Authors: James Patterson,Richard Dilallo
Tags: #Mystery Thriller
TROY IS THE MAN!
At 10 a.m. I ask him to join me in my office.
I am crazy-angry with Barrett Katz’s lazy, self-serving attitude and the investigative team’s stupid, slow-as-a-freaking-snail pace. Three kidnappings, a vicious stabbing—something has to be done. Okay, I am not the person to do it, but I am often the person who is never afraid of trying to do it.
“So you need me to light a BFF under him,” Troy says.
“Huh? A Best Friends Forever?”
“No, no, Lucy honey. A BFF is a Big Fucking Fire.”
An hour later, Troy and I are huddled together in a small meeting room watching the screen of my laptop, hypnotized by the hours of video unfurling in front of us: uninterrupted footage from a GUH surveillance camera trained on the corridor that connects the maternity area with the midwife birthing section.
I am afraid to blink, afraid to lift the can of Diet Pepsi to
my lips. I’ve gotta stay glued to the computer screen for that one second when the possible clue shows up, that wonderful moment when the TV detective yells,
“Hold it. Go back a little. Yeah, right there.”
The viewing is a combination of the hypnotically fascinating and the numbingly boring at the same time. We watch it on a higher speed than normal, but not so high that we can’t catch virtually everything that’s going on—quite a few very pregnant women, a few postnatal women walking with portable IVs, doctors walking with an entourage of residents, visitors laughing, visitors crying. It’s an interminable film of doctors and nurses and orderlies and janitors and visitors and patients and security guards and gurneys and janitor carts. The surveillance camera records life on the corridor in fuzzy black and white some of the time and fuzzy color at other times. The camera placement gives a strange angle to anyone captured by its lens. The camera is positioned on the ceiling, so high up that each person’s head is large and their body is much smaller, narrowing down to very teeny-tiny feet. Everyone on camera is either walking toward or away from the vanishing point.
“Okay,” I say to Troy, neither of us looking away from the screen. “While we’re here watching this fabulous movie, I really would like to know how you managed to get your hands on these surveillance DVDs.”
“I have my secret ways,” says Troy. He speaks so seriously that I’m actually a little creeped out. He’s not being sarcastic. He’s not being funny. He’s telling the truth.
“Did you steal them?”
“Not really. Let’s just say I have some tight connections.”
“Could you be a little clearer?” I ask. “C’mon. How’d you get these?”
“I just act my charming self. The ladies like me. The gentlemen who are so inclined also like me. Could it be my professionally whitened teeth, the cut of my Zegna jeans, or—” Troy, who has not stopped studying the monitor while carrying on jokingly about his good looks and charm, suddenly shouts, “Hold the video, Lucy!”
I freeze the image on the screen and dial the speed down to normal. We watch a man in a cheesy-looking navy-blue warm-up suit pause, then bend over at the waist. He hangs in that bent-over position, his hands almost touching the floor. Then a nurse approaches him and speaks to him. The man stands up straight. The nurse looks concerned, but the man waves her away. It must be the nurse’s lucky day, because as soon as she’s a few feet away the man vomits what looks like a week’s worth of meals.
“Mount Vesuvius blows!” Troy yells and laughs.
I click a control button and we watch the continuing segment at a faster speed: the man walks into a visitors’ bathroom and the nurse returns. She leaves frame. Then she returns again. This time she carries with her an antiseptic foam spray.
“So far this has been the most exciting part of the recordings,” says Troy. Then he adds, “And, by the way, I am
trying to avoid the question of how I managed to secure these.”
“Okay, and so …”
“So have you ever noticed that young security guy Jonah?” Troy asks.
“Well, no … I don’t think so.”
“Tall. Latino. Part-timer. He’s usually at the ER entrance on the dead-man’s shift.”
“Can’t say as I know him,” I say.
“Sometimes, when it’s real cold, he wears a black satin jacket with the logo from the
musical on it and a baseball cap with the logo from
“Okay, now I know who it is,” I say. Then I add, just so I can be entirely unprofessional, “He’s got a nice little butt.”
