“You take that table. He’s a great tipper.”

“I don’t want to cheat you out of—”

“No, you take it. And don’t worry, I’ll handle everyone else that comes in. I’ll make it up.”

“That doesn’t seem fair.”

“Trust me,” Emile said dryly. “You’re going to need the extra time with him. Even if he eats alone.”


And still the cold waters of the Hudson River beckoned.

As Trez pulled his car into his reserved space behind shAdoWs, he killed the engine and just sat there outside of his club, watching the snowflakes clutter up the windshield that no longer was swept clean by the wipers. When it dawned on him that he’d turned things off with the blades halfway up the arc of their path, he reignited the electrical system and brought them back into their proper place, all tucked in under the lip of the hood, a pair of twins put to bed. It felt good to set something, anything, into alignment, and the fact that the best he had to work with in that department was the wipers on his car?

Well, beggars, choosers, and all that shit.

He should head inside. See whether anyone had shown up either for work or for boozing and sex. Check in with Xhex.

He stayed where he was.

Meanwhile, the snow continued to fall, the heavy congregations of individual flakes making him think of people jumping out of airplanes and banding together on the descent, arms linked, bodies close. The impacts of the crystalline formations were utterly silent, and that was one of the things he had used to love about winter’s version of a rainstorm. Unlike what happened in warmer months, there was no sizzle as things fell and landed on objects and people, no dripping off gutters and rooflines, no speckling tap dance on windshields.

Silence. Utter silence.

Funny, now he hated that about snow. Staring at the dapples that were closing ranks, as if his car, his club, the whole of Caldwell, was a puzzle the storm was filling in with pieces, the holes locked in, corners completed, the outside rim already done, he found that he couldn’t breathe.

When he had been at his queen’s deathbed, in the Brotherhood’s clinic, there had been machines monitoring her body as it failed. How he had hated them. The alarms had been a countdown to her extinction, and as they went off at closer and closer intervals, he had wanted to take a baseball bat to them—or maybe a wrecking ball. But it was worse when they were switched off. The silence had been awful. Then again, medical staff only monitored patients when there was something to keep track of. Some kind of change that they could watch out for and counteract. Some course correction that could be undertaken.

When the scales tipped irrevocably to death, there was nothing to watch over anymore.

After the medical machines had been turned off, he had stepped in and become Selena’s monitor. He had stayed by her side and tried to care for her. As she had been paralyzed from head to toe at the end by the Arrest, he had set up a communication system where she blinked once for no, twice for yes.

It was strange the things he remembered afterward, and that system was one of them. He had suggested one blink for the nos because he was most concerned that he understand what was not working for her. Can you breathe? No. Are you okay? No. Can I help you?


Are you ready to go? Yes. Do you want help to go?


He’d felt as though he had to choose which answer would be more important, more critical, her yeses or her nos, because at the end, she had had so little strength that he had wanted to save her any effort if he could. One for no. Two for yes. But as if it really mattered?

Waiting for the death to occur had provided him with a new facet of torture. After what was both an eternity and a split second, the ultimate silence arrived. No more breathing from her. No more beating of her heart. No more blinking.


Returning to the cold present, Trez exhaled as the last vacancies on his windshield were filled, a whiteout in front of him now, the view of the back of his club obscured. He had a thought that the inside of his car was probably close to freezing, but he couldn’t feel anything. His mind was too far back in the past, his body left behind here in the current time, the connection between the two cut once again.

The final moments of Selena’s life were something he had relived a thousand times since they had actually occurred. The constant replay was like a new part of him, a second torso, another arm, another leg. He couldn’t decide whether his evidently compulsive need to go back to that exam room’s bedside, that instance where her life ended and she took him along with her off the planet, was rooted in his brain or his heart. He also wondered what the purpose of the retreading was. Did he think that if he reviewed the ending enough in his mind that the finale would change? That somehow, if he just went back over those moments again and again, he might get a different result, as if maybe reality would forget? Or maybe like the past was an old-school LP record and the needle would skip at just the right place and resume the song on the far side, as if nothing had ever been wrong.

Presto! She was alive.

And so was he.

