M I CHAEL
"You're his spiritual advisor," Warden Coyne said when he phoned me at three in the morning. "Go give him some advice."
I had tried to explain to the warden that Shay and I weren't quite on speaking terms, but he hung up before I got the chance. Instead, with a sigh, I dragged myself out of bed and rode to the prison. Instead of taking me to I-tier, however, the CO led me elsewhere. "He's been moved," the officer explained.
"Why? Did someone hurt him again?"
"Nah, he was doing a good job of that on his own," he said, and as we stopped in front of Shay's cell, I understood.
Bruises mottled most of his face. His knuckles were scraped raw. A trickle of blood ran down his left temple. He was chained at the wrists and ankles and belly, even though he was inside the cell. "Why haven't you called a doctor?" I demanded.
"He's been here three times," the CO said. "Our boy, here, keeps ripping off the bandages. That's why we had to cuff him."
"If I promise you that he'll stop doing whatever he's doing-"
"Slamming his head into the wall?"
"Right. If I give you my word, will you take off the handcuffs?" I turned to Shay, who was studiously avoiding me. "Shay?" I said. "How does that sound?"
He didn't react one way or another, and I had no idea how I was going to convince Shay to stop harming himself, but the CO motioned him toward the cell door and removed the cuffs from his wrists and ankles. The belly chain, however, stayed on. Uust in case," he said, and left.
"Shay," I said. "Why are you doing this?"
"Get the fuck away from me."
"I know you're scared. And I know you're angry," I said. "I don't blame you."
"Then I guess something's changed. Because you sure did, once.
You, and eleven other people." Shay took a step forward. "What was it like, in that room? Did you sit around talking about what kind of monster would do those horrible things? Did you ever think that you hadn't gotten the whole story?"
"Then why didn't you tell it?" I burst out. "You gave us nothing,
Shay. We had the prosecution's explanation of what had happened; we heard from June. But you didn't even stand up and ask us for a lenient sentence."
"Who would believe what I had to say, over the word of a dead cop?" he said. "My own lawyer didn't. He kept talking about how we ought to use my troubled childhood to get me off-not my story of what happened. He said I didn't look like someone the jury would trust. He didn't care about me; he just wanted to get his five seconds on the news at night. He had a strategy. Well, you know what his strategy was? First he told the jury I didn't do it. Then it comes time for sentencing and he says: 'Okay, he did it, but here's why you shouldn't kill him for it.' You might as well admit that pleading not guilty in the first place was a lie."
I stared at him; stunned. It had never occurred to me during the capital murder trial that all this might be whirling around in Shay's head; that the reason he did not get up and beg for clemency during sentencing was because in order to do that, it felt like he'd also be admitting to the crime. Now that I looked back on it, it had felt like the defense had changed their tune between the penalty phase and the sentencing phase of the trial. It had made it harder to believe anything they said.
And Shay? Well, he'd been sitting right there, with his unwashed hair and his vacant eyes. His silence-which I'd read as pride, or shame-might only have been the understanding that for people like him, the world did not work the way it should. And I, like the other eleven jurors, had judged him before any verdict was given. After all, what kind of man gets put on trial for a double murder? What prosecutor seeks the death penalty without good reason?
Since I'd become his spiritual advisor, he'd told me that what had happened in the past didn't matter now, and I'd taken that to mean that he wouldn't accept responsibility for what he'd done. But it could also have meant that in spite of his innocence, he knew he was still going to die.
I'd been present at that trial; I'd heard all the testimony. To think
Shay might not have deserved a death sentence seemed ridiculous, impossible.
Then again, so were miracles.
"But Shay," I said quietly, "I heard that evidence. I saw what you did."
"I didn't do anything." He ducked his head. "It was because of the tools. I left them at the house. No one came when I knocked on the door so I just went inside to get them... and then I saw her."
I felt my stomach turn over. "Elizabeth."
"She used to play with me. A staring game. Whoever smiled first, that was the loser. I used to get her every time, and then one day while we were staring she lifted up my screwdriver-I didn't even know she'd taken it-and waved it around like a maniac with a knife.
