Rudy rolled over, nearly falling off the sofa. The familiar staccato vibration from his pocket signaled an incoming text. But how? He hadn’t turned his phone on since he’d shut it down when the ferry pulled out of Fort Myers the previous morning. He’d either pressed it against something accidentally or worse, subconsciously reconnected himself without conscious approval. Both were unsettling.
He dug out the phone to shut it down. Even through his bleary vision the message on the screen stopped him.
Max in serious but stable condition at Grady.
He blinked and read it again. Serious but stable. And then a third time. Grady? Grady Memorial Hospital.
“What the fuck,” he croaked. His throat was a mess.
He sat up on the sofa and pulled up Mom’s cell number, clearing his throat repeatedly while stabbing the number with his thumb. It rang once. Mom answered.
“Rudy!” she said.
“What the hell, Mom.”
“Max is alive?”
“Are you sick?”
“Mom. He’s not dead?”
“I waited for you at the airport.”
“He’s not dead?”
“I thought you’d be happy to hear it.”
“It’s just—yesterday you told me he was dead.”
“We thought he was. His wife said he was. She was absolutely hysterical.”
Rudy took a breath and held it for a four count before letting it out. “Is he expected to make it?”
“They say he’s out of danger.”
“You sound disappointed. Where are you?”
“I have to go, Mom.”
“Everyone is looking for you. You need to get here right away.”
“Listen to me. We never talked. Understand?”
“Rudy. They’re burying you.”
The watch lay on the sofa beside him, stuck at 4:23 and nine seconds. As it would always be. It must have fallen out while he tossed in his sleep. While the world turned on its head. In the world he woke to, he was being buried. And Max was alive.
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