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and held open with a metal spreader so that she could be made,
literally, heartless—and this was not what terrified me the most.
No, what scared me to death was the idea of cellular memory.
Dr. Wu had said that there was no scientific evidence that the
personality traits of heart donors transferred to their recipients.
But science could only go so far, I figured. I'd read the books and
done the research, and I didn't see why it was such a stretch to
think that living tissue might have the ability to remember. After
all, how many of us had tried to forget something traumatic...
only to find it printed on the back of our eyelids, tattooed on our
There were dozens of cases. The baby with a clubfoot who
drowned and gave his heart to another infant, who began to drag
her left leg. The rapper who started playing classical music, and
then learned his donor had died clutching a violin case. The cattle
rancher who received the heart of a sixteen-year-old vegetarian,
and could not eat meat again without getting violently ill.
Then there was the twenty-year-old organ donor who wrote
music in his spare time. A year after he died, his parents found a
CD of a love song he'd recorded, about losing his heart to a girl
named Andi. His recipient, a twenty-year-old girl, was named
Andrea. When the boy's parents played the song for her, she could
complete the chorus, without ever having heard it.
Most of these stories were benign—a strange coincidence, an
intriguing twist. Except for one: a little boy received the heart of
another boy who'd been murdered. He began to have nightmares
about the man who killed his donor—with details about the clothing
the man wore, how he'd abducted the boy, where the murder
weapon had been stashed. Using this evidence, the police caught
If Claire received Shay Bourne's heart, it would be bad enough
if she were to harbor thoughts of murder. But what would absolutely
wreck me was if, with that heart in her, she had to feel her
own father and sister being killed.
In that case, better to have no heart at all.
Today, I decided, I was going to do everything right. It was Sunday, and I
didn't have to go to work. Instead, I got up and unearthed my One Minute
Workout video (which was not nearly as slacker as it sounds—you could
add minutes to your own liking, and no one was here to notice if I chose
the four-minute option over the more grueling eight-minute one). I
picked Focus on Abs, instead of the easier Upper Arm. I sorted my recyclables
and flossed and shaved my legs in the shower. Downstairs, I
cleaned Olivers cage and let him have the run of the living room while I
made myself scrambled egg whites for breakfast.
With wheat germ.
Well. I lasted forty-seven minutes, anyway, before I had to break out
the Oreos that I hid in the box with my skinny jeans, a last-ditch attempt
at utter guilt before I ripped open the package and indulged.
I gave Oliver an Oreo, too, and was starting my third cookie when
the doorbell rang.
As soon as I saw the bright pink T-shirt of the man standing on the
porch, with the words JOYOUS FOR JESUS printed boldly across it, I knew
this was my punishment for falling off the wagon into the snack foods.
"If you're not gone in the next ten seconds, I'm calling 911," I said.
He grinned at me, a big platinum orthodontically enhanced grin.
"I'm not a stranger," he said. "I'm a friend you haven't met yet."
I rolled my eyes. "Why don't we just cut to the chase—you give me
the pamphlets, I politely refuse to talk to you, and then I close the door
and throw them in the trash."
He held out his hand. "I'm Tom."
"You're leaving," I corrected.
"I used to be bitter, too. I'd go to work in the mornings and come
home to an empty house and eat half a can of soup and wonder why I
had even been put on this earth. I thought I had no one, but myself—"
"And then you offered Jesus the rest of your soup," I finished. "Look,
I'm an atheist."
"It's not too late to find your faith."
"What you really mean is that it's not too late for me to find your faith,"
I answered, scooping up Oliver as he made a mad dash for the open door.
"You know what I believe? That religion served its historical purpose—it
was a set of laws to live by, before we had a justice system. But even when it
starts out with the best of intentions, things get screwed up, don't they? A
group bands together because they believe the same things, and then somehow
that gets perverted so that anyone who doesn't believe those things is
wrong. Honestly, even if there was a religion founded on the principle of
doing good for other people, or helping them with their personal rights,
like I do every day, I wouldn't join . . . because it would still be a religion"
I had rendered Tom speechless. This was probably the most heated
debate he'd had in months; mostly, he'd have doors closed in his face.
Inside my house, the phone began to ring.
Tom pushed a pamphlet into my hand and beat a hasty retreat off my
porch. As I closed the door behind him I glanced down at the cover.
GOD + YOU = oo
"If there's any math to religion," I muttered, "it's division." I slipped
the pamphlet onto the liner of newspaper beneath Oliver's cage as I hurried
to the phone, which was on the verge of rolling over to the answering
The voice was unfamiliar, halting. "Is Maggie Bloom there?"
