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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 13

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

mark.

The reason we have no choice now is because we made a bad one in

the pastwhich is why we were all energized by Shay's attempt to die on

his own terms. It was still an execution, but even that tiny sliver of preference

was more than we had on a daily basis. I could only imagine how my

world would change if we were given an option to choose between orange

scrubs and yellow ones; if we were asked whether we'd like a spoon or a

fork with our meal trays, instead of the universal plastic "spork." But the

more animated we got at the possibility of, well, possibility... the more

depressed Shay grew.

"Maybe," he said to me one afternoon when the air-conditioning had

broken and we were all wilting in our cells, "I should just let them do what

they want."

The officers, in an act of mercy, had opened the door that led to the

exercise cell. It was supposed to afford us a breeze, but that hadn't happened.

"Why would you say that?"

"Because it feels like I've started a war," Shay said.

"Well, imagine that," Crash laughed. "Since I'm over here practicing my

shooting."

This afternoon Crash had been injecting Benadryl. Many of the inmates

here had made their own pointshomemade hypodermics that could be

sharpened every few uses by scraping them against a matchbook. Benadryl

was given out by the prison nurse; you could accumulate a stash and open

up a capsule, then cook down the tiny beads of medicine in a spoon over a

soda-can stove. It was a speed high, but the buffers used in the medicine

would also make you crazy.

"Whaddya say, Mistah Messiah . . . you want a hit?"

"He most certainly does not," I answered.

"I don't think he was talking to you," Shay said. And then, to Crash:

"Give it to me."

Crash laughed. "Guess you don't know him as well as you think you do,

Liberace. Ain't that right, Death Row?"

Crash had no moral compass. He aligned himself with the Aryan Brotherhood

when it suited his needs. He talked of terrorist attacks; he'd cheered

when we were watching the news footage of the World Trade Center collapsing.

He had a list of victims, should he ever get out. He wanted his kids



to grow up to be addicts or dealers or whores, and said he would be disappointed

if they turned out to be anything else. Once, I heard him describing

a visit with his three-year-old daughter: he told her to punch another kid

at school to make him proud, and not to come back till she did. Now I

watched him fish Shay the hype kit, hidden neatly inside a dismantled battery,

ready for a hit with the liquefied Benadryl inside it. Shay put the

needle to the crook of his elbow, set his thumb on the plunger.

And squirted the precious drug onto the floor of the catwalk.

"What the fuck!" Crash exploded. "Gimme that back."

"Haven't you heard? I'm Jesus. I'm supposed to save you," Shay said.

"I don't want to be saved," Crash yelled. "I want my kit back!"

"Come and get it," Shay said, and he pushed the kit under his door, so

that it landed square on the catwalk. "Hey, CO," he yelled. "Come see what

Crash made."

As the COs entered to confiscate the hype kitand write him a ticket

that would include a stay in solitaryCrash slammed his hand against the



metal door. "I swear, Bourne, when you least expect i t . . . "

He was interrupted by the sound of Warden Coyne's voice out in the

courtyard. "I just bought a goddamn death gurney," the warden cried, conversing

with someone we could not see. "What am I supposed to do with

that?" And then, when he stopped speaking, we all noticed somethingor

the lack of something. The incessant hammering and sawing that had been

going on outside for months, as the prison built a death chamber to accommodate

Shay's sentence, had fallen silent. All we heard was a simple,

blissful quiet.

"... you're gonna wind up dead," Crash finished, but now we were

starting to wonder if that would still be true.

 

MICHAEL

The Reverend Arbogath Justus preached at the Drive-in Church of

Christ in God in Heldratch, Michigan. His congregation arrived in their

cars on Sunday mornings and received a blue flyer with the day's scripture,

and a note to tune in to AM 1620 in order to hear the good reverend

when he took the pulpitformerly the snack bar, when it was a

movie theater. I would have ridiculed this, but his flock was six hundred

strong, which led me to believe that there were enough people in

this world who wanted to tuck their prayer requests beneath windshield

wipers to be collected, and to receive Communion from altar girls

on roller skates.

I suppose it wasn't a big stretch to go from the movie screen to the

small one, which is why Reverend Justus ran a television ministry site,

too, on a cable station called SOS (Save Our Souls). I'd caught it a few

times, while I was flipping through channels. It was fascinating to me, in

the same way Shark Week was fascinating on the Discovery ChannelI

was curious to learn more, but from a nice, secure distance. Justus wore

eyeliner on television, and suits in a range of lollipop colors. His wife

played the accordion when it came time to sing hymns. It all seemed like

a parody of what faith was supposed to bequiet and heart-settling, not

grandiose and dramaticwhich is why I always eventually changed the

channel.

