Nathan’s Run was my first published novel. It did very well in the marketplace in no small measure because of some great editing. The biggest change from my original version of the story to the story you read now is the ending. My original version was way too schmaltzy, but it did tie up some of the loose ends that were intentionally left untied in the final book. At the time, we went ’round and ’round on where the story should end. While I think I ultimately made the correct choice, I hear a lot from fans who want just a little more.
So here for the first time, on the occasion of the re-release of Nathan’s Run, is the ending as I originally wrote it.
. . . Warren watched awkwardly for just a moment, then smoothly and slowly, with the grace of one who had done it many times before, he moved to the boy and sat down next to him on the sidewalk. Self consciously at first, but then with the warmth and tenderness of a grieving father, he drew Nathan close, his hand disappearing into the grimy tangle of the boys hair.
Amidst the blood and the filth, Nathan caught the faintest aroma of sweaty aftershave, the smell of strength. He closed his eyes and allowed himself to be transported back to sunnier times.
“It’s over now, son,” Warren said, his voice catching in his throat. “No one can hurt you now.” As he pulled Nathan closer still, he rocked him gently back and forth. “It’s okay,” he whispered.
For the longest time, they just sat there together on the sidewalk and cried like babies on national television.
The throngs of police officers, all of whom had trained for the arrest of violent criminals, and most of whom were parents themselves, didn’t know what to do. Most looked away.
Beyond the line of cops, applause started softly at first, and then raised to a cheer as it caught on. Somewhere amongst the noise, someone started chanting “Na-than, Na-than!” It spread quickly through the crowd and grew in both volume and meter until it was clearly audible above the roar of the helicopters.
When Nathan finally heard it, he looked confused. “Are they cheering for me?” he asked, wiping his face with the front of his shirt.
Warren smiled and nodded. “Everybody wants the good guys to win, Nathan,” he said.
As they rose together from the sidewalk, and headed off toward the command post to get it all straightened out, Nathan smiled and gave a shy wave.
The crowd went wild.
Five Months Later
Denise Carpenter waited calmly for her cue, seated at the edge of her seat, her back straight, and her hands folded properly on her lap. The set was beautifully decorated for the Holidays, and she was wearing her favorite Christmas outfit. When the applause light over their heads instructed them to do so, the studio audience thundered their applause, and the red light on camera one jumped to life.
“Thank you very much,” she said into the camera. “Welcome back to the Denise Carpenter Show. Our next guests are very special to me, though I have never met them. During the July Fourth holiday this year, the world was held captivated by the tragic and triumphant events surrounding a young man’s escape from a juvenile detention facility in Virginia …”
Backstage, Nathan fidgeted with his tie as he listened to Denise say nice things about him. This would be his first interview.
“How do I look?” he asked.
“You look great,” Warren replied. “How about me?”
“… Nathan Bailey and Lieutenant Warren Michaels.”
As the studio audience erupted in applause, Enrique ushered them onto the stage.
Ever the composed on-air personality, Denise started to cry when she saw Nathan in person. He looked so different. He was thirteen, now, the boyish looks beginning to be edged out by encroaching manhood. They hugged for a long time. During the embrace, Nathan told her that she was the reason he was still alive.
The applause rolled on and on, embarrassing them all. When it finally died down, Denise started with the question everyone wanted to hear.
“So, Nathan, are you completely out of trouble now?” she asked.
Nathan smiled and shrugged. “I’m in a lot less trouble now than I was last time we talked.” He smiled when he drew a laugh from the audience. Denise noted that his voice was starting to change. “I was lucky that nobody I borrowed from pressed charges.”
Warren added, “No, but you’ll be paying back damages till you’re fifty.”
Denise shifted her attention to Warren. “It’s a big step from arresting officer to foster parent,” she said, coaxing a warm smile from both of them.
Warren shrugged. “Not as big as you might expect,” he said.
“Might this be a permanent arrangement?”
Her guests smiled at each other, as though they had expected the question. Warren earned an angry glare by rumpling Nathan’s hair.
“Anything’s possible,” Warren answered coyly. “But that’s kind of a grown-up concern. For the time being, I think we’re going to concentrate on giving this remarkable young man a chance to be a kid.”
That was the biggest applause line of the program.