The Third Twin
X Next June
A heat wave lay over baltimore like a shroud. The leafy suburbs were cooled by a hundred thousand lawn sprinklers, but the affluent inhabitants stayed inside with the air-conditioning on full blast. On North Avenue, listless hookers hugged the shade and sweated under their hairpieces, and the kids on the street comers dealt dope out of the pockets of baggy shorts. It was late September, but fall seemed a long way off.
A rusty white Datsun, the broken lens of one headlight fixed in place with an X of electrician’s tape, cruised through a white working-class neighborhood north of downtown. The car had no air-conditioning, and the driver had rolled down all the windows. He was a handsome man of twenty-two wearing cutoff jeans, a clean white T-shirt, and a red baseball cap with the word Security in white letters on the front. The plastic upholstery beneath his thighs was slippery with his perspiration, but he did not let it bother him. He was in a cheerful mood. The car radio was tuned to 92Q—“Twenty hits in a row!” On the passenger seat was an open binder. He glanced at it occasionally, memorizing a typed page of technical terms for a test tomorrow. Learning was easy for him, and he would know the material after a few minutes of study.
At a stoplight, a blond woman in a convertible Porsche pulled alongside him. He grinned at her and said: “Nice car!” She looked away without speaking, but he thought he saw the hint of a smile at the corners of her month. Behind her big sun-glasses she was probably twice his age: most women in Porsches were. “Race you to the next stoplight,” he said. She laughed at that, a flirtatious musical laugh, then she put the stick shift into first with a narrow, elegant hand and tore away from the light like a rocket.
He shrugged. He was only practicing.
He drove by the wooded campus of Jones Falls University, an Ivy League college much swankier than the one he attended. As he passed the imposing gateway, a group of eight or ten women jogged by in running clothes; tight shorts, Nikes, sweaty T-shirts, and halter tops. They were a field hockey team in training, he guessed, and the fit-looking one in front was their captain, getting them in shape for the season.
They turned into the campus, and suddenly he was overwelmed, swamped by a fantasy so powerful and thrilling that he could hardly see to drive. He imagined them in the locker room—the plump one soaping herself in the shower, the red-head toweling her long copper-colored hair, the black girl stepping into a pair of white lace panties, the dykey team captain walking around naked, showing off her muscles—when something happened to terrify them. Suddenly they were all in a panic, wide-eyed with dread, screaming and crying, on the edge of hysteria. They ran this way and that, crashing into one another. The fat girl fell over and lay there weeping helplessly while the others trod on her, unheeding, as they tried desperately to hide, or find the door, or run away from whatever was scaring them.
He pulled over to the side of the road and put the car in neutral. He was breathing hard and he could feel his heartbeat hammering. This was the best one he had ever had. But a little piece of the fantasy was missing. What were they frightened of? He hunted about in his fertile imagination for the answer and gasped with desire when it came to him: a fire. The place was ablaze, and they were terrified by the flames. They coughed and choked on the smoke as they milled about, half-naked and frenzied. “My God,” he whispered, staring straight ahead, seeing the scene like a movie projected onto the inside of the Datsun’s windshield.
After a while he calmed down. His desire was still strong, but the fantasy was no longer enough; it was like the thought of a beer when he had a raging thirst. He lifted the hem of his T-shirt and wiped the sweat from his face. He knew he should try to forget the fantasy and drive on; but it was too wonderful. It would be terribly dangerous—he would go to jail for years if he were caught—but danger had never stopped him doing anything in his life. He struggled to resist temptation, though only for a second. “I want it,” he murmured, and he turned the car around and drove through the grand gateway into the campus.
He had been here before. The university spread across a hundred acres of lawns and gardens and woodland. Its buildings were made mostly of a uniform red brick, with a few modern concrete-and-glass structures, all connected by a tangle of narrow roads lined with parking meters.
The hockey team had disappeared, but he found the gymnasium easily: it was a low building next to a running track, and there was a big statue of a discus thrower outside. He parked at a meter but did not put a coin in: he never put money in parking meters. The muscular captain of the hockey team was standing on the steps of the gym, talking to a guy in a ripped sweatshirt. He ran up the steps, smiling at the captain as he passed her, and pushed through the door into the building.
The lobby was busy with young men and women in shorts and headbands coming and going, rackets in their hands and sports bags slung over their shoulders. No doubt most of the college teams trained on Sundays. There was Security guard behind a desk in the middle of the lobby, checking people’s student cards; but at that moment a big group of runners came in together and walked past the guard, some waving their cards and others forgetting; and the guard just shrugged his shoulders and went on reading The Dead Zone.