"Speaking." I geared up for a zinger to put a telemarketer in her place
for disturbing me on a Sunday morning.
As it turned out, she wasn't a telemarketer. She was a nurse at Concord
Hospital, and she was calling because I had been listed as Shay
Bourne's emergency contact, and an emergency had occurred.
You would not have believed it possible, but when CO Smythe came back
to life, things actually got worse.
The remaining officers had to give statements to the warden about the
stabbing. We were kept in lockdown, and the next day a team of officers
who did not normally work on I-tier were brought in on duty. They started
our one-hour rotations on the exercise yard and the shower, and Pogie was
the first to go.
I hadn't showered since the stabbing, although the COs had given both
Shay and me a fresh set of scrubs. We had gotten Smythe's blood on us, and a
quick wash in our cell basins didn't go very far to making me feel clean. While
we were waiting for our turns in the shower, Alma showed up to give us both
blood tests. They tested anyone who came in contact with an inmate's blood,
and since that included CO Smythe, his blood apparently was only one step removed
from questionable. Shay was moved in handcuffs, ankle cuffs, and a
belly chain to a holding room outside the tier, where Alma was waiting.
In the middle of all this, Pogie slipped in the shower. He lay there,
moaning about his back. Two more COs dragged in the backboard and
handcuffed Pogie to it, then carried him to a gurney so he could be transported
all the way to Medical. But because they were not used to I-tier,
and because COs are supposed to follow us, not lead, they did not realize
that Shay was already being brought back to the tier at the same time
Pogie was going out.
Tragedies happen in a split second in prison; that's all it took for Pogie to
use the handcuff key he'd hidden to free himself, jump off the backboard, grab
it, and slam it into Shay's skull, so that he flew face-first into the brick wall.
"Weiss machtr Pogie yelled— White pridel—which was how I realized
Crash-from where he was still being kept in solitary-had used his connections
to order a hit on Shay in retaliation for ratting him out and giving his
hype kit to the COs. Sully's attack on CO Smythe had just been collateral
damage, meant to shake up the staffing on our tier so that part two of the
plan could be carried out. And Pogie—a probate—had jumped at the chance to
earn his bones by carrying out a murder sanctioned by the Aryan Brotherhood.
Six hours after this fiasco, Alma returned to finish drawing my blood. I
was taken to the holding cell and found her still shaken by what had happened,
although she would not tell me anything-except that Shay had
been taken to the hospital.
When I saw something silver winking at me, I waited until Alma drew
the needle from my arm. Then I put my head down between my knees.
"You all right, sugar?" Alma asked.
"Just feeling a little dizzy." I let my fingers trail along the floor.
If magicians are the best at sleight of hand, then inmates have to be a
close second. As soon as I was back in my cell, I pulled my booty out of the
seam in my scrubs where I'd hidden it. Pogie's handcuff key was tiny, shiny,
formed from the fastener of a manila envelope.
I crawled beneath my bunk and wriggled the loose brick that concealed
my prized possessions. In a small cardboard box were my bottles of
paint and my Q-tip brushes. There were packets of candy, too, that I
planned to extract pigment from in the future-a half-empty pack of
M&M's, a roll of LifeSavers, a few loose Starbursts. I unwrapped one of the
Starbursts, the orange one that tasted like St. Joseph children's aspirin, and
kneaded the square with my thumbs until the taffy became pliable. I
pressed the handcuff key into the center, then reshaped a careful square
and folded it into its original wrapping.
I did not like the thought of profiting in some way from an incident
that had hurt Shay so badly, but I was also a realist. When Shay ran out of
his nine lives and I was left alone, I would need all the help I could get.
Even if I hadn't been listed as Shay Bourne's emergency contact, I would have
found him quickly enough at the hospital: he was the only patient with
armed guards standing outside his door. I glanced at the officers, then turned
my attention to the nurse at the desk. "Is he all right? What happened?"
Father Michael had called me after the attack on CO Smythe and told
me Shay hadn't been hurt. Somewhere between now and then, however,
something must have gone drastically wrong. I had tried calling the priest
now, but he wasn't answering his cell—I assumed he was on his way, that
he'd been called, too.
