Long Lost Page 64

’’In a manner of speaking.’’

’’Explain.’’

’’We have a deal?’’ I said.

’’Yes. With the caveats I just laid out. Tell me what you know.’’

I ran him through it, my visits to Save the Angels, to the Official Photography of Albin Laramie, to the discovery of the embryo adoptions, to the ’’Mommy’’ phone call Terese had just received. He interrupted several times with questions. I answered them as best I could. When I finished he dived in.

’’First, we need to find the identity of the girl. We\'ll make copies of the picture. I\'ll e-mail one over to Lefebvre. If she\'s American, maybe she was in Paris on some kind of exchange program. He can show it around.’’

’’Okay,’’ I said.

’’You said the call came in on Terese\'s cell phone?’’

’’Yes.’’

’’I assume the incoming number was blocked?’’

I hadn\'t even thought to ask. I looked at Terese. She nodded. I said, ’’Yes.’’

’’What time exactly?’’

I looked at Terese. She checked her phone log and told me the time.

’’I will call you back in five minutes,’’ Berleand said. He hung up.

Win came in and said, ’’All well?’’

’’Peachy.’’

’’Your parents are taken care of. Same with Esperanza and the office.’’

I nodded. The phone rang again. It was Berleand.

’’I may have something,’’ he said.

’’Go ahead.’’

’’The call to Terese came from a throwaway phone purchased with cash in Danbury, Connecticut.’’

’’That\'s a pretty big city.’’

’’Maybe I can shrink it down then. I told you we heard chatter coming from a possible cell in Paterson, New Jersey.’’

’’Right.’’

’’Most of the communications went or came from overseas, but we have seen some that stayed here in the United States. You know that criminal elements often communicate via e-mail?’’

’’I guess it makes sense.’’

’’Because it\'s somewhat anonymous. They set up an account with a free provider and use that. What many people don\'t know is that we can now tell where the e-mail account was created. It doesn\'t help much. Most of the time it\'s created on a public computer, at the library or an Internet café, something like that.’’

’’And in this case?’’

’’The chatter involved an e-mail address created eight months ago at the Mark Twain Library in Redding, Connecticut, less than ten miles from Danbury.’’

I thought about it. ’’It\'s a link.’’

’’Yes. More than that, the library is used by the local coed prep school, Carver Academy. We could get lucky. Your \'Carrie\' could be a student there.’’

’’You can check?’’

’’I have a call in now. In the meantime, Redding is only about an hour and a half from here. We could take a ride up and show the picture around.’’

’’Want me to drive?’’

Berleand said, ’’I think that would be best.’’

36

I persuaded Terese to stay behind, no easy task, in case we needed something in the city. I promised her that we would call the moment we knew something. She grudgingly agreed. We didn\'t need all of us up there, spreading our resources. Win would stay nearby, mostly for Terese\'s protection, but the two of them could try to investigate other avenues too. The key was probably Save the Angels. If we could locate their records, we could find Carrie\'s full name and address, track down her adoptive or surrogate or whatever-you-call-them parents, and see if we could locate her that way.

On the drive up, Berleand asked, ’’Have you ever been married?’’

’’Nope. You?’’

He smiled. ’’Four times.’’

’’Wow.’’

’’All ended in divorce. I don\'t regret a single one.’’

’’Would your ex-wives say the same?’’

’’I doubt it. But we\'re friends now. I\'m not good with keeping women, just getting them.’’

I smiled. ’’Wouldn\'t expect you to be the type.’’

’’Because I\'m not handsome?’’

I shrugged.

’’Looks are overrated,’’ he said. ’’Do you know what I do have?’’

’’Don\'t tell me. A great sense of humor, right? According to women\'s magazines, a sense of humor is the most important quality in a man.’’

’’Sure, of course, and the check is in the mail,’’ Berleand said.

’’So that\'s not it.’’

’’I am a very funny man,’’ he said. ’’But that\'s not it.’’

’’What then?’’ I asked.

’’I told you before.’’

’’Tell me again.’’

’’Charisma,’’ Berleand said. ’’I have charisma on an almost supernatural level.’’

I smiled. ’’Hard to argue with that.’’

Redding was more rural than I\'d expected, a sleepy, unassuming town of New England-Puritan architecture, postmodern suburban McMansions, roadside antique shops, aging farmland. Above the green door of the modest library, a plaque read:

MARK TWAIN LIBRARY

and then in slightly smaller print:

GIFT OF SAMUEL L. CLEMENS.

I found that curious, but now was hardly the time. We headed to the librarian\'s desk.

Since Berleand had the official badge, even if we were way out of his district, I let him take the lead. ’’Hello,’’ he said to the librarian. Her nameplate read ’’Paige Wesson.’’ She looked up with jaded eyes, as if Berleand were returning an overdue book and offering up a lame excuse she had heard a million times before. ’’We are looking for this missing girl. Have you seen her?’’

He held out his badge in one hand, the blonde\'s picture in the other. The librarian looked at the badge first.

’’You\'re from Paris,’’ she said.

’’Yes.’’

’’Does this look like Paris?’’

’’Not even close,’’ Berleand agreed. ’’But the case has international implications. The girl was last seen under duress in my jurisdiction. We believe that she may have used the computers at this library.’’

She picked up the picture. ’’I don\'t think I\'ve seen her.’’

’’Are you sure?’’

’’No, I\'m not sure. Look around you.’’ We did. There were teens at nearly every table. ’’Tons of kids come in here every day. I\'m not saying she has never been in here. I\'m just saying I don\'t know her.’’

’’Could you check in your computers, see if you have a card registered to anyone with the first name Carrie?’’


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