Leaving Time: A Novel

Free Leaving Time: A Novel by Jodi Picoult

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Authors: Jodi Picoult
China … rose. China … rose. And the client looks up and says to me,
Well, when she died, I inherited her whole set of china, and it’s got a rose pattern
. Now, I have no idea why Grandma was showing me egg rolls instead of a gravy bowl with a rose on it. But that’s what I mean—an elephant might not really be an elephant. It could be standing in for something else.”
    I look at her, confused. “But you’ve told me twice now that she’s not dead.”
    Serenity hesitates. “Look, you should know that I don’t exactly have a perfect track record.”
    I shrug. “Just because you screwed up once doesn’t mean you’ll screw up again.”
    She opens her mouth, but then snaps it shut.
    “Back when you used to find missing people,” I ask, “how did you do it?”
    “I’d take a piece of clothing or a toy that belonged to the child. Then I’d go for a walk with the cops, trying to retrace the last few minutes where he was seen,” Serenity says. “And sometimes I’d get … something.”
    “Like?”
    “A flash in my head—of a street sign or type of landscape, or a make of car, or even once a goldfish bowl that turned out to be in the room where the kid was being locked up. But …” She shifts uneasily. “My psychic arteries may have hardened a little bit.”
    I don’t know how a psychic could ever lose, if—as Serenity says—the information she gets might be a direct hit or might actually mean the exact opposite. It seems to me like the biggest career safety net
ever
. And yeah, maybe the elephant Serenity pictured is some metaphor for a huge obstacle my mother’s faced; but as Freud would probably say, maybe it’s really an elephant. There’s only one way to find out. “You have a car, right?”
    “Yeah … what? Why?”
    I walk across the living room, wrapping my mother’s scarf around my neck. Then I reach into one of the drawers I’d searched through when I first arrived, in which I’d seen a jangle of car keys. I toss them to Serenity and walk out the door of her apartment. I may not be psychic, but I know this much: She’s too curious about what that dream means not to follow.
    Serenity drives a yellow VW Bug from the 1980s that has rusted through in a lacy pattern behind the passenger door. My bike is pretzeled into the backseat. I direct her on back roads and state highways, getting lost only twice, because you can cut through alleyways on a bike that you can’t cut through with a car. When we get to the StarkNature Preserve, we are the only car parked in the lot. “Now are you going to tell me why you dragged me here?” she asks.
    “This used to be an elephant sanctuary,” I tell her.
    She looks out the window, as if she expects to still see one. “Here? In New Hampshire?”
    I nod. “My dad was an animal behaviorist. He started the place, before he met my mom. Everyone thinks about elephants living in superhot places like Thailand and Africa, but they can adapt really well to cold, and even snow. When I was born he had seven elephants here that he’d rescued from zoos and circuses.”
    “Where are they now?”
    “The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee took them all, when this place shut down.” I look at the chain gate across the trailhead. “The land was sold back to the state. I was too little to remember when it happened.” I open the passenger door and get out of the car, glancing back to make sure that Serenity is following me. “We have to walk the rest of the way.”
    Serenity looks down at her leopard-print flip-flops and then at the overgrown trail. “Where?”
    “You tell me.”
    It takes Serenity a moment to understand what I’m asking her to do. “Oh no,” she says. “
Hell
no.” She pivots on her heel and starts back to the car.
    I grab her arm. “You told me you haven’t had a dream in years. But you dreamed about my mom. It’s not going to hurt to see if you get a flash of something, is it?”
    “Ten years isn’t a cold case, it’s an

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