I burst out laughing. I got you, she said. I got you. And she did-she had me, one hundred percent." His face twisted. "I never would have hurt her. When I came in that day, she was with him. He had his pants down. And she was-she was crying... he was supposed to be her father." He flung an arm up over his face, as if he could stop himself from seeing the memory. "She looked up at me, like it was a staring contest, but then she smiled. Except this time, it wasn't because she lost. It was because she knew she was going to win. Because I was there. Because I could rescue her. My whole life, people looked at me like I was a fuckup, like I couldn't do anything right-but she, it was like she believed in me," Shay said. "And I wanted- God, I wanted to believe her."
He took a deep breath. "I grabbed her and ran upstairs, to the room
I was finishing. I locked the door. I told her we would be safe there. But then there was a shot, and the whole door was gone, and he came in and pointed his gun at me."
I tried to imagine what it would be like to be Shay-easily confused and unable to communicate well-and to suddenly have a pistol thrust in my face.
I would have panicked, too.
"There were sirens," Shay said. "He'd called them in. He said they were coming for me and that no cop would believe any story from a freak like me. She was screaming, 'Don't shoot, don't shoot.' He said,
'Get over here, Elizabeth,' and I grabbed the gun so he couldn't hurt her and we were fighting and both our hands were on it and it went off and went off again." He swallowed. "I caught her. The blood, it was everywhere; it was on me, it was on her. He kept calling her name but she wouldn't look at him. She stared at me, like we were playing our game; she stared at me, except it wasn't a game... and then even though her eyes were open, she stopped staring. And it was over even though I didn't smile." He choked on a sob, pressed his hand against his mouth. "I didn't smile."
"Shay," I said softly.
He glanced up at me. "She was better off dead."
My mouth went dry. I remembered Shay saying that same sentence to June Nealon at the restorative justice meeting, her storming out of the room in tears. But what if we'd taken Shay's words out of context?
What if he truly believed Elizabeth's death was a blessing, after what she'd suffered at the hands of her stepfather?
Something snagged in the back of my mind, a splinter of memory.
"Her underpants," I said. "You had them in your pocket."
Shay stared at me as if I were an idiot. "Well, that's because she didn't have a chance to put them back on yet, before everything else happened."
The Shay I had grown to know was a man who could close an open wound with a brush of his hand, yet who also might have a breakdown if the mashed potatoes in his meal platter were more yellow than the day before. That Shay would not see anything suspicious about the police finding a little girl's underwear in his possession; it would make perfect sense to him to grab them when he grabbed
Elizabeth, for the sake of her modesty.
"Are you telling me the shootings were accidental?"
"I never said I was guilty," he answered.
The pundits who downplayed Shay's miracles were always quick to point out that if God were to return to earth. He wouldn't choose to be a murderer. But what if He hadn't? What if the whole situation had been misunderstood; what if Shay had not willfully, intentionally killed
Elizabeth Nealon and her stepfather-but in fact had been trying to save her from him?
It would mean that Shay was about to die for someone else's sins.
"Not a good time," Maggie said when she came to the door.
"It's an emergency."
Then call the cops. Or pick up your red phone and dial God directly.
I'll give you a call tomorrow morning." She started to close the door, but I stuck my foot inside.
"Is everything all right?" A man with a British accent was suddenly standing beside Maggie, who had turned beet red.
"Father Michael," she said. "This is Christian Gallagher."
He held out his hand to me. "Father. I've heard all about you."
I hoped not. I mean, if Maggie was having a date, clearly there were better topics of conversation.
"So," Christian asked amiably. "Where's the fire?"
I felt heat rising to the back of my neck. In the background, I could hear soft music playing; there was half a glass of red wine in the man's hand. There was no fire; it was already burning, and I had just thrown a bucket of sand on it. I'm sorry. I didn't mean-" I stepped backward.
"Have a nice night."
