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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 8




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  1. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 1
  2. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 10
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 11
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 12
  5. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 13
  6. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 14
  7. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 15
  8. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 16
  9. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 2
  10. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 3

They had been calling all morning; they had set up camp outside

my home. How does it feel to know that there are protesters outside

the prison, hoping to free the man who murdered your child and your

husband?

Do you think Shay Bourne's request to be an organ donor is a way to

make up for what he's done?

What I thought was that nothing Shay Bourne could do or say

would ever make up for the lives of Elizabeth and Kurt. I knew

firsthand how well he could lie and what might come of itthis

was nothing more than some publicity stunt to make everyone

feel badly for him, because after a decade, who even remembered

feeling badly for that police officer, that little girl?

Idid.

There are people who say that the death penalty isn't just because

it takes so long to execute a man. That it's inhumane to have

to wait eleven years or more for punishment. That at least for Elizabeth

and Kurt, death came quickly.

Let me tell you what's wrong with that line of reasoning: it assumes

that Elizabeth and Kurt were the only victims. It leaves out

me; it leaves out Claire. And I can promise you that every day for

the last eleven years I've thought of what I lost at the hands of

Shay Bourne. I've been anticipating his death just as long as he

has.

I heard voices coming from the living room and realized that

Claire had turned on the television. A grainy photograph of Shay

Bourne filled the screen. It was the same photo that had been used

in the newspapers, although Claire would not have seen those,

since I'd thrown them out immediately. Bourne's hair was cut

short now, and there were parenthetical lines around his mouth

and fanning from the corners of his eyes, but he otherwise did not

look any different.

"That's him, isn't it?" Claire asked.

God, Complex? read the caption beneath the photograph.

"Yes." I walked toward the television, intentionally blocking

her view, and turned it off.

Claire looked up at me. "I remember him," she said.

I sighed. "Honey, you weren't even bom yet."

She unfolded the afghan that sat on the couch and wrapped it

around her shoulders, as if she'd suddenly taken a chill. "I remember



him," Claire repeated.

 

M I CHAEL

I would have had to be living under a rock to not know what was

being said about Shay Bourne, but I was the last person in the world

who would ever have believed him to be messianic. As far as I was

concerned, there was one Son of God, and I knew who He was. As for

Bourne's showmanshipwell, I'd seen David Blaine make an elephant

disappear on Fifth Avenue in New York City, but that wasn't a miracle,

either. Plain and simple: my job here wasn't to feed into Shay

Bourne's delusional beliefs . . . only to help him accept Jesus Christ as

his Lord and Savior before his execution so that he'd wind up in the

Kingdom of Heaven.

And if I could help him donate his heart somewhere along the way,

so be it.

Two days after the incident at I-tier had occurred, I parked my

Trophy outside the prison. My mind kept tripping over a verse from

Matthew where Jesus spoke to his disciples: I was a stranger, and you

took me in; naked, and you clothed me; I was sick, and you visited me;

I was in prison, and you came unto me. The discipleswho were, to be

brutally honest, a thick bunchwere confused. They couldn't remember



Jesus being lost or naked or sick or imprisoned. And Jesus told

them: Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of my brethren,

you have done it unto me.

Inside, I was handed a flak jacket and goggles again. The door to

I-tier opened, and I was led down the hallway to Shay Bourne's cell.

It wasn't all that different from being in the confessional. The

same Swiss-cheese holes perforated the metal door of the cell, so I

could get a glimpse of Shay. Although we were the same age, he

looked like he'd aged a lifetime. Now gray at the temples, he still

was slight and wiry. I hesitated, silent, waiting to see if his eyes

would go wide with recognition, if he would start banging on the

door and demand to get away from the person who'd set the wheels

of his execution in motion.

But a funny thing happens when you're in clerical dress: you aren't

a man. You're somehow more than one, and also less. I've had secrets

whispered in front of me; I've had women hike up their skirts to fix

their panty hose. Like a physician, a priest is supposed to be unflappable,

an observer, a fly on the wall. Ask ten people who meet me what I

look like, and eight of them won't be able to tell you the color of my

eyes. They simply don't look past the collar.

Shay walked directly up to the door of the cell and started to grin.

"You came," he said.

I swallowed. "Shay, I'm Father Michael."

He flattened his palms against the door of the cell. I remembered a

photograph from the crime evidence, those fingers dark with a little

girl's blood. I had changed so much in the past eleven years, but what

about Shay Bourne? Was he remorseful? Had he matured? Did he wish,

like me, that he could erase his mistakes?

