Remnants of Fire by Alana Lorens
Looking for a fresh start, Sara Woods takes a job as a news reporter in a small town. Her first assignment for the Ralston Courier is to investigate of a string of deaths, all young women, all her age. To deal with chronic back pain, she seeks help at a local healing center. She soon becomes convinced that there is something strange about the Goldstone Clinic. Its doctors and nurses are all the picture of perfect beauty and health, while their patients at first seem to improve and then mysteriously deteriorate. Dr. Rick Paulsen, a physician at the local hospital, offers to teach Sara how to access her internal power, enhancing hidden skills and revealing secrets from her past. Police officer Brendon Zale also takes an interest in Sara, watching her every move and trying to get close to her. The deeper she digs into the Goldstone, the harder it is to deny links to the paranormal. Can she figure out what is going on and who to trust before it’s too late?
Alana Lorens has been a published writer for more than forty years, after working as a pizza maker, a floral designer, a journalist and a family law attorney. Currently a resident of Asheville, North Carolina, the aging hippie loves her time in the smoky blue mountains. She writes romance and suspense as Alana Lorens, and sci-fi, fantasy and paranormal mystery as Lyndi Alexander. One of her novellas, THAT GIRL’S THE ONE I LOVE, is set in the city of Asheville during the old Bele Chere festival. She lives with her daughter on the autism spectrum, who is the youngest of her seven children, and she is ruled by three crotchety old cats, and six kittens of various ages.
Amazon Author Page https://www.amazon.com/Alana-Lorens/e/B005GE0WBC/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1
Later that day, the severe weather system that had been predicted all week arrived with a vengeance.
Outbursts of thunder and lightning wreaked havoc even with the surge-protected computers, causing flickering power and lost stories. The editors went to the publisher’s well-appointed office in the rear of the second floor for their staff meeting. The rest of us took the disruptions of the storm—and the editors’ absence—as an excuse to turn off all the machines and gab.
The meteorological display was energizing for most of the staff, who stared out the windows at the roiling black clouds, debating the possibility of widespread power outages, tremendous auto accidents or even destructive tornadoes. For me, the storm was hell.
Ever since I was a child, I’d been terrified of storms. When lightning and thunder rattled the house, I normally hid in a room without windows, where I couldn’t see or hear the outside, preferably under a thick set of comforters.
But there was no place to hide here, and being new, I didn’t want to appear a coward in front of my peers. I compromised by sitting at my desk, which faced away from the windows, but in hearing
range of the speculators, where I could—and did—throw in the occasional comment. Dedra sat on her desk next to mine, reading over my shoulder as I leafed through notes downloaded from Internet sites on healing.
“Wait. Let me see that again,” she insisted as I passed a piece on Reiki. She skimmed it and nodded. “I saw a bunch of material on this at the clinic. It’s for real, too, because I remember a Reiki practitioner came to the P.E. class at Bowling Green once to demonstrate.”
I read from the notes, and had to agree that it was a perfectly legitimate technique, recognized in larger circles. I’d found many of the others that the Goldstone Clinic advertised were also widely accepted.
That left the possibility that I could blame my perception of the place wholly on the basis of art criticism. Not a very substantial way to form medical opinions.
Chris Brown, the Yale-educated reporter who constantly protested his independence from the culture of wealth his parents lived in, came to pull up a chair next to my desk. He was a well-built young man with conventional but undistinguished good looks. “So, tell me about the mysterious Doctor Francesca,” he said with an arch aspect.
“Why do you want to know?” I asked. A smirk struggled to escape, but I was determined to play this one straight as long as possible, to draw out the burn. I remembered how crass Brown had been the night before about poor dead Lily.
“Oh, come on. A woman in that white coat?” Chris stretched his long legs onto Dedra’s desk as he leaned back in the chair, his voice melting into fantasy. “Beautiful, educated, disciplined. What else could you ask for?”
“Disciplined?” Jim O’Neal snickered from his cluttered desk set kitty- corner from mine. “If you’re looking for a woman to give you discipline—”
“That’s not what I said.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. It sure sounded like you had some kind of a fixation going there.”
The waiter brought the souvlaki and more bread. After he left, I leaned forward and put my elbows on the table. “So what’s going on here? Why did you call me?”
Rick’s blue eyes dissected me. “Because there’s something unusual about you.”
Oh, please. That was as bad as ‘What’s your sign, baby?’ “Do I seem naive enough to fall for that line?”
“Not really.” He speared a chunk of lamb and dipped it in the creamy cucumber sauce. “That doesn’t make it any less true. And I think you really care about Lily Kimball, and what happened to her.”
“Then you believe something ‘happened.’” Remembering his outburst at the hospital, I added, “You think she was killed by someone. You even know who.” I watched his face for reaction.
“I suspect. I don’t know.” He took a long drink of water, as if he were trying to swallow something unpalatable.
“But you haven’t gone to the police.” He shook his head. “Why not?”
