I am spinning the silk threads of my story, weaving the fabric of my world...I spun out of control. Eating was hard. Breathing was hard. Living was hardest.
Laurie Halse Anderson, Wintergirls
“Ms. Madden,” an unfamiliar voice said when Madolyn dialed into her cell’s voicemail, “this is Esther Manfree from Massachusetts General. You’re listed as the emergency contact for William Costigan. We need you to come in as soon as you can. Ask for me at the front desk of the Lunder Building. Thank you, and you have a good day.”
That last part had to be added by rote. Madolyn couldn’t imagine anyone wishing someone a good day when they’d just been called to a hospital as an emergency contact.
Emergency contact. She hadn’t even known.
She slid her phone closed and didn’t allow herself to think beyond putting away her files, then not beyond packing up.
Walking out of the building, she had nothing else to focus on besides the name Esther Manfree. She turned it to a charm, chanting it in her head. Maybe Billy had done something stupid, hit his head and come in unconscious. He’d be fine when she got there; it would turn out she didn’t even need to go.
Still, a small voice reminded her, Esther Manfree hadn’t called her to tell her she didn’t need to come.
She put the voice aside as best as she could, deliberately didn’t consider the logical extension of the thought, and hurried through the parking garage toward her car.
A few minutes after Madolyn rushed into the Lunder Building and asked for Esther Manfree, a woman walked out of an elevator, to the clerk, exchanged a few words with her, and then came to Madolyn.
“Doctor,” Madolyn corrected automatically. “You called about Billy.”
“Dr. Madden, please come with me.” As they walked, she continued, “I’m Esther Manfree. I’m a patient liaison.”
“What happened to him?” Madolyn asked.
“Mr. Costigan has been shot, Doctor.” Esther kept her voice gentle, but Madolyn could not think of a thing that would ease the blow of knowing someone close to her, someone who thought she meant enough to list her as a contact, had been shot. “He’s in surgery now.” She stopped in front of the elevators and called one.
“Where was he shot?” Her voice didn’t waver. An elevator dinged, its doors sliding open, and she didn’t stumble over the threshold, either. It reminded her of Billy, of his hands not shaking.
“In the head. Are you a relative of his, Doctor?”
“No, I—we’re friends.” Not at all accurate, but the best she had. “How long has he been in surgery?”
Esther glanced at her watch. “Nearly an hour and twenty minutes.”
“Do you know more about his injury?”
“I’m afraid you’ll have to speak to the surgeon when he’s out about that.”
The elevator jerked to a stop, and they waited for the doors to open. Madolyn waited until they’d stepped off and turned down another corridor to ask, “What can you tell me?”
“There’s an active state police investigation surrounding this.”
Madolyn’s throat worked. Normally, she would think about calling Colin, but after the morning, after she’d found out he’d been working for Costello, lying to her the whole time they’d known each other—she couldn’t. Not now that she knew who her husband was. Hell, her important belongings right at that moment sat in her car, a fair number of her clothes in three pieces of luggage in the trunk and back seat, and she had her wedding and engagement rings tucked into a Ziploc bag in the zipper pocket of her purse.
And then it hit her. If Billy had known about Colin and this was a state police investigation—
That depended on if it was internal affairs waiting guard, didn’t it?
“Do you know which department the troopers are from?”
“I didn’t ask.” Esther made another turn, this time into a waiting room. “The surgeon will come speak to you when he’s out. Is there anything I can get you?”
“Is there somewhere I can get water?” Coffee wouldn’t do. Madolyn had been on edge since she’d listened to Billy’s damn recording of Colin and Costello; caffeine would tip her toward anxiety.
“Just down the hall.” Esther tilted her head toward a man sitting in one of the chairs, his back to the wall.
His eyes looked sharp; when they cut toward Madolyn, she felt exposed.
“He’s one of the troopers. I’ll introduce you.”
Madolyn didn’t terribly want to meet the man, but she’d be drawn into this one way or another. She kept pace with Esther.
“Detective Bonanno, this is Dr. Madolyn Madden. She’s Mr. Costigan’s emergency contact.”
“Trooper Costigan’s,” Detective Bonanno corrected mildly. It seemed at odds with the sharpness of his gaze, how quickly he sized Madolyn up as he stood. He held out his hand. “Dr. Madden, I’ll have some questions for you.”
She shook hands with him. “I’ll do what I can to answer.”
“If you need me,” Esther said to Madolyn, “ask the nurse to page me.”
Madolyn smiled faintly. “Thank you.” Once Esther left, she sat in the chair next to the one Detective Bonanno had taken. “Can I ask—are you from internal affairs, Detective?”
His eyes narrowed, just a bit. “How would you know that, Doctor?”
“My husband is a state trooper.” She watched him. “Colin Sullivan.”
Now his eyebrows lifted.
“He was there, wasn’t he?” she pushed on before she could second-guess herself.
“Dr. Madden, we have some time before Trooper Costigan’s surgeon comes out, and I think we need to have a talk. Wait here.”
Madolyn watched him rise and go to the desk. She couldn’t hear his conversation with the nurse, but she could guess: he wanted a quiet, enclosed room for their discussion. The nurse lifted the phone and said something, and a minute or so later, an orderly walked into the lounge, past Madolyn, and to the desk, only to come back to her with Detective Bonanno.
The detective said, “Please come with me, Doctor,” when he stopped before her.
She rose, settled her purse strap on her shoulder, and left the lounge with him and the orderly.
The orderly led them to a door marked “Nurses’ Lounge.” He found a key, unlocked it, and stood back. “I’ll let the nurses know that the room’s in use,” he said.
“Thank you,” Detective Bonanno said with a smile that seemed real, if strained. He walked into the lounge, and Madolyn followed. Once he’d closed the door, he said, “Please have a seat, Doctor.”
Madolyn chose the middle of a couch that sat at a right angle to a chair; he could have that. She watched him take a pen and notepad from his inside jacket pocket, a mini recorder from his pants pocket, and before he could start asking questions, she blurted, “Billy was undercover, wasn’t he?”
“He was,” Detective Bonanno said. He lowered himself to the chair and added, “If you don’t mind, I’m going to ask the questions now.”
“Is it all right if I record this?”
He switched the mini recorder on and set it on the low table before both of them. “Detective Patrick Bonanno interviewing Dr. Madolyn Madden, August twelfth, two thousand six, in the matter of Trooper William Costigan’s shooting. Dr. Madden is not a suspect but may be a witness. Dr. Madden, you are not in any way a suspect. However, if you feel you need a lawyer, tell me and we’ll stop.”
“All right,” she agreed.
He poised his pen over his pad. “Dr. Madden, you asked me if Sergeant Sullivan was at the scene of the shooting. Why is that?”
She closed her eyes. “Billy—Trooper Costigan—and I were friends. I didn’t know he was undercover. My husband—Colin, Sergeant Sullivan—didn’t know that. I didn’t think he knew anything about him. When I got the mail today, I saw that Billy had sent Colin a small package. More of a thick envelope, really. I opened it while Colin was in the shower.”
“Why did you open it?”
She swallowed hard. “Billy and I slept together once. I didn’t know if he was going to tell Colin, or… And Billy had given me something else to hold for him and asked me not to open it. I was curious, I wanted to know if I should keep it from Colin…”
“The one he sent Colin.”
He nodded. “What was it?”
“It was a CD.” She couldn’t make herself go on, betray her husband the snake like that, not when she could avoid it.
“What was on the CD?”
“It was—” She choked, had to clear her throat with a cough before she could continue. “It was Colin talking to someone about—he called him Frank, Detective, and they were talking about people being killed. The things he was saying—I think he was giving police information to Frank Costello.”
“And you said Trooper Costigan sent that to him.”
“Dr. Madden, what do you think happened to Trooper Costigan?”
“He was shot.” She looked steadily at the detective. “You’re from internal affairs, and a trooper was shot. I think a trooper shot him, and I think my husband was there.”
She couldn’t read a reaction from Detective Bonanno. He just asked, “And what made you think that?”
“Because Billy knew about it—about Colin and Costello. And when I came out—I locked myself in the bedroom after Colin came out of the shower. He heard what I was listening to, he took the CD out like he was ashamed, and I told him I thought I was the liar before I went in—because of cheating on him and not telling him about my friendship with Billy. When I came out, he was gone. I didn’t think he’d do anything, Detective, believe me. But I also didn’t think I knew him at all anymore.”
“Let’s go over your relationship with Trooper Costigan,” he said instead of addressing that. “How did you meet?”
“He was released on parole and sent to me for counseling. I work for the state.”
“You’re a psychiatrist?”
She nodded. “I thought he was a violent offender.”
“But you slept together. How did that happen?”
Madolyn exhaled slowly. “After the first session, I reassigned him to another counselor. He was deliberately provoking me, and he only stayed for maybe ten minutes. When I told him he was reassigned, he asked me to get a cup of coffee.” She shrugged slightly. “I went.”
Detective Bonanno’s expression didn’t change. “You slept together right away?”
“No. We kept meeting—lunch, coffee, that kind of thing. I never told Colin—that’s what I meant about thinking I was the liar, not him. Billy knew where I lived before I moved in with Colin, but he hadn’t come over before. The night he did, I was packing. He looked—wrecked is the best word. We talked, we had tea, and we wound up in my bed.”
He scribbled notes on his pad. “What’s your marriage like?”
“Why?” she asked before she could stop herself.
“It has to do with your husband’s character.”
She knew that, but with what she suspected Colin of doing, with Billy in surgery, things weren’t quite clicking into place. She rubbed a hand over her eyes. “It was—I thought it was good. He hid a lot from me, but he said it was police business, and I believed him. He wasn’t ever violent or anything. He even told me I had to be the one to leave if it wouldn’t work.” She swallowed. “I thought it would, even after Billy. Colin got stressed a lot, but it fit with his job. I never knew exactly why. He wouldn’t say.”
Detective Bonanno studied her face before asking, “But you think he could have had something to do with the shooting.”
She nodded. “It—hearing that conversation he had with Costello, it changed everything for me. He talked about murder so casually.” She shook her head. “I don’t want to think I married a monster, Detective.”
He nodded and rose. “I need to make a call, Doctor, but you can go back to the waiting room. Do you know where it is? I think there’s a coffeepot.”
She smiled thinly. Coffee felt like a worse idea than ever, but she’d spread herself out for him to see every crack; she needed something to pull her back together, and water wouldn’t do. “I do.”
“Thank you for your assistance, Doctor.” He opened the door for her after they both stood, and she caught him taking out his cell as she passed him by.
On her way back to the waiting room, she stopped at a Pepsi machine and dug in her purse to find enough change to buy a bottle of root beer. Sugar and no caffeine, it might help. She twisted it open when she sat in the waiting room, sipped it every seventh measured breath, and closed her eyes after the fifth sip. She probably would have kept them closed long enough to gather herself, except she heard someone at the desk ask, “William Costigan, is he still in surgery?” and that made her snap her eyes open.
She didn’t know the man at the desk, at least not by what she could see of his profile. Short, dark hair, thickly muscled arms, aggressive stance. No, no one Madolyn knew, but if he wanted to see Billy, she’d pay attention.
