BODYSWITCH

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Chapter 4

CHAPTER 4

Kerry had transformed their spacious apartment. She had been busy despite her heavy pregnancy. She had received a lot of help, decorating and painting the large attic like room. An army of street people had come and gone, some of them seeing a paintbrush for the first time.

A section of the room had been divided as a makeshift nursery and papered with colorful pictures of elves and goblins. There was a cot with mobiles. Jack had built some cupboards and shelves for the baby’s clothes and all the paraphernalia that went with a new person in the house. But as Kerry looked around the apartment, she saw its limitations. And the thought of heaving prams and pushchairs up and down six flights of stairs was a cause of some concern. She was going to have to speak her father. Her parents were coming over for dinner that evening.

Jack got on with her folks pretty well but then Jack got on with everyone pretty well. But Jack had a stubborn streak that came from a side of him that Kerry had rarely seen.

Kerry’s father would make them an offer. Move to a larger apartment. Don’t worry about the re-decorating. You can pay me back; it’s only money. Okay, I’m not rich but I’ve got a bit put by. I got some assets, why not use them for my daughter and her family. It gives me pleasure. Kerry’s mother would kiss Jack on the forehead and smile at him. But, thought Kerry, Jack would dig his heels in. He didn’t want to feel he couldn’t provide for his family.

Kerry could picture the scene. He’d sweep his fingers through his thick blond hair, his blue eyes would cloud over and his long, lopsided jaw would almost straighten up. “Thanks, Lari,” he would say to Kerry’s father, “but you’ve done enough for us. We’ve got to make it on our own. I’ve got plans. Don’t think I’m not aware of the situation here.”

Kerry sighed, glanced out of the big gallery windows, then walked slowly with her back slightly arched to make herself a cup of coffee.

Down on Fifth Avenue, Jack stood outside the offices of Traub and Santini insurance specialists. Jack was about to take a meeting with Harry Santini to seal the security of the Refuge. It hadn’t been easy to secure cover on the building other than the most very basic required by statute. Harry Santini had taken the project to heart and made it a sort of personal crusade.

Jack adjusted his tie, catching a glimpse of himself in a window. He checked his appearance. He wasn’t used to wearing a suit. This was his only one. He always felt uncomfortable and restricted. He went in and within ten minutes he was sitting opposite Harry Santini in his comfortable office. Santini was mid-forties, balding with small, clever eyes.

“Coffee?” he raised his small eyebrows.

“White, no sugar,” said Jack.

Santini poured coffee from a percolator by his desk. He looked at Jack for a long second then smiled.

“We’ve done it. I found a company in the mid-West that does a lot of charity work. A million’s about all the cover I can get. It’s nowhere near the rebuilding costs but it would enable you to start something up elsewhere, convert somewhere maybe.”

Jack was delighted. “Harry, you are a genius.”

“Don’t flatter me, you’ll be asking for a donation next.”

“You know how many places I tried. I wore out a pair of shoes going to see companies and brokers.”

“Yeah, I can imagine. Look, Jack, we’ve got to go through one or two things.” Harry shuffled some papers on his desk.

“Sure.”

Santini considered some documents for a moment. “There are five trustees of the Refuge but you are the only active organizer, the others are fundamentally acting as guarantors since their function essentially is to reach decisions which affect the long term stability of the project and provide basic funds for you to operate. In the event of a disaster, such as fire for instance, or if you need to claim from the policy, the other trustees have agreed to proxy their agreement. In other words, it’s like the policy was in your name. It’s not, of course, but the trustees believe that in the event of a claim a check could be made out to you. Only two of the trustees live in New York City and you’re one of them. Father MacReady is the other.”

“So, what’s to stop me running off with the money?”

“Any claim form has to be countersigned by one of the other trustees. Now, for all practical purposes that will be Father MacReady at St Marks. Any claim check would be made payable to you at your bank. It’s a symbol of trust, Jack. If you were to leave the Refuge project new arrangements would have to be made, new safeguards brought in. I’ve got all the paperwork here. It explains the situation and I’ve made some simple notes to decipher the legal razzmatazz.”