One day, when I went to visit Shay, my car was stopped in traffic

leading to the prison. Shiny, scrubbed Midwestern faces worked their

way from car to car. They were wearing green T-shirts with the name of

Justus's church on the back, scrawled above a rudimentary drawing of a

'57 Chevy convertible. When one girl approached, I unrolled the window.

"God bless you!" she said, and offered me a slip of yellow paper.

There was a picture of Jesus, arms outstretched and palms raised,

floating in the oval of a sideview car mirror. The caption read: OBJECTS IN

MIRROR ARE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR.

And then below it: Shay Bourne: A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing? Don't

Let a False Prophet Lead You Astray!

The line of cars chugged forward, finally, and I turned into the

parking lot. I had to pull my car onto the grass; it was that crowded.

The throngs of people waiting for Shay, and the media covering his

story, had not dissipated.

However, by the time I came close to the prison, I realized that the

attention of most of these people was not held by Shay at that moment,

but by a man in a three-piece lime-green suit, wearing a clerical collar.

I got close enough to see the pancake makeup and the eyeliner, and

realized that Reverend Arbogath Justus had now moved into the realm

of satellite ministries . . . and had chosen the prison as his first stop.

"Miracles mean nothing," Justus announced. "The world is full of false

prophets. In Revelations, we're told of a beast that uses miracles to fool

men into worshipping it. Do you know what happens to that beast on

Judgment Day? He and the people who were fooled are all thrown into

a lake of fire. Is that what you want?"

A woman fell forward from the cliff-edge of the crowd. "No," she

sobbed. "I want to go with God."

"Jesus can hear you, sister," Reverend Justus said. "Because He's

here, with us. Not inside that prison, like the false prophet Shay

Bourne!"

There was a roar from his converts. But just as quickly, it was

matched by those who hadn't given up on Shay. "How do we know

you're not the false prophet?" one young man called out.

Beside me, a mother tucked her sick child into her arms more

tightly. She looked at my collar and frowned. "Are you with him?"

 

"No," I said. "Definitely not."

She nodded. "Well, I'm not taking advice from a man whose church

has a concession stand."

I started to agree, but was distracted by a burly man who grabbed

the reverend from his makeshift pulpit and yanked him into the crowd.

The cameras, of course, were all rolling.

Without thinking twice about what I was doing, or that I was doing

it on film, I pushed forward and rescued Reverend Arbogath Justus from

the clutches of the mob. He wrapped his arms around me, gasping, as I

pulled us both up onto a granite ledge that ran along the edge of the

parking lot.

In retrospect, I didn't know why I had chosen to play the hero. And

I really didn't know why I said what I did next. Philosophically, Reverend

Justus and I were on the same teameven if we pitched religion

with very different styles. But I also knew that Shay wasmaybe for

the first time in his lifeattempting to do something honorable. He

didn't deserve to be slandered for that.

I might not believe in Shaybut I believed him.

I felt the wide, white eye of a television camera swing toward me,

and a herd of others followed. "Reverend Justus came here, I'm sure,

because he thinks he's telling you the truth. Well, so does Shay Bourne.

He wants to do one thing in this world before he leaves it: save the life

of a child. The Jesus I know would endorse that, I think. And," I said,

turning to the reverend, "the Jesus I know wouldn't send people to

some fiery hell if they were trying to atone for their sins. The Jesus I

know believed in second chances."

As Reverend Justus realized that I might have saved him from the

mob to sacrifice him all over again, his face reddened. "There's one true

word of God," he proclaimed in his camera-ready voice, "and Shay

Bourne isn't speaking it."

Well, I couldn't argue with that. In all the time I'd been with

Shay, he had never quoted the New Testament. He was far more

likely to swear or go off on a tangent about Hanta virus and government

conspiracy. "You're absolutely right," I said. "He's trying to do

something that's never been done before. He's asking questions of

the status quo. He's trying to suggest another waya better way.

And he's willing to die for it to happen." I raised a brow. "Come to

think of it, I bet Jesus might find a lot in common with a guy like

Shay Bourne."

I nodded, stepped down from the granite ledge, and shoved my

way through the crowd to the security partition, where a correctional

officer let me through. "Father," he said, shaking his head, "you got no

idea how big a pile of you-know-what you just stepped into." And as if

I needed proof, my cell phone rang: Father Walter's angry summons

back to St. Catherine's, immediately.

