A look came over his face. Devanter knew he had made a mistake. Only there was nothing he could do to correct it, nothing he could do to check his forward momentum. The person who looked like me thrust the knife into Devanter’s chest just below his rib cage, angling the blade upward toward the heart muscle. Devanter’s weight and speed did the rest. His body fell onto the blade. The blade went in cleanly all the way to the hilt because of Devanter’s weight and momentum and because of the upward thrust and because the person who looked like me but who couldn’t possibly be me enjoyed working in his kitchen and had always kept his knives razor sharp.

For a moment Devanter hung on the knife, literally hovering in the air, the person who looked like me holding him maybe two, three inches off the floor. His mouth was open and from where I was up by the ceiling I could see that it was filling with blood and that the blood was trickling from the corners of Devanter’s mouth and down his chin. Devanter’s eyes were open, too, and the person who looked like me could see them roll backward into Devanter’s head until only the whites were showing. And then the knife broke. The blade snapped off at the hilt. And Devanter fell to the floor, the blade buried in his chest. And the person who looked like me was left holding the wooden hilt.

The person who looked like me dropped the hilt and moved unsteadily to the bed where Merci Cole lay spread-eagled between the bedposts. He worked the knots in the lace but they were so tight. Then he did a remarkable thing this man who looked like me. He pulled the knife blade out of Devanter’s chest with his fingers and used it to saw through the lace. Even so it seemed like forever before he freed her. She removed the panties from her mouth and screamed at him, but he didn’t understand what she said, her words were incomprehensible to him. He helped her from the bed. Her screaming became deafening sobs. He led her past Devanter’s body. Her bare foot stepped in blood, warm and sticky, and the sobs became screams again.

Merci Cole and the person who looked like me stumbled from the room. He held her with one arm. The other he dragged along the stucco wall of the hallway, supported them both as they moved toward the master bedroom. Once inside the person who looked like me locked the door. Merci Cole collapsed on the bed and curled herself into a fetal position. Shaking uncontrollably. Weeping as if she would never stop. The person who looked like me pulled a blue-green comforter over the woman, a final act of chivalry before he reached for the phone. He punched 911 on the number pad. The phone rang once. Twice …

I don’t recall what happened next.


I was dreaming. I dreamed I was in a hospital room. I was seriously injured. There seemed to be a tube protruding from my left forearm that led to a plastic bag hanging from a metal stand. Another tube. No, it was a wire attached to what looked like a clothespin, the clothespin squeezing the middle finger of my left hand. The wire ran to a small machine with a numerical display that reminded me of the depth finder on my bass boat. The light above me was dim and cast everything in shadow. It was hard to see. A woman with butterscotch hair was sitting in a chair near my bed and reading a magazine.

“Turn on the lights,” I told her.

Her head came up abruptly and she closed the magazine without marking her place.

“Hi,” she said. “How are you feeling?”

“Feeling?” I didn’t understand the question.

She placed her palm against my forehead the way my mom used to.

“I love you.” I think I told her that.

“I love you.” I think she told me that.

Everything went dark.

I thought I heard someone calling.

“Don’t you die, McKenzie. Don’t you dare die on me.”

She was dressed in white and hovering above me like an angel. Only she didn’t act like an angel.

“McKenzie, McKenzie,” she called while she slapped my face lightly. I used an open hand block to grab her wrist and pull her down across my chest. Muscle memory.

“Where am I? What happened to me?”

“Do you mind?” She tried pulling away.

“Sorry.” I released my grip.

“You’re in Regions Hospital,” she answered, massaging her wrist. “You were hit on the head real hard.”

She looked like someone I should know, only I couldn’t place her. “How are you feeling, cowboy?”

That’s when I recognized her.


I glanced at the photo ID that hung from a tiny chain around her neck. Lillian Linder, MD.


“I thought I told you I didn’t want to see you in here again.”

“I’ve missed your kind and gentle bedside manner.”

She grinned. “It’s starting to get old, you know, having to save your life every couple of years.”

I was that close? Again? I refused to think about it. “What’s my status?” I asked.

“Surprisingly good, but then you always were a quick healer.”

“Merci Cole?”

“The woman you came in with. She’s fine. Physically, anyway. Emotionally she’s still a bit unhinged—she’s been through quite a trauma.”

Her and me both, I nearly said.

“She’s been visiting a couple of times each day. Quite a few people have dropped by, in fact. I’m amazed that an arrogant jerk like you has so many friends.”

“Have I told you how much I’ve missed you, Lilly?”

“There’s good news and bad news, cowboy.”

“Tell me the bad news.”

“You suffered an epidural hematoma.”