Murder Is My Racquet
    Roger was certain all Julie needed was the smallest of boosts. What father could turn away from such need? Truly, all he wished to do was wing the girl in the golden window, a nonfatal wound that would keep her sidelined for a month or two, long enough for Julie to replenish her confidence and gather the momentum she needed.
    Framed by honeyed light, Gigi stood in her window and dared Roger to shoot. Dared him to still the shudder in his arms and summon the courage that had eluded him for months.
    He watched as Gigi took hold of a clump of her hair and brought it close to her face and inspected it. He watched her pluck a split end and flick it toward the screen. A casual gesture that was a perfect echo for the way she mercilessly brushed aside her flawed opponents. Then he watched withfascination as she released her hair and lifted the hairbrush to her mouth—turning it into a microphone, tipping her head to the side as if searching for a more flattering angle in the sunlight of Centre Court Wimbledon. Having completed the entire fortnight without the loss of a set, Gigi had dispatched her final opponent and now curtseyed before the duke and duchess, and explained to the enraptured crowd how she had managed this stunning victory at such a young age. Lucky sperm, Roger imagined her to say. Lucky sperm swam up my mother’s thingy and infected her with me and gave me the endless stamina and the narrow focus and the ability to be unbored by hours of unvarying repetition. I am not worthy of this trophy, she would say. The deserving one is Julie Shelton back in Sand Hills, Florida, a girl who went farther than anyone would have expected given the fact she had such unlucky sperm. Julie Shelton, a beautiful loser. This is for you, unlucky Julie. This is for you, you pathetic girl, who never found the guts and gristle and monotonous meanness to succeed.
    Through his sight Roger Shelton watched as Gigi dropped the hairbrush and came to sudden attention. Her smile went rigid as if someone had plucked the harp string that joined her cerebellum with the million unbearable nerves of her body. And then Gigi’s mouth went slack and with one final puff of energy those ruthless blue eyes fixed on Roger’s and all around his hiding place the woods glowed with Gigi Janeway’s outrage. In her last moment of consciousness, a pout took control of her lips as if she were suffering an unaccustomed disappointment, some treasure withheld, some bauble snatched from her grasp.
    Roger lowered the rifle and listened to the echo of the blastswallowed by the thick, damp air, the surf roar of traffic, the high keening of crickets and mosquitoes, and the muffled television laughter leaking from behind insulated walls and all that machine-driven air.
    He was to learn later that no one had heard the shot. No witnesses came forward with descriptions of a man dressed in camouflage. Apparently Roger had moved back to his car with perfect anonymity. In the following days, police investigators searched the nearby woods but failed to locate his nest in the trees or any other sign of him. The Sand Hills police were utterly baffled. Their theory was that Gigi had been struck by a stray slug from someone taking target practice in the woods. Arthur and Bettina pleaded for help from state authorities or the FBI but they were denied. A month after the incident the furor had subsided.
    What Roger learned of Gigi’s condition came from the newspaper stories and the scuttlebutt around the used car lot. For seven weeks Gigi Janeway lay in a coma. When she woke, she remembered little of her previous life. The most mundane physical movements were now monumental challenges. For a while, every breath was a test, every eye blink an accomplishment. Her muscle memory had been totally erased. It would be a year before she could walk without crutches. Two before she might even grip a tennis racquet again.
    Indeed, it was almost two years to the day of her shooting when Roger

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