Chapter 34

Charlaine was holding Mike's hand when his eyes finally fluttered open.

She screamed for a doctor, who declared, in a moment of true obviousness, that this was a "good sign." Mike was in tremendous pain. The doctor put a morphine pump on him. Mike did not want to go back to sleep. He grimaced and tried to ride it out. Charlaine stayed bedside and held his hand. When the pain got bad, he squeezed hard.

"Go home," Mike said. "The kids need you."

She shushed him. "Try to rest."

"Nothing you can do for me here. Go home."


Mike began to drift off. She looked down at him. She remembered the days at Vanderbilt. The range of emotions overwhelmed her. There was love and affection, sure, but what troubled Charlaine right now  -  even as she held his hand, even as she felt a strong bond with this man who shared her life, even as she prayed and made deals with a God she'd ignored for far too long  -  was that she knew that these feelings would not last. That was the terrible part. In the middle of this intensity Charlaine knew that her feelings would ebb away, that the emotions were fleeting, and she hated herself for knowing that.

Three years ago Charlaine attended a huge self-help rally at Continental Arena in East Rutherford. The speaker had been dynamic. Charlaine loved it. She bought all the tapes. She started doing exactly what he said  -  making goals, sticking to them, figuring out what she wanted from life, trying to put things in perspective, organizing and restructuring her priorities so that she could achieve  -  but even as she went through the motions, even as her life began to change for the better, she knew that it would not last. That this would all be a temporary change. A new regimen, an exercise program, a diet  -  that was how this felt too.

It would not be happily ever after.

The door behind her opened. "I hear your husband woke up."

It was Captain Perlmutter. "Yes."

"I was hoping to talk to him."

"You'll have to wait."

Perlmutter took another step into the room. "Are the children still with their uncle?"

"He took them to school. We want things to feel normal for them." Perlmutter moved next to her. She kept her eyes on Mike. "Have you learned anything?" she asked.

"The man who shot your husband. His name is Eric Wu. Does that mean anything to you?"

She shook her head. "How did you figure that out?"

"His fingerprints in Sykes's house."

"Has he been arrested before?"

"Yes. In fact he's on parole."

"What did he do?"

"He was convicted of assault and battery, but it's believed that he's committed a number of crimes."

She was not surprised. "Violent crimes?"

Perlmutter nodded. "Can I ask you something?"

She shrugged.

"Does the name Jack Lawson mean anything to you?"

Charlaine frowned. "Does he have two kids at Willard?"


"I don't know him personally, but Clay, my youngest, is still at Willard. I see his wife sometimes when we do pickups."

"That would be Grace Lawson?"

"I think that's her name. Pretty woman. She has a daughter named Emma, I think. She's a year or two behind my Clay."

"Do you know her at all?"

"Not really, no. I see her at the school holiday concert, stuff like that. Why?"

"It's probably nothing."

Charlaine frowned. "You just picked that name out of a hat?"

"Early conjecture," he said, trying to dismiss it. "I also wanted to thank you."


"For talking to Mr. Sykes."

"He didn't tell me much."

"He told you that Wu used the name Al Singer."


"Our computer expert found that name on Sykes's computer. Al Singer. We think Wu used that alias for an online dating service. That's how he met Freddy Sykes."

"He used the name Al Singer?"


"It was a gay dating service then?"


Charlaine shook her head and came close to chuckling. Ain't that something? She looked at Perlmutter, daring him to laugh. He was stone-faced. They both looked down at Mike again. Mike startled. He opened his eyes and smiled at her. Charlaine smiled back and smoothed his hair. He closed his eyes and drifted back to sleep.

"Captain Perlmutter?"


"Please leave," she said.