If you’re new here, or just needing to refresh your memory about previous chapters, please read on for brief chapter summaries. Chapters are linked in the chapter titles.
We begin our story in the summer of 2002, back when you probably still carried a Blockbuster card in your wallet.
Sunday: We meet Blainey Blair, 42, a hospital chaplain moonlighting as a “researcher” for Omega Investigations owned by P.I. Mark Danner, 32. Gina Amato hired Omega to follow her philandering husband. Blainey gets evidence of Paolo’s cheating and drops off the film at Great Shots, where her friend Frankie works, and calls to tell Mark she can bring them by in an hour, but he says he’s “working something” and to bring the photos to Nelle’s Diner in the morning. In the background, Blainey hears giggling. Mark’s caginess challenges her trust issues. After Blainey’s divorce, she left her church and her own unfaithful husband, Nate, back in Pennsylvania, and returned to Brady, North Carolina, where she grew up. Blainey is just looking for a little cosmic justice in a world where too many loose ends stay untied.
On the way home, Blainey wonders if she’s being followed. She prepares for her overnight as the on-call ER chaplain at St. Regis hospital. We learn her parents are both dead and she’s estranged from her addict brother Sean. Blainey picks up the photos from Frankie and we hear about his sister, Delma. At the hospital we meet Guy Trubiano, a smokin’ hot paramedic who likes to flirt with Blainey. His hotness is not lost on Blainey, who hasn’t had any action since she left Nate. It’s a pretty routine night for a city ER — a gunshot wound, a toddler with an ear infection, a child with a nosebleed — then a woman comes in whose lunk of a husband has clearly abused her. Blainey warns the husband against hurting his wife again, or God might cause “it” to fall off.
Monday: Blainey meets Mark at Nelle’s Diner where she loses herself in a plateful of syrupy Belgian waffles, pleased with catching Paolo in the act, but Gina tells Mark to drop her case. Blainey struggles with her own unresolved issues around infidelity — her husband’s latest affair had been with her best friend, and when the whole thing finally blew up, it resulted in her best friend taking her own life, leaving both Nate and Blainey emotionally wrecked. Blinded by her own woundedness, Blainey buys a disposable camera and decides to tail Paolo on her own and then show the photos to Gina, but at the last minute she realizes it’s a terrible idea. Still, she risks meeting Paolo face to face at Golden Touch Auto Detailing where he works, pretending to need directions. Paolo sees her name on the hospital parking sticker, and Blainey wonders if she is busted.
Tuesday: Blainey has full work day at the hospital. We meet Mavis, the administrative assistant for the Pastoral Care department, who clearly disapproves of Blainey and makes sure she knows it. The head of the department, Fred Moseley, nearing retirement, is currently out of town at yet another conference. Blainey meets with several patients awaiting surgery. Then we meet twelve-year-old Jenny Malone who is waiting for a new heart, and her parents, Nora and David. Blainey knows Jenny well and opens the door for a conversation about dying that Jenny wishes she could have with her parents, but she wants to protect them from it. When Nora and David overhear, they are furious at Blainey but then are finally able to talk with their daughter about what she is facing.
Blainey is getting ready to leave the hospital for the day when Guy calls from the ER and says someone is asking for her who says she knew Blainey in high school. Blainey stops by the ER before she leaves and meets Rachel Roper. Rachel shares a story about being a pregnant fifteen-year-old and Blainey showing kindness to her. Blainey has no memory of her but listens to Rachel’s story about the newborn baby girl, conceived under circumstances, who she’d surrendered to adoption. Blainey understands that if she connects Rachel to Mark’s investigations operation, two worlds will collide that ought to stay separate. She crosses the line and tells Rachel she might know someone who can help.
After leaving the hospital, Blainey decides to drive to Mark’s bungalow office and tell him about Rachel. When she arrives, she sees a tall, slender woman leaving. She waits until the woman is gone before entering Mark’s office and decides not to mention it. She tries to read Mark to see if he knows anything about her tailing Paolo. She tells him about Rachel, recounts the story of Rachel’s hazy memory about getting pregnant and that she wants to find her now nineteen-year-old daughter. Marks says he will think about it, then just as Blainey is leaving, springs on her that he knows about the thing with Paolo, since Gina had confessed everything, and Paolo had written down Blainey’s name, because he was suspicious of her stopping by his place of business. Mark is clearly angry, and Blainey has no explanation. She drives two hours out to the beach to try and clear her head and returns home late for a lousy night’s sleep.
