Chapter 49

Two ambulances arrived. One whisked Jack away before Grace could even see him. Two paramedics worked on her. They were in constant motion, asking questions as they worked, but their words did not register. She was strapped to a stretcher and wheeled toward the ambulance. Perlmutter was there now.

"Where are Emma and Max?" she asked.

"At the station. They're safe."

An hour later Jack was in surgery. That was all they would tell her. He was in surgery.

The young doctor ran a battery of tests on Grace. The ribs were indeed cracked, but there was nothing you could really do for cracked ribs. The doctor wrapped them with an Ace bandage and gave her a shot. The pain began to subside. An orthopedic surgeon checked out her knee and just shook his head.

Perlmutter came into her room and asked a lot of questions. For the most part Grace answered. On some subjects she was intentionally vague. It wasn't that she wanted to keep anything from the police. Or maybe, well, maybe she did.

Perlmutter was pretty vague too. Her dead captor's name was Eric Wu. He had been in prison. In Walden. That did not surprise Grace. Wade Larue had been in Walden too. It was all linked. That old photograph. Jack's group, Allaw. The Jimmy X Band. Wade Larue. And yes, even Eric Wu.

Perlmutter deflected most of her questions. She did not push it. Scott Duncan was in the room too. He stayed in the corner and did not speak.

Grace asked, "How did you know I was with this Eric Wu?"

Perlmutter clearly did not mind answering this one. "Do you know Charlaine Swain?"


"Her son Clay goes to Willard."

"Okay, right. I've met her."

Perlmutter filled her in on Charlaine Swain's own ordeal at the hands of Eric Wu. He was expansive on the subject, purposefully, Grace thought, so that he could keep mum about the rest of it. Perlmutter's cell phone rang. He excused himself and headed into the corridor. Grace was alone with Scott Duncan.

"What are they thinking?" she asked.

Scott came closer. "The popular theory is that Eric Wu was working for Wade Larue."

"How do they figure?"

"They know you went to Larue's press conference today, so that's link one. Wu and Larue were not only in Walden at the same time, but they were cellmates for three months."

"Link two," she said. "So what do they think Larue was after?"



"On you, for starters. You testified against him."

"I testified at his trial, but not really against him. I don't even remember the stampede."

"Still. There is a solid link between Eric Wu and Wade Larue-we checked the prison phone records, they've been in touch-and there is a solid link between Larue and you."

"But even if Wade Larue was out for vengeance, why not take me? Why take Jack?"

"They think maybe Larue was trying to hurt you by hurting your family. Make you suffer."

She shook her head. "And that weird photograph arriving? How do they figure that into the mix? Or your sister's murder? Or Shane Alworth or Sheila Lambert? Or Bob Dodd getting killed in New Hampshire?"

"It is a theory," Duncan said, "with lots of holes. But remember-and this plugs most of them-they don't see all these connections the way we do. My sister may have been murdered fifteen years ago, but that doesn't have anything to do with now. Neither does Bob Dodd, a reporter who was shot gangland style. For now they're keeping it simple: Wu gets out of jail. He grabs your husband. Maybe he would have grabbed others, who knows?"

"And the reason he didn't just kill Jack?"

"Wu was holding him until Wade Larue is released."

"Which was today."

"Right, today. Then Wu grabs you both. He was taking you to Larue when you escaped."

"So Larue could, what, kill us himself?"

Duncan shrugged.

"That doesn't make sense, Scott. Eric Wu broke my ribs because he wanted to know how I got that photograph. He stopped because he got an unexpected call. Then he suddenly packed us in that car. None of that was planned."

"Perlmutter just learned all that. They may now alter their theory."

"And where is Wade Larue anyway?"

"No one seems to know. They're searching for him."

Grace dropped back on her pillow. Her bones felt so damned heavy. The tears started flooding her eyes. "How bad is Jack?"


"Is he going to live?"

"They don't know."

"Don't let them lie to me."

"I won't, Grace. But try to get some sleep, okay?"


In the corridor Perlmutter spoke to the captain of the Armonk Police Department, Anthony Dellapelle. They were still combing through the home of Beatrice Smith.