The nurse answered, and the man gave a short, jerking nod before stepping away. He strode to the coffeepot and poured himself a cup, didn’t add sugar or creamer, just sipped. He loitered there, and she kept watching him. At last, he met her eyes and walked over, steps purposeful and near aggressive.
“There a reason you’re watching me, lady?”
“You asked about Billy,” she said, her voice low and calm. “I’m his emergency contact.”
“That so,” he said flatly. “You know what happened.”
“I do.” This, she kept cautious.
“You know who he is.”
He nodded, a sharp jerk of his head, and stuck out his hand. “Staff Sergeant Sean Dignam.” That name, she knew; thanks to Colin, he’d probably recognize hers. “I was Costigan’s contact.”
She shook with him. Her own hand felt clammy and cool to her, but his was warm and dry. “Was?”
“He’s not exactly undercover now, is he?” he asked sharply.
“He’ll still need someone on his side.”
“I didn’t get your name.”
“I didn’t say. Dr. Madolyn Madden.”
His eyes narrowed. “Sullivan’s wife.”
“Technically speaking.” That slipped before she could catch it. Fortunately, Detective Bonanno came back then, and she didn’t have to explain.
“Bonanno,” Sergeant Dignam said, “you here to figure it out?”
“You were suspended. Why are you here?”
“You’re the reason Colin had a black eye,” Madolyn said suddenly.
He bared his teeth, not in a smile. “Cocksucker husband of yours got my captain killed.”
She sipped her root beer; she couldn’t say anything to that.
“We need to have a talk,” Detective Bonanno said. “Come with me, please.”
Sergeant Dignam narrowed his eyes. “You think I had anything to do with this clusterfuck?”
“You’re a witness, that’s all. For now, anyway.”
“After I get more coffee.”
Privately, Madolyn thought that was the last thing he needed, but she didn’t say as much.
The two men stayed gone long enough that she read nearly an eighth of Life of Pi, the current novel she carried in her purse. When they came back, Sergeant Dignam was scowling, which fit his usual expression from what Colin—admittedly biased—had told her. Detective Bonanno looked just as sharp as before. Sergeant Dignam carried a bottle of water; he settled a few seats away from her. Detective Bonanno sat facing them once he poured a cup of coffee. None of them said much of anything; Madolyn kept reading and only shot sideways glances at the two of them.
Just a few pages before she reached the halfway mark in her book, a door swung open and a man said, “William Costigan?”
All three of them rose.
“Not you,” Detective Bonanno said to Sergeant Dignam.
“He’s my guy,” Sergeant Dignam said flatly.
Detective Bonanno didn’t reply, and all three of them walked to the man wearing scrubs and a mask still tied around his neck.
“How is he?” Madolyn asked.
“You are?” the surgeon asked her.
“Madolyn Madden, his emergency contact.”
He nodded and looked to the cops.
“Detective Bonanno, internal affairs. I’m investigating the shooting.”
“Sergeant Dignam, his superior.”
“I’m Dr. Miller. Mr. Costigan came through the surgery well. Because of the nature of his injury, we’re keeping him in an induced coma in the neurological ICU. The bullet entered over his right temple and ran along the surface of his premotor and frontal cortexes.”
Madolyn sucked in a breath, everything that could result from an injury like that flying through her head.
Dr. Miller gave her a curious look and went on. “We don’t know how well or if he’ll recover. It’s wait and see right now. He’ll be moved to the ICU shortly, and he can have visitors. One at a time, ten minutes at a time. He is breathing on his own, which is a good sign.”
“How long will he be in the coma?” Detective Bonanno asked.
“Five days to a week. We want to give him time to recover. He may remain in a coma when we withdraw the medications, too. At this point, I can’t say.”
“Thank you, Doctor,” Madolyn said quietly.
“Do you have any more questions?”
“It was through and through, right?” Sergeant Dignam asked.
“It was. We did find a couple of fragments, though, and those are bagged as evidence. If one of you—”
“I’ll talk to the nurse,” Detective Bonanno said. “We’ll have troopers stationed here around the clock.”
“Just let the administration know. If you’ll excuse me, I need to clean up.” Dr. Miller nodded at them and turned to walk back through the doors.
“I’m visiting him first,” Madolyn said to the other two.
“We won’t stop you,” Detective Bonanno answered. “Sergeant, will you be staying long?”
“Until you get a couple of troopers here.”
“Dr. Madden, thank you for your help. I’ll be in touch. Sergeant.” Detective Bonanno nodded to the two of them and walked out of the lounge, his phone already in his hand.
She turned to walk to the desk and asked, “Where is the neuro ICU?”
The nurse there gave her directions, and Madolyn thanked her. When she started to leave the lounge, she found Sergeant Dignam beside her.
“Why are you his contact?” he asked abruptly when they neared the elevators.
“We’re friends.” She paused. “I might be his only friend.”
“Friends,” he repeated, sounding skeptical. “I didn’t think Costigan knew the meaning. Your cunt husband know about this?”
“I haven’t called him, since I’m in the process of leaving him.”
He gave a dark chuckle. “I bet he’ll be real fucking pleased with that. Aren’t you pregnant?”
“Yes.” She left that there; he didn’t need to know more.
“Madden,” he said thoughtfully. “You were his shrink.”
“Until I transferred him.”
“Ethical to be friends with a patient?”
“Former patient,” she said tartly. The elevator arrived, and she stepped on, Sergeant Dignam a half-step behind. She jabbed the button. “I’ve done nothing wrong.”
“You were friends with a guy you thought was a violent con. Might not be wrong, Doc, but it is stupid.”
She ignored him.
They had a half-hour wait in the ICU lounge. At last, the nurse at the desk said, “Dr. Madden, you can go in.” She pointed to the room. “Ten minutes.”
Madolyn nodded her thanks and stood. When she got in the room, she just looked at Billy for a long minute. He looked… peaceful, aside from the shaved half of his head and the bandage wrapped around his skull. Machines beeped gently, and she glanced at the screens; everything looked fine to her.
She took his right hand, which didn’t have an IV taped into it, and stroked the back gently with her thumb. “I’m sorry,” she murmured. “Billy, if I’d known—I’m so sorry. But you’re a tough one, we all know it. You’ll beat this. You’ll come back.” She smiled a bit, ignoring the sting of tears. “You have to. I want you to meet your son.”
She kept an eye on the clock; just before it hit ten minutes, she kissed his cheek gently and walked out, dabbing at her eyes with a tissue. She gave Sergeant Dignam a brisk nod. “I’ll come back tomorrow.”
True to her word, she came back the next day and every day after. She sat with Billy and talked to him about nothing in particular; she avoided the subjects of the shooting and her marriage entirely. Mostly, she stuck to talking about what she was reading, about the baby, reminiscing about the time they’d spent together. With the induced coma, his condition didn’t change, but she kept talking anyway. It could help, and she knew it. Since she’d started living in a hotel on Saturday night, she didn’t have much to do in the evenings; she sat in the waiting room so she could see him twice each night.
On Wednesday, for the first time, the nurse at the desk said, “Someone’s with him. You’ll have to wait, Doctor.”
That gave Madolyn a start, but she took a seat and watched the door of Billy’s room. To her knowledge, he didn’t really have family. She hadn’t been able to tell anyone what happened.
She didn’t expect Sergeant Dignam to walk into the waiting room while she waited. He hesitated, then sat near her.
“You’re here to see Billy?” she asked.
“I’m responsible for him.”
She studied him and nodded. “I’m sure he’d appreciate it.”
“He’d tell me to get the fuck out,” Sergeant Dignam said flatly, and her mouth quirked into a smile.
“You’re so charming, though. Why would he tell you that?”
That earned a snort, but it didn’t sound derisive, more amused than anything else.
The woman who walked out of Billy’s room a few minutes later was no one Madolyn recognized. A glance showed Sergeant Dignam didn’t know her, either, despite her cop bearing. A doctor followed her out, and Madolyn rose.
Billy came off the medications keeping him in the coma on Saturday, a week after his surgery, a week after he was shot. Madolyn made sure to be in the waiting room when it happened. Evidently, Sergeant Dignam had the same idea as she did. So did Detective Bonanno, who made it clear he would see Billy first if he woke.
None of them were allowed in for nearly an hour; nurses and a doctor walked in and out of his room nearly the entire time. Finally, the doctor came over to them. “He’s not conscious, but you can see him.”
Detective Bonanno stood. “I need to be called as soon as he wakes up.”
The doctor nodded. “Talk to the nurses. They’ll take care of it.”
He walked over to the desk, and Madolyn looked at Sergeant Dignam. “After you this time.”
He looked a little surprised but rose and walked into Billy’s room.
Madolyn arrived Sunday at ten in the morning. Sergeant Dignam looked like he hadn’t moved since she’d left the night before, except that he’d changed his clothes. A uniformed trooper stood outside Billy’s room. She went to the desk and asked, “Is there any change in William Costigan’s condition?”
“Are you family?” the nurse asked.
“I’m his emergency contact.”
He nodded, seeming satisfied, and said, “He woke briefly around two this morning. You can see him for ten minutes.”
She smiled. “Thank you.” She turned away to walk into Billy’s room.
When she sat beside him, she took the hand that didn’t have an IV in it and stroked the back. “I’m worried. I want to know how you are,” she said softly and swallowed, her eyes stinging. “I’m so sorry, Billy. If I’d known, maybe I could have done something, turned Colin in sooner, something… I wish to God I had. If I could have prevented this in any way…”
She kept talking, glancing at the clock every so often. After four minutes, Billy squeezed her hand weakly, but his eyes didn’t open.
“Billy?” she asked. “Billy, are you awake?”
He mumbled something she couldn’t make out, and she leaned over and hit the call button for the nurse.
A moment later, a different nurse than had been at the desk entered and asked, “Is something wrong?”
“He’s semi-conscious. He squeezed my hand and muttered.”
The nurse studied the monitors, then took a pen from her pocket, uncovered Billy’s feet, and pressed the tip into the sole. Billy jerked weakly, his eyelids twitching.
“You can stay until Dr. Engels gets here,” she said. “Keep talking to him.”
Madolyn nodded and said, “Billy, I’m not going anywhere. Wake up. We can talk. It’s important. The cops need to know what you remember, and I want to know if you’re going to be okay. Come on, Billy.”
The nurse slipped out of the room while she talked; Madolyn scarcely noticed. She massaged the palm of his hand and rubbed her other hand up and down his arm while she talked, watching his face. His eyelids fluttered but didn’t open; still, it was better than when she’d come in.
A doctor came in after a couple of minutes and said, “I’m Dr. Engels. I understand Mr. Costigan is starting to wake up.”
“He seems to be.”
Dr. Engels nodded and walked over to the EEG readout, picking up the printout. “His brain activity is better than we’d hoped. I need to examine him, if you’ll sit back.”
Madolyn, who remembered doing neurological exams from her internship and residency, let go of Billy’s hand and watched Dr. Engels test Billy’s pain reaction, pupillary response, and so forth. To her eye, it looked promising, and Dr. Engels seemed to agree; he said, “You seem to be good for our patient.”
