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M I C HAEL

In 1945, two brothers were digging beneath cliffs in Nag Hammadi,

Egypt, trying to find fertilizer. One-Mohammed Ali-struck something hard as he dug. He unearthed a large earthenware jug, covered with a red dish. Afraid that a jinn would be inside it, Mohammed Ali didn't want to open the jar. Finally, the curiosity of finding gold instead led him to break it open-only to find thirteen papyrus books inside, bound in gazelle leather.

Some of the books were burned for firewood. The others made their way to religious scholars, who dated them to have been written around A.D. 140, about thirty years after the New Testament-and deciphered them to find the names of gospels not found in the Bible, full of sayings that were in the New Testament... and many that weren't. In some, Jesus spoke in riddles; in others, the Virgin birth and bodily resurrection were dismissed. They came to be known as the Gnostic gospels, and even today, they are given short shrift by the Church.

In seminary, we learned about the Gnostic gospels. Namely, we learned that they were heresy. And let me tell you, when a priest hands you a text and tells you this is what nor to believe, it colors the way you read it. Maybe I skimmed the text, saving the careful close analysis for the Bible. Maybe I whiffed completely and told the priest who was teaching that course that I'd done my homework when in fact I didn't.

Whatever the excuse, that night when I cracked open Joel Bloom's book, it was as if I'd never seen the words before, and although I planned to only read the foreword by the scholar who'd compiled the texts-a man named Ian Fletcher-I found myself devouring the pages as if it were the latest Stephen King novel and not a collection of ancient gospels.

The book had been earmarked to the Gospel of Thomas. Any mentions of Thomas I knew from the Bible certainly weren't flattering: He doesn't believe Lazarus will rise from the dead. When Jesus tells His disciples to follow Him, Thomas points out that they don't know where to go. And when Jesus rises after the crucifixion, Thomas isn't even there-and won't believe it until he can touch the wounds with his own hands. He's the very definition of faithless-and the origin of the term doubting Thomas.

Yet in Rabbi Bloom's book, this page began:

These are the secret words which the living Jesus spoke, and the twin, Didymos Judas Thomas, wrote them down.

Twin? Since when did Jesus have a twin?

The rest of the "gospel" was not a narrative of Jesus's life, like Matthew,

Mark, Luke, and John, but a collection of quotes by Jesus, all beginning with the words Jesus said. Some were lines similar to those in the Bible. Others were completely unfamiliar and sounded more like logic puzzles than any scripture:

If you bring forth what is within you, what is within you will save you. If you don't bring forth what is within you, what is within you will destroy you.

I read the line over twice and rubbed my eyes. There was something about it that made me feel as if I'd heard it before.

Then I realized where.

Shay had said it to me the first time I'd met with him, when he'd explained why he wanted to donate his heart to Claire Nealon.

I kept reading intently, hearing Shay's voice over and over again:

The dead aren't alive, and the living won't die.

We come from the light.

Split a piece of wood; I am there. Lift up the stone; you will find me there.

The first time I had gone on a roller coaster, I felt like this-like the ground had been pulled out from beneath my feet, like I was going to be sick, like I needed something to grab hold of.

If you asked a dozen people on the street if they'd ever heard of the

Gnostic gospels, eleven would look at you as if you were crazy. In fact most people today couldn't even recite the Ten Commandments. Shay

Bourne's religious training had been minimal and fragmented; the only thing I'd ever seen him "read" was the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.

He couldn't write; he could barely follow a thought through to the end of one sentence. His formal schooling ended at a GED he'd gotten while at the juvenile detention facility.

How, then, could Shay Bourne have memorized the Gospel of

Thomas? Where would he even have stumbled across it in his lifetime?

The only answer I could come up with was that he hadn't.

It could have been coincidence.

I could have been remembering the conversations incorrectly.

Or-maybe-I could have been wrong about him.

The past three weeks, I had pushed past the throngs of people camped out in front of the prison. I had turned off the television when yet another pundit suggested that Shay might be the Messiah. After all, I knew better. I was a priest; I had taken vows; I understood that there was one God. His message had been recorded in the Bible, and above all else, when Shay spoke, he did not sound like Jesus in any of the four gospels.

