The Sureness of Horses–Chapters 29, 30, and 31

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29

I was dreaming of Marita when the phone rang. Could it be her? She had said she’d call as soon as she could. But the images I’d been conjuring up faded when the caller identified himself as Sergeant Ames from the Palo Alto Police Department.

Police?

“Mr. Middleton?” he said, sounding professional. “We’d like you to come down to the station.”

I got up on an elbow. “What’s going on?”

“Something I can’t discuss over the phone. It involves your neighbors, the Calderons. It’s best we talk about it down here.”

“Are they okay?” Pause. No response. “Can’t you tell me anything?”

“Check in at the front desk. Bring your driver’s license for identification. Ask for me, Sergeant Ames. I’ll be waiting for you.”

Keats came into my bedroom wanting some early morning attention. As I petted him and scratched behind his ears a feeling of foreboding rolled over me. Before she walked across the street, Marita had told me she could handle Jorge. But she had also told me he was a different guy last night than she’d ever seen before. I dressed and headed up Middlefield to the police station.

When I showed my license at the front desk, Sergeant Ames, a middle-aged officer with a kind demeanor and a trimmed moustache, came out from behind a locked door and led me to a bare beige room inside. He indicated a chair, then offered me coffee. When I shook my head, he sat down. In soft tones, he said, “You’re a neighbor of Jorge Calderon’s, correct?”

“Yes, he’s my friend. I used to work with him.”

“I’m sorry to have to tell you that Mr. Calderon is in a coma at Stanford Hospital.”

“What?”

He nodded and proceeded calmly. “They’ve put him in a special oxygen chamber for the carbon monoxide poisoning. The medical report also lists head trauma and abrasions to his right arm. I heard he may have had a stroke on the way to the hospital, but that’s not in the case record, at least not yet.”

My stomach tightened. It was hard to picture Jorge surrounded by machines and tubes. He’d always seemed so vital. Then my mind moved to the night before, watching Marita walk toward her house, where Jorge waited. “What happened?”

The officer leaned back in his chair. “Sure I can’t get you that cup of coffee?”

I nodded and looked around at the gray table in the middle of the room with him on one side and me on the other. No windows. No one-way mirror like you see in the movies, just a beige wall with a picture of four tall flagpoles flying American flags.

The sergeant stuck his head out the door and asked someone to bring coffee before he turned back to me. “It appears Mr. Calderon attempted suicide by running his engine in a closed garage. He was found lying close to the exhaust pipe.”

I stared at the policeman’s moustache; he was starting to get a few gray hairs. “I was going to meet him this morning for coffee,” I said.

The sergeant raised his bushy black eyebrows. “Do you visit him often? Do you have a key to his house?”

I shook my head so hard that I feared I was showing impatience . . . or guilt. “No, I don’t have a key to his house. Why would I? But tell me what’s going on. Is Marita okay—his wife?” I asked. “And his daughter? Is Eva okay? She’s my goddaughter.”

An aide gave the sergeant a Styrofoam cup of coffee, which he handed to me. When I took a sip, he said, like a kind uncle, “Mr. Middleton, your goddaughter’s okay—Eva’s the one who called 9-1-1, which is why Mr. Calderon is still alive. His wife, though, was not so lucky. She died of massive head injuries.”

I dropped the coffee, spilling some on my trousers. I burned my thigh, but I didn’t move. This couldn’t be true—no way. “Marita is dead?” The cup bounced on the floor, coffee splashing. What had I done?

Sergeant Ames nodded before he motioned toward a box of tissues on the table. “His six-year-old daughter called at 4:27 this morning. When we got there the poor kid was almost catatonic. She took us to her parents in the garage. The car was still running. She hasn’t said ten words since.”

“Eva. My God!” How slowly Eva would move her Monopoly piece—that silver top hat—from one real estate property to another. The other day I’d run into Jorge at the neighborhood park, and Eva and I had tossed a softball back and forth underhand. How could a six-year-old get through this with no experience to fall back on?