I heard the door close behind me, but instead of walking to my bike, I sat down on the front stoop. The first time I'd met Shay, I'd told him that you can't be lonely if God is with you all the time, but that wasn't entirely true. He's lousy at checkers, Shay had said. Well, you couldn't take God out to a movie on a Friday night, either. I knew that I could fill the space a companion normally would with God; and it was more than enough. But that wasn't to say I didn't feel that phantom limb sometimes.
The door opened, and into the slice of light stepped Maggie. She was barefoot, and she had her power-suit coat draped over her shoulders.
I'm sorry," I said. "I didn't mean to ruin your night."
"That's okay. I should have known better than to assume all the planets had aligned for me." She sank down beside me. "What's up?"
In the dark, with her face lit in profile by the moon, she was as beautiful as any Renaissance Madonna. It struck me that God had chosen someone just like Maggie when He picked Mary to bear His
Son: someone willing to take the weight of the world on her shoulders, even when it wasn't her own burden. "It's Shay," I said. "I think he's innocent."
I was not particularly surprised to hear what Shay Bourne had told the priest.
No, what surprised me was how fervently he'd fallen for it-hook, line, and sinker.
"It's not about protecting Shay's rights anymore," Michael said. "Or letting him die on his own terms. We're talking about an innocent man being killed."
We had moved into the living room, and Christian-well, he was sitting on the other end of the couch pretending to do a Sudoku puzzle in the newspaper, but actually listening to every word we said. He'd been the one to come outside and invite me back into my own home. I fully intended to pop Father Michael's bubble of incensed righteousness and get back to the spot I'd been in before he arrived.
Which was flat on my back, with Christian's hand moving over my side, showing me where you made the incision to remove a gallbladder-something that, in person, was far more exciting than it sounds.
"He's a convicted murderer," I said. "They learn how to lie before they learn how to walk."
"Maybe he never should have been convicted," Michael said.
"You were on the jury that found him guilty!"
Christian's head snapped up. "You were?"
"Welcome to my life," I sighed. "Father, you sat through days of testimony.
You saw the evidence firsthand."
"I know. But that was before he told me that he walked in on Kurt
Nealon molesting his own stepdaughter; and that the gun went off repeatedly while he was struggling to get it out of Kurt's hand."
At that, Christian leaned forward. "Well. That makes him a bit of a hero, doesn't it?"
"Not when he still kills the girl he's trying to rescue," I said. "And why, pray tell, did he not gift his defense attorney with this information?"
"He said he tried, but the lawyer didn't think it would fly."
"Well, gee," I said. "Doesn't that speak volumes?"
"Maggie, you know Shay. He doesn't look like a clean-cut American boy, and he didn't back then, either. Plus, he'd been found with a smoking gun, and a dead cop and girl in front of him. Even if he told the truth, who would have listened? Who's more likely to be cast as a pedophile- the heroic cop and consummate family man... or the sketchy vagrant who was doing work in the house? Shay was doomed before he ever walked into a courtroom."
"Why would he take the blame for someone else's crime?" I argued.
"Why not tell someone-anyone-in eleven years?"
He shook his head. "I don't know the answer to that. But I'd like to keep him alive long enough to find out." Father Michael glanced at me.
"You're the one who says the legal system doesn't always work for everyone.
It was an accident. Manslaughter, not murder."
"Correct me if I'm wrong," Christian interrupted. "But you can't be sentenced to death for manslaughter, can you?"
I sighed. "Do we have any new evidence?"
Father Michael thought for a minute. "He told me so."
"Do we have any evidence" I repeated.
His face lit up. "We have the security camera outside the observation cell," Michael said. "That's got to be recorded somewhere, right?"
"It's still just a tape of him telling you a story," I explained. "It's different if you tell me, oh, that there's semen we can link to Kurt Nealon..."
"You're an ACLU lawyer. You must be able to do something..."
"Legally, there's nothing we can do. We can't reopen his case unless there's some fantastic forensic proof."
"What about calling the governor?" Christian suggested.
Our heads both swiveled toward him.
"Well, isn't that what always happens on TV? And in John Grisham novels?"
