Chapter 3

I stumbled backward, my body went limp, my legs lost their strength, and I landed on the floor and knocked my head hard.

I didn’t feel it.

I didn’t feel anything.

I just lay there, staring at the ceiling, at one of those speakers hidden somewhere in the plaster tile. Bruce Springteen was over — he’d been over — and now someone else was singing. I couldn’t tell who it was or what they were saying.

All I could hear was my heart beating in my ears. That and Irving cursing again, the sound of his footsteps as he ran for the door, the electronic buzzer going ding-dong.

And then silence.

I couldn’t move. I couldn’t breathe. I wanted to do both so very much but I couldn’t. I just lay there and stared at the ceiling, at that speaker emitting music of someone I didn’t know, didn’t recognize, and before I knew it I closed my eyes.

For an instant I saw darkness.

Then I saw a glow through my closed lids — somehow I knew it was the glow of the silver ring on my finger — and I opened my eyes again, took a breath, and sat up.

The first thing I did was touch my chest.

There was no blood. No bullet holes. Nothing.

The second thing I did was scramble to my feet and look wildly around the aisle, searching for those spent bullets.

Everything in that aisle — the bags of potato chips and pretzels, trays of candy bars and gum — looked no more disturbed than usual.

The ring glowed on my finger again — I somehow felt it glowing, like a pinprick — and I turned and hurried over to where Dorothy lay on the floor in a growing pool of blood and slushie.

She was clearly dead, the back of her blue uniform shirt ravaged where the bullets had entered.

“Dorothy,” I said, like she would answer.

She didn’t.

I stood back up, reaching into my pocket for my cell phone, when the silver ring glowed again.

I stared at it, then looked back at Dorothy.

I placed my hand on her back — the hand with the silver ring that was still glowing, somehow brighter now.

I kept my hand there and closed my eyes.

And in the space of five seconds I saw Dorothy’s entire life — her childhood, her adolescence, her adult years — and I knew about her two cats at home, Mork and Mindy, I knew about her last boyfriend, a man to whom she’d been engaged, and how he’d beaten her almost every other day.

With my eyes closed, seeing all this, I also saw the growing pool of blood and slushie surrounding Dorothy’s body. I saw the blood reverse course, going against gravity and its nature to spread out, the blood instead returning to her body, her body dislodging the bullets, first the one, then the other, and the skin closing back up, repairing itself.

I opened my eyes, looked down at the ring.

It was no longer glowing.

Dorothy groaned, mumbled something, and turned over. Staring up at me, she said, “What happened?”

“A man came in here with a gun and tried to rob the place.”

What?

“It’s okay. You slipped, knocked yourself unconscious, and the guy didn’t know what to do, so he just bolted.”

“He didn’t see you?”

“I was still in the back. I was” — I swallowed, looked away — “scared.”

Dorothy sat up, wincing at the pain in the back of her head. She looked down around her at reddish-brown pool of slushie and shook her head. “Well this is certainly a mess, isn’t it?”

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