“She’s with a case worker down the hall,” the officer said. “She mentioned your name, and she asked for Beth. Is she your daughter?”

I put my head in my hands. “Beth is Diana’s daughter. Diana’s my . . . friend.”

“Well, you and Beth were the only people Eva mentioned. That’s why I asked you to come in. Mr. Middleton, our detective has already given us his theory as to what happened. What he described is much more common than first-degree murder. Someone shoves, someone falls and hits their head. Alcohol almost always plays a role. We won’t know until the tests come back, but alcohol seems to have played a part here.

I rubbed my eyes. “You mean he killed her? My God!”

“It looks that way,” he said, almost apologetically.

“Give me a minute.” I stood up and had to sit back down. I put my head in my hands. Marita had been with me not eight hours earlier. Now her life was ended. Marita, gone! When I stood up again, I asked the officer, “Would it be okay if I called Diana?”

“I was going to ask you to do exactly that. Ask her to bring her daughter in, too, if she would. You can use that phone,” he said, pointing. “Can I tell the case worker you’ll meet with Eva? Mrs. Spencer is anxious for Eva to see people she knows.”

“Of course,” I said.

“Make your phone call. I’ll be right back.”

I dialed Diana’s number.

“Hi, Wade . . . I’m just leaving for church,” she said. “Beth is planning to come with us.”

“There’s been a . . . an accident, Diana. Jorge and Marita,” I started, though it felt strange just to pronounce their names. “Jorge’s in the hospital on life support and Marita is . . . she’s dead.”

Diana let out a gasp. “What happened?”

“I’m in the Palo Alto police station. Can you come here so I can fill you in? Eva’s here.”

“Is she okay?”

“She’s alive and unharmed, at least physically. Can you come down?”

“I’d best not. I was just walking out the door. We’ll talk later, okay?”

“Eva wants to see Beth,” I said. “The police asked me to call you. Honey, I know this is awful, but Eva needs help. She found her mother dead this morning and must have seen her father being carted off in an ambulance. Imagine.”

“I’m sorry, but I don’t want to get Beth involved, Wade. This is the last thing she needs.”

I couldn’t mince words any longer. “Diana, Eva is six years old. I’m not asking for myself. Please.”

“Wait. I need to talk to Beth.” She must have covered the mouthpiece because I couldn’t make out what she was saying. Then she asked, “The police station on Hamilton?”

“Yes.” Again I heard muffled words.

“Okay, we’ll come down there.”

30

Sergeant Ames led me to the small yellow room where Eva sat on an examining table. As soon as I saw her I moved to hug her, but the woman next to Eva shook her head. Eva was in a robe with her head lowered. She was wearing felt slippers with bunnies sticking up on top of the toes. They looked so incongruous that I almost lost it right there. What had I done? The sergeant introduced me to the caseworker and left. Miss Spencer, dressed in a crisp blue blouse and blazer, seemed pleasant and earnest. But my eyes quickly moved back to Eva, who was motionless, frozen.

“Hi, sweetie,” I said.

She didn’t look up.

Miss Spencer said, “She’s in shock. We’ve been concentrating on her breathing. She drank a whole cup of water. She’s a very good girl. You can go over to her now.”

I told Eva, “Beth is coming,” hoping to get her to smile, but she continued to stare at the floor.

When I got to her side, I said, “She should be here soon.” No reaction.

A doctor came in with a stethoscope draped across her shoulders. “Could you give me a moment?” she asked, and Miss Spencer and I slipped into the hallway.

“I need to make a phone call about next-of-kin. You don’t know of any nearby relatives, do you, Mr. Middleton?”

“No. In fact, I’m quite sure there aren’t any.”

She ducked into an empty office, leaving me alone in the hall.

I worked to grasp what had happened. Marita had been so alive, so passionate. Now she was gone. And it was my fault. I wanted to mourn her, but Jorge kept entering my thoughts. He could gain consciousness at any time. What did he know? What would he say?