I sat in the front pew of the church as Father Walter paced in front of

me. "What if I blamed it all on being moved by the Holy Spirit?" I offered,

and received a withering glare.

"I don't understand," Father Walter said. "Why would you say

something like that... on live television, for the love of God"

"I didn't mean to-"

"when you had to know that it was going to bring the heat down

on St. Catherine's?" He sank down beside me and tipped his head

back, as if he were praying to the carved statue of Jesus on the Cross

that rose above us. "Michael, seriously, what were you thinking?" he

said softly. "You're a young, handsome, smart, straight guy. You could

write your ticket in the Churchget your own parish, wind up in

Rome . . . be whatever you want. And instead, I get a copy of an affidavit

from the attorney general's office, saying that as Shay Bourne's spiritual

advisor you believe in salvation through organ donation? And then

I turn on the midday news and see you on a soapbox, sounding like

some kind of... some kind of..."

"What?"

He shook his head, but stopped short of calling me a heretic.

"You've read Tertullian," he said.

We all had, in seminary. He was a famous orthodox Christian historian

whose text The Prescription Against Heretics was a forerunner of

the Nicene Creed. Tertullian had coined the idea of a deposit of faith

that we take what Christ taught and believe it as is, without adding to

or taking away from it.

"You want to know why Catholicism's been around for two thousand

years?" Father Walter said. "Because of people like Tertullian, who

understood that you can't mess around with truth. People were upset

with the changes of Vatican II. The Pope's even reinstated the Latin

Mass."

I took a deep breath. "I thought being a spiritual advisor meant

doing what Shay Bourne needs to face his death with peacenot what

we need him to do, as a good Catholic."

"Good Lord," Father Walter said. "He's conned you."

I frowned. "He hasn't conned me."

"He's got you eating out of the palm of his hand! Look at youyou

practically acted like his press secretary today on the news"

"Do you think Jesus died for a reason?" I interrupted.

"Of course."

"Then why shouldn't Shay Bourne be allowed to do the same?"

"Because," Father Walter said, "Shay Bourne is not dying for anyone's

sins, except his own."

I flinched. Well, didn't I know that better than anyone else?

Father Walter sighed. "I don't agree with the death penalty, but I

understand this sentence. He murdered two people. A police officer,

and a little girl." He shook his head. "Save his soul, Michael. Don't try to

save his life."

I glanced up. "What do you think would have happened if just one

of the apostles had stayed awake in the garden with Jesus? If they'd

kept Him from being arrested? If they'd tried to save Hi's life?"

Father Walter's mouth dropped open. "You don't really think Shay

Bourne is Jesus, do you?"

I didn't.

Did I?

Father Walter sank down onto the pew and took off his glasses. He

rubbed his eyes. "Mikey," he said, "take a couple weeks off. Go somewhere

and pray. Think about what you're doingwhat you're saying."

He looked up at me. "And in the meantime. I don't want you going to

the prison on behalf of St. Catherine's."

I looked around this church, which I had grown to lovewith its

polished pews and the spatter of light from the stained glass, the whispering

silk of the chalice veil, the dancing flames on the candles lit in

offering. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be.

"I won't go to the prison on behalf of St. Catherine's," I said, "but I

will go on behalf of Shay."

I walked down the aisle, past the holy water, past the bulletin

board with the information about the young boy from Zimbabwe the

congregation supported with their donations. When I stepped outside

the double doors of the church, the world was so bright that for a

moment, I couldn't see where I was headed.

Maggie

There were four ways to hang someone. The short drop involved a prisoner

falling just a few inches; their body weight and physical struggling tightened

the noose and caused death by strangulation. Suspension hanging required

the prisoner to be raised upward and strangled. Standard drop

hangingpopular in America in the late nineteenth and twentieth

centuriesmeant the prisoner fell four to six feet, which might or might

not break his neck. Long drop hanging was a more personal execution: the

distance the prisoner fell was determined by weight and body type. The

body was still accelerating due to gravity at the end of the drop, but

the head was restricted by the noosewhich broke the neck and ruptured

the spinal cord, rendering instant unconsciousness, and a quick death.

I'd learned that next to shooting, hanging was the world's most popular

form of execution. It was introduced in Persia twenty-five hundred

years ago for male criminals (females were strangled at the stake, because

it was less indecent)a nice alternative to the blood and guts of a typical

beheading, with all the same punch as any public spectacle.

