The Scribe Page 1

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Prologue

Tel Aviv, Israel

“You’re going to think I’m crazy.”

“Are you?”

“No. Though I suppose most crazy people think they’re sane. So it doesn’t matter what I say.”

There was a pause as the doctor studied the young woman. The listless mouth and relaxed demeanor were belied by the fierce expression in her gold eyes. Barely suppressed anger and… resignation. An odd combination for one so young.

“Why do you assume I will think you’re mentally unstable? You’re a professional woman. Obviously intelligent based on our previous conversation. University educated. Successful in a highly competitive field—”

“They all think I’m crazy, Doctor Asner.” She shifted in her seat, letting her gaze drift out the window to the tree-lined street as a mother with two laughing children passed. A flicker of sadness in her eyes, then nothing again. “It’s okay. I’m used to it.”

“You hear voices?”

“No question mark on the end.”

He blinked and looked up from his pad of paper. “Excuse me?”

The look she gave him was almost amused. The woman’s dark curls fell over her shoulder as she angled herself toward him and crossed her arms. “No question mark. I hear voices. Your intonation held a slight lift at the end of that statement, indicating you questioned what you were saying. There is no question. I hear voices. I told you before. I’ve heard them for as long as I can remember. You can believe me, or you can think I’m insane. But it’s not a question.”

“You’ve studied linguistics.”

“Linguistics. Phonetics. Ancient languages. Modern languages. I have a very generous stepfather who likes it when I’m not home. Getting several degrees seemed like a good way to pass the time.”

“But you became a photojournalist.”

“I’m a travel photographer. You don’t have to make it sound more important than it is.”

He shrugged. “Your work has appeared in major magazines. You make your living with what you do. Are you embarrassed by your work?”

“Not at all.”

“Then why qualify?”

“I don’t believe in putting on false fronts. Dishonesty irritates me. I am not a photojournalist. Remember the generous stepfather? He also gives me a very generous allowance in order to keep me out of his hair and out of the country. I can afford to travel lots of places that make for pretty pictures. Magazines like to buy them. I’m not saving the world or exposing the horrors of war. What I do is fun, not meaningful.”

“Would you like to do something more meaningful?”

A rueful laugh was her first reaction. “God, no.”

“Why not? The… voices?”

“There’s that unspoken question again. Yes, the voices.”

“Is that why you’ve never had a serious relationship?”

“So my mom called you before the session, huh?”

Asner smiled. “She’s concerned about you. That much was evident. Are you and your mother close?”

“I suppose so.” The young woman shrugged. “She’s the reason I’m not locked up, so I can’t really complain about her.”

Her eyes drifted to the window again.

“Miss Matheson?”

“Ava.”

“Excuse me?”

Ava blinked and turned her eyes back to the doctor. “Call me Ava. Matheson is my stepfather’s name.”

“But he raised you? Your stepfather and your mother raised you, didn’t they?”

“Yes.”

“And you only recently met your biological father.”

Her eyes narrowed. “Is that why Mom and Carl insisted on this appointment? Because of my father?”

“He’s a new presence in your life.”

“Not really. I’ve been a fan for years.”

He gave her blank look.

Ava sighed. “Yes, he’s a new presence.”

“He’s a musician?”

“Please don’t pretend you don’t know who my father is. It’s irritating. I knew him as an old friend of my mother’s—that’s it. When I found out he was my actual father, it wasn’t a big deal. I’ve known since I was little that Carl adopted me.”

“But you had no idea the man was your real father.”

“No.”

“Did he know you were his?”

“Yes, but he agreed to let my mom raise me. He’s not the most… together person. He knows that.”

Asner paused thoughtfully. “Do you think your voices have anything to do with your father? A shared… creativity, perhaps?”

She curled her lip. “My father—as messed up as he is—is a brilliant composer. He hears music in his head and writes it down and makes lots of money. I hear garbled voices I don’t understand. Not really the same thing. You don’t get locked up for being a brilliant composer.”

“Do you fear being institutionalized?”

The fierce expression returned. “Why would I? As you said, I’m a successful photojournalist. Plus, thanks to my surprise dad, I’m rich enough to be eccentric instead of crazy.”

He couldn’t stop his own smile. “Tell me more about your voices. What do they say?”

She shifted again, and her eyes drifted back to the window. “I don’t know.”

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