“So any fool can understand it you mean,” Jack smiled.

“In a manner of speaking, yes. The trustees have a right to know the arrangements. Copies of the policy document, notes and my own interpretation will be sent to each of them and a copy lodged with the bank.”

“I really appreciate this, Harry. You’ve completely changed my view of the insurance industry.”

“Well, I’m glad to have been of service to my profession and to my client,” Santini chuckled and poured more coffee. “So, how’s it going down there?”

“There’s a lot to get done. We’ve got room for a number of other functions. With real money behind it, Harry, the Refuge could become more than just an overnight hostel. It could do something positive to develop some self-esteem amongst the kind of people we get there. Without being preachy I mean. That doesn’t work. Father MacReady is always there for those who need him but lots of them mistrust any kind of official organization,” Jack paused for a moment. “You mentioned changing the arrangements if I was no longer involved?”

Santini sat up in his chair. “You’re not trying to tell me I’ve done all this work for nothing?”

“Of course not. Nothing we do is wasted, Harry. No, I’ve been giving the future some thought. There may come a time when I move on. The Refuge can’t depend on one person. One of the purposes of this insurance deal is to give the project some financial stability. It can also act as collateral for future projects. So, if I did leave at some point it would be in much better shape than when I found it.”

“You’ve made that place, Jack. Jesus, I forgot, the baby. You’re about to become a father. Now I understand.”

“I’m not going to come to any quick decisions, Harry. But, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately. I’ve been thinking about maybe joining a large national charity, moving out of New York, you know, improving our lifestyle. But I can’t help feeling I’d be letting everyone down.”

“If you can get the Refuge into shape then someone else can take over. No one’s indispensable. Don’t worry about the insurance arrangements they’re easily fixed. Keep a copy of the papers at the Refuge. You’ve got a safe?”

“No.”

“Well, keep them tucked away in a desk drawer somewhere. Lodge the other copy with your bank. I’ll send copies to the other trustees with a covering letter.” Santini smiled at Jack.

“So, a first time father eh? Welcome to the club. I got three of them. I live out of town. Commuting is no fun but I tell you it’s nice to see some greenery when you get home at night. It’s nice to feel as near to safe as you can get. It’s nice to see your kids playing in the street, breathing some fresh air, or fresher air. It’s good. I know how you feel. Frankly, I don’t know how you do what you do. I don’t know why you don’t have riots every night down there.”

“We get some trouble but not much. I don’t know, Harry. It’s true. By rights we shouldn’t even be there. It’s weird. It’s as if we’re protected by something, some kind of force. The thing is, we don’t threaten anybody. We take no point of view. We ask no questions. We’re not on one side or the other. Maybe we’ve got a guardian angel looking out for us.”

“Maybe you have. What kind of projects you got in mind. You’ve always got something in mind.”

“Showers. We need shower cubicles. I was thinking of naming the cubicles after the sponsor. Can’t you just see it? The Santini shower block. The cleanest insurance in New York.”

“Hey, I like it. It’s got a ring to it. You should have been a copywriter. What I don’t like the sound of is the word sponsor. It’s another word for go broke with a smile.”

“I’ll always take something on account.”

Santini laughed and pressed the intercom.

“Mary, make out a check for a hundred, no make it two hundred dollars to Mr. Madigan and bring it in for signature.”

He snapped off the intercom and shook his head.

“I can see I’m going to end up waiving my fee as well. My partner is not so public spirited as me.”

“Fate brought us together, Harry. You better believe it.”

Santini’s secretary brought in the check and he signed it then handed it to Jack.

“Good luck, Jack. Don’t forget the documents.”

“There’s only one way to say thanks, Harry,” said Jack standing up, “so thanks for everything.”

Santini stood up and shook Jack’s outstretched hand.