The stranger turned and looked at a display of silver cups in a glass case, trophies won by Jones Falls athletes. A moment later a soccer team came in, ten men and a chunky woman in studded boots, and he moved quickly to fall in with them. He crossed the lobby as part of their group and followed them down a broad staircase to the basement. They were talking about their game, laughing at a lucky goal and indignant about an outrageous foul, and they did not notice him.
His gait was casual but his eyes were watchful. At the foot of the stairs was a Coke machine and a pay phone under an accousting hood. The men’s locker room was off the lobby. The woman from the soccer team went down a long corridor, heading presumably for the women’s locker room, which had probably been added as an afterthought by an architect who imagined there would never be many girls at Jones Falls, back in the days when “coeducational” was a sexy word.
The stranger picked up the pay phone and pretended to search for a quarter. The men filed into their locker room. He watched the woman open a door and disappear. That must be the women’s locker room. They were all in there, he thought excitedly, undressing and showering and rubbing themselves with towels. Being so close to them made him feel hot. He wiped his brow with the back of his hand. All he had to do to complete the fantasy was get them all scared half to death.
He made himself calm. He was not going to spoil it by haste. It needed a few minutes’ planning.
When they had all disappeared, he padded along the corridor after the woman.
Three doors led off it, one on either side and one at the end. The door on the right was the one the woman had taken. He checked the end door and found that it led to a big, dusty room full of bulky machinery: boilers and filters, he guessed, for the swimming pool. He stepped inside and closed the door behind him. There was a low, even electrical hum. He pictured a girl delirious with fright, dressed only in her underwear—he imagined a bra and panties with a pattern of flowers—lying on the floor, staring up at him with terrified eyes as he unbuckled his belt. He savored the vision for a moment, smiling to himself. She was just a few yards away. Right now she might be contemplating the evening ahead: maybe she had a boyfriend and was thinking of letting him go all the way tonight; or she could be a freshman, loner and a little shy, with nothing to do on Sunday night but watch Columbo; or perhaps she had a paper to deliver tomorrow and was planning to stay up all night finishing it. None of the above, baby. It’s nightmare time.
He had done this kind of thing before, though never on such a scale. He had always loved to frighten girls, ever since he could remember. In high school there was nothing he liked better than to get a girl on her own, in a corner somewhere, and threaten her until she cried and begged for mercy. That was why he kept having to move from one school to another. He dated girls sometimes, just to be like the other guys and have someone to walk into the bar on his arm. If they seemed to expect it he would bone them, but it always seemed kind of pointless.
Everyone had a kink, he figured: some men liked to put on women’s clothing, others had to have a girl dressed in leather walk all over them with spike heels. One guy he knew thought the sexiest part of a woman was her feet: he got a hard-on standing in the women’s footwear section of a department store, watching them put on shoes and take them off again.
His kink was fear. What turned him on was a woman trembling with fright. Without fear, there was no excitement.
Looking around methodically, he took note of a ladder fixed to the wall, leading up to an iron hatch bolted on the inside. He went quickly up the ladder, slid back the bolts, and pushed up the hatch. He found himself staring at the tires of a Chrysler New Yorker in a parking lot. Orienting himself, he figured he was at the back of the building. He closed the hatch and climbed down.
He left the pool machine room. As he walked along the corridor, a woman coming the other way gave him a hostile stare. He suffered a moment of anxiety: she might ask him what the hell he was doing hanging around the women’s locker room. An altercation like that was not in his scenario. At this point it could spoil his plan. But her eyes lifted to his cap and took in the word Security, and she looked away and turned into the locker room.
He grinned. He had bought the cap for $8.99 in a souvenir store. But people were used to seeing guards in jeans at rock concerts, detectives who looked like criminals until they flashed their badges, airport police in sweaters; it was too much trouble to question the credentials of every asshole who called himself a security guard.
He tried the door opposite the women’s locker room. It opened into a small storeroom. He hit the light switch and closed the door behind him.
Obvsolete gym equipment was stacked around him on racks: big black medicine balls, worn rubber mats, Indian clubs, moldy boxing gloves, and splintered wooden folding chairs. There was a vaulting horse with burst upholstery and a broken leg. The room smelled musty. A large silver pipe ran along the ceiling, and he guessed it provided ventilation to the locker room across the conidor.
He reached up and tried the bolts that attached the pipe to what looked like a fan. He could not turn them with his fingers, but he had a wrench in the trunk of the Datsun. If he could detach the pipe, the fan would draw air from the storeroom instead of from the outside of the building.
