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12:30 A.M.—1610 Confederate Avenue

From where I stood in her living room, by the front door, I noticed that Virginia Key, sitting inside the kitchen window, didn't lift her head as the EMTs outside wheeled her son's stretcher up into the ambulance and climbed in after it, or as the ME's people slid her daughter's small body into their station wagon. They'd wiped the sweat off Mrs. Key's face. From her profile I could see she was a slender, petite, attractive woman, in spite of the shock, with straightened hair and refined features like a magazine model. Torbett absently buttoned his jacket as he approached her.

I've heard theories of yin and yang, of images and fantasies. When I first met Rachel years ago, my panner's wife, bells rang. She was the answer to all questions, the fulfillment of all dreams. Or, shrinks might argue, she was the exact shape left by the void of my parents' love, my mother who took off when I was ten, my missing pieces. The harmony created when two people's neuroses neatly complement each other's. And the skies open and the angels sing and the messiah has arrived. Or maybe the devil, the symptoms are the same.

And that's what I saw, or thought I saw, the moment James Torbett's and Virginia Key's eyes met each other's and locked.

12:45 A.M.Mount Bonnell Overlook

Glen Bass blew tenderly into Andrea's ear, saw no effect, and tried kissing her neck instead.

That he'd managed to get her pants off again meant nothing. They'd been there a dozen times. Like the asymptote, the curved line that gets closer and closer to the axis without ever touching, their sex life progressed without ever paying off. Each day brought greater torture and greater shame in the eyes of his frat brothers, as Glen reached a point four months from a college degree without ever getting laid.

"No, no..."

"It's okay," he said, which seemed to be the right response.

Andrea, the blondest and the palest girl he'd ever met, nearly albino, was also the dumbest. That, and his father's money, and his BMW, didn't add up to much. But he guessed she was smart enough to be parlaying all this into marriage. He hit on a brainstorm, froze, then climbed off her and pulled his pants up. "Forget it," he said.

"I'm sorry," she said. "I don't feel well."

"You always don't feel well. What is it, your period?"

"No, I'm sick."

"I can't do this. I'm a man. I have needs."

Finally she lay back. "Okay."

Glen blinked. "You mean it?"

"I mean it. Go ahead."

Suddenly and for the first time in memory, Glen found himself flaccid. He called up the memories of a dozen nights just like this, a thousand centerfolds, entire sororities getting it on on the Fiji House pool table, rubbed himself against her and finally...

Sweet, sweet heaven. The Truth. The Big Reality. Conquest and manhood at once. But for a tiny yelp she was quiet, but Glen held off, had read about spots and angles, leaned himself the way articles had specified. Andrea began to hum.

"Yes," he said. "Yes. Baby."

She trembled, lightly at first, then shuddering and moaning. Glen let the restraint go, picked up steam, slammed away and finally burst into a cloud of bliss and helplessness. Then he settled down, his face against her neck.

It was then he noticed that Andrea had stopped moving.


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