"Why do you know so much about the American legal system?" I asked.
He shrugged. "I used to have a torrid crush on the Partridge girl from
I sighed and walked to the dining room table. My purse was slogged across it like an amoeba. I dug inside for my cell phone, punched a number.
"This better be good," my boss growled on the other end of the line.
"Sorry, Rufus. I know it's late-"
"Cut to the chase."
"I need to call Flynn, on behalf of Shay Bourne," I said.
"Flynn? As in Mark Flynn the governor? Why would you want to waste your last appeal before you even get a verdict back from Haig?"
"Shay Bourne's spiritual advisor is under the impression that he was falsely convicted." I looked up to find Christian and Michael both watching me intently.
"Do we have any new evidence?"
I closed my eyes. "Well. No. But this is really important, Rufus."
A moment later, I hung up the phone and pressed the number I'd scrawled on a paper napkin into Michael's hand. "It's the governor's cell number. Go call him."
"Because," I said. "He's Catholic."
"I have to leave," I had told Christian. "The governor wants us to come to his office right now."
"If I had a quid for every time a girl's used that one on me," he said.
And then, just as if it were the most normal thing in the world, he kissed me.
Okay, it had been a quick kiss. And one that could have ended a
G-rated movie. And it had been performed in front of a priest. But still, it looked completely natural, as if Christian and I had been kissing at the ends of sentences for ages, while the rest of the world was still hung up on punctuation.
Here's where it all went wrong. "So," I had said. "Maybe we could get together tomorrow?"
"I'm on call for the next forty-eight hours," he'd said. "Monday?"
But Monday I was in court again.
"Well," Christian said. "I'll call."
I was meeting Father Michael at the statehouse, because I wanted him to go home and get clothing that was as priestly as possible-the jeans and button-down shirt in which he'd come to my door weren't going to win us any favors. Now, as I waited for him in the parking lot, I replayed every last syllable of my conversation with Christian... and began to panic. Everyone knew that when a guy said he'd call, it really meant that he wouldn't-he just wanted a swift escape. Maybe it had been the kiss, which was the precursor to that whole line of conversation.
Maybe I had garlic breath. Maybe he'd just spent enough time in my company to know I wasn't what he wanted.
By the time Father Michael rode into the parking lot, I'd decided that if Shay Bourne had cost me my first shot at a relationship since the Jews went to wander the desert, I would execute him myself.
I was surprised that Rufus had wanted me to go to meet Governor
Flynn alone; I was even more surprised that he thought Father Michael should be the one to finesse the interview in the first place. But Flynn wasn't a born New Englander; he was a transplanted southern boy, and he apparently preferred informality to pomp and circumstance. He'll be expecting you to come to him for a stay of execution after the trial, Rufus had mused. So maybe catching him off guard is the smartest thing you can do. He suggested that instead of a lawyer putting through the call, maybe a man of the cloth should do it instead. And, within two minutes of conversation,
Father Michael had discovered that Governor Flynn had heard him preach at last year's Christmas Mass at St. Catherine's.
We were let into the statehouse by a security guard, who put us through the metal detectors and then escorted us to the governor's office. It was an odd, eerie place after hours; our footsteps rang like gunshots as we hustled up the steps. At the top of the landing, I turned to Michael. "Do not do anything inflammatory," I whispered. "We get one shot at this."
The governor was sitting at his desk. "Come in," he said, getting to his feet. "Pleasure to see you again, Father Michael."
"Thanks," the priest said. "I'm flattered you remembered me."
"Hey, you gave a sermon that didn't put me to sleep-that puts you into a very small category of clergymen. You run the youth group at St.
Catherine's, too, right? My college roommate's kid was getting into some trouble a year ago, and then he started working with you. Joe Cacciatone?"
"Joey," Father Michael said. "He's a good kid."
The governor turned to me. "And you must be...?"
"Maggie Bloom," I said, holding out my hand. "Shay Bourne's attorney"
I had never been this close to the governor before. I thought, irrationally, that he looked taller on television.
