Authors: James Patterson,Richard Dilallo
Tags: #Mystery Thriller
IT TAKES ABOUT THIRTY minutes for Patrik Kovac to unload his entire story of Katra’s pregnancy and the Russian couple. It must be frightening to tell. It is frightening to hear. But once it’s ended, I know I have to get in touch with either Leon Blumenthal or Rudra Sarkar or both.
Patrik, tears on his face, still trembling, comes with me to Sabryna’s apartment. As always, I walk inside without knocking. Sabryna clicks off the television, and all three of them look at me nervously. Their curiosity is, of course, completely understandable.
“There’s no time to explain everything. I promise I will. I’ll also say that the news is not good. But we might end up okay,” I say. “Right now I have to get back to the hospital. Like I said without saying, this is big stuff.”
“Isn’t it always?” says Willie, with a touch of childlike sarcasm.
“No. This really is,” I say. “Sabryna, can Willie stay here?”
“Doesn’t he always?” says Sabryna, with a touch of adultlike sarcasm.
Then Sabryna turns her attention to Patrik. She says, “And I’m supposing that you’re going to be here, too?”
Kovac looks at me for the answer to Sabryna’s question.
“He could use a better cup of coffee than mine, probably with a big shot of Jameson in it. And see if he wants a plate of Lucky Pot.”
Then I look at Patrik Kovac and say, “You’re not really a true American until you see a Yankees game in the Bronx and have a nice big soup bowl full of Lucky Pot.”
Understandably, Patrik looks confused. But I don’t have time to run with my joke. I need to talk to one of those dozens of law enforcement personnel sitting around at my hospital doing nothing. I take out my cell phone and call the GUH main line.
Eventually someone says, “Gramatan University Hospital. How may I help you?”
“It’s Lucy Ryuan, midwife,” I say. “Please connect me to the NYPD/FBI setup in the residents’ cafeteria.”
Finally I hear Blumenthal’s voice. I identify myself.
“What’s up now, Ms. Ryuan?” I wouldn’t call his tone of voice
but I might call it
“I’m at home right now, Detective,” I say, “but I’ve just met with Katra Kovac’s father. He gave me a boatload of information on the attack and kidnap situation. I’m going to Uber back into Manhattan right now. You and I need to meet.”
“Okay,” he says. The tone of voice is now actually
. “I was about to go out for a little supper. But I’ll wait right here. Never want to miss one of your lectures.”
I ignore the wise-guy crack and say, “Hey, I can bring something from home for you to eat.”
“That’d be cool,” he says. Maybe he is being sarcastic. I can’t tell anymore.
“Yeah,” I say. “We’ve got some delicious leftovers.”
“Sounds good. Thank you.”
I don’t dare ask him the question I’m thinking.
How do you feel about meatloaf and cornflakes?
Immaculate Conception Hospital
West Chelsea, New York City
IMMACULATE CONCEPTION HOSPITAL SITS directly next to the High Line on West 24th Street. All patient rooms have a view of either the majestic Hudson River or the wacky-beautiful High Line itself.
The patients pay dearly for the view. In return they receive the pampered service most of them are used to. A person might go to NewYork-Presbyterian for bypass surgery or Mount Sinai for cancer, but if they need a facelift, an eyebrow lift, or a tummy tuck, that person heads over to Immaculate.
Immaculate is the only hospital in New York City to offer an unusual and frequently sought surgical service: hand rejuvenation. After all, nothing undermines a magnificent facelift more than bumpy, blue-veined, wrinkled old hands.
Immaculate is also the hospital to visit if one is very rich and slated to give birth. The birthing rooms were designed by the late “Prince of Chintz,” Mario Buatta, with a lot of
flowered fabrics and lamps made from antique Chinese tea containers.
Immaculate Conception may sound like the name of a Catholic hospital, and when it was founded in 1880, it was run by nursing nuns, but now, facelifts and chintz curtains. Times have changed. So have cafeteria conversations.
“I played tennis yesterday with my friend Kenny Kelleher. He’s the gastro guy up at Gramatan. He says the cops and the FBI are guarding the place like it’s Fort Knox,” says dermatologist-surgeon John Aquilino.
Dr. Aquilino is having a late-afternoon taste of a delicious 2006 Puligny-Montrachet in the Immaculate Conception wine bar with Dr. Jeffrey Schlotman, a surgeon whose specialty is fast-recovery breast reduction.
“That kidnapping stuff must be driving Barrett Katz crazy,” says Aquilino.
“Couldn’t happen to a nicer little prick,” says Schlotman.
