Richard Montanari (38 page)

    But
today she had gotten caught, and she was going to go to jail. Even though
Detective Byrne said that wasn't going to happen, she wasn't so sure. She had
wanted to tell him about the man in 1208, but for some reason she couldn't
bring herself to do it.

    And
now, sitting on this rusting fire escape, she began to cry. It was the first
time for years. She tasted the salt on her lips. She felt pathetic.

    It
was worse for the little girl who'd been killed. Little Stacy Pennell. Sergio
had told her the story.

    In
1999 a ten-year-old girl, whose family had lived in Le Jardin when it had been
an apartment building, had been down in the laundry room with her older sister
Cyndy. Cyndy, whose job it was to watch her runt of a sister, couldn't be
bothered, it seemed. When Cyndy wasn't looking, Stacy had grabbed the keys from
on top of the dryer and snuck out of the laundry room.

    Sergio
said that when Stacy got off the elevator she probably did not notice the man
standing in the stairwell at the end of the hall, just a few feet from the
entrance to the Pennell apartment.

    When
they found Stacy later she had been brutally murdered, her throat cut from ear
to ear. Sergio said her body had bite marks on it.

    It
had happened in Room 1208.

    It
couldn't have been coincidence, Lucy thought. It just couldn't. The man in 1208
had been there for a reason. Some other little girl was going to be hurt.

    Was
the man who killed Stacy Pennell the same man who had kidnapped
her?

    Lucy
was suddenly cold. She slipped back inside, shut the window. She walked over to
the closet, opened the door, sat down, and waited for the night to embrace her.

    Fifteen
feet below, in the gloom of the stairwell beneath the fire escape, a man
stepped into the shadows and joined Lucinda Doucette in darkness.

 

    

Chapter 46

    

    Friday,
October 29

    

    In
the shower Jessica thought about the previous night. Vincent had listened to
her entire well-planned speech. He had been surprisingly receptive to the idea of
adopting Carlos, considering that he was not the most open-minded person she
had ever met.

    They
made love a second time, this time sweet, married love, and halfway through she
saw something in Vincent's dark eyes that told her they might actually do this.
Later Vincent told her, in the twilight before sleep, that he wanted to meet
Carlos first before even thinking about making any decision, of course. Maybe
he wanted to do a little male bonding, Jessica thought. Take the kid to a
Flyers game, do a few Jager Bombs, leaf through a copy of the new
Maxim.

    As
she was getting dressed, she realized that Vincent had made the bed - a first.
She also noticed a flower on her pillow. Granted, it was a silk flower, and
Vincent had taken it from the arrangement on the dining-room table. But it was
the thought that counted.

 

    Marcel's
Costume Company was a storefront on Market Street near Third. Established in
1940, Marcel's carried a full line of Halloween outfits, professional make-up,
wigs, and accessories. Marcel's also created costumes for local television
shows and was quite often hired for supplemental wardrobe for Philadelphia's
booming film-production industry.

    But
today it was all about Halloween. Marcel's was open twenty- four hours a day
this week, and even at 7:30 a.m. the store was half full.

    When
Jessica and Sophie walked in, Jessica saw Rory behind the counter. Rory Bianchi
was a kid from the old neighborhood who had always had a crush on Jessica, and
ever since ninth grade they'd had the sort of relationship where the flirting
went on but never went anywhere.

    'The
two prettiest girls in Philly,' Rory said. 'In my shop!'

    'Hi,
Rory!' Sophie said.

    'Hey
little darlin',' he said. 'Ready for the big night?'

    Sophie
nodded. A kid in a costume shop. Outside of a candy story, there was nothing
cooler. Jessica remembered coming into Marcel's when she was a girl and Wonder
Woman had been the rage.

    'I
have it for you right here,' Rory said.

    Of
all the costumes available - including Disney characters like Ariel from
The
Little Mermaid,
which was Sophie's favorite movie - Sophie had picked
something called the Snowflake Fairy. Jessica had tried to explain that
Halloween was a fall holiday, but her words had fallen on deaf ears. Unlike her
mother, Sophie loved the winter, especially snowflakes. Come December Sophie
was endlessly cutting them out of construction paper and dotting the house with
them.

    'Do
you want the wings and the wand, too?' Rory asked.

    It
was a dumb question, but Jessica looked at Sophie anyway. Sophie seemed to be
in a fairy trance, the reflection of white satin in her big brown eyes.

    'Sure,'
Jessica said.

    'I
take it you'll want the tiara as well.'

    Jessica
took out her credit card as fast as she could, in case there was anything else.

 

    Sophie
floated out to the parking lot, still in a daze, the dress clutched tightly in
her hands, as if Monica Quagliata might be lurking behind the next SUV - Monica
with designs on the Snowflake Fairy costume.

    When
they got to the car, Sophie supervised the hanging of the costume on the hook
in the back, pronounced it safely stowed for the few-mile journey. She slipped
into the seat next to it, buckled in.

    Before
Jessica could start the car, a family crossed the street in front of them -
mom, dad, two boys, two girls. Jessica looked over at Sophie.

    'Do
most of your friends have brothers and sisters?' Jessica asked. It was a
rhetorical question, but one that Jessica needed to ask to get the conversation
started.

