I shouted again for Lewis.

Still no answer.

Damn. I’d have to use my security code to open the door to the right of the pier’s entrance. But I’d just changed it, as we did every month, and I wasn’t sure…

Favorite canned chili. Right. I punched in 6255397-the numerical equivalent of NALLEYS on the keypad-and gained entry.

Usually there were cars belonging to tenants parked on the pier’s floor at any time of day or night: employees of my agency, the architectural firm and desktop publisher on the opposite catwalk, and the various small businesses running along either side of the downstairs worked long and irregular hours. Tonight I was surprised to find no vehicles and no light leaking around doorways. The desk where Lewis was supposed to be stationed was deserted.

That does it. We’re firing your ass tomorrow.

I crossed the floor to the stairs to our catwalk, footsteps echoing off the walls and high corrugated iron roof, then clanging on the metal as I climbed up and went toward my office at the bayside end. God, this place was spooky at night with nobody around.

As I passed the space occupied by my office manager, Ted Smalley, and his assistant, Kendra Williams, I thought I saw a flicker of light.

So somebody was there after all. Maybe Ted had left his car on the street; if so, he could give me a ride back to the MG. Kendra took public transit; she could keep me company while I waited for Triple A, and then I’d drive her home. I went to the door, calling out to them. No response. I rattled the knob. Locked.

I’d imagined the light. Or it had been a reflection off the high north-facing windows.

I went along to my office, slid the key into its dead-bolt lock. When I turned it, the bolt clicked into place. Now that was wrong; I’d locked it when I left the office. We all made a point to do so because we had so many sensitive files in cabinets and on our computers.

I turned the key again and shoved the door open. Stepped inside and reached for the light switch.

Motion in the darkness, more sensed than heard.

My fingertips touched the switch but before I could flip it, a dark figure appeared only a few feet away and then barreled into me, knocked me against the wall. My head bounced off the Sheet-rock hard enough to blur my vision. In the next second I reeled backward through the door, spun around, and was down on my knees on the hard iron catwalk. As I tried to scramble away, push up and regain my footing, one of my groping hands brushed over some other kind of metal-

Sudden flash, loud pop.

Rush of pain.

Oh my God, I’ve been shot-




A thin bright line. Widening. Slowly.

Beige light.


My eyes began to focus.

A ceiling. I’m on my back looking at an unfamiliar ceiling.

A tube was thrust into my mouth, and from somewhere nearby came a rhythmic breathing sound. In my peripheral vision were other tubes, snaking in many directions. Metal bars to either side, like a baby’s crib.

I couldn’t move my head either to the left or to the right.

Straight ahead, a curtain. Beige and green-a leafy pattern.

Rhythmic beeping sounds from behind me.

Hospital room. I’m in a hospital!

But where…? What…? How…?

The light dimmed, narrowed-

The light returned, softer now.

Rustling noises and then, in profile, a face.

Nurse? Must be. Blue scrubs and a gentle, placid expression. Asian, probably Filipina.

She moved away.

Come back! I need to ask you-

Everything dimmed again.

* * *

Dark now, but a shaft of light slanting across the ceiling. Must be coming from a doorway. Faint sounds of men and women talking. No, one man and two women. Who…?

Hospital staff. A friend had once told me hospitals were noisy at night; no cessation of activity then. Nurses gave medications, responded to emergency situations and the ring of patients’ call buttons.

Call button…

It would be within easy reach. All I had to do was feel around for it-

My right arm wouldn’t move.

My calves and feet hurt, an ache that went straight to the bones. I couldn’t move them either.


No, that can’t be.

Frantically I willed some part of me to move-a finger, a toe, anything.


Total immobility.

A scream rose in my throat. A scream without voice.

I couldn’t make a sound.

What’s happening to me?

Cold, foggy night along the Embarcadero… Derelict coming out of the mist… Deserted pier… My office… Shadowy figure slamming into me… Flash, pop, pain…

Oh, God!

Panic shot through me. The scream rose to a high, shrill pitch, but only in my mind.

“… Appears comatose. As you know, it took quite an effort to stabilize her.” A stranger’s voice, grave. “But her blood pressure is finally in hand, essentially normal, she’s taking nourishment through the feeding tube, and is able to breathe well on her own since we began taking her off the ventilator yesterday.”

“Do you have a definite diagnosis yet?”

Hy! But what-?

“Traumatic brain injury, of course, but beyond that we can’t yet say. The CT scan shows the bullet entered the occipital lobe of her brain, carrying along with it bone fragments. A clot formed from internal bleeding, creating pressure.”

“And the prognosis?” Hy’s voice was tightly controlled, but I knew he was quaking inside.

“Too early to tell. It’s-if you’ll excuse my wording-a mess in there, which is why we can’t attempt surgery. She appears comatose and completely paralyzed, but the scan we took yesterday shows she has good brain wave activity.”

“So she’ll come out of this?”

A pause. “I do think you may have to face some hard decisions about your wife’s quality of life.” Rustling of paper. “I see here that you have her advance directive giving you medical power of attorney. Have the two of you

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