"Ah, yes," the governor said. "The infamous Shay Bourne."
"If you're a practicing Catholic," Michael said to the governor, "how can you condone an execution?"
I blinked at the priest. Hadn't I just told him not to say anything provocative?
"I'm doing my job," Flynn said. "There's a great deal that I don't agree with, personally, that I have to carry out professionally."
"Even if the man who's about to be killed is innocent?"
Flynn's gaze sharpened. "That's not what a court decided, Father."
"Come talk to him," Michael said. "The penitentiary-it's a five minute drive. Come listen to him, and then tell me if he deserves to die."
"Governor Flynn," I interrupted, finally finding my voice. "During a... confession, Shay Bourne made some revelations that indicate there are details of his case that weren't revealed at the time-that the deaths occurred accidentally while Mr. Bourne was in fact trying to protect
Elizabeth Nealon from her father's sexual abuse. We feel that with a stay of execution, we'll have time to gather evidence of Bourne's innocence."
The governor's face paled. "I thought priests couldn't reveal confessions."
"We're obligated to, if there's a law about to be broken, or if a life is in danger. This qualifies on both counts."
The governor folded his hands, suddenly distant. "I appreciate your concerns-both religious and political. I'll take your request under advisement."
I knew a dismissal when I heard one; I nodded and stood. Father Michael looked up at me, then scrambled to his feet, too. We shook the governor's hand again and groveled our way out of the office. We didn't speak until we were outside, beneath a sky spread with stars. "So," Father
Michael said. "I guess that means no."
"It means we have to wait and see. Which probably means no." I dug my hands into the pockets of my suit jacket. "Well. Seeing as my entire evening has been shot to hell, I'm just going to call it a night-"
"You don't believe he's innocent, do you?" Michael said.
I sighed. "Not really."
"Then why are you willing to fight so hard for him?"
"On December twenty-fifth, when I was a kid, I'd wake up and it would be just another day. On Easter Sunday, my family was the only one in the movie theater. The reason I fight so hard for Shay," I finished, "is because I know what it's like when the things you believe make you feel like you're on the outside looking in."
"I... I didn't realize..."
"How could you?" I said, smiling faintly. "The guys at the top of the totem pole never see what's carved at the bottom. See you Monday,
I could feel his gaze on me as I walked to my car. It felt like a cape made of light, like the wings of the angels I'd never believed in.
My client looked like he'd been run over by a truck. Somehow, in the middle of trying to get me to save his life, Father Michael had neglected to mention that Shay had begun a course of self-mutilation. His face was scabbed and bloomed with bruises; his hands-cuffed tightly to his waist after last week's fiasco-were scratched. "You look like crap," I murmured to Shay.
"I'm going to look worse after they hang me," he whispered back.
"We have to talk. About what you said to Father Michael-" But before I could go any further, the judge called on Gordon Greenleaf to offer his closing argument.
Gordon stood up heavily. "Your Honor, this case has been a substantial waste of the court's time and the state's money. Shay Bourne is a convicted double murderer. He committed the most heinous crime in the history of the state of New Hampshire."
I glanced at Shay beneath my lashes. If what he'd said was true-if he'd seen Elizabeth being abused-then the two murders became manslaughter and self-defense. DNA testing had not been in vogue when he was convicted-was it possible that there was some shred of carpet or couch fabric left that could corroborate Shay's account?
"He's exhausted all legal remedies at every level," Gordon continued.
"State, first circuit, Supreme Court-and now he's desperately trying to extend his life by filing a bogus lawsuit that claims he believes in some bogus religion. He wants the State of New Hampshire and its taxpayers to build him his own special gallows so that he can donate his heart to the victims' family-a group that he suddenly has feelings for. He certainly didn't have feelings for them the day he murdered Kurt and Elizabeth
It was, of course, highly unlikely that there would still be evidence.
By now, even the underwear that had been found in his pocket had been destroyed or given back to June Nealon-this was a case that had closed eleven years ago, in the minds of the investigators. And all the eyewitnesses had died at the scene-except for Shay.
