Saturday, January 22, 2011

Telepaths: The Park Slope Conspiracy - 14

Carl has everything under control. The Park Slope interviews are finishing up, Maggie is feeding him information about Andrew and he's working on the Senator's investigation.

One phone call from his wife will bring it all crashing down.*

*This chapter contains strong language, interview tactics, panic and a lot of phone calls.

14. Things Fall Apart
The phone jarred me out of a sound sleep. I scrambled for it so it wouldn’t wake Lynn. “Childers,” I said in a low voice and turned to the wall to look at the clock.
“Sorry Carl, I woke you up didn’t I? Of course I did. It’s what, 4am?” I blinked into space and realized that I wasn’t on my side of the bed so the clock wasn’t there. I would have to move it later, maybe with an extension cord. I wasn’t going to be on my side until Lynn could sleep on her stomach again.
“Why am I awake?” I asked Maggie.
Who is it?
Just Maggie, go back to sleep.
“I remembered something else about Andrew.” Maggie was annoyed and the harsh edge to her voice woke me up.
I fumbled in the nightstand drawer for my notepad. I flicked on the low lamp and uncapped my pen. “What’ve you got?” I asked. I rubbed my eyes and tried to be alert.
There was a moment of silence for her to think something sarcastic at me. “I had this flash of him doing surveillance on another path, going in for a,” there was a pause as she thought of the word, “pick-up. I think he’s carried off other paths.” Her tone was hesitant, like she didn’t quite believe what she was saying.
“Right. Is that it?” I asked and shook my head. I already knew this but she wasn’t supposed to know that I knew.
“No, that’s not it,” She shot back. I could almost feel her berating me in her mind. “The interesting part of this isn’t what he was doing; it’s how he felt about it.”
I rolled my eyes. A shrink would think that was the most important thing.
When I didn’t say anything she continued. “This one had committed some thought felonies and he felt righteous going after him. Really righteous, and powerful – I think he’s got some form of TAD, which would be in his channel school evaluations.”
Now I scribbled furiously to keep up. “Wait, T-A-D? What’s that and would it be listed like that in his records?”
“Telepathic Adjustment Disorder, and it would be listed as T-A-D in caps followed by a superscript type number. He could be any of the four types, but I’d focus on Type 3.” Her annoyance had given way to her professional voice.
“And what’s that type?” I didn’t want to wait for her report to Jerome to get the details, not now that I was on Gates’ payroll too.
She seemed pleased that I asked. “It’s characterized by disruptive and or violent behavior toward other path students along with the standard TAD problems adjusting to the channel school environment. Paranoia, usually involving other students spying on him. In adult life he’d probably have very little voluntary contact with other paths.”
My hand was cramping. “So, what? He’s a path path-hater with a record?” I asked to make sure I had the gist.
“Something like that. It’s likely he has a juvie record at least,” she agreed with a touch of amusement.
Jerome would jump on this. I could use it too, and I’d have a much shorter list of suspects to sort through because I knew where to look. Jerome wasn’t even sure the guy was a fed. “That’s great. You’re writing all this up?” I asked through a yawn.
“I’ll type it up now. Look, I’m sorry I woke you up. It could have waited until you got in later,” she apologized, embarrassed by her enthusiasm.
“No, no, I said to call and I meant it. It cements things better to say them out loud, and you know Jerome is hoarding leads since Steadman escaped,” I said. I didn’t want her to cut me out of the loop when she was the only one who’d read the guy. She was the solid link between Steadman, Craig and Breaker.
“Yeah, he’s taking it pretty hard, but who expected them to be ballsy enough to make a roadblock dressed as cops?” There was a slight edge of excitement to her voice.
Which meant that she’d keep calling me, and she might keep consulting. Her contract was up in a few days, once all of the Park Slope patients had been interviewed. “That was a crazy move,” I agreed and yawned again. “Sorry.” C’mon Maggie, let’s wrap this up.
“Go back to bed, I’ll see you at lunch.”
“Ok, but it’s my turn to buy.” God I’ll be glad when this case is over.
I could hear the smile in her voice. “I’ll take you up on that. Night.”
She hung up before I said goodnight. I put the phone back on the charger and set my notebook and pen next to it. I tried to disturb the bed as little as possible on my way back down.
Just get down here. Lynn turned to face the opposite wall. I could feel the buzz of anticipation across her back where she wanted me to spoon her.