"We just checked the basement," Dellapelle said. "Someone was kept locked up down there."

"Jack Lawson. We know that."

Dellapelle paused and said, "Maybe."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"There's still a set of handcuffs against a pipe."

"Wu unlocked him. He probably left them there."

"That could be. There's also blood down there-not much of it, but it's fairly fresh."

"Lawson had some cuts on him."

There was a pause.

"What's going on?" Perlmutter asked.

"Where are you right now, Stu?"

" Valley Hospital."

"How long would it take you to get here?"

"Fifteen minutes with the sirens," Perlmutter said. "Why?"

"There's something else down here," Dellapelle said. "Something you might want to see for yourself."


At midnight Grace pulled herself out of bed and started down the corridor. Her children had visited briefly. Grace insisted that they let her get out of bed for that. Scott Duncan bought her some regular clothes-an Adidas sweat suit-because she did not want to greet her children in a hospital gown. She took a major pain injection so as to quiet the screaming in her ribs. Grace wanted the children to see that she was all right, that she was safe, that they were safe. She put on a brave face that lasted right up until the moment she saw that Emma had brought her poetry journal. Then she started crying.

You can only be strong for so long.

The children were spending the night in their own beds. Cora would stay in the master bedroom. Cora's daughter, Vickie, would sleep in the bed next to Emma. Perlmutter had assigned a female cop to stay the night too. Grace was grateful.

The hospital was dark now. Grace managed to stand upright. It took her forever. The hot scream was back in her ribs. Her knee felt more like shards of shattered glass than a joint.

The corridor was quiet. Grace had a specific destination in mind. Someone would try to stop her, she was sure, but that didn't really concern her. She was determined.


She turned toward the female voice, readying to do battle. But that wouldn't be the case here. Grace recognized the woman from the playground. "You're Charlaine Swain."

The woman nodded. They moved toward each other, eyes locked, sharing something neither one of them could really articulate.

"I guess I owe you a thanks," Grace said.

"Vice versa," Charlaine said. "You killed him. The nightmare is over for us."

"How is your husband?" Grace asked.

"He's going to be fine."

Grace nodded.

Charlaine said, "I hear yours isn't doing well." They were both beyond phony platitudes. Grace appreciated the honesty.

"He's in a coma."

"Have you seen him?"

"I'm going there now."

"Sneaking in?"


Charlaine nodded. "Let me help you."

Grace leaned on Charlaine Swain. The woman was strong. The corridor was empty. In the distance they heard the sharp clack of heels on tile. The lights were low. They passed an empty nurse station and got into the elevator. Jack was on the third floor, in intensive care. Having Charlaine Swain with her felt oddly right to Grace. She could not say why.

This particular section of the intensive care unit had four rooms with glass walls. A nurse sat in the middle, thus able to monitor them all at once, but right now, only one room had a patient in it.

They both pulled up. Jack was in the bed. The first thing Grace noticed was that her powerful husband, the gruff six-two hunk who'd always made her feel safe, looked so small and fragile in that bed. She knew that it was her imagination. It had only been two days. He had lost some weight. He had been totally dehydrated. But that wasn't what this was.

Jack's eyes were closed. He had a tube coming out of his throat. There was another tube in his mouth. Both were taped with white adhesive. Yet another tube was in his nose. Still another in his right arm. There was an IV. There were machines surrounding him, straight out of some futuristic nightmare.

Grace felt herself starting to fall. Charlaine held her up. Grace steadied herself and moved toward the door.

The nurse said, "You can't go in there."

"She just wants to sit with him," Charlaine said. "Please."

The nurse glanced around then back at Grace. "Two minutes."

Grace let go of Charlaine. Charlaine pushed opened the door for her. Grace went in alone. There were beeps and dings and a hellish sound like drops of water being sucked up a straw. Grace sat down next to the bed. She did not reach for Jack's hand. She did not kiss Jack's cheek.

"You're going to love the last verse," Grace said.

She opened Emma's journal and started reading:

"Baseball, baseball,

Who's your best friend?

Is it the bat,

Who hits your rear end?"

Grace laughed and turned the page, but the next page-in fact, the rest of the journal-was blank.