Read an Excerpt
Cyrus Winchester opened his eyes and blinked in confusion. He appeared to be in a hospital room. From down the hall came the sound of a television advertisement for an end-of-season fall sale.
He told himself he must be dreaming. The last thing he remembered was heading to Montana to spend the Fourth of July with the grandmother he hadn't seen in twenty-seven years.
Glancing toward the window, he saw a gap in the drapes. His heart began to pound. The leaves were gone off the trees and several inches of fresh snow covered the ground.
A nurse entered the room, but she didn't look in his direction as she went over to the window and opened the curtains. He closed his eyes again, blinded by the brightness.
As he tried to make sense of this, Cyrus could hear her moving around the room. She came over to the bed, tucking and straightening, humming to herself a tune he didn't recognize. She smelled of citrus, a light, sweet scent that reminded him of summer and driving to Montana with the windows down on his pickup, the radio blaring.
With a start, he realized that wasn't the last thing he remembered!
His hand shot out, grabbing the nurse's wrist. She screamed, drawing back in surprise, eyes widening in shock. What was wrong with her?
He opened his mouth, his lips working, but nothing came out.
"Don't try to talk," she said and pushed the call button with her free hand. "The doctor will be glad to see that you're back with us, cowboy."
Back with us?
Cyrus tried again to speak, desperate to tell her what he remembered, but the only sound that came out was a shh.
The nurse gently removed her wrist from his grasp to pour him a glass of water. "Here, drink a little of this."
Gratefully he took the cup from her and raised his head enough to take a sip. He couldn't believe how weak he felt or how confused he was. But one thought remained clear and that was what he urgently needed to tell someone.
He took another swallow of water, feeling as if he hadn't had a drink in months.
"Sheriff." The word came out in a hoarse whisper. "Get. The. Sheriff. I saw it. The nurse. Murdered. In the hospital nursery."
Cyrus tried to make sense of what his twin brother was telling him. "No, Cordell," he said when his brother finished. "I know what I saw last night."
His brother's earlier relief at seeing him awake had now turned to concern. "Cyrus, you've been in a coma for three months. You just woke up. You wouldn't have seen a murder unless it happened in the last twenty minutes."
"I'm telling you. I saw her. A nurse or a nurse's aide, I don't know, she was wearing a uniform and she was lying on the floor with a bloody scalpel next to her just inside the nursery door." He saw his brother frown. "What?"
"You're in a special rehabilitation center in Denver and have been for the last two months. There is no nursery here."
Cyrus lay back against the pillows, looking past his identical twin to the snow covering the landscape outside. "The hospital was a brick building. Old. The tiles on the floor were worn." Out of the corner of his eye, he caught his brother's surprised expression. "There is such a place, isn't there?"
"You just described the old hospital in Whitehorse, Montana, but you haven't been there for months," Cordell said.
"But I was there, right?"
"Yes, for only one night. They were in the process of moving you to the new hospital the night you were "
"You're eventually going to have to tell me what happened to me," Cyrus said.
"What's important is that you're conscious. The doctor said everything looks good and there is no reason you shouldn't have a full recovery. As for this other issue, we can sort it out later when"
"A nurse was murdered." Cyrus swallowed, his mouth and throat still dry from lack of use.
"I'm sorry, but it had to have been a dream. You say you got up out of bed that night"
"I buzzed for the nurse, but no one answered the call button, so I got up and walked out past the nurse's station," Cyrus said, seeing it as clearly as his brother standing before him. "The nurses' station was empty, but I remember looking at the clock. It was two minutes past midnight. I could hear someone down the hall talking in whispers in one of the rooms. I walked in that direction, but as I passed the nursery windows"
"Cyrus, this is the first time since your accident that you've been conscious," Cordell said gently. "That night in the old Whitehorse hospital, you were hooked up to monitors and IVs. There is no way you got up and walked anywhere. I'm sorry. I know it seemed real to you, whatever you think you saw, but it had to have just been a bad dream."
"Then how do you explain the fact that I can remember exactly how the old tiles felt on my bare feet or the way the place smelled, or that I can describe the hospital to you if I was never awake to see it?"
Cordell shook his head. "I don't know."
"Then you can't be certain that I didn't see exactly what I said I did."
"All I know is that if you had gotten out of bed that night in the old hospital, the alarms on the monitors would have gone off."
"Maybe they did. There were no nurses around to hear them. I'm telling you the place was a morgue and there was no one at the nurses' station."
"Even if that was true, monitors were recording your vital signs. If you disconnected anything and walked down the hall there would be a report of it."
"Maybe there is. Have you seen the records?"
His brother sighed. "You were moved to the new hospital the next morning. Don't you think someone would have noticed you were no longer connected to the IV or monitors?"
"Maybe the nurses covered it up because they were down the hall killing a woman."
"I know what I saw," he said with a shake of his head. What frustrated him even more than not getting anyone to believe him was that after all this time, any evidence of the crime would be gone.
"I'm glad you're the same old Cyrus, stubborn as ever," Cordell said with affection.
"Were there any other patients in the hospital the one night I spent there?" Cyrus asked as a thought occurred to him.
"One of the reasons the ambulance took you to the old hospital was because there was another patient who couldn't be moved, so the hospital was still staffed for the night."
Sure it was. "Another patient? Maybe that patient saw or heard something that would corroborate my story."
"That patient was in his eighties. He died that night."
Cyrus sighed and closed his eyes.
"Listen, the doctor said you shouldn't overdo."
"I want you to call the hospital up there and the sheriff," Cyrus said, opening his eyes. "I'm telling you I saw a murder." He gave his brother a detailed description of the female victim.
"Okay, I'll check into it if it will make you take it easy for a while."