I moved up behind her and we arranged my arm under her neck and the other one around her stomach. My girls.
There was a brief flutter from the baby and we both held our breath trying to read it.
“Happy?” I asked in a whisper. Lynn was more in tune with her and could decipher more at these spikes of awareness.
Lynn’s voice was low with sleep. “Maybe. At least content.” I think she likes it when we cuddle.
Well that makes three of us. I buried my face against her neck. I’m sorry I woke you up.
She pictured a shrug without moving her shoulders. You said yourself that you had to take this job from Gates. Besides, it’s not like there are never calls in the middle of the night from your day job.
I kissed the back of her neck. Hopefully I’ll be home more after we get done questioning at The Slope. I can do the Senator’s stuff from here.
Good, she replied, the thought half formed in her drowsy mind. I could feel her drift off. There was another flutter from the baby that seemed happy. I concentrated on it until I drifted off too.
When I woke up to my alarm at seven Lynn was already gone. How she got out of bed without waking me was something I couldn’t figure, especially now that getting her out of a chair involved a procedure a lot like winching a car out of a ditch.
I took a shower and ate toast over my laptop while I fired off a quick email to Gates’ assistant. I outlined what Maggie told me about search parameters and told her it would be worth it to get Maggie’s full report from Jerome’s department. I knew Gates would have a better chance of getting it than I did.
Other than to confuse things while Gates got me to agree to the contract, I wasn’t sure why the Senator was using Elise as his go between. There were more direct ways for us to communicate. Unless he thought he was under some sort of surveillance.
That disturbing thought followed me out the door and into the car.
It took a conscious effort to push Gates and his problems to the back of my mind before I went to my first interview of the day.
I always looked over the files the night before so the folder I had was a prop. Nothing makes a guy more nervous than his entire permanent record printed out, I told Hal before I opened the door.
Leonard Polk sat back in his chair. He tried to look cool and unconcerned and only managing to look shady and uncooperative. Sorry I’m late. I tossed the file on the metal table and sat down. “We really should’ve gotten to you first since you had contact with Steadman and Matthews,” I said in a confidential tone. And we would have if he hadn’t gone on vacation the day of the fire.
“No problem. I already filled out a report though. I’m not sure what else I can tell you,” he said with a telling glance toward the folder. I only had Steadman for two day's escort once he proved he couldn’t play nice.
“Did he give you much trouble?” I asked. I hear some of them are like that. I was fishing, watching his face and the way he moved his hands when he spoke.
He shrugged, his body posture less tense. “After what he did to that guy in group? We didn’t give him a chance to make trouble.” Meds and restraints don’t work for everything.
I didn’t let my eyebrows go up and I didn’t let out a flicker of surprise. Steadman had come in with a lot of bruises but we’d assumed they had happened when the cops sacked him. “Did he say anything? Try to get to any of you at all?” Anything could help us out, I told him. I had to control my expression when he smiled with a mouthful of sharp white teeth.
He spread his hands wide over the table and I could see there was dirt or something in the creases of his palms. “That’s just it, he was barely there no matter what we did.” Guess he had a lot to hide.
Just talking to this guy made me feel scummy. “He didn’t think anything?” I said impatiently. If they’d laid into the guy it was almost impossible that he didn’t let something slip. No one’s that good. Even the guys who’d failed to crack Steadman had gotten a few words.
He shook his head and crossed his arms over his chest. “Nothing that isn’t in the report. And you can take that to the bank.” No revenge plots, nothing about getting out or blowing anything or anybody up.
I leaned into the table, my impatience building into something else. “Tell me anyway. Word for word from the time you took him out of group.” I might even want to hear it more than once. You, me and this room are going to- My phone chirped in my pocket. I knew without looking that it was Lynn.
I ignored Leonard’s fierce disapproval and a muttered, “Fucking unprofessional.”
“You work on remembering,” I told him. I stood up and held the phone in one hand. “Treat it like a channel school exercise, I want excruciating detail.” The phone rang again. I pushed the door open and didn’t look back.
I opened the phone as soon as the door closed behind me. “What’s going on?”
Hal was at the table and looked up from his magazine.