But here was a fifth. A gospel that hadn't made it into the Bible but was equally as ancient. A gospel that espoused the beliefs of at least some people during the birth of Christianity. A gospel that Shay Bourne had quoted to me.

What if the Church forefathers had gotten it wrong?

What if the gospels that had been dismissed and debunked were the real ones, and the ones that had been picked for the New Testament were the embellished versions? What if Jesus had actually said

It would mean that the allegations being made about Shay Bourne might not be that far off the mark.

And it would explain why a Messiah might return in the guise of a convicted murderer-to see if this time, we might get it right.

I got out of my chair, folding the book by my side, and started to pray.

Heavenly Father, I said silently, help me understand.

The telephone rang, making me jump. I glanced at the clock-who would call after three in the morning?

"Father Michael? This is CO Smythe, from the prison. Sorry to disturb you at this hour, but Shay Bourne had another seizure. We thought you'd want to know."

"Is he all right?"

"He's in the infirmary," Smythe said. "He asked for you."

At this hour, the vigilant masses outside the prison were tucked into their sleeping bags and tents, underneath the artificial day created by the enormous spotlights that flooded the front of the building. I had to be buzzed in; when I entered the receiving area, CO Smythe was waiting for me. "What happened?"

"No one knows," the officer said. "It was Inmate DuFresne who alerted us again. We couldn't see what happened on the security cameras."

We entered the infirmary. In a distant, dark corner of the room.

Shay was propped up in a bed, a nurse beside him. He held a cup of juice that he sipped through a straw; his other hand was cuffed to the bed's railing. There were wires coming out from beneath his medical johnny. "How is he?" I asked.

"He'll live," the nurse said, and then, realizing her mistake, blushed fiercely. "We hooked him up to monitor his heart. So far, so good."

I sat down on a chair beside Shay and looked up at Smythe and the

"That's about all you've got," the nurse said. "We just gave him something to knock him out."

They moved to the far side of the room, and I leaned closer to Shay.

"Are you okay?"

"You wouldn't believe it if I told you."

"Oh, try me," I said.

He glanced over to make sure no one else was listening. "I was just watching TV, you know? This documentary on how they make movie theater candy, like Dots and Milk Duds. And I started to get tired, so I went to turn it off. But before I could push the burton, all the light in the television, it shot into me like electricity. I mean, I could feel those things inside my blood moving around, what are they called again, corporals?"

"Corpuscles."

"Yeah, right, those. I hate that word. Did you ever see that Star Trek where those aliens are sucking the salt out of everything? I always thought they should be called corpuscles. You say the word, and it sounds like you're eating a lemon..."

"Shay. You were talking about the light."

"Oh, right, yeah. Well, it was like I started boiling inside, and my eyes, they were going to jelly, and I tried to call out but my teeth were wired shut and then I woke up in here, feeling like I'd been sucked dry." He looked up at me. "By a corpuscle."

"The nurse said it was a seizure. Do you remember anything else?"

"I remember what I was thinking," Shay said. "This was what it would feel like."

"What?"

"Dying."

I took a deep breath. "Remember when you were little, a kid-and you'd fall asleep in the car? And someone would carry you out and put you into bed, so that when you woke up in the morning, you knew automatically you were home again? That's what I think it's like to die."

"That would be good," Shay said, his voice deeper, groggy. "It'll be nice to know what home looks like."

A phrase I'd read just an hour ago slipped into my mind like a splinter: The Father's kingdom is spread out upon the earth, and people don't see it.

Although I knew it wasn't the right time, although I knew I was supposed to be here for Shay, instead of the other way around, I leaned closer, until my words could fall into the shell of his ear. "Where did you find the Gospel of Thomas?" I whispered.

Shay stared at me blankly. "Thomas who?" he said, and then his eyes drifted shut.

As I drove away from the prison, I heard Father Walter's voice: He's conned you. But when I'd mentioned the Gospel of Thomas, I hadn't seen even the slightest flicker of recognition in Shay's eyes, and he'd been drugged-it would have been awfully hard to keep dissembling.

Was this what it had felt like for the Jews who met Jesus and recognized him as more than just a gifted rabbi? I had no point of comparison.