"Yes, there is a law that protects the religious freedom of inmates,"
Greenleaf said. "It exists so that Jewish inmates can wear yarmulkes in prison, and Muslims can fast during Ramadan. The commissioner of corrections always makes allowances for religious activity in compliance with federal law. But to say that this man-who's had outbursts in the courtroom, who can't control his emotions, who can't even tell you what the name of his religion is-deserves to be executed in some special way to comply with federal law is completely inappropriate, and is not what our system of justice intended."
Just as Greenleaf sat down, a bailiff slipped a note to me. I glanced at it and took a deep breath.
"Ms. Bloom?" the judge prompted.
"One hundred and twenty dollars," I said. "You know what you can do with one hundred and twenty dollars? You can get a great pair of
Stuart Weitzman shoes on sale. You can buy two tickets to a Bruins game.
You can feed a starving family in Africa. You can purchase a cell phone contract. Or, you can help a man reach salvation-and rescue a dying child."
I stood up. "Shay Bourne is not asking for freedom. He's not asking for his sentence to be overturned. He's simply asking to die in accordance with his religious beliefs. And if America stands for nothing else, it stands for the right to practice your own religion, even if you die in the custody of the state."
I began to walk toward the gallery. "People still flock to this country because of its religious freedom. They know that in America, you won't be told what God should look like or sound like. You won't be told there is one right belief, and yours isn't it. They want to speak freely about religion, and to ask questions. Those rights were the foundation of America four hundred years ago, and they're still the foundation today. It's why, in this country, Madonna can perform on a crucifix, and The Da Vinci Code was a bestseller. It's why, even after 9/11, religious freedom flourishes in
Facing the judge again, I pulled out all the stops. "Your Honor, we're not asking you to remove the wall between church and state by ruling in favor of Shay Bourne. We just want the law upheld-the one that promises
Shay Bourne the right to practice his religion even in the state penitentiary, unless there's a compelling governmental interest to keep him from doing so. The only governmental interest that the stale can point to here is one hundred and twenty dollars-and a matter of a few months."
I walked back to my seat, slipped into it. "How do you weigh lives and souls against two months, and a hundred and twenty bucks?"
Once the judge returned to chambers to reach his verdict, two marshals came to retrieve Shay. "Maggie?" he said, getting to his feet. "Thanks."
"Guys," I said to the marshals, "can you give me a minute with him in the holding cell?"
"Make it quick," one of them said, and I nodded.
"What do you think?" Father Michael said, still seated in the gallery behind me. "Does he have a chance?"
I reached into my pocket, retrieved the note the bailiff had passed me just before I began my closing, and handed it to Michael. "You better hope so," I said. "The governor denied his stay of execution."
He was lying on the metal bunk, his arm thrown over his eyes, by the time I reached the holding cell. "Shay," I said, standing in front of the bars. "Father Michael came to talk to me. About what happened the night of the murders."
"It doesn't matter."
"It does matter," I said urgently. "The governor denied your stay of execution, which means we're up against a brick wall. DNA evidence is used routinely now to overturn capital punishment verdicts. There was some talk about sexual assault during the trial, wasn't there, before that charge was dropped? If that semen sample still exists, we can have it tested and matched to Kurt... I just need you to give me the details about what happened, Shay, so that I can get the ball rolling."
Shay stood up and walked toward me, resting his hands on the bars between us. "I can't."
"Why not?" I challenged. "Were you lying when you told Father Michael you were innocent?"
He glanced up at me, his eyes hot. "No."
I cannot tell you why I believed him. Maybe I was naive, because I hadn't been a criminal defense attorney; maybe I just felt that a dying man had very little left to lose. But when Shay met my gaze, I knew that he was telling me the truth-and that executing an innocent man was even more devastating, if possible, than executing a guilty one. "Well, then," I said, my head already swimming with possibilities. "You told
Father Michael your first lawyer wouldn't listen to you-but I'm listening to you now. Talk to me, Shay. Tell me something I can use to convince a judge you were wrongly convicted. Then I'll write up the request for
DNA testing, you just have to sign-"
"I can't do this alone," I exploded. "Shay, we're talking about overturning your conviction, do you understand that? About you walking out of here, free."
