Macie parked along the
street and sat, watching the passersby. Her nerve had left her. Phil
would kill her if he knew she’d done this. But Mary Conley had been so open, so accommodating.
“I’m glad you’ve come back, dear.” Mary
was still in her robe when she answered the back door.
“I need to ask you something.” Macie slipped past the woman, and stood looking at the family pictures that lined the opposite wall.
“My daughters and their families. I have twelve grandchildren.
At my age. Can you believe it?”
Like hillbillies. Like rabbits. Macie turned to face Mary Conley. Mary’s
eyes sparkled and her mouth turned up in a smile. You jerk, Macie. She’s not your enemy. She just really likes kids.
And she seems to like you. Macie dipped her head and bit her bottom lip
Macie pressed her palms tight against her thighs and looked up. “Do
you know Paige McKenzie?”
Mary sucked in her breath. The wall clock ticked, louder and louder, it
seemed. The refrigerator ice-maker, somewhere in the kitchen, hummed
and dropped a batch of cubes. It sounded just like the one in her
“Yes. Paige and her husband are friends of ours. Not close, but
I’d still call us friends. Why?”
“I think Paige is my stalker.”
“Oh, Macie. Surely not. I mean, she’s a little mixed up and all, but—”
“She lives next door to Dr. Sorkin’s other nurse. She’s
asked Maxine a lot of questions about the office…about me. Look,
I need help here. These people are playing hardball. Someone else is going to get hurt,
and it’s probably going to be me. They don’t have anything to lose.”
Mary Conley stood staring
at the floor, her fingers mechanically tapping at her mouth. Macie waited for a reaction, then went on.
“Who is Paige McKenzie?
Why does she hate me?”
“Oh, Macie. She doesn’t
hate you. She’s just very mixed up.”
“Mixed up is right.
I think she’s mixed up with the people who beat Dr. Sorkin half to death.”
“That’s a serious
“You guys may think
you have the right to terrorize people because they don’t believe the way you do, to blow up their places of business, to threaten them, but you don’t. You don’t.” Macie’s voice broke and she sank onto the couch sobbing. Mary sat beside
her and gathered Macie in her arms. Finally Macie gulped back the
last of her tears.
you understand? Nobody forces women to the clinic.”
Bethany Crowder was forced. Maybe women feel forced because they’re overwhelmed. Maybe if they just had someone to talk with, or maybe if they took
more time to decide. Or…
“Macie, I don’t
know anything about Paige’s personal life. I wish I could help you, but I can’t.”
Macie pushed against the
sofa back to stand, but then settled back. Her chest still heaved with
the exertion of crying, but another thought pushed through and she formed words around it.,
this Prodigal thing?”
“What do you mean?”
“You said you’d
explain about Bethany and the Prodigal.”
Mary gazed at Macie for
a long time, as though measuring her. Finally, she stood and walked
to a table where a Bible sat, its girth widened by a rainbow of bookmarks. She retrieved the Bible and returned to sit next to Macie.
“Well, Jesus told
a story...here, I’ll read it.” Mary opened to the fifteenth chapter of Luke.
Macie listened , intent on catching the urgency Bethany had felt.
When Mary stopped reading,
Macie asked, “So, Bethany identified with the Prodigal?”
“She was God’s
and she walked away from Him. I did it too. I’ve walked where these
girls have walked. But everyone does that in his own way. In Isaiah, it says we have all strayed like sheep. In another place, the Bible says there is none righteous. Not oneperson, Macie.”
“So. if that’s
true, then why would God send anyone to hell?”
He made hell for Satan. People choose to walk away; God tries to bring
them near. That’s why Jesus was born.”
Macie squirmed. She hadn’t
come for a sermon. She just wanted to know why the message Bethany gave her for Mary was so important. Still, now the pro-lifer was getting to a point she could debate. “Okay. About Jesus. Do you really believe He was born without natural conception?”
Mary smiled. “ I’m
a nurse, too. I know the intellect wants to pin down every detail.
