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Jones/China Doll


Chapter 1

Brett Thompson inhaled the intoxicating thought of spending the evening napping in his recliner. He turned

the ignition key off and pried himself out of the driver’s seat tugging his briefcase with him. His lower back ached

from sitting so low to the ground in the archaic station wagon. But he reaffirmed to himself with closed eyes and a

nod that he would be able to buy the sports utility vehicle he wanted after a few years of pinching his pennies. He

swung the house keys around in his hand to unlock the back door. times. Brett had changed the locks to this house so many The fact that he had to change them haunted him It had been six months

every time he looked at the keys.

Jones/China Doll


since he chose to institute Janet at Meadow’s Oak.


could not allow her to endanger Jennifer’s nor his life again. Brett had loved Janet; but on March, 3 he made a

choice of survival, not love. As he slipped his shoes off by the back door, Brett placed his briefcase in the nearest chair around the round kitchen table. Brett gasped with uneasiness, “The alarm.”

He leaped over the pile of dirty clothes and through the den. Brett wiggled his fingers trying to remember the The alarm pierced through the He pegged in

four-digit code, “Damn-it!”

house and radiated out in the neighborhood. the code and slammed the plastic cover.

Brett fell into He

his recliner and dropped his head into his hand.

reached for the phone knowing that the alarm company would be calling to check on the system. Finally, it rang.

“I’m sorry,” Brett said as he placed the phone to his ear. “This is Tina with Taylor Alarms. alright, Mr. Thompson?” “Yes, everything is fine. again. I just set off the alarm Is everything

Just haven’t gotten used to it yet, I guess.” That’s why we’re here. Tina asked.

“That’s okay, Mr. Thompson. Can you tell me your password?” Yes, it is china doll.”

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“Thank you, Mr. Thompson. evening,” Tina said.

Now you have a nice

He returned the phone to the base.

Brett was slightly

embarrassed by the password, but more so by this being at least a dozen times that Taylor Alarm Systems had had to call. If he had an alarm system when Janet . . . before

Janet was committed, she would be lecturing him right now. Janet would have told Brett that it wasn’t worth having if they were going to let everyone in nine counties know that they had it because he set if off all the time. Brett

stretched his neck out towards his right shoulder and sighed. He really didn’t need to worry himself with the She said enough as it was.

things Janet would have said.

The mere thought of having her here telling him how he was doing things wrong made him queasy and anxious. His

therapist had warned him against torturing himself like this. But he couldn’t shake the thought of Janet this It was almost as if he could sense her reactions Brett closed his eyes. Okay, Dr.


to every move he made.

Ballard said to think about something pleasant when this happens. Brett signed and recalled the day that Taylor Alarm Systems came out to install the alarm. that the password be china coll. Jennifer insisted

Brett had given one to

Jones/China Doll


Jennifer on her birthday for the past three years in addition to other gifts. The first one he gave her he had He had a layover and He

bought in an airport in Phoenix.

strolled into one of those over-priced trinket stores. saw the tiny figurine and thought of his daughter.

He had

hoped to have a day at home to shop for her birthday, but now he would be lucky to get home before it was over. He

bought the porcelain figure and some other expensive little gifts to take home. Jennifer loved it. She opened the box and delicately

unwrapped the tissue papers that had been taped around it. Brett smiled and Janet just sat quietly as Jennifer ran upstairs to her room to place it on her bedside table. Janet reminded him that she didn’t want Jennifer to get wrapped up in material possessions and scolded him for buying such dust-collecting and undesirable knick-knacks. Brett apologized and told Janet that he would refrain from buying such things. Brett searched for the remote on the side table. leaned over to look to see if it had fallen off. television blared. The He

Brett felt under his left leg, “Ahha!”

He clicked over to the local news channel to get the weather forecast for the weekend. Jennifer had said

Jones/China Doll


something about wanting to go with Rebecca to camp out at Lake Lanno. He set the remote on the side table and rocked himself up out of the chair. Strolling to the kitchen he heard the Brett

reporter introduce the lead story as breaking news. rolled his eyes. “Breaking News.” Brett wondered why every story is

He turned the temperature dial on the

stove to medium-high and placed a pot of water with tealeaves on the burner. He returned to the den to

evaluate the immediacy of the breaking story when all he really wanted was the weather report. The reporter on “News Now at Five” explained the escape of two patients from Meadow’s Oak. “It appears as

if the patients killed the security officer on duty this morning. Yes, yes,” reporter Shana Cary said with her left “This just in . . . the Director of

had over her left ear.

Nurses at Meadow’s Oak has just informed our reporters on the case that all three, not two patients that escaped this morning where all from the women’s unit. Meadow’s Oak The names

security has recaptured two of the three women.

of the security officer and patients are not being released at this time. Now to Ed with this weekend’s forecast.” Jennifer. He had to

Brett stood in frozen panic. call and check on Jennifer.

Brett scrambled for the

Jones/China Doll


cordless phone in the recliner.

He pressed the talk button

and began punching numbers as he paced toward the kitchen, but the numbers did not show up on the phone’s mini-screen. He turned around to go back to the den and pegged the talk button again. He chunked the dead phone into the recliner

and darted up the staircase. The only other phones in the house were upstairs in Jennifer’s room and this and Janet’s bedroom. They weren’t

cordless, and very inconvenient for afternoon calls. Images of Janet conspiring in the escape from Meadow’s Oak flooded his thoughts. Would she do something like The Or was

this? Could she? He knew the answer to that question. question was who were her friends? she the one that got away? Was she caught?

It couldn’t have been her idea,

but there was no doubt in his mind that she could manipulate each and every detail of the plan. detail person. She was a

If she was paired up the “the big picture Someone just

person” at work, they always made the sale.

had to frame the canvas, and then she could paint the picture, carefully choosing the colors, brushes and shading to create the most magnificent picture for Jameson Industries. He was panting by the time he reached the last two steps and chose Jennifer’s phone out of exhaustion. He

Jones/China Doll


staggered to Jennifer’s bed and collapsed as he grabbed the clear, see-through phone. Brett pulled the receiver off No dial tone. That

the hook and stuck it to his left ear. was weird. week.

He immediately thought of paying the bills last He would go

He had paid the phone bill; he knew it.

down to check the stack of mail just as soon as he caught his breath. No, he’d go now. Then he would drive over to He didn’t like the fact that

Carol’s to check on Jennifer.

Jennifer would not be able to call him if she needed him. Brett put the phone back on the bedside table beside the Madeline Albright Calendar. taste in bright colors. He marveled at Jennifer’s

Leaving the room, he noticed his She had named Brett

daughter’s collection of the china dolls.

and dated each one on the bottom of the figures. drew his abdomen in deep for a good breather.

He sighed as

he exhaled finally pacing his breathing and heart beats simultaneously. The tea! He galloped down the stairs. That’s all he

needed – something to clean up before he left to check on Jennifer. Brett froze on the last step. turned off. it. “Hello, Brett.” The television had been

His recliner was rocking, but nobody was in

Jones/China Doll


Brett’s heart was racing again. breathing. He gasped.

He had stopped

Janet walked out of the kitchen

into the den.

Brett stood still.