"Hey, Father," a voice yelled outI would later learn it was Calloway

Reece"you got any of those wafers? I'm near starving."

I ignored him and focused on Shay. "So . . . I understand you're

Catholic?"

"A foster mother had me baptized," Shay said. "A thousand years

ago." He glanced at me. "They could put you in the conference room,

the one they use for lawyers."

"The warden said we'd have to talk here, at your cell."

Shay shrugged. "I don't have anything to hide."

Do you? I heard, although he hadn't said it.

"Anyway, that's where they give us hep C," Shay said.

"Give you hep C?"

"On haircut day. Every other Wednesday. We go to the conference

room and they buzz us. Number two blade, even if you want it longer

for winter. They don't make it this hot in here in the winter. It's freezing

from November on." He turned to me. "How come they can't make it

hot in November and freezing now?"

"I don't know."

"It's on the blades."

"Pardon?"

"Blood," Shay said. "On the razor blades. Someone gets nicked,

someone else gets hep C."

Following his conversation was like watching a SuperBall bounce.

"Did that happen to you?"

"It happened to other people, so sure, it happened to me."

Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of my brethren,

you have done it unto me.

My head was swimming; I hoped it was Shay's nonlinear speech,

and not a panic attack coming on. I'd been suffering those for eleven

years now, ever since the day we'd sentenced Shay. "But for the most

part, you're all right?"

After I said it, I wanted to kick myself. You didn't ask a dying man

how he was feeling. Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, I thought, how was

the play?

"I get lonely," Shay answered.

Automatically, I replied, "God's with you."

"Well," Shay said, "he's lousy at checkers."

"Do you believe in God?"

"Why do you believe in God?" He leaned forward, suddenly intense.

"Did they tell you I want to donate my heart?"

"That's what I came to talk about. Shay."

"Good. No one else wants to help."

"What about your lawyer?"

"I fired him." Shay shrugged. "He lost all the appeals, and then he

started talking about going to the governor. The governor's not even

from New Hampshire, did you know that? He was born in Mississippi. I

always wanted to see that river, take one of those gambling boats

down it like some kind of cardsharp. Or maybe that's shark. Do they

have those in rivers?"

"Your lawyer ..."

"He wanted the governor to commute my sentence to life, but that's

just another death sentence. So I fired him."

I thought about Warden Coyne, how sure he was that this was all

just a ploy to get Shay Bourne's execution called off. Could he have

been wrong? "Are you saying that you want to die. Shay?"

"I want to live," he said. "So I have to die."

Finally, something I could latch onto. "You will live," I said. "In the

Kingdom of the Father. No matter what happens here. Shay. And no

matter whether or not you can donate your organs."

Suddenly his face went dark. "What do you mean, whether or

not?"

"Well, it's complicated ..."

"I have to give her my heart. I have to."

"Who?"

"Claire Nealon."

My jaw dropped. This specific part of Shay's request had not made

it to the broadcast news. "Nealon? Is she related to Elizabeth?" Too late

I realized that the average personone who hadn't been on Shay's

jurymight not recognize that name and identify it as quickly. But Shay

was too agitated to notice.

"She's the sister of the girl who was killed. She has a heart problem;

I saw it on TV. What's inside me is going to save me," Shay said.

"If I don't bring it forward, it's going to kill me."

We were making the same mistake. Shay and I. We both believed

that you could right a former wrong by doing a good deed later on. But

giving Claire Nealon his heart wasn't going to bring her sister back to

life. And being Shay Bourne's spiritual advisor wasn't going to erase

the fact that I was part of the reason he was here.

"You can't get salvation by donating your organs. Shay. The only

way to find salvation is to admit your guilt and seek absolution through

Jesus."

"What happened then doesn't matter now."

"You don't have to be afraid to take responsibility; God loves us,

even when we screw up."

"I couldn't stop it," Shay said. "But this time, I can fix it."

"Leave that to God," I suggested. Tell Him you're sorry for what you

did, and He'll forgive you."

"No matter what?"

"No matter what."

"Then why do you have to say you're sorry first?"

I hesitated, trying to find a better way to explain sin and salvation

to Shay. It was a bargain: you made an admission, you got redemption

in return. In Shay's economy of salvation, you gave away a piece of

yourselfand somehow found yourself whole again.

Were the two ideas really so different?

I shook my head to clear it.

