Authors: James Patterson,Richard Dilallo
Tags: #Mystery Thriller
IT’S AN EASY GUESS and a good guess that Blumenthal is still at the precinct where Orlov is being held. Needless to say, that’s precisely where I
to be. But, as is usually the case, where I absolutely
to be is at Gramatan University Hospital to be available to my pregnant mothers.
GUH is a mess: Tracy Anne has not shown up as yet that morning, and no one knows where she is. Troy has worked for thirteen straight hours, through the night. So he’s having a catch-up nap in the sleep room. Two quite dependable trainees are working with two very young mothers who have gone into early labor. I look in on both. So far, so good. I’ll check in with them every fifteen minutes.
What about me? Well, my list shows that I have three women who could be delivering at any moment or, at the very least, in the next few hours.
Meanwhile, my waiting room is full, very full, eleven women full. Four are there for the prenatal diet and
exercise class. We do it. There’s a lot of moaning and quite a few bathroom breaks, but eventually the one-hour class ends.
Damn it, there’s still no word from Tracy Anne. I’ve called her. HR has called her. So I email my favorite backup midwife over at NYU Langone. Her name is Lizzie Witten, and she’s the best in the business. Great news: Lizzie Witten’s available, and she’ll be at GUH in twenty minutes. The moment Witten arrives, I run down to the temporary NYPD/ FBI investigation room on the second floor, where I’m told Blumenthal is right now back at the NYPD Major Case Squad offices downtown.
I am, as I have often been, pissed off at Blumenthal. His long silences come across as smugness. His voice usually has a bored or impatient tone to it, as if it’s nothing but a painful chore to speak to me, to answer my questions. And his lack of gratitude for my help in this case so far makes me want to punch him in the face every time I see him.
The more I think about Blumenthal, the angrier I become. After my encounter in the cemetery, after my mugging in the park, after my trip out to Brighton, the volcano inside me feels like it’s about to explode.
So I take the subway down to One Police Plaza. Hell. I just can’t control myself.
“Welcome, Ms. Ryuan,” Blumenthal says when, without knocking, I walk into the office I’ve been led to by another detective in the squad. “Always a pleasure.”
“I’m warning you, Detective. Don’t start up with me,” I say.
“Why are you here?”
“I wanted to tell you in person that I had my cell phone recording translated.”
“I’m not at all surprised. I suspected you would do that.”
My hands are practically vibrating with anger. My mouth is going dry. Then it happens. I explode.
“You self-satisfied son of a bitch. I’ve done more to move this case forward than you or anyone else in this department.
And I’m not even part of this goddamn department.
“Lucy, listen—” he begins.
“‘Listen’? ‘Lucy, listen’? Don’t you dare start with that ‘Lucy, listen’ phrase,” I shout. “Don’t fucking condescend to me.
the one who spotted the shoes on Nina.
the one who played decoy in the cemetery and met with two criminals, two killers.
the one who got my head smashed open in the park.”
“Stop it,” he says. Loudly. Very loudly. Then he says, “And I’m the one who appreciates it all. You’re the one who needs to be petted and kissed and thanked a thousand times. I
appreciate all you’ve done … and all you can still do to help.”
I have to interrupt. “Then why did I have to schlep out to the bowels of Brooklyn because you wouldn’t give me the translation?”
“That’s because it was classified, and we can’t transmit classified information over the phone or by email. If you had just waited, if you had just trusted me. And anyway, now that we both know what Orlov and Nina were saying to each other, let me ask you: does it make any difference?”
The conversation goes silent. Finally, I break that silence.
“No,” I say. “It doesn’t make a damn bit of difference.”
Silence once again. Blumenthal looks down at the floor. Then we both look through a glass panel of his office wall. We look out at the men and women in the office who are pretending not to look at us.
Now I speak quietly. I almost want to hold him by the
shoulders so that he’ll listen. “Detective, please, please pay attention to what I say. If you do, then you’ll understand why I am the way I am.” Then I say, “This is all about
. This isn’t a jewel theft on Fifth Avenue. This isn’t a druggie who cuts his skeevy dealer in the belly. This isn’t a robbery in a bodega or a husband who skipped out on his wife with the savings account money.
This is babies!
I’m not a very good Catholic. There’s a lot I don’t believe in. But I do believe that babies are miracles. They’re gifts from God. This is the biggest tragedy I’ve ever been close to. This means everything to me.”
There is no pause. Blumenthal looks straight at me and says, “Lucy, I feel exactly the same way.”
And suddenly I believe that he does.
When he speaks next, he is all business, but it’s important business. “I want to tell you that I think I’m on to something—actually, someone—who can help us,” he says.
“Did Orlov start talking?” I ask.
“No. He’s still closed tight. But like I said, I’ve got something else—
“Okay,” I say. “What is it? Who is it?”
Blumenthal picks up his cell phone and drops it into his shirt pocket. He walks to the office door.
“Just follow me.”
