that was something to be proud of
of the law
man had been fettered, and broken his chains. None had the strength
to subdue him. He cried out night and day in the tombs and in the
mountains, and slashed himself with stones.
"When the man caught sight of Jesus, he ran and made homage
to Him, and cried out: 'What have I to do with Thee, O Son of God?'
"And Jesus said: 'Come out, thou unclean spirit. What is thy
"And the man said: 'Our name is Legion' and begged Jesus not
to cast the spirit out.
"Now a great herd of swine fed at the foot of the mountain.
And the unclean spirits begged Jesus to release them into the swine.
Jesus permitted them. And the swine rushed off the cliff and into
I hear them digging and know that it is not the two boys who took
off with the real loot and left their comrade out to dry.
Their comrade, the young indio, is the first to strike our clay
jar with his shovel, prying round the edge of the plastic crate
above us. Though the men he is with are hard men in suits with guns,
the boy is sore afraid.
Had we lungs, a mouth, a voice, we would tell him that what is
in the plastic box is nothing but Terazol, in packages of the same
color as the stuff these men pay dearly to sell on the street. When
the hard men who have driven him here open the box, they will kill
the boy for deceiving them, for dragging them out to this ash-heap
behind the graveyard for naught. His comrades have sold him out.
But the boy is too full of the other drug, the one he thinks he
will find, to care.
he lifts out the crate, he alone does not complain about the strange
and noisome stench. His nostrils burn with the few short snorts
the men gave him to boost his spirits in the back seat of the Mercedes.
The buyers in their overcoats know their business. This one is a
club kid and can be kept on a short leash of powdered dreams.
We can read all their thoughts with need for neither effort ...
This is an old, old graveyard, older even than the upper layer
and the standing stones they use for burial markers. This ground
was almost full when the Mason-men put us here, in a steel box that
has rusted into flakes from nearly three centuries of groundwater.
The Masons were sore afraid, too, when they bound us, casting their
rites over our jar long into the night as they riveted us into the
box. We could smell their burning tallow, so unlike our cleaner
fires. We could hear the ancient tongues their elders sang to keep
But even their elders were rich men in powdered wigs and waistcoats,
who cared for nothing but their own pomp and circumstance and screwed
up the vowels of incantations that were old when Hammurabi first
put his laws on clay tablets. The Philadelphia Freemasons thought
they knew their business and did not hold with papistry. There would
be no exorcist, they decided by unanimous vote behind closed doors.
The young indio is receptive. We can smell the ketamine dripping
down the back of his throat, trickling into his brain through the
nasal mucosa. It tastes to him of cat piss, formaldehyde, industrial
gases and ozone and uncontrolled hallucination.
He is shivering, sweating in his plastic coat. It has not yet begun
to rain, but the air is still and humid and promises a storm. He
sets the crate of boosted veterinary fool's gold down on the grass,
standing in the hole that is chest-deep for him.
We make him speak the backward spell with the correct vowels from
inside the smeary bubble of his own personal hole, the K-hole that
catches and holds the user for hours on the other side of the looking
glass. There can be no turning back now.
This is delicious. We hiss into coalescence from the place where
his shovel broke through this
rich burial mound, the place where we have grown for a long, long
Overhead, through a tear in the clouds, the white eye of the moon
looks on all unblinking.
We hang in the air, micro fibers of papyrus dust. The boy does
And then he inhales.
Spring was always the time when we received sacrifices. No exorcist
now. No exorcism. Soon the new people will learn our ways.
skies over the northern ring of Center City Philadelphia ground
on into the amazing cobalt blue they achieve a few hours before
dawn and twilight. All physical laws seemed temporarily suspended
in that spooky eclipse-like glow.
Nancy Lexington was coated in cold sweat. Her stomach felt like
a basketball that had been pumped up until it was as hard as polished
marble. Her gag reflex was on coffee break and her throat was raw
from howling into a pillow. Nancy was about that close to destroying
anything that communicated with her, but probably would have just
given up and broken down weeping instead.