“The crazy location. The welfare patients. The welfare bums. The whole thing. I wouldn’t let anyone I know go to Gramatan for a hangnail. You’re better off dead.”
“You get what you pay for,” says Schlotman.
I AM IN SUCH a rush to tell Patrik’s story that I don’t take the time to even spoon up the leftovers I promised. Instead, I end up bringing Leon Blumenthal food that’s even worse than meatloaf and cornflakes: six small peanut-butter and cheddar-cheese crackers, barbecue-flavored potato chips, and two Drake’s Ring Dings. All are courtesy of the lobby vending machine.
I drop Blumenthal’s “dinner” on his desk-table. He glances at the assembled junk food and says, “I’ll eat this later. When I can give it my full attention.”
That’s obviously my signal to start talking.
Blumenthal listens intently as I tell him the extraordinary story that Patrik Kovac just told me. Blumenthal nods occasionally. He types frequently on his laptop. He does
eat even a morsel of the crackers or snack cakes.
“Did Kovac say if he or anyone in his family got the names of the Russian duo?” he asks.
“I don’t know. I didn’t ask.”
I’m not a pro. I’m arrogant, but I’m an amateur.
That’s probably exactly what Blumenthal is thinking, too. Well, too bad, because Mr. Kovac came to me.
“Don’t worry,” Blumenthal says. “We’ll ask. But chances are great that they didn’t give their names, and if they did, Kovac was so nervous that he probably wouldn’t have remembered the names anyway. Did he say if his daughter, Katra, knew he was coming to see you?”
“Uh … no. He didn’t say …”
“And you didn’t think to ask,” Blumenthal adds.
What I’m thinking now, however, is that Blumenthal is ready to heave a sigh of frustration and toss me out, but I also want to believe that he is interested in Patrik’s story. And, well, when all is said and done, I’m the person who owns the story.
What Blumenthal says next, however, does not reassure me of his interest. He flips his laptop closed and says, “Okay, good. What you’ve found out, this stuff you just told me, it might turn out to be helpful.”
I explode. Out loud. Big. Really big.
“‘Helpful’? This is a goddamn breakthrough. This is what they call a lead. I don’t know you that well at all, Detective, but under normal circumstances, with a normal detective, this would be considered very, very big news. You take this info from Katra’s father, and you add this to the high-heeled woman in the video, and then you just sit there.”
Now it’s Blumenthal’s turn to explode. And he does a full Vesuvius. He stands up so quickly that it seems he might actually hit the ceiling.
“You’re judging me on
how I react
to what you’ve told me? I
haven’t been enthusiastic enough? Is that it? Are you waiting for smoke to come out of my ears? Or would you prefer that I jump on this table and dance a jig? Maybe we should plan a testimonial dinner for you. We’ll ask the mayor to—”
I try to interrupt. “Listen. All I’m saying—”
“No. Listen for once to what I’m saying. Could you do that, Ms. Ryuan?”
My teeth are clenched. I’d like to punch this dude. But I shut up. He quickly calms down, runs his hand through his hair. He tries to sound even-tempered, and then he begins to explain.
“My job is to gather
the information. Got that?
the information. Yes, the catch you made on the video, the nurse in high heels, that’s terrific. Absolutely terrific. This news about what Patrik Kovac told you is equally terrific. It’s a goddamn lucky break.”
Now he looks at the ceiling. Then he looks at the wall. Then he looks at his laptop screen. This is a guy trying to calm down.
The silence that accompanies all this looking is stunning. I, of course, take the opportunity to speak.
“So? What does it all mean? Your little lecture? Your anger?” I ask.
Then he says calmly, “There are some things you don’t know.”
I rub my burning eyes. I wipe my sweaty palms against my shirt.
“There’s some other news,” he says. He looks at me, then sits down again in his chair. “This is not good news.”
“For Chrissake, tell me. Just tell me,” I yell.
“We’ve had another kidnapping,” he says.
Both Blumenthal and I allow quite a few seconds to pass.
“Holy shit,” I say. “With all the security? The guards? The alarms? The—”
“Hold it, Ms. Ryuan. Hold it for just a minute. Let me finish.”
I hold it. And knowing me, it will probably be
“for just a minute.”
“The baby wasn’t taken from
hospital. The baby, one hour old, I should add, was kidnapped from Immaculate Conception down in Chelsea.”
“Oh, my God,” I say. “Didn’t they have security? Didn’t they have guards? What with everything that’s happened up here?”
“Of course they had extra security and guards. They had security all over the place. Every hospital in every borough is on high alert. But it happened. And it’ll probably happen again. And I’m going to move heaven and earth and even hell to try to stop it.”