I WALK WITH LEON Blumenthal down some flights of stairs to a parking garage, then we take a sweaty drive in an unmarked police car north to West 35th Street and the Midtown Precinct South. It dawns on me that I was quite recently here. After the mugging at Penn Station.
When we enter, I immediately get the impression that Blumenthal is a pretty respected guy here. He walks the wide, gray corridors while handing out a lot of friendly nods. He takes me well past the room Willie and I sat in that evening, and deeper into the building.
“Go left here,” Blumenthal says. A stenciled plastic sign on a glass door is meant to spell out the words
. Instead some clever asshole has blacked out the first seven letters of the sign and inked in
. So now it says
“Very classy signage,” I say. Then I add, “Ignore the fact that the word’s misspelled. What the hell does that mean?”
Blumenthal shrugs. “Who the hell knows?” he says. “A lot of angry, crazy people pass through every precinct in this city.”
We arrive at a door marked
. Next to that door is another door. This second door is marked
OBSERVATION ROOM 1
“You wait out here for a minute, Lucy. I’m going in to clear you with the interviewer and, even more important, with the guy we’re interviewing.”
So it’s a guy.
Blumenthal knocks and enters. I immediately recognize Bobby Cilia’s voice coming from inside the room.
“Detective Leon Blumenthal enters the room at ten seventeen. Good morning—”
The door closes, and I’m left standing alone in the hall. Not many people are walking this hallway. One officer with one weeping woman in cuffs. Two officers walking together while both are looking at the screen of a cell phone.
I’m about to check my phone, but before I can punch in my code, a young and quite pretty woman appears next to me. The woman is blond and unnecessarily skinny. She is wearing a sundress—light, cotton, sleeveless, big red floral print on a white background—and carrying a chic brown Birkin bag. She speaks to me.
“Forget it.” She points to a sign:
NO CELL PHONES IN INTERROGATION ROOMS
“Wow,” I say. “I should read more. That sign is bigger than my car.”
Then she says, “Have you by any chance seen Leon Blumenthal slithering around here?”
“Yeah, he slithered into this room right here,” I say, pointing to the interrogation room.
“I’d better not interrupt. Leon hates that,” she says. At first
it seems as if the woman is going to walk away with her sunny little sundress, in her heels with red soles, but then she stops.
“Hey,” she says. “I have to ask you something: are you Lucy Ryuan?”
“How’d you know that?” I ask.
“I only figured it out because you’re here, and he’s there, and whenever I see Leon, he talks about you. By the way, I’m Barbara Holt.”
I should introduce myself, of course, but what I end up saying is this: “Blumenthal talks about me?”
“Yeah, he refers to you as ‘his unofficial special assistant.’”
It takes me a few moments to process this info. I wonder if he says it sarcastically or respectfully. Probably both ways, depending on his mood and our relationship of the moment.
But before I can respond, my new friend suddenly says, “Damn. I was supposed to be in a meeting downtown at my office ten minutes ago. I should quit my job and spend all my time keeping track of Leon. I hope I see you again, Ms. Ryuan.”
“Yes, me too,” I say.
And Barbara Holt’s fancy red-soled shoes take her quickly down the corridor toward the
sign. One thing I know is this: I’m really not hoping to see her again.
I am, however, considering the information that Blumenthal has told people, even just one person, even as a joke, that I’m his special assistant. I’m also wondering, of course, who exactly is Barbara Holt, and what exactly is her role in Blumenthal’s life?
Then the door opens. Blumenthal comes out, and I hear Bobby’s voice begin: “Detective Leon Blumenthal is leaving
the—” Blumenthal closes the door behind himself. I’m suddenly looking at Blumenthal in a whole new way.
“We’re going into the viewing room. Two-way mirror.”
We enter a small, dark, stale-smelling room. High-schoolstudent-type desks.
A light-brown curtain covers what I assume is one side of the two-way mirror. I sit down, and Blumenthal says, “Okay. I’m going to pull the curtain open and turn on the speaker.”
Opposite Cilia, facing the mirror, facing us, is … I stand up to get a better look. My hand flies to my mouth. I yell.
“Holy shit. It’s Troy!”
I RUSH TO THE door of the viewing room.
Blumenthal shouts, “Lucy, wait. You cannot go in there.”
“The hell I can’t.”
Blumenthal has joined me and blocks the door. “We’re just questioning him,” he says.
“Is he under arrest? Is he a person of interest?” I ask, wondering if I need to punch Blumenthal in the stomach (or somewhere close to the stomach).
“No, he’s not under arrest. He’s not under suspicion. He’s not anything. He’s here to help.”
“Great news. Then I’m going in,” I say.
Turns out I do not have to punch Blumenthal anywhere. He moves away from the door, and as I enter the interrogation room, Troy rises from his seat and hugs me.
“What the hell’s the story? Why are you here?” I yell. I have about a thousand more questions, but Blumenthal jumps in.
Blumenthal says that
explain. Bobby Cilia says that
should explain. And seizing one of the rare moments when I have a bit of control over the situation, I suggest that Troy can do his own explaining. So Troy starts.
