Long Lost Page 33

I opened my mouth, closed it, opened it again. ’’I\'m kinda with someone.’’

’’I know. I guess my timing double-sucks. But that\'s okay. If you love her, then that\'s that. If you don\'t, I\'m here.’’

Terese didn\'t wait for a response. She turned and opened the bedroom door and vanished inside.

18

I staggered to the elevator.

How had that Snow Patrol song put it a couple of years back? Those three words, they say so much, they\'re not enough.

Baloney. They were enough.

I thought about Ali in Arizona. I thought about Terese standing there and telling me that she loved me. Terese was probably right the best response was to not let it interfere. But it was there. And it was gnawing at me.

The blinds were drawn in room 118.

I reached for the light switch and then thought better of it. Win sat in a plush chair. I could hear the clink of ice in whatever he was drinking. Alcohol never seemed to affect Win, but this was awfully early.

I sat across from him. We have been friends for a very long time. We met as college students at Duke University. I remember seeing his photograph in the freshman face book the first day I arrived on campus. The entry listed him as Windsor Horne Lockwood III from some obnoxious-sounding prep school on the Main Line in Philadelphia. He had the perfect hair and the haughty expression. My father and I had just lugged up all my stuff to my fourth-floor walk-up. Typical of my father. He drove me to North Carolina from New Jersey, never bitching once, insisting on carrying the heaviest items himself, and we sat down and took a break and I started paging through the face book and I pointed to Win\'s picture and said, ’’Hey, Dad, look at this guy. I bet I never even see him in my four years.’’

I was wrong, of course.

For a long time I felt Win was indestructible. He had killed many, but none that didn\'t seem to deserve it, and yes, I know how disturbing it is to say that. But age has a way of creeping up on all of us. What seems eccentric and edgy when you\'re in your twenties or thirties turns into something closer to pathetic at forty.

’’It will be difficult to get permission to exhume the body,’’ Win began. ’’We have no cause of action.’’

’’How about the DNA test?’’

’’The French authorities won\'t release the results. I also tried the most direct route a bribe.’’

’’No takers?’’

’’Not yet. There will be, but it will take some time, which it seems we don\'t have.’’

I thought about it. ’’You have a suggestion?’’

’’I do.’’

’’I\'m listening.’’

’’We bribe gravediggers. We do it ourselves tonight under the cover of darkness. We only need a small sample. We send it to our lab, compare the DNA with Terese\'s’’ he raised his glass ’’and we\'re done.’’

’’Ghoulish,’’ I said.

’’And effective.’’

’’Do you think there\'s a point?’’

’’Meaning?’’

’’We know how the result is going to turn out.’’

’’Do tell.’’

’’I heard the tone in Berleand\'s voice. He may have talked about premature and inconclusive, but we both know. And I saw that girl on that surveillance video. Okay, not her face and it was at a distance. But she had her mother\'s walk, if you know what I mean.’’

’’How about her mother\'s derriere?’’ Win asked. ’’Now that would be solid evidence.’’

I just looked at him.

He sighed. ’’Mannerisms are often more of a tell than facial features or even height,’’ he said. ’’I get it.’’

’’Yes.’’

’’You and your son have that,’’ Win said. ’’When he sits down, he shakes his leg like you do. He has your motion the way your fingertips come off the ball on the jump shot, if not your result.’’

I don\'t think Win had ever mentioned my son before.

’’We still need to do this,’’ I said. I thought again about that Sherlock Holmes axiom about eliminating the impossible. ’’At the end of the day, the most obvious answer is still some kind of mistake in Berleand\'s DNA test. We need to know for certain.’’

’’Agreed.’’

I hated the idea of violating a grave, of course, especially of someone who\'d been taken so young. I would run it by Terese, but she had made it pretty clear how she felt about ashes to ashes. I told Win to go ahead.

’’Is that why you wanted to see me alone?’’ I asked.

’’No.’’

Win took a deep sip, rose, filled his glass. He didn\'t bother offering me any. He knew I couldn\'t handle hard liquor. Though I\'m six four and nearly 220 pounds, I handle booze about as well as a sixteen-year-old girl sneaking into her first mixer.

’’You saw the video of the blond girl at the airport,’’ he said.

’’Yes.’’

’’And she was with the man who attacked you. The one in the photograph.’’

’’You know this.’’

’’I do.’’

’’So what\'s wrong?’’

Win pressed a button on his cell phone and raised it to his ear. ’’Please join us.’’

The door from the connecting room opened. A tall woman in a dark blue power suit entered. She had raven black hair and big shoulders. She blinked, put a hand to her eyes, and said, ’’Why are the lights so low?’’

She had a British accent. This being Win, I figured that the woman was, well, Mee-like, if you will. But that wasn\'t the case. She moved across the room and took the open seat.

’’This,’’ Win said, ’’is Lucy Probert. She works at Interpol here in London.’’

I said something inane, like nice to meet you. She nodded and studied my face as though it were a modern painting she didn\'t quite get.

’’Tell him,’’ Win said.

’’Win forwarded me the photograph of the man whom you assaulted.’’

’’I didn\'t assault him,’’ I said. ’’He pulled a gun on me.’’

Lucy Probert waved that away as if it were so much flotsam. ’’My division at Interpol works international child trafficking. You probably think it\'s a pretty sick world out there, but trust me, it\'s sicker than you can imagine. The crimes that I deal with well, it boggles the mind what people can dream up to do to the most vulnerable. In our battles against this depravity, your friend Win has been an invaluable ally.’’

I looked over at said friend and as usual his face gave away nothing. For a long time, Win had been for lack of a better term a vigilante. He would go out late at night and walk the most dangerous streets of New York or Philadelphia in hopes of being attacked so that he could maim those who would prey on the perceived weak. He would read about a pervert who\'d gotten off on a technicality or some wife beater who\'d gotten his wife to clam up, and he would pay them what we called ’’Night Visits.’’ There was one case of a pedophile the police knew had kidnapped a girl but couldn\'t get to talk. They were forced to release him. Win paid him a Night Visit. He talked. The girl was found, already dead. No one knows where the pedophile is now.


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