married by a priest."

He sighed. "Yeah, and I even went to parochial school, like you."

"What made you stop?"

Before he could answer, I felt that tug on my line that always felt

like Christmas, the moment before you opened the biggest box under

the tree. I reeled in, fighting the whistle and snap of the fish on the

other end, certain that I'd never caught anything quite like this before.

Finally, it burst out of the water, as if it were being born again.

"A salmon!" my grandfather crowed. "Ten pounds, easy . . . imagine

all the ladders it had to climb to make its way back here from the ocean

to spawn." He held the fish aloft, grinning. "I haven't seen one in this

lake since the sixties!"

I looked down at the fish, still on my line, thrashing in splendor. It

was silver and gold and crimson all at once.

My grandfather held the salmon, stilling it enough to unhook the

fly, and set the fish back into the lake. We watched the flag of its tail,

the ruddy back as it swam away. "Who says that if you want to find

God on a Sunday morning, you ought to be looking in church?" my

grandfather murmured.

For a long time after that, I believed my grandfather had it right:

God was in the details. But that was before I learned that the requirements

of a true believer included Mass every Sunday and holy day of

obligation, receiving the Eucharist, reconciliation once a year, giving

money to the poor, observing Lent. Or in other wordsjust because you

say you're Catholic, if you don't walk the walk, you're not.

Back when I was at seminary, I imagined I heard my grandfather's

voice: I thought God was supposed to love you unconditionally Those

sure sound like a lot of conditions to me.

The truth is, I stopped listening.

* * *

By the time I left the prison, the crowd outside had doubled in size.

There were the ill, the feeble, the old and the hungry, but there was

also a small cadre of nuns from a convent up in Maine, and a choir

singing "Holy Holy Holy." I was surprised at how hearsay about a socalled

miracle could produce so many converts, so quickly.

"You see?" I heard a woman say, pointing to me. "Even Father Michael's


She was a parishioner, and her son had cystic fibrosis. He was

here, too, in a wheelchair being pushed by his father.

"Is it true, then?" the man asked. "Can this guy really work miracles?"

aGod can," I said, heading that question off at the pass. I put my

hand on the boy's forehead. "Dear St. John of God, patron saint of those

who are ill, I ask for your intercession that the Lord will have mercy on

this child and return him to health. I ask this in Jesus's name."

Not Shay Bourne's, I thought.

"Amen," the parents murmured.

"If you'll excuse me," I said, turning away.

The chances of Shay Bourne being Jesus were about as likely as

me being God. These people, these falsely faithful, didn't know Shay

Bournethey'd never met Shay Bourne. They were imposing the face of

our Savior on a man with a tendency to talk to himself; a man whose

hands had been covered with the blood of two innocent people. They

were confusing showmanship and inexplicable events with divinity. A

miracle was a miracle only until it could be proved otherwise.

I started pushing through the mob, moving in the opposite direction,

away from the prison gates, a man on a mission. Maggie Bloom

wasn't the only one who could do research.


In retrospect, it would have been much simpler to place a phone call to a

medical professional who might lecture me on the ins and outs of organ donation.

But it could take a week for a busy doctor to call me back, and my

route home from the prison skirted the grounds of the Concord hospital,

and I was still buzzing with righteous legal fervor. These are the only

grounds I can offer for why I decided to stop in the emergency room. The

faster I could speak to an expert, the faster I could start building Shay's case.

However, the triage nursea large graying woman who looked like a

battleshipcompressed her mouth into a flat line when I asked to talk to

a doctor. "What's the problem?" she asked.

"I've got a few questions"

"So does everyone else in that waiting room, but you'll still have to

explain the nature of the illness to me."

"Oh, I'm not sick . . ."

She glanced around me. "Then where's the patient?"

"At the state prison."

The nurse shook her head. "The patient has to be present for registration."

I found that hard to believe. Surely someone knocked unconscious in

a car accident wasn't left waiting in the hall until he came to and could

recite his Blue Cross group number.

"We're busy," the nurse said. "When the patient arrives, sign in again."

"But I'm a lawyer"

"Then sue me," the nurse replied.

I walked back to the waiting room and sat down next to a college-age

boy with a bloody washcloth wrapped around his hand. "I did that once,"

I said. "Cutting a bagel."

He turned to me. "I put my hand through a plate-glass window because

my girlfriend was screwing my roommate."