I'd grown up Catholic; I'd become a priest. I could not remember a time that I hadn't believed Jesus was the Messiah.

I knew someone, though, who could.

Rabbi Bloom didn't have a temple, because it had burned down, but he did rent office space close to the school where services were held. I was waiting in front of the locked door when he arrived just before eight a.m.

"Wow," he said, taking in the vision in front of him-a red-eyed, rumpled priest clutching a motorcycle helmet and the Nag Hammadi texts. "I would have let you borrow it longer than one night."

"Why don't Jews believe Jesus was the Messiah?"

He unlocked the door to the office. "That's going to take at least a cup and a half of coffee," Bloom said. "Come on in."

He started brewing a pot and offered me a seat. His office looked a lot like Father Walter's at St. Catherine's-inviting, comfortable. A place you'd want to sit and talk. Unlike Father Walter's, though. Rabbi

Bloom's plants were the real thing. Father Walter's were plastic, bought by the Ladies' Aid, when he kept killing everything from a ficus to an

African violet.

"It's a wandering Jew," the rabbi said when he saw me checking out the flowerpot. "Maggie's little idea of a joke."

"I just got back from the prison. Shay Bourne had another seizure."

"Did you tell Maggie?"

"Not yet." I looked at him. "You didn't answer my question."

"I haven't had my coffee." He got up and poured us each a cup, putting milk and sugar in mine without asking first. "Jews don't think Jesus was the Messiah because he didn't fulfill the criteria for a Jewish messiah.

It's really pretty simple, and it's all laid out by Maimonides. A

Jewish moshiach will bring the Jews back to Israel and set up a government in Jerusalem that's the center of political power for the world, for both Jews and Gentiles. He'll rebuild the Temple and reestablish

Jewish law as the governing law of the land. He'll raise the dead-all of the dead-and usher in a great age of peace, when everyone believes in God. He'll be a descendant of David, a king and a warrior, a judge, and a great leader... but he'll also be firmly, unequivocally human."

Bloom set the cup down in front of me. "We believe that in every generation, a person's born with the potential to become the moshiach.

But if the messianic age doesn't come and that person dies, then that person isn't him."

"Like Jesus."

"Personally, I've always seen Jesus as a great Jewish patriot. He was a good Jew, who probably wore a yarmulke and obeyed the Tbrah, and never planned to start a new religion. He hated the Romans and wanted to get them out of Jerusalem. He got charged with political rebellion, sentenced to execution. Yes, a Jewish high priest carried it out-Caiaphas-but most Jews back then hated Caiaphas anyway be cause he was the henchman for the Romans." He looked up at me over the edge of his coffee mug. "Was Jesus a good guy? Yeah. Great teacher? Sure. Messiah? Dunno."

"A lot of the Bible's predictions for the messianic era were fulfilled by Jesus-"

"But were they the crucial ones?" Rabbi Bloom asked. "Let's say you didn't know who I was and I asked you to meet me. I told you I'd be standing outside the Steeplegate Mall at ten o'clock wearing a Hawaiian shirt and that I'd have curly red hair and be listening to Outkast on my iPod. And at ten o'clock, you saw someone standing outside the

Steeplegate Mall who had curly red hair and was wearing a Hawaiian shirt and listening to Outkast on an iPod... but it was a woman. Would you still think it was me?"

He stood up to refill his coffee. "Do you know what I heard on NPR on the way over here today? Another bus blew up in Israel. Three more kids from New Hampshire died in Iraq. And the cops just arrested some guy in Manchester who shot his ex-wife in front of their two kids. If

Jesus ushered in the messianic era, and the world I hear about on the news is one of peace and redemption... well, I'd rather wait for a different moshiach." He glanced back at me. "Now, if you don't mind me asking you a question... what's a priest doing at a rabbi's office at eight in the morning asking questions about the Jewish Messiah?"

I got up and began to walk around the little room. "The book you loaned me-it got me thinking."

"And that's a bad thing?"

"Shay Bourne has said things, verbatim, that I read last night in the

Gospel of Thomas."

"Bourne? He's read Thomas? I thought Maggie said he-"

"-has no religious training to speak of, and a minimal education."

"It's not like the Gideons leave the Gospel of Thomas in hotel rooms," Rabbi Bloom said. "Where would he have-"

"Exactly."


