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The Wanderers

Here's a quick look at the beginning of The Wanderers:

"I'm too old for this, Maggie thought. She looked over at the beam where Jacquie was performing an aerial cartwheel/back handspring. That's how old you should be in this business, thirteen and counting, not twenty and trying for a comeback. Maggie gave an appreciative nod as Jacquie nailed a full-twisting dismount and landed perfectly.

She braced her shoulders: Don't think about Jacquie. Don't think of anything but getting through this practice. Maggie stood still, breathed deep, rose to her toes and aprinted, arms and legs pumping. She felt good - scared, but good. Hardly aware of her bad ankle. But when she pushed off into the round-off, Maggie felt the adrenalin rush boost her a shade too high. She landed hard and her right foot slipped off the spring-board.

Don't try to pull out. Go through with it. Try to compensate and stretch into the back flip. Reach for the beam - lean to the left. Please, let me feel the beam. Let me push off and twist.

One hand brushed the beam. It did not find purchase. There was only blinding pain.


Kate Douglas looked into the valley below, then closed her eyes against a sudden swirl of vertigo. She shifted her position on the sun-warmed terra-cotta parapet, arching her shoulders and breathing deep againt the pressure in her chest. She turned to look back at the hill-town church, hoping to see her husband picking his way over the slanted cobblestones. Another part of her, however, hoped Howard wouldn't emerge from the cool darkness of the little church until this heaviness in her chest eased, as it had the other times. This was not the way she'd intended to spend the last month of their sabbaticals. They'd gambled that the trip wouldn't exacerbate Howard's condition, and for the most part it hadn't. Ironically, what had happened were these increasingly alarming episodes. No, no, not alarming, just inconvenient.

There he was. Kate watched Howard's sandy-red head lower as he concentrated on maneuvering his canes over the uneven stones. Kate began to call out to him, but instead gasped as a sharp pain caught at her sternum. She sat absolutely still until the pain flickered, dwindled, and vanished.

Ah, yes, just a momentary stitch. Needn't worry Howard.

Kate forced a smile, grasped the carved stone of the balustrade, and pushed herself upright. She took one, then two unsteady steps before the hammer-pain split her chest.


The white-clad doctor closed the chart with a snap. "I'm fairly certain Mr. Riley's not going to last the night," she said to the nurse. "Has he family here?"

"He hasn't had visitors since he came to the clinic," the nurse replied. "But that's not unusual for Americans. I'll check the chart for numbers to contact." She relaxed the stiff stance she'd assumed at the doctor's entrance and touched the blue-blotched arm resting on the white sheet. "He's one of the nice ones," she said softly. "No grumbling, no complaints, always a smile, even when the treatments didn't help."

"They come here too late and expect miracles." The doctor's pager beeped; she seemed relieved at the interruption. "That will be the patient in 374," she said, glancing at it. "Different diagnosis, but another American who waited to come to us until he'd tried everything else." She gave an impatient twitch of her shoulders. "I'm afraid he's another one who may not be with us tomorrow."