Thankfully, here we move out of the dreadful middle third of the novel and into the last. I’ve mentioned it before, but I suck at the midsection of novels. Anyways, the curtain’s finally being peeled back.
A box of turtles, truffles, cookies, and banana bread between them as Brianna drove out of Prince George, Garrett relayed everything Dr. Dennings had told him. Brianna didn’t interrupt once, stopping only now and then to split a bite between them, feeding her with chocolate-stained fingers.
When he’d finished, Brianna asked, “All of them? All the cases were like that? They start shouting all their sins and crap, and then they dropped dead?”
“She told me they think you’re okay. But if you’re feeling warm even in the slightest-”
“Damn skippy we’ll get to a hospital. But Garrett, you were sick too, remember?”
He did. His own fever was still bugging him now and then, and worse, that damn ghost kid was back. Like he needed the hallucinations on top of all this shit. “Maybe I just had a mild case of it or something.”
“Let’s hope so, but if you’re feeling sick too, you tell me.”
They didn’t bother with music. Garrett was too obsessed with digging up news articles about cases like Brianna’s. Dr. Dennings hadn’t provided him with more information on how long this had been happening, but the Canadian news gave him plenty.
The first cases had been reported nearly a month and a half ago in…
“Huh,” Garrett said. “Irisville.”
“Before the bed and breakfast guy’s cousin?”
“Yeah, looks like there were a few cases there.”
Brianna bit into a truffle. “Ooh, I think this one has… chili powder? It tastes like the hot chocolate Rose makes.” She foisted the chocolate at him and he bit it out of her fingers.
Around the treat, he asked, “Is now really the time to be talking chocolates and desserts?”
“You kidding me? Now’s the only time. If I’m going out, it’s gonna be riding a sugar high.” Her smile faltered when she saw his worried gaze. “Sorry. Gallows humor. I do feel fine, though.”
He returned to his research. “Really does taste like her cocoa, though.”
“I miss them. And Stephanie. And the gym.”
“Really, baby, we can skip the rest-”
“Nope,” Brianna said cheerfully. “Wait till you see what I have planned in Vancouver. Set it up back in Edmonton. Trust me, you’re gonna love it.”
He put down his phone. “What you said about Stephanie-”
“Can that stay between us? Like… forever? I swear, I didn’t mean it. She drives me crazy sometimes, but not nearly so bad as that.”
He nodded. “I need her in my life, though. I hope you know that.”
“I do. And she knows it too. And whatever the hell I said, she is not giving you the sexy eyes. That was a fucked up, horrible thing to say.”
“It’s okay. Really. This virus sounds nasty.”
“Is that what they’re calling it? A virus?”
He searched a few more news stories and shook his head. “Doesn’t look like they’re giving it a name. Get this – in all the cases, the people’s hair went white.”
Brianna jerked down her visor and glanced in the mirror. “Thank God that’s not happening to me. The Nadine Cross look just isn’t me.”
She shook her head. “Never mind.”
Garrett kept reading. “Huh. All the cases were local to Irisville until – drumroll please – one cropped up in Calgary around the same time we were there.” He checked the current date on his phone, then did the math in his head, counting down the days they’d stayed in each place. “Right when we were there, actually.”
Then he talked very little. The cases kept popping up in towns they’d visited. Vegreville. Edmonton. Jasper. By that one, his hands were shaking too much to continue and he dropped his phone into the center console. Plucking a tissue out of a box in the back, he stared out the window, tearing the paper into little bits, unmindful for once of the mess he was making.
Brianna couldn’t stand his nervous silence anymore. “Garrett, what is it?”
He turned to her, dropping the remains of the tissue. “We’re the common denominator. Whatever this thing is, it’s not a virus. And it’s latched onto us.”