It was not, however, foolproof. In 1885, a British murderer named

Robert Goodale was hanged, but the force of the drop decapitated him.

Most recently, Saddam Hussein's half brother had suffered the same grisly

fate in Iraq. This was a legal conundrum: if the sentence of death was to

be carried out by hanging, then the prisoner could not be decapitated, or

the sentence wasn't fulfilled.

I had to do my homeworkwhich explained why I was reading the

Official Table of Drops and estimating Shay Bourne's weight when Father

Michael came into my office. "Oh, good," I said, motioning to the seat

across from my desk. "If the noose is positioned rightthere's something

about a brass eyeletthe fall causes an instant fracture of the C2 vertebra.

It says here brain death occurs in six minutes, and whole-body death

within ten to fifteen minutes. That means we've got a four-minute

window to get him back on a respirator before the heart stops beating

and oh, I almost forgotI heard back from the AG's office. They denied

our request to have Shay hanged instead of executed with lethal injection.

They even included the original sentence, as if I haven't read it a bazillion

times, and told me if I wanted to challenge it, I had to file the

appropriate motions. Which," I said, "I did five hours ago."

Father Michael didn't even seem to hear me. "Listen," I said gently,

"it's easier if you think about this hanging business as science . . . and

stop connecting it personally to Shay."

"I'm sorry," the priest said, shaking his head. "It's justit's been a

pretty bad day"

"You mean the showdown you had with the televangelist?"

"You saw that?"

"You're the talk of the town, Father."

He closed his eyes. "Great."

"I'm sure Shay saw it, too, if that's any consolation."

Father Michael looked up at me. "Thanks to Shay, my supervising

priest thinks I'm a heretic."

I thought about what my father would say if a member of his congregation

came to him to ease his soul. "Do you think you're a heretic?"

"Does any heretic?" he said. "Honestly, I'm the last person who ought

to be helping you win Shay's case, Maggie."

"Hey," I said, trying to boost his spirits. "I was just about to go to my

parents' house for dinner. It's a standing engagement on Friday nights.

Why don't you come with me?"

"I couldn't impose"

"Believe me, there's always enough food to feed a third world

country."

"Well, then," the priest said, "that would be great."

I switched off my desk lamp. "We can take my car," I said.

"Can I leave my motorcycle parked in the lot here?"

"You're allowed to ride a motorcycle, but you can't eat meat on

Friday?"

He still looked as if the world had been pulled out from beneath him.

"I guess the Church forefathers found it easier to abstain from beef than

Harleys."

I led him through the maze of file cabinets in the ACLU office and

headed outside. "Guess what I found out today," I said. "The trapdoor

from the old gallows at the state prison is in the chaplain's office."

When I glanced at Father Michael, I was pretty sure I saw the ghost

of a smile.

 

June

One of the things I liked about Dr. Wu's office was the wall of pictures.

An enormous corkboard held photographs of patients who had

beaten the odds after having Dr. Wu operate on their failing hearts.

There were babies propped up on pillows, Christmas card portraits,

and boys wielding Little League bats. It was a mural of success.

When I'd first come to tell Dr. Wu about Shay Bourne's offer,

he listened carefully and then said that in his twenty-three years of

practice, he had yet to see a grown man's heart that would be a

good match for a child. Hearts grew to fit the needs of their host

bodywhich was why every other potential organ that had been

offered to Claire for transplant had come from another child. "I'll

examine him," Dr. Wu promised, "but I don't want you to get your

hopes up."

Now I watched Dr. Wu take a seat and flatten his palms on the

desk. I always marveled at the fact that he walked around shaking

hands and waving as if the appendages were totally normal, instead

of miraculous. Those ridiculous celebrities who insured their

breasts and their legs had nothing on Dr. Wu and his hands.

"June..."

"Just say it quickly," I said, full of false cheer.

Dr. Wu met my gaze. "He's a perfect match for Claire."

I had already gathered the strap of my purse in my fist, planning

to thank him hastily and beat a retreat out of the office before

I started crying again over yet another lost heart; but these words

rooted me to my seat. " I . . . I'm sorry?"

"They have the same blood typeB positive. The tissue crossmatch

we did of their blood was nonreactive. Buthere's the remarkable

parthis heart is just the right size."

I knew they looked for a donor who was within 20 percent of

the patient's weightwhich for Claire meant anyone between

sixty and a hundred pounds. Shay Bourne was a small man, but

he was still an adult. He had to weigh 120 or 130 pounds.

