'No,' said the detective. 'Not a chance.'

She didn’t look surprised. She walked a little closer to the foot of the bed, and the uniformed officer stayed at her elbow. 'Do you know anything about Rhonda Eckerly?'

'Enough,' said Killigan. 'She’s a fugitive. Fair game.'

The woman turned to the cop. 'Thank you.' She took a step toward the door.

'That’s it?' Killigan asked. 'Aren’t you going to laugh at me and tell me how easy it was?'


'Why not?'

'I understand you now. Telling you anything would be a waste of time. You’re the walking dead.'

'You both heard it,' Killigan said with glee. 'She threatened to kill me.'

The detective stared at him again, his head tilted to the side a little. 'We’ll discuss that later.' He took the woman by the arm and ushered her out the door.

When the door closed behind them, Coleman walked Jane Whitefield down the hall, past the emergency room desk and the waiting area, across the black rubber mat. The doors huffed open and outside, in the hot night air, he led her past a couple of ambulances to his plain blue car.

'You got into this intentionally?' he asked.

'Yes,' she said.


Jane Whitefield took a deep breath and let it out, then said, 'Robert Eckerly married a girl. She was about twenty, he was about fifty. He’s a rich man in a small town. He’s charming. He’s also a sexual sadist.'

'Whose diagnosis?'

'She ran away once before, and he managed to have her caught, like this. I don’t know if he thought of the theft charge by himself or if he called somebody like Killigan and that person told him that was how it was done. She was released into his custody. He didn’t just beat her up. He chained her by the neck in a room and invited a few like-minded friends to come and help.' She looked at Detective Coleman.

He nodded. 'Go on.'

'Nothing shocks a cop? This would have. When they got too drunk and tired to just keep raping her in some ordinary way, they started trying to think up ways to make her beg them to stop hurting her, because that turned them on.' She looked up at him. 'What are you thinking? That you don’t want to hear the rest?'

'Will it do her any good?'


'Where is she now?'

'If I told you I don’t know, you wouldn’t believe me.'


'Then I’ll just say she’s far away.'

Coleman leaned on the hood of his car, folded his arms, and stared at her for a moment. 'So what are you going to do?'

'I’ve done it. She’s gone.'

'About Mr. Killigan. He went up to a strange woman in an airport and attempted to handcuff her and stuff her into a van. You could file a pretty impressive array of charges. Are you going to?'

'There’s no point.'

'Are you afraid?'

'No. Rhonda Eckerly isn’t coming back to testify to anything. And Killigan wasn’t attacking an innocent woman minding her own business. I stalked him and trapped him.'

He stared at her thoughtfully. 'Then there’s still the issue of what to do with you.'

'Nothing. I’m going home.'

'I didn’t say you could. You just told me you trapped him and beat him up on purpose.'

'You can delay me for two or three hours. If you write up a charge, the D.A. won’t file it. I told you I cooked this up myself, so there aren’t any loopholes. He attacked. I resisted. In this state I could have killed him if I wanted.'

'You’re pretty sure of that, are you?'

'I have an attorney waiting for me at the station. He can explain it to you if you want. When that’s over, you can drive me back to the airport and put me on my plane.'

'What are you, anyway—a detective? A lawyer?'

'A guide.'

'Guide? That’s a new one on me.'

'Sometimes people need help. I sometimes give it to them.'

'Me too.'

'I know, and I’m not trying to give you a hard time. I admire you. I would like to shake your hand and go catch an airplane.' She grabbed his right hand and gave it a shake, then started to walk out of the parking lot.

Coleman stared at her, but he made no move to stop her. As he watched her walking away, he tried to explain why he was doing it, but there were too many reasons to pick just one. If he wrote down her name, Killigan was the sort of man who would try to find her. And she was right about the legal outcome. No judge in California would let this one come to trial. Finally, he called out to her, 'Is this a woman thing?'

She stopped and looked at him. 'No. Sometimes the victim is a man. Sometimes the guide is too.' She smiled at him. 'Or an animal, or just a figment of somebody’s imagination.'


Jane Whitefield stepped off the airplane in Rochester, New York, wearing a pair of jeans and a dark blue silk blouse with a Japanese-print pattern of trees and flowers on it. She carried the suitcase that Rhonda Eckerly had checked on to her flight in Indianapolis, but there was no longer any resemblance between them.

She carried the suitcase to the car-rental lot and picked up the keys to the car she had reserved during her layover in New York City. Then she drove up South Plymouth Avenue into the city, inside the nest of freeways the local planners had named the Inner Loop, and onto West Main. She turned into the underground parking lot of the Presidential Hotel and let the valet take the car out of sight.

Upstairs in the enormous old lobby, decorated in green-veined marble and dark hardwood, she walked past the reservations desk and the portals that led to bars and restaurants and entered the small shop beside the newsstand. There were four women in chairs already, getting their hair done in a respectful silence. People in hotels were all strangers, and they seemed to talk only to the hairdressers and to watch the mirrors carefully to be sure nothing unauthorized was being done to them. When the slim, dark woman entered, two of the women used the mirrors to glance at her without seeming to, but the manicurist, a plump woman in her fifties, stood up and said, 'Mrs. Foley, so nice to see you again.'

Jane said, 'Hi, Dorothy. Slow day?'

'Too early to tell,' she answered. Dorothy was already moving her to her cluttered worktable. She sat down across from her and examined her fingers. 'These two are really something,' said Dorothy as she carefully pared the nails.

'I broke a couple playing tennis,' said Jane.

'And those scratches on your knuckles,' said Dorothy. 'You should stand farther away from each other when you play.'

Jane shrugged to signal that the conversation was over, and Dorothy worked in silence. When she had finished her cutting and filing and buffing and soaking and enameling, Jane followed her to the cash register and handed her a folded bill. The manicurist handed her a small plastic bag.

When Jane Whitefield had walked out of the shop, one of the customers leaned forward in her chair and said to the manicurist, 'Was that what I think it was?'

Dorothy turned her business smile on the woman. It was attentive, cheerful, and utterly impenetrable. 'Would you like a manicure?'

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