“It’s a pleasure. If you can’t do something for someone now and again in this life, what’s it all about, eh?”

Jack pocketed the check and the documents and with a last wave to Harry Santini, left the office.


The atmosphere inside Bessie Silver’s gaudily over furnished waiting room was reverential. A couple of elderly women whispered quietly together. A young man with powdered bouffant hair, stiff with grease and with white face powder applied patchily over his black skin sat opposite Ernie Mason. Mason watched the young man in his pink silk shirt and tight jeans and bejeweled wrists with fierce disdain. Mason didn’t like anything or anyone he considered deviant. He looked around the ornate room, filled with cheap and tacky spiritualist icons and wondered again why the hell he’d come here.

Mason had one major weakness. He was deeply superstitious. He half believed in almost everything spiritual, pseudo occult and magical. Bessie Silver was a renowned fortune-teller. Right now she was about the only one he could trust to tell him if his life was in danger.

Mason was incubating a deep and paranoid concern about sudden death. He had never given death a second thought before, except in a half baked metaphysical sense linked to vague notions of his destiny and immortality. It was what made him so dangerous. He had believed he was untouchable. He was always in the driving seat, always in control. He was the one who dished it out. He had been the bringer of sudden death to many. Now he found himself alone, virtually ostracized, seeing danger in every shadow.

He had been living rough, staying on the fringes of his old territory but not moving into new streets for fear of attracting attention. Marcia was in hospital and when she came out she would be seeking revenge. He had been toying with the idea of shutting her up for good, maybe taking her just one more time and then, boom, bye bye Marcia. He had thought of leaving the city but he was a creature of habit. He didn’t like the idea of starting up fresh somewhere else. He didn’t know what he was going to do. He was down to his last few dollars, enough to pay Bessie’s fee but then he had to get some dollars from somewhere or someone.

The door to the waiting room opened and standing framed in it was Bessie’s Silvers’ assistant. She had the portentous look of someone who knew the real truth, who had seen God, who travelled regularly in the astral. She looked around the room and her eyes came to rest on Ernie Mason.

“Would you come this way please?”

Mason followed her along a dark, pungent smelling corridor to a back room, dressed like a stage set in black drapes, dramatic lighting picking out a green baize table containing several sets of tarot cards, a crystal ball, a tray of different colored stones, several pyramid shaped objects and a jeweled pendulum.

Sitting in a chair, backlit by an aurora of candles was the biggest woman Mason had ever seen. She wore a huge pink and cream wig set on a massively round head, goggle eyes, a permanently joyous smile and shaking jowls. She was wearing a sumptuous gown covered in symbols trimmed with black feathers.

Ernie Mason was in awe of her immediately. He knew about her reputation as a psychic. They said even the governor of New York had consulted her as well as TV personalities and high flying businessmen. Mason stood uncertainly in front of the table. When she spoke, Bessie had an incongruously high-pitched nasal giggle.

“Sit down, sit down. Do you wish to communicate with someone special, a loved one recently passed over or do you wish to know the future?”

Mason licked his lips. “I wanna know the future. Not just the next few days I mean. Months will do.”

Bessie Silver regarded Mason shrewdly. “Place your hands in mine,” she commanded.

Mason did as he was told. She turned his hands over examining back and front then gazed at his palms in silence.

“What’s there, whaddya see? Do you see anyone called Holmes?”

“Quiet!” ordered Bessie Silver.

Mason subsided. After a time she looked up. “You’ve been away. Prison I’d say. Your hands show a tendency towards cruelty. Your life line is split in a way I have never seen before.”

“What’s that mean? I’m gonna die, ain’t I?”

“We all die, honey. It’s just part of the process. No, this is not death as we know it. You’ve had a tendency towards depression. Have you been depressed lately?”

“Yeah, I’ve been very depressed. I’m getting fucked up that’s what’s happening.”

“I would be grateful if you would restrain your language otherwise we will have to draw this session to a close.”

“Sorry,” muttered Mason.

“Your early life was...”

