April, the year 2000
At eight in the morning of his last day in Boston, Sean Burke paced out tight circles on the corner of Kenmore Square, waiting for the abortionist, a nine-millimeter semiautomatic handgun hidden in the inside pocket of his army jacket.
Sean knew his enemy from the demonstrations--a slight man with brown wisps of hair and hollow cheekbones, gray soulless eyes that ignored the pickets even when they cried out, "Don't kill me, Mommy and Daddy," in the imagined voice of a fetus. Part of Sean prayed for him to come; that other part, frightened and irresolute, hoped he would not. He encouraged himself by imagining the faces of the children he would save.
He passed forty minutes this way. With each moment, Sean felt more anxious.
And then the man was there, emerging from the subway.
The abortionist's hands were in his coat pockets. His eyes focused on the sidewalk, and his breaths became thin puffs in the surprising chill of a bright April day. He did not notice Sean.
Sean swallowed. His throat was dry, his mouth sour, the pit of his stomach clenched and raw. Clumsily, he reached a gloved hand into his left pocket and popped the last antacid pill into his mouth, teeth grinding it to chalk.
Dr. Bowe disappeared inside the building.
It was an old brownstone hotel, converted to offices for doctors, dentists, milliners, discount jewelers; passing through the double glass doors, a pregnant woman could be shopping for a necklace, not seeking an accomplice to help murder her unborn child. Sean knew only that the offices were on the first floor: because of a court order, pickets were required to stay outside and keep the walkway clear. The red carpet, their leader, Paul Terris, had named it. But neither Paul's exhortations nor all their protests had stopped the flow of blood.
Yet Sean stood there, still afraid. The chalk in his mouth tasted bitter.
If Sean acted, he would have to leave all he knew behind: the comfort of the church where he served as caretaker; the room above the parish offices, his home for three years now; the compassion of Father Brian Shaw, who praised his work and worried, in his soft-voiced way, about Sean's "intensity." In the newspapers and on television, in the streets and the bars of Charlestown, they would call Sean a murderer.
Let God be his judge, then. God and the children.
But Sean stood frozen, a slender man, with lank black hair and pale-blue eyes. Alone, as he had felt almost all his life, Sean watched the random pageant of the city pass him by: tardy workers rushing from the subway; cars honking; students heading for Boston University; an Asian nanny with a plaid wool scarf at her throat, pushing a baby in a blue carriage. They did not notice him and would not have understood had they known.
Then he saw her--a young woman in a wool coat, knit cap pulled tight over her curly red hair, her face more Irish than Sean's own. He could imagine her sitting next to him in school.
Pausing on the sidewalk, she gazed at the double glass doors beneath the letters that spelled "Kenmore Building." Sean could feel her reluctance as intensely as he felt his own.
She was there for the abortionist, Sean was certain. Her back to Sean, she seemed barely to move. In his mind they were coupled: if she did not enter, perhaps Sean would grant the clinic a reprieve. Just for today.
Please, he murmured, save your baby. He prayed she was not one of them.
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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