He would make his fire just below the fan. He would get a can of gasoline and pour some into an empty Perrier bottle and bring it down here along with some matches and a newspaper for kindling and that wrench.
The fire would grow quickly and produce huge billows of smoke. He would tie a wet rag over his nose and mouth and wait until the storeroom was full of it. Then he would detach the ventilator pipe. The fumes would be drawn into the duct and pumped out into the women’s locker room. At first no one would notice. Then one or two would sniff the air and say: “Is someone smoking?” He would open the storeroom door and let the corridor fill with smoke. When the girls realized something was seriously wrong, they would open the locker room door and think the whole building was on fire, and they would all panic.
Then he would walk into the locker room. There would be a sea of brassieres and stockings, bare breasts and asses and pubic hair. Some would be running out of the showers, naked and wet, fumbling for towels; others would be trying to pull on clothes; most would be running around searching for the door, half-blinded by smoke. There would be screams and sobs and shouts of fear. He would continue to pfetend to be a security shous of fear. He would continue to pretend to be a security guard and yell orders at them: “Don’t stop to dress! This is an emergency! Get out! The whole building is blazing! Run, run!” He would smack their bare asses, shove them around, snatch their clothes away, and feel them up. They would know something was badly wrong, but most of them would be too crazy to figure it out. If the muscular hockey captain was still there she might have the presence of mind to challenge him, but he would just punch her out.
Walking around, he would select his main victim. She would be a pretty girl with a vulnerable look. He would take her arm, saying: “This way, please, I’m with security.” He would lead her into the corridor then turn the wrong way, to the pool machine room. There, just when she thought she was on the way to safety, he would smack her face and punch her in the gut and throw her on the dirty concrete floor. He would watch her roll and turn and sit upright, gasping and sobbing and looking at him with terror in her eyes.
Then he would smile and unbuckle his belt.
Mrs. Ferrami said: “I want to go home."
Her daughter Jeannie said: “Don’t you worry, Mom, we’re going to get you out of here sooner than you think.”
Jeannie’s younger sister, Patty, shot Jeannie a look that said “How the hell do you think we’re going to do that?”
The Bella Vista Sunset Home was all Mom’s health insurance would pay for, and it was tawdry. The room contained two high hospital beds, two closets, a couch, and a TV. The walls were painted mushroom brown and the flooring was a plastic tile, cream streaked with orange. The window had bars but no curtains, and it looked out onto a gas station. There was a washbasin in the corner and a toilet down the hall.
“I want to go home.” Mom repeated.
Patty said: “But Mom, you keep forgetting things, you can’t take care of yourself anymore.”
“Of course I can, don’t you dare speak to me that way.”
Jeannie bit her lip. Looking at the wreck that used to be her mother, she wanted to cry. Mom had strong features: black eyebrows, dark eyes, a straight nose, a wide month, and a strong chin. The same pattern was repeated in both Jeannie and Patty, although Mom was small and they were both tall like Daddy. All three of them were as strong-minded as their looks suggested: “formidable” was the word usually used to describe, the Ferrami women. But Mom would never be formidable again. She had Alzheimer’s.
She was not yet sixty. Jeannie, who was twenty-nine, and Patty, twenty-six, had hoped she could take care of herself for a few more years, but that hope had been shattered this morning at five A.M., when a Washington cop had called to say he had found Mom, walking along 18th Street in a grubby nightgown, crying and saying she could not remember where she lived.
Jeannie had got in her car and driven to Washington, an hour from Baltimore on a quiet Sunday morning. She had picked Mom up from the precinct house, taken her home, gotten her washed and dressed, then called Patty. Together the two sisters had made arrangements for Mom to check into Bella Vista. It was in the town of Columbia, between Washington and Baltimore. Their aunt Rosa had spent her declining years here. Aunt Rosa had had the same insurance policy as Mom.
“I don’t like this place,” Mom said.
Jeannie said: “We don’t either, but right now it’s all we can afford.” She intended to sound matter-of-fact and reasonable, but it came out harsh.
Patty shot her a reproving look and said: “Come on, Mom, we’ve lived in worse places.”
It was true. After their father went to jail the second time, the two girls and Mom had lived in one room with a hotplate on the dresser and a water tap in the corridor. These were the welfare years. But Mom had been a lioness in adversity. As soon as both Jeannie and Patty were in school she found at trustworthy older woman to mind the girls when they came home, she got a job—she had been a hairdresser, and she was still good, if old-fashioned—and she moved them to a small apartment with two bedrooms in Adams-Morgan, which was then respectable working-class neighborhood.
