Everything had changed.
Starkey had started drinking almost as soon as she got out of the hospital. One of her shrinks-she thought it was number two-had said that her issue was survivor's guilt. Guilt that her heart had started, and Sugar's had not; guilt that she had lived, and he had not; guilt that, down deep, down in the center of herself where our secret creatures live, she was thankful that she had lived, even at the price of Sugar's life. Starkey had walked out of the therapist's office that day and never went back. She had gone to a cop bar called the Shortstop and drank until two Wilshire Division robbery detectives carried her out of the place.
Everything had changed.
Starkey pulled away from people. She grew cold. She protected herself with sarcasm and distance and the single-minded pursuit of her job until the job was all that she had. Another shrink-she thought it was number three-suggested that she had traded one armored suit for another, then asked if she thought she would ever be able to take it off.
Starkey did not return to answer.
Tired of thinking, Starkey finished her cigarette, then returned to her bedroom to shower. She pulled off her T-shirt and looked at herself with an absence of feeling.
The right half of her abdomen from her breast to her hip was rilled and cratered from the sixteen bits of metal that had punched into her. Two long furrows roped along her side following her lower ribs. Once tanned a walnut brown, her skin was now as white as a table plate because Starkey hadn't worn a bathing suit since it happened.
The worst of it was her breast. A two-inch piece of the Real Time had impacted on the front of her right breast just beneath the nipple, gouging out a furrow of tissue as it followed the line of her ribs before exiting her back. It had laid her open as if a river valley had been carved in her chest, and that is the way it healed. Her doctors had discussed removing the breast, but decided to save it. They had, but even after the reconstruction, it looked like a misshapen avocado. Her doctors had told her that further cosmetic surgeries could, in time, improve her appearance, but after four operations, Starkey had decided that enough was enough. She had not been with another man since Sugar had left her bed.
Copyright Robert Crais, 2000. All rights reserved. Published by the permission of the publisher, Doubleday. No part of this book may be reproduced without permission from the publisher.
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