“I’m a psychiatrist. I can keep watching his responses and let you know if they change, if you let me stay.”
Dr. Engels considered that. “I think that would be all right. If anything changes, call a nurse right away.”
“I will,” she promised.
“I’ll come back in half an hour to see how he’s doing.”
Madolyn chafed Billy’s hand between hers as soon as Dr. Engels left, and she kept it up as she started to talk. “Did I tell you that I’m thinking about getting a cat?” She smiled, even though he didn’t respond. “But if that’s going to keep you away, maybe I’ll go with a dog instead.” She kept talking to him about nothing in particular, rambling from one subject to another with no real intent behind it.
Billy roused when the half hour was nearly up; his eyes half-opened, and he stared around. “Mad’lyn?”
“Hi, Billy.” She blinked hard and pressed the call button for the nurse. “How do you feel?”
He muttered something, lifting his free hand, wavering and weak, to his head; she caught it before he could touch it or, worse, bump the bandage.
“You were shot, Billy. You had brain surgery.”
His head lolled toward her; she guessed he had the good painkillers. “Shot?” he repeated.
“Yeah. There are detectives waiting to talk to you when you can.” She mustered a smile. “I’ll hold them off for a while.”
He smiled loosely. “Thanks.”
The same nurse as earlier came in and didn’t even blink at the sight of Billy awake. “Mr. Costigan, how are you feeling?” She studied his monitors, then jotted something in his chart.
“Hurting.” He sounded a bit more alert.
“We’ll see what Dr. Engels can do about that. He’ll be in shortly.” To Madolyn, she added, “Please wait in the lounge.”
Billy’s hand tightened on hers. “No.”
“Billy, I’ll be back as soon as the doctor’s done.” As long as they let her, Madolyn mentally added.
She didn’t want to upset him, especially since he had just woken from the coma. She also didn’t want to incur the wrath of the nurses; that was never a good idea. Finally, she said, “We’ll see what the doctor says.”
The nurse didn’t look terribly happy, but she nodded. “It’ll be just a couple of minutes.” She left again.
“My eyes,” Billy said. “S’wrong with my eyes?”
“Dr. Engels would know better.” She stroked her thumb across the back of his hand.
“I can’t see right,” he insisted.
“The doctor will be in soon.” She squeezed his hand. “He’ll tell you what’s going on with that. I’ll stay as long as they let me.”
He nodded loosely.
Dr. Engels came in a moment later, smiling. “Mr. Costigan, it’s nice to meet you.”
“My eyes,” Billy repeated to him.
“Are you having trouble focusing?”
Billy nodded again.
“That’s from your injury. It may improve over time. How does your head feel?”
“I’m not surprised. We’ll get you some more medication. You’re going to start therapy soon. When you’re less medicated, we’ll talk about your injury and its effects.”
“May,” Billy repeated.
“It’s hard to say at the moment. It’s going to take time. We’ll keep you updated as you progress.”
He closed his eyes, as though trying to absorb that. “I want Madolyn to stay.”
“Now that you’re awake, you can have visitors as long as you don’t get stressed. We’re not allowing the detectives to interview you for right now.” Dr. Engels flipped open Billy’s chart. “We’ll get you those painkillers. You’re going to have to start therapy now that you’re awake. The nurses will set that up for you.”
Billy didn’t look entirely happy with that, but he didn’t argue. Madolyn guessed that was an effect of being medicated; normally, he’d insist on being fully informed and probably argue over treatment, the stubborn bastard.
“If you need anything, there’s the call button. Madolyn can press it for you.” Dr. Engels smiled a bit. “I just need to do a quick exam, and then I’ll leave you alone for about an hour.” He took out a penlight, and Madolyn disentangled her hand from Billy’s so she could shift out of the way.
Once Dr. Engels had finished and scribbled more in the chart, he excused himself, and Madolyn went back to Billy. “Therapy will help,” she said.
“Uh-huh.” He sounded like he didn’t believe her.
“It should,” she said. “I’ve seen patients with brain injuries.”
He didn’t answer aloud, just squeezed her hand, though not strongly.
Not long after the nurse injected an anti-inflammatory into his IV port and hung another bag on the pole, Billy drifted back to sleep. Madolyn watched him for a while, just to make sure it was sleep and not a coma; his hands twitched, and his eyes moved, so she got up as quietly as possible and went out to the lounge.
“He’s awake?” Sergeant Dignam asked her almost as soon as she let the door close. He stood immediately to the left of the door, much closer than she’d expected, and she managed to keep herself from showing that he’d startled her.
“He’s not comatose,” she said. “He’s getting actual sleep right now. He’ll need it.”
He nodded shortly. “I’m going to see him the next hour.”
She considered him. “Don’t upset him.”
He bared his teeth in a parody of a smile. “He’s not the one I want to fucking upset.”
She refused to rise to that. “I might go in with you.”
“What, you don’t trust me?” He sipped his coffee and walked back to the lounge.
Madolyn went to get a bottle of water before sitting near him in the lounge, sipping the bottle slowly.
“No bullshit. How is he?” he asked after a few minutes.
“He’s having trouble with his vision, specifically focusing.” She lifted a shoulder. “That might get better, it might not. I don’t think he’s aware of his other issues yet because of the medications he’s on. He does hurt, but since he got shot in the head, that’s not much of a surprise.”
“What else is going to be wrong?” he pressed.
“He’ll need a lot of occupational therapy for spatial movements. Probably for walking and directed arm and hand movements at first. He might have problems with his trunk muscles, problems understanding the actions of other people. Abstract rules will give him trouble. There are other things that could be wrong, too.”
“So he’s fucked.”
“I didn’t say that. Therapy can help a lot. He’ll be in a rehab facility for a while, and he’ll need to have a caregiver staying with him for a long time.” She sipped her water again. “He can get better. It’s just going to take time. And what I said is assuming the injury is relatively typical for others affected in those areas.”
Sergeant Dignam took a long drink of his coffee, looking across the lounge as though in thought. “Looks like we’ll be on babysitting duty for a long time, Doc.”
“Call me Madolyn.” She offered him her hand.
He shook it. “Sean.”
That settled, they both sat back in their chairs, and she caught him checking Billy’s door as often as she did. At almost exactly the hour mark, he rose to go into Billy’s room, closing the door gently behind him.
Sean would be interesting to get to know, especially with how Colin had felt about him.
On Wednesday, her last patient canceled, and she managed to move the second-to-last to her lunch break; that meant she got to spend the last two hours of her day calling divorce attorneys to find one who could meet with her during her available hours. The third lawyer’s receptionist transferred her to the attorney, Eden Lockman, once Madolyn mentioned Frank Costello. Ms. Lockman listened to Madolyn’s rundown of the current state of her marriage, then told her, “We can meet on Monday at twelve-thirty. You have an excellent case.”
She kept visiting Billy, too, every evening. He got moved out of the neurological ICU and to the neurology unit on Thursday, which she took as a good sign. She kept her visits short; Billy tired easily, between what had happened and the medication he was on. On Saturday morning, she ran into Sean as she left Billy’s room.
“Madolyn,” he said.
“Sean, hi.” She smiled a bit; the fact that he kept visiting Billy meant worlds to her.
“How is he?”
She shrugged. “The same as yesterday, better than Sunday.”
“Promising,” he muttered. “IA searched his apartment yesterday, with his permission.”
She didn’t allow any expression to cross her face. “I hope what they found will help your investigation.”
He gave her a shrewd look. “You know, I actually believe that. He awake?”
“No, you should probably wait an hour or so.”
Sean nodded and returned to the lounge. Madolyn followed him that far, then broke off to go to the elevators.
Three weeks later, when Madolyn got to Billy’s room, he asked, “Madolyn?” His vision hadn’t sharpened yet, though the occupational therapist was working on it. He was in his bed, the head of which was at about a sixty-degree angle, and he slumped against it. He looked tired, and he still had a bandage around his head.
At least he was sitting up, she thought. At least he could talk. “It’s me, Billy.”
“They’re talking about a rehab facility.”
“I thought they would,” she said as she took her place in the chair by his bed. “When?”
“Tomorrow.” His face twisted. “No one’s asking me, damn it.”
That didn’t sound right to her. “What have they said, Billy?”
He closed his eyes. “Dr. Michaels said she thought I was ready for a rehab facility. A social worker came and talked to me about being discharged. He said something about a rehab facility too.” He opened his eyes and slammed his right fist into the bed, narrowly missing the railing. “Why don’t they ask?”
Carefully, Madolyn said, “If they’re talking about discharging you, it means you have a choice. Dr. Michaels said she thought you were ready, not that you have to go.”
His eyes never settled on any part of her face, though he had his head turned to her. “I choose,” he repeated.
“You do. What do you think?”
“What are they like?” he asked instead of giving her an answer.
She’d expected as much, so she explained what rehab would be like, then asked, “What do you want to do?”
“So it’s rehab or going home with a nanny?”
“A caregiver, Billy.”
He waved a hand and very nearly hit the tray over bed. “Same fucking thing, Madolyn.”
“What do you want to do?” she repeated.
“Rehab would mean I’d have all the therapists there,” he started, “but I’d also be stuck in a fucking hospital kind of place. But if I go home, I have a nanny—sorry, caregiver—and have to go somewhere for all the therapy. I wouldn’t be in a hospital, but a rehab place would be able to deal with it if I had a seizure or something…”
And she listened as he spent nearly an hour talking over pros and cons, even when his eyelids began to droop and he started yawning. It got to the point where she wanted to interrupt and make the decision for him out of sheer frustration, but instead, she let him talk. Uncertainty problems, she knew, would be part of his life for some time, maybe forever, and it would take some getting used to for everyone involved with him.
Given the baby situation, that would include her, however peripherally.
“What do you think I should do?” he asked at last around a yawn.
“I think a rehab facility would be best,” she said more firmly than she intended.
He squeezed her hand. “So I’ll do that.”
His trust warmed her.
The next day, Madolyn drove somewhere new after work. When she got there and was directed to Billy’s room, she found Sean already there. This room had two plastic chairs and a small, square table past the foot of the bed. Still a hospital bed, which couldn’t be comfortable after so long, but the adjustability made it the best option for him. A nightstand stood by the head of the bed, and on the other side, a swinging tray stood a foot or so away.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I’ll be in the waiting room,” she said, already closing the door.
“Stay,” Billy requested.
“You’re sure?” She glanced at Sean as she asked, and Sean shrugged.
“Yes.” Now Billy sounded annoyed.
She came in and sat on the end of the bed; Billy had one of the two visitor chairs, and he was doing a decent job of sitting up. Not straight—he slouched more than he would have before—but better than she might have predicted. “How are you liking it here?” she asked.
He shrugged. “Better food than the hospital.”
She smiled a bit. “That’s good.”
“He’s been bitching about the therapists,” Sean said. “Apparently, they’re making him work, and that’s news or some shit.”
Billy flipped him off. “I was working before. It just seems like they skipped some steps.”
“How so?” Madolyn asked.