She would fix French toast for breakfast and send Jeannie and Patty to school in clean dresses, then do her hair and make up her face—you had to look smart, working in a salon—and always leave a spotless kitchen with a plate of cookies on the table for the girls when they came back. On Sundays the three of them cleaned the apartment and did the laundry together. Mom had always been so capable, so reliable, so tireless, it was heartbreaking to see the forgetful, complaining woman on the bed.
Now she frowned, as if puzzled, and said: “Jeannie, why have you got a ring in your nose?”
Jeannie touched the delicate silver hand and gave a wan smile. “Mom, I had my nostril pierced when I was a kid. Don’t you remember how mad you got about it? I thought you were going to throw me out on the street.”
“I forget things,” Mom said.
“I sure remember,” said Patty. “I thought it was the greatest thing ever. But I was eleven and you were fourteen, and to me everything you did was bold and stylish and clever.”
“Maybe it was,” Jeannie said with mock vanity.
Patty giggled. “The orange jacket sure wasn’t.”
“Oh, God, that jacket. Mom finally burned it after I slept in it in an abandoned building and got fleas.”
“I remember that,” Mom said. “Fleas! A child of mine!” She was still indignant about it, fifteen years later.
“Suddenly the mood was highter. Berriniscing had reminded them of how close they were. It was a good moment to leave. “I’d better go,” Jeannie said, standing up.
“Me too,” said Patty. “I have to make dinner.”
However, neither woman moved toward the door. Jeannie felt she was abandoning her mother, deserting her in a time of need. Nobody here loved her. She should have family to look after her Jeannie and Patty should stay with her, and cook for her, and iron her nightgowns, and turn the TV to her favorite show.
Mom said: “When will I see you?”
Jeannie hesitated. She wanted to say, “Tomorrow, I’ll bring you your breakfast and stay with you all day.” But it was impossible: she had a busy week at work. Guilt flooded her. How can I be so cruel?
Patty rescued her, saying: “I’ll come tomorrow, and bring the kids to see you, you’ll like that.”
Mom was not going to let Jeannie get off that easily. “Will you come too, Jeannie?”
Jeannie could hardly speak. “As soon as I can.” Choking with grief, she leaned over the bed and kissed her mother. “I love you, Mom. Try to remember that.”
The moment they were outside the door, Patty burst into tears.
Jeannie felt like crying too, but she was the older sister, and she had long ago gotten into the habit of controlling her own emotions while she took care of Patty. She put an arm around her sister’s shoulders as they walked along the antiseptic corridor. Patty was not weak, but she was more accepting than Jeannie, who was combative and willful. Mom always criticized Jeannie and said she should be more like Patty.
“I wish I could have her at home with me, but I can’t,” Patty said woefully.
Jeannie agreed. Patty was maried to a carpenter called Zip. They lived in a small row house with two bedrooms. The second bedroom was shared by her three boys. Davey was six, Mel four, and Tom two. There was nowhere to put a grandma. Jeannie was single. As an assistant professor at Jones Falls University she earned thirty thousand dollars a year—a lot less than Patty’s husband, she guessed—and she had just taken out her first mortgage and bought a two-room apartment and furnished it on credit. One room was a living room with a kitchen nook, the other a bedroom with a closet and a tiny bathroom. If she gave Mom her bed she would have to sleep on the couch every night; and there was no one at home during the day to keepp an eye on a woman with Alzheimer’s. “I can’t take her either,” she said.
Patty showed anger through her tears. “So why did you tell here we would get her out of there? We can’t!”
They stepped outside into the torrid heat. Jeannie said: “Tomorrow I’ll go to the bank and get aloan. We’ll put her in a better place and I’ll add to the insurance money.”
“But how will you ever pay it back?” said Patty practically.
“I’ll get promoted to associate professor, then full professor, and I’ll be commissioned to write a textbook and get hired as a consultant by three international conglomerates.”
Patty smiled through her tears. “I believe you, but will the bank?”
Patty had always believed in Jeannie. Patty herself had never been ambitious. She had been below average at school and had manied at nineteen and settled down to raise children without any apparent regrets. Jeannie was the opposite. Top at the class and captain of all sports teams, she had been a tennis champion and had put herself through college on sports scholarships. Whatever she said she was going to do, Patty never doubted her.
