Authors: Clark, Mary Higgins
Just Take My Heart
Where Are You Now?
Ghost Ship(Illustrated by Wendell Minor)
I Heard That Song Before
Two Little Girls in Blue
No Place Like Home
Nighttime Is My Time
The Second Time Around
Mount Vernon Love Story
Silent Night/All Through the Night
Daddy’s Little Girl
On the Street Where You Live
Before I Say Good-bye
We’ll Meet Again
All Through the Night
You Belong to Me
Pretend You Don’t See Her
My Gal Sunday
Moonlight Becomes You
Let Me Call You Sweetheart
The Lottery Winner
I’ll Be Seeing You
All Around the Town
Loves Music, Loves to Dance
The Anastasia Syndrome and Other Stories
While My Pretty One Sleeps
Weep No More, My Lady
A Cry in the Night
The Cradle Will Fall
A Stranger Is Watching
Where Are the Children?
Dashing Through the Snow
The Christmas Thief
He Sees You When You’re Sleeping
Deck the Halls
MARYHIGGINSCLARKThe Shadowof YourSmile
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Clark, Mary Higgins.
The shadow of your smile : a novel / Mary Higgins Clark.
1. Women psychologists—Fiction. 2. Criminologists—Fiction.3. Brothers—Fiction. 4. Twins—Fiction. 5. Murder—Investigation—Fiction. 6. Manhattan (New York, N.Y.)—Fiction. I. Title.
ISBN 978-1-4391-9987-9 (ebook)Acknowledgments
In my last book I wrote about the medical miracle of a heart transplant and that the recipient may have taken on some of the characteristics of the donor.
This story concerns a different miracle, one that medical science cannot explain. Last spring I attended the Beatification Ceremony of a nun who founded seven hospitals for the aged and infirm and is credited, by the power of prayer, with saving the life of a child.
At that beautiful ceremony, I decided I wanted to write about that subject as part of this novel. I have found it to be an insightful journey—one that I hope you will enjoy sharing.
As always I’m indebted to the faithful mentors and friends who make smooth the path as I labor at the computer.
It has been a constant joy that Michael Korda has been my editor for thirty-five years. From page one toThe End,his guidance, encouragement, and enthusiasm have been an unfailing source of strength.
Senior Editor Amanda Murray has accompanied us every step of the way with her wise suggestions and input.
Thank you always to Associate Director of Copyediting Gypsy da Silva; my publicist, Lisl Cade; and my readers-in-progress Irene Clark, Agnes Newton and Nadine Petry. What a grand team I have.
Many thanks to Patricia Handal, coordinator of the Cardinal Cooke Guild, for her invaluable and generous assistance in discussing the canonization process.
Many thanks to Detective Marco Conelli for answering my questions about police procedure.
Thanks also to patent attorney Gregg A. Paradise, Esq., who advised me about patent laws, an important element in this story.
It is high time that I give a tip of the hat to marvelous photographer, Bernard Vidal, who for twenty years has journeyed from Paris to take my cover photo and to Karem Alsina, master hair stylist and makeup artist, who allows me year after year to put my best face forward on the back cover of the newest book.
No accomplishment would have any meaning if it were not being shared with my husband, John Conheeney, spouse extraordinaire, and our children and grandchildren. You know how I feel about all of you.
And now my readers and friends, I hope you curl up and enjoy this latest effort. Happy Reading and God bless you one and all.
For my youngest child
Patricia Mary Clark
whose wit, resilience, and charm
has brightened all our lives
With LoveThe Shadowof YourSmile 1
On Monday morning, Olivia Morrow sat quietly across the desk from her longtime friend Clay Hadley, absorbing the death sentence he had just pronounced.
For an instant, she looked away from the compassion she saw in his eyes and glanced out the window of his twenty-fourth-floor office on East Seventy-second Street in Manhattan. In the distance she could see a helicopter making its slow journey over the East River on this chilly October morning.
My journey is ending, she thought, then realized that Clay was expecting a response from her.
“Two weeks,” she said. It was not a question. She glanced at the antique clock on the bookcase behind Clay’s desk. It was ten minutes past nine. The first day of the two weeks—at least it’s the start of the day, she thought, glad that she had asked for an early appointment.
He was answering her. “Three at the most. I’m sorry, Olivia. I was hoping . . .”
“Don’t be sorry,” Olivia interrupted briskly. “I’m eighty-two years old. Even though my generation lives so much longer than the previous ones, my friends have been dropping like flies lately. Our problem is that we worry we’ll live too long and end up in a nursing home, or become a terrible burden to everyone. To know I have a very short time left, but will still be able to think clearlyand walk around unassisted until the very end is an immeasurable gift.” Her voice trailed off.
Clay Hadley’s eyes narrowed. He understood the troubled expression that had erased the serenity from Olivia’s face. Before she spoke, he knew what she would say. “Clay, only you and I know.”
“Do we have the right to continue to hide the truth?” she asked, looking at him intently. “Mother thought she did. She intended to take it to her grave, but at the very end when only you and I were there, she felt compelled to tell us. It became for her a matter of conscience. And with all the enormous good Catherine did in her life as a nun, her reputation has always been compromised by the insinuation that all those years ago, just before she entered the convent, she may have had a consensual liaison with a lover.”
Hadley studied Olivia Morrow’s face. Even the usual signs of age, the wrinkles around her eyes and mouth, the slight tremor of her neck, the way she leaned forward to catch everything he said, did not detract from her finely chiseled features. His father had been her mother’s cardiologist, and he had taken over when his father retired. Now in his early fifties, he could not remember a time when the Morrow family had not been part of his life. As a child he had been in awe of Olivia, recognizing even then that she was always beautifully dressed. Later he realized that at that time she had still been working as a salesgirl at B. Altman’s, the famous Fifth Avenue department store, and that her style was achieved by buying her clothes at giveaway end-of-the-season sales. Never married, she had retired as an executive and board member of Altman’s years ago.
He had met her older cousin Catherine only a few times, and by then she was already a legend, the nun who had started seven hospitals for handicapped children—research hospitals dedicated to finding ways to cure or alleviate the suffering of their damaged bodies or minds.
“Do you know that many people are calling the healing of a child with brain cancer a miracle and attributing it to Catherine’s intercession?” Olivia asked. “She’s being considered as a candidate for beatification.”
Clay Hadley felt his mouth go dry. “No, I hadn’t heard.” Not a Catholic, he vaguely understood that that would mean the Church might eventually declare Sister Catherine a saint and worthy of veneration by the faithful.
“Of course that will mean that the subject of her having given birth will be explored, and those vicious rumors will resurface and almost certainly finish her chance of being found worthy,” Olivia added, her tone angry.
“Olivia, therewasa reason neither Sister Catherine nor your mother ever named the father of her child.”
“Catherine didn’t. But my mother did.”
Olivia leaned her hands on the arms of the chair, a signal to Clay that she was about to stand up. He rose and walked around his desk, with quick steps for such a bulky man. He knew that some of his patients referred to him as “Chunky Clay the Cardiologist.” His voice humorous, his eyes twinkling, he counseled all of them, “Forget about me and make sure you lose weight. I look at the picture of an ice cream cone and put on five pounds. It’s my cross to bear.” It was a performance he had perfected. Now he took Olivia’s hands in his and kissed her gently.
Involuntarily she drew back from the sensation of his short, graying beard grazing her cheek, then to cover her reaction returned the kiss. “Clay, my own situation remains between us. I will tell the few remaining people who will care very soon.” She paused, then, her tone ironic, she added, “In fact I’d obviously better tell themverysoon. Perhaps fortunately, I don’t have a single family member left.” Then she stopped, realizing that what she had just said wasn’t true.
On her deathbed her mother had told her that after Catherine realizedshe was pregnant, she had spent a year in Ireland, where she had given birth to a son. He had been adopted by the Farrells, an American couple from Boston who were selected by the Mother Superior of the religious order Catherine entered. They had named him Edward, and he had grown up in Boston.
I’ve followed their lives ever since, Olivia thought. Edward didn’t marry until he was forty-two. His wife has been dead a long time, and he passed away about five years ago. Their daughter, Monica, is thirty-one now, a pediatrician on the staff of Greenwich Village Hospital. Catherine was my first cousin. Her granddaughter is my cousin. She is my only family, and she doesn’t know I exist.
Now, as she withdrew her hands from Clay’s grasp, she said, “Monica has turned out to be so like her grandmother, devoting her life to taking care of babies and little children. Do you realize what all that money would mean to her?”
“Olivia, don’t you believe in redemption? Look at what the father of her child did with the rest of his life. Think of the lives he saved. And what about his brother’s family? They’re prominent philanthropists. Think what such disclosure will mean to them.”
“I am thinking about it, and that’s what I have to weigh. Monica Farrell is the rightful heir to the income from those patents. Alexander Gannon was her grandfather, and in his will he left everything he had to his issue if any existed and only then to his brother. I’ll call you, Clay.”
Dr. Clay Hadley waited until the door of his private office closed, then picked up the phone and dialed a number that was known to very few people. When a familiar voice answered he did not waste time in preliminaries. “It’s exactly what I was afraid of. I know Olivia . . . she’s going to talk.”
“We can’t let that happen,” the person on the other end of the line said matter-of-factly. “You’ve got to make sure it doesn’t. Whydidn’t you give her something? With her medical condition, no one would question her death.”
“Believe it or not, it isn’t that simple to kill someone. And suppose she manages to leave the proof before I can stop her?”
“In that case we take out double insurance. Sad to say, a fatal attack on an attractive young woman in Manhattan is hardly an extraordinary event these days. I’ll take care of it immediately.”2
Dr. Monica Farrell shivered as she posed for a picture with Tony and Rosalie Garcia on the steps of Greenwich Village Hospital. Tony was holding Carlos, their two-year-old son, who had just been declared free of the leukemia that had almost claimed his life.
Monica remembered the day when, as she was about to leave her office, Rosalie phoned in a panic. “Doctor, the baby has spots on his stomach.” Carlos was then six weeks old. Even before she saw him, Monica had the terrible hunch that what she was going to find was the onset of juvenile leukemia. Diagnostic tests confirmed that suspicion, and Carlos’s chances were calculated to be at best fifty-fifty. Monica had promised his weeping young parents that as far as she was concerned, those were good enough odds and Carlos was already too tough a little guy not to win the fight.
“Now one with you holding Carlos, Dr. Monica,” Tony ordered as he took the camera from the passerby who had volunteered to become the acting photographer.
Monica reached for the squirming two-year-old, who had by then decided he’d smiled long enough. This will be some picture, she thought as she waved at the camera, hoping that Carlos could follow her example. Instead he pulled the clip at the nape of her neck and her long dark-blond hair fell loose around her shoulders.
After a flurry of good-byes and “God bless you, Dr. Monica,we wouldn’t have made it without you, and we’ll see you for his checkup,” the Garcias were gone with one final wave from the window of the taxi. As Monica stepped back inside the hospital and walked to the elevator bank, she reached up to gather the strands of her hair and refasten the clip.
“Leave it like that. It looks good.” Dr. Ryan Jenner, a neurosurgeon who had been in Georgetown Medical School a few years ahead of Monica, had fallen in step with her. He had recently come on staff at Greenwich Village and had stopped for a moment to chat the few times they had run into each other. Jenner, wearing scrubs and a plastic bonnet, had obviously been in surgery or was on his way to it.
Monica laughed as she pushed the button for an ascending elevator. “Oh, sure. And maybe I should drop into your operating room while it’s like this.”
The door of a descending elevator was opening.
“Maybe I wouldn’t mind,” Jenner said as he got into it.
And maybe you would. In fact you’d have a heart attack, Monica thought as she stepped into an already crowded elevator. Ryan Jenner, despite his youthful face and ready smile, was already known to be a perfectionist and intolerant of any lapses in patient care. Being in his operating room with uncovered hair was unthinkable.
When she got off on the pediatric floor, the wail of a screaming baby was the first sound Monica heard. She knew it was her patient, nineteen-month-old Sally Carter, and the lack of visits from her single mother was infuriating. Before she went in to try to comfort the baby, she stopped at the nurses’ desk. “Any sign of Mommy dearest?” she asked, then regretted she had been so outspoken.
“Not since yesterday morning,” Rita Greenberg, the longtime head nurse on the floor, answered, her tone as annoyed as Monica’s. “But shedidmanage to squeeze in a phone call an hour ago to say she was tied up at work and ask if Sally had had a good night. Doctor, I’m telling you, there’s something odd about that whole situation.That woman acts no more like a mother than the stuffed animals in the play room do. Are you going to discharge Sally today?”
“Not until I find out who will be taking care of her when the mother is so busy. Sally had asthma and pneumonia when she was brought to the emergency room. I can’t imagine what the mother or the babysitter was thinking, waiting so long to get medical attention for her.”
Followed by the nurse, Monica went into the small room with the single crib, to which Sally had been moved because her crying was waking up the other babies. Sally was standing, holding on to the railings, her light brown hair curling around her tear-stained face.
“She’ll work herself into another asthma attack,” Monica said angrily, as she reached in and plucked the baby from the crib. As Sally clung to her, the crying immediately lessened, then evolved into subdued sobs and finally began to ease off.
“My God, how she has bonded to you, Doctor, but then you’ve got the magic touch,” Rita Greenberg said. “There’s no one like you with the little ones.”
“Sally knows that she and I are pals,” Monica said. “Let’s give her some warm milk, and I bet she’ll settle down.”
As she waited for the nurse to return, Monica rocked the baby in her arms. Your mother should be doing this, she thought. I wonder how much attention she gives you at home? Her tiny hands soft on Monica’s neck, Sally’s eyes began to close.
Monica laid the sleepy baby back in the crib and changed her wet diaper. Then she turned Sally on her side and covered her with a blanket. Greenberg returned with a bottle of warm milk but before she gave it to the baby, Monica reached for a cotton tip and swabbed the inside of Sally’s cheek.
In the past week, she had noticed that several times when Sally’s mother came to visit, she had stopped at the large courtesy counter inthe lounge area and then brought a cup of coffee with her into Sally’s room. Invariably she left it half empty on the nightstand by the crib.
It’s only a hunch, Monica told herself, and I know I have no right to do it. But I’m going to send word to Ms. Carter that I must meet with her before I will discharge Sally. I’d love to compare the baby’s DNA with her DNA from the coffee cup. She swears she’s the birth mother, but if she’s not why would she bother to lie about it? Then reminding herself once more that she had no right to secretly compare the DNA, she threw the swab into the wastebasket.
After checking her other patients, Monica went to her office on East Fourteenth Street for her afternoon hours. It was six thirty when, trying to conceal her weariness, she said good-bye to her last patient, an eight-year-old boy with an ear infection.
Nan Rhodes, her receptionist-bookkeeper, was closing up at her desk. In her sixties, rotund, and with unfailing patience no matter how hectic the waiting room, Nan asked the question Monica had been hoping to put aside for another day.
“Doctor, what about that inquiry from the Bishop’s Office in New Jersey, asking you to be a witness in the beatification process for that nun?”
“Nan, I don’t believe in miracles. You know that. I sent them a copy of the initial CAT scan and MRI. They speak for themselves.”
“But you did believe that with brain cancer that advanced, Michael O’Keefe would never see his fifth birthday, didn’t you?”
“You suggested his parents take him to the Knowles Clinic in Cincinnati because it’s the best research hospital in brain cancer, but you did it knowing full well they’d confirm your diagnosis out there,” Nan persisted.
“Nan, we both know what I said and what I believed,” Monica said. “Come on, let’s not play twenty questions.”
“Doctor, you also told me that when you gave them the diagnosis,Michael’s father was so upset, he almost passed out, but that the mother told you that her son was not going to die. She was going to start a crusade of prayer to Sister Catherine, the nun who founded those hospitals for disabled children.”
“Nan, how many people refuse to accept that an illness is terminal? We see it every day at the hospital. They want a second and third opinion. They want more tests. They want to sign up for risky procedures. Sometimes the inevitable is prolonged, but in the end the result is the same.”
Nan’s expression softened as she looked at the slender young woman whose body posture was so clearly showing her fatigue. She knew Monica had been at the hospital during the night, when one of her little patients had a seizure. “Doctor, I know it isn’t my place to badger you, but there are going to be witnesses from the medical staff in Cincinnati to testify that Michael O’Keefe should not have survived. Today he’s absolutely cancer free. I think you have a sacred obligation to verify that you had that conversation with the mother the very minute you warned her that he could not recover, because that was the moment she turned to Sister Catherine for help.”
“Nan, I saw Carlos Garcia this morning. He’s cancer free as well.”
“It’s not the same and you know it. We have the treatment to beat childhood leukemia. We don’t have it for advanced and spreading brain cancer.”
Monica realized two facts. It was useless to argue with Nan, and in her heart she knew Nan was right. “I’ll go,” she said, “but it won’t do that would-be saint any good. Where am I supposed to testify about this?”
“A Monsignor from the Metuchen diocese in New Jersey is the one you should meet. He suggested next Wednesday afternoon. As it happens, I didn’t make any appointments for you after eleven o’clock that day.”
“Then so be it,” Monica acquiesced. “Call him back and set it up. Are you ready to go? I’ll ring for the elevator.”
“Right behind you. I love what you just said.”
“That I’ll ring for the elevator?”
“No, of course not. I mean you just said ‘so be it.’ ”
“As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, ‘so be it’ is the translation for ‘amen.’ Kind of fitting in this case, don’t you think, Doctor?”3
It was not an assignment he relished. The disappearance of a young woman doctor in New York was stuff for the tabloids and they would be sure to wring it dry. The money was good, but Sammy Barber’s instinct was to turn it down. Sammy had been arrested only once, then acquitted at trial because he was a very careful man and never came close enough to his victims to leave DNA evidence.
Sammy’s shrewd hazel eyes were the dominant feature in a narrow face that seemed out of place on his short, thick neck. Forty-two years old, with muscles that bulged through the arms of his sports jacket, his official job was as a bouncer at a Greenwich Village night club.
A cup of coffee in front of him, he was seated across the table from his would-be employer’s representative in a diner in Queens. Scrupulously aware of small details, Sammy had already sized him up. Well dressed. In his fifties. Classy. Very good-looking. Silver cuff-links with initials D.L. He had been told there was no need for him to know the man’s name, that the phone number would be sufficient for contact.
“Sammy, you’re hardly in a position to refuse,” Douglas Langdon said mildly. “From what I understand, you’re not exactly living high on the hog from your lousy job. Furthermore, I have to remind you that if my cousin had not reached several of the jurors, you would be in prison right now.”
“They couldn’t have proved it anyway,” Sammy began.
“You don’t know what they could have proved, and you never know what jurors will decide.” The mild tone was no longer present in Langdon’s voice. He shoved a photograph across the table. “This was taken this afternoon outside the Village hospital. The woman holding the child is Dr. Monica Farrell. Her home and office addresses are printed on the back.”
Before he touched anything, Sammy reached for a crumpled paper napkin, then used it to pick up the photograph. He held it under the dingy lamp at the table. “Beautiful broad,” he commented as he studied it. He turned the photo over and glanced at the addresses, then without being asked, he handed the photograph back to Langdon.
“Okay. I don’t want to have this picture on me if I’m ever stopped by the police. But I’ll take care of everything.”
“See that you do. And quickly.” Langdon shoved the picture back into his jacket pocket. As he and Sammy got up, he reached back into the pocket, took out a billfold, peeled off a twenty-dollar bill, and tossed it on the table. Neither he nor Sammy noticed that the snapshot had caught on the billfold and fluttered to the floor.
“Thanks a lot, mister,” Hank Moss, the young waiter, called as Langdon and Sammy exited through the revolving door. As he picked up the coffee cups, he noticed the picture. Setting down the cups, he ran to the door but neither man was in sight.
They probably don’t need this, Hank thought, but on the other hand the guydidleave a big tip. He turned the picture over and saw the printed addresses, one on East Fourteenth Street, and the other on East Thirty-sixth Street. The one on East Fourteenth had a suite number, the one on East Thirty-sixth, an apartment number. Hank thought of a particular kind of mail that sometimes came to his parents’ home in Brooklyn. Listen, he told himself. Just in case this is important to anyone I’ll drop it in an envelope and address it to “Occupant.”I’ll send it to the suite on Fourteenth Street. That’s probably the office of the guy who dropped it. Then if it’s important, he’s got it, at least.
At nine o’clock when his shift was over, Hank went back to the hole-in-the-wall office next to the kitchen. “Okay if I take an envelope and stamp, Lou?” he asked the owner, who was tallying receipts. “Somebody forgot something.”
“Sure. Go ahead. I’ll take the price of the stamp out of your paycheck.” Lou grunted with what passed for a smile. Short-tempered by nature, he genuinely liked Hank. The kid was a good worker and knew how to treat customers. “Here, use one of these.” He handed a plain white envelope to Hank, who quickly scribbled the address he had decided to use. Then Hank reached for the stamp Lou was holding out to him.
Ten minutes later he dropped the envelope in a mailbox as he jogged back to his dorm at St. John’s University.4
Olivia was one of the first tenants of Schwab House on the West Side of Manhattan. Now, fifty years later, she still lived there. The apartment complex was built on grounds that had previously been the site of the mansion of a wealthy industrialist. The builder had decided to retain his name, hoping that some of the grandeur surrounding the mansion would be passed on to its sprawling replacement.
Olivia’s first apartment had been a studio facing West End Avenue. As she steadily climbed the ladder to the executive branch of B. Altman and Company, she had begun to look for a larger place. She had intended to move to the East Side of Manhattan, but when a two-bedroom with a magnificent view of the Hudson became available in Schwab House, she had happily taken it. Later, when the building became a cooperative, she had been glad to buy her apartment because it made her feel that at last she truly had a home. Before moving to Manhattan, she and her mother, Regina, had lived in a small cottage behind the Long Island home of the Gannon family. Her mother had been their housekeeper.
Over the years Olivia’s secondhand furniture had been slowly and carefully replaced. Self-taught, and with innate good taste, she had developed an eye for both art and design. The cream-colored walls throughout the apartment became a setting for the paintings she acquired at estate sales. The antique rugs in the living room, bedroom,and library were the palette from which she chose colorful fabrics for upholstered pieces and window treatments.
The overall effect on a first-time visitor was invariably the same. The apartment was a haven of warmth and comfort and gave off a sense of peace and serenity.
Olivia loved it. In all those competitive years at Altman’s, the thought that at the end of the day she would be settled in her roomy club chair, a glass of wine in her hand, watching the sunset, had been an unfailing safety valve.
It had even been her refuge forty years ago at the heartbreaking crisis of her life, when she had finally faced the fact that Alex Gannon, the brilliant doctor and researcher whom she desperately loved, would never allow their relationship to go beyond a close friendship . . . Catherine was the one he’d always wanted.
After her appointment with Clay, Olivia went straight home. The fatigue that was the reason she had consulted Clay two weeks ago completely enveloped her. Almost too weary to take the trouble to change, she had forced herself to undress and replace her outer clothes with a warm robe in a shade of blue that she was vain enough to realize exactly matched the color of her eyes.
A small and unwanted protest at her fate made her decide to lie down on the couch in the living room rather than on her bed. Clay had warned her that overwhelming fatigue was to be expected, “Until one day, you just don’t feel able to get up.”
But not yet, Olivia thought, as she reached for the afghan that was always on the ottoman at the foot of the club chair. She sat on the couch, placed one of the decorative pillows where it would be directly under her head, lay down, and pulled the afghan over her. She then sighed a relieved sigh.
Two weeks, she thought. Two weeks. Fourteen days. How many hours is that? It doesn’t matter, she thought as she drifted off to sleep.
When she awoke, the shadows in the room told her that it was late afternoon. I had only a cup of tea this morning before I saw Clay, she thought. I’m not hungry, but I’ve got to eat something. As she pushed aside the afghan and slowly got to her feet, the need to review the proof about Catherine again suddenly became overwhelming. In fact, she had the frightening sense that it might somehow have disappeared from the safe in the den.
But it was there, in the manila file her mother had given her only hours before her death. Catherine’s letters to Mother, Olivia thought, her lips quivering; the Mother Superior’s letter to Catherine; a copy of Edward’s birth certificate; the passionate notehehad given my mother to pass on to Catherine.
Someone was in the apartment and was coming down the hallway toward her. Clay. Olivia’s fingers trembled as, without putting them back in the file, she thrust the letters and birth certificate into the safe, closed the door, and pushed the button that automatically locked it.
She stepped out of the closet. “I’m here, Clay.” She did not attempt to conceal the icy disapproval in her voice.
“Olivia, I was concerned about you. You promised to call this afternoon.”
“I don’t remember making that promise.”
“Well, you did,” Clay said heartily.
“You did give me two weeks. I would guess that not more than seven hours have passed. Why didn’t you have the doorman announce you?”
“Because I hoped you might be sleeping and if so, I would have left without disturbing you. Or why don’t I tell the truth? If I had been announced you might have turned me down and I wanted to see you. I did deliver a bombshell to you this morning.”
