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M I C HAEL


Shay Bourne was nothing like I expected.

I had prepared myself for a hulking brute of a man, one with hammy fists and no neck and eyes narrowed into slits. This was, after all, the crime of the century-a double murder that had captured the attention of people from Nashua to Dixville Notch; a crime that seemed all the worse because of its victims: a little girl, and a police officer who happened to be her stepfather. It was the kind of crime that made you wonder if you were safe in your own house, if the people you trusted could turn on you at any moment-and maybe because of this. New Hampshire prosecutors sought the death penalty for the first time in fifty-eight years.

Given the media blitz, there was talk of whether twelve jurors who hadn't formed a reaction to this crime could even be found, but they managed to locate us. They unearthed me in a study carrel at UNH, where I was writing a senior honors thesis in mathematics. I hadn't had a decent meal in a month, much less read a newspaper-and so I was the perfect candidate for Shay Bourne's capital murder case.

The first time we filed out of our holding pen-a small room in the superior courthouse that would begin to feel as familiar as my apartment-I thought maybe some bailiff had let us into the wrong courtroom. This defendant was small and delicately proportioned-the kind of guy who grew up being the punch line to high school jokes.

He wore a tweed jacket that swallowed him whole, and the knot of his necktie squared away from him at the perpendicular, as if it were being magnetically repelled. His cuffed hands curled in his lap like small animals; his hair was shaved nearly to the skull. He stared down at his lap, even when the judge spoke his name and it hissed through the room like steam from a radiator.

The judge and the lawyers were taking care of housekeeping details when the fly came in. I noticed this for two reasons: in March, you don't see many flies in New Hampshire, and I wondered how you went about swatting one away from you when you were handcuffed and chained at the waist. Shay Bourne stared at the insect when it paused on the legal pad in front of him, and then in a jangle of metal, he raised his bound hands and crashed them down on the table to kill it.

Or so I thought, until he turned his palms upward, his fingers opened one petal at a time, and the insect went zipping off to bother someone else.

In that instant, he glanced at me, and I realized two things:


PROLOGUE: 1996 | Change of heart | 1. He was terrified.