All I can say is, God made the rules of nature. I’m sure He can bend them if He wants too. But you asked about the Prodigal. He swallowed his pride and came back to his father, expecting to be given the position of a servant in the house because he had spent
father welcomed him as a son and even threw a party for him. He was living in pig wallows, eating with the swine, when he could have been dining at his father’s table.”
“But why did Bethany say there was a roadblock and the Prodigal couldn’t go home?”
“She repented of
the sin in which her baby was conceived. She believed God had forgiven
her for that. I guess she thought everything would turn out okay, but it didn’t. Her baby was killed. That was the roadblock
“But she couldn’t
have stopped that. They sedated her.”
“Yes, but she still
“And will He? Forgive
her, I mean.”
isn’t based on what we do. It’s based on what Jesus did for us. And the Bible says if we believe that He died for us, we will be saved.”
“Even if she had
agreed to the abortion?”
“Even if she had
performed the abortion.” Mary stopped talking, and seemed to be deep in thought. Her eyes had become teary and the tears
spilled out, unchecked. Macie felt uncomfortable. Nervous. Like in
school, in oral exams, when they asked a question and waited for the answer.
After half a minute, she thanked Mary for her time and stood to go. Mary dabbed at her eyes and rose to follow her guest.
They walked back to the house front and Macie paused, hand on the doorknob.
“Mary, does Paige
have a red convertible?”
“I’d have to
think about it, why?”
in a red convertible, someone with blond hair, is stalking me, and I’m sure it’s Paige. She came close to sideswiping me the other day. I can’t prove it, but I think she’s
the one who’s been making the threatening calls.” Macie
waited for the answer.
Mary shook her head slowly,
as if thinking. “I just can’t believe Paige would go that far,dear. I could be wrong, but if she’s involved, she’s not herself. I couldn’t predict what she’d
do. If she felt that she were doing some good for the Cause…”
Mary’s eyes widened
and she inhaled sharply. “Take care now, Macie. Please come back.” Mary had dismissed her.
Macie believed her. But
what could she do now? She’d thought about asking Mary to pray with
her, but when the woman teared up, she changed her mind. It was probably just emotion anyway.
It’d be nice, God, if you’d just give me a sign here or something. I mean, if you’re really there and all…I’m pretty
scared. I could use some help.
So what did you expect, Macie, A lightening bolt?
Macie shook her head and
sat back against the car seat. Phil would know where to go from here. Maybe it was time to get the police involved.
There was a tiny Mexican
restaurant two doors down. Mace decided to get a soft drink, and try
to clear her head. If she could just find out...well, Phil would know what to do She held her cold hands to her cheeks and
concentrated on deep breathing.
Macie entered the restaurant,
sat at a small table and took a napkin from the dispenser to flick off remains of the last diner’s meal. At the counter,
several people conversed in Spanish. The wall assaulted her eyes with garish impressionistic paintings of bloody bullfights.
A surly man in a dingy
white apron brought her a menu, then stood watching the street, where a gray sedan had slowed, stalling traffic.
“I guess just apple
juice,” Macie said, eyeing the tattoos that covered his arm.
He shrugged, flipped his
long dishwater blond ponytail away from his face and wandered back to the refrigerator to get Macie’s drink. The sedan
had moved on, and traffic crept by.
studied the tall glass the man set before her.
“There a problem?”
“No. I guess I just
wasn’t as thirsty as I thought I was.” Macie ran her finger over the trails of condensation on the glass. He nodded,
then turned to another table, where a child threw chicken nuggets on the floor. Through the window, Macie could see traffic
stalled again, behind the barely-moving gray car.
I can’t sit here all day. If I’m going to do it, I might as well do it now. Do what? The realization formed in the chaos of her thoughts. Thanks to Maxine, she knew where
PaigeMcKenzie lived. Macie would stalk the stalker. She drained the
juice, paid for it, and walked to her car.
didn’t notice the other vehicle pulling in behind her at the light. It came along side at the next intersection, signaling a right turn, wedging Macie into the turning lane. The gray sedan
closed in behind, then pulled beside her on the narrow street forcing her to stop. Before she reacted, locking her door, a
man jerked it open and held a rag to her face. Then there was nothing.