Wednesday: Blainey has a day off and uses up her nervous energy cleaning her house, then takes a long walk. She falls asleep on her sofa reading a novel and is wakened by Frankie calling to invite her to their favorite bar. We meet Big Eddie McGill, owner of McGill’s where Blainey worked for a time as a bartender. While there Blainey receives a page that Jenny Malone is being prepped for heart transplant surgery. At the hospital, she has time to see Jenny and meet with her parents. She plans to spend the night on a fold-out sofa bed in the Pastoral Care office. First she decides to call Rachel Roper and tell her Mark can’t take the case after all, but she gets a recording that the number Rachel gave her is not in service. Blainey is unsettled. Something doesn’t fit. Just then Blainey’s pager goes off.
It’s a nurse from the ER paging Blainey to come down and deal with three drunk frat boys, one of whom was injured in a hazing prank. The awkwardly shy intern chaplain is missing, probably because he didn’t want to deal with the boys. Blainey stops in and calls the injured boy’s parents, prepping the way for him to talk to them. Back in the Pastoral Care office, Blainey tries Rachel’s number again with the same not-in-service message. She is able to nap on the fold-out for a couple of hours and then finds Jenny’s parents who tell her Jenny made it through the surgery and is doing well. Blainey gets home at 3:00am and listens to a message from Mark on her answering machine, telling her he’d just spoken with Rachel Roper and asking Blainey to call him. Blainey desperately wants to know what’s going on but will have to wait until a decent hour to call him back.
Blainey goes to Mark’s office, curious about how Rachel Roper got Mark’s number when she hadn’t given Rachel his number or shared his name or anything about Omega Investigations. The “not in service” message was due to Blainey having written down the wrong number. Or else Rachel gave it to her that way. Blainey’s ready to give Mark a genuine apology about her breach with Paolo, but Mark doesn’t care, hinting that he’s made a similar mistake. Rachel made a 3:00 pm appointment. Fred Moseley returns to the Pastoral Care office a day early and tells Blainey he’ll be taking some time away due to his wife’s terminal illness. Blainey tries to tell Fred about her work with Omega, but he cuts the meeting short. Back at Mark’s office, Rachel is a no -show for her appointment, and when Mark calls the number she gave him, it goes to the answering machine of Weston Roper, Rachel’s mysterious older half-brother.
Blainey and Mark decide it’s all for the best to be done with Rachel Roper, and getting back to the routine Friday of her job as hospital chaplain comes as a relief after too much drama. She meets with Fred to go over all the grants and budgeting paperwork. Fred hints that Blainey needs to figure out how to get along with Mavis. Saturday morning she meets Frankie and Delma for breakfast at a greasy spoon restaurant, then spends the afternoon gardening and napping. That night Blainey receives a series of hang-up calls from an unknown number. The last time she lets the answering machine pick up. It’s Rachel, and it sounds like she’s in trouble. Then the line goes dead.
Blainey calls 911, even though she doesn’t have enough information for emergency services to provide help. She files a police report and then Mark shares that he found the physical address for the phone number Rachel Roper had given him, which is in the name of Diamond Realty, an upscale real estate rental and sales company. Blainey and Mark go to the house in an attempt to find clues about Rachel’s whereabouts. Mark picks a lock and they break in to the house, finding it empty, but the answering machine still has incoming calls recorded in its caller ID feature. Mark writes down the recorded phone numbers. Afterward, Blainey has to face honest questions about herself and what she’s capable of.
At the hospital, Blainey runs into Guy — literally — and the physical contact leaves her flustered. Within minutes, she trips and falls onto the edge of cranky Mavis’s desk. A moment of spontaneous laughter on both their parts leaves them feeling off-kilter from their usual mutual animosity. Blainey tracks Rachel to WindDancer, a private hospital for rich people, and goes to see her, where she meets Weston Roper and sees Lamar Gustafson, a fellow clergyperson she loathes and considers a fake. Weston is guarded and manipulative, acting like Rachel’s story is a fabrication. Blainey uses the excuse of a moment of private prayer with Rachel to ask her some questions. Rachel begs Blainey to find her daughter.
Link to: Chapter Fourteen
Link to: Chapter Fifteen
Link to: Chapter Sixteen
Link to: Chapter Seventeen
Link to: Chapter Eighteen
Love the review for my aging brain!