II. We lived in a preoccupation as complete as that of a dream. —Marie Curie NOW “What did he do? What did he do?” Everything is wet. The chloroform is gone from the air now but seems instead to all be inside me, like droopy flowers going to rot in my mouth, my head. “What...

THEN Can you imagine what it might feel like for someone to confess a murder to you? What it means to hear it, to know it, to carry it with you? You have been made an involuntary accomplice. Accessory after the fact. What would you do? Go to the police? Urge repentance? Offer words...

NOW It’s amazing—well, alarming, really—what you can do when you have to. When you’re cornered like a rat. “Look at us. Bright and early on a weekend,” I’m saying. My voice is jolly and jaunty, not my own. “Serge, let me introduce you to Diane Fleming.” We’re...

NOW In the car, we don’t speak. She drives carefully. Stopping at all the yellow lights. Every time she turns a corner, her key chain smacks the ignition panel. One of those furry key chains kids used to have swinging from their backpacks. Soft and perfectly white and I find myself...

NOW There are storm drains all over town. And the next town and the next. But somehow I can’t stop driving. I’m at least a hundred miles away when I pull off the interstate and meander a few miles until I find a highway drain that looks deep enough to devour anything. I don’t...

NOW The lab always looks like it’s glowing at this hour. The pale concrete illuminated by ground lights. Those slit windows like shut eyes, black and lifeless. A puzzle box snapped shut. I don’t see Zell’s dirt bike or Juwon’s sturdy Nissan. Dr. Severin’s grove-green Citroën...

THEN “This is Monday morning, May the eighth, and you will be taking the AP Chemistry exam. You may now remove the shrink-wrap from your exam packet and take out the section one booklet, but do not open the booklet or the shrink-wrapped section two materials. Put the white seals...

NOW At five a.m. Monday, my phone clatters like wind-up teeth. “Have you heard anything?” “No.” I can almost hear Diane’s mouth pressed against her phone. It feels like there’s some tunnel made of breath and skin connecting us. An artery blown to life more than a decade...

I have to blink twice; the whiteness of the lab’s clean stainless everything nearly blinds me. I’m in G-21 for the first time since Saturday. Since I scurried away like a lab rat, trails of blood instead of a tail. Since I watched Alex die. And there is nothing to see. Maxim...

NOW The perversity of woman is so great as to be incredible even to its victims. I remember that quote from college. The great philosopher Caro. Deep in the stacks of the State U. library, I found it in a dust-gilded book from the nineteenth century, its leather slipping from its...