"Lucius is an atheist," Shay said. "Right, Lucius?"

From next door, Lucius mumbled, "Mm-hmm."

"And he didn't die. He was sick, and he got better."

The AIDS patient; I'd heard about him on the news. "Did you have

something to do with it?"

"I didn't do anything."

"Lucius, do you believe that, too?"

I leaned back so that I could make eye contact with this other

inmate, a slim man with a shock of white hair. "I think Shay had everything

to do with it," he said.

"Lucius should believe whatever he needs to," Shay said.

"What about the miracles?" Lucius added.

"What miracles?" Shay said.

Two facts struck me: Shay Bourne was not claiming to be the Messiah,

or Jesus, or anyone but himself. And through some misguided

belief, he truly felt that he wouldn't rest in peace unless he could

donate his heart to Claire Nealon.

"Look," Lucius said. "Are you or are you not going to help him?"

Maybe none of us could compensate for what we'd done wrong in

the past, but that didn't mean we couldn't make our futures matter

more. I closed my eyes and imagined being the last person Shay Bourne

spoke with before he was executed by the State of New Hampshire. I

imagined picking a section of the Bible that would resonate with him, a

balm of prayer during those last few minutes. I could do this for him. I

could be who he needed me to be now, because I hadn't been who he

needed me to be back then. "Shay," I said, "knowing that your heart is

beating in some other person isn't salvation. It's altruism. Salvation is

coming home. It's understanding that you don't have to prove yourself

to God."

"Oh, for Christ's sake," Lucius snorted. "Don't listen to him. Shay."

I turned to him. "Do you mind?" Then I shifted position, so that I

blocked Lucius from my sight, focusing on Shay. "God loves you

whether or not you give up your organs, whether or not you've made

mistakes in the past. And the day of your execution, he'll be waiting for

you. Christ can save you. Shay."

"Christ can't give Claire Nealon a heart." Suddenly Shay's gaze was

piercing and lucid. "I don't need to find God. I don't want catechism,"

he said. "All I want to know is whether, after I'm killed, I can save a

little girl."

"No," I said bluntly. "Not if you're given a lethal injection. The drugs

are meant specifically to stop your heart, and after that, it's worthless

for donation."

The light in his eyes dimmed, and I drew in my breath. "I'm sorry.

Shay. I know you were hoping to hear something different, and your

intentions are good . . . but you need to channel those good intentions

to make peace with God another way. And that is something I can

make happen."

Just then a young woman burst onto I-tier. She had a cascade of

black curls tumbling down her back, and peeking out from her flak

jacket was the ugliest striped suit I'd ever seen. "Shay Bourne?" she

said. "I know a way you can donate your organs."

Maggie

Some people may find it tough to break out of prison, but for me, it was

equally as hard to get in. Okay, so I wasn't officially Shay Bourne's

attorneybut the prison officials didn't know that. I could argue the

technicality with Bourne himself, if and when I reached him.

I hadn't counted on how difficult it would be to get through the

throng outside the prison. It's one thing to shove your way past a group

of college kids smoking pot in a tent, their MAKE PEACE NOT MIRACLES signs

littering the muddy ground; it's another thing entirely to explain to a

mother and her smooth-scalped, cancer-stricken toddler why you deserved

to cut their place in line. In the end, the only way I could edge

forward was by explaining to those who'd been waiting (in some

cases, for days) that I was Shay Bourne's legal advisor and that I would

pass along their pleas: from the elderly couple with knotted hands,

whose twin diagnosesbreast cancer and lymphatic cancercame

within a week of each other; to the father who carried pictures of the

eight children he couldn't support since losing his job; to the daughter

pushing her mother's wheelchair, wishing for just one more lucid

moment in the fog of Alzheimer's so that she could say she was sorry

for a transgression that had happened years earlier. There is so much

pain in this world, I thought, how do any of us manage to get up in the

morning?

When I reached the front gate, I announced that I had come to see

Shay Bourne, and the officer laughed at me. "You and the rest of the free

world."

"I'm his lawyer."

He looked at me for a long moment, and then spoke into his radio. A

moment later, a second officer arrived and escorted me past the blockade.

As I left, a cheer went up from the crowd.

Stunned, I turned around, waved hesitantly, and then hurried to

catch up.

I had never been to the state prison. It was a large, old brick building;

its courtyard stretched out behind the razor-wire fencing. I was told

to sign in on a clipboard and to take off my jacket before I went through

the metal detector.

