"Hey, Cass." Jack's voice croaked a bit, as if he'd had a cold and was just getting over it. I wondered if maybe he'd been sleeping too much.
"Hey," I said in return. He had always hugged me before, but this time he stood with his hands in his pockets, just looking at me. "I'm sorry to bother you. I just wanted to see you, make sure you're okay, and give you this." I extended the hastily put-together card. I had decided printing something off of the Internet was probably better than me trying to draw something, so it wasn't horrible, but it was a little odd. They don't exactly make cards that say, "Sorry your friend died. Are weird things happening at your house, too? Has my sister transformed into some sort of beast?"
"Thank you," he said, taking it. His fingertips grazed mine, and I almost jumped back. I wasn't expecting his hand to be so cold. If his whole body felt like that, I was glad he hadn't hugged me.
He turned the card over in his hands before he opened it and read it. It had a picture of a bumblebee and some silly joke like, "Bee well soon." Jack politely chuckled. "Thanks, Cass. Very thoughtful of you."
"Sure," I replied with a shrug. "I just thought you might need some cheering up. Sorry I didn't have a chance to bake cookies or anything."
"That's all right." He made a half smile that sort of reminded me of the Jack I was used to. "How's your sister?"
I was surprised he'd asked me and not my dad, who was still standing behind me by the door, sort of pretending he wasn't there. I turned and looked at him, expecting him to answer. I hadn't even spoken to my sister since the whole thing happened. Although, for that matter, I'm not really sure my dad had either. Was he just speaking to Aaron about his oldest daughter?
"She's okay," my dad said, with a sharp nod. "She'll be home this afternoon."
"Right," Jack said. "She left. She went to her grandma's house." He was speaking as if he was trying to remember something that wouldn't quite come to him, like pulling on a loose thread, crawling his way along to the root of the problem. I knew the feeling. "She wasn't at the hospital." He had been staring at the floor, but his eyes shifted to fall on my dad, and I saw an expression there I'd never seen before. "Why wasn't she at the hospital?"
Before my dad could answer, Alice crossed to her son and rested her hand on his chest. "Jack, I'm afraid you're getting upset again. Why don't you take some deep breaths?"
"We should probably go." My dad was being polite. I could see he wanted to get me out of the Cooks' house as quickly as possible, but I didn't know if I was in danger from Jack or if my dad was afraid Jack might say something he didn't want me to hear.
"Jack," I said, trying to force down the panic in my own voice. I wanted some answers, and this might be my only chance. Still, I had to be careful not to tip my dad off that I might know more than he suspected. "Did Dr. Sanderson explain to you what happened? How Drew's death was a tragedy, but these things happen?"
Jack had been continuing to mutter that he didn't know why Cadence wasn't at the hospital, but at my words, he froze. Something drastic happened to his disposition, and a carefree smile slid over his face. "Oh, that's right. Dr. Sanderson told me. He said Cadence needed to go to her grandmother's to rest. That makes perfect sense. Of course she did. And Drewit was a tragic accident, the way that she died, but these things happen."
"Jack," Mrs. Cook said, still holding on to him, "Dr. Sanderson also said you need plenty of rest. Why don't you go sit on the sofa?"
"Okay. Bye, Cassidy. Bye, Mr. Findley." Jack turned like a robot and practically marched out of the room. I stared after him. Dr. Sanderson had definitely gotten to Jackthe same way he'd gotten to me.
"I'm sorry," Alice said, rubbing her face in frustration. "He's simply not himself. Not yet."
"No, don't apologize," my dad replied. "We understand."
"I'm not sure why he seems to calm down when we mention Dr. Sanderson," Alice continued, looking at me, "but that does seem to do the trick."
Hesitantly, I treaded into waters I wasn't sure I should explore. "It made me feel very calm to talk to the doctor," I said, wondering if I was setting Jack up for more brainwashing reminders from his mom, and if so, whether or not that was in his best interest.
"Dr. Sanderson came by to talk to Cassidy the other day," my dad explained. "She was a little upset about Drew. They were on the cheerleading squad together."
"I see." Alice gave me a small smile. "This must be hard for you, too, dear."
I only nodded, not sure I could trust myself to say anything else. I was definitely worried about Jack, though. If my sister came home acting like that, all weird, I wasn't sure what I would do.
"Cadence will be home soon," my dad said with a smile. "We should get back."
"Thanks again for the card," Alice said, patting my arm.
"Sure." I glanced past her and saw Jack sitting rigid on the sofa, staring at the television, and I hoped the real Jack was in there somewhere, but I began to think we might not see him again.
I followed my dad out the door and climbed into his truck. I hadn't even gotten my seatbelt fastened before he let out a very soft sigh. "Cassidy, do you feel like it helped to talk to Dr. Sanderson?"
He pulled away and was halfway down the block before I decided how to answer. "Yes," I said emphatically, "but I think it might help if I could talk to him again."
My dad glanced at me out of the corner of his eye, and I could see surprise there. "You do?"
"Yes." Rather than tipping my hand, I stopped talking. If my dad had a follow up question, he could ask it. He didn't need to know that I was taking a huge risk by requesting to see the doctor again. He had no idea I planned on being a pretty poor patient.
My dad cleared his throat and said, "Well, I think he's out of town right now. But as soon as he gets back, I'll see if he can come over and speak with you."
"'Kay," I said. Did it make any sense to me that the doctor who saved Drew, one I'd never heard of before even though I had lived in Shenandoah my whole life, had conveniently gone out of town the day I wanted to speak to him? Of course not. But then, I was beginning to wonder if Dr. Sanderson was even a doctor at all. But I played along. At this point, I had no idea who I could trust, but the list was getting smaller and smaller by the minute.