A nurse appeared. "Whit Romano?" she said, and the boy stood up.

"Good luck with that," I called after him, and I speared my fingers

through my hair, thinking hard. Leaving a message with the nurse didn't

guarantee a doctor would see it anytime in the next millenniumI had

to find another way in.

Five minutes later I was standing in front of the battleship again.

"The patients arrived?" she asked.

"Well. Yes. It's me."

She put down her pen. "You're sick now. You weren't sick before."

I shrugged. "I'm thinking appendicitis . . ."

The nurse pursed her lips. "You know you'll be charged a hundred

and fifty dollars for an emergency room visit, even a fabricated one."

"You mean insurance doesn't"


I thought of Shay, of the sound the steel doors made when they

scraped shut in prison. "It's my abdomen. Sharp pains."

"Which side?"

"My left. . . ?" The nurse narrowed her eyes. "I meant my other left."

"Take a seat," she said.

I settled in the waiting room again and read two issues of People

nearly as old as I was before being called into an exam room. A nurse

younger, wearing pink scrubstook my blood pressure and temperature.

She wrote down my health history, while I mentally reviewed

whether you could be brought up on criminal charges for falsifying your

own medical records.

I was lying on the exam table, staring at a Where's Waldo? poster on

the ceiling, when the doctor came in.

"Ms. Bloom?" he said.

Okay, I'm just going to come out and say ithe was stunning. He had

black hair and eyes the color of the blueberries that grew in my parents'

gardenalmost purple in a certain light, and translucent the next moment.

He could have sliced me wide open with his smile. He was wearing a white

coat and a denim collared shirt with a tie that had Barbie dolls all over it.

He probably had a real live one of those at home, tooa 38-22-36 fiancee

who had double-majored in law and medicine, or astrophysics and

political science.

Our whole relationship was over, and I hadn't even said a word to


"You are Ms. Bloom?"

How had I not noticed that British accent? "Yes," I said, wishing I was

anyone but.

"I'm Dr. Gallagher," he said, sitting down on a stool. "Why don't you

tell me what's been going on?"

"Well," I began. "Actually, I'm fine."

"For the record, appendicitis rates as pretty ill."

III. I loved that. I bet he said things like flat and loo and lift, too.

"Let's just check you out," he said. He stood and hooked his stethoscope

into his ears, then settled it under my shirt. I couldn't remember

the last time a guy had slipped his hand under my shirt. "Just breathe,"

he said.

Yeah, right.

"Really," I said. "I'm not sick."

"If you could just lie back . . . ?"

That was enough to bring me crashing down to reality. Not only

would he realize, the moment he palpated my stomach, that I didn't have

appendicitis . . . he'd also probably be able to tell that I had the twodonut

combo at Dunkin' Donuts for breakfast, when everyone knows

they take three dayseachto digest.

"I don't have appendicitis," I blurted out. "I just told the nurse I did

because I wanted to talk to a doctor for a few minutes"

"All right," he said gently. "I'm just going to call in Dr. Tawasaka. I'm

sure she'll talk to you all you like . . . " He stuck his head out the door.

"Sue? Page psych . . ."

Oh, excellent, now he thought I had a mental health problem. "I

don't need a psychiatrist," I said. "I'm an attorney and I need a medical

consultation about a client."

I hesitated, expecting him to call in security, but instead he sat down

and folded his arms. "Go on."

"Do you know anything about heart transplants?"

"A bit. But I can tell you right now that if your client requires one,

he'll have to register with UNOS and get in line like everyone else . . ."

"He doesn't need a heart. He wants to donate one."

I watched his face transform as he realized that my client had to be

the death row inmate. There just weren't a lot of prisoners in New Hampshire

clamoring to be organ donors these days. "He's going to be executed,"

Dr. Gallagher said.

"Yes. By lethal injection."

"Then he won't be able to donate his heart. A heart donor has to be

brain-dead; lethal injection causes cardiac death. In other words, once

your client's heart stops beating during that execution, it's not going to

work in someone else."

I knew this; Father Michael had told me this, but I hadn't wanted to

believe it.

"You know what's interesting?" the doctor said. "I believe it's potassium

that's used in lethal injectionthe chemical that stops the heart. That's the

same chemical we use in cardioplegia solution, which is perfused into the

donor heart just prior to sewing it into the patient. It keeps the heart arrested

while it's not receiving a normal blood flow, until all the suturing's

finished." He looked up at me. "I don't suppose the prison would agree to a

surgical cardiectomya heart removalas a method of execution?"

