After looking up and down each aisle and through each level of the hospital parking lot, Sharp walked slowly along the sidewalk that bordered the hospital’s main building and multiple wings. She looked up and down the street. A ball of worry grew in her stomach.
Where did I leave the car? she thought to herself. She couldn’t remember anything except blinding headlights after running out of 141 Fulgrove. She bit at her lower lip. I cannot lose my car! Her good hand curled into a fist and the cut one did what it could.
She turned the corner onto Wellesley Street. A lit-up, empty Toronto Transit Commission bus rumbled past and left a parking lot on the far side of the street in its wake. The lights were off and the attendant’s booth was locked and in darkness, but Sharp could make out a beige K-car. It was parked — or just “left,” more like it — on an angle and straddling two spots.
Sharp’s eyelids closed in a quick prayer of thanks before she darted across the street.
The K-car crawled along Sherbourne Street. Sharp stopped at a pedestrian crosswalk and waited for a couple of punks to amble from one side of the street to the other. She pressed on the gas and continued toward Carlton.
A twinkling light coming from a building on the east side of the street caught her attention. It was a church. Sharp’s mind shot back to her night with Claire. They had been driving up this street. Claire had pointed it out: a pale, stone building set back from the street.
“See that church? My family goes there. We’ve been going there for years — since I was born,” Claire had said.
Sharp hadn’t pegged her as religious, but then again, at that point in the night they’d known each other for only a few minutes. All she’d had time to peg her for was gorgeous.
Sharp glanced over at the building — and took her foot off the gas. She pulled up to the curb and killed the engine. She climbed out of the K-car, crossed the street and walked up a stone path to the building’s wide, front steps and passed a sign that read “Grace Chapel, est 1907.” Two iron pillars with glowing, dome-shaped lights on top stood on either side of the steps. They lit up the front of the chapel, including the two carved, wooden doors that sealed the entrance.
Sharp reached for the handle of the door on the left. It creaked open. A rush of incense mixed with the smell of dry stone and warm, burnished wood enveloped her.
The place was dimly lit; a few wall sconces were on, and so were a couple of hanging lights and candles near the altar. Sharp wondered if a late-night service had just ended.
Looking around the cavernous interior, Sharp felt the same mixture of awe and mild anxiety she’d felt when she was taken to church as a child. She remembered getting lost in the service, unable to keep track of what excerpt was being read and when. She had preferred to gaze around the church, her mind drifting over the carved details and dusty artifacts as a general sense of unease spread through her. She was always happy to file out into the sunshine and get home.
Sharp’s hand was throbbing. She held it up against her chest like the doctor had told her to. What was his name? She frowned. Usually they introduce themselves, she thought and then remembered Nurse Hall’s unusual behaviour and figured anything was possible.
Sharp noticed a maroon-coloured Book of Common Prayer lying beside her on the pew. She picked it up and turned it over in her hand. She glanced at the spine.
Her eyes shot open.
Iverson? I knew it! Sharp opened the book to the inside front cover, flipped forward a few tissuey pages and scanned down to the line: Reprinted by Iverson Devotionals Limited, Toronto, Canada, 19—.
The front door creaked open.
“Huh?” Sharp turned in her seat and squinted into the darkness. A rush of ice-cold air wrapped around her.
A figure was sharply outlined in the doorway. Outside the chapel, the two pillar lights rear-lit the person’s figure — a woman’s figure. Sharp blinked.
The woman stood still, frozen, and her eyes locked with Sharp’s. Her hand came up to her mouth.
“Claire?” Sharp said, her voice hoarse. The woman’s blond hair was pulled back from her face. She was wearing a pale sweater and skirt, just visible under an open dark coat.
“Claire—” Sharp stepped out of the pew, tripped on the cushioned kneeling bar and stumbled to the ground in the centre of the aisle. She let out a squeal of agony as she landed on her cut hand.
The woman took a step backward, turned and was gone. Sharp crawled up and ran to the door and pulled it open.
On the street, the woman — Claire — fumbled with her keys, then disappeared inside a blue Buick.
“Claire! Wait!” Sharp ran down the path and into the street. But she was too late. The Buick was gone. Sharp stared after the car with her mouth open. Her wound was open, too; a droplet of blood hit the pavement.
Sharp raised her damaged hand and held it over her heart. “She’s . . . alive,” she said aloud for anyone to hear.
Sharp pushed her elbow into the hinge of the folding door, then shoved the two panels across as she stepped into the phone booth. Someone had used it recently but not to make a call. Sharp’s face scrunched up against the piercing smell of urine. She lifted the receiver and dropped a quarter into the coin slot and dialled. She waited.
The cool voice of Janet Lee came on the line. She’d gone to the same high school as her husband, Kevin Lee, and Sharp. She’d been jealous of their friendship then, and 10 years hadn’t changed a thing.
“Hi, Janet. Sorry to bother you so late, but could I speak to Kevin?” Sharp asked in the most cheerful tone she could muster.
“I believe he’s sleeping,” Janet said.
“Would you mind checking? It’s really important.”
After a pause, Janet said, “Hang on.”
Sharp heard the phone land with a clunk on a hard surface. After a moment and some indecipherable words in the background, Lee’s voice came on the line.
“What’s up?” he said, sounding very much awake.
“I’m on Sherbourne, just at — where am I?” Sharp looked around “— just down from Wellesley Hospital. Anyway, I saw Claire, and, well — she’s alive!” she blurted out.
“Claire who?” Lee asked.
“Iverson! The murder case, remember? Crossley Street?”
“Right. So you’re saying the victim is . . . alive and well and living on Sherbourne Street?”
“Look, I saw her with my own eyes. She looked at me and then she took off in a blue Buick. I didn’t catch the plate number. But she was alive . . . er, she is alive.”
Lee sighed, then said slowly, “Sidney, I was in the morgue. I saw her body. She’s dead. Like, totally dead. I don’t know who, or what, you saw, but it wasn’t Claire Iverson.”