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"I didn't do it, you know. Kill him, I mean," Lincoln said.

The first week of the month was when the Death Row inmates got medical checkups in the Infirmary. This was Lincoln's fifth visit, and there was something about Dr. Tancredi that made him want to tell her the truth, even if she didn't believe it. And why should she? Claiming to be innocent was a lie most inmates were all too ready to offer.

"Take a deep breath now," she said.

Lincoln breathed for her, coughed for her, and relaxed his leg in preparation for the blow from the rubber hammer. "I didn't even know the guy, had no reason to kill him. Don't know why anyone would, really—all that stuff about corporations and secret deals he was involved in, so what? You don't kill a guy over politics. Well some people do, but they're usually pretty nuts."

She drew a flashlight out of her lab coat pocket. "Look right here, where my finger is."

Her eyes were so soft, so kind. That must've been why he couldn't stop spilling his guts. "Sometimes I think it's all some kind of nightmare, but then I wake up and I'm still here on Death Row. For a crime I didn't commit, not by a long shot. I've never killed anyone."

She was only the fifth person he'd told, after Michael and LJ and Lisa and Veronica. The only person on the list who wasn't family, because you didn't go around prison telling people you were less dangerous than you seemed, and who else was there to tell? Lincoln had no friends in Fox River and all of his real friends had cut him off during the trial. His world had shrunk to the size of a prison cell and the people who were on that list.

The doctor looked at him like she really saw him—not just his label or his alleged crime. "Is there anything you think I should know about before the examination is over?" she asked.

"You already know everything that's important now," he said softly, and meant it.

Just by looking at him that way, she'd proved him right. She belonged on that list as well.

 

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