"Wait here," the officer said, and he left me sitting in a small anteroom.

There was an inmate mopping the floor who did not make eye

contact with me. He was wearing white tennis shoes that squelched every

time he stepped forward. I watched his hands on the mop and wondered

if they'd been part of a murder, a rape, a robbery.

There was a reason I didn't become a criminal defense attorney: this

setting freaked me out. I had been to the county jail to meet with clients,

but those were small-potatoes crimes: picketing outside a rally for a political

candidate, flag burning, civil disobedience. None of my clients had

ever killed anyone before, much less a child and a police officer. I found

myself considering what it would be like to be locked in here forever.

What if my dress clothes and day clothes and pajamas were all the same

orange scrubs? What if I was told when to shower, when to eat, when to

go to bed? Given that my career was about maintaining personal freedoms,

it was hard to imagine a world where they'd all been stripped away.

As I watched the inmate mop beneath a bank of seats, I wondered

what would be the hardest luxury to leave behind. There were the trivial

things: losing chocolate practically qualified as cruel and unusual punishment;

I couldn't sacrifice my contact lenses; I'd sooner die than relinquish

the Ouidad Climate Control gel that kept my hair from becoming a

frizzy rat's nest. But what about the restmissing the dizzying choice of

all the cereals in the grocery store aisle, for example? Not being able to

receive a phone call? Granted, it had been so long since I was intimate

with a man that I had spiderwebs between my legs, but what would it be

like to give up being touched casually, even a handshake?

I bet I'd even miss fighting with my mother.

Suddenly a pair of boots appeared on the floor before me. "You're out

of luck. He's got his spiritual advisor with him," the officer said. "Bourne's

pretty popular today."

"That's fine," I bluffed. "The spiritual advisor can join us during our

meeting." I saw the slightest flicker of uncertainty on the face of the officer.

Not allowing an inmate to see his attorney was a big no-no, and I

was planning to capitalize on that.

The officer shrugged and led me down a hallway. He nodded to a

man in a control booth, and a door scraped open. We stepped into a

small metal midroom, and I sucked in my breath as the steel door slid

home. "I'm a little claustrophobic," I said.

The officer smiled. "Too bad."

The inner door buzzed, and we entered the prison. "It's quiet in

here," I remarked.

"That's because it's a good day." He handed me a flak jacket and goggles

and waited for me to put them on. For one brief moment, I

panickedwhat if a man's jacket like this didn't zip shut on me? How

embarrassing would that be? But there were Velcro straps and it wasn't an

issue, and as soon as I was outfitted, the door to a long tier opened.

"Have fun," the officer said, and that was when I realized I was supposed

to go in alone.

Well. I wasn't going to convince Shay Bourne I was brave enough to

save his life if I couldn't muster the courage to walk through that door.

There were whoops and catcalls. Leave it to me to find my only appreciative

audience in the maximum-security tier of the state prison.

"Baby, you here for me?" one guy said, and another pulled down his

scrubs so that I could see his boxer shorts, as if I'd been waiting for that

kind of peep show all my life. I kept my eyes focused on the priest who

was standing outside one of the cells.

I should have introduced myself. I should have explained why I had

lied my way into this prison. But I was so flustered that nothing came out

the way it should have. "Shay Bourne?" I said. "I know a way that you

can donate your organs."

The priest frowned at me. "Who are you?"

"His lawyer."

He turned to Shay. "I thought you said you didn't have a lawyer."

Shay tilted his head. He looked at me as if he were sifting through

the grains of my thoughts, separating the wheat from the chaff. "Let her

talk," he said.

My streak of bravery widened after that: leaving the priest with Shay, I

went back to the officers and demanded a private attorney-client conference

room. I explained that legally, they had to provide one and that due

to the nature of our conversation, the priest should be allowed into the

meeting. Then the priest and I were taken into a small cubicle from one

side, while Shay was escorted through a different entrance by two officers.

When the door was closed, he backed up to it, slipping his hands

through the trap to have his handcuffs removed.

"All right," the priest said. "What's going on?"

I ignored him and faced Shay. "My name is Maggie Bloom. I'm an attorney

for the ACLU, and I think I know a way to save you from being

executed."

"Thanks," he said, "but that's not what I'm looking for."

I stared at him. "What?"

"I don't need you to save all of me. Only my heart."

" I . . . I don't understand," I said slowly.

"What Shay means," the priest said, "is that he's resigned to his execution.

