Dr. Bowe barely had time to peer sideways before Sean shot at his temple.
The red stain appeared. Sean watched in near astonishment as the abortionist fell to his knees, face pitching forward into the files of his victims. Only then did Sean register the melon sound again.
With a rush of anger, Sean lifted Bowe's warm twitching body and threw him onto the table, wrenching his legs open in the spraddle of all the women whose children he had murdered. The abortionist's eyes were glazed, his mouth agape, as if protesting this indignity.
Sean heard a gasp behind him.
A nurse stood in the door, a stethoscope around her neck, mouth forming words that would not come. Sean did not want to kill her; she was a tool, like the receptionist. But he had no choice.
"I'm sorry," he murmured, and shot her in the chest. The nurse crumpled in the doorway, then was still.
Sean stepped across her body, looking down at her. At least her family, if she had one, could gaze into her face without flinching. Sean walked down the hallway in a trance.
The red-haired young woman shivered on the couch, staring at the dead receptionist, too frightened to move. Tears streamed down her face. Sean could not bring himself to kill the life inside her.
Sean knelt in front of her, giving comfort, seeking it. "I had to stop him. Your sympathy should be with your baby, the life I came to save."
Comprehension filled her eyes. "I'm not pregnant," she stammered.
Sean felt the blood rush to his face. He stood, humiliated and confused, blood pounding like a trip-hammer in his temples. His finger squeezed the trigger.
"Please. I only came here for an IUD . . ."
Sean dropped his gun and ran from the building.
There was a subway station at the corner.
Sean rushed down the stairs and through the turnstile. Some vestige of discipline made him find the men's room, leave his jacket, gloves, and wool cap in a stall, and walk to the platform with a numb unhurried stride, a young man in a Holy Cross sweatshirt.
Take the green line to Court Street, then transfer to blue. He recited this like a rosary as the subway stopped and he boarded the half-empty car. No one looked at him.
She was lying. Sean had saved her baby, and she had lied to save herself, believing he would think it less damning to thwart life with a piece of plastic. Perhaps Sean had taught her better.
Dazed, he imagined the sirens screaming as the cars arrived at Kenmore Square.
At Court Street, the subway doors hissed open. Arms folded, head bowed, Sean walked out and waited in the dingy tunnel, a portrait of urban anonymity.
He had asked Father Brian if he could take a week's vacation in New Hampshire. "Surely," the priest had answered in his mild way, "but is early April a good time? The mud season, they call it in New England."
Within minutes, the subway for Logan Airport came.
Sean's suitcase was in a locker at the airport.
He pulled it out. If his plan worked, the last trace of him found in Boston would be the jacket, the hat, the gloves. Remorse mingled with relief now at the lifting of his burden: he no longer stood watch, armed only with signs and slogans, while children died.
Face pinched, he went through security at Gateway C.
No one stopped him. He headed for the gate with his scuffed black suitcase, surrounded by vacationers, students on spring break, commercial travelers leaving their homes. But the only person in line was a black woman with glasses and a briefcase. Uncomfortable, Sean hung back until she was finished.
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
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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