She'd been up half the night, miserable, listening to the collected
works of Billie Holiday. The CD had been too scratched to sell.
At some point that night, practically dreaming awake, Nancy had
made a plate of scrambled eggs
that now sat desiccating before her on the table, pushed away in
favor of a white form with a
smaller green one stapled to the front.
Nancy did not look at the small pile of shattered pipette glass
against the wall by her front door, or the aspirin-and-drywall ruin
of little rocks she had ground beneath the heel of her sneaker until
even the last $20 piece was worthless, unsmokable paste.
Those shattered shards were all she had left of Curtis, and good
riddance. Let him take off with that little prison-bitch Gerrone
from upstairs, him with his Lee nails and his bad looks at her all
the time. She'd sweep Curtis' leavings up off the floor and take
them out with the trash when she
got her head all the way back.
years was too long and more for this shit. And she was not moving
back to her mom's on Olney Avenue. She'd never admit that her mom
was right when she said any man that hits a woman can't hit a man.
Curtis had proved that in all sorts of ways, but Nancy was too old
to be back at Big Mama's house.
There was no place to go but up, no matter what. Her two-timing
boyfriend had never put a ring on her finger any damn way. He'd
been married to his pipe before he even met her.
"God dammit, why the fuck I make eggs?" Nancy asked herself
with a sorrowful laugh. Her voice was a parched croak, sounding
country in her own ears. "Ain't s'pozed to eat right before
they give you the gas."
Nancy boardinghouse-reached across the table for her purse that
sat at Curtis' empty place. A snubby end of purple Max Factor lipstick
fell out onto the rattan placemat as she fished out a cigarette
and found a book of matches on the way.
Now that she thought about it, they'd probably give her the Twilight
Sleep if they were going to be doing both of the root canals at
once. She hoped. That wouldn't mess with her too much. They'd done
that when they yanked her wisdom teeth and she'd walked out. But
she'd been 23, long before the glass dick and the damage done.
The damn dental van at United had been so busy last time they just
looked her over and told her to come back next week since she didn't
have abscesses yet. Crackhead, the hygienist's eyes had said when
the young sister saw the pipe-burn on Nancy's lip on the way out
of the van. Nancy picked up the lipstick. She'd cover up the burn
scar this time.
The cigarette tasted terrible. Nancy had been wheezy all that morning.
When she let out a fusillade of coughs, a chunk of black stuff flew
out of her throat and landed on the carpet. Great.
The Goodwill clock on the opposite wall above the TV read 5:45.
She had an hour and change to get in gear and pray for the best.
She'd outlasted the nightly Broadway Hotel beer-bash she always
heard through the walls, sat up past every scream and squeak and
busted bottle until the last man standing fell over.
Her birdlike left hand picked up the pen where she'd put it beside
her placemat. Both hands were fluttering. Part of her still wondered
if she could do this.
A little over a year ago, when she'd been caught in some bad crossfire
going to cop a vial, a judge had given her the nudge into a month
of Narcotics Anonymous. Nancy had skated through the mandatories
(and oh, how Curtis had laughed at her) ... but she remembered one
of the speakers at a candlelight meeting talking about the first
24 hours being the hardest.
After today, well ... Nancy didn't know about NA just yet. All
she knew was that she couldn't go get her teeth worked on with anything
in her system. And she couldn't bear the pain of either bad tooth
one minute longer. It was like having a ten-penny nail stuck in
both sides of her face.
If she could kick for 24 hours, Nancy reasoned ... maybe her body
could see its way clear to kicking longer. She'd abide. If those
clinic dentists didn't like what they saw in the 'hood, they could
go back to crown-and-cap detail in Aston.
"Where we at?" she asked herself blithely, looking down
at the green slip that was first up on deck. Oh, good. They'd probably
only squeeze her for a $5 copay with this little beauty stapled
on the front. Like those old heads in NA had said, every little
The washed-out gray oval of her face grew sad and wistful. She
reached over to tap the long ash on her cigarette into the ashtray.