"I know, Maggie."
"So instead of trying, you're just going to die for a crime you didn't commit? You're okay with that?"
He stared at me and slowly nodded. "I told you that the first day I met you. I didn't want you to save me. I wanted you to save my heart."
I was stunned. "Why?"
He struggled to get the words out. "It was still my fault. I tried to rescue her, and I couldn't. I wasn't there in time. I never liked Kurt
Nealon-I used to try to not be in the same room as him when I was working, so I wouldn't feel him looking at me. But June, she was so nice. She smelled like apples and she'd make me tuna fish for lunch and let me sit at the kitchen table like I belonged there with her and the girl. After Elizabeth... afterward... it was bad enough that June wouldn't have them anymore. I didn't want her to lose the past, too.
Family's not a thing, it's a place," Shay said softly. "It's where all the memories get kept."
So he took the blame for Kurt Nealon's crimes, in order to allow the grieving widow to remember him with pride, instead of hate. How much worse would it have been for June if DNA testing had existed back then-if the alleged rape of Elizabeth had proved Kurt as the perpetrator?
"You go looking for evidence now, Maggie, and you'll rip her wide open again. This way-well, this is the end, and then it's over."
I could feel my throat closing, a fist of tears. "And what if one day
June finds out the truth? And realizes that you were executed, even though you were innocent?"
"Then," Shay said, a smile breaking over him like daylight, "she'll remember me."
I had gone into this case knowing that Shay and I wanted different outcomes; I had expected to be able to convince him that an overturned conviction was a cause for celebration, even if living meant organ donation would have to be put on hold for a while. But Shay was ready to die;
Shay wanted to die. He wasn't just giving Claire Nealon a future; he was giving one to her mother, too. He wasn't trying to save the world, like me. Just one life at a time-which is why he had a fighting chance of succeeding.
He touched my hand, where it rested on the bars. "It's okay, Maggie.
I've never done anything important. I didn't cure cancer or stop global warming or win a Nobel Prize. I didn't do anything with my life, except hurt people I loved. But dying-dying will be different."
"They'll see their lives are worth living."
I knew that I would be haunted by Shay Bourne for a very long time, whether or not his sentence was carried out. "Someone who thinks like that," I said, "does not deserve to be executed. Please, Shay. Help me help you. You don't have to play the hero."
"Maggie," he said. "Neither do you."
Code blue, the nurse had said.
A stream of doctors and nurses flooded Claire's room. One began chest compressions.
I don't feel a pulse.
We need an airway.
Start chest compressions.
Can we get an IV access...
What rhythm is she in?
We need to shock her... put on the patches...
Charge to two hundred pules.
Give epi. Lidocaine. Bicarb.
Check for a pulse...
Dr. Wu flew through the door. "Get the mother out of here," he said, and a nurse grasped my shoulders.
"You need to come with me," she said, and I nodded, but my feet would not move. Someone held the defibrillator to Claire's chest again. Her body jackknifed off the bed just as I was dragged through the doorway.
I had been the one present when Claire flatlined; I was the one who'd run to the nurse's desk. And I was the one sitting with her now that she'd been stabilized, now that her heart, battered and ragged, was beating again. She was in a monitored bed, and I stared at the screens, at the mountainous terrain of her cardiac rhythm, sure that if I didn't blink we'd be safe.
Claire whimpered, tossing her head from side to side. The monitors cast her skin an alien green.
"Baby," I said, moving beside her. "Don't try to talk. You've still got a tube in."
Her eyes slitted open; she pleaded to me with her eyes and mimed holding a pen.
I gave her the white board Dr. Wu had given me; until Claire was extubated tomorrow morning she would have to use this to communicate. Her writing was shaky and spiked. WHAT HAPPENED?
"Your heart," I said, blinking back tears. "It wasn't doing so well."