“Honey, it’s me. I’m-” There was a hitch in Lynn’s voice and my whole body tensed up. “I’m at St. Luke’s-”
“Are you ok? Is it the baby? What happened?” I wasn’t sure how I could talk with my throat on the verge of closing up. What the hell could have happened? She works at a school for Christ’s sake.
“Carl, I’m fine. I’m in a bed waiting for the ultrasound technician. I started bleeding this morning and they want to make sure the baby’s ok,” she said and her voice barely wavered.
I frowned so hard I could feel the pulse in my temples. “But there might be something wrong?”  Hal, I’ve got to go. I want you to divvy up my interviews between the others and tell Anderson he might have to do tomorrow’s schedule.
I turned to make sure he heard me and almost ran into him. “No problem.” Hit the road, I can take care of it. He bobbed his head, clearly listening in, his forehead creased with worry.
I nodded at him, shoving things back into my briefcase. Lynn sniffed into the phone, the only sign that she was crying now. “It’s too early. We can’t have her now.”
That was a leap I hadn’t made yet, my mind too tight with panic. I forced a deep breath. “We won’t, you’re already at the hospital, they’ll take care of you,” I said with more confidence than I felt. Thanks Hal. I thought as I shot through the door. “Where do I go when I get there?” I said. I walked so fast down the hall that I got as much attention for that as I did for breaking the ban on cell phones in the interview areas.
Her voice was small; I could see her sitting on the hospital bed with one arm wrapped around her knees, fragile. “Can you come? Aren’t you in the middle of interviews?”
If I take the toll road north I can get into town in half an hour. I dug my earpiece out of my bag and shoved it in my ear to free up my hands. “I’m headed for the car right now, Hal’s giving my interviews to a couple of the guys and Anderson will do the schedule for tomorrow, don’t worry about it.” I pushed through the front door with my shoulder and jogged to the car.
“I’m on the fourth floor. I might be in ultrasound when you get here though, the doctor wants one before he can tell me what’s going on. How long do you think it’ll take you?” It was a sign of how worried she was that she made only a token resistance to me leaving work.
“An hour, tops. So fourth floor, will they tell me where to find you if you’ve been moved?” I asked. I tossed my briefcase in the passenger seat and started the car.  Toll road or the parkway? Traffic should be light at ten in the morning.
“They’ll tell you. You’ll only be an hour?” she asked.
I nodded. “Less if I can, there shouldn’t be any traffic. I could always use my siren,” I said in the lightest tone I could manage with the tightness in my throat. This would be a good time to have a siren. Maybe Gates could get them issued to the guys that ride with the cops.
She huffed into the phone which was as close as I’d get to a laugh. “You don’t have a siren. Don’t get a ticket rushing out here.” She cleared her throat, “Do you think I should call mom?”
I rolled my eyes and bit my tongue as I rolled up to the guard shack at the gate. The guard glanced at my ID and waved me on. I gunned it down the access road, kicking up road salt and dust. I tried to make my answer as diplomatic as possible and steered clear of words like ‘nuts’ and ‘freakish hypochondriac’. “Maybe we should wait until we know something. We can call her after we talk to the doctor, ok?” If that crazy woman showed up at the hospital I’d jump out of my skin. I would have a hard enough time pretending to be calm without her mother hovering over every nurse, asking a thousand questions and worrying everyone. Please say no, just say no.
She sighed into the phone. “You’re probably right; I don’t want to worry her and Daddy if I don’t have to.”
I nodded along, took the on ramp to the toll road too fast and squealed the tires. “Ok, we’ll call them later then. Now, is there anything you want or need, anything I should bring with me?” I wasn’t sorry to get off the subject of her parents.
“Just you honey. Are you sure you’re not going to get in trouble for leaving in the middle of a big case like this? You are a group leader,” she said with a hint of pride. Thank god she wasn’t crying anymore. I was already doing 85 in a 65.
“Well I am the boss. It’s my duty to abuse my power and take the day off to spend it with my girls.” And I’d like to see anyone try to stop me. This definitely falls under the family emergency category. I slowed down for the toll booth and drummed my fingers while the guy in front of me dropped to a crawl to go through the EZpass booth.
“I guess I should be glad I don’t work for you,” she said, playing along. “Do you make them type up your reports and shine your shoes in the morning too?”
Move your slow ass, you bastard. I had to resist laying on my horn. He finally got out of the way and I did my own crawl past the sensors. “And do my dry-cleaning. It’s good to have minions.”