“Well, Jonah is trying to be an actor, and let me just say that he and I have grown pretty close.”
close?” I ask skeptically.
close?” I ask.
“And lucky for you, Lucy, that we are, because sometimes Jonah gets assigned to the video archives room when other folks are taking their break, and we do each other favors. We are close friends, very close friends. I have visited the video archives room a fair number of times.”
“Stop right there,” I say.
“No, it’s nothing like you’re thinking,” Troy says.
stop the video.
This section of recording has flipped into blurry color.
Troy freezes the frame: a woman. Nurse’s uniform. Looks like she’s got blond hair. Because the image quality is so bad it’s hard to tell for sure. The woman is walking toward the camera. But her head is bent downward. Her time on camera is less than five seconds.
“Okay, Troy. What was wrong with that picture?”
Troy doesn’t skip a beat. “She’s wearing high heels.”
Troy is the man!
“When was the last time you saw a nurse wearing high-heeled shoes?” I ask.
“Only once, but that was a drag show in the Poconos.”
The fact is that nurses wear sneakers and clogs. I turn to Troy and say, “A nurse would never wear heels.”
“And such ugly ones,” he says. But neither of us laughs. We both know we might be on to something. We both know we might be looking at the baby-napper … or at least looking at the baby-napper’s possibly blond hair and probably black heels.
We watch the very brief scene a few times. We determine by mutual agreement that the shoes are red, possibly purple.
During the fifth viewing, my phone sounds with a text.
I click, and the screen says,
Birthing rm 4. ASAP. G. Leonard.
I show the screen to Troy.
“Do we have a mama called G. Leonard?” Troy asks.
“Never heard of her,” I say. “But it sounds like she’s in birthing room 4, and she’s about to have a baby.”
TROY PUSHES THE PAUSE button on the surveillance video, ejects the disc from my laptop, and we both rush toward birthing room 4.
the alert about this G. Leonard woman?” Troy asks as we walk-run down the hallway.
“It was unsigned,” I said. “No name. It’s probably from ER. We’ll find out soon enough.”
Outside birthing room 4 is an unusually large group, even for these crazy times: two NYPD officers and two GUH Security people, plus two people in plain clothes. The cheap gray suits give them away as private security, Secret Service types. One woman with two cameras around her neck stands talking quietly to a guy who has a microphone attached to a fairly bulky recording apparatus. Nobody stops us from entering the room.
Standing around a birthing cot I see Dr. Lia Alba, a senior pediatrician. With her is Dr. Steve Swanbeck, a
research neurologist. There is a third person—Dr. Rudra Sarkar. My eyes widen a bit as I look at the woman in the bed. Son of a bitch, it’s none other than internationally insanely famous Greta Moss, apparently now using the alias G. Leonard.
I should have known.
“You tricked me, goddamnit,” I say to Sarkar. “Your call sheet said you were up in the Bronx clinic all day.”
He smiles at me—boyish, charming, handsome—but it doesn’t work at all this time. I am way beyond furious.
“Forget it, Dr. Sarkar. Just forget it,” I say.
“You’re not going to leave us out here to dry, are you?” he asks.
“You bet your ass that I’m going to leave you out here to dry,” I say.
“But Ms. Moss is about to deliver,” Sarkar says.
Sarkar is head of the department. I’m sure he’s correct, but, almost reflexively, I place both my hands on Greta Moss’s taut stomach. Yep, Greta’s ready to go. I look closely at Greta’s face. She’s squinting with the beginning of labor pains. I’m ashamed to admit—
even to myself
—that all I can think is
My God, this woman is beautiful!
I also can’t help but notice that she’s wearing full makeup: eyeliner, mascara, even a little foundation.
“Somebody get her jewelry removed,” I say.
“Absolutely not,” Greta yells.
Troy speaks firmly. He’s not in the mood to charm the patient. He tells her, “This is standard procedure, ma’am, in case surgery becomes necessary. This isn’t a fashion show, lady.”
“Do you know how valuable these earrings are? I’m not taking them off,” says Greta.
Now it’s time for my special touch. “That’s fine,” I say. “In that case, then, you can deliver your own baby. Or they can wheel you right down the corridor to obstetrics.”