When Olivia did not answer, Clay Hadley, his tone gentle, added,“Olivia, there is a reason why you gave me a key and permission to come in if I suspected a problem.”
Olivia felt her resentment at the intrusion begin to disappear. What Clay had said was absolutely true. If he had called up I would have told him I was resting, she thought. Then she followed Clay’s glance.
He was looking at the manila envelope in her hand.
From where he stood he could obviously see the single word her mother had written across it.
Monica lived on the first floor of a renovated town house on East Thirty-sixth Street. In her mind, being on the tree-lined block was like stepping back in time to the nineteenth century, when all the brownstones had been private residences. Her apartment was to the rear of the building, which meant she had exclusive use of the small patio and garden. When the weather was warm she enjoyed morning coffee in her bathrobe on the patio, or a glass of wine in the evening there.
After the discussion with her receptionist, Nan, about Michael O’Keefe, the child who had had brain cancer, she had decided to walk home, as she frequently did. She had long since realized that walking the one-mile distance from her office was a good way of getting in some exercise, as well as a chance to unwind.
Cooking at the end of the day was relaxing for her. A self-taught chef, Monica had culinary talents that were legendary among her friends. But neither the walk nor the excellent pasta and salad she prepared for herself that evening did anything to settle her uneasy sense that a dark cloud was hanging over her.
It’s the baby, she thought. I have to discharge Sally tomorrow, but even if I check the DNA and learn that Ms. Carterisn’tthe birth mother, what does that prove? Dad was an adopted child. I can hardly remember his parents, but he always said that he couldn’t imaginebeing brought up by anyone except them. In fact he used to paraphrase Teddy Roosevelt’s daughter Alice. A widower, Roosevelt had remarried when Alice was two years old. When asked about her stepmother, Alice had replied firmly, “She was the only mother I ever knew or wanted to know.”
And having quoted that, and fully sharing for his adoptive parents the sentiment of Alice Roosevelt’s love for the stepmother who raised her, Dad always wondered and longed to know more about his birth parents, Monica mused. In his last few years, he was pretty much obsessed by it.
Sally was terribly sick when she was brought into the emergency room but there wasn’t a hint of any kind of abuse and she was obviously well nourished. And certainly Renée Carter won’t be the first person who turns her child over to a babysitter or nanny to raise.
The prospect of testifying about the disappearance of Michael O’Keefe’s brain cancer was another reason for concern. I don’t believe in miracles, Monica thought vehemently, then admitted to herself that Michael had been terminally ill when she examined him.
As she lingered over demitasse and fresh-cut pineapple, she looked around, as always finding comfort in her surroundings.
Because of the chilly evening, she had turned on the gas fireplace. The small round dining table and the upholstered chair where she was sitting faced the fireplace. Now the flickering flames sent darts of light across the antique Aubusson carpet that had been her mother’s pride and joy.
The ringing of the phone was an unwelcome intrusion. She was bone-weary, but knowing it might mean a call from the hospital about one of her patients made her bolt from her chair and dart across the room. As she picked up the receiver she was saying “Dr. Farrell” even before she realized the call was coming through on her private line.
“And Dr. Farrell is well, I trust,” a teasing male voice asked.
“I’m very well, Scott,” Monica answered, her tone cool, even as she felt a sickening worry at the sound of Scott Alterman’s voice.
The teasing note disappeared. “Monica, Joy and I have called it quits. It was always wrong. We both realize it now.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Monica said. “But I think you should understand that has absolutely nothing to do with me.”
“It haseverythingto do with you, Monica. I’ve been quietly seeing an executive search bureau. A top-drawer law firm on Wall Street has offered me a partnership. I’ve accepted.”
“If you have, I hope you realize that there are eight or nine million people in New York City. Make friends with any and all of them, but leave me alone.” Monica broke the connection, then, too upset to sit down again, cleared the table, and finished the demitasse standing at the sink.6
When she left Monica outside the office on Monday evening, Nan Rhodes took the First Avenue bus to meet four of her sisters for their regular monthly dinner at Neary’s Pub on Fifty-seventh Street.
Widowed for six years, and with her only son and his family living in California, working for Monica had proven to be a godsend to Nan. She loved Monica and at the dinners she would often talk about her. One of eight children herself, she regularly lamented the fact that Monica had no siblings and that her mother and father, both only children, had been in their early forties when she was born and were now deceased.
Tonight, at their usual corner table at Neary’s, over a predinner cocktail, Nan got back on the subject. “While I was waiting for the bus I watched Dr. Monica walking up the block. She’d had such a long day, and I was thinking, poor thing, it’s not like she could get a phone call from her mother or dad to talk things over. It’s such a damn shame that when her father was born in Ireland only the names of his adoptive parents, Anne and Matthew Farrell, were given on the birth certificate. The real parents certainly made it their business to be sure he couldn’t trace them.”
The sisters bobbed their heads in agreement. “Dr. Monica is so classy-looking. Her grandmother probably came from a good family, maybe even an American one,” Nan’s youngest sister, Peggy, volunteered.“In those days if an unmarried girl got pregnant, she was taken on a trip until the baby was born and then it would be given up for adoption, with no one the wiser. Today when an unmarried girl gets pregnant she brags about it on Twitter or Facebook.”
“I know Dr. Monica has lots of friends,” Nan sighed as she picked up the menu. “She has a genius for making people like her, but it’s not the same, is it? No matter what you say, blood is thicker than water.”
Her sisters nodded in solemn unison, although Peggy pointed out that Monica Farrell was a beautiful young woman and it would probably be only a matter of time before she met someone.
That subject exhausted, Nan had a new tidbit to share. “Remember how I told you that that nun Sister Catherine is being considered for beatification because a little boy who was supposed to die of brain cancer was cured after a crusade of prayer to her?”
They all remembered. “He was Dr. Monica’s patient, wasn’t he?” Rosemary, the oldest sister, said.
“Yes. His name is Michael O’Keefe. I guess the Church feels it has enough evidence to prove that he really is a miracle child. And just this afternoon I was able to persuade Dr. Monica to at least give testimony that when she told the parents he was terminal, the mother never blinked an eye before she said her son wasn’t going to die, because she was beginning a crusade of prayer to Sister Catherine.”
“If the mother did say that, why wouldn’t Dr. Monica be willing to testify?” the middle sister, Ellen, asked.
“Because she’s a doctor and a scientist and because she’s still trying to find a way to prove that there was a good medical reason for Michael to be cancer free.”
Liz, their waitress, who had worked at Neary’s for thirty years, was at the table, menus in hand. “Ready to order, girls?” she asked cheerfully.
• • •
Nan enjoyed getting to work at sevenA.M. She required little sleep, and lived only minutes away from Monica’s office, in the apartment complex where she had moved after her husband’s death. The early arrival gave her plenty of time to keep up with the mail and work on the endless medical insurance company forms.
Alma Donaldson, the nurse, came in at quarter of nine as Nan was opening the just-delivered mail. A handsome black woman in her late thirties, with a perceptive eye and warm smile, she had worked with Monica from the first day she had opened her practice four years earlier. Together they made an enviable medical team and had become fast friends.
As she took off her outer jacket, Alma was quick to spot the concerned expression on Nan’s face. Nan was sitting at her desk, an envelope in one hand, a photograph in the other. Alma skipped her usual hearty greeting. “What’s wrong, Nan?” she asked.
“Look at this,” Nan said.
Alma walked behind the desk and stood looking down over Nan’s shoulder. “Someone took a picture of the doctor with little Carlos Garcia,” Alma said. “I think it’s sweet.”
“It came in a blank envelope,” Nan said tersely. “I can’t believe his mother or father would have sent it without a note of some kind. And look at this.” She turned over the picture. “Someone printed the doctor’s home and office addresses. That seems awfully peculiar to me.”
“Maybe whoever sent it was trying to decide which address to use,” Alma suggested slowly. “Why don’t you call the Garcias and see if it came from them?”
“I bet the ranch it didn’t,” Nan muttered, as she picked up the phone.
Rosalie Garcia answered on the first ring. No, they hadn’t sent a picture and couldn’t imagine who might have done it. She was planning to frame the one they took of the doctor and Carlos and send it,but she hadn’t had time to buy a frame yet. No, she didn’t know the doctor’s home address.
Monica came in as Nan repeated that conversation to Alma. The nurse and the receptionist exchanged glances and then at Alma’s affirmative nod, Nan slipped the picture back into the envelope and dropped it in her desk drawer.
Later Nan confided to Alma, “There’s a retired detective from the District Attorney’s Office who lives down the hall from me. I’m going to show it to him. Mark my words, Alma, there’s something creepy about that picture.”
“Do you have the rightnotto show it to the doctor?” Alma asked.
“It’s addressed to ‘occupant,’ not directly to her. Iwillshow it to her, but I’d like to get John Hartman’s opinion first.”
That evening, after phoning her neighbor, Nan walked down the hall to his apartment. Hartman, a seventy-year-old widower with iron gray hair and the weathered complexion of a lifelong golfer, invited her in and listened to her apologetic explanation of why she was bothering him. “Sit down, Nan. You’re not bothering me.”
He went back to his club chair, where the newspapers he’d obviously been reading were piled on the hassock at his feet, and turned the switch on the standing lamp to full strength. As Nan watched intently she saw a frown that deepened on his face, as holding the picture and the envelope with the tips of his fingers, he studied them both.
“Your Dr. Farrell isn’t a juror on some trial, is she?”
“No, she isn’t. Why?”
“There’s probably an explanation but in my business this is the kind of piece of mail we’d consider a warning. Does Dr. Farrell have any enemies?”
“Not one in the world.”
“That’s as far as you know, Nan. You’ve got to show her this picture, and then I’d like to talk to her.”
“I hope she doesn’t think I’m overstepping my bounds,” Nan said anxiously as she got up to go. Then she hesitated. “The only thing that I can think of is that someone from Boston calls her from time to time. His name is Scott Alterman. He’s a lawyer. I don’t know what happened between them but if he calls the office, she never gets on the phone with him.”
“He’d be a good place to start looking,” Hartman said. “Scott Alterman. I’ll do a little background work on him. I used to be a pretty good detective.” Then he hesitated. “Dr. Farrell’s a pediatrician, isn’t she?”
“Has she lost any patients lately? I mean, did a child die unexpectedly where the parents might blame her?”
“No, on the contrary, she’s being asked to testify about one of her patients who was terminal and not only is still living but is cured of brain cancer.”
“I didn’t think that was possible, but at least we knowthatfamily isn’t going to be responsible for stalking Dr. Farrell.” John Hartman bit his tongue. He had not planned to use that word but something in his gut was telling him that someone out there was stalking the young doctor who was Nan’s employer.
He reached out his hand. “Nan,” he said. “Give that back to me. Did anyone besides you handle the picture?”
“I’ve got absolutely nothing important to do tomorrow. I’m going to take it down to headquarters and see if I can pick up any discernible fingerprints. It’s probably a waste of time, but then again you never know. You wouldn’t mind my taking your fingerprints, would you? Just for comparison purposes. It would only take a minute and I still have a kit in my desk.”
“Of course I don’t mind.” She tried to stifle her rising anxiety.
Less than ten minutes later, Nan was back in her own apartment.John Hartman had promised to return the picture to her by tomorrow evening. “You should show it to Dr. Farrell,” he said. “It’s up to you whether or not to say you gave it to me.”
“I’m not sure what I’ll do,” she had replied, but now as she locked and bolted her door she found herself thinking of how vulnerable Monica Farrell was in her apartment. That kitchen door to the patio has a big window, Nan thought. Anybody could slice out the glass and reach in and open the lock. I’ve already warned her she should have a much stronger grille over that window.
Nan did not sleep well that night. Her dreams were haunted by distorted images of Monica standing on the steps of the hospital, Carlos in her arms, with her long blond hair streaming on her shoulders, then coiling like tentacles around her neck.7
It was late afternoon of the day after his meeting with Sammy Barber before fifty-two-year-old Douglas Langdon realized that the photograph he had snapped of Monica Farrell was missing. He was in his corner office on Park Avenue and Fifty-first Street when the nagging sensation that something was wrong became defined in his mind.
Glancing at the door to be sure it was closed, he stood up and emptied the pockets of his expensively tailored suit. His billfold was always in the right-hand back pocket of his trousers. He took it out and laid it on his desk. Except for a clean white handkerchief the pocket was now empty.
But I wasn’t wearing this suit last night, he thought hopefully. I was wearing the dark gray. Then, dismayed, he remembered he had dropped it in the cleaner bag for his housekeeper to give to the in-house valet service. I emptied out the pockets, he thought. I always do. The picture wasn’t there or I would have noticed it.
There was only one time he’d had any reason to reach for his billfold and that was when he paid for the coffee in the diner. He had either pulled the picture out then, or less likely, it might have slipped out of the pocket and fallen somewhere between the diner and where he had parked his car.
Suppose someone found it, he wondered. It has two addresses on the back. No name, but two addresses in my handwriting. Mostpeople would just throw it away, but suppose some do-gooder tries to return it?
Every instinct told him the picture could cause trouble. Lou’s was the name of that diner in Queens where he’d met Sammy. He reached for the phone, and after a moment was speaking to Lou, the owner.
“We don’t have no picture—but wait a minute, a kid who works for me is here, and said something about a customer losing something last night. I’ll put him on.”
Three long minutes passed, then Hank Moss began with an apology. “I was just bringing out the orders for a table of six. Sorry to have kept you waiting.”
The kid sounded smart. Doug Langdon tried to sound casual. “It’s not important, but I think I dropped my daughter’s picture last night when I was at the diner.”
“Is she blond, with long hair and holding a little kid?”
“Yes,” Doug said. “I’ll send my friend over for it. He lives near the diner.”
“I actually don’t have the picture.” Hank’s voice was now nervous. “I could see that one of the addresses on the back seemed to be an office, so I addressed it to ‘occupant’ and sent it there. I hope that was all right?”
“It was very thoughtful. Thank you.” Doug replaced the receiver, not noticing that his palm was moist and his whole body felt clammy. What would Monica Farrell think when she saw that picture? Fortunately both her home and office addresses were listed in the phone book. If her home address on East Thirty-sixth Street were unlisted, it probably would have tipped her off that someone might be stalking her.
There was, of course, a simple and plausible solution. Someone who knew her snapped that picture of her holding the kid, and thought she might like to have it.
“There’s no reason for her to be suspicious,” Doug said aloud softly, then realized he was trying to reassure himself.
The muted ring of the intercom interrupted his reflections. He pushed a button on the phone. “What is it?” he asked abruptly.
“Dr. Langdon, Mr. Gannon’s secretary called to remind you that you are to introduce him tonight at the dinner for Troubled Teens honoring him . . .”
“I don’t need to be reminded,” Doug interrupted irritably.
Beatrice Tillman, his secretary, ignored the interruption. “And Linda Coleman phoned to say she’s caught in traffic and will be late for her four o’clock session with you.”
“She wouldn’t be late if she had left in enough time to get here.”
“I agree, Doctor,” Beatrice, long used to coaxing her attractive and long-time divorced boss out of a bad mood, said with a smile in her voice. “As you always tell me, with patients like Linda Coleman, you need to see a psychiatrist yourself.”
Douglas Langdon turned off the intercom without responding. A chilling thought had come to him. His fingerprints were on that picture he had taken of Monica Farrell. When something happened to her, if that picture was still around, the police might test it for prints.
There was no question of calling Sammy off. How do I work this out? Doug asked himself.
He had no answer when three hours later, at the Pierre Hotel on Fifth Avenue, seated at the table of honor at the black-tie dinner honoring Greg Gannon, he was asked quietly, “The meeting yesterday evening was satisfactory?”
Doug nodded affirmatively, then, as his name was announced, he arose and strode to the microphone to deliver his speech praising Gregory Gannon, president of the Gannon Investment Firm and as Chairman of the Board of the Gannon Foundation, one of New York City’s most generous philanthropists.8
On Tuesday morning, Olivia woke early, but did not get up for nearly an hour. Then, slipping on a robe, she went into the kitchen. She always made a fresh pot of tea to start the day. When it was ready, she set the pot and a cup on a tray and carried it into the bedroom. She set the tray on the night table and, propped on pillows, sipped the tea as she gazed down at the Hudson River.
Her thoughts were scattered. She knew there were boats still anchored to buoys in the yacht basin on Seventy-ninth Street. In a few weeks most of them will be gone, she thought, and so will I. I’ve often wondered what it would be like to go sailing. I had thought that someday I’d get around to it.
And also to taking lessons in ballroom dancing, she added, smiling at the thought. And what about all the college courses I meant to sign up for? Of course, none of that matters now. I should start counting my blessings. I had a successful career working at a job I loved. Since I retired, I’ve traveled a lot, and have enjoyed deep friendships . . .
As she savored the last of the tea, Olivia turned her mind back to the pressing problem of what to do about the evidence in her safe. Clay absolutely wants me to let it go, she thought, but when the chips are down it’s none of his business, even if he is on the board of the Gannon Foundation. Catherine wasmycousin. And Clay had noright to walk in here Monday evening, no matter how concerned he may be about me.
Of course when Mother died I agreed with him that it was better to leave things as they were, she reminded herself, but that was before the miracle of Catherine’s saving the little boy’s life, and before the beatification process began.
What wouldshewant me to do? For an instant Catherine’s face was crystal clear in Olivia’s mind. Catherine at seventeen, with that long blond hair, and those eyes the blue green of the sea on a spring morning. Even when I was only five years old I was smart enough to know how truly beautiful she was.
A thought crossed her mind: Clay saw that file folder in my hand with Catherine’s name on it. He’s the executor of my estate, such as it is. When I’m gone, if I haven’t resolved this one way or the other myself, I wouldn’t be surprised if when he opens the safe he gets rid of the file. He would think he was doing the right thing. But is it the right thing?
Olivia got up, showered, and dressed in her favorite casual outfit: slacks, a tailored blouse, and a warm cardigan sweater. Over toast and a third cup of tea, she tried to decide what to do. She was still unsure as she tidied up the kitchen and made the bed.
Then the answer came to her suddenly. She would visit Catherine’s grave in Rhinebeck, where she was buried on the grounds of the motherhouse of her order, the Community of St. Francis. Maybe I’ll get a sense of what she would want me to do there, Olivia thought. It’s a pretty good drive, at least two hours, but once I’m out of the city, the country is so pretty. I’ll enjoy it.
In these last few years she had given up driving long distances herself and instead called on a service to send a driver, who would take her where she wanted to go in her own car.
An hour later the intercom buzzed to let her know that her driver was in the lobby. “I’ll be right down,” she said.
As she was putting on her coat, she hesitated, then went to the safe and took out Catherine’s file. She slipped it into a tote bag, and feeling relieved to have it with her, left the apartment.
The driver turned out to be a pleasant-faced man in his mid-twenties, who introduced himself as Tony Garcia. To Olivia, there was something reassuring about the way he offered to carry the tote bag, then put a guiding hand under her elbow at the step in the garage. With approval she noticed that once in the car he immediately checked the gauge and told her there was plenty of gas for the round trip. After reminding her to fasten her seat belt, he concentrated on the driving. The Henry Hudson Parkway North was crowded. As usual, Olivia noted wryly. She had tucked a book in her tote bag, along with the Catherine file. An open book, she had learned, was the best way to discourage a loquacious driver.
But in the next two hours Garcia did not say a word until they drove through the gates of the St. Francis property. “Just turn left and go up that hill,” she told him. “Beyond it you’ll see the cemetery. That’s where I’m going.”
A picket fence encircled the private cemetery, where four generations of Franciscan nuns were buried. The wide entrance was framed by a trestle that Olivia remembered as being ablaze with roses in the summer. Now it was covered with green vines that already were tinged with brown. Garcia stopped the car at the flagstone walk and opened the door for Olivia to get out.
“I’ll only be ten or fifteen minutes,” she told him.
“I’ll be right here, ma’am.”
Low stone markers were on the individual graves. Occasional benches offered a place for visitors to rest. Catherine’s grave was opposite one of them. With an unconscious sigh, Olivia sat down on the bench. Even such a short walk makes me so tired, she thought, but I guess I should expect that now. She looked down at the lettering onCATHERINE’S MARKER: SR. CATHERINE MARY KURNER: SEPTEMBER 6, 1917–JUNE 3, 1977. R.I.P.
“Rest in peace,” Olivia whispered. “Rest in peace. Oh, Catherine, you were my cousin, my sister, my mentor.”
She reflected on the tragedy that had entwined their lives. Their mothers had been sisters. Catherine’s parents Jane and David Kurner and my father had all been killed in a car accident, when a drunken driver crashed into their car on the highway. That was a month before I was born, Olivia thought. Catherine was only a child herself, just turning twelve. She had come to live with us, and, from what I know, she became my mother’s right hand, the strong one. Mother told me that she could barely handle the grief and that Catherine was the one who got her through it.
Olivia felt the familiar hurt as her thoughts turned to Alex Gannon. “Oh, God, Catherine, no matter how strong your vocation, how could you not have loved him?” she whispered into the silence.
Alex’s parents, the Gannons. Olivia wished she could better remember the faces of the people who had been so kind to her mother. They had insisted she stay on as their housekeeper and live in the cottage on their estate in Southhampton after her father, who had been their chauffeur for many years, had died.
I was only five, but I remember Alex and his brother sitting on our porch talking to you, Catherine, Olivia reflected. Even then I thought Alex was like a young god. He was in medical school in New York, and I can remember Mother telling you that you were crazy to think of the convent when it was clear that he adored you. Long before it happened, I remember her saying,“Catherine, you’re making a mistake. Alex wants you. He wants to marry you. In a thousand years there’ll never be another one like him. Seventeen is not too young to get married. And why don’t you admit it? You are in love with him. I see it in your eyes. I see it when you look at him.”
And you said,“And seventeen is not too young to know that I amcalled to a different path. It is not supposed to be. That’s all there is to it.”
Olivia felt the unwanted tears come to her eyes. Six months after Catherine left for the convent, Mother remarried and we moved into the city, she thought. But when old Mrs. Gannon died, I went to her funeral with Mother and met Alex again. That has been over forty years ago.
Olivia bit her lip to keep it from trembling and clasped her hands. “Oh, Catherine,” she whispered, “how could you have given him up, and what shall I do now? I have the letter Alex asked my mother to give you, the letter begging your forgiveness. Shall I destroy it, and the record of your son’s birth? Shall I give it to your granddaughter? What do you want me to do?”
The faint rustling of the leaves falling from the trees that were scattered around the cemetery made Olivia aware that she was suddenly chilled. It’s almost four, she thought. I’d better get started for home. What did I expect? Another miracle? Catherine to materialize and counsel me? Her knees stiff, she got up slowly and, with a final glance at Catherine’s grave, walked through the cemetery back to the car. She realized that Tony Garcia must have watched for her approaching, because he was standing beside the car with the door already open.
She got into the backseat, grateful for the warmth, but without any sense of resolution. On the way back the traffic was much heavier and she was impressed by Garcia’s steady and skillful driving. When they were nearing her exit off the Henry Hudson Parkway, she commented on that and asked, “Tony, do you work full-time for the service? If you do, I’d like to request you if I have any more trips to make.”
I should add, any trips that I make in the next few weeks, she thought sadly, realizing that for an instant she had forgotten how very little time she had left.
“No, ma’am, I’m a waiter at the Waldorf. Depending on my hours there, I let the service know when I’m available to drive.”
“You’re ambitious,” Olivia said, remembering how when she began at Altman’s all those years ago, she had always tried to work overtime.
Garcia looked into the rearview mirror and she could see his smile. “Not really, ma’am. I’ve got a lot of medical bills. My little guy was diagnosed with leukemia two years ago. You can imagine how my wife and I felt when we heard that. Our doctor told us he had a fifty-fifty chance, and those odds were good enough for her and for him. Two days ago we got the final word. He’s cancer free.”
Garcia fished into his jacket pocket, pulled out a photograph, and handed it back to Olivia. “That’s Carlos with the doctor who took care of him,” he explained.
Olivia stared at the picture, not believing what she was seeing. “That’s Dr. Monica Farrell,” she said.
“Do you know her?” Garcia asked eagerly.
“No, I don’t,” and then before she could stop herself, she added, “I knew her grandmother.”
When they were down the block from the garage, she reached for the tote bag and said, “Tony, please stop at the curb for a moment. I’d like you to put this bag in the trunk. There’s a blanket quite far to the back. Slip it under the blanket, please.”
“Of course.” Without showing that he was surprised at the request, Garcia followed instructions, then drove Olivia the rest of the way home.9
Greg Gannon brought the latest proof of his generosity to his private office in the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle. “Where’ll we put it, Esther?” he asked his longtime assistant, as he stopped at her desk and took it out of the box.
The tribute was a Tiffany engraved glass prism about ten inches high.
“Looks like an ice cube,” he commented, laughing. “Shall I save it for when I have a martini?”
Esther Chambers smiled politely. “It will go in the case with the rest of them, Mr. Gannon.”
“Es, can you just imagine how it will be when I kick the bucket? Who’d want them?”