“I don’t wanna know about my early life. I was there remember? I know what happened then. I wanna know what’s gonna happen in the future. Come on, lady, I’m paying good money for this.”

The huge psychic released Mason’s hands and regarded him coolly. She glanced into her crystal, stroking it softly with her hands. Her face grew clouded, dark. Within the room, the candles flickered and the drapes shivered. Mason felt suddenly cold. Bessie Silver was moving into trance.

“You are in danger. There is a blackness around you, a dark cloud...”

“Do you see Ram John Holmes?” pleaded Mason hoarsely.

“There are many seeking you. You have done bad things. Something will happen, it’s not clear. You are here but it is not you?”

“What do you mean it’s not me?” Mason’s voice was barely audible.

Another gust of unseen psychic wind passed through the room. Mason swiveled around, his animal instincts on red alert. There was nothing.

Bessie Silver placed a tray of stones in front of Mason.

“Select six stones and place them on the table,” her voice sounded strained also.

Mason did so, placing the six stones in two rows of three.

Bessie stared at the stones for a long time.

“There is a force attaching itself to you but it is not caused by you. Your fate is sealed. I see a woman, a white woman. I see a child.”

Bessie Silver sat back slightly in her chair which creaked in agony.

“Now for the interpretation,” she said.

Mason waited expectantly.

“Your death will not be caused by that which you fear most.”

“Is that right? You mean the Holmes boys don’t know I’m around?”

“You will be travelling. The people you believe are seeking you will not find you. You should prepare yourself for a shock. Your life is about to change.”

“Yeah, that’s what I reckon. Where will I go? Which town?”

Bessie was looking at Mason sadly. “There are powerful forces moving towards you. I don’t know if they mean you well or ill. They are more powerful than anything I have ever experienced. Your life is special is some way. But, I warn you. You may not have long before the forces arrive. You must repent for all the wrong you have ever done. Repent, brother. Do it now, before it is too late.”

“What’s this repent shit? You just said that which I fear the most won’t harm me. So, I’m home and dry. I just got to get some bread together and set up somewhere else. You said I was travelling, unless you were lying?”

Bessie became slightly alarmed at the sudden switch in Mason’s attitude. She realized at that moment that what she had seen in his palms was true. He was a depressive, explosive personality.

He had death written all over him but he was going to experience a form of rebirth she had never come across before. All she knew now was that she wanted to get rid of this man as quickly as she could.

“That’ll be ten dollars.”

“I only got eight.”

“I’ll take it. Goodbye.”

Mason was sufficiently in awe of psychic power not to attempt to cheat Bessie Silver. He grubbed around in his trouser pocket, took out a crumpled five dollar bill.

“That’ll do,” said the psychic snatching the note and stuffing down the front of her voluminous gown. Mason rose.

“Thanks. I feel better for that.”

“Okay, goodbye.”

Mason took a step backwards, glanced around the room. Bessie Silver had palmed a small pocket revolver as a precaution.

Mason left the room, went outside and moved off down lower Broadway with a new sense of freedom. He needed a drink and he needed it badly. But first he needed money. His sharp eyes picked out his victim, a middle aged Jewish looking woman walking out of a grocery store across the street. Mason started to cross the street.


Kerry was looking up at the face of Doctor Matella.

“You can get dressed now,” he said.

He moved around to his desk.

“You’re doing fine, Mrs. Madigan. Everything is normal. Should be no complications. Your weight’s about right. The most important thing now is to put the baby first, no tension, plenty of rest, eat properly and I’ll see you again in a couple of weeks. Any worries just call.”

“Thank you, doctor,” said Kerry adjusting her skirt. “I’m just so thrilled it’s going to be a normal birth.”

“You’re going to be all right, just don’t worry about anything.”