But Patty was right, the bank would not make another loan so soon after financing the purchase of her apartment. And she had only just started as assistant professor: it would be three years before she was considered for promotion. As they mached the parking lot Jeannie said desperately: “Okay, I’ll sell my car.”
She loved her car. It was a twenty-year-old Mercedes 230C, a red two-door sedan with black leather seats. She had bought it eight years ago, with her prize money for winning the Mayfair Lites College Tennis Challenge, five thousand dollars. That was before it became chic to own an old Mercedes. “It’s probably worth double what I paid for, it,” she said.
“But you’d have to buy another car,” Patty said, still remorselessly realistic.
“You’re right.” Jeannie sighed. “Wen, I can do some private tutoring. It’s against JFU’s rules, but I can probably get forty dollars an hour teaching remedial statistics one-on-one with rich students who have flunked the exam at other universities. I could pick up three hundred dollars a week, maybe; tax-free if I don’t declare it.” She looked her sister in the eye. “Can you spare anything?”
Patty looked away. “I don’t know.”
“Zip makes more than I do.”
“He’ll kill me for saying this, but we might be able to chip in seventy-five or eighty a week,” Patty said at last. “I’ll get him to put in for a raise. He’s kind of timid about asking, but I know he deserves it, and his boss likes him.”
Jeannie began to feel more cheerful, although the prospect of spending her Sundays teaching backward undergraduates was dismal. “For an extra four hundred a week we might get Mom a room to herself with her own bathroom.”
“Then she could have more of her things about her, ornaments and maybe some furniture from the apartment.”
“Let’s ask around, see if anyone knows of a nice place.”
“Okay.” Patty was thoughtful. “Mom’s illness is inherited, isn’t it? I saw something on TV.”
Jeannie nodded. “There’s a gene defect, AD3, that’s linked to early-onset Alzheimer’s.” It was located at chromosome 14q24.3, Jeannie recalled, but that would not mean anything to Patty.
“Does that mean you and I will end up like Mom?”
“It means there’s a good chance we will.”
They were both silent for a moment. The thought of losing your mind was almost too grim to talk about.
“I’m glad I had my children young,” Patty said. “They’ll be old enough to look after themselves by the time it happens to me.”
Jeannie noted the hint of reproof. Like Mom, Patty thought there was something wrong with being twenty-nine and childless. Jeannie said: “The fact that they’ve found the gene is also hopeful. It means that by the time we’re Mom’s age, they may be able to inject us with an altered version of our own DNA that doesn’t have the fatal gene.”
“They mentioned that on TV. Recombinant DNA technology, right?”
Jeannie grinned at her sister. “Right.”
“See, I’m not so dumb.”
“I never thought you were dumb.”
Patty said thoughtfully: “The thing is, our DNA makes us what we are, so if you change my DNA, does that make me a different person?”
“It’s not just your DNA that makes you what you are. It’s your upbringing too. That’s what my work is all about.”
“How’s the new job going?”
“It’s exciting. This is my big chance, Patty. A lot of people read the article I wrote about criminality and whether it’s in our genes.” The article, published last year while she was still at the University of Minnesota, had borne the name of her super-vising professor above her own, but she had done the work.
“I could never figure out whether you said criminality is inherited or not.”
“I identified four inherited traits that lead to criminal behavior: impulsiveness, fearlessness, aggression, and hyper-activity. But my big theory is that certain ways of raising children then counteract those traits and turn potential criminals into good citizens.” ’
“How could you ever prove a thing like that?”
“By studying identical twins raised apart. Identical twins have the same DNA. And when they’re adopted at birth, or split up for some other reason, they get raised differently. So I look for pairs of twins where one is a criminal and the other is normal. Then I study how they were raised and what their parents did differently.”
“Your work is really important,” Patty said.
“I think so.”
“We have to find out why so many Americans nowadays turn bad.”
Jeannie nodded. That was it, in a nutshell.
Patty turned to her own car, a big old Ford station wagon, the back full of brightly colored kiddie junk: a tricyele, a folded-down stroller, an assottment of rackets and balls, and a big toy truck with a broken wheel.
Jeannie said: “Give the boys a big kiss from me, okay?”
“Thanks. I’ll call you tomorrow after I see Mom.” Jeannie got her keys out hesitated, then went over to Patty and hugged her. “I love you, sis,” she said. “Love you, too.”
Jeannie got in her car and drove away.