The sergeant came up the hall toward me, with Diana and Beth close behind. Diana and I came together for a short hug, from which she quickly drew back. Mother and daughter looked crisp and sleek in summer dresses, ready for church.

Diana took a deep breath. “I feel like I’m in one of those movies you only watch when you can’t sleep.”

“How’s Eva doing?” asked Beth.

“She asked for you—I’m so glad you came. We can see her as soon as Miss Spencer comes back.”

Beth smiled and turned to take a drink from one of those fountains with a huge clear bottle on top. A bubble rose in the bottle as she filled a small cup.

I whispered to Diana what the sergeant had told me. Repeating the story only made me feel more guilty.

When Miss Spencer joined us, I introduced Diana and Beth. As Beth turned around from the fountain, I noted that Miss Spencer treated her like an adult—and she did look very grown-up, especially wearing heels, which made her slightly taller than her mom, who wore flats.

Miss Spencer took us into the small room where the doctor was saying goodbye to Eva, who was now lying on an exam table on her back, still in her slippers. Her eyes were closed; she seemed almost passed out. I guessed the doctor had given her a sedative.

Beth walked over to her. Eva opened her eyes and looked up at her. “Mommy was all bloody,” she said flatly. Eva seemed half-asleep, almost talking in a dream. “She was wearing her party bra.”

Beth and Diana gasped in unison. Diana shook her head and whispered to me, “I knew Marita was trouble.”

“Not now.” I turned to Eva. “Your mommy loved you very much.”

“Where is Mommy?” she asked, her eyes barely open.

“It might be hard to see her today,” Miss Spencer said. “But don’t worry, you’re safe.”

Beth, fighting back tears, took Eva’s hand.

Diana stood on the other side of the room. Was she, too, close to crying? I walked over to see if I could comfort her.

“Things like this aren’t supposed to happen on Sunday mornings,” she said. “This is God’s time.” She took a deep breath, staring at Eva. “That poor child.”

I reminded myself that one of the things that drew me to Diana was the heart that she hid behind her stoic exterior.

Soothed by Beth, Eva shut her eyes. Miss Spencer wrapped her in a blanket and pulled up some safety rails to prevent Eva from falling off. “She should rest now,” she said. “Let’s go where we can talk.” Motioning toward the door, she invited us into her office.

Beth, Diana, the sergeant, and I crowded around Miss Spencer’s cluttered desk. “We need to release Eva, but we haven’t been able to locate a place for her.” she said. She rummaged through papers. “The closest relative seems to be her father’s mother, a widow in El Paso, Texas, but she’s in a nursing home. Mrs. Calderon’s parents have both passed away, and we haven’t identified any aunts or uncles. Unless we can come up with a plan, we’ll have to line up foster parents, which can be dicey on short notice. Or send Eva to Valley Medical—you know, the county hospital.” She looked at us. “Someone she knows would be so much better.”

When I turned to Diana, she said, “Not me. We’re not equipped in any way.”

Beth said, “You’re always talking about our Christian duty. We do have the guest room, Mom.”

Diana hesitated before she spoke. “We wouldn’t know how to handle things that might come up, Beth.” She sounded conflicted and exasperated. “Eva needs professional care.”

“Couldn’t we at least bring her home for a few days? The guest bedroom’s just sitting there.”

Diana turned to Miss Spencer. “It would be a great responsibility. What would the long-term solution be?”

The caseworker looked down at her desk. “We can usually find a relative who can take in a child like this. Even if her dad pulls through, it looks like he’ll face charges. I don’t think we can expect him home anytime soon. I’ve already called Child Protective Services. If she were to go with you, it’d require a temporary order from a judge. Do you have a lawyer who could talk to the judge?”

Sometimes I felt like the only person in Diana’s life who wasn’t a lawyer. But she wasn’t smiling, and I hated to see her backed into a corner. “Maybe she could stay with me,” I interjected. “I am, after all, her godfather.”