Jack strolled along Fifth Avenue with the sun in his face. The snow had thawed a little leaving the air fresh and clean, at least as clean as it ever can be in New York. In spite of all its problems Jack loved this city. It sent a tingle up your spine. He would miss it if he left. He didn’t know how he’d settle into suburban life, joining the commuter throng moving like a drab human ocean in and out on the daily tide. He suddenly remembered with vivid perception his father taking him to the big games.

His real father, Big Jack Madigan senior, top dog in the union, proud and defiant, who taught his son all he knew about values and people and power and truth. Jack suppressed a burning tear and tried to tear his thoughts away but they were clinging to the images with tenacity.

His father, playing with him in Central Park, hugging his mother. They were good days. Days filled with light and laughter. Until that day. They could never prove it was murder but Jack knew. Big Jack was a pain in the ass at the power company. There was a big strike threatened. He was at the forefront of the negotiations. Next thing, he was found burned to death in a restricted area with a couple of power cables flying around loose. His dad wouldn’t have made that kind of mistake, no way. No one believed it but they couldn’t prove anything.

Then his mother remarried. Jack tried to shake the memory away but it wouldn’t budge. Larry really screwed her up. It didn’t take him long to spend Big Jack’s nest egg and it was only a few months before he started drinking, then beating her up. Jack remembered trying to stop him, begging, pleading, crying but getting smacked around for his trouble. Jack hated him. He spent most of his later childhood planning his murder. But fate took a hand. With his mother reduced to a gibbering insomniac, Larry lurched in front of a truck after staggering out of a Broadway bar. It was the happiest day of Jack’s life.

“Hey, wake up,” the voice of Mike Leibovitz shook Jack out of his reverie.

“Hi, how’re you doing?” Jack clapped him on the shoulder.

“Don’t forget tonight,” Mike reminded him.

“Tonight?”

“Come on, don’t say you’ve forgotten. The Kafka sketches at the Running Man. ”

“Jesus, yeah of course, we’ll be there.”

“Scenes from Kafka novels, by my new company Scenario. We’re hoping for a full house. We need your support.” Mike smiled at Jack. “Where are you headed?”

“Oh, I’m meeting Kerry at Mike’s. Christ, I’m going to be late.”

“Me too; lunch with my agent. I’ll see you later.”

Mike walked off up the street. Jack glanced at his watch and looked out for a cab.


Ernie Mason was stalking his prey. The woman carrying her sack of groceries turned into a street of brownstone houses. Mason glanced around, made a detour and arrived in an alley in front of his victim. She was about forty and her name was Liza Levy.

As she passed the mouth the alley, she heard someone call out softly. She turned into the alley, a little nervous. That was the last sound Liza Levy ever heard.

Mason broke her neck expertly and in a split second had dragged her body behind a pile of trashcans. The whole thing was over before the nearest passer-by had taken three strides.

Her purse contained fifty dollars, enough to get drunk on and Mason felt like getting drunk, really drunk. He knew a little bar between the Bronx and the Village where he knew he’d be safe.

It was about two o’clock when Ernie Mason left the Highway Bar. He’d already sunk a bottle of Southern Comfort and was half way through a second. He felt good. The air was crisp. The sunlight had that sharp winter snap which helped clear his head a little. He felt better than he’d done since he left prison. He felt like a weight had been taken from his shoulders. He believed Bessie Silver. The forces looking for him would not find him. His life was about to change. What he needed now, he decided as he lurched against a street lamp, what he needed now was a set of wheels.

He staggered through the hurrying crowd then stood to attention with the sudden perception of the very drunk. There was guy parking across the street by a liquor store. He was looking around inside the car.

Mason acted on instinct. He jammed the neck of the bottle inside his overcoat and ran across the street, shouting to the guy as he got out of the car. Mason, through his stupor, still noted that he had just taken the keys out of the ignition.

This was just too much, thought Mason. The five dollars he’d spent on Bessie Silver was the best five dollar’s worth he’d ever had. His luck was in.

The guy looked up as Mason reached him, rammed the make-believe shotgun into his ribs and removed his car keys from his hand while the guy’s mouth still hung open, fear and surprise mixed together.

