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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 9 ñòðàíèöà
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
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 words—just 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
Bourne—they'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 nurse—a large graying woman who looked like a
battleship—compressed 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 millennium—I 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."
"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 scrubs—took 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 it—he was stunning. He had
black hair and eyes the color of the blueberries that grew in my parents'
garden—almost 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, too—a 38-22-36 fiancee
who had double-majored in law and medicine, or astrophysics and
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
"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,"
"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 days—each—to 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
"You know what's interesting?" the doctor said. "I believe it's potassium
that's used in lethal injection—the 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 cardiectomy—a heart removal—as a method of execution?"
I shook my head. "The execution has to happen within the walls of
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."
"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.
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 sleep—a
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-acting—which 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.
Or—to put it simply—lethal 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 commissioner—or a court—find it impractical. If you coupled that
with the RLUIPA—the law that said a prisoner's religious freedoms had to
be protected in prison—and 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.
And—here was the real miracle—according 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 tea—it 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 coating—if
the sugar melted into the paint, it wouldn't work as well.
I popped the bleached button of candy into my mouth—I 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 Skittle—when 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 priest—were 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 alone—but 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 news—it was reported that Shay had somehow taken one tiny rectangle
of Bazooka gum and multiplied it. But ask someone who'd been
there—like me, or Crash, or Texas—and 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 we—the 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 savior—and 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
on—I'm not a botanist—but 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."
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 hospital—as 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
drawn—and 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
I'm not sure either," I admitted, and I shook his hand. "Thanks for
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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