En route, she managed to knock over the whole spike of bills by
the napkin-holder. "PAST DUE: NANCY J. LEXINGTON, 1630 N. 4TH
AVE. #69 BROADWAY HOTEL" spilled in endless repetition across
On the other side of the room, the cracked-open window showed a
panorama of cherry blossoms. Oncoming rain began to ratta-tat-tat
on the crumbling sidewalk. Little wet whirlwinds of petals sucked
and swirled through the cool pre-dawn breeze.
Strangely enough, the air felt like Philly was coming into a run
of tolerably good weather. Over and above this sick skin she'd just
begun trying to shed, her body was telling her to wait.
Pretty soon, every cell whispered, there would be bright sunlight
through green leaves, folks washing their cars outside, good music
blaring from every window and barbecue grills going in
In the false dawn, Nancy could see her reflection in the glass.
Her forearms had lost a lot of meat. Her cheekbones showed too much.
But her hair and clothes were clean. Though her eyes kept going
out of focus, she saw a grim determination in them.
She'd learned that determination when she was seven. She was pleased
to see it resurfacing ... even if she did look to herself like a
stick-lady drawn in sidewalk chalk. Her face was kind and unhappy,
her eyes full of pain.
Something told her that today was going to be the longest day of
The street breathed sweet air in at her, cutting through the fug
of the apartment with the wet green taste of possibility. As soon
as the sun came up, the air would get still and muggy enough to
swim through. By the end of the day, Nancy knew she'd have to shower
off the clinging subway stench that lingered long in all those poisoned
corridors north of downtown.
Her neighborhood had its fair share of drunken trash, addicts and
little gangbanger kids that liked to shoot each other full of holes
on Friday and Saturday nights. But Olney Avenue, where she'd grown
up, made this part of town look like Amish Country.
The weird blue glow of the sky began to fade down a bit, broken
up only by the bright
incandescence of houseboat lights far away along the river past
Delaware Avenue, suture lines of headlights beyond that coming in
along 311 from the burbs.
This part of Philly was nothing like Olney, where any seven-year-old
girl walking to choir practice could be
Nancy looked around, scenting the wind. Something was different.
Down on the sidewalk, running footsteps pounded the pavement now,
heading in her direction.
Nancy leaned toward the window. A car was burning up Fourth and
The raver kid running up the walk about 50 yards away had a broad,
bespectacled, youthful face hardened by long late hours in the wrong
spot. He looked like he was still feeling it from the night before.
There was blood running down his forehead. He was not having much
luck growing a mustache.
His was a face full of piercings and raw terror, missing one lens
of his glasses. He wore a black vinyl coat. His big puffy sneakers
pistoned up and down. He was screaming as he ran.
Nancy's withdrawal-sharpened senses saw all this with perfect,
prescient clarity. She saw the big black Mercedes 500SL sedan charge
after him, jump the curb and tear ass over the sidewalk, taking
out recycling bins and trash cans en route.
neighbor, the running kid, made a deer-sized dent in the Benzo's
grill and was launched into the air. He landed with a wet snap on
the stoop of the Broadway and rolled down the steps, landing on
the sidewalk in the overdose posture Nancy knew from all the old
junkies in her building, flat on his belly with his arms out.
Shaking uncontrollably, she ran to her front door, out through
the hall and down the steps in the cool morning, toward the bloody
heap of her neighbor. She looked up and saw the little light illuminating
the license plate of the Mercedes as it backed up, peeled out and
laid rubber toward Broad Street in a storm of petals and trash.
Getting the license number was the last easy thing that happened
to her for quite a while.
Nancy knelt beside the Sotomayor kid from apartment 72, but quickly
thought better of putting
his head in her lap. What she had taken for a cut on his forehead
was a split in the skin that went
a long way back. The more Nancy looked at it, the less she wanted
His breathing sounded like a vacuum cleaner full of pudding. His
tight necklace of steel beads had snapped, and now hung from the
collar of that impractical coat like the pull-chain on a lamp. Nancy's
screaming, detoxing mind could not get around the fact that this
was all really happening
"Manny," she whispered hoarsely. Her throat was racked.