It was a rhetorical question that Esther did not attempt to answer as Gannon walked into his private office. Your wife certainly won’t and your sons would throw them in the garbage, she thought as she picked up the prism. And I’ll bet she wasn’t with you last night at that dinner. Then, with an unconscious sigh, she placed the prism on her desk. I’ll put it in the trophy case later, she thought as she read the inscription.FOR GREGORY ALEXANDER GANNON IN RECOGNITION OF HIS CONTINUING KINDNESS TO THOSE WHO NEED IT MOST.
Alexander Gannon, Esther thought. Instinctively, she glanced through the open door that led to the Foundation reception area,where a magnificent portrait of Greg’s uncle dominated the room. He had been a medical scientist whose genius for inventing replacement parts for knees and hips and ankles was the basis of the family fortune.
He died thirty years ago, before he realized how much good his inventions would do, Esther thought. I remember meeting him when I started working here. He was so handsome, even when he was seventy years old. He walked so straight, and he had silver hair and those unforgettable blue eyes. He never lived to see how successful his patents would become. The patents have all expired, but the Gannons got hundreds of millions of dollars for years from them. At least the family put some of the money in the Gannon Foundation. But I doubt Dr. Gannon would have approved of the lifestyle of his brother’s family.
Well, it’s none of my business, she reminded herself, as she settled at her desk. Still, you can’t help thinking . . . Sixtyish, with an angular figure and an unbending disposition to match, Esther was given to meditation whenever Greg brought in yet another trophy proving his oft proclaimed benevolence.
Thirty-five years ago she had begun working for Greg Gannon’s father’s small investment firm. Their office at that time was in lower Manhattan, and the business had been struggling until the medical devices invented by Alexander Gannon had released a tsunami of money and recognition. The investment firm had flourished and the income from the patents had changed the life of the Gannon family.
Greg was only eighteen then, Esther thought. At least after his father passed, he took over the investment firm and the foundation. His brother, Peter, never did much except pour money into Broadway musicals that closed on opening night. Some producer he is. If anyone knew how comparatively little those two give away, they’d stop kissing their feet in a moment.
Funny about those boys. Boys, she admonished herself sarcastically.They’re middle-aged men. But it is funny how Peter got all the looks in the family. He could still be a movie star with that handsome face and big brown eyes and charm to spare. No wonder the girls were always throwing themselves at him. Still are, I bet.
On the other hand, Greg never did outgrow his pudgy teenaged shape and, let’s face it, he’s as plain as Peter is gorgeous. Now Greg’s starting to go bald and he’s always been sensitive about his height. Kind of unfair, I guess. But neither one of them, in my opinion, has lived up to his father and certainly not to Dr. Gannon.
Oh well, better remind myself that I get well paid, I have a nice office, I have a fat retirement package when I choose to take it, and a lot of people would love to be in my situation.
Esther began to go through the batch of mail that had been placed on her desk. It was she who examined the hundreds of requests for grants and steered the appropriate ones to the board, which consisted of Greg and Peter Gannon, Dr. Clay Hadley, Dr. Douglas Langdon, and for the past eight years, Greg’s second wife, Pamela.
Sometimes she was able to pass along “grassroot pleas,” as she called them, from smaller hospitals or churches or missions in desperate need of money. For the most part the requests that went through had been the kind that would put the Gannon name on hospitals and art centers where the family name would be displayed large, and their largesse could not be missed. In the past couple of years, there had been fewer and fewer of those grants.
I wonder how much money they reallydohave left? she asked herself.10
Monday night after Scott Alterman’s call, Monica had barely slept. Tuesday night was the same. Her first thought on waking at sixA.M. on Wednesday had again been of him. He’s not serious, she thought, as she had tried to convince herself all the previous day. He’s got to be bluffing. He wouldn’t give up his practice in Boston to move here.
Or would he? He’s a brilliant lawyer. He’s only forty years old and he’s successfully defended high-ranking politicians all over the country and has a national reputation. That’s just it. With that reputation he can go anywhere. Why not New York?
But even if he does relocate, except for occasional phone calls and sending flowers to the apartment once or twice, he hasn’t really bothered me much in the four years I’ve been here, she reassured herself. She tried to take comfort in that thought as she showered, dressed in a maroon sweater and matching slacks, and clipped on small pearl earrings. I shouldn’t even wear these, she thought. The babies always grab at them. Over coffee and cereal, she began to worry about Sally Carter again. Yesterday, I didn’t discharge her and that was a stretch. Today, unless she developed a fever during the night, Ihaveto let her go.
At eight fifteen she was at the hospital to make her early rounds.She stopped at the nurses’ desk to speak to Rita Greenberg. “Sally’s temperature has stayed normal and she’s been eating pretty well. Do you want to sign her discharge papers, Doctor?” Rita asked.
“Before I do I want to talk to the mother myself,” Monica said. “I’ve got a heavy schedule at the office. Please call Ms. Carter and tell her I have to meet with her before I discharge Sally. I’ll be back here at noon.”
“I left a message yesterday to say that as a precaution you were keeping Sally for another twenty-four hours. I guess she got the message, because Mommy dearest never came to visit Sally. I checked with the evening shift. That lady is some piece of work.”
Dismayed, Monica walked into the cubicle containing Sally’s crib. The baby was sleeping on her side, her hands tucked under her cheek. Her light brown ringlets framed her forehead and curled around her ears. She did not stir when Monica’s trained hands felt her back, listening for a sign of a rattle or a wheeze, but there was none.
Monica realized she was yearning to pick up Sally and have her wake up in her arms. Instead, she turned abruptly, left the cubicle, and began to make the rest of her rounds. All her little patients were progressing well. Not like Carlos Garcia, who was touch and go for so long, she thought. Not like Michael O’Keefe, who should have died three years ago.
In the corridor to the elevator she ran into Ryan Jenner, who was approaching from the opposite direction. This morning he was wearing a white jacket. “No surgery today, Doctor?” she asked as she passed him.
She had expected a casual “Not today” kind of answer tossed over his shoulder, but Jenner stopped. “And no windswept blond tresses,” he replied. “Monica, some of my friends from Georgetown are coming up for the weekend. We’re having cocktails at my place and going out to a Thai restaurant on Friday night. A couple of them,Genine Westervelt and Natalie Kramer, told me they hoped you’d be there. How about it?”
Startled at the suddenness of the unexpected invitation, Monica’s response was hesitant. “Well . . .”
Then, realizing she was being asked to meet with former fellow students and not for a personal date, she said, “I’d love to see Genine and Natalie again.”
“Good. I’ll e-mail you.” Jenner moved briskly down the corridor away from her. As Monica again began to walk to the elevator, she impulsively turned her head to look at his retreating back and was embarrassed to meet his glance.
Sheepishly, they nodded to each other as they simultaneously quickened their pace in opposite directions.
Promptly at noon Monica was back in the hospital waiting for Renée Carter, who arrived at twelve thirty, seemingly oblivious to the fact that she had kept Monica waiting. She was wearing an obviously expensive olive green suit with a short belted jacket. A black high-neck sweater, black stockings, and impossibly high black heels gave her the look of a fashion model about to embark on the runway. Her short auburn hair was tucked behind her ears, creating a frame for a very pretty face that had been further enhanced by expertly applied makeup. She’s not going home to take care of Sally, Monica thought. She’s probably got a lunch date. I wonder how much time she spends with that poor baby?
A week ago it had been the elderly babysitter who brought Sally to the emergency room. Renée Carter had arrived an hour later, wearing an evening gown and defensively explaining that the baby had been fine when she left her earlier that evening, and that she hadn’t realized her cell phone was turned off.
Now Monica realized that even with the makeup, Carter lookedolder than she had appeared that night. At least thirty-five, she thought.
Today, Carter was accompanied by a young woman of about twenty, who nervously volunteered that she was Kristina Johnson, Sally’s new nanny.
Carter made no attempt at apologizing for being late. Nor, Monica noticed with dismay, did she make any attempt to pick up Sally. “I fired the other babysitter,” she explained in a voice that bordered on being nasal. “She didn’t tell me that Sally had been coughing all day. But I know Kristina won’t make that kind of mistake. She’s been highly recommended.”
She turned to Kristina. “Why don’t you dress Sally while I talk to the doctor?”
Sally began wailing when Monica, followed by Renée Carter, left the cubicle. Monica did not turn back to look at her. Instead, heavyhearted at the thought that Sally was being taken away by this seemingly indifferent mother, she firmly warned Carter to pay close attention to Sally’s allergies. “Do you have any pets, Ms. Carter?” she asked.
After a moment’s hesitation, Renée Carter said reassuringly, “No, I don’t have time for them, Doctor.” Then, with visible impatience, she listened as Monica explained the importance of watching for signs of asthma in Sally.
“I certainly understand, Doctor, and I want you to take over as Sally’s pediatrician,” she said hurriedly, when Monica asked her if she had any questions. Then she called into the cubicle, “Kristina, you about ready? I’m running late.”
She turned back to Monica. “I’ve got a car waiting outside, Doctor,” she explained. “I’ll drop Sally and Kristina at my apartment.” Then, seeing something in Monica’s face, she added, “Of course, I’ll make sure Sally is settled before I leave her.”
“I’m sure you will. I’ll call you this evening to see how Sally isdoing. You will be home, won’t you?” Monica asked, not caring that the tone of her voice was icy and disapproving. She looked at the chart. “This is your correct number, isn’t it?”
Renée Carter nodded her head impatiently as Monica read off the number, then turned and hurried back into the cubicle. “For Pete’s sake, Kristina,” she snapped, “hurry up! I haven’t got all day.”11
He’s on the warpath, Esther Chambers thought as Greg Gannon strode through her office after lunch on Wednesday without acknowledging her presence. What’s happened since this morning? She watched as he went into his private office and picked up the file she had prepared for him. A moment later he was standing at her desk. “I haven’t had time to go through this stuff,” he snapped. “You’re sure everything is in order?”
She wanted to snap back,Tell me one time in thirty-five years it hasn’t been in order.Instead she bit her lip and said quietly, “I double-checked, sir.”
With mounting resentment, she watched as he stalked toward the double glass doors and turned down the corridor that led to the conference room of the Gannon Foundation.
He’s worried, Esther thought. What’s he got to worry about? His funds are all showing an excellent return, but half the time he’s in a rotten mood. I’m sick of it, she thought wearily, he’s getting worse and worse. With a flash of anger she remembered how Greg’s father was barely in his grave twenty-five years ago when Greg announced he was moving the offices of both the investment firm and the foundation to lavish suites on Park Avenue. That was also when he told her that for appearances’ sake, it would be better if she always addressed him as “Mr. Gannon,” not “Greg.”
Now they were in even more lavish suites in the Time Warner Center on Columbus Circle. “Dad was the little man’s hero, but no more of the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker clients for me,” he had said derisively.
Not that it didn’t turn out he was right to go after big clients, Esther thought, but he didn’t have to be so dismissive of his father. Maybe he’s a big success now but it sure doesn’t look to me as though he bought himself any happiness with all those mansions of his and his trophy wife. I swear the first words that woman ever uttered were “I WANT.” His sons don’t even talk to him after the way he treated their mother, and he and his brother are probably fighting at the board meeting right now.
“I’m sick of both of them.” Esther did not realize she had spoken aloud. She looked around quickly but of course there was no one in her office. Even so she felt her cheeks redden. One of these days I will say what I think, and that wouldnotbe smart, she warned herself. Why am I hanging around here? I can afford to retire, and when I sell the apartment, I’ll buy a house in Vermont instead of just renting there for a couple of weeks in the summer. The boys love to ski and snowboard. Manchester is a beautiful town and has great skiing nearby . . .
Her lips relaxed into an unconscious smile as she thought of her sister’s teenaged grandchildren whom she loved as if they were her own. No time like the present, she thought as she swiveled her chair to face her computer desk. Her smile widening, she opened a new file, labeled it “Bye-bye Gannons,” and started to type: “Dear Mr. Gannon, after thirty-five years I feel it is time. . . .”
The final paragraph read, “If you wish I will be glad to screen possible replacements for my position for one month, unless of course you prefer I leave sooner.”
Esther signed the letter, and feeling as if she had lifted a weight from her shoulders, put it in an envelope and at five o’clock placedit on Greg Gannon’s desk. She knew that he might stop to check his messages after the board meeting and she wanted him to have a chance to digest the fact of her resignation overnight. He doesn’t like change unless he’s the one who makes it, she thought, and I don’t want him to persuade or bully me into staying longer than a month.
The receptionist was on the phone. Esther waved good-bye to her and went down in the elevator to the lobby floor, trying to decide if she should take time to shop in the gourmet supermarket on the lower level. I don’t need anything for tonight, she decided. I’ll go straight home.
She walked up Broadway to her apartment building opposite Lincoln Center, quietly enjoying the brisk temperature and the gusts of wind. Living in Vermont in the winter may be too much for some people, but I enjoy cold weather, she thought. I will miss the activity of the city, but that’s the way it is.
In her apartment building she stopped at the desk to get her mail. “There are two gentlemen waiting for you, Ms. Chambers,” the concierge told her.
Puzzled, Esther looked over at the seating area in the lobby. A dark-haired man, neatly dressed, was walking toward her. Speaking quietly so that the concierge could not hear him, he said, “Ms. Chambers, I’m Thomas Desmond from the Securities and Exchange Commission. My associate and I would like to have a word with you.” As he handed her his card, he said, “If possible we would prefer to talk in your apartment, where there’s no chance that we might be overheard.”12
Sammy Barber had not become a successful hit man by behaving impulsively.
In the most unobtrusive way possible Sammy began to methodically study the daily pattern of Monica Farrell’s comings and goings. Within a few days he was able to establish that she never arrived at the hospital later than 8:30A.M. and two days out of three returned there at fiveP.M. Twice she took the Fourteenth Street bus across town from the hospital to her office. The other day she walked in both directions.
She was a fast walker, he noticed, taking long, graceful strides in her low-heeled boots. He doubted that trying to push her in front of an oncoming bus would work. She never stood perched on the edge of the curb, or tried to beat a light as it was turning red.
On Friday morning, at eight o’clock, he was sitting in his car on the opposite side of the street from the converted brownstone where she lived. He had already canvassed the neighborhood and knew that there was a wall about four feet high and a narrow alleyway separating the backyard of her residence from the backyard of the identical brownstone directly behind it. He decided it might be possible to get into her building that way.
When Monica left her apartment at 8:10 Sammy waited until she was safely in a cab, then got out of his car and walked acrossthe street. He was dressed in a hooded ski jacket and wearing dark glasses. Across his chest was a heavy canvas sack with empty boxes protruding from it. He knew that anyone seeing him would think he was a private service messenger.
Averting his face to avoid the security camera, Sammy opened the door into the outer vestibule of Monica’s residence. In an instant he learned what he had come to find out. There were eight buzzers with name cards next to each of them. Two apartments to a floor, he thought. Monica Farrell was in 1B. That’s got to be the back apartment on this floor. His hands in gloves, he rang the bell of the tenant on the fourth floor, claimed a delivery, and gained entry into the inner hallway. Then, wedging the inner door open with his bag, he immediately called that woman back and claimed he had rung the wrong bell and the delivery was for the tenant in 3B, whose name he read from the card next to that bell.
“Next time be more careful,” an annoyed voice told him.
There won’t be a next time, Sammy thought as the door closed behind him. Wanting to know the layout of Monica’s apartment, he walked noiselessly down the long, narrow hall to 1B. He was about to try his string of master keys to unlock the door when he heard the whine of a vacuum coming from her apartment. Her cleaning woman must be in there, he thought.
Turning swiftly, he retreated down the hallway. The elevator was descending. He did not want to run into a tenant who might remember him. Moving rapidly now, he left the building. He had learned what he needed to know. Monica Farrell lived on the ground floor in the rear. That meant her apartment was the one with the patio, which meant she has a back door. There’s no lock I can’t open, Sammy thought, and if she has a back window, too, so much the better.
It’s the best way to handle it, he thought dispassionately. A burglary attempt gone wrong. Intruder apparently got nervous when Dr. Farrell woke up and saw him. It happens every day.
But as he got back in his car and tossed the delivery bag on the backseat, Sammy’s expression became morose. A dedicated Internet researcher, he had printed out all the information he could find on Monica Farrell. It wasn’t as if she was a celebrity, but that didn’t mean she was just any doctor. She’d written some articles about kids and gotten some awards.
Who’d want to kill her and why? Sammy wondered. Am I doing it too cheap? That was a question that nagged him as he drove to his apartment on the Lower East Side, his eyes burning for sleep. He had worked at his regular job as bouncer from nine p.m. until fourA.M., then gone directly to Monica’s street on the chance that she might have a middle-of-the-night emergency call.
He’d been prepared for that, with a dark jacket, tie, and limo service ID, figuring that if she did come running out, she might very well take a gypsy limo instead of trying to find a taxi.
I’m covering a lot of bases, Sammy thought. He pulled off his sweatshirt and jeans and threw himself into bed, too tired to undress fully.13
Cardiologist Dr. Clay Hadley and psychiatrist Dr. Douglas Langdon had gone to medical school together and over the years had kept in close touch. Both in their early fifties, both divorced, and both members of the board of the Gannon Foundation, they had a mutual and very good reason that the foundation should stay in the hands of Greg and Peter Gannon.
As a young doctor, Clay had been introduced to the Gannons by Olivia Morrow’s mother, Regina, and had quickly grasped the potential value of developing a strong friendship with Greg and Peter. It was not long before he had ingratiated himself onto the foundation board. Later, it was he who had introduced the Gannons to Langdon and suggested that he would make an ideal replacement when one of old Mr. Gannon’s friends retired from the board.
On Friday evening, he and Langdon met for a cocktail in the Hotel Elysée on East Fifty-fourth and chose a quiet corner table where they felt they could talk privately. Visibly nervous, and aware that his habit of running his fingers through his hair often gave him a disheveled appearance, Clay deliberately clasped his hands on the table. He waited impatiently for the waitress to serve their martinis and get out of earshot, then, his voice low but strained, said, “I found out where Olivia went the other day.”
His voice equally low, but calm, Langdon asked, “How did you manage that?”
“One of the maintenance staff in her building tipped me off that she’d met a driver in the lobby and was gone most of Tuesday afternoon. He buys the story that I’m very worried about her health, so he was anxious to help me keep tabs on her, but he didn’t know where she was going. Then yesterday, I remembered that she always uses one car service and called them. Her driver that day, Tony Garcia, was off until this afternoon and they wouldn’t give me his phone number. Today he called me back.”
Langdon waited. Impeccably dressed in a charcoal gray suit with faint blue stripes, his dark hair framing his strikingly handsome face, he exuded confidence and an air of calmness and strength. His thinking process was anything but calm, however. Clay may have been the one to tip me off about the granddaughter, but he’s not much good at helping to get rid of the old lady, he thought. “And what did the driver tell you?” he asked.
“He said that he had taken Olivia up to Rhinebeck.”
Langdon’s eyes widened. “Did she go to the motherhouse? Are you telling me she gave the Catherine file to the nuns?”
“No. That’s the one good part of it. She only went to the cemetery where Catherine is buried. That says to me that she’s still trying to decide what to do.”
“That would have been a very unfortunate development if Olivia Morrow had given the proof to the nuns. Monica Farrell’s death, coming on the heels of that discovery, would have seemed too coincidental to any decent investigator. Are you assuming that the file is still in Olivia’s safe?” Langdon’s voice was now icy.
“She was putting it there when I was in the apartment the other night. Her two best friends died in the past year, so it’s not as though there’s anyone she would trust with it. My guess is that it’s still in the safe.”
Langdon was silent for a long minute, then pressed, “You still can’t find a way to give Olivia something that would cause her to die at home in your presence?”
“Not yet. Think about the risk. If she has passed on the Catherine file or shown it to anyone, even at her age and state of health the cops might decide to request an autopsy if Monica Farrell is suddenly dead as well. What about that guy you hired?”
“I received a phone call, too. Sammy Barber’s price has gone up. It’s now one hundred thousand dollars, in cash, up front. As he artlessly expressed it, ‘You know I have a reputation as a man who never goes back on his word. But, given the target, I believe that my original fee was, regrettably, much too low.’ ”14
Monica had no idea of what kind of living accommodations Ryan Jenner might have. She knew that if he was still paying off college and medical school loans, as most of his peers were, he might be in a small apartment even though he had a good income now. She found herself looking forward to the gathering of friends from Georgetown. Ryan had e-mailed her the details: cocktails seven to eight, then dinner at his local Thai restaurant.
On Friday evening, thanks to several last-minute patients, she did not get home until quarter of seven. Painfully aware that she would be almost an hour late for the party, she took a quick shower, dressed in black silk pants and a fitted white cashmere sweater. Not too dressy, not too casual, she thought. Mascara and lip gloss were her only makeup. She had planned on twisting her hair into a chignon, but after a glance at the clock decided to let it hang loose. If I don’t show up by eight, they may think I’m not coming and then leave to go to the restaurant, she thought. I don’t even have Ryan’s cell number to let them know I’ll be late.
That possibility speeding her even more, she stuffed her mother’s black pearls and earrings into her handbag and remembered to check the back door to see that it was bolted. Grabbing a coat, she darted out of her apartment, ran down the hallway, and rushed out of the town house.
At the sound of the familiar voice she whirled around.
It was Scott Alterman.
He was standing on the sidewalk clearly waiting for her. “It’s cold,” he said. “Let me help you put your coat on. You’re beautiful, Monica. Even more beautiful than I remembered.”
Monica pulled her coat away as he tried to take it from her. “Scott, you’ve got to understand something,” she said, her voice unsteady from the combination of shock and dismay she felt at his presence. “We’re not only finished. We never began. You drove me out of Boston. You are not going to drive me out of New York.”
A cab with the available light glowing on its roof was passing. She raised her hand in a futile gesture to stop it.
“I’ll drive you, Monica. My car is here.”
“Scott, leave me alone!” Monica turned and ran down the street, wishing she had not at the last minute chosen to wear high heels. When she reached First Avenue, she glanced back over her shoulder. Scott had not tried to follow her. He was standing there, his hands in the pockets of the all-weather coat she was sure had been custom-made, his tall, straight body illuminated by the streetlight.
It was five minutes before she could find an empty cab and it was twenty past eight before she was on her way up in the elevator to Ryan’s apartment on West End Avenue. Reassured by the doorman that Dr. Jenner and his friends had not left yet, Monica tried to calm herself down, but could not overcome her dread at what might be coming her way now that Scott had reappeared.
Scott’s wife, Joy, had been her best friend from their first day in kindergarten together. They had been like sisters, and as an only child, being so often included in Joy’s family activities had given Monica a sense of extended family that had become even more important after her mother’s death when she was only ten years old.
Joy had been the one who constantly visited Monica’s father atthe nursing home in Boston. She and Scott were with him when he died while I was taking final exams, Monica thought. She and Scott helped me make funeral arrangements. Because he’s a lawyer, Scott took on settling Dad’s affairs. But why in the name of God did he become obsessed with me? Joy blames me, but I know I never for one second encouraged him.
It’s like that old joke, “My wife ran off with my best friend and I miss him.” Scott destroyed my friendship with Joy and I miss her terribly. Now if he’s moved to New York to be near me, what can I do? A restraining order, if it comes to that?
She realized that the slow, creaking elevator had stopped on the ninth floor and the door was open. She managed to step out before the door closed again. I’m lucky I’m not on the way back down to the lobby, she thought. Resolutely she tried to put Scott out of her mind as she scanned the apartment numbers. Ryan had told her that he was in 9E. This way, she decided, and turned left.
The door of the apartment opened the instant she put her finger on the bell. Ryan Jenner’s welcoming smile immediately lifted her spirits. He interrupted her apology. “Listen, I’ve been kicking myself for not getting your cell phone number. Don’t worry. I called the restaurant and we pushed the reservation back an hour.”
Anything else he might have said was drowned out by the enthusiastic welcoming cries of her Georgetown colleagues. Seeing them again, Monica realized how much she still missed the companionship she had enjoyed in Georgetown. It was eight years of my life, she thought as she hugged her friends. We worked hard those years, but there sure were a lot of good times.
She knew two of the eight visitors, Natalie Kramer and Genine Westervelt, very well. Genine had just opened her private practice as a plastic surgeon in D.C. Natalie was an emergency room doctor. I know them better than I know Ryan, Monica thought, as she settled down in a chair with a glass of wine. He was three years ahead ofme, and I never had a class with him, and from a distance he always seemed so reserved. Even now, except when he’s wearing scrubs or a white jacket, anytime I run into him he’s got a suit and tie on. Tonight, in a corduroy shirt and jeans sitting cross-legged on the floor, a beer in his hand, he looked totally relaxed and was obviously enjoying himself.
She looked at him thoughtfully. His specialty is brain injury. I wonder what his opinion would be if he saw Michael O’Keefe’s CAT scans. Should I ask him to take a look at them before I meet with the priest about that supposed miracle? Maybe I will, she decided.
She glanced around instinctively, hoping to get some overall sense of Ryan Jenner from his surroundings. The room was surprisingly formal, with matching couches in a patterned blue fabric, an antique armoire, side tables with elaborate crystal lamps, occasional chairs in blue and cream, and an antique blue and maroon carpet.