“Thank you, brother,” slurred Mason, “now back off or I’ll blow your balls off.”

The guy didn’t argue. Mason fell into the car with a half giggle, took a slug from the bottle, over revved the engine and screamed away with the door flapping open.


Jack held Kerry tenderly outside Mike’s Bar.

“I love you,” he said.

“I know,” replied Kerry. “You can’t make your mind up can you?”

“Wouldn’t you prefer a life with regular hours, Sundays off, a nice neighborhood to bring up Verity?”

“Oh, so you’ve succumbed eh?” she smiled at him. “I’ve been happy to share you up till now. But yes, regular hours start to mean a lot when there’s another person to consider.”

“If it’s a boy, I get first choice of name, right?”

“Right, look, I can’t stand her talking all day. I’ve got things to do, classes to attend. Don’t forget your fatherhood preparation class tonight.”

“Hey I just remembered, we promised to go to Mike’s opening night,” said Jack.

“There’s time. The class starts at six at the Welfare Clinic. It’s only an hour. What about the Refuge?”

“Taken care of. The new rota system is working out fine. I’m meeting some new volunteers in an hour.”

“See at six then.” She kissed him and he let her go, watching her walk up the street towards a busy intersection.

Jack turned and crossed the street, cursing as usual at the homicidal traffic in New York. Something made him pause on the other sidewalk. He turned and picked out Kerry walking slowly towards the crossing. At that moment he felt as full of love for her as he had ever done. You’re a lucky bastard Jack Madigan, he thought to himself. He sighed. He would really have to watch this sentimental streak, he thought. Recently he’d been getting into these sentimental moods pretty often.

He was about to turn away when he noticed a car racing at speed in his direction. It was about three blocks away and it was lurching and swerving through the mid-afternoon traffic scattering pedestrians and almost causing a couple of collisions. Faintly, behind the car, he could hear a police siren blaring. Crazy bastard, thought Jack. He glanced across to where he could still see Kerry approaching the crossing, waiting and starting to cross. The crowd seemed to melt away for some inexplicable reason leaving Kerry walking slowly across the road, unable to move quickly. Jack looked back up the street, through the fumes and crowds. The maniac car was picking up even more speed, screeching towards the intersection. Jack suddenly felt nervous.

Later, he remembered what happened as if it had been a slow motion replay. Every micro second was engraved on his memory circuits. The crowd was scattering before the oncoming sedan.

As the car approached the intersection, it swerved towards the crossing, screeching on two wheels as if the driver had made a sudden late decision. Kerry Madigan had no chance. She didn’t even have time to look up before the car hit her and knocked her ten feet into the air and across the street onto the bonnet of an oncoming car. The killer car swerved and piled straight into the plate glass window of a fashion store.

Ernie Mason saw the woman too late. Instinctively he swerved just as he felt the impact of her body hitting the front fender. He fought for control, but lost it completely. He saw a window before him. He saw faces. He heard screams. Then he felt pain. Then he felt nothing. The voices were receding away down a long dark tunnel.

Jack stood motionless as though an ice pick was pinning him to the ground piercing his brain and freezing his blood. His vocal chords were paralyzed. He saw the crowd forming around the incident. He heard the sirens mixed with the screams of the crowd. With a huge effort he got his feet moving, slowly at first then, then carrying him screaming across the street, bulldozing his way through the crowd.

His scream seemed to come from somewhere so deep inside, it was outside, like from some other dimension. He seemed to be screaming in one continuous breath as though it would never ever end.

Kerry was still alive. Jack was fighting his way through the crowd. Scuffles broke out as curious onlookers battled to get the best view. He reached her and fell on his knees by her side.

He touched her face where a trickle of blood was running along her cheek. She moaned slightly. There was blood on the road and her body was twisted into a grotesque shape. Jack didn’t hear but voices were yelling,

“He’s dead, that crazy bastard’s dead.” from the direction of the smashed car.