“Very well,” Greta says.
Then Troy begins advising Greta on simple breathing. Greta seems uninterested.
“You gotta do some short breaths with me, ma’am,” Troy says. “You took the natural childbirth class, didn’t you?”
She looks at him blankly. It dawns on me that chances are great that our patient did not attend any natural childbirth classes. Perhaps she expected customer service from Chanel or Bergdorf to show up in her hospital room with a newborn in a shopping bag.
Suddenly a voice comes from behind me. “You can do this, Greta. I’ll coach you.” I turn around and I see football star and all-American heartthrob Hank Waldren. The guy can only be described as
. I do not go weak in the knees.
Sarkar moves close to me. “I see you have everything under control,” he whispers. Then he adds, “Thank you,” and leaves.
I’m pissed off enough to give him a punch, but I’ve got my diva patient to take care of.
Greta’s knees are bent, pointing up. Her chin is pushing hard into her sternum. Troy is still advising on breathing. Every thirty seconds he says, “Everything’s looking good down below.”
I know that the labor pains are intense, but Greta doesn’t yell, doesn’t cry. Her face is contorted, but that’s it.
I wipe the perspiration from her head. I feel compelled to say, “You’re doing well, Greta. You’re doing just fine.” Then I turn and look at her husband standing behind me.
“Why don’t you hold her hand?” I say to Waldren. He nods quickly and reaches for his wife’s hand.
“No,” Greta says as she pulls her hand away from him. “I’m good. I’m doing good.”
I move into the firm-strong-angry mode, the tone I’ve perfected over the years. “Listen, Greta. This is a two-person job. You and Hank are in this together. Take his hand.”
The model holds out her elegant model hand—the slim fingers, the perfect skin, the tapered nails. The football player takes that hand into his own very big hand. The couple look at each other.
“Good,” I say. “Let’s have a baby.”
IF EVER SOMEONE NEEDED actual living proof that the Lord is consistently kind and generous to the rich and the beautiful, Greta Moss’s delivery is that proof. Her eight-anda-half-pound—
You heard that right, eight and a half pounds. The baby almost weighs the same as the mother
—baby boy arrives quickly, happily, and looking camera ready. It was a traditional vaginal birth, but amazingly he came out wrinkle-free. I could swear that he actually smelled of Johnson’s Baby Powder when he arrived.
The photographers descend, and Hank and Greta’s “people” allow the media—“Two at a time, please!”—into the room for photos.
People, Vogue, Football Weekly.
Troy looks at me and whispers, “Ya know, this sort of reminds me of something I read about that happened in Bethlehem two thousand years ago.”
Meanwhile, I am busting to make my way to Dr. Rudi
Sarkar’s office. I am so damned ready to lace into him about tricking me into assisting with Greta Moss’s birth. Of course the moment he sees me, he knows why I’ve come, and his charm defense is in high gear. His head is tilted to one side. His precious phony smile is that of a little boy who’s broken his mommy’s favorite vase.
“Okay. Okay. Okay. Mea culpa.”
My response? “You son of a bitch!”
“Look,” he says. “I tried to talk Greta out of relying on your services. But she insisted.”
“But you didn’t care to remember that I insisted I didn’t want to do it,” I say, just a few decibels away from a scream. “Your trying to talk her out of it came way too late in the game.”
“Listen. Greta Moss and Hank Waldren are extremely important people in New York. Right? It didn’t hurt.”
I raise my voice a little higher. “No, now you listen. I don’t give a shit. I’m extremely
important, but you asked. I said no, and then you … then you …”
Sarkar now says what I’ve actually been holding back from saying. “And then I tricked you.”
“You took the words right out of my mouth.”
“Yes. I suspect I did.”
I walk toward the door. He follows me and holds the door closed.
“Look, Lucy. The Waldrens and their new baby will be all over the papers and the internet and tonight’s TV. Smiling. Happy. Most important for us, safe. It will be wonderful publicity for the hospital. And we sure can use it.”
“But you tricked me. You lied to me,” I say. My voice is only a shade softer.
