Macie rang the bell at 8880 Hoyt Street. No one answered. She
turned to leave, but saw
the sign beside the door frame:
Come in please
She opened the storm door
and entered a comfortable waiting area defined by several worn, overstuffed chairs. Obviously, it was a converted living room.
Another small, handwritten sign read, “We’ll be with you shortly. Please be seated.”
Macie clutched the folded
clinic pamphlet and paced the gray-carpeted floor. Beyond the waiting area she could see a room with the same gray carpet
and blue walls, but framed prints hung in groupings and fruit in a glass bowl topped a coffee table.
She shook her head at the
shelves of books and stacks of CD’s that filled the other room.
“I don’t know if I’d be that trusting.”
“That trusting for
what?” Macie turned to see a middle-aged man, dressed in olive work clothes.
“Oh. I’m sorry.
I just…I’m Macie Stone. Is Mary Conley here?”
“I’m Pete Conley.
Mary should be here in a minute. I believe she’s just finishing up with a client. Take a seat. I work half days on Saturdays
at the Rainbow Bread Plant. Just got home.”
“Pete? Is someone
A woman came behind her
husband, patting his waist as she passed him, entering the room. Her gray-peppered hair fell softly around her face. In fact,
everything about her was soft. Her voice reminded Macie of a stream, or a breeze at the lake or. . .
“I’m Mary Conley.
. . May I help you?” She extended her hand to Macie.
“Yes. My name is
Macie Stone. I was just saying, I think you’re very trusting, to leave your valuables within sight of strangers.”
“The bell is quite
loud. It alerts us to clients and unexpected visitors. We tell everyone else to come in the back entrance, through the garage, into the family room. It makes it easier to honor the confidentiality issue.” Mary stopped, and the silence was awkward.
“I’m here about
one of your. . . clients. Bethany Crowder? She asked me to talk to you.
I thought it was too … well … too sensitive to discuss on the phone.”
I can’t discuss any of our clients without their permission. I can’t even confirm whether or not she is a client.”
“I understand. So,
I’ll just give you her message and you can decide how you’d like to respond. I’m a nurse at the Sorkin Women’s Clinic. Bethany’s mother
brought her in last Thursday for an abortion. We did the procedure yesterday. Bethany was extremely
upset, and asked me to tell you that the ‘Prodigal’ couldn’t go home and she was sorry. She asked that you
pray for her. I assume you understand what that means?”
Mary’s face blanched.
“I insisted she tell her parents immediately. This is my fault.”
She sat down in a chair, laid her head back and closed her eyes. “How was she? Physically, I mean.”
“Weak. And very distraught.
They gave her a sedative beforehand.”
“Why are you delivering
this message? I imagine this is one of the last places you’d want to come.”
“I just thought I
owed it to her, that’s all. If you’d seen her mother. . . ”
she said. If I knew her mother, I wouldn’t ask her to tell, but therewasn’t any other choice.”
“And you understand
the part about the Prodigal?” Macie hoped Mary Conley would elaborate, but the other woman just nodded. After a minute
of silence, it was clear Mary was through discussing the child. Macie turned to go, and Mary rose, following her to the door.
Macie put her hand on the knob, then stopped. “Mrs. Conley?”
“The reason I came
to tell you? I’m pregnant. I guess I just thought about someone forcing me to have it done. The abortion, I mean. And
Bethany was so alone. She needed someone, and there wasn’t anyone there for her.”
Mary pulled her lips taut
and her eyes reddened. “Not even me.”
Macie opened the door,
and turned back as Mary laid a cool hand on hers.
“Macie, the Prodigal
story? The Bible. Luke fifteen. Look it up.”
Macie nodded, and stepped out into the warm Saturday sun. Across the street, a little boy jumped the curb on his skateboard,
flipped it up into the air and retrieved it. His friends whooped their approval.
“It isn’t fair
how life just goes on, no matter what,” Macie said as she started down the walk to her car.
Macie stopped at the grocery
store on her way back from the Conley house. She had to laugh. Paranoid, staring in the rear-view mirror at every red car
that pulled up behind her at stoplights, she’d found herself in the grasp of a craving. Fresh strawberries weren’t
cheap, but the fruit in the refrigerated bin was huge, like plums. She grabbed a pint, then went back for another one: a gift
for her recuperating employer. By the time she parked at the doctor’s house her basket was half emptied.
Macie tapped at the screen door.
“Come on in, hon.”
