Long Lost Page 50

At three in the morning, a bolt of memory flashed across my brain. Underwater. Not able to breathe. It lasted less than a second, this image, no more, and was quickly replaced with another, aural one.

’’Al-sabr wal-sayf . . .’’

My heart pounded as if it were trying to break free.

At three thirty AM, I tiptoed up the stairs and sat in the kitchen. I tried to be as quiet as possible, but I knew. My father was the world\'s lightest sleeper. As a kid, I would try to sneak past his door late at night, just to make a quick bathroom trip, and he\'d startle awake as though someone had dropped a Popsicle on his crotch. So now, as a full-grown middle-aged adult, a man who considered himself braver than most, I knew what would happen if I tiptoed into the kitchen:


I turned as he made his way down the stairs. ’’I didn\'t mean to wake you, Dad.’’

’’Oh, I was awake anyway,’’ he said. Dad wore boxers that had seen better days and a threadbare gray Duke T-shirt two sizes too large. ’’You want me to make us some scrambled eggs?’’


He did. We sat and talked about nothing. He tried not to look too concerned, which only made me feel even more cared for. More memories came back. My eyes would well up and then I would blink the tears away. Emotions swirled to the point where I couldn\'t really tell how I felt. I was in for a lot of bad nights. I could see that now. But I just knew one thing for certain: I couldn\'t stand still any longer.

When the morning came I called Esperanza and said, ’’Before I disappeared, you were looking up some stuff for me.’’

’’Good morning to you, too.’’


’’Don\'t worry about it. You were saying?’’

’’You were checking into Sam Collins\'s suicide and that opal code and the Save the Angels charity,’’ I said.


’’I want to know what you found.’’

For a moment I expected an argument, but Esperanza must have heard something in my tone. ’’Okay, let\'s meet in an hour. I can show you what I got.’’

’’SORRY I\'m late,’’ Esperanza said, ’’but Hector spit up on my blouse and I had to change it and then the babysitter started talking to me about a raise and Hector started clinging to me ’’

’’Don\'t worry about it,’’ I said.

Esperanza\'s office still semi-reflected her colorful past. There were photographs of her in the skimpy suede costume of Little Pocahontas, the ’’Indian Princess,’’ played by a Latina. Her Intercontinental Tag Team Championship Belt, a gaudy thing that if actually wrapped around Esperanza\'s waist would probably run from her rib cage to just above her knee, was framed behind her desk. The walls were painted periwinkle and some other shade of purple I could never remember the name of it. The desk was ornate and serious oak, found in an antique shop by Big Cyndi, and even though I was here when they delivered it, I still don\'t know how it fit through the doorway.

But now the dominant theme in this room, to quote the politician\'s handbook, was change. Photographs of Esperanza\'s infant son, Hector, poses so ordinary and obvious they bordered on the cliché, lined the desk and credenza. There were the standard kid portraits the swirling rainbow background àla Sears Portrait Studio along with the on-Santa\'s-lap image and the colored-egg Easter Bunny. There was a photograph of Esperanza and her husband, Tom, holding a white-clad Hector at his baptism, and one with some Disney character I didn\'t recognize. The most prominent photograph featured Esperanza and Hector on some little kiddie ride, a miniature fire truck maybe, with Esperanza looking up at the camera with the widest, most dumbstruck smile I had ever seen on her.

Esperanza had been the freest of free spirits. She\'d been a promiscuous bise*ual, proudly dating a man, then a woman, then another man, not caring what anyone thought. She had gone into wrestling because it was a fun buck, and when she got tired of that, she put herself through law school at night while working as my assistant during the day. This will sound awfully uncharitable, but motherhood had smothered some of that spirit. I had seen it before, of course, with other female friends. I get it a little. I didn\'t know about my own son until he was almost full grown, so I have never experienced that transforming moment when your baby is born and suddenly your entire world shrinks down to a six-pound, fifteen-ounce mass. That was what had happened with Esperanza. Was she happier now? I don\'t know. But our relationship had changed, as it was bound to, and because I am self-absorbed, I didn\'t like it.

’’Here\'s the time line,’’ Esperanza said. ’’Sam Collins, Rick\'s father, is diagnosed with Huntington\'s disease approximately four months ago. He commits suicide a few weeks later.’’

’’Definitely a suicide?’’

’’According to the police report. Nothing suspicious.’’

’’Okay, go on.’’

’’After the suicide, Rick Collins visited Dr. Freida Schneider, his father\'s geneticist. There are several phone calls to her office too. I took the liberty of calling Dr. Schneider\'s office. She is rather busy, but she\'ll give us fifteen minutes during her lunch break today. Twelve thirty sharp.’’

’’How did you wrangle that?’’

’’MB Reps is making a large donation to Terence Cardinal Cooke Health Care Center.’’

’’Fair enough.’’

’’It\'s coming out of your bonus.’’

’’Fine, what else?’’

’’Rick Collins called the CryoHope Center near New York- Presbyterian. They do a lot with cord blood and embryonic storage and stem cells. Five doctors from a variety of specialties run it, so it\'s impossible to know which one he was dealing with. He also called the Save the Angels charity several times. So here is the chronology: First he speaks to Dr. Schneider, four times over the course of two weeks. Then he speaks to CryoHope. That somehow leads to Save the Angels.’’

’’Okay,’’ I said. ’’Can we get an appointment with CryoHope?’’

’’With whom?’’

’’One of the doctors.’’

’’There\'s an ob-gyn,’’ Esperanza said. ’’Should I tell him you need a pap smear?’’

’’I\'m serious.’’

’’I know you are, but I\'m not sure who to try. I\'m trying to figure out which doctor he called.’’

’’Maybe Dr. Schneider can help.’’

’’Could be.’’

’’Oh, did you come up with anything on that opal to-do note?’’

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