“I’m sure they love it when you call them that. I’d better let you go so you don’t hit anything on the way over,” she teased in a stilted tone.
“Hey, my road kill tally is way down. But yeah, I’d better get off the phone,” I agreed and gunned it around an 18-wheeler that smelled like it was hauling chickens.
“Ok, we’ll see you soon.”
“I love you.”
“Love you too.”
I closed my phone and took out my ear piece. I wished there was more traffic. At least enough to give me something to do other than stare at the road and count the miles until my exit. 
Once I got to the parking lot things turned into a blur. I didn’t see anything quite in focus until I got to the room and Lynn was really there.
She was propped up in the bed, stomach in front of her, monitors beeping, thin plastic tubes coming out of her arm. The blue of the paper gown and the blanket made her look too pale. Her eyes were closed and I couldn’t see her chest move.
My feet felt stuck to the floor.
Hey handsome. Her eyes opened and she patted the bed next to her with the hand.
I took her hand, careful, not wanting to jar anything. “Have they told you anything yet?” You look tired.
She pulled me down by my arm and wrapped hers around my neck. My hands made soothing circles on her back. Relief rather than fear washed over both of us. They took me to do the ultrasound. The baby’s fine. But there was a lot of technical stuff she was thinking. All I got out of it was ‘high risk’. Her face was hot and dry against my neck.
I settled on the edge of the bed so I could breathe in her grip. My chest didn’t feel as tight but my stomach made a turn at the words ‘high risk’. “What did the doctor say?” I was so worried driving over.
Her arm loosened and she used her hand to push at my chest. There was irritation in her eyes. “He hasn’t been in yet. All they’ll tell me is the contractions have stopped.” As if I didn’t know?
“If he doesn’t come soon I’ll go find him. I can interrogate a few nurses,” I joked, too worried myself to work on deflecting her frustration. There was a chair next to the wall, I put it near the head of the bed and sat down. She let me take her hand for a second before she set it on the blanket, patted it and moved her hand back to its protective position over her stomach.
“You know what high risk means. It means not to term. Too early.” She looked away from me, out the window where the clouds were blocking out the sun. If it had been a few degrees colder it would have been snow, but today they were calling for rain. What happens if we lose her?
My jaw tensed and I put my hand over hers, over our girl. “That’s not going to happen,” I said. There was no room in my mind for the alternative.
She sighed, a short terse sigh that meant she was trying not to cry. Her hand twitched under mine. But what if it does? What then?
“It’s not happening.” My voice was loud and my ears felt hot. Of all the times to try and pick a fight with me, I couldn’t believe she was picking one now. I’m not going anywhere. 
Her hand gripped mine hard and pressed it into her stomach. “That’s what you said when I found out I was pregnant.” Before that you weren’t so sure.
“Mrs. Childers? I’m Dr. Grant.”
We both turned to look at the man in the doorway. We saw his loose gray tie, untucked shirt and oversized lab coat with the same worry. He didn’t look like a doctor.
He blinked at us, shrugged and came into the room. Maybe they switched the charts again. “Childers, right?”
I recovered first, stood up and offered my hand. “Right, I’m Carl, this is my wife Lynn.” His palm was damp and I had to fight the urge to wipe my hand on my pants when he released it.
“So Mom,” he said and undraped his stethoscope to listen to Lynn’s heart, “how’s the baby feeling in there?” I wonder if Jim’s heading to Bravo for lunch. I love that meatball pizza. His hands moved with automatic precision, his head cocked. “You’re sounding fine.”
“The nurse said you could tell us the results of the ultrasound.” Lynn’s hand had clamped onto mine and squeezed the knuckles together. She let up a bit when I winced.
The doctor nodded and pulled a stool up to the bed. “Right, well, the good news is the baby’s fine and we’ve stopped the contractions.” I should get Jim to do these, they never take me seriously. He scratched his chin and looked down at his clipboard.
When it seemed like he was going to riffle through his papers for another hour I couldn’t take it. Come on man. I thought, careful not to project. “Dr. Grant we’ll take you seriously. Just tell us.”
His head shot up in surprise and then he flipped back to the first page of the chart. Paths, ok. “Sorry, looks like I need to read these better.” He offered a slight smile to Lynn and kept his eyes on hers. “Ok, so according to the ultrasound you have what we call placenta previa. All that means is that the placenta is sitting over the opening to the cervix, so when the baby puts pressure on it--when you’re standing or walking around--it can bleed.” He pictured the placenta like a pink pancake mass over the neat donut ring of the cervix. “With the bleeding you get the contractions you were having earlier.”