I shook my head. "The execution has to happen within the walls of

the prison."

He shrugged. "I cannot believe I'm saying this, but it's too bad that

they don't use a firing squad anymore. A well-placed shot could leave an

inmate a perfect organ donor. Even hanging would work, if one could

hook up a respirator after brain death was confirmed." He shuddered.

"Pardon me. I'm used to saving patients, not theoretically killing them."

"I understand."

"Then again, even if he could donate his heart, chances are it would

be too large for a child's body. Has anyone addressed that yet?"

I shook my head, feeling even worse about Shay's odds.

The doctor glanced up. "The bad news, I'm afraid, is that your client

is out of luck."

"Is there any good news?"

"Of course." Dr. Gallagher grinned. "You don't have appendicitis, Ms.


"Here's the thing," I said to Oliver when I had gotten us enough Chinese

takeout to feed a family of four (you could keep the leftovers, and Oliver

really did like vegetable moo shu, even if my mother said that rabbits

didn't eat real food). "It's been sixty-nine years since anyone's been executed

in the state of New Hampshire. We're assuming that lethal injection

is the only method, but that doesn't mean we're right."

I picked up the carton of lo mein and spooled the noodles into my

mouth. "I know it's here somewhere," I muttered as the rabbit hopped

across another stack of legal texts scattered on the floor of the living

room. I was not in the habit of reading the New Hampshire Criminal

Code; going through the sections and subsections was like navigating

through molasses. I'd turn back a page, and the spot I'd been reading a

moment before would disappear in the run of text.


Death penalty.

Capital murder.

Injection, lethal.

630:5 (XXlll). When the penalty of death is imposed, the sentence

shall be that the defendant is imprisoned in the state prison at Concord

until the day appointed for his execution, which shall not be

within one year from the day sentence is passed.

Or in Shays case, eleven years.

The punishment of death shall be inflicted by continuous, intravenous

administration of a lethal quantity of an ultra-short-acting

barbiturate in combination with a chemical paralytic agent until

death is pronounced by a licensed physician according to accepted

standards of medical practice.

Everything I knew about the death penalty I had learned at the

ACLU. Prior to working there, I hadn't given the death penalty much

thought, beyond when someone was executed and the media made a

huge story out of it. Now I knew the names of those who were killed. I

heard about their last-minute appeals. I knew that, after death, some inmates

were found to be innocent.

Lethal injection was supposed to be like putting a dog to sleepa

drowsiness overcame you, and then you just never woke up. No pain, no

stress. It was a cocktail of three drugs: Sodium Pentothal, a sedative to put

the inmate to sleep; Pavulon, to paralyze the muscular system and stop

breathing; and potassium chloride, to stop the heart. The Sodium Pentothal

was ultra-short-actingwhich meant that you could recover quickly

from its effects. It also meant that a subject might have feeling in his nerves,

yet be just sedated enough to be unable to communicate or move.

The British medical journal the Lancet published a 2005 study of the

toxicology reports of forty-nine executed inmates in four U.S. states;

forty-three of the inmates had a level of anesthesia lower than required

Anesthesiologists say that if a person were conscious at the time potassium

chloride is administered, it would feel like boiling oil in the veins.

An inmate might feel as if he were being burned alive from the inside,

but be unable to move or speak because of the muscle paralysis and minimal

sedation caused by the other two drugs. The Supreme Court had

even had its doubts: although they still ruled that capital punishment was

constitutional, they'd halted executions of two inmates on a narrower

issue: whether the excessive pain caused by lethal injection was a civil

rights infraction that could be argued in a lower court.

Orto put it simplylethal injection might not be as humane as everyone

wanted to believe.

630:5 (XIV). The commissioner of corrections or his designee shall

determine the substance or substances to be used and the procedures

to be used in any execution, provided, however, that if for any

reason the commissioner finds it to be impractical to carry out the

punishment of death by administration of the required lethal substance

or substances, the sentence of death may be carried out by

hanging under the provisions of law for the death penalty by hanging

in effect on December 31,1986.

Oliver settled on my lap as I read the words again.

Shay didn't have to be executed by lethal injection, if I could make

the commissioneror a courtfind it impractical. If you coupled that

with the RLUIPAthe law that said a prisoner's religious freedoms had to

be protected in prisonand if I could prove that part of Shay's belief

system for redemption included organ donation, then lethal injection was


In which case, Shay would be hanged.