Okay… he really needed to go inside before he turned into a Popsicle.

Instead, the endless replay started again, and, as it always did, the sights, the smells, the sounds, eclipsed the world that was before him, sure as if they called his name in a command he had to follow.

The Brotherhood’s training center had a clinical area, one that was dedicated to helping the fighters and members of the household through everything from cuts to concussions, birth to broken bones. They’d never handled a case of the Arrest before Selena. Then again, the disease was not only very rare; it was only found among the Chosen, those sacred females who served the Scribe Virgin. Selena had been well aware she suffered from it, and she had watched a couple of her sisters die from being turned into figurative stone. She had also known it was terminal and there was nothing to be done. Her body was going to fall into a rigid paralysis state that was incompatible with life.

She had been out of time long before he’d ever met her.

There were a lot of things about his life he would change. Meeting her was not one of them, however, even with all the pain that had come.

At the end of it all, when he’d been sitting beside her and holding her hand, he could remember thinking that he would have traded places with her in a heartbeat. He had always wanted to be the one to suffer instead of her, and after she was gone? He’d realized his wish had been granted. Her agony was over—either because the bullshit Fade actually existed or because she was just plain dead.

And his was permanent.

So he’d gotten what he’d prayed for.

Rubbing his eyes, he tried to pull out of the suck zone. He failed. He always failed. He didn’t know why he bothered to fight it, other than the fact that each time he went back to that moment in his life, in hers, it hurt every bit as much as when it had happened.

He could picture the exam room like he was standing in it, the table in the center, the stainless steel shelves, the chair he’d been given. After the medical folks had turned the monitors off, he’d asked his queen if it was time, if she was ready to go, if she needed help. She had blinked twice at all of it. Yes. Still, he’d had to ask her again, just to make sure. It was the kind of thing he needed to get right. When he was sure of what she wanted, Dr. Manello had done the duty with the syringes, giving her the drugs that would ease her as death came and claimed her. Trez didn’t understand then, and couldn’t fathom now, what it was like to have all your mental faculties intact, but be locked into your body, unable to move, unable to communicate, unable to do anything but wait as your breathing and your heart rate slowed… and then stopped. The terrifying thing was that Selena’s version of paralysis had not been like that of a quadriplegic, where the person felt nothing. With the Arrest, bastard disease that it was, all her nerves had functioned properly and continually. She felt everything, all the pain, all the suffocation, all the repercussions of the organ failures.

Before things had gotten acute, they had talked about what she wanted. His queen had said when it was time, she wanted help. She wanted the drugs that would bring the end a little faster and easier. He had made sure she had received them.

And then he had held her hand as his brother had held his, and he had repeated, over and over again, “I love you forever.”

Over and over and over again.

He had known the instant her soul had left its broken corporeal host. He still had no clue how he’d known, but he’d felt it in his gut. And quick on her essence’s departure had come unto him a crippling, shattering pain, the likes of which he had never felt before.

Selena had come to visit him once since then. Or at least his brain had coughed up a pretty damn good illusion of her, one that had basically told him everything he would have wanted to hear from her after her death. And he supposed he had gotten a measure of temporary peace from that. But it wasn’t the same as having her back. Nothing was the same.

And she hadn’t come again unto him. Which was how he had lost his faith in the afterlife.

Surely, if she were somewhere in the universe, and she could come see him once, she would do it again. His shellan wouldn’t have deserted him in his suffering. No way.

So there had to be nothing of her left.

Staring at the snow-covered windshield of his BMW and being able to see nothing on the other side made him think of Therese. He had had no real reason to go to the restaurant tonight. He had no reason to try to see that female, ever—especially now that she had drawn such a firm line about getting out of that rooming house. He needed to leave her well enough alone.

Physical similarities amplified by grief did not a relationship make.

And besides, his grief was like the snow on this car. Blinding him to what was all around, rendering him cold and sightless as to the truths he was living in. He was just starting this journey of grief, the death still so fresh, and there were no easy exit ramps off the highway he was on. From what Mary had told him, he just needed to proceed with the belief and understanding that it does get, if not better, per se, then at least more easily tolerated.