With a shrug, so small that Sean perhaps imagined it, the young woman walked toward the door.
Sean felt the anger come. If she was not worthy of the life she bore, then he must be.
Oblivious to traffic, Sean crossed the street. As he touched it, the gun in his pocket reassured him.
On the Saturday before last, he had driven to New Hampshire and bought the weapon at a package store: the same model, the owner informed him, that the Turkish guy had used to shoot the Pope--small, light, easy to conceal. Sean stifled his dislike. "God bless the Holy Father," he said simply.
In the woods nearby, Sean had practiced.
Aiming the gun, he had imagined looking into his victim's face, blocking out all doubt, all fears. His aim had been good--first trees, then rocks, then a careless squirrel which had almost vanished in a single shot. But now Sean's hand shook.
He was five feet from the door, then four feet. Each step felt leaden.
He must remember the lessons of history, Sean told himself. If he could have murdered Hitler, the Nazis would have called him a criminal, reviled the name Sean Burke. Perhaps Göring and the others would have hung him on a meat hook. And, perhaps, millions of others would have lived--Jews and Slavs, Gypsies and children . . .
Damp with sweat, Sean paused in front of the door, taking a last deep breath of morning air.
He walked into the dim hallway, looking to both sides. He saw a travel agency, an accountant's office. And then he found it.
A green laminate door with metal letters: "The Boston Women's Clinic." Since the demonstrations had failed, the abortionists in their arrogance no longer had a guard there.
Sean took the wool cap from his inside pocket and pulled it over his head.
For a last moment, his left hand rested on the doorknob. He made himself imagine the red-haired girl, nervously waiting for the abortionist to put a plastic tube between her legs and suck the life from her womb.
Sean murmured a final prayer and opened the door.
The girl was there. She gazed up at him from behind her magazine, as if surprised. With her cap off, her hair was a riot of red curls.
"Yes?" the receptionist asked.
Sean turned to her--a vulpine older woman with hair dyed a frightening black and lipstick as red as blood.
Softly, he said, "I'm here for Dr. Bowe."
The skin of her face was pale as parchment. She stared up at him from her swivel chair, still but for her left hand. There was a panic button beneath her desk, someone had told him; the day the others had occupied the waiting room, she had used it to call security.
"Don't." Sean's voice was harsh now. The red-haired girl dropped her magazine.
The receptionist's throat moved in a convulsive swallow, choking her words. "What do you want?"
Sean took out his gun. "To stop you," he answered, and pulled the trigger.
It was a kind of magic. As her head snapped back, a hole opened in her forehead. There was a soft concussive sound, like a melon hitting cement, almost lost in the red-haired girl's cry.
Sean stared in stupefaction as the woman died in front of him, blood trickling from her forehead. Only when she hit the carpet did Sean turn to the girl.
"Don't move." His voice came out panicky, too high. Gun in hand, he stumbled down the hallway.
The abortionist was in the room where he did his work, bent over a metal cabinet in the corner. Sean stared at him, then at the table covered in white paper, the altar where women sacrificed the innocent. His hand trembled as he raised the gun.
Use of this excerpt from No Safe Place by Richard North Patterson may be made only for purposes of promoting the book, with no changes, editing, or additions whatsoever, and must be accompanied by the following copyright notice: Copyright© 1998 by Richard North Patterson. All rights reserved
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