She would have killed for a glass of
orange juice or something.
Here she was, again unable to stop crying. He was a good kid. No
matter what he'd gotten himself
into, Manny's was the door she'd knock on if she needed a lightbulb
changed or she was too spun to go to the store for smokes.
He didn't deserve the shitty hand of cards he'd just been dealt.
She would do what she could to keep him in the game. At this hour
of the morning in Philly, there were worse things to lose than your
Nancy sighed, took Manny's glasses off and hung the left earpiece
around her collar, pushing it
down to stay. With one too-long cuff of her black sweater, she began
mopping the blood out of his eyes.
The occupants of the Broadway Hotel came galumphing down by turns
to gawk from behind the front door in their housecoats and slippers.
Crazy John, who lived down in the basement, was wrapped only in
a moleskin blanket and carrying a large stuffed dog.
Nancy looked up at the movement behind the glass, took a deep breath
... and found a drill-sargeant scream:
"WOULD ONE OF Y'ALL PEOPLE BE SO KIND AS TO CALL NINE-ONE-ONE,
OR YOU JUST GONNA STAND THERE AND WATCH THIS KID DIE?"
That got them moving, anyway.
The blood seemed to be burning her fingers. She felt Manny's pulse
going dit-dit, dit-DIT, DIT, dit-dit, DIT, beneath her hand where
it rested on his neck. Felt like two pulses.
Her eyes blurred. Something passed between them. The world was
all white for a moment.
Nancy's own lights came back on. Manny was looking up at her. His
olive-skinned face had gone
a nasty yellow-gray. She could see the twin pulses warring with
each other in the veins at his
temples. His eyes were wild, trying to roll back into his head.
It began to rain harder now, the drops coming all at once. Nancy
took in the size of Manny's pupils, both dilated, although the left
one was a bit smaller. On his chin was blood in the slick of drool
that the rain was slowly washing away. The blood from where his
head had split was running pink onto the sidewalk.
"Exorcist," Manny gabbled. "Exorcism. " His
voice was an inhuman, dissonant chord from the lower throat. "Kill
it. Destroy it. It's ... it's up to you now, Nance. It ... I'm ..."
"You still feelin' it," Nancy murmured. "You gonna
be fine, papi. You just stay with me, till they"
"NO." Manny tried to roar. Incredibly, his right hand
was grasping her baggy sweater. "You don't understand. It"
Nancy was trying not to cry again. She held it in with all she
had. "Breathe real deep, Manny. Don't try to talk. We'll get
it all straightened out later. Stay wit' me. You gonna need alla'
The front of the Broadway became a wash of red-and-blue lights.
They'd turned their sirens off,
this early. Nancy did not even look up.
Manny's cracked lips were twitching. The blood running from the
split in his head looked black in the lights.
"I don't know what it is," he whispered. "But maybe
... ukkk ..."
His eyes rolled back in his head, but he was still breathing. Nancy
would not let go of his hand, even with the squirm of the extra
Ten yards down an ambulance jumped the curb, throatily idling at
a safe distance as two EMTs
boiled out of the cab. Nancy looked to her left at the two squad
cars in the street. One was Philly
PD. One was from Temple University.
She would ride up to the hospital with Manny. She was about to
drop from the pain in her teeth and the shakes that tore through
her, but it was the very least she could do.
University Hospital was a rambling fortress rising out of the early
ghetto dawn. In the
ER waiting room, behind the smaller doors, Jerry Springer's Flying
Circus was already on in
early reruns, keeping time with the coffeepots. The other door,
the big revolving one reserved only for foot traffic if your initials
were EMT, was still spinning from when they'd run Manny in and right
up through to the trauma center.
An old Cambodian man was slumped and snoring in a chair in the
corner, a copy of Vanity Fair still held open in one hand. Two little
black girls were playing jacks on the floor beside the card table
full of magazines in the center of the room. Every now and then
their mama would tell them to pipe down.
first cop on scene, an Officer Bowen, held her arm, breezing her
past the female Temple cop on door security. "She's with me."
