A memory snagged his thoughts to a halt: his first meeting with Will four years ago. He had come off of a twenty-four hour rotation during his residency at the clinic and was heading home to his Rosslyn condo for some much needed sleep. A burly man in a dark blue suit had leapt up from the waiting room bench as Jared said goodbye to the receptionist.
Jared swung his way, ready to direct the patient to the on-call doctor. “Yes, but I’m going off duty now. You’ll have to see…”
“I’m not here as a patient, doctor.” The other man cut across Jared’s words. He pulled out a black case, flipping it open to display a federal seal. “Special Agent Will Fulton with the FBI. I was wondering if I could buy you a cup of coffee.”
Jared’s stomach growled, reminding him of last night’s dinner at the vending machine. “Only if you make that breakfast. I’m running on fumes and the remnants of a candy bar.”
The agent stared at him for a long minute, then cracked a smile. “Breakfast it is.”
The pair walked across the street to a small diner on the ground floor of an office building. Over bacon and eggs with pancakes, the agent expounded on why he wanted to talk with Jared.
“I’ve been asking around and hear you’re pretty good at your job.”
Jared shrugged. “I’m no worse than any other psychiatrist.”
“I beg to differ. You’ve worked with some real hard cases.”
Jared put his fork down. “How do you know that? If you’ve been snooping around my files, that’s a clear violation of doctor-patient confidentiality.”
The other man held up his hand. “No need to get upset. I’ve not crossed any ethical lines. I’ve only discussed your work in general, not specific patients.”
Jared sat back. “Good. I take my job seriously and I couldn’t do my job if I knew there was a chance someone’s file would get read by someone else who had no business reading it.”
“And I agree with you.”
“But I know you didn’t buy me breakfast just to tell me that I’m a good doctor.”
Will laughed. “No, I sure didn’t. There’s a case I’d like to consult with you about.”
Jared finished his eggs and took a sip of coffee. “Don’t you fellas have a behavioral science unit out at Quantico for stuff like that?”
Will waved his empty fork in dismissal before spearing another bite. “Yes, but that’s only for the really big cases, like suspected serial killers and the like.”
Jared cut into his pancakes. “You’re telling me the FBI doesn’t have psychiatrists on retainer?”
Will sighed and put down his coffee cup. “Yes, we have psychiatrists available.”
“So why ask me?”
The other man leaned forward, his eyes fixed on Jared. “Because I need an expert opinion off the record.”
Jared shook his head. “I can’t believe you’d pick a total stranger for that. I’m afraid you’ll have to find someone else. My time is filled enough. But thanks for breakfast.” Jared tossed his napkin on top of his empty plate.
Will waved him back to his seat. “Please, hear me out. After all, I did buy you breakfast.”
Jared decided to see what he had to say. “Okay, I can spare a few minutes. But I got to warn you, I’m liable to fall asleep on you.”
“I’ll take that chance.” Will glanced around the café before turning his attention back to Jared. “I think someone’s trying to game the Medicaid system to steal prescription psychotic drugs to sell on the black market.”
Jared stiffened in his seat. He had learned how to spot drug addicts while working in an inner-city ER. But stealing prescription drugs was a whole different scheme. Wide-awake now, his mind jumped to several possibilities before landing on one that was close to home. “And I work at a free clinic.”
The two men’s eyes met across the table.
Jared swallowed hard. “Is it happening at my clinic?”
# # #
Jared blinked and opened his eyes, bringing himself back to the present with difficulty. Amy touched his shoulder. “I need you to roll over for me.”
He nodded, not trusting his voice to be free from the thickness of memory. She held the sheet up, shielding her eyes while he laboriously rolled away from her toward the door and over on his stomach. His leg felt better already, even though she was only halfway done.
Amy helped him arrange the sheet more comfortably over his back as she bared his left leg once again. “Am I pressing too hard? You have a lot of tension in the muscles, but with the scar tissue on top, I don’t want to hurt you.”
Jared cleared his throat. “No, it feels good.”
“Okay, you can go back to sleep now. I’ll do this side of the leg and then work some on your upper back and shoulders.”
Jared grunted in answer. He returned to his thoughts of Will and that first case. Jared had reluctantly agreed to help ferret out the ring of thieves which had targeted two free clinics in the Maryland suburbs. Jared had been relieved that his clinic hadn’t been involved, but his assistance had resulted in the FBI formally offering him status as an official—and paid—consultant. He had worked with Will on occasion over the last few years with good results. At least, until their last one resulted in the death of their inside contact, a woman Jared had convinced to help the FBI.
Amy’s hands touched a particular sensitive muscle and Jared bit back a yelp. He turned his attention to the present and the chat transcripts Will had left. He hoped that Dr. Melvin would have some insight for him tonight because he wasn’t seeing any patterns clearly at all.
Amy replaced the sheet on his leg and lowered it from his shoulders. As her fingers worked their magic, Jared erased all thoughts of the FBI and Mary from his mind. The case would still be there when the massage was over, but for now, he wouldn’t think of anything.
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Phantom Love is copyrighted and cannot be used in any form without permission from Sarah Hamaker.