Miss Spencer said, “We don’t place kids with opposite-sex single people in situations like this. Even blood relatives, and . . .”

I nodded. I wasn’t an actual blood relative. “Diana, maybe you and I should talk alone.”

We rose and went into the hallway, leaving Beth behind, her wide brown eyes pleading.

After we were outside of everyone’s earshot, Diana said, “I’ve been working to keep everything stable so Beth can have a great sophomore year. I would have no idea how to care for a traumatized child.”

I reached out to her, but she didn’t move. “If she stays with you,” I said, “I’d help in any way I could.”

Diana didn’t seem to hear m. She slowly said, “If I did take her in, there’d have to be an end to it. An exit strategy, as they say.”

I touched her hand. “I know. But imagine her going to the county hospital, not knowing anyone, or with foster parents she’s never met . . .”

She looked pensive. “I never make long-term commitments on the spur of the moment.”

“I agree with that, too . . . in general,” I said.

“Beth and Eva have seen a lot of each other in the last month. Their friendship could help.” Diana stood with her hands apart as if she were surrendering. “Faith is empty without deeds, I believe that. And of course Beth is right, the guest room’s just sitting there.” She hesitated, so long I wondered if she was changing her mind. Finally she said, “Okay, Eva can stay with us, at least tonight. I’ll call the law firm to draft whatever statement is needed.”

When Beth learned that Eva would be coming home with them, she beamed. We hugged.

Everyone seemed relieved, even Diana. When I asked her if she wanted to tell Eva, she pointed to Miss Spencer, who was smiling as well. I asked her, “Why don’t you bring Beth down to Eva and tell her?”

I took Diana’s arm as we walked down the corridor to Sergeant Ames’s office. He was still in the beige room where he’d first talked to me. “Diana and I are about to leave, if that’s okay.”

But he motioned us to stay. “Something has come up, something I need to talk to you about.”

We stood outside his office. Diana looked confused about whether she should stay or leave us alone as I stepped into his office. I was a little unsure myself, but when she sat down, I made no move to stop her.

The sergeant closed the door behind us. “The phone company’s pretty responsive when there’s murder involved,” he said. “They just e-mailed us their records, which show only one completed phone call from Jorge Calderon’s house last night, at 11:37 PM.” He stared at me. “It was to your home, Mr. Middleton. What was that about? Why did he call you?”

Diana’s eyes opened wide.

“He was upset, drunk and upset,” I said. “Marita and he had quarreled . . . she had come over earlier.” Why did I even mention Marita? Too much was happening, too fast. I wasn’t acting smart.

Diana looked like she wanted to flee the small room but stayed seated.

I looked at each of them as innocently as I could but feared I was acting guilty as hell. I said, “She went right home.”

Sergeant Ames said, “Thank you. Perhaps you can help establish Jorge’s motivation. Why did he fight with his wife? Do you have any insights, Mr. Middleton?”

“He thought they were going to lose their home.”

“Let’s be real here, sir. Economic stress can be a contributing factor, but what set him off? I’d imagine there was more to it than that.” He looked from me to Diana and then to me again. “What were Mrs. Calderon’s . . . habits?

As Diana wrung her hands, I doubted she’d ever seen the inside of a police station before, but I couldn’t worry about her. I had to worry about myself.

“And the phone call to you,” the officer said. “Pretty late. And we don’t have a motive. The DA will hone in on a motive.”

I felt nauseated. On TV, they always find the villain’s DNA on the murder victim. “What are they doing with Marita’s body?”

“With these circumstances, I’m sure there’ll be an autopsy. Charges will be up to the District Attorney. If Jorge lives, my bet is this pleads out. They’ll charge second and plead to manslaughter—something like that. The problem is we don’t have a motive. The DA will want that in the report. What did Jorge say on the phone?”

