Please let me up.”

“Just try to relax, ma’am,” the brunette said mechanically as she slipped a sticky

EKG pad inside Leslie’s blouse and afÞ xed it gently to her upper breast.

Ma’am, Leslie thought with irrational temper. She has her hand inside my

blouse and she’s calling me ma’am. There was something terribly wrong with

this picture. This was not her. In a move that startled even herself, she slapped

the EMT’s hand away. With the practiced voice that was calculated to make

jurors sit up straight in their seats, she snapped, “I’m not going to the hospital.”

The one who’d ma’am’d her leaned down with a hand wrapped around either

arm of the wheelchair. She spoke quietly so no one else could hear. “It sucks to

have everyone all over you like this, I know. But your blood pressure’s still a

little bit low and your heart rate’s a tiny bit elevated. If you try to walk out of

here, I think you’re going to go down again. That will buy you a trip to the ICU.

Just let us take you to the emergency room where you can be checked out.”

Leslie studied the dark, deep eyes inches from her own. She

• 21 •


hadn’t seen anyone look at her like that, with such compassion and

understanding, for…so long, she couldn’t remember. How was it that a stranger

could touch her so deeply and those who supposedly knew her intimately never

touched her at all? Truth be told, she did feel terrible.

“Just get me out of here quickly, please,” she whispered.

“You got it. I’m Amy, by the way.”

“You have beautiful eyes, Amy,” Leslie murmured as she suddenly drifted away.


The next time Leslie opened her eyes she was propped up into a semisitting

position on a narrow bed with a thin, hard mattress and covered by a stiff white

sheet that smelled of strong detergent. A sickly-green curtain, a shade darker

than the equally nauseating tiles on the walls, covered the doorway. The

overhead light was so bright she was forced to squint. She was ß eetingly very

happy she didn’t have a migraine. What she did have was a plethora of

intravenous lines and leads and other things she didn’t recognize connecting her

to an assortment of monitoring devices that ringed the bed. Surely whatever was

wrong with her didn’t warrant this much attention. She felt a frisson of anxiety

that she quickly squelched and fumbled around on the bed for a call button.

Annoyed when she found none, she considered shouting, but decided that

would only win her even more unwanted interest.

In search of the handle to lower the bed rail, she slid her hand along the outside

of the stretcher. She’d just located it when the curtain was twitched aside and a

smiling man in a white lab coat entered. The words Emergency Physician were

embroidered in red, slanting letters over his left breast pocket. Beneath that was

his name. Peter Erhart, M.D.

“I’m Dr. Erhart.” He stated the obvious and pressed Leslie’s hand by way of

greeting. “How are you feeling?”

“Other than a little tired, Þ ne. I hope you’re here to discharge me.”

The doctor pulled a stainless steel stool to the side of the stretcher and sat

down. When he crossed his arms on the top of the bed rail, he and Leslie were

nearly eye to eye. “We’d like to keep you overnight for observation.”

• 22 •


Leslie’s stomach tightened, but she knew from experience that nothing would

show on her face. Calmly, she asked, “Why is that?”

“Your EKG shows frequent runs of supraventricular tachycardia and occasional

short bursts of atrial ß utter accompanied by a precipitous drop in your blood


“Which is why I fainted.”

Dr. Erhart looked surprised. “I understand you’re an attorney. Do you handle

medical cases?”

“No, but my…an associate does. I understand what you’re saying.”

She’d discussed enough malpractice cases with Rachel to understand the

terminology. She wondered idly if anyone had called Rachel, and then realized

no one would have had any reason to. A few people in the ofÞ ce, including

Stephanie, were probably aware of her relationship with Rachel Hawthorne, but

it wasn’t as if they presented themselves as a couple. Which they weren’t. Not

technically. She realized her mind was wandering, something else that never

happened to her, and she forced herself to focus. “What’s causing it and what

needs to be done about it?”

Dr. Erhart smiled. “I wish I could answer both questions right now, but I can’t.