He steepled his fingers. "Huh."

I placed the book he'd loaned me on his desk. "What would you do if you began to second-guess everything you believed?"

Rabbi Bloom leaned forward and riffled through his Rolodex. "I would ask more questions," he said. He scribbled down something on a

Post-it and handed it to me.

Ian Fletcher. I read. 603-555-1367.


Lucius

The night Shay had his second seizure, I was awake, gathering ink that I planned to use to give myself another tattoo. If I do say so myself, I'm rather proud of my homemade tattoos. I had five-my rationale being that my body, up until three weeks ago, wasn't worth much more than being a canvas for my art; plus the threat of getting AIDS from a dirty needle was obviously a moot point. On my left ankle was a clock, with the hands marking the moment of Adam's death. On my left shoulder was an angel, and below it an African tribal design. On my right leg was a bull, because I was a Taurus; and swimming beside it was a fish, for Adam, who was a Pisces. I had grand plans for this sixth one, which I planned to put right on my chest: the word BELIEVE, in Gothic letters. I'd practiced the art in reverse multiple times in pencil and pen, until I felt sure that I could replicate it with my tattoo gun as I worked in the mirror.

My first gun had been confiscated by the COs, like Crash's hype kit. It had taken me six months to amass the parts for the new one. Making ink was hard to do, and harder to get away with-which was why I had chosen to work on this during the deadest hours of the night. I had lit a plastic spoon on fire, keeping the flame small so I could catch the smoke in a plastic bag. It stank horribly, and just as I was getting certain the COs would literally get wind of it and shut down my operation, Shay Bourne collapsed next door.

This time, his seizure had been different. He'd screamed-so loud that he woke up the whole pod, so loud that the finest dust of plaster drifted down from the ceilings of our cells. To be honest, Shay was such a mess when he was wheeled off I-tier that none of us were sure whether or not he'd be returning-which is why I was stunned to see him being led back to his cell the very next day.

"Po-lice," Joey Kunz yelled, just in time for me to hide the pieces of my tattoo gun underneath the mattress. The officers locked Shay into his cell, and as soon as the door to I-tier shut behind them, I asked Shay how he was feeling.

"My head hurts," he said. "I have to go to sleep."

With Crash still off the tier after the hype kit transgression, things were quieter. Calloway slept most days and stayed up nights with his bird;

Texas and Pogie played virtual poker; Joey was listening to his soaps. I waited an extra few minutes to make sure the officers were otherwise occupied out in the control booth and then I reached underneath my mattress again.

I had unraveled a guitar string to its central core, a makeshift needle.

This was inserted into a pen whose ink cartridge had been removed-and a small piece of its tip sawed off and attached to the other end of the needle, which was attached to the motor shaft of a cassette player. The pen was taped to a toothbrush bent into an L shape, which let you hold the contraption more easily. You could adjust the needle length by sliding the pen casing back and forth; all that was left was plugging in the AC adapter of the cassette player, and I had a functional tattoo gun again.

The soot I'd captured the previous night had been mixed with a few drops of shampoo to liquefy it. I stood in front of the stainless steel panel that served as a mirror, and scrutinized my chest. Then, gritting my teeth against the pain, I turned on the gun. The needle moved back and forth in an elliptical orbit, piercing me hundreds of times per minute.

There it was, the letter B.

"Lucius?" Shay's voice drifted into my house.

"I'm sort of busy, Shay."

"What's that noise?"

"None of your business." I lifted it to my skin again, felt the needle working against me, a thousand arrows striking.

"Lucius? I can still hear that noise."

I sighed. "It's a tattoo gun, Shay, all right? I'm giving myself a tattoo."

There was a hesitation. "Will you give me one?"

I had done this for multiple inmates when I was housed on different tiers-ones that had a bit more freedom than I-tier, which offered twentythree rollicking hours of lockdown. "I can't. I can't reach you."

"That's okay," Shay said. "I can reach you."

"Yeah, whatever," I said. I squinted back into the mirror and set the tattoo gun against my skin. Holding my breath, I carefully formed the curves and flourishes around the letters E and L

I thought I heard Shay whimpering when I started on the letter I, and surely he cried out when I tattooed the V. My gun must not have been helping his headache any. Shrugging off his moans, I stepped closer to the mirror and surveyed my handiwork.