He just wants to be an organ donor, afterward."

"Who are you, exactly?" I asked.

"Father Michael Wright."

"And you're his spiritual advisor?"

"Yes."

"Since when?"

"Since ten minutes before you became his lawyer," the priest said.

I turned back to Shay. "Tell me what you want."

"To give my heart to Claire Nealon."

Who the hell was Claire Nealon? "Does she want your heart?"

I looked at Shay, and then I looked at Michael, and I realized that I

had just asked the one question no one had considered up till this point.

"I don't know if she wants it," Shay said, "but she needs it."

"Well, has anyone talked to her?" I turned to Father Michael. "Isn't

that your job?"

"Look," the priest said, "the state has to execute him by lethal injection.

And if that happens, organ donation isn't viable."

"Not necessarily," I said slowly.

A lawyer can't care more about the case than the client does. If I

couldn't convince Shay to enter a courtroom hoping for his life to be

spared, then it would be foolish for me to take this on. However, if his

mission to donate his heart dovetailed with mineto strike down the

death penaltythen why not use the same loophole law to get what we

both wanted? I could fight for him to die on his own termsdonate his

organsand in the process, raise enough awareness about the death penalty

to make more people take a stand against it.

I glanced up at my new client and smiled.

 

M I C HAEL

The crazy woman who'd barged in on our little pastoral counseling

session was now promising Shay Bourne happy endings she could not

deliver. "I need to do a little research," she explained. I'm going to

come back to see you in a few days."

Shay, for what it was worth, was staring at her as if she had just

handed him the moon. "But you think . . . you think I'll be able to

donate my heart to her?"

"Yes," she said. "Maybe."

Yes. Maybe. Mixed signals, that's what she was giving him. As opposed

to my message: God. Jesus. One true course.

She knocked on the window, in just as big a hurry to get out of the

conference room as she'd been to enter it. As an officer buzzed open

the door, I grasped her upper arm. "Don't get his hopes up," I whispered.

She raised a brow. "Don't cut them down."

The door closed behind Maggie Bloom, and I watched her walk

away through the oblong window in the conference room. In the faint

reflection, I could see Shay watching, too. "I like her," he announced.

"Well," I sighed. "Good."

"Did you ever notice how sometimes it's a mirror, and sometimes

it's glass?"

It took me a moment to realize that he was talking about the reflection.

"It's the way the light hits," I explained.

"There's light inside a man of light," Shay murmured. "It can light up the

whole world." He met my gaze. "So, what were you saying is impossible?"

* * *

My grandmother had been so fervently Catholic that she was on the

committee of women who would come to scrub down the church,

sometimes taking me along. I'd sit in the back, setting up a traffic jam of

Matchbox cars on the kneeler. I'd watch her rub Murphy Oil Soap into

the scarred wooden pews and sweep down the aisle with a broom;

and on Sunday when we went to Mass she'd look aroundfrom the entryway

to the arched ceilings to the flickering candlesand nod with

satisfaction. On the other hand, my grandfather never went to church.

Instead, on Sundays, he fished. In the summer, he went out fly-fishing

for bass; in the winter, he cut a hole in the ice and waited, drinking

from his thermos of coffee, with steam wreathing his head like a halo.

It wasn't until I was twelve that I was allowed to skip a Sunday

Mass to tag along with my grandfather. My grandmother sent me off

with a bag lunch and an old baseball hat to keep the sun off my face.

"Maybe you can talk some sense into him," she said. I had heard

enough sermons to understand what happened to those who didn't

truly believe, so I climbed into his little aluminum boat and waited until

we had stopped underneath the reaching arm of a willow tree along

the shoreline. He took out a fly rod and handed it to me, and then

started casting with his own ancient bamboo rod.

One two three, one two three. There was a rhythm to fly-fishing,

like a ballroom dance. I waited until we had both unspooled the long

tongue of line over the lake, until the flies that my grandfather laboriously

tied in his basement had lightly come to rest on the surface.

"Grandpa," I asked, "you don't want to go to hell, do you?"

"Aw, Christ," he had answered. "Did your grandmother put you up

to this?"

"No," I lied. "I just don't understand why you never go to Mass with

us."

"I have my own Mass," he had said. "I don't need some guy in a

collar and a dress telling me what I should and shouldn't believe."

 

Maybe if I'd been older, or smarter, I would have left it alone at

that. Instead, I squinted into the sun, up at my grandfather. "But you got


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