“If you start analyzing me, I’m going to stop seeing you,” he told her.
She held up her hands. “No analyzing. Got it.”
“Like I was saying, the prick’s refusing to talk to the DA,” Sean said to Billy. “He probably knows we have his ass nailed. Fucking stupid of you to try to arrest him yourself, you know.”
“If I’d ever had your number instead of just the captain’s, I wouldn’t have had to,” Billy shot back.
“You brought me the CD because I was the only one besides Sean you could trust, right?” Madolyn asked.
Billy made a face. “Since when is he ‘Sean’?”
“Since you wouldn’t wake the fuck up,” Sean said.
“Roughly then,” Madolyn agreed.
“That’s why,” Billy said. “I didn’t think you’d listen to it.”
“I was curious.” She wished now that she’d never listened to the one he sent Colin, even if she hadn’t listened to the one Billy gave her; if she hadn’t, he might not have been shot.
“Regardless, there’s plenty else to convict Sullivan,” Sean said, “and it proves Barrigan was dirty, too.”
“Speaking of Colin, I’ve filed for divorce,” Madolyn said. “My lawyer says it could take a few months.”
“Yeah? He going to be on the birth certificate?” Sean asked.
Madolyn glared at him.
Sean just raised his eyebrows. “It’s a valid question.”
“Why wouldn’t he be?” Billy asked.
“Why would she want a felon legally the kid’s father?”
Well, at least he didn’t know or even guess the real reason to not have Colin listed as her baby’s father. “He won’t be,” she said shortly.
“That’s good,” Billy said. “I knew he was the mole before I got the proof.”
“You didn’t tell me,” Sean said sharply.
“You weren’t there,” Billy said flatly. “I had to go through him to get my identity back. Turns out he erased me.”
“There’s always a backup,” Sean said. “In case someone figures you guys out. Captain Queenan and I had those passwords, didn’t give them to anyone, including our guys. Anyway, how’d you know?”
“He had the envelope from when we all gave our information to Costello.” Billy shrugged. “Getting the recordings was just the hard evidence.” He yawned, missing when he tried to cover his mouth with his left hand.
“Therapy’s tiring?” Madolyn asked.
“Yeah.” He closed his eyes briefly. “It’s pointless.”
“No, it’s not,” she said. “It’s going to help.”
“You’ve got to stop talking like that,” Sean added, which she knew wouldn’t be helpful even before Billy glowered at him.
“Why?” he snapped. “It’s my fucked-up brain and fucked-up body, and I think it’s pointless. You try getting shot in the head and then tell me it’s so fucking helpful!”
“Billy, it takes time,” Madolyn said. “It’s going to help. It just takes time. You need to be patient.”
“I’m tired,” he said shortly. “I want to sleep.” He tried to push himself to his feet, but he didn’t balance properly and started to fall.
Sean caught him by the shoulders before he could. “Don’t be stupid. Ask for help.”
“See, it’s fucking pointless.” He sounded resigned this time. It broke Madolyn’s heart a little. “I’m going to be some broken asshole forever.”
“Shut up and get in bed,” Sean said. He grabbed Billy’s biceps and hauled him toward the bed as Billy shuffled over, barely keeping pace.
Madolyn stood from the foot of the bed and watched Billy get in. “I’ll come back tomorrow after work,” she said. “I’ll bring food for you.” She’d have to ask the staff about any dietary restrictions first, though.
“Yeah, I’ll be here, too.” Sean stepped away. “Someone’s got to make sure you stop bitching.”
“You’re all heart, Dignam.”
“Shove it, Costigan.” Sean left the room.
Madolyn stepped to Billy’s side and squeezed his hand. “Listen to your therapists. They’re just trying to help.”
“I don’t like them.”
Before she thought about it, she kissed his cheek. “That’s okay. Cooperate. For me.”
“Only for you,” he agreed after a moment. “Bye, Madolyn.”
“Bye, Billy.” When she left, she closed the door softly behind her and wasn’t terribly surprised to see Sean waiting a few feet down the hall.
“Kid’s not Sullivan’s, is it?” he asked when she caught up to him.
She set her face. “I thought you might pick up on that. No.”
He studied her expression and asked, “Is it Costigan’s?”
“Why would you assume that?”
“You didn’t say no.”
She sighed. “If you tell him before I do…”
“But you should tell him soon,” he added. “Maybe it’ll give him a reason to try harder.”
“His ability to hope is impaired,” she said. “It’s why he believes all the help he’s getting is pointless.”
“I didn’t say he’d hope, I said he might try.” They reached the elevators, and he punched the call button. “He needs to get out of this place.”
“He has no one to stay with him.”
“He was injured in the line of duty. He’d get an aide covered for a while.”
“He needs to deal with worker’s comp,” she said, almost absently. “I’ll talk to him about that. He’ll need help.”
“That’s part of his occupational therapist’s job, isn’t it?”
The elevator came, and they stepped on. “I’d rather one of us helped him. We’re closer to him than new OTs and PTs are. And forget his psychologist, he’ll never let one in.”
“You’d know, wouldn’t you?” he said.
“I saw him for five minutes,” Madolyn answered testily, “and then he stormed out. I transferred him right away.”
The elevator arrived at the ground floor. “Lucky him. You bringing dinner for me, too?”
She sighed. “If you do it the next day.” The food here might be better than the hospital, but that didn’t mean much. She’d bet anything Billy would like takeout Chinese or a sub over what the place could provide.
“That’s fair,” he agreed.
Sharing dinner became a habit; the nights one of them couldn’t make it, they’d call the other so Billy still didn’t have to eat the facility’s food. Billy seemed to appreciate it, even if he needed some help guiding his arm so he could eat without missing his mouth; even though he used his right hand, his spatial perception and proprioception were off. Madolyn thought he might be getting better incrementally; he wouldn’t be perfect in just a few weeks, but she’d take anything. She thought Sean would, too.
Colin finally responded to the divorce paperwork through his own lawyer on a Wednesday. He agreed to the divorce, even that they’d had an irreversible breakdown of their marriage. Madolyn couldn’t be sure why, but she thought it was probably because he knew she’d cooperated with internal affairs. It might, though, be that he did love her and felt remorse for lying all that time. Eden told Madolyn that they would still have to sit down together and write up an agreement, then affidavits, but once they’d filed all the paperwork, they would get a hearing within thirty days. At that moment, it felt far too long to Madolyn, but it would have to do.
A week after Colin signed the joint petition for divorce, Madolyn waited in Billy’s room after Sean left. “I need to tell you something,” she began.
“Okay,” he said slowly. “What?”
“Colin isn’t my baby’s father.”
He blinked. “Who is?” he asked, a bit cautiously.
She would have been offended at the implication she’d slept with multiple other men outside Colin during her relationship with him if she didn’t understand the reason he asked. “You are.”
He just stared.
“I’m not expecting much, but I want you to know your son.”
“It’s a boy?”
She nodded. “He is.”
He swallowed; she watched his Adam’s apple bob. “You’re sure he’s mine.”
“I’m sure,” she said and left it at that.
“I—” He shook his head. “I didn’t expect that.”
“There’s no reason you should.” She touched his hand briefly. “Do you need to think about it?”
He nodded. “You’ll be here tomorrow?”
“Of course.” She kissed his cheek, something that had become a habit in the weeks since that first time.
“Madolyn,” he said as she reached the door.
She turned around. “Yes?”
“I—” He shook his head. “I have no right to ask.”
“You can ask me anything,” she said as she walked back to his bedside.
“I want to ask you on a date, but I can’t go anywhere.” He looked so frustrated by that fact, his face pinched and his eyes downcast. He had his hands balled into fists in his lap. It looked like his nails dug into his palms.
She smiled. “We can get a cab that can carry a wheelchair. We’ll go that way.”
He hadn’t expected that; she could see it on his face. “You’re saying yes?”
“I’m saying yes. I’ll figure out a place we can go.”
He looked downright shocked. “You’re sure you don’t mind taking a cripple on a date?”
The loathing in his voice made her heart hurt. “Billy.”
“It’s the truth,” he said bitterly.
“You make me sad when you say things like that. And no, I don’t mind, at all. I’m looking forward to it.” She ran a hand through his hair. “I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?”
“Okay,” he agreed. “It’ll be nice.”
They wound up going out to the park on Saturday afternoon. They’d gotten lucky; the temperature settled in the high seventies without too much humidity, and the sky was brilliantly blue with puffs of clouds on the horizon.
It was the first time Billy had been out for long since he was shot. Madolyn pushed his chair as they strolled through the park, since the rehab center had loaned him a manual chair, and avoiding bumps was a learning experience. Billy had to raise his voice to talk to her as they started down a path. “It smells green.”
“Better than the disinfectant?” she teased.
“Much better.” He tilted his head back, looking up at the sky. “And that’s better than seeing it through windows.”
She made a mental note to bring him some sort of plant, maybe a ficus, something green and alive. “What do you want to eat today?” she asked.
“Something I haven’t had in a while.”
Madolyn could almost hear Billy’s grin when he said, “Beer’s out, isn’t it?”
She laughed. “Very much so. What’s your next choice?”
So they stopped for milkshakes after following the path through the park. Madolyn knew an ice cream shop nearby that made much better shakes and malts than any chain. Billy got French vanilla, and Madolyn went for dark chocolate and raspberry. They sat outside the shop at a table by the sidewalk, drinking their shakes and holding hands.
After, they went back to the park. They stayed as long as they could, until the sky began to turn golden and purple and Billy admitted, “I’m tired, Madolyn.”
“Okay. Let me call a cab, and we’ll go back.” She reached a bench and set Billy’s brakes before sitting facing him.
“What time is it?”
She checked her watch. “Almost six.” That made nearly five hours out together.
“Think we missed Dignam?”
She couldn’t quite read his tone; she thought maybe he was readying himself for disappointment, but in which direction, she couldn’t be certain. “No, I told him to call before he was coming by and that it should be in the evening.”
“Oh.” He looked pleased. Good.
After she called the cab company, she texted Sean that they should be back in half an hour and that he could come then. When they got back, she caught an orderly and asked that he come into Billy’s room in case he needed help getting out of the wheelchair. Billy was sitting up, cross-legged, in bed when Sean got there; she sat beside him.
“You kids have fun?” Sean asked.
That made the second time in a day that Madolyn couldn’t read someone’s tone. “I did.” She smiled and glanced at Billy.
“Good. I brought sandwiches. Hope you like tuna, it’s the only thing they had that’s not loaded with salt.” Sean opened the bag in his hand.
“Tuna’s good,” Billy agreed.
“What do I get?” Madolyn asked.
“Can I tell him?” Billy asked.
“Tell him what?” she asked.
“That it’s yours? I already guessed,” Sean said. He handed Billy his sandwich and Madolyn hers. “You would’ve, too, if you’d seen her expression when I asked if she was listing Sullivan as the kid’s father.”
Billy did not look pleased by that. “You’ve known that long and didn’t tell me?”
Sean sat in one of the chairs. “She asked me not to.”
“I wanted to tell you myself,” Madolyn put in.
“You know it’s a boy?” Billy asked challengingly.