She felt jangled and restless, full of unresolved feelings about Mom and Patty and the father who was not there. She got on I-70 and drove too fast, weaving in and out of the traffic. She wondered what to do with the rest of the day, then remembered that she was supposed to play tennis at six then go for beer and pizza with a group of graduate students and young faculty from the psychology department at Jones Falls. Her first thought was to cancel the entire evening. But she did not want to sit at home brooding. She would play tennis, she decided: the vigorous exercise would make her feel better. Afterward she would go to Andy’s Bar for an hour or so, then have an early night.
But it did not work out that way.
Her tennis opponent was Jack Budgen, the university’s head librarian. He had once played at Wimbledon and, though he was now bald and fifty, he was still fit and all the old craft was there. Jeannie had never been to Wimbledon. The height of her career had been a place on the U.S. Olympic tennis team while she was an undergraduate. But she was stronger and faster than Jack.
They played on one of the red clay tennis courts on the Jones Falls campus. They were evenly matched, and the game attracted a small crowd of spectators. There was no dress code, but out of habit Jeannie always played in crisp white shorts and a white polo shirt. She had long dark hair, not silky and straight like Patty’s but curly and unmanageable, so she tucked it up inside a peaked cap.
Jeannie’s serve was dynamite and her two-handed cross-court backhand smash was a killer. There was not much Jack could do about the serve, but after the first few games he made sure she did not get many chances to use the backhand smash. He played a sly game, conserving his energy, letting Jeannie make mistakes. She played too aggressively, serving double faults and running to the net too early. On a normal day, she reckoned, she could beat him; but today her concentration was shot, and she could not second-guess his game: They won a set each, then the third went to 5-4 in-his favor and she found herself serving to stay in the match.
The game went to two deuces, then Jack won a point and the advantage was to him. Jeannie served into the net, and there was an audible gasp from the little crowd. Instead of a normal, slower second service, she threw caution to the winds and served again as if it were a first service. Jack just got his racket to the ball and returned it to her backhand. She smashed it and ran to the net. But Jack was not as off balance as he had pretended to be, and he returned a perfect lob that sailed over her head and landed on the back line to win the match.
Jeannie stood looking at the ball, hands on her hips, furious with herself. Although she had not played seriously for years, she retained the unyielding competitiveness that made it hard to lose. Then she calmed her feelings and put a smile on her face. She turned around. “Beautiful shot!” she called. She walked to the net and shook his hand, and there was a ragged round of applause from the spectators.
A young man approached her. “Hey that was a great game!” he said with a broad smile.
Jeannie took him in at a glance. He was a hunk: tall and athletic, with curly fair hair cut short and nice blue eyes, and he was coming on to her for all he was worth.
She was not in the mood. “Thanks,” she said curtly.
He smiled again, a confident, relaxed smile that said most girls were happy when he talked to them, regardless of whether he was making any sense. “You know, I play a little tennis myself, and I was thinking—”
“If you only play a little tennis, you’re probaly not in my league,” she said, and she brushed past him.
Behind her, she heard him say in a good-humored tone: “Should I assume that a romantic dinner followed by a night of passion is out of the question, then?”
She could not help smiling, if only at his persistence, and she had been ruder than necessary. She turned her head and spoke over her shoulder without stopping. “Yes, but thanks for the offer,” she said.
She left the court and headed for the lockerroom. She wondered what Mom was doing now. She must have had dinner by this time: it was seven-thirty, and they always fed people early in institutions. She was probably watching TV in the lounge. Maybe she would find a friend, a woman of her own age who would tolerate her forgetfulness and take an interest in her photographs of her grandchildren. Mom had once had a lot of friends—the other women at the salon, some of her customers. neighbors, people she had known for twenty-five years—but it was hard for them to keep up the friendship when Mom kept forgetting who the hell they were.
As she was passing the hockey field she ran into Lisa Hoxton. Lisa was the first real friend she had made since arriving at Jones Falls a month ago. She was a technician in the psychology laboratory. She had a science degree but did not want to be an academic. Like Jeannie, she came from a poor background, and she was a little intimidated by the Ivy League hauteur of Jones Falls. They had taken to one another instantly.
“A kid just tried to pick me up,” Jeannie said with a smile.
“What was he like?”
“He looked like Brad Pitt, but taller.”
“Did you tell him you had a friend more his age?” Lisa said. She was twenty-four.
“No.” Jeannie glanced over her shoulder, but the man was nowhere in sight. “Keep walking, in case he follows me.”
“How could that be bad?”
“Jeannie, it’s the creepy ones you run away from.”
“Knock it off!”
“You might have given him my phone number.”
“I should have handed him a slip of paper with your bra size on it, that would have done the trick.” Lisa had a big bust.
