Chapter 13

Back in Los Angeles the same day, I do not drive straight to my home in Pacific Palisades, but I do call to see if everyone is safe. Seymour says there is no sign of either the cops or Kalika. It sounds as if he has been enjoying Dr. Seter's company, but I don't think joy is a word I could attach to his relationship with James. I promise Seymour I will be home soon.

At five in the evening I am once more in the living room of Mrs. Hawkins, in the very house Eric longed to return to before his throat was cut open by my daughter. Hot-tempered Mr. Hawkins is fortunately not at home with Mrs. Hawkins. As before, she is plump and kindly, always fussing with her hands. Curiously, since I am associated with the kidnapping and death of her son, she does not appear unduly afraid of me. Indeed, she promptly invites me in when I come to the door. But perhaps she believed me the last time I visited, when I told her I did everything I could to save Eric.

"Would you like something to drink?" she asks as she takes a seat across from me.

"No, thank you." I pause. "You don't seem surprised to see me again."

Her face twitches with the painful memory of her dead son. Truly it is not the tragedies that destroy us, but the memories of them. Clearly not a minute goes by when she does not think about Eric.

"I thought I would see you again," she says. "Why?"

"You just flew in that night, and then flew back out like a bird. My husband and I have talked about that a lot since you were here." She flashes a sad smile. "I think we convinced ourselves you weren't a devil, but an angel."

"I'm sorry I'm not an angel. I'm sorry I wasn't able to save your son."

She stops fussing with her hands for a moment. "You really tried, didn't you?"

"Yes." I lower my head. "I tried everything I knew."

She nods quietly. "That's what I told my hus?band. He didn't believe you at first, but maybe he does now." A pause. "Are you sure I can't get you something? I just baked some chocolate-chip cook-ies. Eric used to love them."

I look up and smile. "Sure. I would love a cookie."

She stands. "I have milk as well. You can't enjoy a cookie without milk."

"Ain't that the truth." I have to sit in the pain of the house while she busies herself in the kitchen. Since my rebirth I have noticed I sense the feelings of a place much more acutely. The chair where I sit feels as if it has been used to electrocute people. It is Mr. Hawkins's seat, I realize. He wanted to keep me from leaving the last time I came to visit. He wanted to call the cops.

Yet I also smell something as I wait for Mrs. Hawkins to return.

The foul odor of illness. A human would never detect it, but I do.

Mrs. Hawkins bustles in with a plate of cookies and a glass of milk.

"You must have more than one," she says, setting the plate before me. "Really, Eric and my husband used to finish a whole plate of these in a single afternoon. But with Eric gone and my-- Well, Ted just doesn't seem as hungry as he used to be." I pick up a cookie. "I'll have at least two." She sits back down across from me. "You never told us your name last time, dear. Don't worry, I won't tell it to the police. I would just like to know what to call you."

"It's Alisa."

"Where are you from, Alisa?" "Lots of places." I sip the milk. It is cold, good. The questions need to be asked but I find myself postponing them.

"I'm taking the year off from college, but I'll be in school next year. I just got accepted to SC. I'm going to major in pre-med."

"How do they taste?" she asks.

"Very good." But I end up putting the cookie down, half eaten. "Mrs. Hawkins, may I ask you a delicate question? It concerns Eric."

She hesitates. "What is the question?"

"Your son wanted to be a doctor. He said he wanted to follow in your husband's footsteps. Now I've met your husband, and he seemed like an intense and driven man. That is not a criticism but an observation. Eric was not so driven, yet I imagine some of that intensity must have rubbed off on him,"

"That's true," she admits carefully.

"You see, this is hard for me. I don't want to walk on your pain, and I apologize if I am. But I was just wondering why, if Eric was so keen to be a doctor, he was taking a year off from college? I mean, I know a break from studying is not so unusual," I pause, "but was there a special reason for his extended vacation?"

She stares blankly for a moment. "Yes."

"May I know the reason?"

A tear runs down her cheek. "Eric had cancer. Lymphoma. It had spread through most of his body. It had gone into remission three times but it always came back." She swallows thickly. "The doctors said he had less than three months to live."

"I see." I am stunned. Eric had told me he wasn't well. Kalika had told me the same thing. Indeed, she had implied that was one of the reasons she killed him. So that he would have a better birth in his next life.

"I'm your daughter. You should believe me. I believe you even when I hear you lying to me."

Perhaps Kalika had told me the truth.

Mrs. Hawkins sobs quietly.

"There were a couple of police officers who came to the door the day Eric died," I say carefully. "They were looking for him, but the person I told you about--the one who killed your son--she convinced them to go off with her. And I never saw those men again. I assumed this woman killed them as well. But I never saw an article in the paper about them, and you know what big news any police killing is. I was just wondering, in your conversation with the police about your son, after his body was found, did they make any mention of the fact that they had lost two men?"

Mrs. Hawkins wipes at her face. "No."

I speak out loud, but mainly to myself. "It seems they would have, don't you think? If the disappear?ance was tied up with the same case as your son's death?"

"I would think so. Maybe the police are all right."

I pick up the cookie again, thinking, "How did you get on with the policemen?"


"Are they fine?"

"You don't have to worry about them, Mother."

"They might be all right," I say. Maybe I am worrying about all the wrong things.

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