Lynn absorbed this faster than I did. “So how do we keep it from happening again?” Her hand was sweaty against mine, grip grinding my knuckles.
“Well, first we’re going to give you some more magnesium sulfate and then some procardia for the contractions.” He paused and took a breath. He spoke and thought at the same time. “We’re going to need to monitor you, both of you,” he gestured toward her stomach, “for at least another two days here. If everything’s settled down after that we can send you home, but you’re going to be on bed rest.”
Three days in here?
I’ll call Benkowski and get the time off.
I’ll have to call mom.
I have a bunch of sick time piled up and-
She’s going to lose it. She hates hospitals ever since-
We thought rapidly to each other until the words ‘bed rest’ caught up to us.
“Bed rest?” I asked. I got the explanation seconds before he spoke and felt winded as I listened.
Yeah, in bed. He nodded. “Additional pressure on the placenta will cause the same problems. This way you take the pressure off and have a much better chance of going to term. We’ll send you home with a fetal monitor and you’ll need to go in maybe once a week to see your obstetrician.”
My phone buzzed in my pocket and made me jump. Who in the hell?
If you answer that right now I’ll kill you, Lynn told me as I moved to take the phone out of my pocket.
I blinked and shrugged. Wait at least until I kill whoever’s calling. I flicked the phone open without looking at it and turned it off. I held my pocket open and dropped it back in.
Lynn bit her lip, then laughed and squeezed my hand even harder. She covered her mouth with her other hand and forced her laugh down to a nervous giggle. “Sorry doctor. You were saying something about my obstetrician, Dr. Greves. Shouldn’t she be here by now?”
“Soon, I got her on the phone before I came in.”
“What did she say? Lynn was back in control, her voice was even and her hand released mine to gesture.
I listened and read them while they talked back and forth. Bed rest meant only getting up to pee or take a shower once a day. No work, no sitting at the computer, no driving to the store. And it was for the duration of the pregnancy, with fetal monitors several times a day and weekly visits to the doctor. Everything followed in a blur. One doctor left replaced by a nurse and then our doctor who backed up the diagnosis and the order of bed rest. I got on the phone to Director Benkowski and had my family medical leave approved. I checked my messages and went over the interview schedules with Hal, and then we were alone in the quiet room waiting for Lynn’s folks to come.
I was relieved when Lynn paused flicking through the magazine I’d picked up for her downstairs and said two things. “I could use a smoothie, there’s a place a few blocks up. You can air out on the way back.”
I knew what she meant but my mouth fell open. You don’t mean-
She tugged on my sleeve and kissed my cheek when I bent down. One pack. Just while we’re stuck here. “Come back in about an hour. Mom can’t stay long.”
“Strawberry and orange smoothie?” I asked. I kissed her temple and put my jacket back on.
You got it. She nodded and shooed me out with her magazine.
It was raining by the time I got downstairs. I scanned up and down the street for the 7/11 I’d passed on the way in. I spotted the orange and green sign up the street on the far side. My phone vibrated in my pocket as I crossed the median and the rain started coming down hard. I ran across the last two lanes and almost tripped on the curb. I caught myself on a tree and panted for a minute before I walked the rest of the way to the store. The rain ran in my eyes but anything was better than that sweltering hospital room.
The phone buzzed again as I opened the door. “Marlboro Light 100s and this,” I said to the man behind the counter and set a lighter next to the register. Get the lead out man, I’m only supposed to be gone for an hour. The phone buzzed. I almost wanted it to be Hal so I could tear him a new one for calling me again. I answered it without looking at the display. “I’m not taking work calls,” I said. I passed a ten to the cashier and waited for my change, shifting from foot to foot.
“It’s Maggie, Carl. I called to check on Lynn.” Her tone was somewhere between concerned and annoyed.
I frowned, stuffed my change in my pocket and went back out into the rain. “How did you even know?” It was raining harder and I found an awning to stand under. The yellow fabric made the skin on my hands look waxy.
“You missed lunch and I found Hal when you didn’t answer your phone. Is she ok? Are you ok? He tried to fill me in but it was pretty garbled,” she said, her voice tight.