Andhere was the real miracleaccording to Dr. Gallagher, that

meant Shay Bourne could donate his heart.



The day the priest returned, I was working on pigments. My favorite substance

was teait made a stain you could vary in intensity from an almost white to a

yellowish brown. MEtM's were vibrant, but they were the hardest to work

with-you had to moisten a Q-tip and rub it over the surface of the MftM, you

couldn't just soak off the pigment like I was doing this morning with Skittles.

I set my jar lid on the table and added about fifteen drops of warm

water. The green Skittle went in next, and I rolled it around with my finger,

watching the food dye coating come off. The trick here was to pull the

candy out just as I started to see the white sugar beneath the coatingif

the sugar melted into the paint, it wouldn't work as well.

I popped the bleached button of candy into my mouthI could do that

these days, now that the thrush was gone. As I sucked on it, I poured the

contents of the lid (green, like the grass I had not walked on with my bare

feet in years; like the color of a jungle; like Adam's eyes) into an aspirin

bottle for safekeeping. Later, I could vary the pigment with a dab of white

toothpaste, diluted with water to make the right hue.

It was a laborious process, but then again . . . I had time.

I was just about to repeat the endeavor with a yellow jawbreaker-the

yield of paint was four times as much as a Skittlewhen Shay's priest walked

up to my cell door in his flak jacket. I had, of course, seen the priest briefly

the day he first visited Shay, but only at a distance. Now, with him directly in

front of my cell door, I could see that he was younger than I would have expected,

with hair that seemed decidedly un-priestlike and eyes as soft as

gray flannel. "Shay's getting his hair cut," I said, because it was barber day,

and that's where he had been taken about ten minutes before.

"I know, Lucius," the priest said. "That's why I was hoping to talk to


Let me tell you, the last thing I wanted to do was chat with a priest. I

hadn't asked for one, certainly, and in my previous experience, the clergy

only wanted to give a lecture on how being gay was a choice, and how God

loved me (but not my pesky habit of falling in love with other men). Just

because Shay had come back to his cell convinced that his new teamsome

lawyer girl and this priestwere going to move mountains for him

didn't mean that I shared his enthusiasm. In spite of the fact that he'd

been incarcerated for eleven years, Shay was still the most naive inmate I'd

ever met. Just last night, for example, he'd had a fight with the correctional

officers because it was laundry day and they'd brought new sheets,

which Shay refused to put on the bed. He said he could feel the bleach,

and instead insisted on sleeping on the floor of the cell.

"I appreciate you seeing me, Lucius," the priest said. "I'm happy to hear

you're feeling better these days."

I stared at him, wary.

"How long have you known Shay?"

I shrugged. "Since he was put in the cell next to me a few weeks ago."

"Was he talking about organ donation then?"

"Not at first," I said. "Then he had a seizure and got transferred to the

infirmary. When he came back, donating his heart was all he could talk


"He had a seizure?" the priest repeated, and I could tell this was news

to him. "Has he had any more since then?"

"Why don't you just ask Shay these questions?"

"I wanted to hear what you had to say."

"What you want," I corrected, "is for me to tell you whether or not he's

really performing miracles."

The priest nodded slowly. "I guess that's true."

Some had already been leaked to the press; I imagined the rest would

be brought to light sooner or later. I told him what I'd seen with my own

eyes, and by the time I was finished, Father Michael was frowning slightly.

"Does he go around saying he's God?"

"No," I joked. "That would be Crash."

"Lucius," the priest asked, "do you believe Shay is God?"

"You need to back up, Father, because I don't believe in God. I quit

around the same time one of your esteemed colleagues told me that AIDS

was my punishment for sinning." To be honest, I had split religion along

the seam of secular and nonsecular; choosing to concentrate on the beauty

of a Caravaggio without noticing the Madonna and child; or finding the

best lamb recipe for a lavish Easter dinner, without thinking about the Passion.

Religion gave hope to people who knew the end wasn't going to be

pretty. It was why inmates started praying in prison and why patients

started praying when the doctors said terminal. Religion was supposed to

be a blanket drawn up to your chin to keep you warm, a promise that when

it came to the end, you wouldn't die alonebut it could just as easily leave

you shivering out in the cold, if what you believed became more important

than the fact that you believed.