I nod … gently. I notice that Blumenthal’s hands now have a slight quiver to them. I see the big patches of sweat on his forehead, his upper lip, his shirt.
“Holy shit,” I say. “What does this mean?”
“It means, in medical terms, that we’ve got an epidemic.”
BLUMENTHAL AND I NO longer have very much to say to each other. I thought he was passive and uncaring. He thought I was an aggressive bitch. No, of course he never said that, but I’m pretty good at reading attitudes. Right now I’ve just got to get out of here.
Blumenthal’s colleagues—police officers, FBI agents, file clerks, junior detectives, full detectives—watch me turn and walk quickly to the cafeteria door, exit, and close the door firmly, but without slamming it. What they cannot see, however, is the fact that I stop outside the door. I stand and wait. I want to hear if anything is going to be said about my visit.
Sure enough, almost immediately Leon Blumenthal yells, “I need everyone over here. Right now.” Then, for good measure, he adds, “Right now means right now.”
Here it comes. I know I’ll hear something like,
“You all know that crazy midwife. Well, she’s crazier than ever.”
“Wait’ll I tell you the ridiculous ‘tip’ I just got from that Ryuan woman.”
Here’s what Blumenthal actually says: “Lucy Ryuan, a respected midwife here at GUH, just stopped by. I’m sure you all saw her, and some of you may have even heard parts, if not all, of our conversation. Ms. Ryuan delivered some highly provocative, highly important information. If even half of what she said is true, then we’ve now got something of a lead, a real lead. I’m going to immediately text some of you with next-step orders. I’d give them out right now, but I’m sure Ms. Ryuan is standing outside listening in.”
Son of a bitch.
This guy is no fool. But I’m surprised and pleased about what I’ve just overheard.
And then, “Don’t lean too hard against the door, Lucy. Someone might open it suddenly.”
It’s Rudi Sarkar. He’s looking like the autumn cover of
. He’s wearing dark-gray slacks, a Paul Stuart—I’m guessing—blazer, and his adorable smile. Bright white teeth, good haircut, the whole deal.
“What is it that you are listening for so intently?” he asks.
I know from experience that I will always end up in a better place by telling the truth than a lame lie. And most of my lies do turn out to be lame.
“To be honest—” I begin.
“Please do be honest,” Sarkar says.
I begin again. “To be honest, I just came from speaking with Detective Blumenthal, and I was wondering if there would be any follow-up, like if he had an announcement to make to his staff.”
“And did he? Something malignant?”
Good God, do doctors just always use medical terminology?
“Indeed he did, but it turned out not to be, as you say, a malignant announcement,” I say.
“I am not surprised,” says Sarkar. We begin walking toward the elevators.
“I know that you think well of him, Dr. Sarkar—”
“Rudi,” he corrects.
“You’ve already said, Rudi, that you looked into Blumenthal’s history and that he’s a good guy,” I remind him.
“I am not so certain that he is ‘a good guy.’ But I know that he is a very good detective. And I know this because the police commissioner is a patient of mine.”
“Sally Poblete is a patient of yours?” I say.
“Yes, she has been for a number of years.”
“Is the commissioner pregnant?”
“No,” he says.
There goes that smile again.
“But she is trying to be.”
I nod. Sarkar continues. Is he being indiscreet or is this well-known information? I decide not to ask.
“Ms. Poblete already knew that Blumenthal was the senior detective on this baby-thievery case.” Only Sarkar would use a word like
. “And Ms. Poblete told me we should be grateful he is on this. She called Detective Blumenthal ‘one of the finest of the finest.’ But she did then add that occasionally Blumenthal ‘pushes it.’ Those are her words. When I asked what she meant, she said that this detective is often quite creative in ignoring the rules. Then she again said that we should be very thankful to have him.”
I say nothing, but I’m thinking,
Maybe if he cracks this case. Then I’ll be thankful.
“May I escort you up the stairs?” Sarkar asks.
“Yeah, sure,” I say, and I walk past the elevators, heading to the door of the internal stairway.
My mind is still churning. Commissioner Poblete said that Blumenthal is
in ignoring the rules?
I come up with an idea. A great idea. A very, very creative idea.
I’m going to find out just how far Blumenthal is ready to
it. I’m going to see just how creative he might care to be.
“You go up ahead of me,” says Sarkar as we enter the stairwell. “That way I’ll be able to catch you if you fall.”
“It also means that you’ll have a terrific view of my gluteus maximus,” I say.
“Lucy, please!” he says with mock surprise. “And anyway, don’t worry. Do remember. I