He gave Nancy a knowing look. "She's clean."
"Only just." Nancy mumbled, trying her hardest to smile.
"You're the boss, D, I mean Mike." The young lady cop
scrutinized Nancy and shrugged. Nancy wanted to stick out her tongue.
Bowen led her to a set of big double doors just past the waiting
room and, without looking, keyed in an access code on a phone pad
beside the left-hand door.
Beyond the door, Nancy saw an old piper lying in an ER bed, ringed
in filmy white curtains. He looked like she felt. The next bed over,
she could hear what sounded like last rites being administered in
Spanish or Portuguese. Those curtains were shut.
She glanced to her left as they approached the nurses' station.
A wiry male RN was juggling seven clipboards and talking on the
phone. His slicked-back hair gleamed like plastic. His eyes were
dark pools. Nancy could smell his clove chewing gum from where she
stood. When the nurse saw Bowen, he hit the Hold button and dropped
everything with a clatter.
"They stabilized him." The man's Cockney accent was so
thick it was hard for Nancy to understand. "They're waitin'
for you up on two."
"Be up in a minute," Bowen said tersely, glancing at
Nancy. The nurse nodded and went back to his clipboards. Bowen paused
a few steps back down the little hallway.
"Let's go get some breakfast in the caf," he suggested.
"You feel like eatin' yet?"
"Bleh." Nancy moved aside as a fussy-looking little doctor
bulled past them.
"How about a glass of OJ?" he asked. "You'll thank
me. Anyway, I haven't eaten yet. Let's go."
She looked at him with dumb gratitude. Bowen paused for a moment.
"I don't know how you're doing it," he said. "Most
people don't just up and decide to kick."
"It's early." Her eyes bored into his like magnifying
glasses full of the sun. "We'll see."
Mike Bowen was struck, completely at the wrong time, by Nancy's
beauty. If she put on 20 pounds and got some good sleep, he reckoned,
she'd be peeling men off with a putty knife. But
he could never have told her that. He was on duty.
some stuff I still don't get," he said softly. "Maybe
you can help."
Bowen still wore the uniform when he had to put the soft touch
on a witness, or deal with people from the neighborhood at all,
for that matter. He'd been bumped up to homicide detective the year
In large part, what had gotten the ball rolling for his career
was a hot tip from one Nancy Lexington, who had informed on a dealer,
known around Girard only as the Jamaican, in exchange for a suspended
sentence. Six men had lain screaming through throatfuls of their
own blood on the floor of the Jamaican's warehouse that morning.
Nancy had been able to ID the shooters.
The Jamaican had been strictly small-time, one link in a much larger
chain ... but then again, Bowen had just been a foot soldier back
then. Nancy had grabbed him off the street after the AKs began to
blaze, terrified for her life. The judge had sent her to a month
of NA for possession of crack cocaine. The captain had begun looking
at Bowen in a very different light.
Bowen shook himself. "Did Mr. Sotomayor ... Manny ... have
any enemies you know about, like
Nancy was leaning against the wall to steady herself. "Naw,
naw." Her head was spinning, and her stomach wanted to hit
Stop and Eject. "Nigga ... used to flip, like, dime sacks of
weed to his boys,
but he just stayed in, mos' ... most of the time. Never saw"
She took a deep, gasping breath.
"Never saw nobody do nothing there but go in or out."
Now the adrenaline rush catches up with her, Bowen thought distantly.
He took her arm again.
"Do you know what ketamine is?" he asked. When she did
not immediately respond, he went on.
"Cat tranquilizer. In humans, it makes LSD look like Kool-Aid.
The club kids around here seem to
like to OD on that shit. There are about three rotating rings of
people in Philly that boost it out of vets' offices. At gunpoint.
Jackin' up veterinarians." He shook his head and hissed.
