“Where am I?”
It seemed so trite, a cliché of a question, but what else could she ask? Shelly reached up and felt bandages on her face. She swore to fight the tears as she wondered if her face was still there. After that gasoline explosion, and all that fire and smoke, she had good reason to worry.
“You’re at University hospital,” a voice nearby replied. “You’ve been in an accident.” He decided not to add, “And lucky to be alive.”
Shelly moved her head slightly so she could see who was speaking. It was a bearded man with round wire-framed glasses and crystal gray eyes. “You’re Dr. Lasker,” Shelly said, recognizing the doctor who was staring at her. Why did he look so worried?
Lasker moved so she could see without changing her position. “Are you okay? Is there anything I can do for you?”
Shelly felt the tears again. “Mom? Does she know?” She searched the room. If her mother found out about all this she would be up here like a shot and try to drag her out of school. “I told you to commute,” she would say. And then she would add, “You can’t trust any man.” She sighed. “Tell me you didn’t call her.”
“I was waiting for you. The doctors say you will be fine in a day or two.”
“Don’t tell her,” Shelly said. “She’ll want to take me home.”
“Maybe that would be best for a while,” Dr. Lasker said, surprising himself. “You’ve had some very close calls.” He found it hard to believe he was saying this, knowing what it might cost him, but he had been shook up when he saw what was left of his van. “Maybe you should take a semester off? I will hold open your position until you come back.” If there is any department left after I report this van accident, he thought. Why did I let this accident-waiting-to- happen drive our van?
“I’m not leaving. Not on your life,” Shelly growled. “I’ve had it with whoever is trying to get rid of me. This makes me more determined than ever.”
“Determination is close to stubbornness. Please consider taking a short break? I want you…that didn’t come out right…I need your help very much so, but not at the risk of your life.” Or of my department.
“And I need you to help me get rid of that ghost and get back to normal as fast as possible.” She sank back into the pillow. Suddenly she felt the tears again. “My face? What will it be like?” She braced herself for bad news. She tried to tell herself she could be strong, but a face is something you get used to seeing in the mirror every minute of the day. A face is what makes each person special…my face is me, she thought.
“There is nothing wrong with your face I am told. The bandages are there to protect you until Dr. Medford, a friend and an excellent surgeon, gives you the all clear.
“No plastic surgery?” She felt the tears flow, unable to stop them.
“Yes, you are still the same ugly, stubborn, little girl as always,” he said, letting himself smile for the first time. “Now, if you are strong enough, I would like you to tell me how you came to destroy my truck.”
I knew his ‘niceness’ wouldn’t last, Shelly thought as the idea that she was going to be alright began to sink in. And then she had another thought, a question which only she could answer: Where was Allen? Could a ghost be destroyed in a car accident? Had he been killed in the explosion? Wasn’t he dead already? What do you call it when you ‘terminate’ a ghost?
“So I am waiting, Shelly. Why did you crash my truck? I would never have lent it to you if I’d known you were unable to drive it.” Dr. Lasker sighed. “I mean I am very grateful you are going to be okay, but I wondered if something happened before you crashed and drove it over the side of the road. Can you remember?”
“I’m a good driver… but something did happen.” She tried to remember, which made her head hurt. She remembered Allen had screamed. When she turned her head she had seen….”
“What is wrong? What do you see? Is your ghost here? Hello Allen? I wish I could see him.” Dr. Lasker was out of his seat searching the room in the hope he might finally see this mysterious creature known as Allen.
Shelly wished she could see him too…hear him too. “No. I don’t think he’s here. I haven’t heard him since the accident. Maybe he’s gone? Maybe he’s had enough of all these crazy things and gone back to where he came from?” Shelly wasn’t sure she was happy with that even though she had wanted that from the first day she’d encountered this ghost. I’m just in shock from the wreck, she told herself, but knew there was more to her feeling of loss than the accident could explain.
Dr. Lasker sighed. If the ghost had really left, the girl would be useless even if she was stubborn enough to stay. Even though he liked Shelly, definitely felt some sympathy for her current condition, the truth was that without her ghostly friend she was a luxury the department, he, could not afford. “Shelly, when was the last time you heard Allen?”
Shelly closed her eyes. The sound of Allen’s screaming brought back too many frightening images. She saw the fire and smoke…could almost smell it, and she heard the explosion. Allen had screamed just before the crash. He was warning her about something, but what was it? Suddenly she remembered. “He was screaming at me that something was in the road.”
“Something? Like a dog or cat,” Dr. Lasker asked, thinking how foolish and wasteful it was to lose a van over a stray animal.
Shelly opened her eyes. “No… It was a man…I saw him. He wasn’t moving. I couldn’t see his face, but he looked tall…and I think he had long, dark hair….”
Dr. Lasker’s body tensed. He was grateful she could not see the look on his face. Damn that Dodd, he cursed. “Are you sure it was a man and not some animal,” he asked, trying to sound more relaxed than he felt. What the hell is he up to now? It had to be him.
“No. It was definitely a man.” She closed her eyes and the face reappeared. The lips were tight. She stared at the lips and the intense blue eyes and gasped, “I think it was Dodd.” But why, she wondered. Why would he want her dead? Her mind was conjuring up his face again, but this time his lips were soft…she had wanted to kiss him…but his eyes had never softened…always steely and hard to read. I would have made love to you, she heard her brain
saying, unable to understand why suddenly she felt afraid of him. She opened her eyes and saw Lasker was studying her. What does he know?
Dr. Lasker frowned. “I’ve told you before dear Shelly, I’ve never heard of anyone with such a name. It must be your imagination…perhaps some residual shock? Now get some rest and I’ll come back later today. Would you like me to bring you anything?”
He looks so caring, so concerned, Shelly mused for a second and then remembered who she was dealing with. She closed her eyes and thought, yes, bring me the damn truth.