Lisa stopped walking. For a moment Jeannie thought she had gone too far and offended Lisa. She began to frame an apology. Then Lisa said: “What a great idea! ‘I’m a 36D, for more information call this number.’ It’s so subtle, too.”
“I’m just envious, I always wanted hooters,” Jeannie said, and they both giggled. “It’s true, though, I prayed for tits. I was practically the last girl in my class to get my period, it was so embarrassing.”
“You actually said, ‘Dear God, please make my tits grow,’ kneeling beside your bed?”
“Actually I prayed to the Virgin Mary. I figured it was a girl thing. And I didn’t say tits, of course.”
“What did you say, breasts?”
“No, I figured you couldn’t say breasts to the Hooly Mother.”
“So what did you call them?”
Lisa burst out laughing.
“I don’t know where I got that word from, I must have overheard some men talking. It seemed like a polite euphemism to me. I never told anyone that before in my life.”
Lisa looked back. “Well, I don’t see any good-looking guys following us. I guess we shook off Brad Pitt.”
“It’s a good thing. He’s just my type: handsome, sexy, over-confident, and totally untrustworthy.”
“How do you know he’s untrustworthy? You only met him for twenty seconds.”
“All men are untrustworthy.”
“You’re probably right. Are you coming to Andy’s tonight?”
“Yeah, just for an hour or so. I have to shower first.” Her shirt was wet through with perspiration.
“Me too.” Lisa was in shorts and running shoes. “I’ve been training with the hockey team, Why only for an hour?”
“I’ve had a heavy day.” The game had distracted Jeannie, but now she wineed as the agony came flooding back. “I had to put my mom into a home.”
“Oh, Jeannie, I’m sorry.”
Jeannie told her the story as they entered the gymnasium building and went down the stairs to the basement. In the locker room Jeannie caught sight of their reflection in the mirror. They were so different in appearance that they almost looked like a comedy act. Lisa was a little below average height, and Jeannie was almost six feet. Lisa was blond and curvy; whereas Jeannie was dark and muscular. Lisa had a pretty face, with a scatter of freckles across a pert little nose and a mouth like a bow. Most people described Jeannie as striking, and men sometimes told her she was beautiful, but nobody ever called her pretty.
As they climbed out of their sweaty sports clothes Lisa said: “What about your father? You didn’t mention him.”
Jeannie sighed. It was the question she had learned to dread, even as a little girl; but it invariably came, sooner or later. For many years she had lied, saying Daddy was dead or disappeared or remarried and gone to work in Saudi Arabia. Lately, however, she had been telling the truth. “My father’s in jail,” she said.
“Oh, my God. I shouldn’t have asked.”
“It’s okay. He’s been in jail most of my life. He’s a burglar. This is his third term.”
“How long is his sentence?”
“I don’t remember. It doesn’t matter. He’ll be no use when he comes out. He’s never looked after us and he’s not about to begin.”
“Did he never have a regular job?”
“Only when he wanted to case a joint. He would work as janitor, doorman, security guard for a week or two before robbing the place.”
Lisa looked at her shrewdly. “Is that why you’re so interested in the genetics of criminality?”
“Probably not.” Lisa made a tossing-aside gesture. “I hate amateur psychoanalysis anyway.”
They went to the showers. Jeannie took longer, washing her hair. She was grateful for Lisa’s friendship. Lisa had been at Jones Falls just over a year, and she had shown Jeannie around when she had arrived here at the beginning of the semester. Jeannie liked working with Lisa in the lab because she was completely reliable; and she liked hanging out with her after work because she felt she could say whatever came into her mind without fear of shocking her.
Jeannie was working conditioner into her hair when she heard strange noises. She stepped and listened. It sounded like squeals of flight. A chill of anxiety passed through her, making her shiver. Suddenly she felt very vulnerable: naked, wet, underground. She hesitated, then quickly rinsed her hair before stepping out of the shower to see what was going on.
She smelled burning as soon as she got out from under the water. She could not see a fire; but there were thick clouds of black and gray smoke close to the ceiling. It seemed to be coming through the ventilators.
She felt afraid. She had never been in a fire.
The more coolheaded women were snatching up their bags and heading for the door. Others were getting hysterical, shouting at one another in frightened voices and running here and there pointlessly. Some asshole of a security man, with a spotted handkerchief tied over his nose and mouth, was making them more scared by walking up and down shoving people and yelling orders.