“Ryan, this is a lovely apartment,” Genine was saying. “You could put my whole place in this living room. And that’s the way it’s going to be until I’m off the hook with school loans. By then I’ll need to be performing do-it-yourself plastic surgery on my own face.”
“Or replacing my own knee,” Ira Easton chipped in. “Between Lynn and me, our school loans are matched only by our annual malpractice insurance premiums.”
I don’t have school loans, Monica thought, but I don’t have much else. Dad was sick for so long that I’m lucky to be okay financially.
“First of all,” Ryan Jenner was saying. “This isnotmy apartment. It’s my aunt’s, and everything in it except my toothbrush is hers. She never leaves Florida, and sooner or later she’s going to put it on the market. However, in the meantime she invited me to live in it if I keep up with the maintenance expenses, so here we are. I am paying off school loans, too.”
“Now we all feel better,” Seth Green told him. “Let’s go. I’m hungry.”
An hour later in the restaurant, the talk turned from the cost of malpractice insurance to the difficulty their various hospitals were having in expanding because of the problems with fund-raising. Ryan had arranged the seating so that he was next to Monica. “I don’t know whether you heard,” he said quietly, “but the money Greenwich has been promised for the pediatric wing may not come through. The Gannon Foundation is claiming reduced income and intends to renege on their pledge.”
“Ryan, weneedthat wing,” Monica protested.
“I heard today there’s talk of having some people meet with the Gannons and try to get them to change their minds,” Ryan said. “No one’s been more persuasive about the pediatric needs at Greenwich than you. You should be there.”
“I’ll make sure I am,” Monica said hotly. “That guy Greg Gannon always has his face in the SundayTimesas a major-league philanthropist. My dad was a research consultant at a Gannon lab in Boston for a few years before he died. It was the patents on the orthopedic parts that gave the Gannons their money. He said they collected zillions of dollars over the life of the patents. They pledged fifteen million to the hospital. Now let them pay up.”15
Wrapped in a bathrobe, Rosalie Garcia woke her sleeping husband up at sixA.M. on Monday. “Tony, the baby has a fever. He’s caught my cold.”
Tony struggled to open his eyes. The night before, he had driven a couple to a wedding in Connecticut, and then waited to drive them home, which meant he’d had three hours’ sleep. But as what Rosalie was saying sank in, he was instantly awake. Tossing back the covers, he rushed into the tiny second bedroom of their walk-up apartment on East Fourth Street. A sleepy Carlos, his face flushed, ignoring his bottle, was fretfully moving around the crib. With a gentle hand, Tony touched his son’s forehead and confirmed that it was unnaturally warm.
He straightened up and turned to his wife, understanding the panic he saw in her eyes. “Look, Rosie,” he said soothingly. “He doesn’t have leukemia anymore. Remember that. We’ll get some aspirin into him and at eight o’clock we’ll call Dr. Monica. If she wants to see him, I’ll take him right over. With that cold you can’t go out.”
“Tony, I want her to see him. Maybe it’s just a cold but . . .”
“Honey, she told us that we should remember to treat him as a kid who bumps his head or gets a cold or has an earache, because he is a normal, healthy kid now. His immune system is perfect.” But even as he was speaking, Tony knew that neither he nor Rosaliewould have any peace of mind until Dr. Monica Farrell had seen Carlos.
At seven o’clock he phoned and reached Nan as she was walking into the office. She told him to bring Carlos over at eleven, because that was when the doctor would be back from the hospital.
At ten thirty Tony bundled a sleepy Carlos into a warm jacket and cap and put him in his stroller. He tucked blankets around him, then snapped in the protective plastic shield that kept out the wind. With long strides he began to walk the ten blocks to Monica’s office. He had vetoed the suggestion that he take a cab there. “Rosie,” he had said, “I can get there faster walking, and round-trip in the traffic it could cost up to thirty dollars. Besides, Carlos likes the feel of being pushed in the stroller. He’ll end up taking a nap.”
When he reached Monica’s office twenty minutes later, she was just taking off her coat. She took one look at the fear in Tony’s eyes, then quickly unsnapped the plastic shield and, as Tony had done earlier, felt the small forehead of Carlos Garcia. “Tony, he has a fever, but not much of a fever,” she said reassuringly. “Before we even get his hat off, let me assure you of that. Alma will get Carlos set up for me to look at him, but my diagnosis as of this moment is that all he needs is baby aspirin and maybe an antibiotic.” She smiled. “So stop looking like that and don’t have a heart attack on me. I’m a pediatrician, not a cardiologist.”
Tony Garcia smiled back as he tried to blink away the sudden moisture in his eyes. “It’s just, Doctor . . . You know.”
Monica looked at him and suddenly felt infinitely older than the young father. He’s not more than twenty-four, she thought. He looks like such a kid himself and so does Rosalie and they’ve gone through such hell these two years. She touched his shoulder. “I know,” she said gently.
Thirty minutes later, Carlos, again dressed in his outerwear, was back in the stroller. Tony had samples of an antibiotic and a prescriptionfor a three-day dosage of it in his pocket. “Now remember,” Monica cautioned, as she walked with him to the outer door, “I can just about promise you he’ll be running you ragged again in a couple of days, but if his feverdoesgo up I want you to call me on my cell phone day or night.”
“I will, Dr. Monica, and thanks again. I can’t tell . . .”
“Then don’t. I can’t hear you anyhow.” Monica nodded her head to the waiting room, which now had four little patients, among them a pair of screaming twins.
Tony, his hand on the outer door, stopped. “Oh, just quick, Dr. Monica. I drove a very nice elderly woman last week. I showed her Carlos’s picture and told her how you had taken care of him and she told me she knew your grandmother.”
“She knew my grandmother!” Monica looked at him astonished. “Did she say anything about her?”
“No. Just that she knew her. Tony pulled open the outer door. “I’m holding you up. Thanks again.”
He was gone. Monica was tempted to run after him but then stopped herself. I can call him later, she thought. Could this person possibly have known my paternal grandmother? Dad didn’t have a clue who his birth mother was. He was adopted by people in their midforties. They’ve been gone for years and so are Mom’s parents. Dad and Mom would both be in their midseventies now. If their parents were still alive they’d be over 100 years old. If this lady knew my adoptive grandparents she must be really old herself. She must be mistaken.
But all through the rest of her busy day, Monica had a nagging sense that she ought to call Tony and ask for the name of the woman who had claimed to know her grandmother.16
Sammy Barber had used the weekend to do some serious thinking. The guy he was dealing with was big-time. When he’d arranged the meeting in the diner, he had not given his name, only his cell phone number, and of course that was one of those prepaid untraceable ones. But it was obvious he wasn’t used to making this kind of deal. The stupid guy drove to the diner in his own car and thought he was being smart by parking it down the block!
Sammy had followed him and used the camera on his cell phone to photograph Douglas Langdon’s license plate, then, through one of his contacts, traced down his name.
He had not told Langdon that he knew who he was when he had called to raise the price for the hit on Dr. Farrell because he had wanted to decide his next step first. When he had called Langdon, Sammy had phoned the cell number he had been given. But over the weekend, Langdon had ignored his demand, so Sammy knew exactly what he would do next.
Langdon was a shrink, but better than that he was on the board of the Gannon Foundation and that was worth millions and millions of dollars. If he was desperate enough to order a hit on that doctor, he must be in big trouble, Sammy reasoned. He ought to be able to dip into that foundation and get a million-dollar grant approved for Sammy Barber’s favorite charity. Meaning myself. Of course, itwouldn’t be put that way. Langdon could skim a million off a legit grant. It must happen all the time.
Sammy bitterly regretted that he had not taped his meeting with Langdon, but he was sure he could make Langdon think he had. And of course at their next face-to-face meeting he would be sure that a tape was running.
On Monday morning at eleven o’clock, Sammy showed up in the lobby of the Park Avenue building where Douglas Langdon’s office was located. When the security desk phoned to confirm his appointment, Langdon’s secretary, Beatrice Tillman, emphatically said, “I have no record of an appointment with Mr. Barber.”
When the person at the desk passed the word to Sammy, it was the response he was expecting. “She doesn’t know that the doctor talked to me over the weekend and told me to come in. I’ll wait till he’s available.” He saw the mistrust in the security officer’s eyes. Even though he’d worn his new jacket and slacks and his one tie, he was fully aware that he didn’t have the look of someone who had thousands of bucks to throw away on a shrink.
The guard gave that message to Tillman, waited, then put the phone down and reached for a pass. He scribbled Langdon’s name and suite number and handed it to Sammy. “The doctor isn’t expected for another fifteen minutes, but you can go upstairs and wait for him.”
“Thanks.” Sammy took the pass and sauntered over to the elevator bank, where another guard allowed him to go through the turnstile. Mickey Mouse security here, he decided disdainfully.
Nice offices, though, he thought when he entered suite 1202. Not big, but nice. It was clear that the shrink’s secretary still wasn’t sure if she bought his story but she asked him to sit down in the reception area near her desk. Sammy took care to settle himself so that Langdon would not see him when he opened the door.
Ten minutes later Langdon came in. Sammy watched as he startedto greet the secretary, who interrupted him and, her voice too low for Sammy to hear, said something to him. Langdon turned and Sammy chortled to himself at the look of sheer panic that crossed his face.
He stood up. “Good morning, Doctor. It’s really nice of you to see me on such short notice and I do appreciate it. You know how sometimes my head gets all messed up.”
“Come in, Sammy,” Langdon said abruptly.
With a cheerful wave at Beatrice Tillman, whose face was a study in curiosity, Sammy followed the doctor down the hall into what he guessed was his private office. It was carpeted in deep crimson. The walls were lined with mahogany bookshelves. A handsome leather-topped desk dominated the room. A wide leather swivel chair was behind it. Two matching chairs finished in a red and cream fabric faced the desk.
“No couch?” Sammy asked, his tone bewildered.
Langdon was closing the door. “You don’t need a couch, Sammy,” he snapped. “What are you doing here?”
Without being invited, Sammy walked around the desk to the swivel chair and sat down on it. “Doug, I made you an offer and you didn’t get back to me. I don’t like to be disrespected.”
“You agreed to a twenty-five-thousand-dollar price and raised it to one hundred thousand,” a shaken Langdon reminded him.
“Twenty-five thousand for murdering Dr. Monica Farrell isn’t very much, I figure,” Sammy commented. “She’s not like some intern nobody ever heard of. She’s what would you say . . . distinguished?”
“You agreed to that price,” Langdon said, and now Sammy could hear the panic he’d expected in Langdon’s tone.
“But you didn’t get back to me,” Sammy reminded him. “So that’s why the price has gone up again. It’s now one million, payable in advance.”
“You’ve got to be crazy,” Langdon whispered.
“I’m not,” Sammy assured him. “I taped you the other night in thediner and I’m taping you now.” He opened his jacket and exposed the wire he had attached to his cell phone. With a slow, deliberate movement he buttoned his jacket and got up. “What you or someone you know has on me wouldn’t mean much if it came to a trial. The cops would drop that charge in a minute in exchange for this tape and the other one. Now listen real carefully. I want one million dollars, then I do the job. I’ve figured out how to make it look like a burglary gone sour. So get the money, and you can sleep at night. You have to be smart enough to know that when the job is done, I won’t be sending any tapes to the cops.”
He got up, brushed past Langdon, and put his hand on the doorknob. “Have it by Friday,” he said, “or I go to the police myself.” He opened the door. “Thank you, Doctor,” he said, in a voice loud enough that he hoped the secretary could hear. “You’ve been a big help. Like you say, I can’t blame all my problems on my old lady. She did her best for me.”17
Esther Chambers had had a dismal weekend. Her visit from Thomas Desmond of the Securities and Exchange Commission and his partner had thoroughly unsettled her. When she had found them waiting for her in her lobby on Wednesday evening, she had allowed them to come up to her apartment as Desmond had requested.
There, in the privacy of her home, he had told her that her boss had been watched for some time by the SEC and that criminal charges against him for insider trading might be forthcoming.
He had also told her that she had been thoroughly checked and that her finances had shown that in no way was she living beyond her income, so they felt confident that she was not engaged in any illegal activities. They told her that they wanted her to work with them and provide them with information about Greg’s business dealings. They stressed that confidentiality was of the utmost importance and that she would almost certainly be called to testify before a Grand Jury.
“I simply cannot believe that Greg Gannon would be guilty of insider trading,” she had told Desmond. “Why should he? The investment firm has always been very successful, and for years he’s received a big salary as chairman of the board of the Gannon Foundation.”
“It’s not a case of how much he has, but how much hewants,”Desmond told her. “We’ve had multimillionaires who couldn’t spend all their legitimate money in a lifetime, and still they cheat. Some of them do it because it gives them a sense of power. But in the end, before they get caught, most of them are running scared.”
Running scared.Those words convinced Esther that it wasn’t all some kind of mistake. Greg Gannonisrunning scared, she thought.
Desmond had not been happy to learn that she had just submitted her resignation. He’d asked her if she could rescind it, then corrected himself. “No, I don’t think that’s a good idea. My bet is that right now he’s afraid to trust anybody. He might see a sudden change of heart as a tip that we’ve approached you. You say you offered to stay for one month?”
“Then my guess is that he’ll take you up on it. He’s in deep trouble now. One of his big tips about a merger didn’t go through at the last minute. He lost a quarter of a billion for one of his hedge funds. He won’t want to worry about breaking in someone new right now.”
And that’s the way it’s turning out, Esther thought on Monday morning. When Greg had seen her note on Thursday morning, he had come out to her desk. “Esther, I’m not surprised that you’re ready to retire. Thirty-five years is a heck of a long time to keep working in one place. But I do want you to stay for at least one month and do the interviewing for your replacement, then when you find someone, break her in.” He paused. “Or him,” he added.
“I know we’re not gender-conscious. I’ll find someone good to replace me, I promise,” Esther said.
For a moment, watching the troubled face of Greg Gannon, Esther’s heart had softened, seeing in it the ambitious young man who had joined his father’s business a week after his graduation from college. But then any pity she felt evaporated. With all that he had, if he really was cheating, he was doing it for himself, and gambling with other people’s hard-earned money, she thought scornfully.
Thomas Desmond had asked her to copy him on Greg’s appointments. “We need to know who he’s wining and dining,” Desmond had said. “I doubt they’re all in his official appointment book. We know some of his calls go through your office phones, but not all of them. We’ve wiretapped the people we suspect of tipping him off to mergers and acquisitions but all those calls that Gannon made to our other targets were on prepaid phones. Fortunately some of the guys who are passing on tips aren’t smart enough to use the phones we can’t trace.”
“Many of Greg’s calls don’t come through me,” Esther had agreed. “Obviously he has a cell phone, but I pay the bills for it and it’s all routine stuff. But there are plenty of times when I try to pass on a business call to him in his private office and he doesn’t pick up. I’m supposed to assume that he’s on with the family or personal friends, but it happens so often he couldn’t just be on his regular cell phone.”
Acutely aware that she had promised Thomas Desmond that she would provide evidence regarding Greg Gannon’s business activities, including his lunches with clients, Esther said, “Mr. Gannon, I’ve got you down for lunch with Arthur Saling. Shall I make a reservation for you?”
“No, Saling wanted me to meet him at his club. He’s a potential new client and a big one. Keep your fingers crossed.” Gannon turned to go back into his own office. “Hold all calls until I let you know, Esther.”
“Of course, Mr. Gannon.”
For the rest of the morning it was business as usual. Then Esther received a call from Greenwich Village Hospital. It was from the executive director of development. This time she heard and understood the lack of cordiality that had previously been present in his voice. “Esther, this is Justin Banks from Greenwich Village Hospital. As you certainly must understand we are planning to break ground forthe new Gannon Pediatric Wing. The pledge the foundation made has been overdue for six months and quite frankly it is absolutely necessary that it be fulfilled now.”
Dear God, Esther thought, Greg made that pledge almost two years ago. Why hasn’t it been paid? Carefully she chose her words. “Let me look into it,” she said, her voice professionally calm.
“Esther, that isn’t good enough.” His voice was rising. “The word is getting around that the Gannon Foundation is announcing grants that it has no intention of fulfilling, or at least not fulfilling until they have been so watered down that the purpose for receiving them is defeated. I and several of my associates insist on having a meeting with Mr. Gannon and with anyone and everyone on the foundation board. We want to tell them they simply can’t do this to the children we serve and hope to serve in the future.”18
Monday afternoon, after his first day at his prestigious new law firm, Scott Alterman went for a run in Central Park. Over the weekend, he had been constantly berating himself. It had been a stupid and serious mistake to show up at the brownstone where Monica lived. He had startled her, maybe even frightened her, and that was not the way he intended to pursue her.
He knew that four years ago he had come on much too strongly to her and should have had the brains to realize that Monica would never eventhinkof dating her best friend’s husband.
But now Joy and I are totally split, he thought, as he jogged through Central Park, enjoying the crisp autumn breezes. It was an amicable divorce and Joy even admits that getting married six months after we met was crazy. We didn’t really know each other. She came to work for the firm fresh out of law school and before it made sense I had bought her a ring and we’d made a down payment on a co-op facing the Common.
It’s one of the reasons we put off having a family, he reflected, as he began to build his case to present to Monica. Joy realizes now that it was hurt pride that made her so adamant about trying to save our marriage. It didn’t do any good, of course. Three long years of being in counseling and trying to make it work were a waste. But I knewI’d never have any chance with Monica until Joy agreed that the marriage was hopeless. Now Joy admits that she never really believed Monica had been seeing me on the side. In the year we’ve been split both of us have been much happier . . .
I wonder if I could get Joy to call Monica and explain that to her? Joy even said that I was more than generous in the settlement, turning over the condo and all the furniture to her. The paintings, too. They’re worth a lot more than when I bought them. I have an eye for good art. I’ll start a new collection.
Joy has the condo, a healthy bank account, a good job. Before I told my partners I was leaving I asked them to consider making her a partner and I think they may do it. She’s grateful to me for that, but she’s also a darn good lawyer and deserves it. I know she’s happy that I’ve left the firm. She doesn’t want to run into me every day. I’ve heard that she’s been dating different people, which is all to the good. God bless my successor.
Scott had started his run on the West Ninety-sixth Street entrance to Central Park. He’d gone south to Fifty-ninth Street, then up the east side of the park to 110th Street, then down on the west side back to Ninety-sixth Street. With a glow of satisfaction at how easily he had handled the run, he returned to his rented apartment, showered, changed, then, sipping a scotch, settled in a chair that overlooked the park.
Even without Monica in the equation I was happy to make the move, he thought. There’s more visibility for a trial lawyer in Manhattan than in Boston.
Monica. As always, when he allowed himself to think about her, her face in every detail filled his mind. Especially, he thought, those incredible blue-green eyes that had looked so warm and loving when she told Joy and him how much their kindness to her father in the nursing home meant to her, and how she hoped that someday shewould meet someone exactly like Scott. But those eyes had withered him with scorn when he had been fool enough to ask her to have dinner with him alone.
Scott did not like to remember how dumb he had been to keep calling her, thinking she would change her mind. But she did have some feelings for me, he told himself. Iknowshe did, he thought defensively.
When did I fall in love with Monica? When did I stop seeing her as Joy’s best friend and start looking at her as a desirable woman, the woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with?
Why didn’t I tell her to listen to her father’s suspicions about his parentage? She saw the photos her father had compared and immediately dismissed them. “Dad always tried to find his birth parents, Scott,” she had said. “He always used to point to a photo in the newspaper of someone whom he resembled, and wonder whether it was his own father. It was a sad, running joke. His need to know was so great, and of course never satisfied.”
Scott felt his sense of well-being begin to slip away. There has to be a way to trace Edward Farrell’s birth parents. The resemblance between him and Alexander Gannon is absolutely startling. Gannon never married, but in 1935, he wrote a will which never mentioned a wife, but significantly left his estate first to his issue if any existed, and only then to his brother. There’s a good chance her father was right about his suspicions. Maybe telling that to Monica is the way to get her to see me. I want to marry Monica, but if that doesn’t happen, he thought ruefully, second best would be to represent her in court. As her lawyer, I’d receive a healthy percentage of any money she received.
Scott cast a disdainful eye on the serviceable but ordinary furniture in his rented co-op. I’ve got to get busy finding a place I want to buy, he thought, a place where Monica might want to live someday.
It isn’t just about the money in the Gannon Foundation that may be hers. I want her and I want everything for her.19
On Monday evening, retired detective John Hartman phoned his neighbor Nan Rhodes. By now he knew that she sometimes met her sisters on Monday evenings, but he wasn’t sure whether it was a weekly commitment.
A childless widower who had been the only child of two only children, Hartman, despite his wide circle of friends, often regretted that he had not been born into a large family. Tonight for some reason, he felt particularly down and was immeasurably cheered when at seven thirty Nan answered her phone on the first ring.
At his suggestion that he half expected her to be at dinner with her siblings, Nan laughed. “We meet once a month,” she told him. “Weekly, and we’d probably be resuming old battles like ‘Remember when you wore my new sweater before I even had a chance to wear it myself?’ It’s better this way.”
“I’ve kept the picture of Dr. Farrell longer than I intended,” he said. “The fingerprints on it don’t match any known felon. Shall I slip it under your door?” Why did I make that suggestion? he asked himself. Why didn’t I ask if I could drop it off?
He was delighted to hear Nan’s response. “I just made a pot of tea and sinful as it’s now considered, I bought a chocolate layer cake at the bakery. Why don’t you just come in and sit down for a few minutes and share it with me?”
Not realizing that Nan was at once shocked at her invitation to him and pleased that he had accepted it, Hartman hastily grabbed a freshly cleaned cardigan from his closet and buttoned it over his casual shirt. Five minutes later he was sitting opposite Nan at her dinette table.
As she poured tea and sliced a generous piece of cake for him, he decided that he would not hand over the picture immediately. He found himself savoring the warmth that emanated from Nan Rhodes. He knew she had a son. Always ask about the offspring, he told himself. “Nan, how is your son doing?”
Her eyes lit up. “I just got a new picture of him with his wife, Sharon, and the baby.” Nan rushed to get the picture, and when she returned and he had made the appropriate comments, they began to talk about her family. Then the normally reserved John Hartman found himself telling her about his experience of growing up as an only child and how as a kid he already knew that someday he would be a detective.
It was only after the second cup of tea and a small second slice of chocolate cake that he pulled the envelope with the photograph of Monica holding the Garcia baby from his pocket. “Nan,” he said soberly. “I’m a pretty good detective, and when I was working I would get a hunch about a case and many times I was on target. As I told you when I phoned, whoever was holding that picture has no known past history of crime. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t something very wrong about the fact this picture exists and that Dr. Farrell’s two addresses are on it.”
“As I told you last week, that was my hunch, too, John,” Nan said. She reached for the envelope, took the picture out, studied it, then turned it over to read again the block printing with Monica’s addresses. “I have to show it to her,” she said reluctantly. “She might be annoyed that I didn’t give it to her last week, but that’s a chance I have to take.”
“I walked over to the hospital the other day,” John said. “I took some pictures from across the street to try to get the same angle of the steps and hospital that we see in this one. I think whoever took that picture was sitting in a car.”
“Do you mean someone might have been waiting for Dr. Monica to come out?” Now Nan’s voice was incredulous.
“It’s possible. Do you remember if anyone phoned last Monday to ask about her schedule?”
Nan frowned as she tried to sort out the myriad of calls that came into the office. “I’m not sure,” she said slowly. “But it isn’t unusual for someone like a pharmacist to phone and ask when the doctor is expected in. I wouldn’t even have noticed that as being unusual.”
“What would you have said if you had been called about her schedule last Monday?”
“I would have said that’s she’d be in around noon. There are often staff meetings at the hospital on Monday mornings and I don’t schedule anything at the office for her until one o’clock.”
“What time did she step out of the hospital with the Garcias to take that picture?”
“I don’t know.”
“When you give it to the doctor, please ask her what time it was.”
“All right.” Nan realized her throat was dry. “You really think that someone is stalking her, don’t you?”
“Maybe stalking is too strong a word. I checked on Scott Alterman, the ex-boyfriend, or whatever he was to the doctor. He’s a well-known, well-respected lawyer in Boston, recently divorced, and moved to Manhattan only last week to join a big-shot law firm on Wall Street. But he wasn’t the one who took the picture. Last Monday his firm had a farewell luncheon for him at the Ritz-Carlton in Boston and he was there.”
“Could he have had someone else take the picture for him?”
“He could have. But I doubt it. That doesn’t have the ring of truthto me.” Hartman pushed back his chair. “Nan, thanks for the hospitality. The cake was delicious and every time I have tea brewed in a teapot, I promise myself I’ll never use a tea bag again.”