God, it was gorgeous. The letters moved with every breath I took; even the angry red swelling of my skin couldn't take away from the clean lines of the letters.

"B-believe," Shay stammered.

I turned around, as if I could see him through the wall between our cells. "What did you say?"

"It's what you said," Shay corrected. "I read it right, didn't I?"

I had not told anyone of my plans for my sixth tattoo. I hadn't shared the prototype artwork. I knew for a fact that Shay, from where he stood, could not have seen into my cell as I worked.

Fumbling behind the brick that served as my safe, I took out the shank that I used as a portable mirror. I stepped up to the front of my cell and angled it so that I could see Shay's beaming face in the reflection. "How did you know what I was writing?"

Shay smiled wider, and then raised his fist. He unfolded his fingers, one at a time.

His palm was red and inflamed, and printed across it, in Gothic script, was the same exact tattoo I'd just given myself.

Shay paced his cell in figure eights. "Did you see him?" he asked, wildeyed.

I sank down on the stool I'd dragged in from the control booth. I was sluggish today-not only was my head buzzing with questions about what I'd read, but I was also-for the first time in a year-not officiating at this evening's midnight Mass. "See who?" I replied, distracted.

"Sully. The new guy. Next door."

I glanced into the other cell. Lucius DuFresne was still on Shay's left; on his right, the formerly empty cell now had someone occupying it. Sully, however, wasn't there. He was in the rec yard, repeatedly running full tilt across the little square yard and leaping up against the far wall, hands splayed, as if hitting it hard enough meant he'd go right through the metal.

"They're going to kill me," Shay said.

"Maggie's working on writing a motion at this very-"

"Not the state," Shay said. "One of them."

I did not know anything about prison politics, but there was a fine line between Shay's paranoia and what might pass for the truth. Shay was receiving more attention than any other inmate at the prison, as a result of his lawsuit and the media frenzy. There was every chance he might be targeted by the general prison population.

Behind me, CO Smythe passed in his flak jacket, carrying a broom and some cleaning supplies. Once a week, the inmates were required to clean their own cells. It was one-at-a-time, supervised cleaning: after an inmate came in from rec, the supplies would be waiting for him in his cell, and a CO would stand guard at the doorway until the work was finished-close by, because even Windex could become a weapon in here. I watched the empty cell door open, so that Smythe could leave the spray bottles and the toweling and the broom; then he walked to the far end of the tier to get the new inmate from the rec yard. Til talk to the warden. I'll make sure you're protected," I told Shay, which seemed to mollify him. "So," I said, changing the subject, "what do you like to read?"

"What, you're Oprah now? We're having a book club?"

"No."

"Good, because I'm not reading the Bible."

"I know that," I said, seizing this inroad. "Why not?"

"It's lies." Shay waved a hand, a dismissal.

"What do you read that isn't a lie?"

"I don't," he replied. "The words get all knotted up. I have to stare at a page for a year before I can make sense of it."

" 'There's light inside a person of light,'" I quoted, " 'and if shines on the whole world.'"

Shay hesitated. "Can you see it, too?" He held his hands up in front of his face, scrutinizing his fingertips. "The light from the television-the stuff that went into me-it's still there. It glows, at night."

I sighed. "It's from the Gospel of Thomas."

"No, I'm pretty sure it came from the television..."

"The words. Shay. The ones I just said. They came from a gospel I was reading last night. And so does a lot of stuff you've been saying to me."

His eyes met mine. "What do you know," he said softly, and I couldn't tell if it was a statement or a question.

"I don't know," I admitted. "That's why I'm here."

"That's why we're all here," Shay said.

If you bring forth what is within you, what is within you will save you. It was one of Jesus's sayings in the Gospel of Thomas; it was one of the first things Shay Bourne had ever told me, when he was explaining why he needed to donate his heart. Could it really be this simple?

Could salvation be not a passive acceptance, like I'd been led to believe, but an active pursuit?