"Medically, it doesn't make sense. Theoretically, his heart is

too tiny to be doing the job his own body needs . . . and yet he

seems to be healthy as a horse." Dr. Wu smiled. "It looks like

Claire's got herself a donor."

I stilled. This was supposed to be wonderful newsbut I

could barely breathe. How would Claire react if she knew the circumstances

behind the donation? "You can't tell her," I said.

"That she's going to have a transplant?"

I shook my head. "Where it came from."

Dr. Wu frowned. "Don't you think she'll find out? This is all

over the news."

"Organ donations are always done anonymously. Plus, she

doesn't want a boy's heart. She always says that."

"That's not really the issue here, is it?" The cardiologist stared

at me. "It's a muscle, June. Nothing more, and nothing less. What

makes a heart worthy for transplant has nothing to do with the

donor's personality."

I looked up at him. "What would you do, if she was your

daughter?"

"If she was my daughter," Dr. Wu replied, "I would already

have scheduled the surgery."

 

Lucius

I tried to tell Shay that he was the topic on Larry King Live that night, but

either he was asleep or he just didn't feel like answering me. Instead, I took

out my stinger from where it was hidden behind a cement block in the wall

and heated up some water for tea. The guests that night were the nutcase

reverend that Father Michael had sparred with outside the prison, and

some stuffed-shirt academic named Ian Fletcher. It was hard to tell who

had the more intriguing backstoryReverend Justus with his drive-in

church, or Fletcherwho'd been a television atheist until he'd run across a

little girl who could apparently perform miracles and raise the dead. He

wound up marrying the girl's single mother, which in my opinion, greatly

diluted the credibility of his commentary.

Still, he was a better speaker than Reverend Justus, who kept rising

out of his seat as if he were filled with helium. "There's an old proverb,

Larry," the reverend said. "You can't keep trouble from coming, but you

don't have to make out a place card."

Larry King tapped his pen on the desk twice. "And by that you

mean . . . ?"

"Miracles don't make a man into God. Dr. Fletcher ought to know that

better than anyone."

Unrattled, Ian Fletcher smiled. "The more you think you're right, the

likelier you are to be wrong. That's a proverb Reverend Justus probably

hasn't encountered yet."

"Tell us about being a television atheist," Larry said.

"Well, I used to do what Jerry Falwell did, except instead of saying

there's a God, I said there wasn't one. I went around debunking claims of

miracles all over the country. Eventually, when I found one that I couldn't

discredit, I started wondering if it was really God I objected to . . . or just

the sense of entitlement that seems to be part of affiliating with a religious

group. Like the way you'll hear that a person is a good Christianwell,

who says Christians corner the market on virtue? Or when the

president ends a speech with 'God bless the United States of America'...

why just us?"

"Are you still an atheist?" King asked.

"Technically, I suppose you'd call me an agnostic."

Justus scoffed. "Splitting hairs."

"Not true; an atheist's got more in common with a Christian, since he

believes you can know whether or not God exists-but where a Christian

says absolutely, the atheist says absolutely not. For me, and any other

agnosticthe jury's still out. Religion is intriguing, but in a historical sense.

A man should live his life a certain way not because of some divine authority,

but because of a personal moral obligation to himself and others."

Larry King turned to Reverend Justus. "And you, sir, your congregation

meets in a former drive-in movie theater? Don't you think that takes some

of the pomp and circumstance out of religion?"

"What we've found, Larry, is that for some people the obligation of

getting up and going to church is too overwhelming. They don't like having

to see or be seen by others; they don't enjoy being indoors on a beautiful

Sunday; they prefer to worship in private. Coming to the Drive-ln Church

allows a person to do whatever it is he needs to do while communing with

God-whether that's wearing pajamas, or eating an Egg McMuffin, or

dozing off during my sermon."

"Now, Shay Bourne isn't the first person to come along and stir the

pot," King said. "Few years back, a Florida State football quarterback was

found lying in the street, claiming to be God. And a fellow in Virginia

wanted his driver's license changed to reflect that he was a resident of the

Kingdom of Heaven. What do you think it is about Shay Bourne that makes

people believe he might be the real deal?"

"As far as I understand," Fletcher said, "Bourne's not claiming to be the

Messiah or Mary Poppins or Captain Americait's the people supporting him

who have christened him, no pun intended. Ironically, that's very similar to


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