“Thank you,” Billy muttered.
Not the ideal end to the day, but at least everyone was on the same page.
The next Saturday, five days after she and Colin had done all the necessary paperwork for the divorce, Madolyn took Billy out again. This time, when they got back, Sean didn’t ask about their day, and when Madolyn mentioned, “We went to a movie,” he just said, “Good for you.”
She watched him after that. In the weeks before, he’d taken to touching Billy every so often, his arm or sometimes his hand, beyond when he helped him stand from the bed or chair or to get to and from the bathroom. Now, though, he didn’t, not even when he passed Billy his food. It seemed strange to her; they’d all gotten so comfortable, and, for some reason, he didn’t seem comfortable anymore.
Billy seemed to notice, too. But it took three more weeks of Saturday dates and all of them sitting at the small table together, since he’d gotten an orderly to bring a third chair before he said anything; in that time, Sean went from sounding like he didn’t much care about their dates when he asked to sounding almost surly.
“Why do you still come?” Billy asked abruptly one night.
Sean stilled. “Someone’s got to make sure you don’t get hurt.”
“There’s no trooper outside my door,” Billy pointed out. “There hasn’t been in more than a couple of months. You’ve gotten pissier than you were a month ago. Not as bad as you used to be, though.”
Sean set his jaw. “Would you excuse us?” he said to Madolyn.
She nodded and carefully got to her feet. “I’ll be in the hall.”
“You don’t have to go,” Billy said.
“I think it would be more comfortable for everyone if I wait out there.”
Billy didn’t say anything to that, just turned his head toward Sean. How much he could actually see right now, she didn’t know, but it got the point across. Madolyn left the room and leaned against the wall; when she heard raised voices soon after, she almost went back in, then remembered who was involved and decided to wait. It took three minutes or so more before Sean opened the door, by which time her feet ached.
“He wants to talk to you.”
“All right.” He held the door open for her, and she passed him into the room. The door closed behind her, and she didn’t know Sean was still in the room until he sat in the other chair and folded his arms over his chest.
“He told me why he’s being an asshole,” Billy said.
“Why’s that?” Madolyn asked.
He hesitated and looked at Sean.
“You want her to know, you can tell her. You know.”
Billy looked back to Madolyn. It took him a moment to say, “He says he was thinking about asking me out.”
She blinked. “… Oh.” That bore consideration. She hadn’t thought Sean leaned that way; then, she hadn’t really thought about which way he leaned. After a minute of silence, she said, “What would you have said?”
“I—” Billy seemed at a loss. “Does it matter?”
She shrugged. “I’m curious.”
He didn’t look at either of them when he muttered, “I probably would have said yes.”
“You what,” Sean said.
“You heard me.”
“This is… not how I pictured dinner going,” Madolyn murmured.
“What did you say?” Billy asked.
“Nothing important.” She glanced between them. “So are you going to be able to keep being friends?”
“We’re not friends,” Sean said immediately, which got Billy to laugh.
“How’d I know you’d say that?”
That made Sean smile. Just a little, and he hid it almost immediately, but Madolyn saw.
“You’ll try?” she asked.
“Yeah,” Billy said, “as long as he keeps coming.”
“I’ll come. Someone’s got to keep an eye on you, make sure you’ll be a suitable witness.”
“Don’t tell me too much about it,” Billy said. “The lawyer does that.”
“It’s not even my investigation, it’s Bonanno’s.” Sean reached for his sandwich. “Eat already.”
Madolyn picked up her own sandwich, even though he’d been looking at Sean. Food sounded like an excellent idea right now; she hadn’t had time to eat since lunch, and lately, she felt ravenous.
“I have ninety-three days left until the divorce is final,” she said after swallowing a bite. Someone had to break the quiet.
“You’re counting?” Sean asked, grinning.
“Of course I’m counting. I don’t want him in my life.” She took another bite and glanced at Billy, who didn’t say anything.
After another few minutes of quiet, broken only by eating and drinking, Sean said, “I’m up for a promotion. Lieutenant.”
“What does that mean for your career?” Madolyn asked.
“I get the undercover unit to myself.” He sounded pleased. “No more Ellerby interfering in it, none of his fuckers trying to investigate my guys.”
She nodded. With how he’d taken responsibility for Billy’s safety and visited him constantly right after the shooting, she thought he’d be good at it. But his ego didn’t need to be fed.
Billy stayed quiet through the meal. Whenever Madolyn glanced at him, he looked deep in thought, and she chose not to interrupt. Sean didn’t try to get Billy to talk, either, just glanced at Madolyn after a look at Billy, and she shrugged. She might be a psychiatrist, but that didn’t make her telepathic.
The next Tuesday, she had to cut her work hours in the morning so she could go to the first hearing for the divorce. Colin didn’t argue, and before the judge, they signed the divorce agreement. The judge entered the divorce order; in ninety days, it would be final. Madolyn did the math in her head. That should be before she had her baby, which would make it easier to not put Colin down as the baby’s father.
She watched Billy and Sean over the next couple of weeks. She wasn’t jealous, but she was curious as to how she’d missed how they apparently felt about each other—even if they’d both deny it, despite the fact that they might have dated—and had to wonder if knowing would change what she saw. Her job involved reading people, after all.
They started touching again after the first three or four days. It wasn’t as much as before, but Billy had a little more control now than when he’d first woken up, so he could purposely touch Sean’s arm when he wasn’t immediately nearby. The first time he did that, Sean glanced at Billy’s hand; the second time, Sean seemed to take it as the invitation Madolyn thought Billy meant it as and started touching Billy’s arm before he left and when he arrived. Now that she listened for it, she could hear what might be hints of flirting under their bickering, hints she didn’t know if either of them intended.
She listened, and she watched, and she thought for those weeks. Then she decided she’d had enough of that.
She brought salads and wraps that night, still low-sodium enough to not mess with Billy’s blood pressure but a change from the usual sandwiches. She waited until everyone had eaten to say, “We need to talk.”
“We talk every night,” Sean said warily.
She ignored him. “Billy, are you tired?”
“No, are you?” he asked pointedly.
“I’m sorry.” She was, too. He was an adult; he could tell them if he needed to rest. Now to proceed carefully. “I’ve been thinking for the past couple of weeks.”
The men exchanged a look. “And…” Sean said.
“I had this patient, before I got into working for the state. She had a love life that seemed a little complicated at the time, but I can see how it worked.” She took a sip of her water. “She had a girlfriend and a husband.”
They stared at her.
She didn’t let it deter her. “And I’ve been thinking, as well as watching and listening to you two, and I was wondering if—well, if you two want to try that. Her girlfriend and husband weren’t involved with each other,” she added quickly, “but they knew about each other and everyone was fine with it.”
“You’re shitting us,” Sean said flatly.
“I’m actually not.”
“So I’m clear,” Billy said slowly, “you want to still be my girlfriend, but you also think I should date him. Or whatever.”
“Yes,” she said calmly. “If you both want to, of course.”
“That is the most fucked-up thing I’ve heard in a long fucking time, Madolyn,” Sean growled.
“That my patient, her girlfriend, and her husband could be happy with their arrangement as it stood, or that I think we could do that?”
“Both,” he snapped.
Billy scrubbed a hand over the left side of his face. “Are you serious about this?”
“I wouldn’t have brought it up if I wasn’t.”
“What happens when Dignam gets jealous?”
“You can call me Sean, you know,” he said absently; he still had his narrowed gaze on Madolyn.
“Okay, what happens when Sean gets jealous?” Billy asked again.
“If that happens,” she said, “we’ll talk it through and make any decisions together.”
Sean threw his hands in the air. “You’re both fucking crazy.”
“It’s unconventional, I’ll grant you,” Madolyn said, “but I don’t think it’s so crazy.”
“It can’t work,” Billy said. “It can’t.”
“Why not?” she asked.
“Because…” He seemed at a loss. “Because it can’t, okay?”
“I think it can.” She looked at Sean. “Do you think you could actually think about it?”
He gave her a look she couldn’t quite decipher.
“Why would you want to do this?” Billy asked. “Why would you want to—to share me?”
She considered that, choosing her phrasing carefully before she began to speak. “I’ve watched you two. You make each other happy, and I want you happy, Billy. I know I do, too,” she added before he could protest. “But I want to make sure you are. And I can share without getting jealous.”
“What, you’ve done this before?” Sean asked skeptically.
“No, but I know myself,” she said, “and I’ve talked it over with my therapist.” At their looks, she sighed. “Most mental health professionals see therapists. We need to decompress.”
“You want me to think about it?” Sean said. “Okay. I don’t want to come second. I can live without him.”
“But I’m so charming,” Billy said with a crooked smile.
“Not as much as you think, princess.”
Billy shoved at his chest. Madolyn thought he probably meant to meet Sean’s shoulder instead, given his expression when he made contact, but he didn’t say anything.
Sean just raised his eyebrows. “You coming on to me?”
“You want me to?” Billy shot back.
“I’ll think about it.”
“Billy, will you think about it, too?” Madolyn asked.
“I want to talk to you about it,” he said.
“I’ll stay as long as you want.”
“And tomorrow,” he added, looking at Sean, “I want to talk to you.”
“Yeah, whatever.” Sean stood and gripped Billy’s shoulder. “I’ll see you tomorrow. Bye.”
She smiled. “Bye, Sean.”
Once the door closed, Billy said, “So you think we should do this.”
“Only if it would make both of you happy.” She studied him. Billy had an expressive face, and right now, he looked skeptical, his eyebrows raised slightly, his mouth a little pursed.
“What happens when you don’t want me anymore?” he asked after a second.
“That’s not going to happen,” Madolyn replied without having to think about it.
He scoffed. “A woman like you could have any man you want. Why would you want a cripple, even one who’s your kid’s father?”
Madolyn bristled, her shoulders going stiff. “Billy, that’s not fair to either of us.”
“How?” He seemed to honestly want to know.
“You’re devaluing yourself by thinking I wouldn’t want you, and you’re denigrating me by thinking I would only want to be with you because you’re my child’s father.” She leaned toward him a bit, as much as was comfortable, and reached to touch his arm. “I want to be with you because I love you, and I think you’re an amazingly strong person for everything you went through while you were undercover with Costello. I mean, putting up with Sean alone…”
He snorted and dropped his head back. “Yeah, that was hard.” He paused. “You love me?”
“Yeah. Yeah, I do.”
He lifted his head back toward her and smiled. “I love you, too.”
“And I want you to be as happy as you can possibly be,” she added. “If that means you’re also with Sean, then I want you to be with him.”
“I don’t know if I can do it,” he confessed.
“Because…” He paused, eyes darting toward the ceiling, then back to her. “Because I don’t understand people as much as I used to,” he said finally. “And it’s hard to be responsible for helping one person be happy. I’m bad at it. Two people seems impossible.”
She reached for him, catching his hand and squeezing it. “You’re very good at making me happy.”
“Madolyn, I’m not patient.”
“Neither is Sean.”
“And you think that’s a good combination?” he asked, disbelieving.
“You make it work as friends. I think you could make it work as more.”
