Her mum’s cold eyes searched the room, and found Jamie hiding in a dark corner.
“Who do you think you are?” Megan hissed like a snake.
Jamie was afraid. Her mum could be distant sometimes but she was never like this. This was all wrong. Megan Caller stalked slowly around the table.
“You’re an ugly little child.” Her eyes were filled with the threat of violence. “Do you know how much I despise you? If you mess this up for me, I’m going to find you and cut you open…”
She moved towards Jamie who began sobbing, pressing herself deeper into the corner. They were face to face now. “There will be so much blood...” Her mother’s eyes flashed like the eyes of a cat. A terrible, horrible shriek came from Megan’s throat, and for a moment Jamie saw teeth like tiny silver knives.
Jamie screamed herself awake.
She blinked furiously and glanced about in terror. She saw Stokes leaning over her, his hands on her shoulders, trying desperately to calm her. She struggled against him for some reason.
“It’s okay, partner, you’re okay! You’re okay! Relax, Jamie, just relax…”
All the fight went out of her in an instant and she collapsed back on the bed. She was silent for almost a minute, trying to let go of the dream and get her breathing back to normal. She looked again at Stokes, who seemed nervous and relieved at the same time. His t-shirt was smeared with dried blood. She suddenly remembered the naked woman. She grimaced and glanced around the large room. She realised she was in a hospital. People lay in beds all around her, some of them hooked to bleeping machines. She realised that she wasn’t hooked to anything.
“You’re gonna be okay, Jamie,” Stokes told her, rubbing his face like he was exhausted. He looked at her again and smiled. “You must have a body like steel because you’ve got no broken bones, no internal bleeding; just a few big bruises. One on the side of your face, a really cool one on your ribs.”
“Oh, Stokes, man, what the hell happened? Is that naked woman alive…?”
A look of fear and uncertainty passed across her friend’s face.
“She’s dead, Jamie. I left her there in the water to get back up to the road. The guy in the car called an ambulance for both of you. By the time the paramedics got there she had no pulse. She just…bled to death in the middle of that canal.”
Jamie realised her head was throbbing slightly. “Her eyes. Oh, God…have you ever seen eyes like that?”
Stokes shook his head. “It was like something from a movie. I’m still trembling a little.”
Moments later a nurse and a doctor appeared, fussing over Jamie for a few minutes, telling her with great enthusiasm that she was going to be fine, that she was ‘strong’ and ‘a very lucky girl’. Eventually they told her she could leave when she wanted.
When they finally left Jamie’s bedside, Stokes frowned and said, “I didn’t call the university. I didn’t know if it would freak out your dad, but, I can make the call if you want. I’ve already spoken to the police. I didn’t tell them the woman knew who you were.”
Jamie remembered uneasily that the woman had actually called out to her by name.
“I’m scared,” she told her friend.
“I know. Me too. There’s still a policeman out in the hall. I need to go talk to him for a minute, ok?”
Stokes gripped her hand. “I’ll be back as soon as I can. Then we can get the hell out of here.”
Her friend crossed the large ward and Jamie was left alone on the bed, surrounded by sick people, bleeping machines and the smell of disinfectant.
Eventually they stepped out of the main entrance of St Francis Hospital into the cold air. Just over an hour had passed since the incident in the canal, but Jamie’s sense of time felt stretchy and distorted.
The skies overhead looked almost metallic and they knew it would start raining soon. Her friend buttoned up his jacket to hide the dried blood on his t-shirt, but there were still a few streaks of it visible on his jeans. Jamie had a bruise at her right temple that crept all the way down her cheek, and her body ached. Her ribs were still sore. But she’d been very lucky, she knew that. Stokes put his arms around her, careful not to hug her too tightly.
“I love you,” he murmured in her ear. “I don’t know what I’d do if you weren’t in my life anymore. That was way too close.”
She smiled against him but she knew that she’d been right about something. A bad thing was unfolding. This was just the beginning.
As if somehow reading her mind, Stokes added, “We need to talk, Jamie. There’s something I didn’t tell the police.” He pulled away and stared seriously at her. She was frightened by the intensity she saw in his eyes.