Nan stood up with him. “I’ll be very aware of anyone phoning to try to get the doctor’s schedule,” she said, then brightened. “Oh, I have to tell you something interesting. The Garcia baby, the one who recovered from leukemia, was in today. Just a cold, but you can understand the concern of the parents. Tony Garcia, the father, works part-time as a driver. He told Dr. Monica that an elderly lady he drove last week claimed to know the doctor’s grandmother. Dr. Monica told me she thought it had to be a mistake, because she never knew her grandparents, but I couldn’t resist following up. I called Tony and he gave me the lady’s name. It’s Olivia Morrow, and she lives on Riverside Drive. I gave it to Dr. Monica and urged her to give the lady a call. As I told her, ‘What have you got to lose?’ ”20
In his office near Shubert Alley, in the theatre district of Manhattan, Peter Gannon stood up from his desk and pushed aside the sheets of paper that were littered over it. He walked across the room to the wall of bookshelves and reached for his copy ofWebster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary.He wanted to look up the exact definition of the word “carnage.”
“carnage (kar’nij),” he read, “n. 1 the slaughter of a great number of men as in battle; butchery; massacre; 2 archaic, dead bodies as of men slain in battle.”
“That about defines it,” he said aloud, although he was alone in the room. Slaughter and butchery by the critics. Massacre by the audience. And dead bodies of all the actors, musicians, and crew who worked their hearts out to have a big hit.
He replaced the heavy dictionary, sat at his desk again, and put his head in his hands. I was so sure that this one would work, he thought. I was so sure of it I even promised to personally guarantee half the investment some of the big-bucks guys put in it. How am I supposed to do that now? The patent income has been finished for years, and the foundation is too heavily committed. I told Greg that I thought Clay and Doug were pushing too hard for those mental health and cardiac research grants, but he told me to mind my own business,that I was getting plenty for my theatre projects. How do I tell them that I need more now? Alotmore!
Too restless to stay seated, he stood up again. The musical extravaganza had opened and closed last Monday night. A week later, he was still adding up the cost of the debacle. One critic had written, “Producer Peter Gannon has effectively presented small dramas, suitable for off-Broadway, but his third attempt at a musical is once again a resounding failure. Give it up, Peter.”
Give it up, Peter, he thought, as he opened the small refrigerator behind his desk and took out a bottle of vodka. Not too much, he cautioned himself, as he unscrewed the bottle and reached for a stem glass from the tray on top of the refrigerator. I know I’ve been drinking too much, I know it.
After he had poured a moderate amount of vodka into the glass and added ice cubes, he replaced the bottle, closed the refrigerator, and sat down again. Then he leaned back in his chair. Or maybe Ishouldturn into a drunk, he thought. Blotto. Out of it. Not able to string two sentences together. Not able to think, but able to sleep, even if it’s a drunken sleep that ends in a blinding headache.
He took a long sip of the vodka and with his free hand reached for the phone. Susan, his ex-wife, had left a message telling him how sorry she was that the play had closed. Any other ex would have been thrilled that it flopped, he thought, but Sue meant it.
Sue. One more constant regret. Forget about calling her. It’s too painful.
As he was withdrawing his hand, the phone rang. When the caller’s number came up, he was tempted to pretend he wasn’t in his office. Knowing that would solve nothing, he picked up the receiver and mumbled a greeting.
“I expected to hear from you before this,” a querulous voice told him.
“I meant to call you. It’s been pretty hectic.”
“I don’t mean a phone call. I mean my payment. You’re overdue.”
“I . . . just . . . don’t . . . have . . . that . . . much . . . now,” Peter whispered, his voice strangled.
“Then . . . get . . . it . . . or . . . else.”
The phone slammed in his ear.21
When she woke up on Tuesday morning, Olivia Morrow felt as if a quantity of her small stockpile of remaining energy had disappeared while she was sleeping. For some odd reason, a scene fromLittle Women,a book she had loved as young teenager, became fresh in her mind. Beth, the-nineteen-year-old who is dying of tuberculosis, tells her older sister that she knows she will not get well, that the tide is going out.
The tide is going out for me, too, Olivia thought. If Clay is right, and my body is telling me he is right, I have less than a week to live.
What shall I do?
Pulling on her reserve of strength, she got up slowly, put on a robe, and made her way to the kitchen. As she walked the short distance she was too exhausted to reach for the kettle and sat on a chair in the dining alcove until her breath became stronger. Catherine, she begged, give me direction. Let me know what you want me to do.
After a few minutes she was able to get up, make the tea, and plan her day. I want to go back to Southhampton, she thought. I wonder if the Gannon House is still there, and the cottage where Catherine and Mother and I lived . . .
The cemetery in Southhampton was where generations of Gannonswere entombed in an imposing mausoleum. Where Alex was entombed. Not that I have the feeling that he’ll be waiting for me on the other side, she thought sadly. Catherine was his love, but when she died she certainly wasn’t looking to be reunited with him.
Or was she?
A childhood memory that had been coming to the surface of her mind over and over in these past few days once again filled her mind. Am I making this up, or did I witness it? she wondered. Is my mind playing tricks or am I remembering seeing Catherine in her habit shortly after she entered the convent? I thought the novices were not allowed to see their families for a while. It was on a dock, and there was another nun with her. Catherine and Mother were crying. That must have been when she sailed to Ireland . . .
Why does that suddenly seem so important to know? she asked herself. Or is it that I am trying to reject death by dragging up scenes from my childhood, as if I could begin to relive my life?
She would call the car service and go out to Southhampton today. Even in a few days it may be too late, she thought. I wonder if I can get that nice young man who drove me last week? What was his name? Yes, I remember. It was Tony Garcia.
She finished sipping the tea and debated about forcing herself to have a slice of toast, then decided against it. I’m not hungry, she thought, and at this point what is the difference if I eat or don’t eat?
She got up slowly and carried the cup to the sink, rinsed it out, and put it in the dishwasher, suddenly acutely aware that this kind of mundane activity would soon be over forever.
In the bedroom she called the car service and was disappointed to learn that Tony Garcia was not coming in today.
“He’s supposed to be available,” an aggravated voice told her. “But he phoned to say that his wife and kid are sick and he has to stay home.”
“Oh, I am sorry,” Olivia said quickly. “It’s not serious, is it? He told me about his little boy having had leukemia.”
“Nah. It’s just a bad cold. I swear if that kid gets sniffles, Tony makes a big deal about it.”
“In his case, I would, too,” Olivia responded, an edge in her voice.
“Yeah, of course, Ms. Morrow. I’ll send a good driver for you.”
At noon the driver, a heavyset man with a windburned face, appeared in the lobby. This time she was already there waiting for him. Unlike Tony Garcia, he did not offer her his arm on the way to the garage. But he did tell her that he knew she was a good customer and that everyone said what a nice lady she was and if she wanted anything like to stop on the way to Southhampton if she needed a restroom, just say the word.
She had fully intended to ask him to take the tote bag with the Catherine file from under the blanket in the trunk, but decided against it.
I know by heart those letters Catherine wrote to Mother, she thought. I can read them in my mind. And I don’t want this man to get them out, then put them back in the trunk later. He’s obviously already discussed me with other people.
And why am I hiding the file? What is the point?
She had no answer, only an instinct to leave it in the trunk for the present.
It was one of those unexpectedly warm October days with the sun high and bright, and puffs of clouds drifting through a tranquil sky. But even though she had worn a warm cape over her suit, Olivia felt chilled. When they were on the way across town she asked the driver to slide back the cover of the overhead glass panel so that the filtered sun could warm the backseat of the car.
What was that prayer or psalm her mother kept at her bedside in her last year? It began “When in death my limbs are failing . . .”Maybe I’d better look it up and start reciting it, she thought. I know it gave Mother comfort.
With the heavy traffic it took nearly half an hour to get to the Midtown Tunnel. Olivia found herself looking with new eyes at storefronts and restaurants, remembering the times she had either shopped or eaten in one or the other of them.
But after they had gone through the tunnel and were on the Long Island Expressway the drive seemed to go quickly. As they passed the various towns Olivia found herself reminiscing over friends long gone. Lillian lived in Syosset . . . Beverly had that beautiful house in Manhasset . . .
“I don’t have the street address in Southhampton,” the driver said as they approached the town.
Olivia recited it to him and just doing so brought back the scent of the salt water that had wafted into her room in the cottage. Even the cottage faced the ocean, she thought. And the Gannon House was so beautiful, with the wraparound porch. The Gannons always dressed for dinner.
Another memory. Catherine walking on the beach, barefoot, her long hair swirling behind her. I know I’m right. I was standing there. It must have been shortly before she left for the convent. Then Alex came up behind her and put his arms around her . . .
Olivia closed her eyes. So much is coming back to me, she thought. Does this happen to everyone who is dying?
She wasn’t sure if she had dozed, because it seemed only a moment later that the driver was opening the door for her. “We’re here, Ms. Morrow.”
“Oh, I’m not getting out. I just wanted to see the house again. When I was a young child I lived here.” She looked beyond him and saw immediately that the property had been subdivided and the cottage was gone, replaced by an imposing mansion. But the Gannon home was just as she remembered it. Now it was painted a softyellow that enhanced its century-old beauty. Olivia could visualize Alex’s mother and father on the porch, greeting people who came to one of their frequent gatherings.
The nameGANNONwas on the mailbox. So they still own it, she thought. It must have been left to Alex as the older son. That means the rightful owner is Alex’s granddaughter, Monica Farrell.
“You lived in this house, Ms. Morrow?” the driver asked, his tone alive with curiosity.
“No, I lived in a cottage that is no longer here. I have one more stop to make.” I went to Catherine’s grave looking for an answer, she thought, and didn’t get one. Maybe I’ll be able to come to a decision if I stop at the cemetery and visit the Gannon mausoleum. Alex is there.
But when the driver parked in front of the mausoleum she was too tired to leave the car, let alone wrestle with her conscience. The only emotion she felt was her sense of profound loss that Alex had never loved her. We began to have dinner after we met at his father’s funeral. We saw each other regularly for six months. She remembered again his shock and astonishment when she had asked him to marry her. He had said, “Olivia, you will always be my dear friend. But there will never be anything more between us.”
That was the last time I saw him, she thought. It hurt too much to be around him. That was more than forty years ago! I didn’t even attend his funeral Mass. Alex chose a lifetime alone rather than share any part of it with another woman, even one who loved him as passionately as I did.
She stared at the Gannon name over the door of the mausoleum. Someday in the distant future, here is the rightful resting place for Monica Farrell, she thought. Her grandparents and her great-grandparents are lying here.
But that doesn’t mean I have the right to break Mother’s promiseto Catherine, she reminded herself. I would never have learned the truth if Mother had not revealed it when she was heavily medicated.
She had come out here looking for guidance and there was none. All the journey had done was to dredge up painful memories. “I guess it’s time to get started,” she told the driver. I’m sure this visit will be talked about where he works, she thought. Well, in another week or so, they’ll understand to some extent why I’m here. My farewell pilgrimage.
When she arrived home Olivia undressed and went straight to bed. Too weary to even think about preparing food, her only thought was that she still had no resolution to the decision she needed to make immediately.
Her eyes began to close. The ringing of the phone was an unwelcome distraction. She was tempted to ignore it, but then realized it might be Clay Hadley. Her failure to pick up at this time would almost surely mean that he would call the concierge, verify that she was home, then come running over.
Sighing, Olivia fumbled for the receiver and picked it up.
It was an unfamiliar voice. A woman’s voice.
“Ms. Morrow, I’m probably wasting your time. My name is Monica Farrell. I’m a pediatrician. You had a driver last week whose little boy is my patient. The driver, Tony Garcia, happened to mention that you said you knew my grandmother. Was he mistaken?”
Catherine’s granddaughter is calling me, Olivia thought. It was just after I left Catherine’s grave that I told Tony Garcia I knew Monica’s grandmother and he told her. Catherinehassent me a sign.
Her voice trembling, she answered. “Yes. I knew her very well and I want to tell you about her. It is very important that you know everything before it is too late. Can you come and visit me tomorrow?”
“Not until late afternoon. I have office hours in the morning, then I have an appointment in New Jersey I cannot break. I’m sure I could be at your apartment by five o’clock at the latest.”
“That will be fine. Oh, Monica, I’m so glad you called. Did Tony give you my address?”
“Yes, I have it. Ms. Morrow, one question. Are we talking about the woman who was my father’s adoptive mother, or about my maternal grandmother?”
“I’m talking about your father’s birth parents, your flesh-and-blood grandparents. Monica, I am very tired. I have been out all day. Tomorrow I will be sure to rest. I look forward so much to seeing you.”
Olivia broke the connection. She knew how close she was to tears and she didn’t want Monica to hear them in her voice.
She closed her eyes and fell asleep immediately. She was dreaming of the moment when she would meet the young woman who was the grandchild of Catherine and Alex when the phone rang again.
This time it was Clay Hadley.
Still half asleep, Olivia said, “Oh, Clay, I’m so happy. Monica Farrell called me. Can you believe it? She called me! It’s a sign. I’m going to tell her everything. It’s such a relief to be sure, isn’t it? Now I’m content to die.”22
Stunned at what Olivia Morrow had told her, Monica put down the phone and sat at the desk in her small private office, her mind jumping.
Does she mean what she told me, that she knew Daddy’sbirthparents? She sounds old, and even feeble. Maybe she’s confused? But if shedidknow them and could tell me who they were, it would be so wonderful. Dad spent his life longing to discover the truth about his background. He said he wouldn’t care if his blood relatives had been drunks or cheats, just to learn who they were would be enough.
Maybe tomorrow by this time I’ll know, she thought. I wonder if I have any cousins or extended family? I’d love that . . .
Monica pushed back her desk chair and stood up. I wish I didn’t have to go and testify at that beatification hearing tomorrow. Dad was a devout Catholic and I know my mother was, too. I remember the three of us in church every Sunday, as regular as clockwork. I’m of the generation that drifted away from it, although I do go to Mass sometimes. Dad said they had made it too easy for all of us. “You guys have the idea that if you want to go out on a rowboat and pray on Sunday mornings, that will be just fine,” he told me. “Well, it’s not fine.”
Ryan Jenner had promised to stop by and look at the Michael O’Keefe file at seven o’clock. It was seven now. That thought madeMonica hurry into the small staff bathroom and look in the mirror. Other than a touch of lip gloss and a dab of powder, she never wore makeup during the day. But now she found herself opening the cabinet and reaching for foundation and mascara.
It’s been another long day, she thought. It’s time to give my face a little pickup. After she applied the foundation, she decided she might as well go for it, and added a light eye shadow. Then remembering Ryan’s remark about liking to see her hair loose, she pulled out the pins holding it up.
This is ridiculous, she told herself. He’s coming to look at Michael O’Keefe’s medical history and MRIs and CAT scans, and I’m letting myself get all done up for him. But heisnice.
Over the weekend she had savored the memory of the evening at Ryan’s apartment. She acknowledged to herself that she had always admired him in his role as surgeon, but she had never imagined how warm and charming he could be on a personal level. I barely knew him in Georgetown, she thought. He was in his last year when I was just starting med school. He always looked so serious.
At twenty after seven the doorbell rang. “I’m so sorry,” Ryan began when she opened the office door.
“That was my line at your apartment on Friday,” Monica interrupted. “Come on in. I have everything I want to show you ready. I know you said that you’re on the way to the theatre.”
She had placed the Michael O’Keefe files on a table in her waiting room. The children’s books that were normally there were stacked in the corner. Jenner glanced at them. “When I was a kid, Dr. Seuss was my favorite author,” he said. “How about you?”
“High on the list,” Monica agreed. “How could he not be?” As Jenner sat down and reached for the file, she pulled up a chair across the table from him and watched as he reached in his pocket for his glasses.
She studied his face as he began to read the MRIs and CAT scans.The grave expression that came over it as he held up one after another of them was exactly what she expected to see. Finally he laid them down and looked at her. “Monica, this child had incurable brain cancer that ought to have resulted in his death within twelve months. Are you telling me he is still alive?”
“Those MRIs and scans were taken four years ago. I had just opened my practice here, so as you can imagine I was pretty nervous. Michael was four years old then. He had started having seizures and the parents thought they were looking at epilepsy. But you can see what I found. Now look at the other file. It has diagnostic tests that have been taken of Michael in the past three years. Incidentally he’s a great kid, a top student, and the captain of his Little League team.”
His eyebrows raised, Jenner opened the second file, studied its contents, went through them one by one again, and finally laid them down. He looked at Monica for a long moment before speaking.
“Do you see any possibility of spontaneous remission?” Monica asked.
“None. Absolutely impossible,” Jenner said firmly.
Monica nodded. “Be careful. You might end up on a witness list for this beatification process.”
Ryan Jenner stood up. “If they want another opinion I’ll be glad to give it to them. From everything I have learned and seen as a doctor and a surgeon, if these records are truly those of Michael O’Keefe, that child should not be alive. Now I’d better get going. A certain young lady is going to get very unhappy if I’m not at the theatre by curtain time.”
On Wednesday morning, after a considerable debate with herself, Monica told Nan that she had called Olivia Morrow and was going to visit her when she returned from testifying at the Bishop’s Office in Metuchen, New Jersey.
“Does she know your grandmother?” Nan asked breathlessly.
Monica hesitated, then carefully chose her words. “She claims she does but I will say from the sound of Ms. Morrow’s voice, I get the impression that she’s quite old. I’m reserving judgment until I meet her.”
Why didn’t I tell Nan that Olivia Morrow claims she knew both my birth grandparents? she asked herself later that afternoon as she got into her six-year-old car for the drive to New Jersey. It’s because I’m sure that would be too good to be true. And if she did know them and can tell me about them, I will start to believe in miracles, she thought as she inched through the traffic on Fourteenth Street heading for the Lincoln Tunnel.
One hour later she was parking her car in front of the building that was the office of the Bishop of Metuchen. Wishing she was a thousand miles away, she stopped at the reception desk in the spacious lobby. She introduced herself and said, “I have an appointment with Monsignor Joseph Kelly.”
The receptionist smiled. “Monsignor is expecting you, Doctor. He’s on the second floor, room 1024.”
As she turned, Monica could see there was a chapel to the left. Is that where the formal beatification ceremony takes place? she wondered. Over the weekend she had read up on the process. It seems almost medieval, she thought. If what I read is correct, Monsignor Kelly is the Episcopal Delegate, who actually runs the investigation. Two other people will be with him when I’m questioned. One is the Promotor of Justice, whose job it is to make sure there are no phony miracles. They used to call him the Devil’s Advocate. The other person will be the Notary in the Inquiry. I guess her job is to record my testimony. And I gather I have to start by taking an oath to tell the truth.
Ignoring the elevator, she walked up the carpeted stairs. The door of Monsignor Kelly’s office was open. He caught her eye and waved her in with a genial smile. “Dr. Farrell, come in. Thank you so muchfor joining us.” As he spoke he sprang up and hurried around his desk to shake her hand.
Monica found herself immediately drawn to him. He was a man in his late sixties with dark hair only moderately sprinkled with gray, a rangy build, and intense blue eyes.
As she had expected, there were two other people in the sitting area of the large office. One, a younger priest, was introduced as Monsignor David Fell. He was a slight man in his early forties with a boyish face. The other, perhaps ten years older than Monsignor Fell, was a tall woman with short, curly hair. She was introduced as Laura Shearing. Monica was sure she was the Notary.
Monsignor Kelly invited Monica to sit down. He thanked her again for coming, then asked, “Do you know anything about Sister Catherine?”
“Certainly not personally. I was aware of the fact that she was the foundress of seven children’s hospitals, so as a pediatrician I have great respect for her,” Monica said, suddenly more comfortable that this was not going to be an inquisition about her belief or lack of belief in miracles. “I’m aware that she was a Franciscan nun and her hospitals individually had a target of treating patients with a specific disability, much the way St. Jude Hospital was founded by Danny Thomas to treat children with cancer.”
“That is exactly right,” Kelly agreed. “And after her death thirty-three years ago there were many people who believed she had been a saint living among us. We are specifically investigating the healing of the O’Keefe child, but countless parents wrote or called this diocese to say that she seemed to have special healing powers in the sense that many gravely ill children turned the corner after being in her presence.” Monsignor Kelly looked at Monsignor Fell. “Why don’t you take over, David?”
David Fell’s quick smile brightened his solemn demeanor. “Dr. Farrell, let me give you a brief background of someone whosecause is presently being studied in Rome. Terence Cooke was the Cardinal-Archbishop of New York. He died about twenty-five years ago. Have you ever heard of him?”
“Yes I have. My father loved New York,” Monica said. “After my mother died, when I was ten years old, he and I would come down to Manhattan and spend weekends going to the theatre and visiting museums. We never missed the Cardinal’s Masses at St. Patrick’s on Sunday morning. I remember seeing Cardinal O’Connor there. I know that was after Cardinal Cooke died.”
Fell nodded. “He was a man who was loved by countless people. To know him was to feel blessed to be in his presence. After Cardinal Cooke’s passing thousands of people wrote letters about him to the archdiocese, about his goodness, his kindness, and how he had affected their lives. One of those letters you might be interested to know came from President and Nancy Reagan.”
“They weren’t Catholic,” Monica said.
“Many of the letters were from people who are not Catholic, and they were people from all walks of life. It is not generally known that when he was shot, President Reagan was much closer to death than had been released to the public. Michael Deaver, President Reagan’s chief of staff, asked him if he would like to speak to a spiritual advisor. The president wanted Cardinal Cooke flown to Washington and he spent two and a half hours at Reagan’s bedside.”
Fell continued. “The investigation into the cause of Cardinal Cooke has been an ongoing process for many years. Over twenty-two thousand documents, meaning letters as well as verbal testimony and his own writings, have been examined. Like Sister Catherine, he is credited with the miracle of saving the life of a dying child.”
“You have to understand where I am coming from,” Monica said, carefully choosing her words. “It is not that I don’t believe in the possibility of divine intervention, but as a doctor I continue to look for other reasons why this child, Michael O’Keefe, had spontaneousremission. I’ll give you an example. A person with dissociative identity disorder, multiple personality as it used to be called, may be able to sing like a lark in one personality, and be tone deaf in another. We have examples of some of those people who require eyeglasses in one identity and have twenty-twenty vision in another identity. As a scientist I am still looking for an explanation for the remission or cure of Michael O’Keefe’s cancerous brain tumor.”
“When you were contacted by us, you did readily acknowledge Michael’s mother’s response when you told her and his father that he was terminally ill?”
“After urging Mr. and Mrs. O’Keefe to seek other opinions from qualified specialists, I begged them not to subject Michael to fake promises of a cure. I said I was sure the doctors in Cincinnati would verify my diagnosis, and after that they should take Michael home and enjoy him for the year that he would live.”
“And how did the parents respond?”
“Michael’s father almost collapsed. His mother looked at me and said, ‘My son is not going to die. I am going to begin a crusade of prayer to Sister Catherine and he will get well.’ ”
Monsignors Fell and Kelly exchanged glances. “Dr. Farrell, we need to take your testimony under oath and then we can let you go,” Monsignor Kelly said. “What you have said is crucially important to this proceeding.”
“I’ll be happy to testify under oath,” Monica said quietly. Isn’t it funny, she reflected. The Hippocratic oath is the only one I’ve ever taken. Words from Hippocrates’Preceptsran through her mind . . . “for some patients, though conscious that their condition is perilous, recover their health simply through their contentment with the goodness of the physician.”
I wonder if, after all, Michael O’Keefe recovered not because of the goodness of the physician, meaning me, but because of the intervention of a deceased Franciscan nun, Sister Catherine, who spenther life caring for disabled children? Michael’s mother had absolute confidence that Sister Catherine would not suffer her to lose her only child.
It was a thought that stayed with Monica as she repeated her testimony under sacred oath.23
Gregory Gannon’s duplex apartment was in one of the Museum Mile buildings, so called because of their proximity on Fifth Avenue to the Metropolitan Museum of Art as well as the Guggenheim and others. It had terraces that allowed him to look over Manhattan in all four directions, with a dazzling view of the most famous island in the world.
Before his second marriage eight years ago, Greg had lived in the corner building next door, in a comfortable twelve-room cooperative apartment that was still occupied by his first wife, Caroline. His two sons had grown up there. Aidan was now a lawyer working as a public defender in the Manhattan Legal Aid Society office. The other, William, was a teacher, who after receiving his master’s degree in sociology had volunteered to serve at an inner-city school. After the divorce neither one of them had chosen to have any further dealings with Greg. “You announced in the media that you were divorcing Mom to marry Pamela when Mom didn’t even have a clue you were running around,” Aidan had told him. “Well, good for you. You’ve got Pamela. You were also quoted as saying ‘for the first time in my life I know what real happiness is.’ So forget about us. You don’t need us and we don’t want you.”
The boys were in their late twenties now. Occasionally, if Greg decided to walk to or from the office, he would run into one of theboys who was going to visit his mother. Greg did not like to admit to himself that he always chose to walk past Caroline’s building in the hope of a chance meeting with his sons. But when it did happen neither son responded to his greeting.
Once in a while, at a benefit, he’d see Caroline across the room. He’d heard that she was getting serious about Guy Weatherill, the CEO of an international engineering firm that specialized in building roads and bridges. Weatherill was a widower, and from all Greg had heard, a very solid citizen. He hoped so for Caroline’s sake. She deserved a good guy. And she got plenty from me in the divorce, Greg always reminded himself defensively.