Cyrus lay back against the pillows on the hospital bed, exhausted. How was that possible after sleeping for almost three months?
"Get some rest," Cordell said, clasping his hand. "I can't tell you how good it is to have you back."
"Yeah, same here." He was glad one of the first faces he'd seen after waking had been his twin's. But he couldn't help feeling helpless and frustrated.
He'd seen a murdered woman that night in the hospital and no one believed him. Not even his brother.
Cyrus woke to find his twin beside his bed. Through the open curtains he could see that it was dark outside. How long had he been asleep this time?
Cordell stirred and sat up, seeing that he'd awakened. "How are you feeling?"
"Okay." Had he expected Cyrus to wake up and recant his story about the murdered woman he'd seen? Surely his twin knew him better than that. "What did you find out?"
From Cordell's expression, he'd been hoping, at least.
"I called the hospital in Whitehorse and talked to the administrator. She assured me there was no murder at the old hospital the night you were a patient there."
"Someone moved the body."
"She also assured me that you never left your bed. There were two nurses on duty that night monitoring not only you, but also the elderly gentleman in a room down the hall. One nurse was just outside your room the whole time."
Cyrus knew that wasn't true, but Cordell didn't give him a chance to argue the point.
"I also called the Whitehorse sheriff's department and talked to our cousin McCall, who has since become the sheriff. There was no murder at the old hospital that night. Nor any missing nurse because both nurses who were on duty that night are accounted for. Nor was there a nurse's aide or orderly or anyone else working that night."
Then she must have just been dressed in a uniform for some reason, Cyrus thought.
"There was also no missing person report on any woman in the area."
She must not have been from Whitehorse.
He saw his brother's expression and knew that Cordell would have thought of all of this and asked the sheriff to run a check in a broader area with the description Cyrus had supplied. He and Cordell were private investigators and identical twins. They could finish each other's sentences. Of course Cordell would have thought of all these things.
"Sheriff McCall Winchester assured me that no unexplained vehicles were found near the old hospital nor has anyone in the area gone missing."
Was it possible everyone was right and that he'd only seen the murdered woman in a coma-induced nightmare?
Cyrus didn't believe that. But then again, he also couldn't believe he'd been in coma for three months.
Within a few weeks, Cyrus was feeling more like his old self. He'd been working out, getting his strength back and was now restless. He hadn't been able to shake the images from the dream. In fact, they seemed stronger than they had the morning he'd awakened in the rehabilitation center.
He still had no memory, though, of what had happened to him in Whitehorse in the hours before the accident that put him in the coma.
Cordell had filled him in, finally. Apparently, he'd driven to Whitehorse in his pickup and stopped that night at the Whitehorse Hotel, an old four-story antique on the edge of town. He'd gone there, he remembered, to see his grandmother Pepper Winchester after receiving a letter from her lawyer giving him the impression that she might be dying.
Even now he couldn't remember why he'd wanted to go see the reclusive grandmother who'd kicked her family off the ranch twenty-seven years ago, never to be heard from againuntil now.
In Whitehorse, he'd taken a room on the fourth floor of the hotel, intending to wait until his brother joined him the next morning before going out to the Winchester Ranch.
Apparently he had barely gotten into his room when he'd either heard something outside or happened to look out the window. What he'd seen, Cordell said, was a child molester breaking the only yard light in the hotel parking lot and slashing the rear tire of a VW bug parked there.
Cyrus must have watched as the man went back to the dark-colored van, the engine running, and realized the man was waiting for the owner of the VW to come out.
He'd run downstairs in time to keep the young woman who owned the VW bug from being run down by the van and killed. While saving her, he'd been hit and suffered a blow to his head that had left him in a coma all these months.
"That's some story," Cyrus said after his brother finished.
It was like hearing a story about someone he didn't know. None of it brought back a single memory. But it did fit in with his dream, since he'd spent a night in the old hospital.
During the weeks he'd spent getting stronger, he hadn't brought up the so-called murder dream with Cordell because it upset him. Cyrus suspected he worried about his twin's mental health. During his last checkup, even the doctor had questioned Cyrus about headaches, strange dreams and hallucinations. Clearly Cordell had talked to the doctor about his brother's inability to let this go.
"I didn't think coma patients dreamed," Cyrus had said to the doctor.
"Actually, they retain non-cognitive function and normal sleep patterns. It's their higher brain functions they lose, other than key functions such as breathing and circulation. You were in a deep-level coma caused by trauma to the brain. I'm sure that explains what you thought you saw."
After his doctor's appointment, Cyrus stopped by Winchester Investigations, unable to put it off any longer. With each passing day, he had more questions and more suspicions. He knew there was only one way to put his mind at ease.
"Hey," he said after tapping at his brother's open office door.
Cordell looked up and from his expression, he'd been expecting this.
"I have to go back to Whitehorse and check out a few things myself."
"I'll go with you."
"No, you need to stay here and do some work. We both can't be goofing off. When I come back"
"Yeah, I want to talk to you about that."
"Is there a problem?"
"No, it's just that, well, you've met Raine," Cordell said.
Cyrus smiled. He'd been pleased when his brother had introduced him to the woman he'd been seeing for the last three months. Raine Chandler, he'd been surprised to hear, was the woman he'd saved up in Montana.
"So I brought you two together." Cyrus had never believed in divine intervention. But as eerie as this was, he felt as if it had all happened for a reason. And that reason, he feared, was so he could be at the hospital that night and make sure justice was done.
But that surprise was nothing compared to realizing his brother had fallen head-over-heels in love with the woman. After Cordell's horrible marriage and divorce, no one had expected him ever to consider marriage againespecially his twin.