"Anyway, Manny tested positive for that. It looks like some
kind of deal gone way, way wrong. I
was just wonderin' if he"
Nancy was trying to listen, but all of a sudden everything just
No exorcist. No exorcism. Our ticket out of the boneyard now lies
brain-dead on an ICU bed, a
warm shell where we wait and blaze a trail ahead. Manuel's mother
will soon pull the plug. The
doctors say it is the best thing. Perhaps another day.
We marked the woman and we will take her next. We are trying to
make her ready. She is vomiting, vomiting, vomiting.
There are issues with the woman, areas in the gray matter that
we are not yet quite able to sniff through and map. Too easy to
get stuck in the soft, warm shell.
Too easy to fall into the holes.
The dead spots are no more than atoms of soft tissue, but it is
too risky. We cannot yet get out and kill. We cannot yet destroy.
We cannot yet feed.
But o bzbzbzbzbzbzzzzbzbzbzbzbzbzzzzzzzzzz are We HUNGRY ...
She looked up through the white to the sound of Mike Bowen's voice.
She was sitting on the tile.
The English nurse was whistling as he mopped up the watery mess
at her feet.
And her eyes
The hospital hung under a black cloud that stopped at the door.
A gurney squealed by farther down, draped in a black rubber sheet
... which flapped aside at one corner, showing a dead woman laid
in the Dracula asana on a hidden bottom shelf.
Maria the Temple cop at the door looks like a pale parochial schoolgirl,
but she once shot an unarmed perp and then tampered with the evidence.
The perp had been her brother's best friend in high school. She
was just getting him back for
The sheet flapped back, but there was so much she could still see
... and hear ... All the pain and
drama of the hospital rang through Nancy's sad head like a speaker
nearly ready to blow.
Jeremy Jeremy McLeod the RN with the mop We see all the way through
the moonlighting bi playboy on suspension from Penn University for
partying too hard. Jeremy Jeremy Jeremy took this job because he
thinks he'll never find his Prince, his Princess, his ...
This was telepathy all at once and it made no sense. She suddenly
felt a great pity for the old pipers on the street that held loud
diatribes with others only they could see.
Old Mr. Anh, asleep in the waiting-room chair dressed like a woman
to get out of the killing
fields, back when the Khmer Rouge used to stack skulls like frat-party
beer cans after a hard
day's night. It wasn't out of desperation, either. Anh was just
using what he knew from the street.
"I don't like these thoughts," Nancy muttered from the
floor. "I gotta get me some new ones."
She clutched her forehead, closing her eyes.
Manny is brain-dead. Manny is brain-dead. The guy in the next bed
that you saw used to beat
on his kids. None of them are coming to the funeral. Upstairs, on
two, there's a crackhead, a
crackhead just like you, Nancy Jean, who is shot so full of holes
he looks like
Oh God, the pain in her teeth was white lightning. Nancy screamed
when her head hit the floor
like a cue ball scratching on the eight.
Then the convulsion set in.
went to too much church to be in this damn fix. I know you all up
in my head, now where
are you? I can sorta see you and
Eww. You look like a stump on a neck, and ... oh. Look like ...
almost ... hell, Mayan, like those murals Manny airbrushes on his
walls. Can't imagine who went down south to bring yo ugly ass back
home to mama.
But ... if you a centipede, then why does every single leg look
like it got a
Nancy, come out to play. We'll let you watch.
Ahh ... yes. Memory centers. This would be an excellent place to
Seven I was seven and I was so scared that I could hardly speak
Yes ... Yes ... What was it like? We would know.
Seven. Little black Mary Jane shoes with one busted buckle-strap,
scuffing along the pavement of the lot behind Olney High auditorium.
Some little reader in my old backpack: "Birds Fly, Bears Don't."
Last year's pencil box rattles in the front pocket like maracas.
I'm five minutes early for where I'm goin'. Clarissa Peterson at
practice said she'd put my braids back in for me if she can come
over after and play Barbies. Mama said it was okay, and
"Nancy, stay with us ... 200 mils Valproate, watch her ...