He started to answer and then Athena swept over, wanting to make sure everything was to her dear doctor’s satisfaction. She effused with grand passion about how wonderful Rick Paulsen was, as a medical professional and as a man, her praise transparently designed to convince me, as his dinner partner and potential life mate, of his worth. He squirmed as she continued, but seemed loath to interrupt her. Once we had assured her that everything was delightful, she withdrew at last, to
observe from behind the cash register.
When he didn’t answer my last question, I asked again. “Why haven’t you gone to the police?”
“You don’t understand. The police won’t be any help in this matter.”
“They’re investigating her death—”
“They’re not investigating her death! They’re just going through the motions until everyone forgets about her and they can toss her file in a cabinet, never to be seen again!” He slapped his fork onto the table, a flush of anger suffusing his face, all the way to the tips of his ears. “Just like the others.”
I asked Rick, “What makes you think this is the fault of someone at the clinic?”
“It’s a direct link. She was healthy enough before she went there, except for the migraines. Within a month after she started treating there, she’s on her deathbed.”
“Deathbed?” I bit my lip.
He studied me, still closed off. “She’s very sick. I don’t know if we’ll pull her through this. She might already be gone if…” His eyes narrowed.
“Ted told me you revived her in the ambulance, just by laying on hands.” “Well, I don’t know about that,” I said, embarrassed. “I held her hand, yeah. I wanted her to know she had a friend there.” I left out the part about wanting to share my own strength. Surely that wasn’t what had
“Let’s get back to the room, and I want to see if you can do it again,” he said. He stopped short before he opened the door. “And not another word about the clinic. There are eyes and ears everywhere.”
Do what again? “I didn’t do anything.” It didn’t matter. He wasn’t listening.
When we got back to Dedra, he looked at the machines, and his face clouded with anger. “Whatever you did in the ambulance, try again. Don’t argue. Don’t think. Just do it,” he ordered.
“If you say so.” I took Dedra’s hand. Nothing happened.
He observed a moment. “You’re not trying.”
“How do you know?” I glared at him, then he pointed to Dedra. I took a deep breath, then concentrated on Dedra, picturing the girl as she’d been during my first days at the newspaper, bubbly and vivacious. The longer I thought about her, I felt a wave of heat, something like the way I’d heard a hot flash described. It came up from my feet, moved through my midsection with a little sizzle and up into my arms, hands, fingers. The beeping of the machines quickened, and I could swear Dedra’s cheeks turned a little pink.
The sound brought my attention back to the room, and I realized I felt weak. My hands slid away from Dedra’s and my knees gave way.
Of all the corpses I’d seen in six years as a news reporter, Lily Kimball’s hit me the hardest. Found in a drainage ditch along Route 24, two inches deep in snow, she wore only a shabby pair of Banana Republic jeans and a red jersey shirt, a dried clot of blood on her forehead where she’d taken a header into a discarded bottle.
In the half-light before dawn, two CSI-types crouched in front of the body taking pictures and samples, thick parka vests protecting them against the thirty-degree early March chill. Each breath left their cold lips as a mist of water vapor.
“Damnedest thing I ever saw,” the lead investigator said to the waiting medic from the volunteer ambulance service, “Why the hell would some girl be out here in the middle of a snowstorm without shoes, without a coat?”
Good question as far as I was concerned. I was freezing my butt off, despite a hoodie under my jacket, black sweat pants and fur-lined boots. I couldn’t return to the office until I had some answers. So far, all I had was her name, thanks to the CSI techs. No evidence of blunt trauma, no gunshots, no bruising—it didn’t even look like the girl had been tossed out of a car. I angled my pad to catch the headlights of the cop car and scribbled some notes, numb fingers slipping on the pen.
“Your tech pulled a bank debit card from her pocket. Maybe she needed cigarettes or something.” I gestured toward the lights of the all-night market a mile or so further along where the road
intersected with Declan Highway.
The officer’s glare roasted his techs for sharing information, then he eyed me. “Who’re you again?”
“Sara Woods, for the Ralston Courier.” I tilted my laminated badge so he could read it.
He squinted at the black and white picture of a pixie-like brunette with a slightly crooked smile, then compared it to my pixie-like face, much more florid in the wintry wind. I tried for the smile, too, in case it helped. “New blood, huh?”
“Just started. I’m covering for O’Neal this weekend.”
The officer chuckled. “He’ll be pissed. He loves dead bodies.” The medic snickered along with him and they walked away, back to the running patrol car. The heated, running patrol car.
With a disappointed shiver, I observed the techs. They hadn’t disturbed the body much, other than to rule out major trauma. Lily’s skin was icy white, her black hair patchy, so thin it lay atop the snow. Bony stick fingers and toes were dark red, almost violet, from frostbite at the bare tips. It seemed like she’d just fallen over into the ditch. Just let go, dead.
Satisfied with their photos, the techs turned over the stiff body. The girl’s pale, sightless eyes stared into the gray miasma of the late winter sky. Nausea crept from my stomach toward my throat. She had to be about my age, twenty-something; about my size too, although those fingers were wickedly thin. What would have compelled me to leave home in a blizzard, half-dressed, ending in a frozen ditch with my life sucked out? I didn’t know what could cause such desperation.
But the goosebumps that rippled across my skin told me it was still out there, lurking.