“She’s here. You can’t leave.”


He wraps his arms around her from behind, buries his face in the side of her neck. “I’m not going to leave. I love you. I love you so much.”

Her belly springs a leak and the liquid flows through his hands.

“I’m bones in a box, Teddy.”

“I am. You have to wake up.”

“You’re here.”

“I’m not. You have to face that. She’s here. You’re here. He’s here too. Count the beds. He’s here.”



The name crawls through his flesh and climbs over his bones.

“No.” :

“Yes.” She bends her head back, looks up at him. “Youe

known.” i,’

“I haven’t.”

“Yes, you have. You can’t leave.”

“You’re tense all the time.” He kneads her shoulders, and she lets out a soft moan of surprise that gives him a hard-on.

“I’m not tense anymore,” she says. “I’m home.”

“This isn’t home,” he says.

“Sure it is. My home. She’s here. He’s here.”


“Laeddis,” she says. Then: “I need to go.”

“No.” He’s crying. “No. Stay.”

“Oh, God.” She leans back into him. “Let me go. Let me go.” “Please don’t go.” His tears spill down her body and mix with her pouring belly. “I need to hold you just a little longer. A little longer.  Please.”

She lets loose a small bubble of a sound---half sigh, half howl, so torn and beautiful in its anguish—and she kisses his knuckles.  “Okay. Hold tight. Tight as you can.”

And he holds his wife. He holds her and holds her.

FIVE O’CLOCK IN the morning, the rain dropping on the world, and Teddy climbed off the top bunk and took his notebook from his coat.  He sat at the table where they’d played poker and opened the notebook to the page where he’d transcribed Rachel Solando’s Law of 4.  Trey and Bibby continued to snore as loud as the rain. Chuck slept quietly, on his stomach, one fist tucked close to his ear, as if it were whispering secrets.

Teddy looked down at the page. It was simple once you knew how to read it. A child’s code, really. It was still code, though, and it took Teddy until six to break it.

He looked up, saw Chuck watching him from the lower bunk, Chuck’s chin propped up on his fist.

“We leaving, boss?”

Teddy shook his head.

“Ain’t nobody leaving in this shit,” Trey said, climbing out of his bunk, pulling up the window shade on a drowning landscape the color of pearl. “No how.”

The dream was harder to hold suddenly, the smell of her evaporating with the ascent of the shade, a dry cough from Bibby, Trey stretching with a loud, long yawn.

Teddy wondered, and not for the first time, not by a long shot, if this was the day that missing her would finally be too much for him. If he could turn back the years to that morning of the fire and replace her body with his own, he would. That was a given. That had always been a given. But as the years passed, he missed her more, not less, and his need for her became a cut that would not scar over, would not stop leaking.

I held her, he wanted to say to Chuck and Trey and Bibby. I held her as Bing Crosby crooned from the kitchen radio and I could smell her and the apartment on Buttonwood and the lake where we stayed that summer and her lips grazed my knuckles.

I held her. This world can’t give me that. This world can only give me reminders of what I don’t have, can never have, didn’t have for long enough.

We were supposed to grow old together, Dolores. Have kids. Take walks under old trees. I wanted to watch the lines etch themselves into your flesh and know when each and every one of them appeared. Die together.

Not this. Not this.

I held her, he wanted to say, and if I knew for certain that all it would take to hold her again would be to die, then I couldn’t raise the gun to my head fast enough. “

Chuck was staring at him, waiting.

Teddy said, “I broke Rachel’s code.”

“Oh,” Chuck said, “is that all?”



CAWLEY MET THEM in the foyer of Ward B. His clothes and face

were drenched and he looked like a man who’d spent the night or a bus stop bench.

Chuck said, “The trick, Doctor, is to sleep when you lie down.” Cawley wiped his face with a handkerchief. “Oh, is that the trick, Marshal? I knew I was forgetting something. Sleep, you say. Right.” They climbed the yellowed staircase, nodded at the orderly posted at the first landing.

“And how was Dr. Naehring this morning?” Teddy asked.  Cawley gave him a weary rise and fall of his eyebrows. “I apologize for that. Jeremiah is a genius, but he could use some social polishing.  He has this idea for a book about the male warrior culture throughout history. He’s constantly bringing his obsession into conversations, trying to fit people into his preconceived models. Again, I’m sorry.” “You guys do that a lot?”

“What’s that, Marshal?”

“Sit around over drinks and, urn, probe people?”

“Occupational hazard, I guess. How many psychiatrists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?”

“I don’t know. How many?”



“Oh, stop overanalyzing it.”

Teddy caught Chuck’s eyes and they both laughed.

“Shrink humor,” Chuck said. “Who would’ve guessed?” “You know what the state of the mental health fidd is these days, gentlemen?”

“Not a clue,” Teddy said.

“Warfare,” Cawley said and yawned into his damp handkerchief.

“Ideological, philosophical, and yes, even psychological warfare.” “You’re doctors,” Chuck said. “You’re supposed to play nice, share your toys.”

Cawley smiled and they passed the orderly on the second-floor landing. From somewhere below, a patient screamed, and the echo fled up the stairs toward them. It was a plaintive howl, and yet Teddy could hear the hopelessness in it, the certainty it carried that whatever it longed for was not going to be granted.

“The old school,” Cawley said, “believes in shock therapy, partial lobotomies, spa treatments for the most docile patients. Psychosurgery is what we call it. The new school is enamored of psychopharmacology.  It’s the future, they say. Maybe it is. I don’t know.”

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