“If we do this, you can’t ever call us boyfriends.”
She laughed. “I won’t, I promise.”
“And I don’t know how other people feel unless I ask, and he won’t tell me without arguing about it. I could fuck things up easily.”
“We’ll all figure out a way to work around it,” she said. “I’m a psychiatrist. I’m good at that.”
He glared halfheartedly. “You promised not to analyze me.”
“I’d be analyzing him, honey.”
“How would we explain it to the kid when he’s older, if it works for that long?”
She paused. She hadn’t considered that. “We’d have to talk about it, but depending on how you and Sean feel about it, he could look at both of you as his dads. He’d just have three parents.”
Billy shook his head. “That sounds like it could fuck him up.”
“Why?” she asked. “Plenty of children with stepparents turn out well. It depends on how the stepparent treats them. If Sean isn’t good with him, we’ll figure out something else.”
Billy nodded and didn’t say anything for a long minute; then, abruptly, “What happens when I get out of here?”
That seemed to come out of nowhere. “What do you mean?”
“I mean where I’m going to live, how I’ll live, that kind of thing. Nancy—” who was his occupational therapist, “—talked about how I’d get an aide for at home that MassHealth would pay for. But she didn’t tell me how I’d get an apartment or anything.”
“Oh.” She thought about it. “You could—if you want, we could get an apartment together.”
“You and me,” he said.
It took her a second to catch what he meant. “For now,” she answered. “It could be a three-bedroom if you two do want to do this, in case we decide he can move in at some point.”
“Nancy says I’ll be discharged soon.”
“We can talk to someone about that. Have you gotten anything from worker’s comp?”
He shook his head. “Not yet.”
That would make affording a three-bedroom a little tight, but she could do it, since he did have MassHealth to cover the aide and anything else he needed. “What has Ed—” his physical therapist, “—said about when you’re discharged?”
He shrugged, looking down. “That I’ll need a damn walker. A lot of pointless PT. And to do my exercises at home or else. He and Nancy both talked about a service dog.”
“I like dogs,” she said. “The neighbor’s Westie didn’t like Colin.”
Billy laughed bitterly. “When dogs don’t like someone, it’s a sign.” A smile pulled at his mouth. “They like me.”
“See, that’s a good sign.” She smiled back.
“Do you really think you want to live with me?” he blurted.
“I do. I’ve thought about it.”
“Are you lying?” he asked suspiciously. “We talked about you being a good liar.”
Madolyn tamped down her irritation at the question. “I’m not lying.”
“If you mean it, and you think you can deal with living with me, then I do.”
“Billy, I’ve seen you every day since you were shot. I know what it’s going to be like.”
“No,” he said, “you don’t.” He scrubbed at his face with both hands. “I’m not patient,” he said again. “I can’t even watch TV. I have to listen to figure out what’s going on. And you’ve seen how I miss what I’m reaching for a lot. There’s other stuff that I can’t even explain, but…”
“Billy,” she said before he could go on, “I love you. I’m also a doctor. I can’t be your therapist, but I can be your girlfriend, and I can always talk to you. I’m better at it than most people. I’ve thought this through. We can make it work, honey.”
He pressed the heels of his palms to his eyes, then looked at her. “What happens when the baby’s born?”
“You mean after I go back to work?”
“I can put him in daycare. Or I might be able to find a nanny.”
“You’re sure,” he said again.
“I am.” She reached over and gripped his forearm.
“I need you to be sure, because I’m not.” He rubbed his free hand against his leg, frowning just a little, his mouth downturned.
“Billy, I’m sure,” she said again, squeezing his arm gently.
“Then I want to live with you.”
She smiled. “I’ll start looking for an apartment.” She paused. “About you and Sean…”
He groaned. “I hoped you’d forgotten.”
“No, but the redirection was well done.”
“What do you think?”
“Madolyn…” He sighed. “I don’t know how it would work.”
“You’d go out with him sometimes,” she said. “Or not, you could stay in instead. It would all be the same with him as with me, except having a baby and living together.”
“No, it wouldn’t.” He grinned. “We’d argue all the time.”
She laughed. “You do bicker a lot. I’d be concerned if I didn’t know you.”
“I do like him,” he confessed.
“I’ve noticed. You flirt.”
“I don’t,” Billy protested.
Madolyn smiled. “You really do. So does he, but I don’t think he notices, either.”
“And you’re okay with that?” he asked disbelievingly.
“I want you to be happy,” she reiterated, “and he helps make you happy. It wouldn’t be cheating on me. I’d know about it, and it would be with my agreement—no, my encouragement.”
“I—I can’t promise anything yet,” he said at last. “I need to talk to him tomorrow.”
“I have a half day tomorrow. After my OB appointment, I’ll come here, and we can talk to Nancy and Ed and your doctor about living together.”
Billy nodded. “Sean will probably get here at six.”
“That sounds right,” she agreed. “I’ll be here around four. Make sure to tell Ed and Nancy.”
“Tell them you’ll be here around four and we need to talk to them,” he repeated.
“Right. Do you want me to bring you anything?”
He shrugged. “A new audiobook?”
“Where’s your iPod? I’ll put one on tonight.”
He didn’t get up from the chair, just pointed at the nightstand. “In the drawer.”
She stood and shifted around so she could reach and retrieve the silver Shuffle she’d bought him. “I’ll put one on tonight. Something nonfiction?”
He nodded. “Are you going?”
“I can stay,” she said. “Do you want me to?”
So she stayed. She moved her chair over beside Billy’s and slid her hand up his arm. “Can I kiss you?” she asked.
“You don’t have to ask,” Billy told her.
Madolyn cupped his cheek and shifted so she could kiss him, soft at first, before opening her mouth against his. He kissed her back, his hand dropping to her thigh. She tangled her fingers in his hair; he’d need a cut soon, if he wanted it the same as when she’d met him, but for now, she could twine strands around her fingers. Billy bit down gently on her lower lip, and she sighed against his mouth before pulling back.
“This is going to be easier when we have an apartment,” she said wryly.
“Yeah, but it’s good for now.” Billy slid his hand carefully up along where she used to have a waist. He managed to get his hand behind her neck without fumbling once and tugged her closer. “Come on.”
The next day, after Madolyn had an ultrasound and came away knowing everything with her baby was well, she arrived at the rehab facility to find Nancy already in Billy’s room and the door propped open. “Am I interrupting?” Madolyn asked.
“No, you’re not,” Nancy said. “We’re just working on reaching.”
Billy made a sour face. “It sucks.”
Madolyn said, “But you’ve been getting better.” She crossed the room to kiss him lightly, then sat in the one of the other plastic chairs.
“How’s the baby?” he asked.
“We’re both fine. He’s perfect, as far as we can tell.” She looked at Nancy. “We wanted to talk to you, Ed, and the doctor on duty.”
Nancy nodded. “Billy said as much. I’ll find out if they’re available, and we’ll go to a conference room.” She walked out the door, leaving it open.
“I brought your iPod back,” Madolyn said. She took it out of her purse and handed it to him, then looked around the room. A shining aluminum walker stood by his bed. “That’s new.”
“Ed gave it to me today.” Billy ran his thumb along the face of his iPod, not looking at the walker. “I don’t like it.”
“Does it help?”
He shrugged. “Better than the wheelchair, but I can’t go far.”
“That should get better.” She touched his hand.
“Sean called. He’ll be late.”
Madolyn smiled and rubbed her thumb along the back of his hand. “We’ll have to entertain ourselves.”
He looked at her, a smile blooming on his face. “I like the sound of that.”
“Nothing too strenuous, but I think we can have some fun.”
Before they could do more than exchange a light kiss, Ed came into the room and said, “Nancy and Dr. Miller are waiting in the conference room.” He grabbed Billy’s walker and set it before him. “It’s not far.”
Billy gave the walker a baleful look, but pocketed his iPod, grasped the arms and pulled himself to his feet. “Then let’s go before I throw this.”
Madolyn stood as well, walking out the door first. In the hall, she and Ed flanked Billy; she wouldn’t be able to catch him if he lost his grip, of course, but it made her feel better to be there. He made it to the conference room fine, though, even if he did look a bit worn when he collapsed into a chair. The chairs were black, padded office chairs, all along a dark wood oval table. Against the opposite wall, there stood a whiteboard with markers on the grooved wood at its base. Notepads and pens sat before two of the chairs, as well as in front of Nancy, who already had a seat.
“Hello,” a tall, smiling man in a dress shirt and tie said to Madolyn. “I don’t believe we’ve met. I’m Dr. Miller.” He offered his hand.
She shook it. “Madolyn Madden, Billy’s girlfriend. I’m a psychiatrist.”
“Have a seat, Dr. Madden.” He gestured to the one by Billy.
“Please, call me Madolyn.” She lowered herself into the chair.
“Madolyn, then.” Dr. Miller said. He took a seat, as did Ed. “Billy, we’ve been talking about discharging you for about a week. Ed and Nancy think you’re ready, and from a medical standpoint, you’re doing well.”
“You mean, even though there’s a hole in my brain?” Billy asked.
Madolyn raised her eyebrows at him.
“It’s more of a groove along the surface,” Dr. Miller said, unruffled, “and yes, even so. You’ll still need OT and PT daily, of course, and to see a neurologist at least once a month. I’d prefer every two weeks. Do you have living arrangements planned?”
Billy smiled, his eyes cutting toward Madolyn, and nodded. “We’re going to live together.”
“Do you have an accessible apartment?” Nancy asked.
“I’m looking for one. Ground floor, wide doorways, big enough rooms to have good walkways for him.”
“It needs to have hard floors for the walker to be easily used,” Ed said, “and grab bars in the bathroom.”
“I assume you work, Madolyn?” Dr. Miller asked.
“Billy, you’d need an aide while she’s at work,” he said.
“I know,” Billy answered. “We talked about that. MassHealth would cover it, right?”
“It should. We’ll get your paperwork started before you’re discharged, just to be sure.” Dr. Miller folded his hands on top of the table. “It’s going to be a big adjustment.”
“It’s going to be nice to have a home,” Billy muttered. To Madolyn, he added, “I need to sell my mother’s house.”
She blinked. “I didn’t know about that.” The money from that would certainly help them out.
“Yeah. I need a realtor.”
“We’ll talk about it later,” she said, “and I can find a good one.”
Nancy cut in with, “We’ll have to go over everything to work on at home outside therapy and how you’ll help yourself adjust, Billy.”
Ed nodded. “I’ll give you exercises to do at home, too. That’s your job now.”
Billy grimaced. “I like my old job better.”
Madolyn laughed. “That’s saying something.”
Dr. Miller said, “I’m going to also order an fMRI before you’re discharged so we have a comparison to when you first woke up and for future reference. We won’t discharge you until you have an apartment ready, which I assume will take some time.”
“Probably at least two weeks,” Madolyn agreed. Her current apartment had a month-to-month rental agreement, not a lease, since she hadn’t planned to stay there long-term. It would make this move less costly.
“If you can make it a week, that would be better,” Billy said.
“I’ll do my best,” she promised.