If Shay hadn't been treated at the prison hospital, whatever had happened
must've been pretty awful. Inmates weren't moved off-site unless
absolutely necessary, because of cost and security. With the hoopla Shay
had generated outside the prison walls, it must have been a matter of life
Then again, maybe everything was when it came to Shay. Here I was
literally shaking over the news that he'd been seriously injured, when I
had spent yesterday filing motions that would streamline his execution.
The nurse looked up at me. "He's just come back from surgery."
"Yes," said a clipped British voice behind me. "And no, it wasn't an
When I turned around, Dr. Gallagher was standing there.
"Are you the only doctor who works here?"
"It certainly feels that way sometimes. I'm happy to answer your
questions. Mr. Bourne is my patient."
"He's my client."
Dr. Gallagher glanced at the nurse and at the armed officers. "Why
don't we go somewhere to talk?"
I followed him down the hall to a small family waiting lounge that
was empty. When the doctor gestured for me to take a seat, my heart
sank. Doctors only made you sit down when they delivered bad
"Mr. Bourne is going to be fine," Dr. Gallagher said. "At least in terms
of this injury."
"I'm sorry, I thought you knew—apparently, it was an inmate fight.
Mr. Bourne sustained a severe blow to the maxillary sinus."
I waited for him to translate.
"His maxilla's broken," Dr. Gallagher said, and he leaned forward,
touching my face. His fingers brushed over the bone below my eye
socket, tracing toward my mouth. "Here," he said, and I absolutely, positively
stopped breathing. "There was a bit of a trauma during the operation.
As soon as we saw the injuries we knew that the anesthesia would
be intravenous, instead of inhalational. Needless to say, when Mr. Bourne
heard the anesthesiologist say that she'd begun Sodium Pentothal drip,
he grew quite agitated." The doctor looked up at me. "He asked if this
was a dry run for the real thing."
I tried to imagine how it would feel to be Shay—hurt, aching, and
confused—whisked away to an unfamiliar place for what seemed to be a
prelude to his own execution. "I want to see him."
"If you can tell him, Ms. Bloom, that if I'd realized who he was—
what his circumstances are, I mean—well, I would never have allowed
the anesthesiologist to use that drug, much less an IV tube. I'm deeply
sorry for putting him through that."
I nodded and stood up.
"One more thing," Dr. Gallagher said. "I really admire you. For doing
this sort of thing."
I was halfway to Shay's room when I realized that Dr. Gallagher had
remembered my name.
It took several cell phone calls to the prison before I was allowed in to see
Shay, and even then, the warden insisted that the officer inside the room
would have to stay. I walked inside, acknowledged the CO, and sat down
on the edge of Shay's bed. His eyes were blackened, his face bandaged.
He was asleep, and it made him look younger.
Part of what I did for a living meant championing the causes of
my clients. I was the strong arm, fighting on their behalf, the bullhorn
broadcasting their voices. I could feel the angry discomfort of the
Abenaki boy whose school team was called the Redskins; I could
identity with the passion of the teacher who'd been fired for being
Wiccan. Shay, though, had sent me reeling. Although this was arguably
the most important case I would ever bring to court, and
although—as my father pointed out—I hadn't been this motivated in
my career in ages, there was an inherent paradox. The more I got to
know him, the better chance I had of winning his organ donation
case. But the more I got to know him, the harder it would be for me
to see him executed.
I dragged my cell phone out of my purse. The officer's eyes flicked
toward me. "You're not supposed to use that in here—"
"Oh, piss off," I snapped, and for the hundredth time I dialed Father
Michael, and reached his voice mail. "I don't know where you are," I said,
"but call me back immediately."
I had left the emotional component of Shay Bourne's welfare to
Father Michael, figuring (a) my talents were better put to use in a courtroom,
and (b) my interpersonal relationship skills had grown so rusty I
needed WD-40 before employing them. But now, Father Michael was
MIA, Shay was hospitalized, and I was here, for better or for worse.
I stared at Shay's hands. They were cuffed at the wrist to the metal
bars of the hospital gurney. The nails were clean and clipped, the tendons
ropy It was hard to imagine the fingers curled around a pistol, pulling a
trigger twice. And yet, twelve jurors had been able to picture it.
Very slowly, I reached across the knobby cotton blanket. I threaded
my fingers with Shay's, surprised at how warm his skin was. But when I
was about to pull away, his grip tightened. His eyes slitted open, another
shade of blue amid the bruising. "Grade," he said, in a voice that sounded
like cotton caught on thorns. "You came."
I did not know who he thought I was. "Of course I came," I said,
squeezing his hand. I smiled at Shay Bourne and pretended that I was the
person he needed me to be.
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