I started, “He was drunk, concerned—”

A knock on the door interrupted us. “Come in,” the sergeant said.

Miss Spencer was holding a smart phone. “I’ve got Stanford Hospital here. The judge has ordered twenty-four-hour security for Mr. Calderon, so they’re transferring him to that room with the desk outside. Here, I’ll put this on speaker. The charge nurse, Belinda McIntosh, wants to compile a visitor list.”

From the phone came the words “Does anyone know if Mr. Calderon had a pastor or a priest?”

Everyone looked at me. “No, not that I know of,” I said, leaning in toward the phone. “They were both Catholic, but I don’t believe they were practicing. I’d like to see Jorge as soon as possible, if I may.”

From the phone, Belinda said, “Come down any time. Even if charges are filed, he has a right to visitors.”

“Add Wade Middleton to your visitor list,” the sergeant said. “Ms. Buchanan?”

We all looked at Diana.

“Not me, I’d have no reason to see him.” She closed her eyes and took a deep breath.

“We still haven’t found any relatives,” Miss Spencer said, both into the phone and to the others. “What about other friends?”

When there was no response, Sergeant Ames thanked Miss Spencer and she left.

“Thank you for helping with Eva,” the Sergeant said to Diana. “I’ll sleep better tonight knowing she’s with someone she knows.”

He stood up and turned to me. “Are you planning on going out of town?”

I shook my head.

“Good.” The Sergeant looked directly at me. “If you travel, call me first. I have to be able to contact you.”

As we gathered to leave, Diana told me she didn’t want me to follow her home from the police station. She said she needed time to help get Eva settled, but I suspected she’d had her fill of me. When I begged her to let me bring some lunch over later, she relented, but not happily. We said our goodbyes in the plain fluorescent-lit halls of the police station.

She walked out ahead of me to her car across the street. From the sidewalk, I watched her carefully belt Eva into the back seat. Beth buckled up next to her. Diana glanced at me but looked away quickly, pretending not to see me.

31

On my way home from the police station, I drove the long way, past Jorge and Marita’s house. In my hurry that morning I’d driven the other way, so this was the first time I saw the yellow caution tape across the driveway. I glanced at it, shook my head, and looked away. I pulled into my driveway, not looking back.

As soon as I got inside my house, I took my first deep breath since Sergeant Ames had awakened me. I left Ray Snyderman a voicemail telling him I’d be in and out of work the next day for personal reasons, an obfuscation I’d never used before. A day at the office would seem like a vacation. I also told him that Jorge was in the hospital. “He’s involved in a real mess. I’ll fill you in later.”

My thoughts returned to Jorge. I was torn between wanting him to live and hoping he wouldn’t wake up. What had happened to me? I had been so upset about that poor boar! Now that I’d been part of something that left a child virtually an orphan, all I worried about was that I could be found out. With an autopsy coming up, I was thankful I’d used a condom, but that didn’t keep me from worrying.

Around noon, toting a shopping bag, I buzzed Diana outside of her condominium elevator. “It’s your sandwich guy.”

When I got to the top level, I saw Diana’s digs through sadder eyes. The bench next to her front door, where we’d shared our first kiss. Less than a year ago—it seemed ages.

“Beth wants to eat in the bedroom with Eva,” she said. “Let me take those.” She put the sandwiches on plates. “Here, why don’t you sit at the table while I deliver these.” Micah scampered down the hallway with Diana not to return.

I sat on Diana’s balcony overlooking the red roofs of Stanford and the foothills, which were turning brown with patches of green. It was a typical seventy-degree northern California day. Compared to that cramped police station, I was in another world.

We made small talk for a while, but as we were finishing lunch, she said, “Wade, I can’t get my mind off that midnight phone call from Jorge’s house to yours. What happened there?” Her tone was friendly, but I had the feeling the question had been rehearsed.

“Like I said, Marita came to see me and Jorge called. She needed a friend.”

