She raised appreciative eyebrows. Appreciative and maybe a little envious. She glanced at our daughter, who was temporarily fascinated by the pattern of her plastic place mat. “Was there any, um, collateral damage?”

“One gentleman may have a bit of difficulty entering a potato-sack race anytime soon. Or, I dunno”—I sipped some coffee—”strolling.”

“And this is because?”

“Bubba decided to speed the process along.”

At his name, Gabriella raised her head. The smile that spread across her face was her mother’s—so wide and warm it hugged your whole body. “Uncle Bubba?” she said. “You saw Uncle Bubba?”

“I did. He said to say hello to you and Mr. Lubble.”

“I’ll go get him.” She burst out of her chair and out of the room and the next sound we heard was her scrambling through the toys on the floor of her bedroom.

Mr. Lubble was a stuffed animal bigger than Gabby. Bubba had given it to her on her second birthday. Mr. Lubble was, as best we could figure, some kind of a cross between a chimpanzee and an orangutan, though it’s possible he represented a primate we were wholly unfamiliar with. For some reason, he was dressed in a lime-green tuxedo with a yellow tie and matching yellow tennis shoes. Gabby had given him the name Mr. Lubble, but none of us could recall why except to assume she’d been trying to say “Bubba,” but, at two, Lubble was the closest she could get.

“Mr. Lubble,” she called from her bedroom, “come out, come out.”

Angie lowered her paper and ran a hand over mine. She was a bit shocked at my second-day appearance, which was worse than my first-day appearance when I’d returned from the health center. “Should we worry about reprisals?”

It was a fair question. With any act of violence, you have to assume reprisal is a given. You hurt someone, most times they will try to hurt you back.

“I don’t think so,” I said, realizing it was true. “They’d mess with me, but not with Bubba. Plus, I didn’t take anything from them but what belonged to me.”

“In their minds, it didn’t belong to you anymore.”

“True.”

We shared a careful look.

“I’ve got that cute little Beretta,” she said. “Fits right in my pocket.”

“Been a while since you fired it.”

She shook her head. “Sometimes when I take those ‘Mommy time’ drives?”

“Yeah?”

“I go to the range on Freeport.”

I smiled. “You do?”

“Oh, I do.” She smiled back. “Some girls relieve stress with yoga. I prefer emptying a clip or two.”

“Well, you always were the better shot in the family.”

“Better?” She opened her paper again.

Truth was I couldn’t hit sand on a beach. “Fine. Only.”

Gabby came back in the room dragging Mr. Lubble by one lime-green arm. She placed him on the seat beside her and climbed up into her own.

“Did Uncle Bubba kiss Mr. Lubble good night?” she asked.

“He did.” I would have felt worse about lying to my child if I hadn’t already set the precedent with Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy.

“Did he kiss me good night?”

“He did.”

“I remember.” Apparently the lying starts early and we call it creativity. “And he told me a story.”

“About what?”

“Trees.”

“Of course.”

“He also said Mr. Lubble should get more ice cream.”

“And chocolate?” Angie said.

“And chocolate?” Gabby considered the pros and cons. “Okay, I guess.”

“You guess, huh?” I chuckled, looked over at Angie. “That’s all you, by the way.”

Angie lowered her paper. She was pale suddenly, her jaw too loose.

“Mommy?” Even Gabby noticed. “What’s wrong?”

Angie gave her a weak smile and handed the paper to me. “Nothing, honey. Mommy’s just tired.”

“Too much reading,” our daughter said.

“No such thing as too much reading,” I said. I looked at the paper and then back at Ange, gave her a confused look.

“Lower-right-hand side of the page,” she said.

It was the Crime Blotter, an if-it-bleeds-it-leads section they served up on the last page of the metro section. The last item read: “Maine Woman Slain in Car-Jack.” I saw the lede then and put the paper down for a moment. Angie reached across the table and ran her warm palm along my forearm.

A mother of two was gunned down in an apparent carjacking in the early hours of Tuesday morning as she left work at BJ’s Wholesaler in Auburn. Peri Pyper, 34, of Lewiston, was approached by the suspect as she tried to start her 2008 Honda Accord. Witnesses reported hearing signs of a struggle followed by a gunshot. The suspect, Taylor Biggins, 22, of Auburn, was arrested a mile away after a police pursuit and surrendered without a struggle. Mrs. Pyper was flown by medevac to Maine Medical Center but was pronounced dead at 6:34 A.M., according to MMC spokesperson Pamela Dunn. Mrs. Pyper is survived by a son and a daughter.

Angie said, “It’s not your fault.”

“I don’t know that. I don’t know anything.”

“Patrick.”

“I don’t know anything,” I said again.

It was a three-hour drive to Auburn, Maine, and in that time, my attorney, Cheswick Hartman, arranged everything. I arrived at the law offices of Dufresne, Barrett and McGrath and was led into an office with James Mayfield, a junior partner in the firm, who handled most of their defense litigation.

James Mayfield was a black man with salt-and-pepper hair, a matching mustache, and considerable height and girth. He had a bear of a handshake and an easy way about him that seemed authentic and unforced.

“Thanks for seeing me, Mr. Mayfield.”

“You can call me Coach, Mr. Kenzie.”

“Coach?”

“I coach baseball, basketball, golf, football, and soccer in this town. People call me Coach.”

“And why wouldn’t they?” I said. “Coach it is.”

“When an attorney of Cheswick Hartman’s stature calls me up and says he’ll cochair my litigation on a case, pro bono, I sit up in my seat.”

“Yes.”

“He said you are a man who never breaks his word.”

“That was kind of him.”

“Kind or not, I want your word in writing.”

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