I stared at him. "I don't believe in God. But I do believe in Shay."

"Thank you for your time, Lucius," the priest said softly, and he walked

down the tier.

He may have been a priest, but he was looking for his miracles in the

wrong place. That day with the gum, for example. I had seen the coverage

on the newsit was reported that Shay had somehow taken one tiny rectangle

of Bazooka gum and multiplied it. But ask someone who'd been

therelike me, or Crash, or Texasand you'd know there weren't suddenly

seven pieces of bubble gum. It was more like this: when the piece was

fished underneath our cell doors, instead of taking as much as we could,

we made do with less instead.

The gum was magically replicated. But wethe blatantly greedybalanced

the needs of the other seven guys and in that instant found them

just as worthy as our own.

Which, if you asked me, was an even greater miracle.

The Holy Father has an entire office at the Vatican devoted to analyzing

alleged miracles and passing judgment on their authenticity. They scrutinize

statues and busts, scrape Crisco out of the corners of supposedly

bleeding eyes, track scented oil on walls that emit the smell of roses. I

was nowhere as experienced as those priests, but then again, there

was a crowd of nearly five hundred people outside the state prison

calling Shay Bourne a saviorand I wasn't going to let people give up

on Jesus that easily.

To that end, I was now ensconced in a lab on the Dartmouth

campus, with a graduate student named Ahmed who was trying to explain

to me the results of the test he'd run on the soil sample taken

from the vicinity of the pipes that ran into I-tier. "The reason the prison

couldn't get a conclusive explanation is because they were looking in

the pipes, not outside them," Ahmed said. "So the water tested positive

for something that looked like alcohol, but only in certain pipes. And

you'll never guess what's growing near those pipes: rye."

"Rye? Like the grain?"

"Yeah," Ahmed said. "Which accounts for the concentration of ergot

into the water. It's a fungal disease of rye. I'm not sure what brings it

onI'm not a botanistbut I bet it had something to do with the amount

of rain we've had, and there was a hairline crack in the piping they

found when they first investigated, which accounts for the transmission

in the first place. Ergot was the first kind of chemical warfare. The Assyrians

used it in the seventh century B.C. to poison water supplies." He

smiled. "I double-majored in chemistry and ancient history."

"It's deadly?"

Ahmed shrugged. "In repeated doses. But at first, it's a hallucinogen

that's related to LSD."

"So, the prisoners on I-tier might not have been drunk ..." I said


"Right," Ahmed replied. "Just tripping."

I turned over the vial with the soil sample. "You think the water got


"That would be my bet."

But Shay Bourne, in prison, would not have been able to know that

there was a fungus growing near the pipes that led into I-tier, would he?

I suddenly remembered something else: the following morning,

those same inmates on I-tier had ingested the same water and had not

acted out of the ordinary. "So how did it get uncontaminated?"

"Now that," Ahmed said, "I haven't quite figured out."

"There are a number of reasons that an advanced AIDS patient with a

particularly low CD4 count and high viral load might suddenly appear to

get better," Dr. Perego said. An autoimmune disease specialist at

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, he also served as the doctor for

HIV/AIDS patients at the state prison and knew all about Lucius and his

recovery. He didn't have time for a formal talk, but was perfectly willing

to chat if I wanted to walk with him from his office to a meeting at the

other end of the hospitalas long as I realized that he couldn't violate

doctor-patient confidentiality. "If a patient is hoarding meds, for example,

and suddenly decides to start taking them, sores will disappear and

health will improve. Although we draw blood every three months from

AIDS patients, sometimes we'll get a guy who refuses to have his blood

drawnand again, what looks like sudden improvement is actually a

slow turn for the better."

"Alma, the nurse at the prison, told me Lucius hasn't had his blood

drawn in over six months," I said.

"Which means we can't be quite sure what his recent viral count

was." We had reached the conference room. Doctors in white coats

milled into the room, taking their seats. I'm not sure what you wanted

to hear," Dr. Perego said, smiling ruefully. "That he's special... or that

he's not."

I'm not sure either," I admitted, and I shook his hand. "Thanks for

your time."

The doctor slipped into the meeting, and I started back down the

hall toward the parking garage. I was waiting at the elevator, grinning

down at a baby in a stroller with a patch over her right eye, when I felt

a hand on my shoulder. Dr. Perego was standing there. I'm glad I


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