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I am standing in line for It's A Small World at Walt Disney World in Florida. Annie is in my arms, but this time we are not alone. Caitlin stands beside us, smiling as the line snakes toward the boats filled with parents and wide-eyed children. We are not a family, the three of us, not legally, but we are very happy together in this moment. Caitlin takes my hand as the line moves forward, not looking at me but simply being with me, with the comfort of familiar lovers.

I hardly ever think of Livy now, and when I do it is only with sadness for her, not for us. She flew back to Atlanta the day after the trial, but whether to conclude her divorce or to reconcile with her husband, I have no idea. Before she left, I had coffee with her at the Eola Hotel. In the awkward silence between us, I made three requests. First, that she inform Jenny Doe that her father was a boy who is now married and does not want his identity revealed. Second, that Livy provide funds for Jenny to attend the college of her choice, and establish a trust fund that will provide a livable income for the rest of Jenny's life. And third, that she make no fuss over Jenny using the Marston family name, should she elect to do so. I suspect that Jenny will elect not to, but I want her to have the choice. The threat of what could happen should Livy not live up to these conditions did not need to be stated. My knowledge of the contents of Leo's secret safe could decimate her family fortune.

The remaining fallout from the trial happened quickly. Less than forty-eight hours after portions of Dwight Stone's testimony began running on CNN, John Portman was asked by the President to resign as director of the FBI. One week later it was announced that he had accepted a position with the De-Tocqueville Trust, a conservative think-tank based in Alexandria, Virginia.

Four days after Portman's resignation, Special Agent Peter Lutjens's transfer to North Dakota was rescinded, and he resumed his duties in Washington, D.C. Dwight Stone's daughter also resumed her Bureau duties, but Stone has confided to me by telephone that she plans to resign soon. She seems to have some crazy idea about practicing country law with her father in Colorado.

Two weeks after Stone mounted the witness stand in Natchez, a grand jury indicted Leo Marston on capital murder charges. He is scheduled to go to trial in two days, with Austin Mackey prosecuting. The consensus of the Natchez legal community is that he will be found guilty and receive life imprisonment. When the masses finally turn on a tyrant, they turn viciously.

In the mayoral election, Wiley Warren defeated Shad Johnson by a percentage margin of 51-49. Shad did not win the votes of those "good whites" he needed to push him over the top, and the ill feeling stirred up by my pursuit of the Payton case may well have been the cause of that. Such is life. Wiley Warren has not been a bad mayor. And if Shad means business, he can stick around four more years and become a true citizen of the town. I may do that myself.

The cool November air has thinned the crowds at Disney World, and we've had our run of the park. Some popular rides have no lines at all. Yet the Fantasyland rides-Dumbo and Alice's Tea Party and It's A Small World-are always backed up at least to the end of the chute. Some parents have the stupefied looks of ride hypnosis, but most of the faces are alight with joy. The longing for that kind of innocence never quite fades.

As we near the magical grotto, the syrupy sweet chorus of "It's A Small World After All" envelops us, and I think again of Jenny Doe. As a foster child, she never set foot in a place like this. She never had the chance to believe it was real, or to return later and laugh about how corny it is. Jenny was not my child. But she could have been. She could have been. In the dreadful moment that she told me she thought she was, my fear had testified to the possibility. Our actions have consequences that last long after us, entwining the present with the future in ways we cannot begin to understand. I have resolved a simple thing: I will do those things which make me happy today, and which I can also live with ten years from now.

As Caitlin helps Annie into the flat-bottomed boat, she turns back and looks at me, her green eyes sparkling. My mind is a thousand miles away, and she knows it. She kisses me anyway, pulling me gently back to reality with a warm and promising gesture of love. Caitlin is not a substitute for the wife I lost. She is a different person. Her own person. Sarah will always be the secret sharer in my heart, and in Annie's too. But Annie no longer walks the streets of Disney World with haunted eyes, searching for a face she will never see in life again. And when I make love with Caitlin, holding her tenderly in the dark as Annie sleeps, I push not into the past but into the future.

As the little boat jerks forward off the rollers and settles into the water, I put my arms around Caitlin and Annie and hug them to me with all my strength and soul. Their laughter is like lamplight in the dark.

I can live with this.

CHAPTER 41 | The Quiet Game |