Picture 6

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Tom's last therapy patient turned out to be the hardest case of the day and it took him a full forty-five minutes longer to type up his notes. After a typing frenzy, he piled everything onto his notebook and practically threw the whole mess into his metal file cabinet, but he took time enough to make sure it was locked properly. He was in such a rush to get home that he forgot to call his wife before he left.

He was in the driveway getting ready to turn when a fellow office building tenant held up her hand to halt him. He rolled down his window. "What's up?"

"There was a deadly accident on Academy. Better take Montgomery."

"Thanks." Tom rolled his window up. He turned the other way out of the driveway and took the back streets to Montgomery, but the traffic was terrible. "Everybody and his brother had to take Montgomery," Tom grumbled to himself. He reached for his cell phone in the glove compartment, but came up empty. "Dammit! The one time I leave it at home and I'm late!"

It normally would've been daylight for an hour and a half after he left his office, but night had just come due to a heavy rain storm that had been building all day. It was a cold rain whose suggestive misery seeped into Tom as he just missed the green light and would have to wait until the next cycle. He stared at the reflection of other cars' taillights and the traffic lights on the wet pavement and longed to be home eating dinner. Even more unusual, he longed for a cup of coffee at night and decided to make instant decaf.

* * *

When he got home, he saw that his wife's best friend's car was parked along the street. "Unusual," he said to himself. He hit the garage door opener and drove in. The door leading from the house to the garage flew open and his wife, Wendy, stopped dead in her tracks. She'd obviously been crying. Sarah, her best friend, followed behind her and also looked like she'd seen a ghost.

"Where have you been? Why didn't you call?" Wendy asked angrily.

"I was at work, honey. I didn't call because I forgot my cell phone." Tom looked around and grabbed it off the roof of the car next to his in the garage. He held it up to show her.

Sarah gave Wendy a quick one-armed hug and quietly excused herself without another word.

Wendy's quick flash of anger turned again into misery. She turned and went inside with Tom following closely.

"What's this all about, honey?"

Wendy pointed to the large TV screen in the living room. It was muted, but Tom could see a reporter mouthing words at the scene of the deadly accident that the lady at the office building told him about. The station replayed the scene when the news first broke and when it was still light out. The crushed car was a blue Toyota Corolla, the same color, make, and even year of the one now parked in his own garage. A quick mental calculation made Tom realize that he would've been driving through that same spot at about that same time if his last patient hadn't kept him, and he suddenly felt death dogging his heels. It was as if his doppelganger had the bad luck instead of him.

"Come here," he said quietly to Wendy, almost speechless. He sat in his oversized easy chair and gently guided Wendy so she was snuggled against him. All thoughts of dinner and coffee gone, he just held her.


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