    Sophie
didn't give this too much thought. She just nodded.

    'Do
you ever wish
you
had brothers and sisters?'

    A
shrug. 'Sometimes.'

    'What
would you think about having a brother?'

    'A
brother?'

    'Yeah.'

    
'A
boy?
'

    Jessica
laughed. 'Yeah. A boy, sweetie.'

    Sophie
thought for a moment. 'Boys are okay. A little bossy, but okay, I guess.'

 

    Jessica
dropped Sophie off at school, stopped at Old City Coffee on Church Street.
Outside, she picked up an
Inquirer
and a free copy of
The Report,
Philly's sleaziest tabloid - and that was saying something. As expected, the
current spate of murders was splashed across the cover.

    
Philly
Noir, the Geometry of Vengeance, screamed the headline.

    Jessica
tossed the
Report
in the trash, tucked the
Inquirer
under her
arm. She got into her car, wondering how Byrne was faring.

    
Have
you found them yet? The lion and the rooster and the swan? Are there others?

    What did
Christa-Marie Schönburg have to do with all this?

    She
checked her cellphone. No calls from Byrne.

 

    The
primary role of the Department of Human Services was to intervene and protect
neglected, abused or abandoned children, as well as to guarantee their
well-being when there were immediate threats or impending dangers in their
lives.

    The
Children and Youth Division provided youth and family-centered services to more
than 20,000 children and their families each year.

    Although
the main offices were located at 1515 Arch Street there were various facilities
throughout the city - temporary shelters and foster-care centers.

    Jessica
arrived at Hosanna House, a stand-alone brick building on Second Street. She
signed in and walked to the day room at the back. She was immediately assaulted
by the sound of a dozen toddlers in full morning mania. The place smelled like
orange juice and crayons.

    Carlos
sat at a table with two little girls and a young woman of about twenty. He wore
a red cardigan. He looked adorable.

    Jessica
watched him for a few minutes. Kids were unbelievably resilient, she thought.
Just two weeks earlier this little boy's life had been hell on Earth.

    But
Jessica knew enough, had seen enough cases of abused and neglected children to
know that many times there was residual grief and anger and fear. Most of the
people she had arrested in the past five years were, almost to a man or woman,
products of broken homes.

    Carlos
looked up and saw her. He got out of his chair, rocketed across the room, and
threw his arms around her. He ran back, got a piece of paper from the table,
ran back to Jessica, handed it to her.

    It
was a crayon drawing of a room, possibly the living room where Carlos had lived
with his mother. There was something that looked like a chair and a table, and
a woman in the corner with wild dark hair, eyes the size of her whole head.
Patricia Lentz, Carlos's biological mother, had blonde hair, almost white.

    It
didn't take Jessica long to realize the figure in the drawing just might be
her. Right behind her was a bright sun. Jessica's heart felt ready to beat its
way out of her chest.

    She
looked at the table in Carlos's drawing. On the table was something that
Jessica had no trouble recognizing. It was a two-year- old boy's rendition of a
gun.

    Jessica
suddenly felt a paralyzing wave of sadness. She fought it.

    'Can
I have this?' she asked Carlos.

    Carlos
nodded.

    'Stand
up tall - let me look at you.'

    Carlos
stood at attention. His hair was combed, his face scrubbed. His sweater and
pants looked new.

    'This
is a beautiful sweater,' Jessica said.

    Carlos
giggled, looked down, toyed with a button, perhaps thought better of messing
with it. He was two. He knew his limitations.

    'Where
did you get your new clothes?'

    Carlos
turned toward the table, held out his tiny hand. Jessica walked over, hand in
hand with Carlos. He sat down and tucked into a new drawing.

    'Hi,'
Jessica said.

    The
young woman at the plastic picnic table looked up. 'Hi.'

    Jessica
pointed to the drawing in her hand. 'This is pretty good for a two-year-old. I
couldn't draw a straight line then. Still can't.'

    The
young woman laughed. 'Join the club.' She looked over at Carlos, smoothed his
hair. 'He's
such
a beautiful boy.'

    'Yes,
he is,' Jessica said.

    'I'd
kill for those eyelashes.'

    'Are
you a counselor here?'

    'No,
no,' the young woman said. 'I just help out. I volunteer one day a week.'

    Jessica
nodded. The young woman had about her an air of competence, but also an air of
sadness. Jessica felt the same way about herself sometimes. It was hard to see
the things she saw every day and not be affected. Especially the kids. Jessica
glanced at her watch. Her tour was starting.

    'It
was nice talking to you,' Jessica said.

    'Same
here.'

    Jessica
extended her hand. 'My name is Jessica, by the way.'

    The
young woman stood, shook her hand. 'Lucy,' she replied. 'Lucy Doucette.'

 

    

Chapter 47

    

    When
Jessica got to her car she felt another wave of melancholy. The drawing that
Carlos had given her hit home. It would probably be a long time until those
memories passed from his life. Was it too much for her and Vincent to be taking
on?

    As
she unlocked the car door she turned to see someone approaching. It was Martha
Reed, the director of Hosanna House. Martha was in her early fifties, plump but
energetic, with clever blue eyes that missed nothing.

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