"It's okay, Jennifer," a voice said.
She was hoisted up and her head fell forward.
And even paralyzed, she felt her weight shift as the fluids in her inner ear translated data to her brain.
And just like that, she was sitting on the edge.
Her head lolled back and all she could see were the suspension lines reaching up into the fog. This time it actually came out when she said, "Please."
But he just let go.
Gravity embraced her. Pulled her back.
She began to fly.
And then the headlights were there. Right. There. And she began to close her eyes, but—the impact broke her neck.
Spine and skull.
And drove everything she was into a tiny little hole in the universe that silently collapsed before disappearing forever.
The Upper East Side
The Armory on Park Avenue was only a few blocks east and another handful south, and if the rain hadn't turned the city into a real-time film noir—and if Dr. Lucas Page weren't still recovering—they probably would have walked. Or at least his wife, Erin, would have walked; he would have limped. But the night was going to be boring enough as it was—he didn't need to add fatigue to the roster. So they were cabbing it.
Lucas hated these functions. They felt like excuses for the squares to drink too much, slap themselves on the back, and tell one another what a great job they were doing in the business of healing. But Erin, who was a pediatric orthopedic surgeon, insisted that she had to attend, although he could never really figure out precisely why.
The cabbie pulled a U-turn at 64th, then slammed to a halt in front of the Seventh Regiment Armory. They didn't have the klieg lights on, but the façade was adorned with a moving light show and the doormen were dressed as Yeomen Warders—which made absolutely no sense at all.
One of the Beefeaters opened the car door for Lucas, shielding him with an umbrella. Lucas got out, bolstered his footing with his cane, then extended his prosthetic for Erin. After she was out, he nodded a thanks to the man with the umbrella and slipped him a twenty—anyone who had to dress like that to make rent deserved a gratuity. And Lucas had experience with the people at these things; they were notoriously bad tippers.
As they ducked under the ivy tunnel that framed the door, Lucas asked, "What, specifically, are we here to celebrate?"
Lucas held up his hands. "I forgot."
She stopped and gave him one of her bullshit-detector questions. "How many cycles does a cesium-one-thirty-three atom complete in a single second?"
He tried not to smile, but it got away from him. Or at least as much as was muscularly possible. "Nine billion, one hundred and ninety-two million, six hundred and thirty-one thousand, seven hundred and seventy."
"You don't forget things—you intentionally refuse to remember them. There's a difference." She stared him down for a second. "Do you have any other questions?"
"I'm still waiting for an answer to my first one."
"We're not celebrating anything. It's a charity gala—just like it was last year. And the year before. The money we raise goes to the poorer hospitals in the city. See?" she said, pointing up at the banner over the entrance. "It says so right there: The Annual Sarah Rothstein Charity Dinner."