Maxine sat in Sorkin’s old chair, her feet up on the leather ottoman.
“Abraham isn’t here right now.”
“Abraham, huh? A
lot has changed in the last couple of weeks, and I don’t mean his short days at the office.”
engaged, if that’s what you’re thinking, but the situation has possibilities. Right now, Abraham thinks of me as his housekeeper.”
Macie grinned and gave
her an exaggerated nod. “Of course he does. Well, I just dropped by
to bring him these.” She handed the fruit to her co-worker. “You can have some, too, if you want.”
Maxine put the strawberries
in the kitchen and came back into Abraham’s living room.
“I don’t need anything. My neighbor lady is fattening me up with homemade
Danish. Two, three days a week she comes over for coffee before I leave for work. I have to catch the bus by eight, so we
don’t have much time. I wish she’d offer to take me in that fancy red car of hers.”
A chill ran through Macie’s
body. “What did you say?”
“I said my neighbor
brings me fresh Danish.”
“No, I mean about
“Oh, her husband
bought her this really sweet red convertible. She can hardly wait for
summer. I guess she drives with the windows open a lot, just pretending.”
“Your neighbor wouldn’t
have blond hair, would she?”
“Not natural. But
she dyes it blond. She says it takes two boxes, it’s so long.” Maxine nursed a chipped nail, seemingly oblivious to Macie’s interest.
“Do the two of you
ever discuss what’s going on at the clinic?”
“If you mean do I
tell her about our patients, I’m real offended because I. . . ”
“No. I just mean,
if we’re closed, or if the doctor plans to work on a weekend. That
kind of thing.”
“Well, I guess if
it comes up. Like last week, she asked me to go shopping, but I told
her Dr. Sorkin was working at the clinic and I was going to go down later and help. . . Macie, you don’t think…”
“Try to remember,
Maxine. Did you tell her Dr. Sorkin would be at the clinic by himself
the day of the protests?”
That was a Sunday. If I remember, she asked if Jews went to church on Sunday
and I told her they had synagogue on Saturdays, but he didn’t go. He liked to do odds and ends at the clinic on Sunday when he wouldn’t be disturbed.”
“Did you talk to
her the day I took Bethany Crowder back to school?”
The woman closed her eyes.
“Just a minute. No. . . no, I didn’t talk to her that day. But there was a call for you at the clinic and I told
them you’d be right back, you’d run to the high school for a minute. I guess that could have been her.”
As realization set in, Maxine’s face turned white. Good lord, I set it up, didn’t I? I got Abraham beaten up.”
your fault. Maxine, What’s your neighbor’s name?”
Her husband’s name is Ron. He works for the bread company, dispatching
“Be sure your sins
will find you out.” The old adage ran through Macie’s head.
“Maxine, you stay
here, and don’t worry. You’ve been a big help.” Macie ran to her car, got in and started the engine. Bread company, like Pete Conley. Mary Conley must know this. . . Paige woman. It made sense…crisis pregnancy counselor, pro-life radical.
She was sure of it. Butwhat should she do now? She picked up the cell
phone and dialed Phil’s office.
Re/Max. How may I help you?”
“Cath, this is Mace.
Can I speak to Phil?”
Mace. He’s out at a property with a client. I can give him a message for you when he gets back.”
“Darn. Okay, listen.
Tell him I have a name to go with the red car. It’s Paige McKenzie. Can you remember that?”
the secretary,” but I’m writing it down. Was that last name McKenzie?”
“Yeah. Thanks, Cath.
Macie steadied her voice. Don’t work too hard.”
She pressed “end”
and put the phone on the seat beside her. No way was she going after this Paige on her own. It was hard to imagine Mary Conley
as a fanatic clinic bomber. But she was connected somehow. Macie reached for the ignition, and pain exploded in her abdomen.
She sat back panting, the dashboard spun, its instruments blurred.
Breathe naturally. Slow down. You’re going to pass out.
The spasm subsided, then
“Two. . . three.
. . four. . .” She counted to eight as she drew in a breath and then, again let it out. God help me. I’m losing
my baby. Macie squeeezed her eyes shut against the wave of pain. Bethany Crowder’s face floated above her and Macie
grunted at the stabbing in her abdomen and the agony she remembered in the girl’s eyes. Seven weeks. Bethany’s baby was smaller than mine, but it had a face. It was a baby. God, don’t let me lose my baby.
Finally both the image and the paroxysm faded.