"Yes."

He got to his feet, put his hands together, rocked back on his heels. "Peter," he said, "when two people relate in a certain way, when there's a particular magic that they create between themselves, it's really a rather remarkable thing."

"I know."

"I always sensed that magic with you and Kristin."

"So did I, but…"

"But you separated. You went to Williamsburg and she returned to her parents' house."

"Right."

"And that was inevitable. You were committed to the others, to Marsha and Lucian and Kieran and Ruth Ann."

"And to you, don't forget."

"Well," he says. His smile is gentle, self-effacing. "To me insofar as I embody in your mind your own best interests. You and the others shared a goal, and what we determined together was that Kristin did not share that goal."

"Not the way everybody else did."

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"The five of you," he says, "are a family, Peter."

"Yes, we are."

"The house is perfect for you. You have a floor, Marsha and Lucian have a floor, Ruth Ann and Kieran have a floor. But you work together, you create this space together."

"Yes."

"As a family."

Family is the magic word; delivered with the right cadence, it can bring Peter almost to tears.

"Kristin had a family of her own," he says, "and she was not ready to change one nest for another. You made the right decision, Peter."

"I know."

"And she made the right decision, too."

"I know that now. I wasn't sure at first, but now I know you're right."

"But her situation has changed."

"Because- "

"Because she lost her family."

"It was a terrible thing."

What a way with words the fellow has! "A terrible thing," he echoes. "What do we get in life, Peter?"

"What do we get?"

"You know the answer, Peter."

"We get what we get."

"Exactly. We get what we get, and what we do with it makes it good fortune or bad. You and Kristin belong together."

"That's what I always thought."

Thought, he notes, rather than think. What's this?

"I think you should call her," he says, pressing. "I think you should visit her, I think you should be with her in her hour of need." Did he really say that? No matter. "You have broad shoulders, Peter, and that's what she needs right now, even as she needs once again to be part of a family."

"But- "

He waits. His hand goes to his throat, and his fingers find the rhodochrosite disc. He strokes it, feels its cool smoothness.

"There's this woman I sort of met, she's a sculptor? She lives on Wythe Avenue in Northside Williamsburg? She's really nice, and her values are the same as mine, as ours, and, and I thought maybe…"

The words trail off. He touches the pink stone disc again, thinks: Clarity. He waits a beat, then says, "Rebound."

"Pardon?"

He's on his feet, pacing, spins around to face Peter Meredith. He says, "Rebound, Peter! You're on the rebound! That's all this is."

"You really think so?"

"I know so. Stand up. Up! Yes. Face me, yes. Now close your eyes. Now hold out both your hands, palms up. All right. Are you ready?"

"Uh, I guess."

"Put your feelings for Kristin in your right hand. Feel the weight, the substance. Do you feel it?"

"Yes."

"Now put whatever it is you feel for this sculptor in your other hand. There! Do you feel the difference?"

"Yes."

"Open your eyes, Peter. Which hand is heavier?"

"This one."

"The body doesn't lie. It feels the weight of one, the lack of substance of the other. Tell me, then. Where is your destiny?"

"With Kristin?"

"Are you asking me or telling me?"

"It's with Kristin."

"What's with Kristin?"

"My destiny."

He goes to him, embraces him. "Peter," he says, "I'm so proud of you. Do you know how proud I am?"

When the door closes he turns the bolt, sighs deeply. He could have killed Peter Meredith, could have reached out and killed him. A sculptor, playing with fucking clay in a Wythe Avenue shithole, someone to share his fucking values.

You have to lead these people every step of the way. Every step of the way!

THIRTY-ONE

"What'd be nice," Ira Wentworth said, "is a shred of evidence. Something I could take to a judge and come back with a warrant."

"You want everything handed to you," I said.

"That's me," he said. "Give me the easy ones every time. I remember when my father taught me to play pool. 'Son,' he said, 'always pocket the easy balls. Leave the bank shots and combinations for the boys with rich fathers.' "

"Sound advice."

"Yeah," he said, "but I didn't hear it from my old man, who as far as I know never picked up a pool cue in his life. I heard it from a guy I was playing pool with, right after I missed this three-ball combination." He shook his head ruefully. "It was so pretty I couldn't resist it."

"And you never got over it," I said.

"Never," he said, getting to his feet, "but I'm still young. There's hope. I'm going to start digging, see what I can find on this shrink. Maybe we'll get lucky and there'll be a sheet on him. Maybe I'll ask him where he was yesterday and he'll turn beet-red and blurt out a confession."