All this was running through Greg’s mind as he sat in the library at home sipping a vodka and looking out through a terrace window to the brooding early evening sky.
How much would this apartment bring? he asked himself. Eight years ago when Pamela and I were married, I paid eighteen million for it. But then Pam tore it apart and I put another eight million into renovating it. I don’t think I’d get twenty-six million in this market. And how can I face Pam and tell her that I’ve got to cover my losses or else?
I’ve been pretty lucky with the tips I’ve been given. I haven’t made any trades that would look suspicious until these last few years when I got too greedy. The lunch today went great. This guy always lived well, but his trust fund had him on a tight leash. Now that his mother is dead he wants to invest his inheritance and have it make real money for him. He’s heard such good things about me, and a lot of his friends are my clients. If he puts me in charge of his portfolio, I may be able to stay liquid until I make a few killings again.
The foundation. Everybody knew that the returns on investments were way down. The patents have expired and money isn’t pouring in anymore. It hasn’t been for years. But we’ve hit the principal too aggressively, he reflected. I’ve helped myself to money from so-calledcharities that couldn’t stand the light of day. Peter’s theatre grants would at best be questionable, under close scrutiny. At least Clay as a cardiologist and Doug, the king of mental health research, make us look good with the charities they put us in.
I need to take money, lots of money, from the foundation. But it isn’t there to take anymore.
As always the seductive voice that had thrilled him the first time he’d met her did its usual magic on Greg Gannon. “In here,” he called.
“You hide in that big leather chair,” his wife said, her tone teasing. “You’re not trying to hide fromme,are you?”
Greg Gannon felt arms slide around the back of his chair and wrap themselves around his neck. The exquisite, breathtakingly expensive perfume that Pamela always wore wafted softly through his nostrils. Without seeing her, he could visualize her startling beauty. Not infrequently people mistook her for Catherine Zeta-Jones.
With a tremendous surge of willpower, he pushed aside the demons that were warning him he could not solve his financial problems and that like so many others, he would end up facing a long prison term. He reached up and closed his hands over Pamela’s arms. “Hide from you? Never. Pam, you do love me, don’t you?”
“Silly, silly question.”
“No matter what, you’d never leave me, would you?”
Pamela Gannon laughed, a low, amused laugh. “Why would I ever leave the most generous man in the whole wide world?”24
At six o’clock on Wednesday evening, Kristina Johnson phoned her mother.
“Mom, I don’t know what to do. Ms. Carter didn’t come home last night and she doesn’t answer her cell phone. I’m still here alone with the baby.”
“For heaven’s sake, that’s crazy. Today is your day off. Who does that woman think she is?”
“She stayed out one night last week, but she was home in the morning. She’s never been out of contact this long. And I’m worried about Sally. She’s wheezing a little.” Kristina looked down at Sally, who sat quietly on the carpet with a doll in her lap.
“Aren’t you keeping her away from that dog?”
“I try to but Sally loves the dog and he loves her. But Labs shed, and the doctor warned her mother that Sally is allergic to animals.”
“Renée Carter shouldn’t have a pet when she knows it will make her child sick. She’s some kind of mother, let me tell you.”
A tired Kristina could visualize her mother warming up to tell her that being a nanny was hard, hard work, and that she should have gone on to get a degree in nursing. Then she wouldn’t be at the mercy of one of these spoiled rich women who only have a child so thatthey can take it to Central Park occasionally and have the photographer from Page Six of theNew York Postsnap their picture together.
Kristina stopped the flow before it began. “Mom, I’m really just calling to say I’m obviously not coming home tonight. The one thing you have to admit is that Ms. Carter is paying me double my salary because I’ve been here all week. I’m sure she’ll be back soon.”
“Have you tried to reach any of her friends?”
Kristina hesitated. “I called two of them I know she sees all the time.”
“What did they say?”
“One of them laughed and said, ‘That’s Renée. She must have some new guy on the hook.’ The other one just said that she had no idea where she was.”
“Well there’s nothing you can do except wait it out, I guess. When she left last night do you know who she was meeting?”
“No, but she was in a great mood.”
“All right, but I want you to think about giving up that job. And something else, keep a close watch on that baby. If she’s wheezing, get the vaporizer on. And if she gets bad, don’t take any chances. Call the doctor. Do you have the doctor’s number?”
“Yes. Dr. Farrell called a couple of times checking on Sally. Every time she does, she gives me her cell phone number again.”
“All right. I guess you can’t do anything more for now. But if that woman doesn’t come back tomorrow maybe you’ll have to call the police.”
“I’m sure she’ll be back. I’ll talk to you, Mom.”
With a sigh, Kristina replaced the phone on the cradle. She had called from Sally’s bedroom, the one place where she had managed to keep the dog from entering. It was large and furnished in white wicker. The carpet was a pink and white design. The walls were fancifully painted with nursery figures. The windows were framed inpink and white eyelet draperies. A row of shelves opposite the crib was filled with toys and children’s books. When Kristina saw the room for the first time she had complimented Renée Carter on it. Her response had been, “It should be nice. The decorator charged me a fortune.”
Sally had barely eaten any dinner. She had begun to play with her dolls but now, to Kristina’s concern, she wandered over to her crib, pulled her security blanket from it, and lay down on the floor.
She is getting sick again, Kristina thought. I’ll turn on the vaporizer and I’ll sleep on the sofa bed in here with her. If she isn’t better in the morning, whether or not her mother is back, I’m going to call Dr. Farrell. I’m sure Ms. Carter will be furious. I’ll have to admit to the doctor that she isn’t here but I don’t care.
Kristina walked across the room, bent down, and picked up the sleepy baby. “You poor kid,” she said. “You certainly got one bum break when you were born to that miserable woman.”25
Monica had hoped to go home and freshen up before her meeting with Olivia Morrow. It would be cutting it too tight, she decided, as she drove back through the Lincoln Tunnel. I’d rather be in her neighborhood early than run the risk of keeping her waiting. She’s obviously not well.
She claims she knew my grandparents, Dad’s birth mother and father. How did that happen? Dad’s birth mother did everything she could to conceal her identity. The names listed in the birth records in the hospital in Ireland had the Farrells as the natural parents. What did Olivia Morrow mean when she said she wanted to tell me about them before it’s too late? Too late for what? Is she sick enough to be actually dying? If it weren’t for that chance remark to Tony Garcia when he drove her, I would never have contacted her. Would she ever have contacted me?
At twenty minutes of five, after parking the car in a nearby garage, Monica entered the lobby of Schwab House. At the desk she gave her name. “I have an appointment at five o’clock with Ms. Morrow,” she explained. “I’m a little early, so I’ll just wait before you call her.”
The twenty minutes seemed like hours before Monica went back to the desk. “Will you call her now, please? Tell her Dr. Farrell is here.”
Her anticipation rising to a fever pitch, Monica watched as the desk clerk dialed a number. She saw the expression come over his face that clearly suggested a problem. Then he broke the connection, dialed the number again, and waited for several long minutes before he disconnected.
“She’s not answering,” he said flatly. “There may be a problem. I know for sure that Ms. Morrow has not gone out today. She’s not at all well, and when she came back yesterday, she looked too tired to walk to the elevator. I have her doctor’s number. I’m going to call him. The night clerk told me he was here last evening to see her.”
“I’m a doctor,” Monica said quickly. “If you think there is a medical problem, time may be of the essence.”
“I’ll call Dr. Hadley and then if it’s okay with him, I’ll go upstairs with you now.”
In an agony of impatience, Monica waited while the clerk made the call to Hadley. He was not in his office, but he answered on his cell phone. From what she could hear the clerk saying, he was concise in explaining the situation. Finally he hung up. “Dr. Hadley will be here as fast as he can make it, but he said for me to bring you to Ms. Morrow’s apartment immediately, and if she has the bolt on to break in.”
When the clerk turned the superintendent’s key in the lock they heard a click, and when he turned the handle the door opened. The bolt of the apartment where Olivia Morrow had lived for more than half her life was not on. “I’m sure she hasn’t gone out,” the clerk said again. “Dr. Hadley was here last night. If she was in bed, she probably didn’t bother to get up and slide the bolt closed after he left.”
There were no lights on, but there was still sufficient natural light coming in from the west for Monica to glance at an orderly living room, a dining area, the open door to a kitchen, and then hurry behind the clerk down the hall. “Her bedroom is at the end,” he said, the next door from the den.”
He took a moment to knock on the closed bedroom door, then hesitantly opened it and entered the bedroom. From the doorway Monica could see the small figure, her head resting on a raised pillow, the rest of her body under the covers.
“Ms. Morrow,” the clerk said, “it’s Henry. We’re just checking up on you. The doctor is worried that you may need him.”
“Turn on the light,” Monica ordered.
“Oh, sure, Doctor, sure,” Henry stammered.
The overhead fixture flooded the room with light. Monica walked swiftly to the side of the bed and looked down on the waxy face, the teeth clamped on a corner of her bottom lip, her eyes partially open. She’s been dead for hours, she thought. Rigor mortis has set in. Oh God, if only I had called her earlier! Will I ever know about my birth family now?
“Call the police, Henry,” she ordered. “It is necessary to report a death when someone dies alone. I’ll wait here until her own physician comes. He’s the appropriate person to sign the death certificate.”
“Yes, ma’am. Yes. Thank you. I’ll call from downstairs.” Henry clearly was eager to be out of the presence of the body.
There was a chair in the corner of the room. Monica pulled it over and sat by the remains of the woman whom she had wanted so much to meet. Obviously Olivia Morrow had been very ill. She looked almost emaciated. Had she really known about me, Monica wondered, or was it all a mistake? Now I’ll probably never know.
Fifteen minutes later, Dr. Clay Hadley came rushing in. He reached under the covers and lifted Olivia Morrow’s hand then gently laid it back down and pulled the covers over it again. “I was here last night,” he told Monica, his voice husky. “I begged Olivia to let me admit her to a hospital or to a hospice so she wouldn’t die alone. She was adamant that she wanted to be in her own bed when the end came. Have you known her for long, Doctor?”
“I never met her. I was supposed to see her this evening. Her voice was soft. “My father was an adopted child and Ms. Morrow claimed she had known my birth grandparents and wanted to tell me about them. Did she ever mention me to you?”
Hadley shook his head.
“Dr. Farrell, please don’t put any stock in anything Olivia said. These past few weeks since I had to tell her how very sick she was she had begun to hallucinate. The poor woman had no family and she began to think that anyone she ever met or heard of was in some way related to her.”
“I see. Frankly, I wondered if that wasn’t the case. I guess I had better stay until the police come because I was with the clerk when we found the body. They’ll probably want a statement from me.”
“Why don’t we wait in the living room?” Hadley suggested.
With a final glance at the bed where Olivia Morrow was lying, Monica left the room. But as she walked down the hall she had the nagging sensation that something was out of order, something was wrong.
Maybe I’m the one who’s going crazy, she thought. I guess I didn’t realize how very much I was counting on Olivia Morrow really being able to tell me about my background. I’m so desperately disappointed.
Sitting in the living room that was a tribute to the discerning good taste of Olivia Morrow, Monica continued to be troubled by the sense that somehow she had missed something important, something that was wrong about the death of a woman she had never met in her life.
On Thursday morning Doug Langdon phoned Sammy Barber. Acutely conscious that what he was about to say was possibly being recorded, he spoke briefly and tried to disguise his voice. “I agree to the terms of your settlement offer.”
“Oh, Dougie, relax,” Sammy told him. “I’m not taping you anymore. I’ve got all I need in case the terms aren’t satisfactory. You got the cash in old bills, right?”
“Yes.” Langdon spat out the word.
“Here’s the way I figure we do it. We each have a big black suitcase, the kind that we can pull down the block. We meet in the parking lot of our favorite diner in Queens. We park near each other and switch bags in the lot. No bothering to stop for a cup of coffee, even though their coffee, as I remember it, wasn’t bad. Sound like a plan?”
“When do you want to meet?”
“Dougie, you don’t sound happy. I want you to be happy. The sooner the better. How about this afternoon, maybe around three? It’s quiet then and the boss at the nightclub wants me to come in early this evening. We’ve got some red-hot celebrities who’ve booked tables, and I’m his man when the jerks try to bother them.”
“I’m sure you are. This afternoon at three o’clock in the parking lot of the diner.” Douglas Langdon no longer tried to disguise his voice. If Sammy Barber took the money and did not fulfill thecontract there was absolutely nothing he could do about it. Except, he told himself grimly, find someone to take care of Sammy, but if that came to pass, he would make very sure there would be no way to trace Sammy’s demise back to him.
And yet I think that when he has the money he’ll go through with it, Langdon thought, as he sat in his office waiting for Roberta Waters, his first patient, another one who was chronically late. Not that he cared. He always stopped her at precisely the time her hour was up, even if she had only been on the couch for fifteen minutes. At her protest, he had said, “I cannot delay my next patient. That would not be fair. Think about it. One of the reasons for your strained relationship with your husband is that he gets frantic because you are never on time for anything, and in consequence you make him embarrassingly late for your joint engagements.”
God, was he sick of that woman!
Face it, he was sick of them all. But be careful, he warned himself. You’ve been getting pretty snappy with Beatrice, who is after all a good secretary, and no question, she was oozing curiosity when Sammy showed up here.
The phone rang. A moment later Beatrice announced, “Dr. Hadley calling, sir.”
“Thank you, Beatrice.” Doug forced warmth into his voice. His tone changed when he heard her click off. “I tried to get you last night. Why didn’t you answer your phone?”
“Because I was a wreck,” Clay Hadley replied, his voice quivering. “I’m a doctor. I save lives. It’s one thing to talk about killing someone. It’s another to hold a pillow over the head of a woman who was my patient.”
Disbelieving, Doug Langdon heard the unmistakable sound of sobbing on the other end of the line. If Beatrice hadn’t disconnected immediately she would have heard the outburst, he thought frantically. He wanted to shout at Hadley to shut up, but then he swallowedover the tightness in his throat and said calmly, “Clay, get hold of yourself. At the most Olivia Morrow had only a few days to live. By eliminating those few days you saved yourself from spending the rest of your life in prison. You did tell me she was going to tell Monica Farrell about Alex and the Gannon fortune?”
“Doug, Monica Farrell was in Olivia’s apartment when I went back yesterday evening. She was in the bedroom, sitting by Olivia’s bed. She’s a doctor. She may have noticed something.”
Langdon waited. Hadley had stopped sobbing, but there was a hesitation in his voice when he said, “I don’t know. I guess I’m just nervous. I’m sorry. I’ll be all right.”
“Clay,” Langdon began, trying to keep his voice reassuring, “you have to be all right, for your sakeandfor mine. Think about all the money you have in that Swiss bank account and the life you can lead with it. And think about what will happen to you and to me if you don’t stay calm.”
“I hear you. I hear you. I’ll be all right. I promise.”
Langdon heard the click in his ear as the other phone rang. With his handkerchief he dried the perspiration from his forehead and his hands.
The intercom came on. “Doctor, Mrs. Waters is here,” Beatrice announced. “And she’s so happy. She wants me to point out to you immediately that today she’s only four minutes late. She said she knew that would make your day.”27
Andrew and Sarah Winkler had lived all their married lives in a comfortable apartment on York Avenue and Seventy-ninth Street in Manhattan, a block from the East River. Childless, they had never been tempted to move to the suburbs. “God forbid,” Andrew would say. “When I see a pile of leaves, I want them to belong to someone else.” Andrew, a retired accountant, and Sarah, a retired librarian, were perfectly content with their lifestyle. Several evenings a week they were at Lincoln Center or a lecture at the 92nd Street Y. Once a month they treated themselves to a Broadway show.
A fixture in their daily routine was their after-breakfast walk. They never broke that personal commitment unless the weather was extreme. “Mist is okay, but not a downpour,” Sarah would explain to her friends. “Cold okay, but not below twenty degrees; warm okay, but not if the thermometer hits ninety. We don’t want to turn into couch potatoes, but neither do we want to die of frostbite or heatstroke.”
Sometimes they would stroll in Central Park. Other days they would choose the pedestrian path along the East River. This Thursday morning they had opted for the river walk, and set out for it in their matching all-weather jackets.
It had rained unexpectedly during the night, and Sarah remarked to Andrew that the weatherman never gets anything right and thatit made you wonder how much they got paid to stand up in front of the camera and point to the map, waving their arms to show wind currents. “Half the time when they say rain is a possibility, if they opened the window they’d be drenched,” she commented, as they approached the area of Gracie Mansion, the official residence of the mayor of New York. “But at least it cleared up nicely this morning.”
She broke off her commentary on the exasperating unpredictability of meteorologists by suddenly clutching her husband’s arm. “Andrew, look! Look!” They were passing a bench along the path. Partially wedged under it was an oversized garbage bag, the kind used on construction sites. Protruding from the bag was a foot with a woman’s high-heeled shoe dangling from it.
“Oh my God, my God . . . ,” Sarah moaned.
Andrew reached in the pocket of his jacket for his cell phone and dialed 911.28
On Thursday morning, Monica went straight to the hospital, after her nearly sleepless night. Sometime around threeA.M. she had tried to assuage her crushing disappointment at the death of Olivia Morrow by promising herself that she would hire a detective if necessary to investigate any possible connection Morrow might have had with her birth grandparents.
But even so, the sense of missed opportunity haunted her, and it didn’t make matters easier when Ryan Jenner stopped at the pediatric floor looking for her. “Monica, how did that interview at the Bishop’s Office go?” he asked.
“Pretty much as I expected. I talked about the possibility of spontaneous remission and they talked about miracles.” As she spoke, Monica unwillingly realized how good it felt to be so close to Jenner, to relive for the moment the sensation of sitting next to him in the restaurant on Friday night, their shoulders touching at the crowded table.
“I’ll be honest, Monica, I can’t get the Michael O’Keefe file out of my head. It does include everything from the first CAT scan you ordered to the MRIs and CAT scans a year later showing the total disappearance of the cancerous tumor, doesn’t it?”
“Absolutely. The whole works.”
“Would you lend the file to me for a few days? I really want to study it. I still find it hard to believe what I saw.”
“That was my reaction, too. After the doctors in Cincinnati confirmed my diagnosis, the O’Keefes took Michael home. I phoned from time to time and all they said was that he was holding his own. In the beginning he continued to have seizures, but then they moved to Mamaroneck and stopped coming to my office. Mrs. O’Keefe did not want more medical procedures, even MRIs, because they frightened Michael. But when she finallydidbring him in, I knew I was looking at a healthy little boy, and the tests confirmed it.”
“Then is it okay if I borrow the file? I can stop by late this afternoon at your office for it. And Iwillbe on time.”
“That’s fine. I’ll be there until about six.” As Ryan turned to go she asked, “How was the theatre?”
He stopped and turned back. “Great. It was the revival ofOur Town. That’s always been one of my favorite plays.”
“I played Emily when I was in high school.” Why am I telling Ryan that? Monica asked herself. Is it because I want to prolong this conversation?
Ryan smiled. “Well, I’m glad you were acting. I still get a lump in my throat at the end, when George throws himself on Emily’s grave.” As he turned again to leave, he gave her the quick smile that she knew would instantly be replaced by his usual serious expression.
She had been standing by the nurses’ desk. She turned back to it. Rita Greenberg was sitting there, her eyes on Ryan’s retreating figure.
“He sure is cute, isn’t he, Doctor?” Rita sighed. “He has so much authority, and yet he seems a little shy.”
“Um-hum,” Monica answered noncommittally.
“I think he likes you. This is the second time he came down looking for you this morning.”
Good Lord, Monica thought. That’s all I need, to have the nursestalking about an office romance. “Dr. Jenner wants to look at the file of one of my patients,” she said crisply.
It was clear that Rita had gotten the implied rebuke. “Of course, Doctor,” she said, her voice equally crisp.
“I’m off. You know where to get me,” Monica said as she felt the stirring of her cell phone in the pocket of her jacket.
It was Kristina Johnson. “Doctor,” she said, her voice frightened, “I’m in a cab on the way to the hospital. Sally is really, really sick.”
“How long has she been sick?” Monica asked, the question rushing from her lips.
“Kind of since yesterday. She was wheezing, but then she slept pretty well. But this morning it kept getting worse, and I got really scared. She was gasping for breath.”
In the background Monica could hear the combined coughing and sobbing of little Sally Carter. “How far from the hospital are you?” she snapped.
“We’re on the West Side Highway. We should be there in fifteen minutes.”
It suddenly occurred to Monica that Renée Carter, Sally’s mother, should have been the one calling her. “Is Ms. Carter with you?” she asked sharply.
“No. She hasn’t been home in two days, and I haven’t heard from her.”
“I’ll meet you in the emergency room, Kristina,” Monica said. She turned off her cell phone and dropped it in her pocket.
Rita Greenberg had been listening. “Sally’s had another asthma attack.” It was not a question.
“Yes. I’m going to admit her, and before I release her again I’m going to have Family Services look into that situation. I only wish I had done it last week.”
“I’ll have a crib all set up,” Rita promised.
“Put her in the alcove again. The last thing she needs is to pick up a bug.”
Fifteen minutes later Monica was standing at the entrance to the emergency room when the cab pulled up. She ran over to it, opened the door, and reached inside. “Give her to me.” Not waiting for Kristina to pay the driver she raced back into the hospital. Sally was wheezing and gasping. Her lips were blue and her eyes were rolling back in her head.
She can’t breathe, Monica thought as she carried her to a cubicle and laid her on a stretcher. Two nurses were waiting for her. One of them swiftly undressed Sally and Monica saw that the labored gasps of breath were coming from her lips not her chest. It’s gone into pneumonia, Monica thought as she reached for the oxygen mask the nurse was holding out to her.
An hour later she was settling Sally in the intensive care unit on the pediatric floor. The oxygen mask was still in place. Intravenous fluids and medicine were dripping into Sally’s arm. Her hands had been tied to keep her from pulling the needle out. Her frightened wails had given way to sleepy moans.
Kristina Johnson, her eyes welling with tears, had followed them and was waiting for Monica to leave the side of the crib. Monica looked at the young girl’s tired, worried face and the admonition she had intended to give died on her lips.
“Sally is a very, very sick baby,” she said. “Kristina, am I right that you said her mother has not been home in the last day or two?”
“She left night before last. Yesterday was supposed to be my day off. But when I woke up I could see that her bed wasn’t slept in. I haven’t heard from her at all.”
Kristina began to cry. “If anything happens to Sally it’s my fault, but Doctor, I was afraid if I brought Sally in yesterday, Ms. Carter would be furious. And Sally didn’t really seem that sick until shewas going to bed last night. So I put on the vaporizer and I slept on the couch in her room and I was sure her mother would come home and look in, then maybe we’d bring Sally to the hospital if she started wheezing any harder and . . .”
Monica stopped the flow of words. “Kristina, this isnotyour fault. Why don’t you go back to Ms. Carter’s apartment and get some rest. I’m going to stay here until I’m sure Sally is breathing properly. In the morning, if Ms. Carter still has not shown up, I would suggest you leave a note for her and go home. I intend to take up her absence with the authorities.”
“Is it all right if I visit Sally tomorrow?”
“Of course it is.”
A warning alarm from the crib made Monica spin around. As an intensive care nurse rushed toward them, Sally’s labored breathing stopped.29
She was about five four, give or take an inch, nice figure, early thirties, short reddish brown hair, expensive clothes,” Detective Barry Tucker told his wife when he called her to say he’d be late getting home. “The body was found by some old couple who told me they walked every day after breakfast.”
He was back at headquarters, having a cup of coffee and grinned at her response. “Yeah, honey, I know I could use a walk every day. Maybe even a run. But the city of New York pays me to arrest criminals, not take walks.”
Again he listened. He was a rotund man in his early thirties with a benevolent expression. “No jewelry, no purse,” he answered. “We figure it was a robbery that got out of hand. She may have been fool enough to put up a struggle. She was strangled. Never had a chance.” His tone now edged with impatience, he said, “Listen, honey, I’ve gotta go. I’ll call you when I’m ready to leave. Good . . .”
With less patience, he listened again. “Yeah. Everything she had on looked new. Even the shoes, those crazy ones that are like stilts. They looked as though she was wearing them for the first time. Honey, I . . .”
She continued to talk, but then he interrupted. “Honey, that’s just what I’m going to do. Her suit and coat and blouse and shoes all have Escada labels. Okay, fine. Yes, I know their flagship store in NewYork is on Fifth Avenue. I’m heading there now with her description, and a description of the suit she was wearing.”
Barry closed his cell phone, took a last gulp of coffee, and looked at his partner. “My God, that woman can talk,” he said. “But she did tell me one useful thing. It’s pronounced ‘Ess-cah-dah,’ not ‘Ess-cah-dah.’ ”30
On Thursday afternoon, Monsignor Joseph Kelly and Monsignor David Fell completed interviewing two more witnesses in the beatification hearings concerning Sister Catherine Mary Kurner. After the Notary had left they sat together in Kelly’s office, discussing the process.