Diana stared, her eyes sharp. “A friend, huh? What did she want to see you about? Oh, don’t tell me.” She stared at me as she ran her hands through her hair so that the red highlights appeared and disappeared around her fingers. “Really, Wade, don’t say another word. I don’t want to know.”

“She was concerned they’d lose their house—and even more worried about Jorge.”

Diana folded her arms. “You’re not helping yourself with half-truths. It might be best if you left now. After what I went through with Rob, this is absolutely the last thing I need.” She stood up.

“Diana,” I said, “I just got here.” But when she didn’t react, I stood too, across the room from her.

“This is the best thing right now.” She walked me to the door. “Eva seems pretty calm, at least for the moment. Beth has been a marvel; maybe this wasn’t a bad thing for her after all. But I think it might be best if you leave now. Everything’s too raw.”

“I feel so alone,” I said.

“Yes. Believe me I know that feeling. But let me tell you this has been a Sunday I’ll never forget. I was looking forward to church with you, and then . . .” She pushed the elevator button. The door opened immediately and she turned away. She left without a touch, much less a kiss.

Late that afternoon I roughhoused with Keats and took him for a long walk. At the park, the same place I’d thrown a softball back and forth with Eva a week earlier, I started an elegy to Marita in my head. I wanted to describe how she had opened me up last night and how the world had shut down today. When I got home, I managed to jot down a few lines, but I couldn’t come up with much. When I looked them over, the lines were sentimental doggerel. I stored the page and turned on the TV.

I threw some raviolis into a pot, heated up spaghetti sauce, slathered it on them, and ate. Dinner felt more solitary than ever that night. Just after dark, seven thirty or so, I called Diana. “There must be something I can do for Eva. There’s a neighborhood park I could take her to, or we could go out to a movie?”

When Diana said, “Not really. Too early,” I said a quick goodbye. I was bone tired. I fed Keats, closed the blinds in my bedroom, and climbed into bed. It had been less than twenty-four hours since Marita had knocked on my door with her jacket zipped up. That seemed like a scene out of a different life.

The phone rang in the middle of the next morning, Monday, from a phone number I didn’t recognize. I thought, Bad news always comes in threes. First, Jorge’s call; then the sergeant’s; now what? This could not be good.

But it was only Jorge’s nurse, Belinda, saying that Jorge’s vital signs had improved. She was a great believer in visitors, and she thought I might want to come in to see him. Maybe this wasn’t bad news.

It would be hard to see Jorge as a virtual prisoner at a hospital, but I had to throw on some clothes, put one foot in front of the other, watch traffic carefully, and not make any wrong turns. I drove across the Stanford campus, with its usual construction delays, to the medical center, arriving at the hospital shortly after eleven.

At Stanford hospital I followed the signs to Intensive Care. They do a good job of keeping the hospital clean. There wasn’t even any of that cover-up disinfectant smell, at least where I went that morning. I could have been in a pristine office building.

When I took the escalator up and checked in at the nursing station, an aide summoned Belinda, a tall woman with patient eyes. Young, under thirty, Belinda was a take-charge person. She sat me down in the area’s small lobby. “You’re his first visitor, Mr. Middleton. I’d better prepare you before you go in. The effects of his stroke are quite evident.”

“Can he talk?” I held my breath.

“He’s said a few words, but I wouldn’t call him conversational.”

I must have made some kind of face, because she said, “But don’t let that bother you. Studies have shown that even unresponsive people—and he’s definitely responding—still process information.

“Has he said anything?”

“He asked for water early this morning, but not much else. Follow me. He’s down this way.” It wasn’t until she opened the doors to the unit that I got my first whiff-of-hospital, half disinfectant and half worse.

A six-foot-plus police officer stood with one hand behind his back outside a room at the end of the hall. He checked my ID. “Thank you, Mr. Middleton. I’ll need to go inside with you.”

Belinda, the officer, and I stepped inside the room, which was larger and emptier than I expected. “I thought he was in an oxygen tent.”

