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Then it hits me.

There’s screaming from the park.

Not chanting. Not cheering.Screaming.

I freeze with Detective Canavan’s hand on my back just as he’s about to escort me outside. My statement done—I’d given it upstairs—he’d been about to walk me home.

But now I’m reluctant to step out the door. Not into that. No way.

“It’s okay, Heather,” he says encouragingly. “It’s just those kids who were rallying earlier. They’re celebrating.”

“Celebrating,” I echo. “Celebrating what?”

“The president’s office apparently sent over a memo a little while ago. They settled their differences.”

I blink. “They… settled?”

“That’s right,” Detective Canavan says. “The kids won. The president’s office conceded on all points. Decided he’d had enough bad press lately. Either that, or he didn’t like having a big rat sitting outside his office door. He’s never been over to the West Side, obviously.”

I blink with astonishment. “President Allington settled? The GSC won?”

“That’s what I hear,” Detective Canavan says. “We’ve got the whole precinct on hats and bats, dealing with crowd control. We expect ’em to start tipping cars over any minute. Helluva night you picked to get shot at. Ah, there’s the boyfriend. Right on time.”

And with that, Detective Canavan steers me out the door…

… and into the waiting arms of Cooper Cartwright.


There’s no matching

My face’s shade of red

The truth is out:

Without you, I’m dead.

“Seeing Red”

Written by Heather Wells

“So,” Cooper says, as the two of us sit in his kitchen, looking at Owen’s cat as he washes himself on the mat beneath the sink, pointedly ignoring Lucy, who is regarding him worriedly from beneath the kitchen table. “We have a cat now.”

“We don’t have to keep him,” I say. “I can see if Tom wants him. He seems like the kind of cat Tom and Steve would like.”

“Ornery?” Cooper asks. “Mean?”

“Exactly,” I say. It’s nice of Cooper not to comment on the fact that I’ve already made him go to CVS to buy a cat box, litter, and canned food. I’d even spent ten minutes in Owen’s apartment before agreeing to leave hunting for Garfield’s pills, which Pam had packed away in her overnight bag. It turned out, of course, she’d intended to take the cat with her when she’d made her getaway.

The china wasn’t the only thing she’d loved that Owen had gotten in the divorce settlement, it turned out.

“Let’s see how it goes,” Cooper says. “Though I really don’t think I can live with a cat called Garfield.”

“I know,” I say miserably. “It’s kind of like having a dog named Fido or Spot, right? But what could we call him instead?”

“I’m not sure,” Cooper says. “Pol Pot? Idi Amin?”

We’re sitting at the kitchen table with glasses of scotch on the rocks in front of us. Considering what we’ve each been through, it seemed the only logical way to end the evening.

“I guess the real question is, how long is he staying,” Cooper goes on. “I don’t want to give him a name and get all attached to him—assuming one could get attached to something like him—just to have him ripped away right when I’m starting to like having him around.”

“I’ll talk to Tom in the morning,” I say. I’m really tired. It’s been a long day. It’s been a long week.

“That’s not exactly what I meant,” Cooper says.

Something in his tone causes me to look up. In the glow from the overhead kitchen light, I notice that Cooper looks a lot better than I feel… and he’s been thrown down a flight of stairs, whereas I’ve just been shot at.

It’s not fair. How come guys can go through so much more than us girls and come out looking better for it?

“Did I tell you what the EMTs said, back at the sports center?” he asks, almost as if he’d been reading my mind.

“No,” I say.

“My blood pressure’s a hundred and sixty-five over ninety-four,” he says.

“Well,” I say, taking a restorative sip of my scotch. I have to. Looking into his eyes has caused my pulse to skitter unsteadily. It’s not fair. “You did suffer a debilitating fall.”

“I’m supposed to consult with my primary physician,” Cooper says. “High blood pressure runs in my family, you know.”

I nod. “You can never be too careful. Hypertension is the silent killer.”

“You know what this means, though. No more Chips Ahoy! Nutella and Macadamia Brittle sandwiches for me.”

I shrug. “If your doctor puts you on medication, you can have all you want.”

Cooper leans forward in his chair. “You’ve been home half an hour,” he says, “and you haven’t even noticed.”

I blink at him from across the table. “Noticed what? What are you talking about?”

He points at the door to the back garden, which is located right next to the stove. For the first time I notice that someone’s installed a large dog door in the middle of it.

“Oh my God!” I cry, leaping to my feet. “Cooper! When did you do that?”

Grinning, Cooper stands as well, and crosses the room to the door to show me how easily the flap swings back and forth.

“After we got back from Rock Ridge. I ordered it a while ago. It only opens if you’re wearing this special collar—that’s the security feature, you know, to keep crack heads from using it to break in. It was really easy to install. The hardest part’s going to be getting Lucy to use it. But I figured, with your dad gone, this’ll make it easier on you when you’re at work during the day. She’ll still need her walks, but this way, if there’s an emergency, she can let herself out. If she can figure out how to do it, I mean.”

I squat down to admire his handiwork. There are a few small gaps between where he sawed and where the dog door actually slid into place. But it’s not the aesthetic quality of the job that matters. It’s the fact that he’s done something—something permanent — to his home for my dog.