Even though they barely talked anymore I knew Maggie considered Lynn one of her close friends. She was looking to me to explain and I wasn’t sure I had all the facts straight. “Lynn and the baby are fine but they have to stay a couple of days,” I began and pulled the foil off the pack of cigarettes so hard I flung two on the ground. I lit the third one and coughed on the first drag. “They said she can’t come home for at least three days and then it’s going to be bed rest until she delivers. Let me tell you how much Lynn isn’t looking forward to two months where she can only get up to pee.”
“But what was the problem? Was she bleeding? Having contractions?” I could almost see Maggie shake her head while she tried to remind me she knew the medical stuff.
The nicotine hit my system and my hands stopped shaking. “Both, they said it was a, something with placenta in it-”
“Placenta previa?”
I nodded. That’s the one. How does she remember this stuff? “Yeah, they said she was high risk, but that there’s a good chance she’ll carry the baby to term,” I told her and rubbed my forehead with the heel of my hand as though it would make my headache go away.
“Is there anything I can do? Anything I can help with? If you need someone to sit with her-” She cut herself off and there was just the wind rushing static on the line.
I hated the limitations of the phone. She wouldn’t have asked if we’d been in the same room, she wouldn’t even have thought to ask, she would have known how worked up we both were. She would know that Lynn wasn’t ready to see her, that she couldn’t add that to every other stress. “Maybe you can help with the grocery shopping. I don’t know if I can leave her for that long once I get her home,” I said after a long pause.
“I have a feeling I’m going to regret offering. I’ve seen your fridge,” she said in an attempt to ease the tension.
“With all the work you’ve got you might,” I agreed. I lit another cigarette and checked my watch. Mrs. Singh was up in the room by now. “So did I miss anything good? Did you catch Steadman, and I didn't hear it from Hal because he was so excited he passed out?”
“You wish. You would’ve heard the collective sigh of relief all the way out there. I briefed them on what I remembered this morning though. I swear I think Jerome would fry me on psychotropics to get the rest out if he thought he could get away with it,” she said with a rueful laugh.
“Getting desperate over there?” I asked. I didn’t touch her comment about Jerome. Not when I knew he’d planned on frying Steadman. He directed all that impotent frustration toward Maggie now that she was the only source.
She snorted. “You know it. Jerome’s climbing the walls, has three agents reassigned to combing the National Psych Database for leads and the rest of us are plugging away at these interviews.”
I wondered if she knew that as bored as she tried to sound with it all she exuded barely contained excitement. “Anything from the interviews?”
“Not a damn thing. It’s a waste of time. None of them got past that block. Well, there was the one guy, but all he got was Steadman’s fixation on Matthews and we knew that. Anyway, I’m going to let you get back to your girls. I have to go write this last eval,” she added with a sigh.
I smiled. “Poor thing, can’t do the fun stuff all day.”
“Oh, you try interviewing a chronic looper for an hour and we’ll talk about fun.” She cleared her throat. “I guess I won’t see you tomorrow, but I’ll call to check in.”
“At a decent hour?”
“After 10am. I’ll even give you time to get your first smoke in,” she said.
My eyebrows went up. “How did you know?”
“I can hear you puffing on the damn thing. Lynn’s going to give you hell.” There was no sympathy there.
Shows what you know. “She said I could have one pack and smoke them as long as we’re at the hospital.” I was pleased to have a quick comeback though I know Lynn wasn’t doing me any favors. It was going to be hell quitting again and it was just an excuse to get me out of her hair every hour or so.
There was a surprised pause. “Well then. I’ll leave you to it. Give my best to Lynn and the baby.”
“I will. Night.” I hung up and flicked my butt into the gutter. The rainwater carried it away and down into the storm drain as I watched.
The phone buzzed to life again. I glanced down at the display. I wasn’t taking work calls but I didn’t think I could ignore Gates, even by proxy. “Childers,” I answered and lit another cigarette.
“Carl, it’s Elise.” She paused. Her pauses felt like Maggie’s, like she was thinking at me instead of talking. “I understand from the Senator that your wife and daughter are doing better.”
It beat me how Gates knew, unless he had a direct tap on Director Benkowski’s phone or the hospital’s. But this was a preamble to business, so I didn’t ask about his sources. “They are. They’re going to be here until Friday at least.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.” She took a breath and her tone was reluctant. “How long do you think you’ll be away from work?” she asked. It seemed like Gates knew I’d applied for a leave of absence too.