They agreed that the witnesses they had just interviewed had all given compelling stories about their encounters with Sister Catherine. One of them, Eleanor Niven, had been a volunteer in the hospital in Philadelphia founded by Sister Catherine. She had said that at that time Sister Catherine was obviously ill and rumored to be dying.
“She had the most beautiful face and serene manner,” Niven recalled. “When she entered the room the atmosphere changed. We all knew we were in the presence of a very special person.” Eleanor Niven had gone on to testify that she had accompanied Catherine as she made the rounds visiting the patients.
“There was an eight-year-old girl who had had heart surgery and was in very grave condition. The mother, a young widow, was sitting by the bed crying. Sister Catherine embraced her and said, ‘Remember, Christ heard the cry of a father whose son was dying. He is going to hearyourcry as well.’ Then Sister Catherine knelt by the bed and prayed. By the next morning the child had begun to turn the corner, and within a few weeks she was able to go home.”
“It’s a story I knew,” Monsignor Kelly said to Fell. “When I wasa young priest, I visited that hospital. I never met that child, but I can certainly understand when these witnesses keep testifying to their awareness of Sister’s presence. She had an aura about her. And certainly when she picked up a sick child and cradled it in her arms, it was magical the way the most fretful little one quieted down and accepted the treatment it had been fighting.”
“Our star witness yesterday was pretty interesting, wasn’t she?” Monsignor Fell asked.
“Dr. Farrell? You bet she was. She certainly is pivotal in this process. Emily O’Keefe, Michael’s mother, not only had faith that he would live, but also virtually stopped taking him to doctors.”
“Dr. Farrell mentioned her colleague, Dr. Ryan Jenner,” Fell continued. “I looked him up. He’s made quite a reputation for himself as a neurosurgeon. Dr. Farrell volunteered that on the basis of all the MRIs and CAT scans, Jenner told her that Michael O’Keefe was terminal and should have died. It would be interesting to ask him to testify to that as another qualified witness. I’d really like to question him.”
Monsignor Kelly nodded. “I was thinking the same thing. It would be one more highly respected medical observation to further the cause.”
Then for a long minute, both men were silent, each knowing the thought process of the other. “I am still so frustrated that we can’t learn the circumstances around the fact that Catherine had given birth,” Fell said.
“I know,” Kelly agreed. “We knew she was only seventeen when she entered the convent. It must have happened shortly before that, which would explain why her Mother Superior sent her to Ireland a few months after she became a novice. It suggests that she only realized she was pregnantaftershe joined the community.
“And no one would have known about it, if that hospital aide who tended to her when she was dying hadn’t noticed Catherine had hada caesarean. And if the aide hadn’t sold the story to one of the gossip rags all these years later when the beatification process began. We never would have found one of the doctors who took care of her in her last illness, the one who verified the story when we questioned him. The fact that he couldn’t in good conscience issue a denial to the press threw gasoline on the flames for the sensationalists, of course . . .” Monsignor Kelly sighed.
Monsignor Fell replied, “We can’t ignore the fact that we have no information as to her state of mind about the pregnancy. Was the liaison consensual? The early pictures we have show that she was an extraordinarily beautiful young woman. It would not be surprising if she had admirers. Did she give birth to a live child, and if so what became of it? Did she ever talk to anyone about it? These are the questions I have to ask.”
Monsignor Fell realized he was asking these questions without expecting an answer. “It is my job to make sure that miracles are really miracles, and that only people of extraordinary virtue, not extraordinary beauty may someday be listed on the Calendar of Saints,” he said.
Monsignor Kelly nodded and did not choose to mention that ever since yesterday’s meeting with Dr. Monica Farrell his memories of Sister Catherine kept playing through his mind. Maybe it’s because I saw the pain in that lovely young doctor’s face when she talked about breaking the news to the O’Keefes that Michael was terminal.
She had that same look that I remember seeing on Sister Catherine when she shared the heartbreak of parents whose children were dangerously ill.31
On the way back to Renée Carter’s apartment on Central Park West, Kristina Johnson called her best friend, Kerianne Kennan, with whom she shared a tiny apartment in Greenwich Village. Kerianne, a student at the Fashion Institute of Technology, answered her cell phone on the first ring.
“Keri, this is Kris.”
“I can tell by your voice that something’s wrong. What’s the matter?” Keri demanded.
“Everything,” Kristina wailed. “The baby I’m minding is in intensive care and the mother isn’t around. You wouldn’t believe what’s been going on.” Twenty minutes later, when the taxi stopped on the corner of Ninety-sixth Street and Central Park West, Kristina had the comforting assurance that Kerianne was rushing to be with her and would stay for the rest of the day.
“I just know Renée Carter will start screaming at me that I didn’t take good care of Sally,” Kristina had explained tearfully. “Maybe if you’re there she won’t go too crazy. And if she doesn’t come back by this evening, I’m going to leave a note for her, and take off. I can’t work for that miserable woman anymore.”
Kristina got out of the cab, went into the lobby, and took the elevator to the apartment. As she opened the door, the dog’s frenzied barking reminded her that it had not been out for a walk since lastnight. Oh God, she thought as she ran to get its leash. She did not take the time to look through the apartment, but it was obvious that everything was exactly as she had left it, and Ms. Carter had not come home.
Downstairs again, as the Lab strained to pull her along, she called to the desk clerk, “Jimmy, when my friend Kerianne gets here, tell her I’ll be right back, okay?”
Fifteen minutes later, when she returned to the building, she was relieved to see Keri waiting for her in the lobby. But before they went to the elevator she stopped again at the desk. “Jimmy, did Ms. Carter come in while I was walking the dog?”
“No, Kristina,” the young clerk answered. “Haven’t seen her all morning.”
“Or all day yesterday,” Kristina murmured to Keri as they went up in the elevator. “The first thing I want to do is make a pot of coffee. Otherwise I’ll fall asleep standing up.”
Inside the apartment she headed straight for the kitchen. “Take a look around,” she told Kerianne. “Because once she gets here, we’re on our way.”
A few minutes later, Kerianne joined her in the kitchen. “This is a gorgeous apartment,” she commented. “My grandfather was in the antique business and trust me, there are some pretty nice pieces of furniture here. Ms. Carter must have money and lots of it.”
“She’s an event planner,” Kristina said. “She must have some really big event going on now, if she doesn’t show up here, or answer her cell phone. Think about it. She has a baby who was in the hospital a week ago and is back in now. I’m definitely going to quit this job, but I worry what will happen to Sally.” She sighed heavily as she took out two coffee cups and set them on the counter.
“What about Sally’s father?”
“Who knows? I’ve been here for a solid week and I haven’t seenany sign ofhim. I guess he’s another winner as a parent. The coffee’s ready. Let’s have it at the bar.”
The elaborate built-in bar was in the den. They had just begun to settle on the chairs at the counter when the intercom sounded. Kristina jumped up. “That must be Jimmy tipping me off that Ms. Carter is on the way up.”
But when she answered, the desk clerk had a different message. “There are two detectives here inquiring about your boss. They asked me who was in the apartment. I told them you and your friend and they said they wanted to talk to you.”
“Detectives?” Kristina exclaimed. “Jimmy, is Ms. Carter in trouble?”
“How would I know?”
Kristina locked the dog in the den, and when the bell rang, she opened the door to find the men standing in the vestibule. They held up their badges for her to see.
“I am Detective Tucker,” the shorter man introduced himself. “And, this is Detective Flynn. May we come in?”
“Of course,” Kristina said nervously. “Did something happen to Ms. Carter? Was she in an accident?”
“Why do you ask?” Tucker inquired as he stepped into the apartment.
“Because she hasn’t come home since night before last, and she doesn’t answer her cell phone, and Sally, her baby, is so sick I had to take her to the hospital this morning.”
“Is there a picture of Ms. Carter around?”
“Oh, yes, I’ll get one.” As a shocked Kerianne stood, coffee cup in hand, Kristina went down the hall to Renée Carter’s bedroom. A table by the window had framed pictures of Renée at a variety of black-tie events. Kristina grabbed several of them and rushed back to the living room.
When she handed them to Tucker, she saw the grim look he gavehis partner. “She’s dead, isn’t she?” Kristina gasped, “and I’ve been saying such mean things about her.”
“Why don’t we sit down and you tell me all about her,” Tucker suggested. “We understand she has a baby. You say the baby is in the hospital?”
“Yes. I brought her there this morning. She’s really sick. That’s why I was so mad at Ms. Carter. I didn’t know what to do, so I waited too long to bring Sally to the emergency room.” Her eyes brimmed with tears.
“What about the baby’s father? Did you try to contact him?”
“I don’t know who he is. When Ms. Carter left she was all dressed up, so I figured she was going to one of her parties. But looking back, I think she may have been meeting him. When she waved good-bye to Sally, she yelled something like, ‘Keep your fingers crossed, baby. Your old man is finally coughing up the money.’ ”32
Now that she was aware that Greg Gannon was under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission, Esther Chambers was keenly attuned to the tension building in him. It seemed to her that every day, Greg’s expression became increasingly more troubled except, of course, when a client dropped into the office.
If his door was partially open, she could hear him on the phone, and the tone of his voice was either warm and jovial with a client, or abrupt and curt when he was speaking to one of his fellow three foundation board members, Dr. Hadley, or Dr. Langdon, or his brother, Peter. The gist of what she could gather he was telling them was to forget any new grants they wanted to suggest, that there was already too damn much money being spent supporting Hadley’s heart research and Langdon’s mental health clinics, and that there wouldn’t be another dime for Peter’s theatre projects.
On Thursday morning he came into the office scowling, his shoulders bunched together, and dropped a list on her desk.
“Call them,” he said abruptly. “When one of them is available to talk, give me the name fast.”
“Of course, Mr. Gannon.” Esther had only to take one look at the list to know they were all potential clients, and that he was going to try to rope them in.
The first three were not able to take his call. Others stayed on theline for only a few minutes. Esther guessed that whatever bond or stock issue Greg was hawking had been turned down. But at twenty past eleven Arthur Saling accepted the call. Saling, a prospective client, had lunched with Greg last week. A timid-looking man in his early sixties, he had come back to the office with Greg, and had been duly impressed with the lavish setup. He had confided to Esther that he was considering investing with a number of money managers, and had heard glowing reports about Greg. “I want to be very sure of whom I select,” he had said quietly. “You can’t be too careful these days.”
Out of curiosity Esther had googled him. After the recent death of his mother, Saling had come into the principal of a family trust, close to one hundred million dollars.
The door was closed, but she could hear Greg’s booming jovial tones even though the words were muffled. Then for a long time she could not hear a sound from his office. Which means, she decided, that now he’s oozing charm and giving Saling his confidential pitch. She knew it by heart: “I’ve been following this stock for four years and its time has come. The company is about to be bought out, and you can imagine what that means. It’s the best opportunity in the market since Google went public.”
Poor Arthur Saling, she thought. If Greg is frantic to cover his losses, a lot of these paper profits he’s been posting probably don’t even exist, and this is one more victim in the making. I wish I could tip him off.
When the call to Saling ended, Greg got back on the intercom. “That turned out to be a good morning’s work, Esther,” he said, his voice warm and relieved now. “I think we’ll hold the other calls until this afternoon. My wife is joining me for lunch and I should be on my way.”
“Of course.” I wish I was out of here, Esther thought, as the clock on her desk registered the noon hour. Not just for lunch, but out ofhere altogether. It makes me feel slimy to be reporting on Greg to the SEC, even though he might have just convinced someone else to trust him with his money.
Greg was still at his desk when Pamela Gannon swept in at quarter past twelve. “Is anyone with him?” she asked Esther.
“No, Mrs. Gannon,” Esther said, trying to force a friendly note into her voice. I’ve got to admit that woman is beautiful, she conceded, as Pamela strode past her desk, stunning in a fur-trimmed red suit and suede boots. But her kind marries people like Greg Gannon for one reason only, a five-letter word spelled m-o-n-e-y.
She watched as Pamela, without knocking, turned the handle of Greg’s door and flung it open. “Surprise, I’m here, Papa Bear,” she called. “I know I’m early but I couldn’t wait ’til one o’clock to meet you at Le Cirque. I’m sorry I wasn’t awake before you left this morning. I wanted to wish you a happy tenth anniversary of the wonderful day we met.”
Papa Bear! God spare me, Esther thought, shuddering at Greg’s delighted response.
“I’ve been thinking about it every minute,” Greg was saying, “and I’ve had such a good morning that I planned to stop at Van Cleef and Arpels before I met you for lunch. But now you can go with me and help me pick out something really special.”
How about a tiara? Esther asked herself as they passed her desk, ignoring her. They’re going out to buy pricey jewelry on the poor guy who’s probably just committed a fortune for Greg to handle.
It’s not going to happen, she told herself. On her way to have lunch, Esther stopped at a CVS pharmacy and bought plain paper and a plain envelope. In block letters she wrote, “THIS IS A WARNING. DO NOT INVEST WITH GREG GANNON. YOU WILL LOSE YOUR MONEY.” She signed it, “A friend,” then put a stamp on the envelope, addressed it, and took a cab to the main post office, where she dropped it in a mailbox.33
For hours Monica did not leave the side of Sally’s crib after she managed to resuscitate her. The baby’s lungs kept filling with fluid and she continued to burn with fever. Finally Monica lowered the side of the crib and, leaning in, cradled Sally in her arms. “Come on, little girl,” she whispered. “You’ve got to make it.” The thought of what the Monsignor had told her about Sister Catherine praying over sick children ran through her head.
Sister Catherine, she thought, I don’t believe in miracles, but I know so many believe you saved lives, not only terminal kids like Michael O’Keefe, but other kids who were at death’s door. Sally has had such a rotten break. A mother who neglects her, and no father around. She’s wrapped herself around my heart. If she lives, I promise I’ll take care of her.
It was a long afternoon but at seven o’clock she felt that it was safe to go. Sally’s fever had gone down and even though she still had an oxygen mask clamped around her face, her breathing had eased. “Call me if there’s any change,” Monica told the nurse.
“I will, Doctor. I didn’t think we were going to be able to save her.”
“Neither did I.” With an attempt at a smile, Monica left the pediatrics floor and the hospital. The temperature had dropped but as she buttoned her coat she decided to walk to the office. I’ll check onmy messages, she thought, and see how much Nan has been able to rearrange my appointments. I’ll walk over. It will feel good to clear my head.
Her shoulder bag in place, she put both hands in her pockets and at her usual rapid pace began to walk east across Fourteenth Street. Now that she felt reasonably secure about Sally, her thoughts reverted to the crushing disappointment of finding Olivia Morrow dead. In her mind she could see every detail of Morrow’s face, the gaunt thinness of her features, the gray pallor of her skin, the wrinkles around her eyes, her teeth clamped on the corner of her lower lip.
She must have been an exquisitely neat person, Monica thought. Everything was in perfect order. The apartment was furnished in such good taste. Either she died right after she went to bed, or else she certainly couldn’t have been a restless sleeper. The top sheet and comforter weren’t wrinkled at all. Even the pillow her head was resting on looked brand new.
The pillow. It was pink and the sheets and the other pillows were peach. That’s what I noticed, Monica thought. But what difference does it make? None. The only hope I have now is to ask Dr. Hadley if he can give me a list of her friends. Maybe she talked to one of them about me.
She was at the busy corner of Union Square and Broadway by a crowded bus stop. The light was changing from yellow to red and she watched in disapproval as a number of people darted across the street as the oncoming traffic rushed at them. A bus was approaching the bus stop when she suddenly felt a violent push and tumbled over the curb onto the street. As onlookers shouted and screamed, Monica managed to roll out of the way of the bus, but not before it had run over and crushed the shoulder bag that had been thrown from her arm.34
Peter Gannon looked across the table at his former wife, Susan. He had asked her to have dinner with him at Il Tinello, which had always been one of their favorite restaurants during their twenty-year marriage. They had not spoken or met in the four years since their divorce until he received the phone call from her saying how sorry she was that his new play had closed.
Now, desperate for help, he looked across the table at her: Forty-six years old, her wavy hair streaked with silver, her face dominated by her wide hazel eyes. He wondered how he had ever let her go. I was never smart enough to realize how much I loved her, he thought, and how good she was to me.
Mario, the owner, had greeted them by saying, “Welcome home.” Now, after the bottle of wine he had ordered was served, Peter said, “I know it sounds corny, but being here with you at this tablefeelslike being home, Sue.”
Her smile was wry. “That depends on how you interpret the word ‘home.’ ”
Peter flinched. “I’ve forgotten how direct you are.”
“Try to remember.” Her light tone took the sting out of the rebuke. “We haven’t talked in ages, Peter. How is your love life? I assume robust, to put it mildly.”
“It is not robust, and has not been in a very long time. Why did you call me, Sue?”
Her quizzical expression disappeared. “Because when I saw that picture of you after those dreadful reviews I knew I was looking at the face of a man in despair. How bad a bath did you take on the play?”
“I’m going to have to declare bankruptcy, which means a lot of very good people who had faith in me are going to lose a great deal of money.”
“You have considerable assets.”
“Ihadconsiderable assets. I don’t anymore.”
Susan sipped the wine before answering, then said, “Peter, in this financial climate a lot of people who overextended themselves are in the same boat you are. It’s embarrassing. It’s humiliating. But it does happen.”
“Sue, a company emerges from bankruptcy. A failed theatrical producer doesn’t, at least not for a long time. Who do you think would ever put a nickel in one of my plays again?”
“I seem to remember that I warned you to stick with drama and avoid musical comedy.”
“Well, you should be pleased, then. You always wanted the last word!” Peter Gannon said, with a spark of anger.
Susan looked quickly around. The diners at the nearby tables of the intimate restaurant had apparently not noticed Peter’s raised voice.
“I’m sorry, Sue,” he said hastily. “That was a stupid thing to say. What I should have said is that you were right and I knew you were right, but I’ve been on an ego trip.”
“I agree,” Susan said, her voice amiable.
Peter Gannon picked up his glass and gulped the wine. As he put it down he said, “Sue, I gave you five million dollars in the divorce settlement.”
Susan’s eyebrows raised. “I’m quite aware of that.”
“Sue, I beg you. I need one million dollars. If I don’t get it, Greg and I could end up in jail.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Sue, I know how conservatively you invest. I’m being blackmailed. When I was drunk I told a person too much about the money we were taking from the foundation and about my brother’s investment firm. I told that person that I was sure Greg was doing some inside trading.”
“Sue, I was drunk. I know he is trying to dig himself out of a hole. If this person goes to the press, Greg could end up in prison.”
“Who is this person? A woman, I assume. God knows you had your share of them.”
“Sue, will you lend me a million dollars? I swear I’ll pay you back.”
Susan pushed back her chair and stood up. “I don’t know whether to be insulted or amused. Or maybe both. Good-bye, Peter.”
With despairing eyes, Peter Gannon watched the trim figure of his former wife as she abruptly left the restaurant.35
At six o’clock, Dr. Ryan Jenner rang the bell of Monica’s office and waited expectantly. Maybe she’s in one of the back rooms, he thought, and rang the bell again. But after the third try, when he’d pressed the bell for an extended time, he decided that Monica had completely forgotten her promise to turn over the file of the O’Keefe boy to him.
He realized that he had been looking forward to spending the evening studying all of the diagnostic tests to see if there was any explanation for the advanced brain cancer to simply disappear.
Shrugging off his disappointment, he walked from the sidewalk to the curb and hailed a cab. On the way home, he wondered if he would find Alice Halloway waiting for him there. He had not been able to refuse his aunt’s request when she told him that Alice, “one of her favorite people in the whole world,” was coming up to Manhattan on a business trip and had asked to stay in the apartment. And did Ryan mind?
“It’s your apartment so how can I mind?” Ryan had asked. “She even has her choice of your two guest bedrooms.” In his mind he had expected that Alice Halloway would be a contemporary of his aunt, somewhere between seventy and seventy-five. Instead when Alice arrived last week, she had turned out to be a very pretty womanin her early thirties who was going to be attending a convention of beauty editors in Manhattan.
The convention had lasted two days but Alice stayed on. A few nights earlier she had invited Ryan to join her at the theatre. She had told him she managed to get two house seats for the sold-out revival ofOur Town. They had gone to get a quick bite after the show, and it had been too late for Ryan’s taste when they finally got back to the apartment. He was operating at seven the next morning.
It was only when Alice tried to insist they have an after-dinner drink by the fire that Ryan had caught on to the fact that his aunt was trying to set him up with “one of her favorite people in the whole world,” and that Alice was more than willing to go along with it.
Now, in the cab on the way uptown, Ryan pondered what to do about the situation. Alice kept delaying her departure. She was always in the apartment when he got there, with cheese and crackers and chilled wine waiting for him.
If she’s not gone soon, I’m going to a hotel until she clears out, he decided.
Usually at the end of the day he was relieved and pleased to turn the key in the door of the large, comfortable apartment. Tonight, he grimaced as he pushed the door open. Then the enticing scent of something baking in the kitchen teased his nostrils and he realized he was hungry.
Alice was curled up on the couch in the living room watching a quiz show on cable. She was wearing a casual sweater and slacks. A small plate of cheese and crackers, two glasses, and a bottle of wine in a cooler were on the round table in front of her. “Hi, Ryan,” she called as he stopped in the vestibule.
“Hello, Alice,” Ryan said, trying to sound cordial. He watched asshe unfolded herself from the couch and walked across the room to greet him. Planting a butterfly-light kiss on his cheek, she said, “You look done in. How many lives have you saved today?”
“None,” Ryan said briefly. “Look, Alice—”
She interrupted him. “Why don’t you shed that jacket and tie and put on something comfortable? Virginia ham, macaroni and cheese, biscuits, and a salad is the dinner I’m famous for.”
It had been Ryan’s intention to say that he had dinner plans, but the words died on his lips. Instead he asked, “Alice, I do have to know. How long are you planning to stay?”
Her eyes widened. “Didn’t I tell you? I’m leaving Saturday morning so you’ll only have to put up with me for two more days, a day and a half, actually.”
“I’m embarrassed. This is not my apartment, but . . .”
“But you don’t want the doorman smirking at you. Don’t worry. I already told him you were my step-brother.”
“Sure. Now how about that Virginia ham dinner? It’s your last chance.Ihave plans for tomorrow night.”
She’s leaving Saturday, and she’s out tomorrow night, Ryan thought with relief. I can at least be civil now. With a genuine smile he said, “I’m delighted to take you up on dinner, but I won’t be much company. I’m operating at seven tomorrow morning again, so I’ll be turning in early.”
“That’s fine. You don’t even have to help clear the table.”
“I’ll be right back.”
Ryan went down the corridor to his room and walked over to the closet to hang up his jacket. The phone rang but Alice picked it up on the first ring. He opened the door in case she called him but she did not. Must be for her, he thought.
In the kitchen Alice lowered her voice. A woman who introducedherself as Dr. Farrell had asked for Dr. Jenner. “He’s just getting changed,” Alice said. “May I take a message?”
“Please tell him that Dr. Farrell phoned to apologize for not being in her office to give him the O’Keefe file,” Monica said, trying to keep her voice steady. “I’ll make sure he has it in the morning.”36
Now that positive identification had been made on the body of Renée Carter, the elaborate process of finding and apprehending her killer was set in motion. While her friend Kerianne sat protectively by her side, Kristina told the detectives the little she knew about her late employer.
Renée Carter had been an event planner who slept late, then was gone for most of the day, and was always out till very late at night. She spent little or no time with her child. “She showed a lot more affection to Ranger, the Lab, than she did to Sally,” Kristina recalled. In the short time Kristina had been there, Renée had had no company. She did not have a land line, so any calls that came while she was in the apartment rang on her cell phone.
“I just don’t know very much about her,” Kristina said apologetically. “I was hired through the agency.”
Barry Tucker gave her his card. “If you think of anyone we might contact, get back to me. You handled it very well by taking the baby to the hospital, so you go home and get some rest. We’ll be talking to you again.”
“What’s going to happen to Sally?” Kristina asked.
“We don’t know yet,” Tucker told her. “We’ll start looking for relatives.”
“If you do find out who her father is, I don’t think he’ll want her.Unless she was joking, the way Ms. Carter said that he was ready to finally cough up some money doesn’t sound as if he was supporting her.”
“No, it doesn’t.”
“And what about Ranger?” Sally asked. “We can’t just leave him alone. Can I take him with me for now? Kerianne and I have a really small apartment, but my mother loves dogs. She’d look after him. I know she would.”
“I think that’s a pretty good temporary solution,” Tucker agreed. “All right. I’ll walk you girls down and put you in a cab. I want to talk to the people at the desk. They must have a contact for someone to call if there was a problem in this apartment and they couldn’t reach Ms. Carter.”
Ten minutes later, after dispatching the young women and the Labrador, Barry Tucker had introduced himself to Ralph Torre, the manager of the building, and after explaining that Ms. Carter had been the victim of a homicide, began to question him.
