Death has been visiting Kate all of her life, leading her to imagine she has nine lives, like a cat.
With nothing to live for, no family, just a brother she hates, she waits for death to take her away when her lives run out.
Death continues to speak to her, teasing her, yet will not come for her. When people around her begin to die at the hands of a serial killer, she hopes to be next.
Has she finally run out of lives? Will she find a reason to live before it is too late?
The next morning, Kate tried to telephone the hospital, and because she was not related to Janet, all they would say was she was as comfortable as could be expected; which could mean just about anything.
She grabbed her coat and headed for the High Street. If she was lucky, she could grab a taxi to save herself a long walk.
Half an hour later, she was trying to find out what happened to Janet Goldman in the emergency department of the local hospital.
Eventually, she managed to discover where she was and approached the hospital bed with a great deal of trepidation.
The old woman was propped up on a pile of pillows, and her eyes were closed. The sides of the bed were raised and Kate assumed it was to stop Janet from falling out. Did that mean she was unconscious?
Unsure of hospital protocol, Kate went looking for whoever was in charge. It should be someone in a dark blue uniform if her memory served her right.
She found just such a person, a diminutive woman who didn’t look strong enough to blow her own nose, let alone reason with the old man in pyjamas who was desperately trying to pour the contents of his water jug all over his bed.
Kate waited until the Ward Sister had the situation under control and piled in with her questions.
The woman might not look strong, but the scrutiny Kate was subjected to would definitely sort out the men from the boys. When she had ascertained Kate was indeed harmless she proceeded to answer the only question she thought mattered. ‘Mrs Goldman is barely stable and unconscious. A bump on the head is quite serious in one of her years.’
Not to be put off, Kate asked one of her questions again. ‘Will she be all right?’ Knowing as she asked, it was probably in God’s hands.
The ward sister smiled, and Kate had the distinct impression she had just passed a test of some kind.
‘All we can do is hope for the best, dear, does she have any family?’
‘No, I’m afraid not. It’s just me. Can I give you my telephone number, in case she needs anything when she wakes up?’
The Ward sister nodded and her lack of words said more than Kate could bear at that moment. Was she about to lose another friend, so soon after Dylan?
Sam arrived promptly at 1 o’clock, looking rather smart in a French navy trouser suit, her dark hair immaculate as always. Kate was putting the final touches to the lunch, so Sam went to inspect the canvases in the studio. She was so long in there Kate was getting worried. What if she didn’t like them?
Hearing a noise, Kate turned around to find Sam watching her as she assembled the food on the plates. Sam’s face gave no clue as to her reaction to the art and Kate felt awkward about asking.
Sam took one look at her face and laughed. ‘Oh Kate, you don’t have to look so worried. I love them all, they are absolutely brilliant. There is just one problem though.’
Kate stomach clenched and she suddenly had trouble breathing. She must have gone pale, for Sam rushed to her side and put her arm around her shoulders. ‘No, it’s nothing bad, you silly. It’s just that I’m going to need a lot more than I initially thought. The new gallery is huge.’
Relief flooded through Kate, then doubled back on itself. ‘How much more, Sam?’
‘As many as you can get done in three weeks. We open at the end of September. Is that a problem, Kate?’
Kate carried the plates to the table and offered Sam the corkscrew to open the wine.
‘Not a problem as such; and I’ll do the best I can of course. It’s just I am thinking of moving, that’s all.’
Sam stared at her. ‘Where did that idea come from? I thought you were happy here?’
Kate took a deep breath, knowing what would happen next. ‘Michael turned up here last night,’ she said, waiting for the fireworks. She looked up at Sam and was dismayed to see her good friend was clearly upset.
‘It’s all right, I got rid of him. No harm was done.’
Sam put down her fork and blew her nose on a tissue. Then she took a small sip of wine. Finally, she looked at Kate. ‘What’s going on, Kate?’
What was the matter with her, Michael wasn’t that much of a problem; was he?’
‘I ran into him in town, he’s been seconded to the local estate agents. I never expected him to turn up here. Turns out he knows his way around the electoral roll and thought he would come and visit. I chucked him out, of course.’
‘Don’t look so surprised, I am well over him these days. What with everything else that has been going on, I need him turning up like a hole in my head.’
Sam’s face quickly changed from upset to worry. ‘What else has been going on, Kate?’
Suddenly, Kate didn’t want to be reminded about Dylan, not in the middle of lunch. ‘Should we eat first?’
‘That good, is it?’
Kate shrugged, and they ate the rest of the meal in silence.
Sam pushed her plate away from her and concern was written all over her face. ‘It’s no good, Kate. You have to tell me what’s been going on.’
Kate secretly agreed but was having trouble putting it into words. It would be as if her hands were covered in Dylan’s blood all over again. Sam was insisting, so she would have to grit her teeth and get it over with.
Once she started, it became easier and before she knew it, she had told Sam all about the crying child, the dumped car, Janet’s accident, the death of Dylan and the meeting with Michael. How he seemed to know practically everything about her, despite not having seen her for years.
Sam listened in silence, glancing at her every few minutes, almost as though she was checking up on her.
When it looked as though Kate had finally spilt all the beans, Sam stood up and went to fill the kettle. ‘This calls for coffee, and a great deal of thinking,’ she said.
Kate wasn’t sure she agreed with her. Talking was not going to make any of it go away. It did feel good to have company though; she didn’t feel so completely alone for once.
Sam plonked two mugs of strong coffee on the table and said, ‘Right. First things first. Are you sure Michael got the message?’
Kate nodded. ‘I think so. I tried to make it clear…’
‘That’s the reason you want to leave here, is it?’
‘Partly, but it’s everything really. The intruder started it and the rest… This place is just not mine anymore, it feels dirty, spoiled somehow.’
Sam looked sympathetic. ‘I know what you mean. I don’t think I would want to stay here anymore either. We have to sort all this out and get organised. What have you done so far?’
Kate had to admit she had done nothing. The visit to the estate agent didn’t count.
‘I wonder…’ Sam said slowly. Would you like to live with me for a while we sort everything out? You could catch up on the artwork and look for a special place without having to rush. You need to take things slowly Kate, you look tired. How are you feeling, by the way?’
Kate had to admit she felt dreadful and wasn’t looking forward to the hospital appointment the following day.
She thought about Sam’s proposal. Would that work, temporarily? She wasn’t used to anyone making plans for her or trying to take care of her. It felt a bit odd, to say the least.
Kate desperately wanted to be somewhere safe, somewhere Michael didn’t know about, and she worried about her neighbour. Janet would need someone for a while until she recovered properly.
Was she being completely honest about Michael? She knew that a small part of her had responded to his presence, she still wasn’t sure if it was real or just loneliness that triggered it. She had loved him for so long, despite what he had done, making every excuse in the book for him but she knew she had been fooling herself all these years.
The voice was quick to agree with her and proceeded to pass the opinion that moving in with Sam couldn’t possibly be a good idea either.
What was that? What did he mean? Kate suddenly felt nauseous and the room began to spin, slowly at first, then faster. The pain was back in her chest and she was having trouble breathing. Oh no, not again.
‘Kate, what is it, what’s the matter?’
Sam’s voice seemed to be coming from a long way off as Kate felt herself slide of the chair to the floor.
Then someone turned all the lights off…