Elison and Cheryl file a civil suit to commit him themselves. They explain it to Jamie, and he understands that he needs help. A hearing is set in Marshall County. Although it is a civil proceeding, the prosecution tells the court that it is protecting its interests in the matter and will not agree that Jamie is mentally ill. To Cheryl and Elison, this does not seem fair: All they are trying to do is get psychiatric treatment for their son, which the mental hospital itself says he needs. Carolyn Foster's widower, Dallas, takes a seat behind Jamie in the courtroom. Jamie sees him and tries to move away. Jamie draws up into a knot, tucks his feet beneath him and places his head on his knees. He puts his hands over his face and begins to cry. His shoulders shake and then his body. It occurs to Elison that Jamie might reach for a deputy's gun and shoot himself. In the end, the judge in Marshall County declares the matter outside his jurisdiction.
It is Oct. 11, 1996. Shara Flacy, the public defender, visits Jamie in jail. He refuses again to help her prepare for his criminal trial. She presses him hard. He begins to pace, then trembles uncontrollably. He says he will be dead before his trial starts, and he shouts until a jailer takes him away. Back in his cell, he breaks apart a Game Boy and uses a piece to cut his wrists and arms. Shortly after 9 p.m., Cheryl's telephone rings. It is Jamie. His voice shakes, and he is crying. "How are you?" Cheryl asks. He replies: "Not so good." He cannot talk long, only to say that he is back at the mental hospital in Nashville on an emergency basis, pending the formalities of his commitment. Although he is incoherent, he tells her enough about the Game Boy to make it clear that he has tried for a second time to kill himself.
The next day is visiting day for Jeremy at Wilder, halfway across the state. Cheryl telephones Dena Ray. Will she go to Nashville in the morning and tell Jamie that his parents will do their best to be there before the hospital locks him down for the night?
Dena pushes her GMC Jimmy to 75 mph, a steady 5 mph over the speed limit. Will they let her see him?
"For a little bit," an attendant says.
She takes him in her arms. "Jamie, what have you done? What are you trying to do?"
Without looking up, he holds out his wrists. They are covered with cuts.
She takes a chance. She is not his parent but a friend, and sometimes she can tease him in ways that Elison and Cheryl cannot. "Jamie, that's really stupid, you know. If you're going to do it, do it right."
He flicks a smile, gives a tiny shrug and shakes his head.
She wraps him in her arms again. "Jamie, I love you. You don't need to do this. We care what happens. Your mother and daddy care. Think about Adam. You've got a reason to live. Jamie, we just love you."
That is all she can say. Even to Dena, it seems hopeless. What do you offer an 18-year-old boy who has killed two people? Is love enough?
Elison and Cheryl do not make it before Jamie is locked down. Four days pass before doctors permit a visit. Elison and Cheryl stop at a vending machine and buy Jamie a Mountain Dew. They pour it into paper cups; no metal cans are allowed inside the hospital. Jamie can hardly talk, his eyes are bloodshot, he can barely keep them open; he looks stoned. It is the medication, Cheryl guesses. She hugs him. He holds her, and he will not let go. Finally, Elison hugs him. Jamie tries to lift a paper cup, but his hand shakes too much. His arms are bandaged from his wrists to his elbows. Elison and Cheryl talk to him about anything and everything they can think of, but there are growing expanses of silence. Finally they have nothing else to say.
"I couldn't help it," Jamie tells them. "I couldn't stop myself."
"Try not to ever do it again," Cheryl implores.
"I'll try not to." But Jamie cannot bring himself to promise.
Cheryl cries halfway home.
Elison reaches across the front seat and places his hand over hers. Visiting each of the boys every weekend and sometimes at midweek is scheduled time together, almost like a steady date. They have long hours in the car together to talk. They hug more often and hold on to each other more. "Well, that's just what I was thinking," she will say. Or he will say, "Well, I was just fixing to say that." They find themselves finishing each other's sentences. Sometimes they even say the same thing at the same time.