I wondered if the Senator’s tendency to dance around a topic until he got what he wanted filtered down to his employees or if she was really reluctant to ask. This was my chance to say I’d head back to Park Slope to keep my ear to the ground for his investigation. “I’ve applied for three month medical leave and had it granted by Benkowski,” I said. I liked Elise well enough but I wasn’t playing Gates’ games.
She sighed into the phone. “Look Carl, I know this is a bad time, lay it out for me. Are you going on leave from this contract too? I need to know.” Bluntness suited her better, she sounded surer of herself.
I shrugged. “I’m going to be doing some work from home. I’m off field assignments. I’ll be managing cases, deploying my team.” I stopped myself, aware that I was the one skirting the issue now. “I’ll do what I can for the Senator, but I’m going to be out of it until next week at least. They could keep us here that long. He might want to find someone else.” He wouldn’t let me go so easily, but it was worth a shot.
“He knows you’ll have to work at home, but he wants you to know there can’t be a break in the work,” she said in a flat tone, as though she was reading it.
She might have been, or had at least been told to say it. That didn’t make me any less angry. “Then he’d better find someone else because this week the only thing I’m going to be taking care of is my wife and my baby.” I didn’t realize my voice had notched upward in volume until I looked up and noticed several people on the sidewalk watching me.
“We’re going to need someone else to fill in the field work anyway. Suggestions?” she asked as if I hadn’t shouted at her.
I felt deflated at her calm. “I don’t know anyone who’s picking up this kind of work right now. All of my guys are pretty busy. Even the private sector’s getting called in for this one.”
“He had someone in mind.” She paused again and I began to suspect it was for effect. A lot of fives did that. “He was thinking of approaching Dr. Lochlan.”
Gates has finally lost it. Really lost it. I felt my eyes bulge.
When I didn’t say anything she continued on. “Most of the information about Steadman is coming from her and the Senator has decided that Steadman is the best way to link all of this together.”
There were so many objections I didn’t know where to begin. “I don’t think that will happen.”
“Why not? She’s done contract work before. Profiling work. And she’s already half on the case.” There was a touch of eagerness to Elise’s tone that I didn’t understand.
How much do they know about her medical leave? Of course the answer to that with Gates was everything. “She’s only just started working again. This isn’t the time to double her case load. Besides, you’d still be looking for a field agent. Shrinks don’t do field work.”
None of this phased Elise. Or maybe none of it phased her boss. “They do interviews and research,” she countered. “Even if it’s for the week, it would be better to get the information on Steadman from the source.”
It took me until then to catch on. They were going to ask for her anyway. Whether I take leave or not. They want me to ask her. “She won’t do it.”
“She won’t, or you won’t ask?” Elise returned with her pleasant directness.
“Both. It’s not like you don’t have her reports. You know more about it than I do,” I shot back, my irritation climbing. Why did everyone come through me to get Maggie?
“I’ve been authorized to bring her onboard. I could contact her myself but I think she’d be more likely to accept if you asked.”
That was the truth but I was confused at the turn this had taken. “Why does he want her, really?” Wonder if she’s authorized to answer that one.
“Honestly? No idea. He went on about her qualifications and cases she’d worked on and then told me to get her. For all I know the old man’s a fan.”
It could be true, that she didn’t know. I didn’t for a second think Gates was a fan of Maggie’s work. “Just interviews and research, no surveillance, no footwork of any kind?”
“Right. We’d have to find him before we could watch him. No Carl, no surveillance,” she assured me.
I thought fast. What would happen if I said no? What would happen if Maggie said no? Could Gates make trouble for her? Did he have that much pull? If he was getting classified reports and had no qualms about investigating cases that were federal jurisdiction the answer was yes. “I’ll ask her, but I’m not guaranteeing anything.”
“That’s all I can ask. You can give her the basics of what’s expected of her, but nothing that violates your confidentiality agreement. She can reply to this number,” Elise said as though she expected to set up Maggie’s payroll in the morning.


1 comment:

  1. Spot on with the medical/hospital stuff, luckily my wife and I did not have to go through all of that, but we had those conversations for other reasons....

    also, I like how the characters' are all getting tied together, it is very logical and thought out.


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