discussed her wishes?”

“Yes.” Curt. He wasn’t ready to go there yet.

I’d been listening to the conversation dispassionately, as if they were talking about somebody else. Now my defenses crumbled, and I gave in to panic. The silent scream rose again.

The doctor said, “Have you given any further thought to transferring her to the Brandt Neurological Institute?”

“I spoke with them this morning. They have a room available and will admit her as soon as you give the go- ahead.” Hy hesitated. “Isn’t this the equivalent of giving up on her?”

“Not at all.” The doctor’s voice was too upbeat. “It’s an excellent acute rehabilitation center. Dr. Ralph Saxnay, who will be her attending neurosurgeon, is one of the best. In addition, it’s very quiet and private. No one needs to know she’s there.” A pause. “You must realize we’ve had difficulty with the media here. Your wife has made quite a name for herself in this city.”

Hy didn’t respond to the doctor’s comment. “I’ll make the final arrangements with the institute.”

Final arragements. It sounds as if he’s planning my funeral.

The doctor said a few more things in low tones, and then I heard him leave the room. Hy was still there, standing back and to the right of me; I couldn’t see him.

I tried to say something, to move something again. Couldn’t do anything. Paralyzed.

But not in a coma as the doctor had said.

Hy doesn’t know. I can’t communicate with him, even though I can hear every word he says.

Hy sighed heavily and placed his hand on my forehead. “Oh, McCone, I don’t know if you even realize I’m here.” His voice was twisted with pain.

Look at me! Look into my eyes! You’ll see I’m with you.

“If you can hear me, remember that I love you. Hold to that thought, and we’ll get through this together. Just like we always have.”

I love you too, Ripinsky.


He stepped out into the parking lot of San Francisco General Hospital and turned up his collar against the fog. Walked toward where he’d left his silver-blue 1966 Mustang, fumbling in his pocket for the keys. When he got to the classic machine, he had to curb a violent desire to kick it. This was not the time to give way to impotent rage.

Not yet, anyway.

Inside the car, he took out his cell phone and called the Brandt Neurological Institute’s admitting office. He told the clerk he’d arranged for his wife’s transfer, then set up a meeting with Dr. Ralph Saxnay, the neurosurgeon, for eleven the next morning. After he ended the call, he just sat there, staring out at the gathering mist.

Nothing more to be done today. Shar would be in good hands tomorrow. Not that there was anything wrong with SF General’s trauma unit-they’d saved her life with all the odds against her-or ICU; they were both excellent, but they’d done all they could and weren’t set up to handle a patient with a long-term… condition.

His thoughts flashed back to his first wife, Julie, now many years dead of multiple sclerosis. Toward the end she’d also been unmoving and silent, but there’d been an absence about her, as if her essence had already left her body. Not so with McCone; he still felt the psychic connection that had bound them together since almost the first time they met. If she was beyond all hope, would that connection exist?

No, he refused to believe it.

The past ten days were a jumble in his memory. His shock when the call came to his hotel in Seattle from Ted Smalley, who had been summoned along with the police and paramedics when the half-drunk security guard found McCone shortly after hearing the shot. The frantic and reckless flight to San Francisco piloting Ripinsky International’s jet. Heart-pounding drive from the airport, where two days before he’d left the Mustang inside the jet’s hangar, to the hospital. Then the waiting, a three-day and -night vigil.

We’ve established a good oxygen supply… Blood flow and pressure returning to normal… A setback, blood pressure crashing… BP edging toward normal… She’s responding to the medications… Another setback, incompatibility with the medication… Have to be very careful with meds in cases of traumatic brain injury… No, we can’t operate at this point; chances of her survival would be very slim…

Why don’t you get some rest. Mr. Ripinsky? Really, you’ll be no good to your wife if you don’t rest.

Of course, he hadn’t rested. Had sat by her bedside, alert for any change, any sign. And later, when they’d said she was stabilized, he’d stayed with her in the ICU except for brief trips home to shower and change and field phone calls from her family and friends.

Her adoptive mother near San Diego had collapsed upon hearing the news and been placed under sedation, according to Sharon’s stepfather. Sister Charlene and her husband, Vic, were in the city, in spite of Sharon’s not being allowed visitors. Calls came daily from her birth mother in Boise, Idaho; from her birth father on the Flathead Reservation in Montana; from her half sister Robin in Berkeley; from her sister Patsy in Sonoma. Brother John arrived from San Diego and installed himself in Sharon and Hy’s guest room.

The people at the agency knew better than to bother Hy. They had established a rapport with two of the floor nurses who kept them posted.

Hy leaned forward and grasped the steering wheel, weariness and helplessness diluting his earlier rage. When he’d first heard the news of McCone’s shooting, the rage had been dominant: he’d flown the jet recklessly, driven erratically, burst into the hospital like the proverbial storm. Now he was wearing down, the only bright spot on the horizon being the slim hope that the Brandt Neurological Institute promised.

Life without her-

No, for God’s sake, don’t go there!

He straightened, grasped the wheel.

So what to do to pass the long evening? Go home, where everything was a reminder of Shar, and their cats stared at her favorite chair with bewildered eyes? Where her brother John would rekindle his rage with endless discussions about “getting the bastard that did this”? Go to the RI office, catch up on paperwork in the hope it would numb his mind enough to let him sleep on the sofa there? Impose his presence upon friends who had already done more than he could ever repay?

None of the above.

He started the car and drove toward Pier 24?.

Cars were parked on the pier’s floor-so many that he had trouble slotting the Mustang. Odd, this late in the afternoon. Some of the offices on the first story were closed, but lights blazed upstairs at McCone Investigations, and he sensed tension and activity. As he climbed the stairway to the catwalk, he heard voices coming from the conference room.

When he appeared in the doorway, silence fell. Adah Joslyn, Sharon’s executive administrator, broke it by saying to Hy, “Is there-”

“No news. She’s being transferred to an acute care facility tomorrow.”

A collective sigh of disappointment mixed with relief. No news was bad news; no news was good news.

“Am I interrupting something?” he asked.

“No, no, of course not. Come in.”

He did, taking a chair against the wall, since there were no places left at the round oak table.

Adah was standing: an elegant, slim woman in a well tailored navy blue suit, with a honey-tan complexion and beautifully corn-rowed black hair. The perfect image for an increasingly successful agency, just as she’d been the perfect image for the SFPD’s campaign to promote women and minorities-not only because she was female, but because she was also half black and half Jewish. The perfect image until working the homicide detail had taken its toll and Shar had made her an offer she couldn’t refuse. In spite of Adah’s tightly controlled exterior, Hy knew her to be funny, generous, and a thoroughly staunch friend.

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