He moves back to his desk and turns to thrust a laptop screen in my face. “Look at this,” he says. He scrolls upward.
He holds the screen even closer to my face, and I read the
New York Post
HANK IS HAPPY. GRETA IS GREAT. A NEW BABY BOY.
This is followed by typical corny copy:
Fashion celeb Greta Moss scored her own winning touchdown today. She delivered Hank Waldren Jr. to Hank Waldren Sr. Mother and Baby and Giant are doing great.
“You see, this is perfect news for Gramatan University Hospital,” says Sarkar. Then he scrolls again. This time he shows me a page on AOL News. An adorable photo of Greta—her full makeup miraculously undisturbed by the ordeal of delivery—and the cute new baby with the equally cute new father holding the little one. The cute caption is:
THE LITTLEST GIANT
If I wasn’t so angry, I’d be willing to admit that it’s a really irresistible picture. These three should model as a family.
Hold on, Lucy. You’ve got to stay angry.
“Admit it. It’s really good for the hospital,” says Sarkar.
“Okay, I admit it, but what would really be perfect is this: you and your NYPD and FBI buddies actually find the
babies instead of helping to feed a media blitz all about a celebrity baby. Like this: The cops find the madman who tried to kill Katra. The cops do their job. Possibly you can get in touch with your pal Blumenthal and tell him to wake the hell up.”
“I think Detective Blumenthal and his people are doing all
they can do. I think they are doing their absolute best,” he says. He moves closer to me.
Oh, God, why am I thinking what I’m thinking?
I am suddenly certain that Dr. Sarkar may lean in and kiss me. I’m frightened. I should have a plan. Will I kiss him? Will I turn away? Will he—
Instead he speaks, his face close to mine. “I am truly sorry for the deception.” His voice is almost a whisper.
I believe Sarkar is being sincere. I’m tough, but I’m not an idiot. Even I can only stay angry for so long.
“Yeah, okay. But don’t do it again,” I say.
Am I sounding like a nursery school teacher?
The moment has become intimate, close, warm. I think it might be a good idea to tell him about the video that Troy and I saw earlier—the blond woman in the high heels. This is perhaps the only real clue we have so far. All of a sudden I’m longing to share this knowledge.
The small smile on Sarkar’s face seems to broadcast friendship and trust. Yes, I think I should share the information. Then, immediately, I don’t know why, I change my mind. Then I think that time is passing—what have I got to lose? Why not?
But then Sarkar speaks before I can say anything. “Why don’t we go up and visit our celebrity couple and their new baby? Okay? Maybe we’ll get our picture on the internet.”
The moment passes. I won’t tell him. But I will say something else. “Listen, there’s something I want to ask you about.”
He looks vaguely confused. “Yes?” he asks. Then he smiles.
“Last night I saw another side of you, an angry, impatient, sort of ugly side. Okay, it was only for a second, I know. But when I left your car—or should I say when I was thrown
out of your car?—it was just … I don’t know what to call it. Confusing?”
The smile vanishes from his face. He even turns away from me. “I know what to call it,” he says. “I would call it disgusting, reprehensible, the uncontrollable anger of a disappointed man, a man who is used to getting what he desires.”
“Take it easy, Doc. Even I wouldn’t go that far in the evaluation,” I say.
“You don’t understand, do you, Lucy? I wanted you to be with me. And you did not want to do so. I was angry.”
I am, of course, just a little confused. Maybe a bit of romance was in the air but surely not enough to cause disappointment and anger like that. Now I’m not even sure how to discuss the matter with him.
“Uh, okay,” I say. “I guess that clarifies it. It was, well, just surprising. I’d never seen you like that before.”
“And you will never see me like that again,” Sarkar says.
This time as he leans toward me I know that he intends to kiss me. I turn away slightly. I reach and brush my hand against his face.
“Now, don’t be angry, Rudi. This is not rejection,” I say. “But … I think we should go up and see the new baby right now.”
He laughs. “You are, as always, absolutely correct.”
Then he opens the door and gestures for me to walk through. We’re off to visit the three Waldrens.