Chapter 4

WHEN Mo turned down their street, Mike spotted Susan Loriman, his neighbor, outside. She was pretending to be doing a yard chore-weeding or planting or something like that-but Mike knew better. They pulled into the driveway. Mo looked at the neighbor on her knees.

"Wow, nice ass."

"Her husband probably thinks so."

Susan Loriman rose. Mo watched.

"Yeah, but her husband's an asshole."

"What makes you say that?"

He gestured with his chin. "Those cars."

In the driveway sat her husband's muscle car, a souped-up red Corvette. His other car was a jet-black BMW 550i, while Susan drove a gray Dodge Caravan.

"What about them?"

"They his?"


"I got this friend," Mo said. "Hottest chick you've ever seen. Hispanic or Latina or some such thing. She used to be a professional wrestler with the moniker Pocahontas, you remember, when they had those sexy numbers on Channel Eleven in the morning?"

"I remember."

"So anyway, this Pocahontas told me something she does. Whenever she sees a guy in a car like that, whenever he kinda pulls up to her in his muscle wheels and revs his engine and gives the eye, you know what she says to him?"

Mike shook his head.

" 'Sorry to hear about your penis.' "

Mike had to smile.

"'Sorry to hear about your penis.' That's it. Ain't that great?"

"Yeah," Mike admitted. "That's pretty awesome."

"Tough to come back from that line."

"Indeed it is."

"So your neighbor here-her husband, right?-he's got two of them. What do you think that means?"

Susan Loriman looked over at them. Mike had always found her gut-wrenchingly attractive-the hot mom of the neighborhood, what he had heard the teens refer to as a MILF, though he didn't like to think in such coarse acronyms. Not that Mike would ever do anything about it, but if you're breathing, you still notice things like that. Susan had long so-black-it's-blue hair and in the summer she always wore it in a ponytail down her spine with cut-off shorts and fashionable sunglasses and a mischievous smile on her knowing red lips.

When their kids were younger, Mike would see her on the play-ground by Maple Park. It didn't mean a thing but he liked to look at her. He knew one father who intentionally picked her son to be on his Little League team just so Susan Loriman would show up at their games.

Today there were no sunglasses. Her smile was tight.

"She looks sad as hell," Mo said.

"Yeah. Look, give me a moment, okay?"

Mo was going to crack wise, but he saw something on the woman's face. "Yeah," he said. "Sure."

Mike approached. Susan tried to hold the smile, but the fault lines were starting to give way.

"Hey," he said.

"Hi, Mike."

He knew why she was outside pretending to garden. He didn't make her wait.

"We won't have Lucas's tissue typing results until the morning."

She swallowed, nodded too fast. "Okay."

Mike wanted to reach out and touch her. In an office setting he might have. Doctors do that. It just wouldn't play here. Instead he went with a canned line: "Dr. Goldfarb and I will do everything we can."

"I know, Mike."

Her ten-year-old son, Lucas, had focal segmental glomerulosclero- sis-FSGS for short-and was in pretty desperate need of a kidney transplant. Mike was one of the leading kidney transplant surgeons in the country, but he had passed this case to his partner, Ilene Goldfarb. Ilene was the head of transplant surgery at NewYork-Presbyterian and the best surgeon he knew.

He and Ilene dealt with people like Susan every day. He could give the usual spiel about separating but the deaths still ate at him. The dead stayed with him. They poked him at night. They pointed fin- gers. They pissed him off. Death was never welcome, never accepted. Death was his enemy-a constant outrage-and he'd be damned if he'd lose this kid to that son of a bitch.

In the case of Lucas Loriman, it was, of course, extra personal. That was the main reason he took second chair to Ilene. Mike knew Lucas. Lucas was something of a nerdy kid, too sweet for his own good, complete with glasses that always seemed to be sliding too far down his nose and hair that required a shotgun to keep down. Lucas loved sports and couldn't play them a lick. When Mike would take practice shots at Adam in the driveway, Lucas would wander over and watch. Mike would offer him a stick, but Lucas didn't want that. Realizing too early in life that playing was not his destiny, Lucas liked to broadcast: "Dr. Baye has the puck, he fakes left, shoots for the five- hole... brilliant save by Adam Baye!"

Mike thought about that, about that sweet kid pushing his glasses up and thought again, I'll be damned if I'm going to let him die.

"Are you sleeping?" Mike asked.

Susan Loriman shrugged.

"You want me to prescribe something?"

"Dante doesn't believe in that stuff."

Dante Loriman was her husband. Mike didn't want to admit it in front of Mo, but his assessment had been spot-on-Dante was an asshole. He was nice enough on the outside, but you saw the narrowing of the eyes. There were rumors he was mobbed up, but that could have been based more on looks. He had the slicked-back hair, the wifebeater tees, the too-much cologne and the too-glitzy jewelry. Tia got a kick out of him-"nice change from this sea of clean-cuts"-but Mike always felt as though there was something wrong, the machismo of a guy who wanted to measure up but somehow knew he never did.

"Do you want me to talk to him?" Mike asked.

She shook her head.

"You guys use the Drug Aid on Maple Avenue, right?"


"I'll call in a prescription. You can pick it up if you want."

"Thanks, Mike."

"I'll see you in the morning."

Mike came back toward the car. Mo was waiting with his arms folded across his chest. He wore sunglasses and was aiming for the epitome of cool.

