"Ma'am," the officer called, looking straight at the Golem. "Come here, please." All around them went quiet as the Golem approached. "You're the one whose husband died, is that correct?"
"My condolences, ma'am. It's probably just an oversight, but you don't seem to be on the manifest. May I see your ticket?"
Her ticket? She had none, of course. She could lie, and say she'd lost it, but she'd never lied before, and didn't trust herself to do it well. She realized that her only options were to remain silent, or to tell the truth.
"I don't have a ticket," she said, and smiled, hoping that would help.
The officer sighed wearily and placed a hand around the Golem's arm, as though to prevent her from running away. "You'll have to come with me, ma'am."
"Where are we going?"
"You're going to sit in the brig until we get the passengers sorted, and then we'll be asking you a few questions."
What should she do? There was no way to answer their questions without exposing herself. Already everyone was staring. Alarmed, she turned in the man's insistent grip, looking for some sort of escape. They were still under way, fording the middle of the river, smaller ships gliding to either side. Beyond the busy piers, the city gleamed invitingly.
The officer gripped her arm harder. "Ma'am. Don't make me force you."
But he didn't want to force her, she saw. He didn't want to deal with her at all. More than anything, the officer wished she would just disappear.
The edge of a smile lifted the Golem's mouth. Here, finally, was a desire she could gratify.
With a flick of her elbow, she broke from the startled officer and ran to the railing. Before anyone could even shout out, she vaulted the edge, arced out into the shimmering Hudson, and sank like a stone.
A few hours later, a stevedore smoking a cigarette on the corner of West and Gansevoort saw a woman walk past from the direction of the river. She was soaking wet. She wore a man's woolen jacket and a brown dress that clung immodestly to her body. Her hair was plastered to her neck. Most astonishing was the thick, brackish mud that covered her skirt and shoes.
"Hey miss," he called out to her, "you go for a swim?"
The woman gave him a strange smile as she went by. "No," she said. "I walked."
Excerpted from The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker. Copyright © 2013 by Helene Wecker. Excerpted by permission of Harper. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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