Maybe it was saying the rosary, for me, and receiving Holy Communion, and serving God. Maybe for Maggie's father, it was meeting with a bunch of die-hard congregants who wouldn't let the lack of a physical temple dissuade them from prayer. Maybe for Maggie, it was mending whatever kept her focused on her faults instead of her strengths.

Maybe for Shay, maybe it was offering his heart-literally and figuratively-to the mother who'd lost hers years ago because of him.

Then again. Shay Bourne was a killer; his sentences curled like a puppy chasing its tail; he thought he had something phosphorescent coursing through his veins because a television had zapped him in the middle of the night. He did not sound messianic-just delusional.

Shay looked at me. "You should go," he said, but then his attention was distracted by the sound of the rec yard door being opened. Officer

Smythe led the new inmate back onto I-tier.

He was an enormous tower of muscle with a swastika tattooed on his scalp. His hair, sprouting out from a buzz cut, grew over it like moss.

The inmate's cell door was closed, and his handcuffs removed. "You know the drill. Sully," the officer said. He stood in the doorway as Sully slowly picked up the spray bottle and washed down his sink. I heard the squeak of paper toweling on metal.

"Hey, Father-you watch the game last night?" CO Smythe said, and then he rolled his eyes. "Sully, what are you doing? You don't need to sweep the-"

Suddenly the broom in Sully's hands was no longer a broom but a broken spear that he jutted into the officer's throat. Smythe grabbed his neck, gurgling. His eyes rolled back in his head; he stumbled toward

Shay's cell. As he fell beside me, I clasped my hands over the wound and screamed for help.

The tier came to life. The inmates were all clamoring to see what had happened; CO Whitaker was suddenly there and hauling me to my feet, taking my place as another officer started CPR. Four more officers ran past me with pepper spray and shot it into Sully's face. He was dragged out of the tier shrieking as the closest physician arrived-a psychiatrist I'd seen around the prison. But by now, Smythe had stopped moving.

No one seemed to notice that I was there; there was far too much happening, too much at stake. The psychiatrist tried to find a pulse in

Smythe's neck, but his hand came away slick with blood. He lifted the

CO's wrist and, after a moment, shook his head. "He's gone."

The tier had gone absolutely silent; the inmates were all staring in shock at the body in front of them. Blood had stopped flowing from

Smythe's neck; he was perfectly still. To my right, I could see an argument going on in the control booth-the EMTs who'd arrived too late and were trying to gain admission to the tier. They were buzzed in, still shrugging into their flak jackets, and knelt beside Smythe's body, repeating the same ineffective tests that the psychiatrist had.

Behind me, I heard weeping.

I turned around to find Shay crouched on the floor of his cell. His face was streaked with tears and blood; his hand slipped beneath his cell door so that his fingers brushed Smythe's.

"You here for last rites?" one of the medics asked, and for the first time, everyone seemed to realize I was still present.

"I, uh-"

"What's he doing here?" CO Whitaker barked.

"Who the hell is he?" another officer said. "I don't even work this tier."

"I can go," I said. "I'll... just go." I glanced once more at Shay, who was curled into a ball, whispering. If I hadn't known better, I would have thought he was praying.

As the two EMTs got ready to move the body onto a stretcher, I prayed over Smythe. "In the Name of God the Father Almighty who created you... in the Name of Jesus Christ who redeemed you; in the

Name of the Holy Spirit who sanctifies you. May your rest be this day in peace, and your dwelling place in the Paradise of God. Amen."

I made the sign of the cross and started to get to my feet.

"On three," the first EMT said.

The second one nodded, his hands on the slain officer's ankles.

"One, two... holy shir," he cried as the dead man began to struggle against him.

"One of the proofs of the immortality of the soul is that myriads have believed it.

They also believed the world was flat."

- MARK. TWAIN, NOTEBOOK


June

Claire would be cut in half, her sternum buzzed open with a saw 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 tongues?

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 the killer.

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.


Maggie

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 machine. "Hello?"

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.


Lucius

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

MM'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.

Maggie

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 or death.

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."

"Surgery?"

"Yes," said a clipped British voice behind me. "And no, it wasn't an appendectomy."

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 news.

"Mr. Bourne is going to be fine," Dr. Gallagher said. "At least in terms of this injury."

"What 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.


3. I was in my pajamas. | Change of heart | M I C H A E L