Eager to be cooperative, Torre told him that Renée Carter had been in the apartment for a year. Before she was allowed to sign a lease she had submitted financial information which showed she had made one hundred thousand dollars at her last job as the assistant manager of a restaurant in Las Vegas and had assets of “give or take a million bucks.” She had listed a Flora White as the person to contact in case of emergency. Torre wrote down White’s cell phone and business number. “Will Ms. Carter’s family be giving up the apartment?” he asked hopefully. “We have a waiting list for the park view.”
“I wouldn’t know,” Barry said curtly, and went back up to the apartment to phone Flora White. He tried her cell phone first.
She picked up on the first ring. The somewhat breathy tone of her voice changed when Tucker told her he was calling about Renée Carter.
“I really don’t give a damn about Renée Carter,” White snapped.“She was in charge of one of our big events last night, and she never showed up. You can tell her for me she’s fired.”
Tucker made the decision to hold off telling White that Renée was dead. “I am Detective Barry Tucker,” he said. “When did you last see Renée Carter?”
“Detective? Is she in trouble? Did anything happen to her?” To Tucker’s trained ear, the shock in Flora White’s voice sounded genuine.
“She didn’t come home night before last,” Tucker said. “The babysitter had to take her child to the hospital.”
“She must have met someone really good,” White scoffed. “It wouldn’t be the first time she got on a private plane to nowhere with someone she just met. From what I hear that kid is sick a lot.”
“When was the last time you saw Renée Carter?” Tucker repeated.
“Night before last. We did the red carpet routine for the premiere of some lousy movie, and ran the party after it. But Renée took off at ten o’clock. She was meeting someone. I don’t know who.”
“Did she ever speak about the father of her child or about her own family?”
“If you can believe her, which is doubtful, she ran away from home when she was sixteen, got some bit parts in movies in Hollywood, then was out in Vegas for a while. I met her here about three years ago. We were hostesses at the same club in SoHo. Then she found out she was pregnant. She must have gotten some big payoff from her boyfriend to get out of town because suddenly she’s not around anymore. I heard nothing from her for a year. Then one day she called me up. She’d gone back to Vegas but now was bored. She missed New York. I’d started the event planning business, and asked her if she was interested in working at it.”
Tucker had been making notes as Flora White talked. “She was interested, I suppose?”
“You bet she was. Where better to connect with another guy with money?”
“She never talked about her baby’s father?”
“If you mean did she tell me his name, the answer is no. But my guess is that she got plenty to make sure that baby wasn’t born, but then decided she’d be better off having a hold on the guy.”
Flora White is a fountain of information, Barry Tucker thought, the kind of person any detective would love to find in an investigation, but her casually brutal assessment of Renée Carter left him acutely sorry for the child who was now in a hospital and might easily end up unwanted by anyone.
“Let me know when you hear from Renée,” Flora White was saying. “I didn’t mean it about firing her. I mean, of course, I could kill her for not showing up last night, but on the other hand she’s really good at what she does. When she wants to turn on the charm, she puts people at ease and makes them laugh, and they come back to us when their next lousy movie is being screened for their friends.”
“Ms. White, you’ve been very helpful,” Barry said. “You tell me that Renée left the party early night before last. Do you know if a driver picked her up or if she took a cab?”
“A cab? Renée? Are you kidding? She has a driving service and boy oh boy, the chauffeur had better have a uniform and cap on, and the car better be a Mercedes 500 and looking like it just came off the lot. She always wanted to give the impression that she was loaded.”
“Do you know the name of the service?”
“Sure. I use them, too. But I don’t drive them crazy the way Renée does. They’re Ultra-Lux. I’ll give you the phone number. It’s . . .” She paused. “Wait a minute, I never get numbers straight. I have it here.”
It was time to tell Flora White that Renée Carter would not be available for future screenings.
After he had heard her cries of dismay and managed to calm her down, Tucker requested that she meet him at the District Attorney’s Office in the morning to sign a statement verifying the facts she had just given him.
A few minutes later, as Detective Dennis Flynn went through Renée’s desk looking for any information on next of kin, Barry Tucker talked to the dispatcher of the Ultra-Lux driving service, who told him that Renée Carter had been dropped off at a bar on East End Avenue in the vicinity of Gracie Mansion, and she had told the driver that he didn’t have to wait for her.
“We were short that night,” the man explained, “and when Ms. Carter’s driver checked in to say he was free, I wanted to make real sure he had it straight. I didn’t need her calling me screaming if the driver wasn’t there. My guy was insistent. He said that Ms. Carter told him her date would drop her off home because he lived not far from her on Central Park West. Then he told me something else. It’s kind of gossip, if you know what I mean, but it may help you. When Renée was in a good mood she was really friendly. Anyhow, the other night she laughed and told our guy that her date thought she was broke, so she didn’t want to have a fancy car waiting for her when she came out.”37
Shaken, and with blood dripping from her badly scraped hand and leg, Monica nevertheless refused the suggestion of several bystanders to call an ambulance. The bus driver who thought he had run her over was trembling so badly that for twenty minutes he was unable to continue his route.
A police car summoned by a frantic 911 call from a woman who also thought Monica had gone under the wheels of the bus arrived on the scene, which now became the center of attention at Union Square.
“I can’t really say how it happened,” Monica heard herself saying. “I absolutely wasn’t trying to cross the street, because the light was turning red. I guess the person behind me was rushing and I was in his way.”
“It wasn’t an accident. A man pushed you deliberately,” an elderly woman at the front of the crowd insisted, her voice rising above the comments of the other spectators.
Startled, Monica turned to look at her. “Oh, that’s impossible,” she protested.
“I know what I’m talking about!” Her head wrapped in a scarf, her coat collar up, her face half covered with round-framed glasses, her lips a tight line, the witness tapped the police officer on his sleeve. “Hepushedher,” she insisted. “I was standing right behind him. Heelbowed me to one side, then his arms went back and he gave her a shove that sent her flying.”
“What did he look like?” the cop asked quickly.
“A big guy. Not fat, but big. He had on a jacket with a hood, and the hood was up. He was wearing dark glasses. Who needs dark glasses when it’s dark out? I could tell he wasn’t a kid. Past forty anyhow, I’d say. And he was wearing thick gloves. Do you see anyone else around here wearing gloves? And did he do what the rest of us did when we thought this poor girl might be dead? Did he holler or scream or try to help? No. He turned and shoved his way out of the crowd and took off.”
The policeman looked at Monica. “Do you feel as if you might have been pushed?”
“Yes. Yes, I do, but it couldn’t have been deliberate.”
“We don’t know that,” the policeman said, soberly. “There are mentally ill people who shove people in front of trains or buses. You may have just come in contact with one of them.”
“Then I guess I’m very lucky to be here.” I want to get home, Monica thought. But it was another fifteen minutes, after telling the cop she was a doctor and could take care of her scrapes, then giving her name, address, and phone number for the police records, before she was able to get into a waiting cab and escape. Her crushed shoulder bag beside her, she leaned her head back and closed her eyes.
In an instant, she was reliving the sharp pain in her arm and leg as she slammed onto the pavement, then the acrid smell of the bus as it bore down on her. She tried to calm herself but the cabdriver had seen the commotion and wanted to talk. Trying to keep from trembling, she answered in monosyllables to his sympathetic diatribe that there ought to be a way to make sure crazies took their meds regularly and didn’t end up going off half-cocked and hurting innocent people.
It was when she was finally in her apartment, with the door closed and locked, that the full impact of having come so close to death hit her. Maybe I should have gone to the hospital, she thought. I don’t have a single thing in the medicine chest to calm me down. It was then, with the blood now crusted on her hand and leg, that she realized she had forgotten that Ryan Jenner was coming for the Michael O’Keefe file.
I have his home phone, she thought. He gave it to me the other night. I’ll call and apologize. Will I tell him what happened? Yes, I will. If he offers to come over I’ll take him up on it. I could use some company.
I could use Ryan’s company, she told herself.
Okay, admit it, she thought.
You’re attracted to him, big-time.
His apartment and cell phone numbers were now in the small address book she always carried in her shoulder bag. Wincing at the sight of her crushed compact and sunglasses, she fumbled for the book. Still sitting at the table with her coat not yet off, she dialed Jenner’s apartment number, the first one she had listed. But when a woman answered and said that Ryan was changing his clothes, Monica left the message that she would send the file to him in the morning.
She had just replaced the receiver when the phone rang. It was Scott Alterman. “Monica, I was listening to the radio and heard that you were almost run over by a bus, that someone pushed you?” She was surprised that reporters had released her name, and wondered how many friends and colleagues had also heard the report.
Scott’s voice was shocked and concerned, and Monica found it comforting. It brought back the memory of how kind Scott had been to her father when he was in the nursing home, and that he had been the one to phone her with the news that her father had passed away.
“I just can’t believe that it’s true,” she said, her voice tremulous. “I mean that I was pushed, that it wasn’t an accident.”
“Monica, you sound pretty shaken up. Are you alone now?”
“I could be there in ten minutes. Will you let me come?”
Suddenly feeling her throat tighten and tears welling in her eyes, Monica said, “That would be nice. I could really use some company right now.”38
Everything had been going so well. Sammy Barber had collected the money from Dougie-the-Dope Langdon, driven to the storage building in Long Island City, and stashed all those beautiful hundred-dollar bills in his safe in the space he rented there. Then, feeling on top of the world, at five thirty he had called Monica Farrell’s office, giving his name as Dr. Curtain in honor of a guy who had been his jail cell mate while he was awaiting trial. The secretary had told him that Dr. Farrell had canceled all her appointments because of an emergency at the hospital.
He had the money. He was set for life. He was feeling good about life, in fact. Sammy was convinced that it was his lucky day and he wanted to get the job done. That was why he had rushed over to the hospital and found a parking spot across from the main entrance, the one the doctor had used the couple of times he’d tracked her before. He had changed his mind and decided he would try to push her in front of a bus.
He waited for about an hour and a half until he spotted Farrell coming down the steps. There were two cabs passing, but she ignored them and turned right toward Fourteenth Street.
Ten to one she’s gonna walk back to her office, Sammy thought as he reached on the passenger seat for his gloves and dark glasses. He slipped them on, got out of the car, and began to follow her froma distance of about a quarter of a block. She wasn’t walking fast, at least not as fast as she had last week when he had trailed her. There were a lot of people on the street tonight, and that was good, too.
At Union Square he saw his chance. The light was turning red but people were still scurrying across the street trying to beat the oncoming traffic. A bus was charging across Fourteenth Street heading for the bus stop. Farrell was at the edge of the curb.
In an instant Sammy was behind her and, with the bus only a few feet away, gave her a shove then watched in disbelief as she somehow managed to roll out from under the tires as, brakes screeching, the bus skidded in a useless attempt to stop. He knew the old lady standing next to him had seen him push Farrell and, trying not to panic, Sammy ducked his head as he hurried past her and headed downtown.
At the end of three blocks, he turned right and took off his gloves and dark glasses and pushed back the hood of his sweat jacket. Trying to look casual, he walked at a normal pace back toward his car. But when he got to where he could see it, he stared unbelieving at the sight of it, wheels clamped, being hoisted onto a police department carrier.
The meter. In his rush to follow Monica Farrell, he had forgotten to feed the meter. His impulse was to go and argue with the driver of the tow truck, but instead he forced himself to turn away and start walking home. I know they bring the cars to some dump near the West Side Highway, he thought, trying to stay focused. If that old lady talks to the cops about Farrell being pushed and describes me, I can’t show up in these clothes to claim the car . . .
He felt his forehead breaking into a sweat. If the old ladydidtalk to the cops and they took her seriously they might figure that someone was staking out the doctor, then follow up on my car being towed across the street from the hospital. Then if they look me up, they’ll find out that I’ve got a record. They might want to know what I wasdoing parked at the hospital and where I was when the meter ran out right around the time the doctor was pushed . . .
Stay calm. Stay calm. Sammy walked downtown to his Lower East Side apartment, and changed into a shirt, tie, sports jacket, slacks, and polished shoes. From his prepaid cell phone he called information and, after being savagely irritated by the computer voice droning, “I’ll pass you on to an operator,” obtained the number he needed.
A bored voice told him to be sure to have his license, insurance card, and registration and to bring cash in order to claim his automobile. Sammy gave his license number. “Is it there yet?”
“Yeah. It just came in.”
After twenty frustrating minutes in a cab crawling along the narrow streets of downtown Manhattan to West Thirty-eighth Street, Sammy was presenting his license to the clerk at the pound. “The insurance and registration are in the glove compartment,” he said, trying to sound friendly. “I was visiting a friend in the hospital and forgot about the meter.”
Should he have said that? Was the clerk looking at him as if he knew he was lying? Sammy was pretty sure the young cop was giving him a steely-eyed once-over. But maybe I’m just nervous, he thought, trying to comfort himself as he walked to his car to get the insurance card and registration. Finally he completed the paperwork, paid the fine, and was able to go.
He had driven barely a block before his cell phone rang. It was Doug Langdon. “Well, you botched that one,” Langdon said, his voice trembling with fury. “The whole city knows that an attractive young doctor was pushed in front of a bus and nearly lost her life. The description of you is pretty accurate, too. A bulky middle-aged guy in a dark sweat jacket. Did you give her your business card as well, by any chance?”
For some reason the panic in Langdon’s voice forced Sammyto calm himself down. He didn’t want Langdon to go off the deep end. “How many bulky middle-aged men are walking the streets of Manhattan in a dark sweat jacket?” he demanded, “I’ll tell you right now what the cops will think. If they do believe that old crow, they’ll think it’s one of those guys who didn’t take his medicine. How many of them go loopy and push people off the train tracks? So quit worrying. Your doctor used up her one good-luck charm tonight. The next one is mine.”39
Barry Tucker left his partner, Dennis Flynn, in Renée Carter’s apartment to wait for a police technician to padlock the door. “That lady sure was careless with her jewelry,” Flynn observed. “There’s a lot of stuff that looks valuable scattered around in that tray on her dresser, and more in boxes in her closet.”
“You keep looking for anything that indicates next of kin,” Tucker told him. “And make a list of all the people you find in her daily appointment book. Then start with the men and check their addresses in the Manhattan phone book. See if one of them lives around here. I’m heading for that bar where Carter was supposed to meet the guy who may be the baby’s father.”
As he spoke he took a picture of Renée from its frame. “With any luck we may solve this one pretty fast.”
“You always hope that,” Flynn observed dryly.
“Dennis, this one has a kid involved, who’s going to end up in a foster home if we can’t find a relative willing to take her,” Barry Tucker reminded him.
“After what we heard from the babysitter, my guess is that the kid will be better off in a foster home than she was with the mother,” Flynn said quietly.
That remark stayed in Barry Tucker’s mind as he drove across town to the restaurant near Gracie Mansion where Renée Carter hadbeen dropped off to meet the mystery man. He tried to imagine either one of his children alone in a hospital, with no relative or close friend to care for them. Not in a million years, he thought. If anything happened to Trish and me, both grandmothers, to say nothing of all three of Trish’s sisters, would be fighting for custody of the kids.
The restaurant turned out to be an English-style pub. The bar was directly inside the entrance, and Barry could see that the dining room beyond it held no more than a dozen tables. A neighborhood kind of place, he thought. I bet they get a lot of repeat customers. Let’s hope Carter was one of them. From what he could see, all the tables seemed to be taken, and most of the stools at the bar were occupied.
He walked to the end of the bar, waited until the bartender came to take his order, then slid his gold badge and a picture of Renée across the counter.
“Do you recognize this lady?” he asked.
The bartender’s eyes widened. “Yes, sure I do. That’s Renée Carter.”
“When was the last time she was here?”
“Night before last, Tuesday, around ten thirty, give or take ten minutes.”
“Was she alone?”
“She came in alone, but some guy was waiting for her. He pulled out a stool for her to sit here at the bar, but she said they should get a table.”
“What was her attitude toward the man she met?”
“Do you know who he is?”
“No. I don’t think he’s ever been here before.”
“What did he look like?”
“Late forties, early fifties. Dark hair. Really good-looking guy, and his clothes didn’t come off a pipe rack, I can tell you that.”
“What was his attitude toward Renée Carter?”
“Not happy. I could tell he was nervous. He polished off two scotches before she even got here.”
“So then they went to a table?”
“Yeah. Most of the tables were empty by then. We close the kitchen at ten. While they were still standing at the bar, he ordered two scotches and said something to her like, ‘I assume you still have a taste for single malt?’ ”
“What did she say?”
“She said something like, ‘I can’t afford single malt scotch anymore, but it’s clearyoucan.’ I mean, it sounded stupid coming from someone who was all dolled up like Renée Carter was.”
“All right. So they went to the table. How long did they stay there?”
“Not long enough to finish their drinks. I mean, I kept my eye on them, because by then it was slow and I had nothing better to do. I saw him hand her the big shopping bag he’d been carrying—you know, one of those gift bags. She grabbed it from him, got up so fast she almost knocked over the chair, and hightailed it out of here with an expression on her face that would have stopped an eight-day clock. He threw fifty bucks on the table and rushed out behind her.”
“Would you recognize that man if you saw him again?”
“Oh, sure. I never forget a face. Detective, did something happen to Renée?”
“Yes. She was the victim of a homicide after she left this restaurant. She never got home that night.”
The bartender’s face blanched. “Oh, God, that’s a shame. Did she get mugged?”
“We don’t know. How often did Renée Carter come here?”
“Maybe once or twice a month. Mainly for a nightcap, and she was never alone. Always with a guy.”
“Do you know the names of any of the men she was with?”
“Sure, some of them anyhow. I’ll make a list.”
The bartender reached for a pad and picked up a pen. “Let’s see,” he murmured to himself. “There’s Les . . .” Aware that other people at the bar were looking at him, he clamped his lips firmly shut, then straightened up and hurried down the length of the bar to where a man was sitting alone sipping a beer.
Sensing the bartender might have remembered something about Renée Carter, Barry Tucker followed him down past the row of barstools. He got there in time to hear him say, “Rudy, you were here Tuesday night and you noticed Renée Carter leaving in a hurry. I just remembered, you said something about being surprised that the guy with her had the price of a drink. Do you know his name?”
Rudy, a florid-cheeked man, began to laugh. “Sure I do. Peter Gannon. He’s the guy they call ‘the loser-producer.’ You must have read about him. He’s laid more eggs on Broadway than Perdue has chickens.”40
On Friday morning Monica awoke at quarter of six and for long minutes lay in bed, quietly searching out the aching parts of her body. Her left arm and leg were badly scraped. Besides that the impact of the fall had made her lower back feel bruised and sore. She promised herself that for the next week or so she would take the time each morning to soak in the Jacuzzi instead of taking a quick shower.
That decided, she turned her attention to the events of the previous evening. After Scott Alterman had called, realizing that some of her friends might have heard the same broadcast, the first thing she did was to change the message on her telephone. “Hi, this is Monica. I know you may have heard the report about my accident. I’m really fine, but am going to take it easy, so I won’t be returning messages this evening. But thanks anyway for calling.”
Then she had turned off the ringer of the phone. Feeling relieved at having thought to avoid the concerned calls she knew she would be receiving, she had gone into the bathroom. There she had stripped off her damaged clothes, sponged the dried blood from her arm and leg, coated the injured areas with an antibiotic salve, and still shivering from the aftermath of her nearly fatal encounter, changed into pajamas and a woolly robe.
When Scott arrived, his concern for her had been so obviously genuine that for the present it took away the hurtful realization thatRyan Jenner had a close relationship with another woman. Scott had taken her hand and insisted she lie down on the couch. “Monica, you’re pale as a ghost and your hands are freezing,” he told her. He piled pillows behind her head, covered her with an afghan, and fixed a hot toddy for her. Then, realizing she had not had any dinner, he looked into the refrigerator, selected tomato and cheese, and grilled a delicious sandwich for her. “My specialty,” he said cheerfully.
It was good to see him, Monica acknowledged now, as she decided to give herself another ten minutes before getting up. She hadn’t intended to tell him about Olivia Morrow, but found herself explaining to him the events of the past few days and her disappointment that Morrow had died before Monica could talk with her about her grandmother.
Scott, however, had been quick to say, “Monica, I will bet you the ranch that Olivia Morrow has a connection to the Gannons. Trust me. I’m going to find out. Your father believed that Alexander Gannon might have been his father. There were plenty of articles about Alexander Gannon, and a number of them had biographical information in them. Seeing the pictures your dad had collected, and comparing photos of him and Gannon at the same age throughout their lives was startling.” He spoke quickly, obviously excited that Monica might allow him to help her.
Before he left, Scott had said, “Monica, I’m going to say this once and then never refer to it again. I am desperately sorry I was stupid enough to ask you out while I was still married to Joy. If you’ll allow me to see you now, it will be as a friend. On my word of honor, I will not in any way make you uncomfortable. Let’s do it this way. I’m going to follow up on Olivia Morrow, and in two weeks I’ll call you for dinner. And I’m going to ask Joy to phone you. Would that be okay?”
I told him it would be fine, Monica thought. And itwillbe, if he’s sincere about simply wanting to resume our friendship and nothingmore. Scott was a good friend to Dad when he was so sick, and I’ll never forget how helpful he was when Dad passed away.
Having settled that in her mind, Monica sat up. Wincing at the pain that shot through her arm and leg, she got out of bed slowly, went into the bathroom, and turned on the taps in the Jacuzzi.
The very warm swirling water did help the stiffness and by the time she was dressed, she was feeling better. She put on a small pot of coffee and as it perked, she went into the bedroom. I look like a ghost, she thought, as she dabbed on some blush, then twisted her hair and fastened it up with a clip.
Leave it like that. It looks good.
The memory of Ryan saying that to her less than two weeks ago, when little Carlos pulled that same clip out, caused a sudden lump in her throat, and she felt her eyes stinging with tears she had no intention of shedding. I’ll phone Nan and ask her to bring the O’Keefe file over to Ryan’s office, she decided. I don’t want to run into him, and from now on there’s no real reason I should. It’s a big hospital.
Her final decision, as she sipped the coffee, was to downgrade the possibility that she had been deliberately pushed. As I told Scott, if that man was just trying to shove me aside so he could make the light, he was probably horrified that I might have been run over. No wonder he ran away. Most people would in that situation.
In a cab on the way to the hospital, Monica made the call to Nan, then phoned ahead to inquire about Sally Carter. She was relieved to learn that Sally had had a good night, but outraged that there had still been no visit from her mother. I’ll notify Family Services this morning, she vowed.
Her first stop at the hospital was to visit Sally. She was sleeping quietly, and Monica decided not to risk waking her up. The nurse on duty reported that Sally’s temperature had gone down to only a degree above normal, and that the asthma attack had passed. “Doctor, last night, after you left, when she woke up, I thought she was cryingfor Mommy, but actually she was saying, ‘Monny.’ I think it’s possible that when she was here last week she heard other kids calling you Dr. Monica.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised,” a familiar voice said. “I’ve heard that’s the effect you have on your patients.”
Monica turned swiftly. It was Ryan Jenner. “I doubt Sally knows my name,” she said, then catching the look the nurse was giving her and Ryan, she added, “Dr. Jenner, may I speak with you in private?”
“Of course,” he said, his tone immediately as formal as hers. She walked with him to the corridor. “I’ve sent the file on Michael O’Keefe to your office,” she told him.
“It just came. Your secretary told me you’d probably be here checking on Sally. Monica, I just heard about what happened last night. Is it possible that you were pushed? My God, I can’t imagine how frightening it must have been.”
“I’m all right. Ryan, I have to ask you not to visit me on this floor, unless of course it involves a patient. I get a feeling that there’s some gossip about us.”
He looked at her. “And you don’t like that?”
“No, I don’t. And I should think that you certainly wouldn’t, either.”
Without waiting for him to reply, she went back inside the Pediatrics Ward and began to make her rounds of the other small patients in her care.41
After his initial panic attack at the realization that he had murdered Olivia Morrow, Dr. Clayton Hadley composed himself by reviewing over and over again every detail of his final visit to Olivia.
Tuesday evening he had told the clerk at the desk that Ms. Morrow was feeling very ill, and he had asked Olivia to be sure to leave the bolt of her front door unlocked so that she would not have to get out of bed to let him in. If the bolt had been on, the risk would have been much greater—she would have had to physically let him in herself. But the bolt was not on, so he had been able to slip into the apartment noiselessly.
She had been asleep when he tiptoed into her bedroom, but woke instantly when he stood over her. Olivia had a night-light near the bathroom door and he could see that as soon as she recognized him, her expression of surprise turned into one of fear.
She slept on two pillows on her queen-sized bed, and two other pillows were next to her. Long ago when he had visited her at home, after she had suffered a mild heart attack, she explained that she sometimes brought a cup of tea and the newspaper back to bed in the morning and piled those extra pillows behind her back.
As he reached for one of those spare pillows, the thought that ran through his head was,She knows I’m going to kill her.He rememberedsaying, “I’m sorry, Olivia,” as he held the pillow over her face.
Frail as she was, he was shocked at how fiercely she tried to push it away. It couldn’t have been more than a minute, but to him it seemed an eternity before her emaciated hands finally relaxed and fell limp on the coverlet.