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43

Jack left prison in a cab, feeling strange in the grey sweatshirt and jeans they'd issued him for departure. His face hurt from the beating he'd gotten and his eye was tender when he squinted against the sun, but his thoughts were filled with Paige. Now that he was free, he would protect her from Trevor and find out what the hell had happened.

The cab sped down the elevated strip of 1-95, above abandoned rowhouses and graffitied warehouses, and he ignored the driver's cold eye in the rearview mirror. The driver had to know who Jack was, because he picked him up at the prison. Jack took his hostility in stride. He understood that people outside the prison wouldn't be quite so eager to shake his hand. Life as a confessed murderer wouldn't be easy, nor should it be.

The cab reached the city in an hour, and Jack directed the driver to his town house. He didn't know why but he was drawn to it. He didn't open the car door when the cab paused at the curb, as if he had just left a funeral service and was driving past the home of the deceased. It was apropos. Jack felt dead in a way; at least that part of his life was dead. Honor was dead, and he hadn't even gone to her memorial service. Ashamed of himself, he bent his head in a moment of silence.

The cab engine thrummed in the background as he thought about her. He mourned her, but he didn't mourn the life they had. He could only mourn the life they pretended they had, but there was no point to that. He looked out the cab window at the house, its front door crisscrossed with yellow crime-scene tape. He didn't have to be told he couldn't go inside, much less live there anymore. Everything he owned was there, but he owned

none of it anymore. He had never wanted any of it in the first place. Sun bathed the colonial house in a million-dollar glow and though it shone like a sales brochure, Jack didn't want to see it ever again.

He asked the driver to take him to the hotel. He'd chosen a medium-priced one frequented by tourists because he knew no press would be there. The cabbie steered in its direction without responding and they arrived in fifteen minutes. He left the cab, entered the hotel, and pushed his American Express card across the wood counter, but again, the young woman at the reception desk didn't have to read Jack's credit card to know who he was. The newspapers stacked next to her bore a blowup of his photo, his face divided by the fold, his nose repeated twenty-five times. The young woman couldn't help but look horrified at the wounds on his face, not yet captured in news photos. He ignored it; he had to get going. Paige.

He quickly accepted his room key and card, hurried to the elevator, and punched the button, experiencing the same odd sensation his house had evoked. He felt disconnected from everything, as if he'd been unplugged from his own life. His home, his family. Mary. He tried to forget seeing her in court at his preliminary hearing. She had been there for him, to remind him to tell the truth, but there was no way he could ever do that, death penalty or no. He tried not to think about it.

Jack rode up in the elevator, spacious compared with ad seg. How could it be that in the same day he could be confined to solitary and later check into a tourist hotel? How could he so easily exchange prison blues for a sweatshirt? The disconnect Jack experienced extended even to himself, as if his body had become a hanger and he could change identities as easily as clothes. Father. Lawyer. Murderer. The elevator doors slid open and he stepped out.

He didn't know who he was any longer, but it was high time he found out.

Jack knocked at the door of the squat brick rowhouse, but there was no answer. It was cold outside but he felt warm enough in the football jacket he'd bought in the hotel gift shop, I LOVE PHILADELPHIA, it said across the chest. Still he didn't think his absurd jacket was the reason a little black boy stood on the sidewalk, staring at him. His silent gaze told Jack that few white people came to this section of the city.

Jack knocked again, then checked the address: 639 Beck Street. It was Brinkley's house; the address had been in the phone book. He had called and it had been Brinkley's voice on the machine, but he hadn't left a message. He didn't want to leave any evidence suggesting that he wasn't the killer.

He knocked again. He had to talk to Brinkley, face-to-face. It was a risk but he would take it if Paige were in danger. He'd been calling her but there had been no answer. He'd left a message with the name of his hotel and had told her to call there as soon as possible. He was worried about where she could be and who she was with. He. hoped it wasn't Trevor.

Jack pounded hard on the door as the little boy wandered up to him. About seven years old, he wore a black knit cap pulled low over his eyes and his hands were shoved into a hand-me-down jacket. 'He ain't home,' the boy said. 'I seen him go.'

'Oh, thanks.'

'He a cop.'

'I know.' Jack turned from the door, scanned the block, and walked back down the stoop. 'I think I'll wait for him. Mind if I stay?'

"S all right with me.' The boy shrugged, staring frankly at Jack's battered face. 'You get in a tussle, mister?'

'In a way.' Jack smiled, then eased onto his haunches to strike up a conversation with the only person in Philadelphia who hadn't read today's newspaper.


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