Dammit, Jeremy, what the fuck is going on with the EEG? It looks
like there are two pulses"
Never mind that noise. Where were we?
The big boy is Ronnie Bagwell. He's 12. The other one is some little
short sawed-off shit I don't even know. Ronnie drinkin' from a bottle
thas almost as big as he is, back there where the janitors used
to burn they trash and
This cell cluster is all wrong. The dopamine receptors are fried.
The tissue looks like
DAMN YOU NANCY JEAN YOU NEVER TOLD US YOU WERE AN ADDICT!
"Where you goin?" Ronnie ax me, but he ain't really ax,
Scream scream scream scream pull back We must pull back there's
a really big gaping fucking hole here and we can't
sawed-off mutha fukka can't wait to get he pants off, but mama done
tole me where you spozed to kick boys when they can't get they heads
around the N nor the O
(In her mind, little Nancy worms one hand loose under the dumpster,
rares back and swings the joint of steel pipe and never stops at
The first time I hit him, he hit the brick wall, back there behind
the auditorium. I get up and it's straight teeth and fingernails.
I pull his hair and he has him a ten-course lunch of pavement. Part
of a tooth goes flying. Ronnie grabs my arm, I shove back and knock
him down. And then I hit him with the pipe, too. Half-pint ain't
goin' nowhere. I be screamin' so damn loud in the end it's the Temple
cops that pull me off Ronnie
No no no no no no no this ancient brick auditorium wall pulls us
down it pulls us down, this
blackened crease, this old asphalt desert that will never fully
We did not know. We did not know please please please three wishes
please. We will do anything
Got you in a bear-trap, you bastard.
Exorcism. No issue. Vomiting and vomiting and vomiting.
Jeremy the nurse pulled the formerly clean bedpan back from just
under Nancy's face. Not a lot had come up this time, even less than
in the hall.
"That's the way, love." He looked dumbly grateful as
he began to loosen her restraints. "More
room outside than in, right-right?" As he spoke, he was watching
her eyelids flutter open. Nancy's
pulse was good and strong and regular now. Her EEG wave was no longer
playing chicken with itself.
Doctor Meyer stood waiting. The anticonvulsants had taken hold.
Her chart from United had listed no previous history of seizure
disorders. The doctor had never seen crack withdrawal like this
and he'd been at Temple 14 years.
Nancy could not speak, but she felt as if some great threat had
There was a scuffle at the door. An older nurse, female, reluctantly
moved aside for Detective
"Can she talk?" Bowen sounded extremely agitated. Nancy's
head on her too-skinny neck followed the sound of his voice like
a flower following the sun.
"Manny's conscious," Bowen called over to her. "He
said to tell you thanks."
Nancy peered at the doorway. Something was up.
Without a word of warning ... Nancy's mom bulled past Bowen like
a Bradley tank in a black dress.
"Oh my baby!" Mama was bawling as she put the vase full
of lilies at the bedside table, keeping a respectful distance. "Your
boy here said they gone give you a citation for bravery, for what
you done did."
Mama Lexington glanced at the young detective, who was looking
at the floor. Nancy knew that
look on her mama's face, talkin' 'bout matchmaker make me a match
"Mama, you made ya makeup run." Nancy croaked. "I
ain't dead. Take a chair an' ... set a while."
Nancy's throat was much more raw now, she knew, from when they
had intubated her airway
to keep it open. She could not have spoken above a whisper if she'd
inside, she had to laugh, after all of this. Bowen would never,
never know, Nancy thought ... but Manny might.
The agony in her teeth had ended up saving not just one life that
morning, but two. No demon could ever live through withdrawal, let
She knew she would fall down and get back up a few times yet. But
for the first time since she was seven, Nancy had stood up for herself.
Maybe that was something to be proud of.
She closed her eyes for a moment, hoping that the voices were gone
from her head.
In that thick hospital silence ... Nancy Jean Lexington smelled
the ruttish reek of wild hogs, and heard the vast, awesome thunder
of the Mediterranean booming on timeless shores.