Eye of the Storm - By Hannah Alexander


A silver blade sliced through the curtained exam room, its target the helpless patient of Dr. Megan Bradley. The hand that held the blade was crusted with grime, fingernails whitening as it squeezed the handle with the force of fury. Megan clutched the cold steel of a revolver in her hand, aimed it at the faceless attacker’s chest and pulled the trigger.

No burst came from the chamber. No sound touched her at all. She tried to scream. Silence. The blade reflected Megan’s contorted features as it plunged downward again. The pressure of her scream threatened to explode from her chest. She fought her way out of the silent nightmare of a Corpus Christi rescue mission clinic and into her soft bed in the darkness of her tiny cabin in the Missouri woods.

“No!” She battled the blankets and sat up, still seeing the sweet, dark-haired young homeless woman with the huge belly. “Oh, Joni, no.”

Megan squeezed her eyes shut at the hideous memory that repeated itself far too often at night…the killer ripping his way through the curtained cubicle…the blood…the screams mingling with the recoil of Megan’s weapon as the loud report deafened her. She watched the grimy killer hit the floor, splattering blood and ripping a section of the curtain from the ceiling. And then she slid through the blood to Joni’s side to find the young woman’s eyes staring into nothing.

Gerard Vance rushed into the ruined cubicle, his head brushing the rails that held the curtain, his shoulders framing him as he entered. At the sight of Joni, his face filled with grim pain. He dropped to his knees at Megan’s side without a glance at the dead man tangled in the fallen curtain. “I’ve got your back, Megan. Don’t look at him. Let’s get the baby out.”

With his aid, Megan held her tears and controlled her hands, performing a postmortem C-section, sickened by the desecration of her sweet young patient’s body. The cry of little Daria, Joni’s orphan, soon filled the clinic, the sound of life echoing past her young mother’s death.

Megan forced away the malignant memory, forced herself to breathe slowly, forced her eyes to open. She brushed the hair from her face and focused on her surroundings, anything but the reason she’d fled Corpus Christi. A slight breeze outside moved a tree branch across the window beside her bed—a lifeline to reality. A trickle of moisture drew her fingers to her neck; she touched the droplets of perspiration.

She blinked slowly and in that brief moment she was attacked once more by the memory of her own contorted features in the killer’s knife blade, like a misshapen mirror. The dregs of the nightmare mingled with reality.

She flung the blanket from her legs and leapt from the bed. “Wake up,” she muttered into the chilly one-room cabin. “Stop this. You’re doing it to yourself, Megan.”

Talking to herself, yes, but even the sound of her own voice helped break the spell. Inhaling deeply and then exhausting her lungs of air, as if she could cleanse her system of the weight of knowledge with the carbon dioxide, she kept her attention on the movement of that one branch outside the nearest window. Though gray in the night, she knew she would see the green color of life when the sun rose. Focus on the hope of dawn.

“It isn’t happening,” she whispered into the cool air. “Not now. It’s over.” The nightmare receded with great reluctance, but left behind emptiness. How long would she live with these terrors?

Distracted at last by the gray-and-black silk of nighttime in the forest, Megan sank back onto the bed. The softness of the mattress reproached her despite the good intentions of Kirstie and Lynley Marshal, the dear friends who had furnished this hideaway for her two weeks ago. Her patient, Joni Park, was relegated to the grave, separated from her baby forever. What had the surviving doctor done to deserve such luxury?

“I failed,” Megan whispered to the room. All those months she’d carried a weapon to protect the helpless, but when a knife ripped through that curtained enclosure, she’d been unable to do a thing. There’d simply been no warning.

The peeping of tree frogs drifted in through the mass of windows in the cottage’s front wall. Megan willed the sound to wash over her and clear away the hovering menace. These were safe Missouri sounds, not the setting of her recurrent dreams. It was a rent-free cottage just past the outskirts of the village of Jolly