"A patient?"

Mike walked past him. He didn't talk about patients. Mo knew that.

Mike stopped in front of his house and just looked at it for a moment. Why, he wondered, did a house seem as fragile as his patients? When you looked left and right, the street was lined with them, houses like this, filled with couples who had driven out from wherever and stood on the lawn and looked at the structure and thought, "Yes, this is where I'm going to live my life and raise my kids and protect all our hopes and dreams. Right here. In this bubble of a structure."

He opened the door. "Hello?"

"Daddy! Uncle Mo!"

It was Jill, his eleven-year-old princess, tearing around the corner, that smile plastered on her face. Mike felt his heart warm-the reaction was instantaneous and universal. When a daughter smiles at her father like that, the father, no matter what his station in life, is suddenly king.

"Hey, sweetheart."

Jill hugged Mike and then Mo, flowing smoothly between them. She moved with the ease of a politician working a crowd. Behind her, almost cowering, was her friend Yasmin.

"Hi, Yasmin," Mike said.

Yasmin's hair hung straight down in front of her face, like a veil. Her voice was barely audible. "Hi, Dr. Baye."

"You guys have dance class today?" Mike asked.

Jill shot a warning look across Mike's bow in a way no eleven-year-old should be able to do. "Dad," she whispered.

And he remembered. Yasmin had stopped dance. Yasmin had pretty much stopped all activity. There had been an incident in school a few months back. Their teacher, Mr. Lewiston, normally a good guy who liked to go a step too far to keep the kids interested, had made an inappropriate comment about Yasmin having facial hair. Mike was fuzzy on the details. Lewiston immediately apologized, but the pre-adolescent damage was done. Classmates started calling Yasmin "XY" as in the chromosome-or just "Y," which they could claim was short for Yasmin but really was just a new way of picking on her.

Kids, as we know, can be cruel.

Jill stuck by her friend, worked harder to keep her in the mix. Mike and Tia were proud of her for it. Yasmin quit, but Jill still loved dance class. Jill loved, it seemed, almost everything she did, approaching every activity with an energy and enthusiasm that couldn't help but jazz everyone around her. Talk about nature and nurture. Two kids- Adam and Jill-raised by the same parents but with polar opposite personalities.

Nature every time.

Jill reached behind her and grabbed Yasmin's hand. "Come on," she said.

Yasmin followed.

"Later, Daddy. Bye, Uncle Mo. "

"Bye, sweetheart," Mo said.

"Where are you two going?" Mike asked.

"Mom told us to go outside. We're going to ride bikes."

"Don't forget the helmets."

Jill rolled her eyes but in a good-natured way.

A minute later, Tia came out from the kitchen and frowned in Mo's direction. "What is he doing here?"

Mo said, "I heard you're spying on your son. Nice."

Tia gave Mike a look that singed his skin. Mike just shrugged. This was something of a nonstop dance between Mo and Tia-outward hostility but they'd kill for each other in a foxhole.

"I think it's a good idea actually," Mo said.

That surprised them. They both looked at him.

"What? I got something on my face?"

Mike said, "I thought you said we were overprotecting him."

"No, Mike, I said Tiaoverprotects him."

Tia gave Mike another glare. He suddenly remembered where Jill had learned how to silence her father with a look. Jill was the pupil-Tia the master.

"But in this case," Mo continued, "much as it pains me to admit it, she's right. You're his parents. You're supposed to know all."

"You don't think he has a right to his privacy?"

"Right to...?" Mo frowned. "He's a dumb kid. Look, all parents spy on their kids in some ways, don't they? That's your job. Only you see their report cards, right? You talk to his teacher about what he's up to in school. You decide what he eats, where he lives, whatever. So this is just the next step."

Tia was nodding.

"You're supposed to raise them, not coddle them. Every parent decides how much independence they give a kid. You're in control. You should know it all. This isn't a republic. It's a family. You don't have to micromanage, but you should have the ability to step in. Knowledge is power. A government can abuse it because they don't have your best interest at heart. You do. And you're both smart. So what's the harm?"

Mike just looked at him.

Tia said, "Mo?"


"Are we having a moment?"

"God, I hope not." Mo slid onto the stool by the kitchen island. "So what did you find?"

"Don't take this the wrong way," Tia said, "but I think you should go home."

"He's my godson. I have his best interest at heart too."

"He's not your godson. And based on what you just argued, there is no one who has a greater interest than his parents. And as much as you might care about him, you don't fit that category."

He just stared at her.


"I hate it when you're right."

"How do you think I feel?" Tia said. "I was sure spying on him was the way to go until you agreed."

Mike watched. Tia kept plucking her lower lip. He knew that she only did that when she was panicking. The joking was a cover.

Mike said, " Mo. "

"Yeah, yeah, I can take a hint. I'm out of here. One thing though."


"Can I see your cell phone?"

Mike made a face. "Why? Doesn't yours work?"

"Let me just see it, okay?"

Mike shrugged. He handed it to Mo.

"Who's your carrier?" Mo asked.

Mike told him.

"And all of you have the same phone? Adam included?"


Mo stared at the cell phone some more. Mike looked at Tia. She shrugged. Mo turned the phone over and then handed it back.

"What was that all about?"

"I'll tell you later," Mo said. "Right now you better take care of your kid."