Ernie Mason was killed instantly. No one would mourn him. He would become another New York statistic. Across the street among the crowd, Jack was screaming incoherently.

“Jesus, it’s his wife,” said one man.

“Poor bastard,” said a woman.

“She’s still alive, has someone called an ambulance?”

A couple of cops were shouldering their way through.

“Ambulance is on its way. Okay, folks, it’s not a circus. Let’s move it, okay?”

One cop looked at Jack. “Okay, pal, you know the lady?”

“She’s my wife,” sobbed Jack, almost biting his tongue with grief.

Behind, another siren was approaching.

“The other one’s corpsed. The car smells like a distillery,” said the first cop, who then looked down at Jack, “Jesus Christ!”

Jack was calling Kerry’s name over and over. One of the cops put his arm around Jack’s shoulders.

“Take it easy, pal, the ambulance is here. We’ve gotta get her to the hospital. Come on, let’s go.”

“Don’t die,” Jack screamed. “My God don’t die, hang on darling. Jesus, you can’t die. It’s not fair. It’s not fair.”

The events that followed were blurred in Jack’s mind. The street had been cordoned off while the twisted wreckage of the sedan was cut out of the ruins of the shop front. And then the smashed body of Ernie Mason was cut out of the car and placed into a body bag.

Jack could barely watch as the paramedic team worked on Kerry, wrapping her into a carrier sheet then with urgency as top priority rushing her into the ambulance. Jack stumbled into the back. He was now pale with shock. His initial tears had congealed on his face. He felt numb now, like he was floating above the scene. He heard the urgent instructions of the paramedic crew as through a fog. Someone was talking to him, asking him questions, his name, Kerry’s name.

“She’s having our baby,” was all Jack could say, over and over.

Kerry was rushed to St Patrick’s hospital, where a crash team was standing by. Jack followed the sea of white coats as they ran along a corridor, barking instructions. Jack watched as they entered the emergency casualty surgery. He was about to follow when strong arms gently guided him to a nearby waiting room. A nurse in a starched white uniform put coffee into his hands and said to a waiting cop.

“He’s in shock. You’ll have to come back later.”

“I want to be with her,” Jack begged.

“Best if you don’t, Mr. Madigan,” said the nurse soothingly. “They’re doing everything they can. Your best bet is to stay here. More coffee?”

“Godammit, I don’t want coffee. How is she? Will she pull through? What about the baby? My God! Kerry, Kerry!”

Jack broke down. He wept because his heart was breaking. The nurse stood up and bit her lip. There was nothing more she could do. She was trying to assess this man’s possible reaction to the death of his wife. She knew Kerry had the slimmest of chances. Whether they could save the baby was another matter. Inside, the crash theatre the casualty team was fighting to save Kerry’s life.

“Prepare for emergency Ceaserian,” snapped Doctor Wilbrahim. “She’s not going to pull through. The baby is still alive.” They tried to resuscitate Kerry one last time, increasing the voltage as high as they dare.

“Okay, we go for the baby now,” decided Doctor Wilbrahim watching the EEG monitor. Kerry’s hold on life was electronically and dispassionately registered within the bleeps and pulses. What every doctor dreaded was seconds away. Flat line. Death.

For a moment it looked as if there was a glimmer of hope. Then the pulsing sound changed to a monotone and the line flattened and stayed flat.

“We’ve lost her,” said the doctor. “Okay, clamps, scalpel. Let’s move.”

For precious seconds Jack was left alone. The nurse had been called to an emergency discussion in the corridor. Jack looked up, staring at the swing doors of the crash theatre. He went cold very suddenly. He was sensing things at high intensity. He was sure he felt Kerry pass through him. He felt her love, her warmth, her peace. Jack leapt to his feet and he rushed to the door. He rammed his face against the window and saw Kerry’s face covered with a sheet. He saw the monitor. He saw the flat line. He had no way of knowing at that moment that the life inside her might be saved. Right then, the bottom fell out of Jack Madigan’s life.

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