15

“More dope,” Piper said dreamily as Rusty listened to her heartbeat.

Rusty patted Piper’s right hand—the left one was badly scraped.

“No more dope,” he said. “You’re officially stoned.”

“Jesus wants me to have more dope,” she said in that same dreamy voice. “I want to get as high as a mockingbird pie.”

“I believe that’s ‘elephant’s eye,’ but I’ll take it under consideration.”

She sat up. Rusty tried to push her back down, but he dared push on only her right shoulder, and that wasn’t enough. “Will I be able to get out of here tomorrow? I have to see Chief Randolph. Those boys raped Sammy Bushey.”

“And could have killed you,” he said. “Dislocation or not, you fell extremely lucky. Let me worry about Sammy.”

“Those cops are dangerous.” She put her right hand on his wrist. “They can’t go on being police. They’ll hurt someone else.” She licked her lips. “My mouth is so dry.”

“I can fix that, but you’ll have to lie down.”

“Did you take sperm samples from Sammy? Can you match them to the boys? If you can, I’ll hound Peter Randolph until he makes them give DNA samples. I’ll hound him day and night.”

“We’re not equipped for DNA matching,” Rusty said. Also, there are no sperm samples. Because Gina Buffalino washed her up, at Sammy’s own request. “I’ll get you something to drink. All the fridges except for the ones in the lab are turned off to save juice, but there’s an Igloo cooler at the nurses’ station.”

“Juice,” she said, closing her eyes. “Yes, juice would be good. Orange or apple. Not V8. Too salty.”

“Apple,” he said. “You’re on clear liquids tonight.”

Piper whispered: “I miss my dog,” then turned her head away. Rusty thought she’d probably be out by the time he got back with her juice box.

Halfway down the corridor, Twitch rounded the corner from the nurses’ station at a dead run. His eyes were wide and wild. “Come outside, Rusty.”

“As soon as I get Reverend Libby a—”

“No, now. You have to see this.”

Rusty hurried back to room 29 and peeped in. Piper was snoring in a most unladylike way—not unusual, considering her swelled nose.

He followed Twitch down the corridor, almost running to keep up with the other man’s long strides. “What is it?” Meaning, What now?

“I can’t explain, and you probably wouldn’t believe me if I did. You have to see it for yourself.” He banged out through the lobby door.

Standing in the driveway beyond the protective canopy where drop-off patients arrived were Ginny Tomlinson, Gina Buffalino, and Harriet Bigelow, a friend whom Gina had recruited to help out at the hospital. The three of them had their arms around each other, as if for comfort, and were staring up into the sky.

It was filled with blazing pink stars, and many appeared to be falling, leaving long, almost fluorescent trails behind them. A shudder worked up Rusty’s back.

Judy foresaw this, he thought. “The pink stars are falling in lines.” And they were. They were.

It was as if heaven itself was coming down around their ears.

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