
"Rand, Simon Wiley." The lawyer who'd handled Joey's end of the divorce, the custody battle and the execution of Rand's ex-wife's will spoke with casual friendliness.
"What can I do for you, Mr. Wiley?" Rand asked coolly.
"You'll recall I mentioned that as part of what you've inherited from Josephine's will, you'll receive a cabin she owned up north?"
Frowning, Rand turned toward the window in the small office. He still couldn't fathom why Joey hadn't changed her will after their divorce. He'd expected her to do it the second she was served with the papers. He'd gotten a call from Simon Wiley shortly after the funeral, basically saying he'd inherited everything since their children had perished with her and she'd wanted him to get everything when she first made the will after they married. Why hadn't she changed it?
Joey's own fortune, and the one she'd inherited upon her mother's death two years ago, had caused his personal worth to reach heights he never could have imagined even when he and Joey lived together as husband and wife. He'd suspected her worth was vast, of course, but he was a man who made his own way in the world. Even now, six months since he'd become filthy rich, he hadn't touched one red cent. For that reason, the mention of the cabin in the reading of the will hadn't done more than register in his consciousness.
Joey's relatives owned the cabin in the northern part of Wisconsin, in a place called Woodcutter's Grim. He knew that much, and he knew her relation used it for "romantic getaways" when Joey was little...before her father suffered that deadly accident with an axe in the woods behind the cabin.
He and Joey had never used the cabin after she inherited it. Their marriage had been in decline for so many years before the divorce, neither of them cared about getting counseling to repair the damage. A romantic getaway had been unimaginable.
"You can come by the law offices at any time to pick up the keys," Wiley offered in parting, and Rand hung up after a non-committal reply.
Wiley knew as well as he did that the mention of the cabin would bring back torment he didn't want to feel anymore. Joey had taken the children to the cabin last April for Easter vacation. The unfathomable car accident happened a quarter mile from Woodcutter's Grim. No one had been able to conclude what caused the car to flip and go over the bridge just outside the town's borders. The car had blown up on impact. In all the newspaper accounts of the tragedy, Woodcutter's Grim hadn't been mentioned. Rand only knew because Joey told him where she was going, and Wiley related the details afterward.
Once Rand went back to work, the cabin continued to intrude on his thoughts. Amy didn't know where the accident had taken place. She knew nothing about Joey's inherited cabin in Woodcutter's Grim. Certainly, she didn't need to know the details of either. If he could get her to go there with him, get her to leave this place where so much damage had been done, maybe he could save her. Maybe he could bring the woman he loved back from the brink.