It was the two mourning doves that distracted his thoughts. Their dreamy, unperturbed ooweww kooo koo kooo back and forth with long pauses between each call, as if having a lazy, untroubled chat or simply reassuring each other of their nearness. The effect this had on Blow was instantaneous, accomplishing what the cacophony of mockingbird improvs, sparrow chittering, brassy wren announcements, the woodpecker's determined clatter, the near-enough barking of a couple of dogs, and the occasional engine-straining roars of trucks and punk cars on the main drag less than half a mile away failed to do. The soothing dove calls, conveying distance yet near, beckoned him to an earlier time, to his childhood, when, as now, they conjured an alluring tranquility.
He smiled, the poignancy reminding him of his mother's softness. It was she, he came to realize, who chose not to disabuse him of his notion the birds were named for their morning singing. He supposed she decided he eventually would learn otherwise when he saw the spelling, and that is what happened. Still, he continued associating the sublimely pleasant koos as morning greetings—which in fact they are--rather than dirges. So pleasant were the sounds at this moment he overlooked the irony they were relieving him of worries his young client might well find himself on Death Row unless circumstances in the case took a better turn.
Blow had headed out the door wracked with misgivings after his meeting with Al and Julie Morowitz. He felt he'd failed to impress upon them the gravity of their son's situation. Theirs was the usual parents' response, that because they held no doubt whatsoever in their son's innocence they refused even to consider any plausible theory in which he could be found culpable. Worse—and this also was typical—while adamantly resisting his admonitions, they insisted on holding Blow accountable to confirm their stubborn certitude. Of immediate concern was their apparently unconsidered flouting of Chip's bond conditions by leaving him home alone. Blow sensed he at least apparently had gotten under Julie's skin with his repeated emphasis on this concern. Evidently self-aware her attention had begun faltering, she offered a graceful excuse and cut the meeting short, then led her mumbling spouse back to the white SUV parked on the client pad outside Blow's office. As it was not yet eight-thirty, he decided to get in a walk before the midday heat arrived.
The SUV was gone by the time he'd changed into his Clark's leather walking shoes, donned a light denim jacket, and stepped out into the warming breezes circling off the Atlantic and ruffling through the trees on their way west and south. Clean white cumulus clouds billowed overhead carrying no apparent threat of an encore to yesterday's sudden rainstorm. He'd opted to wear his neck brace despite the risk of its getting sweaty. He intended to stick to his usual route, a two-mile lap around seven residential blocks in his neighborhood. The terrain was irregular, with inclines and shallow dips, which gave his legs a decent workout whether he walked briskly or took his time. This was later than usual for him. Rose had used her irresistible means of persuasion to convince him he'd get a better aerobic workout and have more fun to boot if he stayed in bed a tad beyond his normal rising. Plus, she made him a Black Forest ham omelet for breakfast.
The walk had become a habit, though, at least once every day—the earlier the better. And so he strode off along Mattaponi Street past the homes of his nearest neighbors, hoping none were outdoors to ask inevitably about the cervical collar. The most likely to see him was Ernie Hackman, a retired accountant who spent most of his days puttering in his bountiful vegetable garden and immaculate yard. He was an early riser and surely would be out now. Blow flipped his jacket collar up and hunched his shoulders as he neared the stately old house where Hackman, a talkative widower, lived alone. His was one of the more intriguing homes in the block, because of its age and because Hackman spent the money to keep it up. It was about the same age as the Stone House, which Blow's grandfather had built, but the Hackman place was set back from the street on a larger, beautifully landscaped lot.
Blow saw something move just beyond the boxwood shrubbery on the far side of the house, and he paused, debating whether to turn around and circle his route counterclockwise or just call the walk off altogether. He had too much on his mind, and didn't feel like making small talk—or any kind of talk—at the moment. He wanted to think, and keep his thoughts private. He stared resentfully at the house. He knew Hackman's curiosity would be aroused even more seeing him coming from the other direction, which Blow never did. “Shit,” he muttered and continued ahead, walking briskly as if in a hurry, which, at the moment, he was.. He hissed a sigh of relief through pursed lips when he made it past the house without seeing anyone. Hackman, he guessed, must have gone into the backyard after Blow glimpsed him by the shrubs—if in fact that was what he had seen.
He felt foolish now, acting like a sneaking prankster kid or just a plain chickenshit. He also welcomed the momentary relief the silly little drama had given him from the weight of worry the Morowitzes had compounded with their visit. Unless something new cropped up or could be found, Chip Morowitz's life might well depend on a simple ballistics test. That was a day or two more away. With Teach in the hospital the chances of the other pistol being found, even if it existed at all, had diminished to almost zero. Blow tried to keep that prospect out of his mind, that Teach could lose a leg or worse. It sickened him. But Teach's involvement in the shootings, however peripheral and speculative, had to be reckoned with. Something strange there, his relationship with Mundaign—despite being his landlord. Something strange--”
It was right about here he heard the mourning doves, and surrendered his anxiety to their peaceful crooning. He slowed his pace, realized he was smiling, heard in their gentle, unwavering voices an assurance that everything was just fine, would be just fine. And this is how he was feeling, even knowing he was suspending his lawyer's reflexive disbelief, but not caring, enjoying the calm and placidity, when he became aware of something dark moving alongside. He started to turn his head, grimaced in pain, then pivoted his body and saw a black Lexus, its windows darkened, cruising next to the curb, obviously keeping pace with him. The car stopped when Blow turned to face it. He heard a mechanical whine, and saw the rear window roll down. After a momentary silence, an unpleasantly familiar basso voice issued from the car: “Mr. Stone!”