“Let’s put together a plan to get you ready to be discharged and what you’ll do once you are,” Dr. Miller said. “Madolyn, can you stay for that?”
“I’m here for the rest of the afternoon,” she said, nodding.
Nancy stood, picking up a marker from the whiteboard’s base, and they got started.
When they finally finished, it was just past five, and Nancy promised to get a copy of the plan to both Billy and Madolyn. Madolyn stood carefully, already plotting to borrow Billy’s bathroom, and watched as Billy pulled himself to his feet. They walked slowly back to Billy’s room, Ed escorting him. His arms looked like they strained to hold him up. When they got there, he dropped heavily onto the bed. Madolyn assumed the exertion of walking down the hall had done him in.
“You did well,” Ed said. “I’ll leave you alone the rest of the day. You’ll see Joe tomorrow morning.”
“Great,” Billy said. “Something to look forward to.”
Ed laughed. “He’s going to start some new arm exercises, and you get leg ones tomorrow night.”
“Fantastic.” Billy picked up the control to raise the head of the bed as high as it went, then used his arms to help himself twist so he could lean back against it. He lifted a hand to wave at Ed. “Bye now.”
“I’ll see you Monday at eight.”
Once Ed left, Madolyn said, “I’ll bring you pictures of all the apartments I look at.”
“And a realtor who knows what they’re doing?”
“I’ll make some calls tomorrow to see who works Sundays. Be right back.”
After she came back from the bathroom, her hands still damp, Billy said, “If the house would work for us, I’d want to live there.”
She hesitated. “There’s your bonus. We could renovate…”
“It’s not worth it. Doorways are too narrow for the walker.” He glared at the device in question. “It would be a big thing to widen them.”
“Would you mind,” she said carefully as she sat in the chair by the head of his bed, “paying for a nanny so the baby won’t be in daycare?”
He stared at her. “Madolyn, he’s my kid. Paying for him is part of my job as his father.”
She felt her face flush. “I didn’t want to assume.” After a moment of quiet, she added, “We need a name for him.”
“Can we what?”
He hesitated, then, “Can we name him after my dad?”
“What was his name?” she asked.
“William. I’m William Costigan, Junior. The kid would be a third.”
“No, he’d be William Costigan-Madden. Or William Madden-Costigan.”
He stared at her, then laughed. “That’s a fucking long name.”
She smiled. “I like Costigan-Madden more.”
“Five-syllable last name!”
She laughed. “I know. Or one of our last names could be his middle name.”
“No, I like Costigan-Madden.” He grinned. “Poor kid.”
“Then he needs a middle name.”
Billy coughed. “What about my mother’s last name?”
“What was it?”
“I’ll think about it,” Madolyn said. “We can call him Will.”
He smiled slowly. “So William Costigan-Madden?”
“William Costigan-Madden,” she agreed. “Almost a third, not quite. If we don’t use Cody, what about Evan?”
He looked like he considered it. “Yeah, maybe.”
She rested a hand on her stomach. “Oh, he’s kicking.” She grabbed Billy’s hand and pressed it where the baby—where Will—was beating against her uterus.
Billy’s eyes widened. “That’s him?”
“That’s him,” she confirmed.
“He could play soccer.”
She laughed. “If he keeps it up once he’s born, we can sign him up.”
They kept away from the subject of Billy and Sean’s potential relationship for the next hour, until Sean showed up; mostly, they talked about the baby and the possibility of getting a three-bedroom apartment. Madolyn could use the third bedroom as an office for as long as it stayed free, and between the sale of Billy’s mother’s house and his bonus from his undercover work, not to mention worker’s comp, they could afford it.
Sean came bearing pizza; Billy had been cleared to have higher-sodium foods two days before, and apparently, they were sort of celebrating that. With double pepperoni. Madolyn’s stomach growled at the smell. “Why are you in bed, lazy motherfucker?” Sean asked; to Madolyn’s ear, he meant it affectionately.
“I’d like to see you do the shit I did today and not need to be in bed if you were shot in the brain,” Billy shot back.
“We mapped Billy’s discharge,” Madolyn put in.
“Yeah? When’s that?” Sean plated slices of pizza and passed paper plate to Billy, another to Madolyn. He pulled a piece of pepperoni overhanging another slice and popped it in his mouth. His night to bring food, his night to eat what he wanted, she figured.
“When I get us an apartment,” she said.
“You’re living together?” he asked neutrally.
“Yeah,” Billy said. He glanced at Madolyn. “Maybe a three-bedroom.”
Sean’s eyebrows rose. “You sound fucking confident.”
“It depends on your conversation,” Madolyn said mildly.
“Yeah, I got that.” He pointed at Billy’s walker. “That’s new.”
So the conversation turned to Billy’s progress, the discharge plan, and everything except what Sean and Billy needed to discuss. After they’d finished the pizza, Madolyn handed Billy a napkin and rose.
“I’ll be out in the lounge.” She picked up her water bottle and her purse. “Sean, you’ll get me when you’re done?”
“Yeah,” he said, already sounding wary.
“Okay then. Have a good talk.” With that, she left them to it.
She read the Dr. Sears baby book she’d been carrying while she waited. Quite deliberately, she didn’t check her watch, phone, or the clock; that way, she reasoned, it wouldn’t seem as long. Even without looking, though, it seemed like ages. That, and she read more than fifty pages while she waited. She guessed that was because of Billy’s need to confirm everything more than once.
Finally, Sean came into the lounge and said, “Madolyn.”
She looked up. “Ready for me?”
“Yeah.” He looked more at ease than when she’d left. Good.
“What did you decide?” she asked when they walked back to the room together.
Sean didn’t answer, just held the door open for her once they reached it.
She sank into the chair by Billy and asked again, “What did you decide?”
The smile on Billy’s face told her the answer even before he said, “You should look for a three-bedroom.”
She smiled at both of them. “I’m happy for you. Should it be a big third room?”
“It doesn’t need to be huge,” Sean said. “I don’t have a lot of shit, and his crap will be in your room, right?”
“So room for my bed, dresser, and nightstand, plus his walker, that should be good.”
She nodded. “I’ll try for a little bigger than that.”
He shrugged. “If you want.”
She found three possible apartments the next day, but she had a preference before she even brought photos of the places to Billy. All three were ground floor, but her choice had wider doors and bigger bedrooms. The bathrooms already had grab bars installed, and the kitchen had a side-by side fridge and freezer that would be easy for Billy to access. It also had a small laundry room and new floors and counters. The complex had a pool, hot tub, and nice-sized gym. Best of all the outdoor amenities, the parking was gated and covered. All it took was Billy’s agreement, and she called to ask them to hold the apartment, promising to pay the application fee the next day. She also found two realtors who worked on Sundays to talk to about the house.
She arranged a cab the next day, and she and Billy went to take care of the rental application. They sat on a bench outside the office after, and she called the realtors to see if they could talk about the house that day. One had free time, so they went to the office to start listing it.
Their application was approved on Thursday; she got the call while at work and returned it during a break between patients. After she finished for the day, she drove to the complex to pay the deposit, then to see Billy.
“We got the apartment,” she said as soon as she walked into his room.
He and Sean looked over at her, and he grinned. “You dropped off the check?”
“I just came from doing that.” She smiled back. “Hi, Sean,” she added.
“Congratulations. Do I have to help you move?” Sean asked. “Because I think I hurt my back…”
Billy rolled his eyes.
“No, I’m going to find local movers. I don’t want to pack.” To Billy, she added, “Would it be okay if I arrange movers to take everything from your mom’s to a storage place? You can go through it later. That way, the walls can be repainted, someone can steam-clean the carpets…”
“That—yeah, do that,” he agreed. “Just—Bonanno took all the evidence, right?” he asked Sean.
“Far as I know. You should check with him.”
“I’ll call him,” Billy said. “Don’t move anything until then. And make sure my stuff goes to the apartment.”
Madolyn nodded. “I can’t get it arranged for this weekend, probably, but I’ll have the movers take care of everything soon.” She looked at Sean. “If you can, I could use help unpacking.”
“It means I get out of here faster,” Billy added.
Sean grimaced. “Yeah, I could.”
Madolyn smiled. “I already have the keys, if you want to see it. We could all go on Saturday.”
“I’ll drive,” Sean said.
A week and a half later, once they had the new apartment set up and clean, Madolyn got to the rehab facility just before five-thirty. Billy was in his room, listening to Nancy talk about, apparently, what he should do to help himself at home. He interrupted her to say, “Madolyn, save me.”
Madolyn laughed. “Soon, honey.” She took a plastic garbage bag from her purse and shook it out.
While Nancy kept talking to Billy, Madolyn emptied the dresser, then the few things in the nightstand. By the time Sean arrived, Nancy had left, and Madolyn had the room packed up in a single thirteen-gallon bag, other than the ficus.
“You’re coming in my car,” Sean said to Billy.
“Why?” Billy asked.
“Because I can load your wheelchair and walker easier than she can, that’s why.”
Madolyn interjected, “I’m looking into getting a hitch setup to carry the chair for when we go out for long. The dealer showed me, it’s easy. But for now, I can’t do it because of the baby.”
Billy nodded. “Okay. Can we go?”
Sean snorted. “There’s paperwork, genius.”
“Already signed a bunch of shit. Let’s go.”
Sean set the walker by Billy’s chair; Madolyn had moved it while she packed. “Come on.”
Billy did have to sign a couple more papers at the front desk, but then he got to walk himself out of the building and to Sean’s car, which Sean had pulled up to the circular drive in front of the building. He’d already loaded the wheelchair into his trunk and the bag of Billy’s things into his back seat.
They got to the apartment not long after, and once Billy had made sure he could walk between the furniture in the rooms that had any, he dropped to the couch, leaning into a corner. “I’m fucking tired,” he muttered.
“So am I,” Madolyn said. “Your son is exhausting.”
Billy looked up at her. “And you have ten weeks to go, right?”
“Don’t remind me,” she muttered.
“When does the divorce go through?” Sean asked.
“Seven weeks and six days,” she said.
He laughed. “You’re still fucking counting?”
“He’s in jail, awaiting trial on multiple felony counts, including accessory to murder and murder,” she said. “Yes, I’m counting.”
Billy said, “Speaking of him, when’s the trial?”
Sean shrugged. “Talk to the DA about that.” He dropped onto the couch beside Billy, resting his hand on Billy’s knee.
“I’ll do that.” Billy managed to sling his left arm around Sean’s shoulders, only knocking his hand into Sean’s neck in the process. That was better than hitting Sean’s face, and it didn’t look terribly hard. “What’s for dinner?”
“I hope you like steak,” Madolyn said. “Sean’s cooking.”
“We’re still trading nights,” Sean said to Billy.
Billy looked at him. “You’ll be here every night?”
“For supper, if I can. That okay with you?”
Billy smiled, just a little. “Yeah, it is.”
The next day, Billy’s aide arrived at eight, shortly before Madolyn had to leave for work. Kira was a short, broad woman with an easy smile and strong handshake. Madolyn liked her immediately. Billy appraised her with a long look, then nodded to Madolyn; she took that as acceptance and left the two of them to get to know each other while she finished getting ready.