Any number of things could be causing the accelerated heart rate, including ß

uctuations in hormone levels, medications, drugs.”

When he let the last word linger in the air, Leslie narrowed her eyes. “I’m not on

any medication and I don’t take drugs of any kind. I don’t smoke and I drink in


“Your baseline blood pressure is also off the charts for someone your age. So it

might be something as simple as stress…perhaps something at work? Or at


“No. Neither.” Leslie made an impatient gesture, which was cut short by the taut

intravenous line tethering her to a nearby pole. “Look.

I understand the need to be thorough and—”

The ß uttering in her chest started at the same time as the monitor next to the

bed began to screech. She struggled to catch her breath and found she couldn’t.

She was aware of Dr. Erhart speaking into the intercom next to the door, and

after what seemed like an eternity, a woman in scrubs appeared and injected

something into Leslie’s IV line.

A minute later the monitor fell silent, and the wild churning in her chest subsided.

• 23 •


“Jesus,” Leslie whispered, still short of breath. “What was that?”

“That was another run of very rapid tachycardia,” Dr. Erhart said solemnly. He

turned to the nurse. “Call admissions and tell them we’ll need a telemetry bed

for Ms. Harris.”

This time, Leslie didn’t argue. “I need to make some calls. Could someone see if

Stephanie Ackerman is here?”

As Leslie suspected, Stephanie had come to the hospital directly from the

courthouse. When she appeared, Leslie felt ridiculously comforted. “Thanks for

sticking around, Steph.”

“Hey,” Stephanie said softly. “Of course I would.” She glanced at the monitors

on either side of the bed and then back at Leslie. “What’s going on?”

“Oh, they’re just being careful. CYA.” Leslie trusted Stephanie, but she had no

intention of sharing the details. After all, it was all going to be straightened out in

a matter of a few hours. “By the time they Þ nish with all their tests, I’m

probably not going to get out of here until the morning. I’ll need you to check

with Bill and Þ nd out how the judge is going to rule on continuing the trial.”

Stephanie made notes on the rest of Leslie’s requests and promised to call her

that evening with any follow-up.

“I think that does it.” Leslie leaned back and closed her eyes, more tired than

she’d realized. “Thanks. I’ll call you when I get home in the morning.”

“Sure.” Stephanie hesitated. “Uh…anyone else you’d like me to call?”

Frowning, Leslie opened her eyes. “Did I forget something?”

“I meant personally.”

Leslie blushed. “Oh. I don’t know that that’s necessary. But thanks.”


Feeling as if she should explain, Leslie added, “I’ll take care of those calls when

I get upstairs.”

“I understand. If you need anything, you know my number.”

“’Preciate it.” Leslie smiled goodbye, glad for the quiet and the chance to close

her eyes again.

When a cheerful middle-aged Asian man arrived to transport her to her room,

Leslie was surprised to discover that she’d slept for almost two hours. When

she was Þ nally settled and alone after repeating her medical history yet again to

the nurses and resident staff, she used the

• 24 •


bedside phone and asked the operator for an outside line. She wasn’t surprised

when the number she called rang to voicemail. “Rach, it’s me.

I know this is ridiculous, but I’m actually in…oh, I don’t know why I’m even

bothering you with this.” She contemplated hanging up and then Þ nished in a

rush. “I’m in the hospital. It’s nothing serious. Some little glitch in my hormones

or something. I’ll be released in the morning.

I know you’re wrapping up that big trial, so I’ll call you when I get home. Don’t


As the sounds outside her room gradually quieted, Leslie lay awake staring at

the ceiling while reviewing her upcoming cases, prioritizing her work, and

rehearsing how she would explain away this event to her partners. Several times

she was aware of the ß uttering in her chest, which she now recognized as the

irregular heartbeat. She determined to ignore it, until just after midnight when the

frantic racing started and wouldn’t stop.


“My God, Leslie,” Rachel Hawthorne said, looking more aggravated than