We shook hands all around, and he walked off, heading uptown. "He's pretty good," I told T J.

He didn't say anything. I turned and saw him gazing across the street, holding up a hand to shade his eyes against the afternoon sun. "Thought I saw somebody," he said, "but it ain't him."

"Nadler?"

"Ain't never seen him, so how would I know?"

"Then how do you know it's not him?"

"Huh?"

"Never mind," I said. "I'm going home. What about you?"

"Guess I'll go up around Columbia," he said. "Hear what they sayin' 'bout Lia."

I took my time walking home, trying to think of something useful I could do, and when I got there Elaine told me I was just in time.

"To go to the movies," she said. "I got bored and closed early. I decided I wanted to go to a movie in the middle of a weekday afternoon. It's the most decadent thing I can think of."

"What a sheltered life you've led."

"That's it exactly," she said. "Wanna keep me company, big boy?"

"What do you want to see?"

"There's an Adam Sandler movie at Worldwide Cinema."

"You've got to be kidding," I said.

"C'mon, it'll be fun. And it's only three dollars. That's our reward for missing it the first time around."

"Missing it was its own reward," I said.

She looked at her watch. "We've got seventeen minutes. Do you think we can get to Fiftieth and Eighth in seventeen minutes?"

"Yes," I said. "I'm afraid we can."

When we got home there was a message from Kristin. Could I call her? I called, and when the machine invited me to leave a message I identified myself and said I was returning her call. "Please pick up if you're there," I said. "Otherwise call me back when you get this message. I should be home the rest of- "

The evening, I would have concluded, but she picked up and said, "Mr. Scudder? Sorry, I was in the other room. The reason I called, well, I suppose I shouldn't have bothered you…"

"What is it, Kristin?"

"Well, I had a call earlier. From Peter."

"Peter Meredith?"

"Yes, that's right. I was standing right next to the machine when the call came in, and I thought, really, what's so terrible about picking it up?"

"And did you pick it up?"

"No, because you said not to."

"Good."

"But I felt really strange about it, you know? I mean, there have been all these calls from people I don't know, like newspaper reporters, and I just delete the message and that's that. I don't give it a second thought."

"There's no reason why you should. They'll keep pestering you, but they'll pester you less if you don't give them any encouragement."

"I know that. But Peter's different." She paused for breath, then said, "He wants me to call him back."

"I don't think that's a good idea."

"Why?"

I gave her an answer, but it might have sounded more convincing if I'd had a reason. I just didn't want her talking to him, and I couldn't explain why. It's not as though I thought Nadler could morph into a handful of electrical impulses and shoot through the phone lines at her, but I still didn't want her on the phone with an old boyfriend or anyone else.

"Well," she said at length, and I didn't know what it meant. Ultimately, of course, it was up to her. Unless I had her phones ripped out, I couldn't stop her from taking whatever calls she chose to take.

"That policeman was here," she said. "Officer Wentworth?"

"Detective Wentworth."

"Oh, is that a faux pas, calling him officer if he's a detective? Not that I did, I don't think I called him anything. He's nice."

"He's a good man," I said.

"He said he would assign some police officers to watch the house, but that I wouldn't even know that they're there. So of course I keep going to the window and peeking out from behind the curtain, and I can't see anybody, but then he said I wouldn't be able to. So maybe they're there and maybe they're not."

"You'll be fine."

"I guess I'm not expected to give them milk and cookies," she said, "so I don't suppose it matters if they're there or not. I mean if I know if they're there or not."

"I know what you mean."

"Thank you. It's a little weird being cooped up like this. I wanted to order a pizza, but I didn't know if I should, because you said not to open the door. Is it okay to open the door for a pizza delivery boy?"

I was beginning to understand what a pain in the ass it must be to guard somebody in the Witness Protection Program. While I was thinking up an answer she said, "Never mind, there's plenty of stuff in the house. I must be driving you crazy. Am I? Tell me if I am."

"No, of course not. I know it's tough for you."

"It's just being cooped up with nothing to do but listen to my own head. Oh, I know what I wanted to tell you!"

"What?"

"I almost forgot. Remember I was supposed to see if there was anything missing? Anything taken in the burglary and not returned?"

"And is there?"

"I think so," she said, "but I don't know if it means anything. I mean, it's not valuable or anything. So if it is missing, that doesn't mean anybody took it. It could just be lost."

"What is it, Kristin?"

"Do you know what rhodochrosite is?"

"A gemstone?"

"Well, I guess they call it semiprecious. Or maybe not even that. It's sort of a rosy pink, but… you know what? Why don't you come over here and I'll show you?"