Sean kept coming for supper. Friday evenings, when he didn’t have to work late, he took Billy out for dinner or to a movie. After Madolyn and Billy picked out nursery furniture and had it delivered, Sean put it together for them and, after Madolyn secured permission from the office, painted the walls a soft green. When Madolyn and Billy interviewed nannies, they gave Sean the information of the ones they liked, and he ran background checks for them. Madolyn was pretty sure that was covert, but she didn’t mind; it confirmed that the one they liked best, Jill, didn’t have any criminal record, not even unpaid parking tickets, and they arranged for her to start as soon as Will was born.
The day Madolyn’s divorce was finalized, the three of them went out for dinner and toasted the fact that she had absolutely no legal connection to a murderer any longer, outside getting her half of their assets. Granted, Madolyn and Billy toasted with sparkling water, but it still counted.
Will was born on a Tuesday, three days before his due date, by C-section. It wasn’t what Madolyn would have preferred, but there were signs of distress while she was in labor, and this meant she had a healthy baby, instead of one with any problems post-birth. The scar probably wouldn’t even be that visible. Billy obviously couldn’t be in the room, so he didn’t get to meet Will until she and the baby were moved to the maternity ward.
He sank into the chair beside the bed and carefully reached to touch Will’s cheek. “He’s beautiful.”
“Ten fingers, ten toes, and your nose.” Madolyn felt teary, blinking hard to keep them from falling, as she held her son. “We’ll fill out his birth certificate soon.”
“I called Jill. She said to let her know the night before you come home, and she’ll be there in the morning.”
“Good,” Madolyn murmured. She could use the help. “Did you call Sean?”
Billy nodded. “He said he’ll come after work. He’s my ride home.” He paused. “I can’t stay for the night.”
“Is he staying with you?” she asked.
“He can sleep on my side, I don’t mind. If you do anything, though, tell him he has to change and wash the sheets.”
Billy grinned. “It’ll be worth it.”
“I’m glad you think so.”
Will stirred, frowning, just before he started to fuss, and Madolyn turned to the business of taking care of her son.
Sean got to the hospital shortly after six. The first thing he said was to Billy: “You missed your therapy.”
“Fuck off,” Billy said. “One day is fine. This is more important.”
“Go tomorrow.” Sean looked down into the plastic bassinet. “He’s a boy?”
“That’s why he’s in a blue blanket,” Madolyn said.
Sean nodded. “He’s tiny.”
“He’s loud for being tiny,” Billy answered.
“He’s not that little,” Madolyn put in. At eight pounds, he really wasn’t.
“Can I hold him?” Sean asked.
“Be careful,” Madolyn said, “especially with his head.”
“I know.” He lifted Will with capable hands, cradling him against his chest. “He worth all the shit from pregnancy?” he asked Madolyn.
“Much more than.”
He looked like he fit with a baby in his arms, and she thought about how Billy would look when he had someone hand him Will, the way they’d be right together. She smiled at the thought, and she realized just how gone she was on both of them.
Three days later, after Jill and Kira had left for the day and Sean had made dinner, Billy said, “When are you moving in?”
Sean looked at him. “You serious?”
Billy looked at Madolyn. “I should have asked you.”
“As long as you can deal with a crying baby, I’d like you to,” she said to Sean.
Sean stabbed a piece of chicken with his fork and didn’t answer until he’d swallowed it. “My lease is up at the end of the month.”
“So don’t renew it,” Billy said.
“That’s where I was going with that. I’ll pack this weekend.”
Madolyn smiled. “We’ll move my desk to my room.”
“Your room?” Billy repeated.
“You’ll have two rooms,” she said. “We need to differentiate somehow.” To Sean, she added, “We’ll add you to the lease.”
They took care of that the next day; Madolyn moved as slowly as Billy as they walked there together. Sean carried Will for them. They did have to renegotiate their lease to a year from the end of the month so they could add him, but since Madolyn had no intentions of moving for a good long time, that didn’t matter a bit to her.
On Sean’s first night living with them, Will woke at midnight, two, and five. At five, Will quieted from crying to fussing before Madolyn made it to the nursery. She found Sean holding him. He seemed to be half-asleep, but he was rocking Will in his arms. He looked relieved at the sight of her.
“I don’t do diapers, and I can’t feed him.”
“Thank you,” she murmured. She took Will from him and sank to the rocker. “You didn’t have to get up.”
“He woke me up, figured I’d get him quiet before the neighbors got pissy.” He rubbed his eyes. “I’m going back to bed.”
Colin finally went on trial when Will was nearly six months old. He’d never made bail; the only people who could have afforded it were either dead or Gwen, who apparently wasn’t willing. Sean and Billy both relished the fact that Colin had been in protective custody ever since he was arrested. Even though Madolyn wasn’t tied to Colin any longer, she’d loved him once, so she followed the trial. Besides, the man she loved now was intimately tied to the case, as was her close friend. Her heart ached at how foolish she’d been to believe he could be so good. The evidence just piled up against him, as far as she could tell.
The DA notified her she would be a witness three days into the trial, which she didn’t expect. She’d thought spousal privilege would apply, but apparently, she could discuss some aspects of their marriage, some specific things she’d heard. She didn’t actually testify until a month into the trial, though the DA had her in to prepare for it twice before that. Billy had testimony preparation five times and Sean only once, probably because he’d testified before. Billy testified the week after her over the course of a day and a half, and Sean took the next two days on the stand.
It was such a strange experience for Madolyn. She’d loved Colin, and a part of her still did, but she was helping to put him in prison for the rest of his life. Her boyfriend, the man she loved now, had even more to do with putting him away, and his SO might have sealed the case. She understood it, but at the same time, she couldn’t comprehend it.
The trial dragged, which the DA had predicted. Madolyn tracked it in the papers and watched the news every night for any details on it.
Will took his first steps when he was eight months and twenty-five days old. Only four, toddling unsteadily from the couch toward the chair where Billy sat, before he plopped to his bottom, but he had definitely walked. They celebrated with cake for the adults and applesauce for the baby.
He walked two feet from Madolyn to Sean, both sitting on the floor, hours after the jury had been sent to deliberate. Madolyn couldn’t cancel her patients immediately when the verdict was about to be delivered, and everyone doubted Kira could get Billy to the courthouse between when the district attorney knew the jury was coming back and when it would be read, but Sean planned to be there. He promised to call them both as soon as he could after the verdict came in. They decided to either celebrate with champagne—Billy could now have half a glass, and Madolyn would limit herself to one—and dinner delivered from a good restaurant, or console themselves with wine and takeout Chinese.
They had champagne the next night. Colin had multiple sentences that added up to well over a hundred years, plus two life sentences.
The next Saturday, Madolyn had a call on her cell phone from a number she didn’t recognize. She answered anyway with, “Hello?”
The line sounded statical, but she still recognized Colin’s voice when he said, “Hi, Madolyn.”
Her voice cooled. “What do you want?”
“I’m sorry, Madolyn. I shouldn’t have fucked up your life.”
“Are you hoping I’ll talk to the parole board in ten years?” she asked. “Tell them you’re remorseful? I won’t. You’re a liar, Colin.”
“Hang up,” Billy said. He was sitting on the couch, folding laundry with Will’s ‘help’.
“I really am sorry,” Colin said. “Madolyn, how’s the baby?”
“Don’t you ask about my baby,” she said coldly, reaching to rest her hand on her son’s small back.
“He’s my son!”
“No,” she said flatly. “He’s not.”
“What do you mean, he’s not?” Colin demanded. “I’m suing to be recognized as his father.”
She laughed bitterly. “You’ll lose when they do a DNA test. You’ll have paid for it for no reason.”
Billy smirked a bit and reached behind Will to touch her hand.
“Madolyn,” Colin said coldly, “we were engaged. He’s my son.”
“Just because we were engaged doesn’t mean he’s yours.”
“You cheated on me?”
“I told you I thought I was the liar,” she reminded him. “I know he’s not yours.”
“You can’t know it just because you cheated,” he snapped.
She grinned, no real amusement in it. “You were having certain problems when he was conceived.”
Sean must have heard her; she heard sudden laughter from the kitchen. Billy shook his head.
“Oh fuck you,” he snarled. “You’re using that against me? Fuck you, Madolyn.”
“Don’t call me again, Colin.” She ended the call and tossed her phone to skitter across the coffee table, bending to kiss Will’s head.
“So why is Sean laughing?” Billy asked.
“Let’s just say that Colin could have used Viagra during the time Will was conceived.”
Billy burst into laughter. That got Will giggling along with his father, bouncing in place where he sat on the couch, surrounded by pillows to keep him from falling. Billy got himself under control and leaned forward to kiss Will’s forehead. Madolyn watched, ready to help if needed, but Billy got himself back upright and went right back to folding laundry. She caught the small smile on his face all the same.
That night, after Will was asleep, they put on a movie. Billy sat in the middle of the couch; Madolyn curled into his left side, and, on his right, Sean had his arm around Billy’s shoulders. Billy rubbed his hand up and down Madolyn’s leg as they talked, their conversation meandering from Colin’s possible lawsuit to Will’s upcoming round of vaccines to what they’d do to use Madolyn and Sean’s vacation time that year.
“I want to go somewhere warm for Christmas,” Billy said.
“California?” Madolyn suggested. “San Diego is supposed to be nice.”
“There’s always Hawaii,” Sean said.
“That’s a long flight for a baby,” she said dubiously.
“The second half would be as long as the flight to California,” he pointed out. “There’d be a stopover. We could stay a night in Los Angeles or something, continue to Hawaii the next day.”
“I like Hawaii,” Billy said.
“North Shore kid, of course you’ve been,” Sean said. “Not all of us have had the fucking luxury.”
“So we’re going to Hawaii,” Madolyn said before Billy could retort something. “The sun will be nice.”
“And I get to see you in a bikini,” Billy said with a leer.
She laughed. “That, too.”
“You think you can walk on sand?” Sean asked. He genuinely meant it, Madolyn thought; he wasn’t teasing.
Billy looked over at him. He seemed to know, this time, how Sean meant it; he said, “I might need help. They have these lounges on the beach. I’ll rent one, stay there with Will. But,” he added, “I can use the pool, if we stay at a resort that has one.”
“A fucking resort,” Sean said, shaking his head. “We’ll have to do the budget.”
“A hotel would probably have one, too,” Billy said. “Even a motel might.”
“I want at least a hotel,” Madolyn said. “It’s our vacation. We should splurge.”
“I’ll put in for time off tomorrow,” Sean said. “Sixteenth to thirtieth, we’ll be here for New Year’s Eve?”
Madolyn nodded. “I’ll put in, too.”
That winter, they left the chill and dreariness of Boston in December. Will cried on takeoff and landing for both legs; they’d decided not to spend a night in California and take it away from their time in Hawaii. Christmas saw them on a Maui beach, Will slathered in sunscreen and wearing a Red Sox hat that matched his dad’s, the two of them on a lounge on the beach while Madolyn and Sean waded in the warm waters of the Pacific.
A single strand of silk does not make a thread, nor a single tree a forest.