Belinda walked over to him and gave him some water. “That was just the first few hours, to counteract the carbon monoxide.”

The policeman stood against a blank wall, arms behind him—a kind of formal military position. Parade rest?

“Here, I’ll sit him up,” Belinda said, pressing a button that raised his back.

I walked over to him. “Can you hear me, buddy?”

“Did you see him move?” I asked Belinda as I looked at him.

She nodded before she turned toward the door. “I have some things I need to finish up. That monitor shows his vitals. The needles just moved, so you’re right, he knows we’re here. Don’t stress him. There’s always the possibility of a stroke. There’s a repeater at my desk, so if he gets too excited I’ll know.” She walked over to the bed and took Jorge’s hand in hers. “I’m going to leave the room,” she whispered into his ear. “Your friend Wade is here to visit you.”

The left side of Jorge’s face sagged. I walked next to him and whispered in his ear, “Don’t worry about Eva. She’s doing well. She’s with Diana and her daughter, with Beth. Eva’s living like a princess.”

His head moved up and down, almost imperceptibly. A nod?

“Are you comfortable?” I asked.

Slowly his lips moved—was he trying to talk? He raised a finger. A sound came out of his mouth. “Wa—” Did he want water? Then something that sounded like “te.” Wait?

No, he was looking right at me. He was saying, “Wade.”

The monitor rose again. “Calm down, Jorge. We have all day.” The officer stood behind him, stiff as a Buckingham Palace guard.

“Marita’s dead, isn’t she?” he whispered, amazingly lucid.

“Yes, but Eva’s fine.”

“Sk-kirt zi-zipper,” Jorge said as the needle on the machine jumped.

Belinda rushed in, sucking the contents of a vial into a hypodermic needle’s cylinder. “I shouldn’t have left the room.”

Jorge stared through me. “I th-thought you w-were a good guy, W-wade.” Then his mouth sagged and he closed his eyes. The cop remained expressionless.

As Belinda gave Jorge his shot, he mumbled one last word.

“Bastard.” The word was unmistakable. He’d hit his mark.

Belinda gave me a quizzical look. “That should knock him out,” she said. “We don’t want him slipping into a coma. What did he say about a skirt?”

“He must be having an awful dream,” I said.

Belinda tried to look me in the eye but I avoided it. “We’d better let him rest,” she said. “It might be best you head home, get some sleep yourself.”

The policeman maintained his poker face. I wanted to respond to Jorge, but he’d gone limp.

That was when I learned how hard it was to avoid thinking of something; to ‘not think’ of Jorge. You have to find something new to concentrate on. I quickly thought of Artemis.

I started riding her at the ranch almost every day after work. I’d mouth long soliloquies into her ear, sometimes about Jorge and how sorry I was, and sometimes I’d whisper about Diana and how wrong she was to judge me. Except for an occasional log, I didn’t jump after work. I remember how Diana would say that sometimes, even when you’re not planning to jump, a log ‘just gets in your way.’ I loved the terminology of the hunt; they called taking an unnecessary jump, which is frowned upon, ‘larking.’

For fear of coming off Artemis with no one around, I saved the real jumps for Saturday mornings with Edward. He’d slowly raised my jumps six inches or so; at least I was making progress there.

Belinda called me to tell me Jorge had dropped into a coma. “But he’s very much alive. I’d recommend you come in to see him, Mr. Middleton.”

But I just couldn’t go back to see Jorge. Instead I worried about him dying—and about him waking up.

For the eight years I’d had Keats, the beagle, he hadn’t been allowed on my bed. There was one exception—I let him up with me one day when I had the flu, but that was it. Never at night even then.

But after I got into bed that evening, I clapped my hand against the bedspread and urged him to join me. Keats didn’t jump—he’d learned the rules. Finally, though, I went to the cupboard and got him a treat and coaxed him up. From that night on, he slept by my feet. I had to be careful whenever I turned over to not knock him off the bed.

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