“First of all, I’m sorry, Lucy. I’m sorry as hell. You finding out this way. I shoulda come to you right away. I shoulda—”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” I say. “Just tell me what happened. How’d you end up here?”
“I’m gonna tell you. But first you gotta promise you’ll forgive me for not going to see you sooner. It’s just that things were getting crazy rough, and I couldn’t get hold of you. So I went to the detective. I’m so sorry. I’m—”
“Jesus Christ, Troy! Just tell me what happened. Tell me the goddamn story!”
And he does.
“Last week Tracy Anne comes in to see me all teary and shaky and nervous. She sits me down and closes the doors, and she makes me promise not to tell anyone anything about what she’s going to tell me. So I swear on a stack of make-believe Bibles, and she tells me that she’s been … that she’s been freelancing.”
when you’re a midwife, means that you’re helping with deliveries but not in connection with a hospital. It’s, well, a totally unconnected
job. It’s usually dangerous. It means you have no real support system—no other midwives, no prenatal care, no postnatal care. It’s pretty much like the frontier days when a midwife showed up when the pain began and did her best to help the delivery. Freelancing is usually used by illegal immigrants and drug addicts and very often by women who don’t want anyone else to know they’re giving birth—that would be women like teenage prostitutes and homeless women. Most of the
freelance midwives aren’t trained with the depth and knowledge professionals are. At least Tracy Anne has impeccable training and an excellent education. But it’s still a bad thing to do, and because of Tracy Anne’s association with GUH, it’s also totally forbidden by the hospital for her to do it.
Back to Troy. He’s calmed down a little, but he’s still doing some serious shaking.
“So Tracy Anne tells me that she’s done six freelance births in the last two weeks, and she did a few more before that. Well, more than ‘a few.’ So many other births that she’s even lost track. It seems the last six were all teenagers and they were all drug addicts. One of them surely had AIDS, Tracy Anne said, and another one was bleeding out so much they had to bring her to a really sketchy off-the-street clinic in Bed-Stuy.”
Bobby Cilia shakes his head in wonder at the horror of this tale. Blumenthal stands in stony silence.
“Anyway, Tracy Anne tells me that she’s getting all her freelance jobs from this Russian couple. I know, I know. Just like the ones you’re closing in on—that’s when I knew I couldn’t let the story rest without telling someone. And poor Tracy Anne was ready to kill herself. I mean truly, literally, she was talking about how she was in such deep shit already that there was no way out but to kill herself.”
I say nothing, but I am incredibly angry and incredibly sad that one of my most trusted midwives has stooped to such a dangerous and unethical level. And I’m thinking,
Why? Why do this, Tracy Anne?
Okay, I’m sad, but I’m also shocked. No one is better at her job than Tracy Anne. And if you’re thinking that in her I saw the younger me, well, you’re absolutely correct.
It’s also pretty clear that Troy knows everything about
this. He keeps talking, and I keep being amazed. Now Troy tells us that Tracy Anne was paid a thousand dollars per delivery. They were all “at home” deliveries, although the home might’ve been a filthy basement room where dealers were cooking crack, or an outdoor alley in a Bronx housing project.
“The thing is, Tracy Anne said these Russian people said they were selling the babies to give to rich people. At least that’s what they told Tracy Anne. And of course she believed them. Why not? It made her feel better.”
“Yep. She wanted to believe them,” says Bobby. And I think he’s right about that.
I jump in. “Where is Tracy Anne now?”
“That’s just it,” says Bobby. “She disappeared two days ago. We’re looking for her.”
I look at Troy. “You don’t know where she is, Troy?”
“No. I don’t,” he says.
“Are you sure?” I ask. Big mistake.
Troy goes from being nervous and contrite to being angry and belligerent. “No, damn it! I absolutely do not know where that girl is hiding out. She’s scared. She’s in trouble with the police, with the hospital, with the Russian crazy people. So of course she’s gone and made herself disappear. She could be dead for all I know.”
Bobby says, “This girl is deep in the shitter.”
Troy starts talking again. “Look here, Lucy. I broke a confidence by coming in here. I know that. But I had to …”
Blumenthal finally says something, and it’s not sympathetic to the situation. “Yeah, you broke a confidence about somebody who broke the law. They don’t give out medals for that.”
I look at Troy and speak. I’m taking a safety risk with my
question. “You’re positive that you don’t know where Tracy Anne is?”
This time Troy answers calmly. “Positive as a man can be. But please don’t ask me again. My heart hurts every time you ask that question.”
My mind is rushing with other questions, not just for Troy but for everybody in the room:
What took Troy so long to tell anyone about this?
Is Tracy Anne telling the truth? And where the hell is she?
How can the NYPD get Orlov to talk?
And there’s one other question. It’s small and dumb, but I just can’t shake this one out of my head:
Detective Blumenthal, what’s the deal with you and this Barbara Holt woman?