Jeannie knew she should not stay to get dressed, but she could not bring herself to walk out of the building naked. There was fear running through her veins like ice water, but she made herself calm. She found her locker. Lisa was nowhere to be seen. She grabbed her clothes, stepped into her jeans, and pulled her T-shirt over her head.
It took only a few seconds, but in that time the room emptied of people and filled with fumes. She could no longer see the doorway, and she started to cough. The thought of not being able to breathe scared her. I know where the door is, and I just have to keep calm, she told herself. Her keys and money were in her jeans pockets. She picked up het tennis racket. Holding her breath, she walked quickly through the lockers to the exit.
The corridor was thick with smoke, and her eyes began to water so that she was almost blind. Now she wished to heaven that she had gone naked and gained a few precious seconds. Her jeans did not help her see or breathe in this fog of fumes. And it did not matter being naked if you were dead.
She kept one shaky hand on the wall to give her a sense of direction as she rushed along the passage, still holding her breath. She thought she might bump into other women, but they all seemed to have got out ahead of her. When there was no more wall, she knew she was in the small lobby, although she could not see anything but clouds of smoke. The stairs had to be straight ahead. She crossed the lobby and crashed into the Coke machine. Was the staircase to the left now or the right? The left, she thought. She moved that way, then came up against the door to the men’s locker room and realized she had make the wrong choice.
She could not hold her breath any longer. With a groan she sucked in air. It was mostly smoke and it made her cough convulsively. She staggered back along the wall, racked with coughing, her nostrils burning, eyes streaming, barely able to see her own hands in front of her. With all her being she longed for one breath of the air she had been taking for granted for twenty-nine years. She followed the wall to the Coke machine and stepped around it. She knew she had found the staircase when she tripped over the bottom step. She dropped her racket and it slid out of sight. It was a special one—she had won the Mayfair Lites Challenge with it—but she left it behind and scrambled up the stairs on hands and knees.
The smoke thinned suddenly when she reached the spacious ground-floor lobby. She could see the building doors, which were open. A security guaxd stood just outside, beckoning her and yelling: “Come on!” Coughing and choking, she staggered across the lobby and out into the blessed fresh air.
She stood on the steps for two or three minutes, bent double, gulping air and coughing the smoke out of her lungs. As her breathing at last began to return to normal, she heard the whoop of an emergency vehicle in the distance. She looked around for Lisa but could not see her.
Surer she could not be inside? Still feeling shaky, Jeannie moved through the crowd, scanning the faces. Now that they were out of danger, there was a good deal of nervous laughter. Most of the students were more or less undressed, so there was a curiously intimate atmosphere. Those who had managed to save their bags were lending spare clothes to others less fortunate. Naked women were grateful for their friends ’soiled and sweaty T-shirts. Several people were dressed only in towels.
Lisa was not in the crowd. With mounting anxiety Jeannie returned to the security guard at the door. “I think my girlfriend may be in there,” she said, hearing the tremor of fear in her own voice.
“I ain’t going after her,” he said quickly.
“Brave man,” Jeannie snapped. She was not sure what she wanted him to do, but she had not expected him to be completely useless.
Resentment showed on his face. “That’s their job,” he said, and he pointed to a fire truck coming down the road.
Jeannie was beginning to fear for Lisa’s life, but she did not know what to do. She watched, impatient and helpless, as the firemen got out of the truck and put on breathing apparatus. They seemed to move so slowly that she wanted to shake them and scream: “Hurry, hurry!” Another fire truck arrived, then a white police cruiser with the blue-and-silver stripe of the Baltimore Police Department.
As the firemen dragged a hose into the building, an officer buttonholed the lobby guard and said: “Where do you think it started?”
“Women’s locker room,” the guard told him.
“And where is that, exactly?”
“Basement, at the back.”
“How many exits are there from the basement?”
“Only one, the staircase up to the main lobby, right here.”
A maintenance man standing nearby contradicted him. “There’s a ladder in the pool machine room that leads up to an access hatch at the back of the building.”
Jeannie caught the officer’s attention and said: “I think my friend may still be inside there.”
“Man or woman?”
“Woman of twenty-four, short, blond.”
“If she’s there, we’ll find her.”
For a moment Jeannie felt reassured Then she realized he had not promised to find her alive.
The security man who had been in the locker room was nowhere to be seen. Jeannie said to the fire Officer: “There was another guard down there, I don’t see him anywhere. Tail guy.”
The lobby guard said: “Ain’t no other security personnel in the building.”
“Well, he had a hat with ‘Security’ written on it, and he was telling people to evacuate the building.”
“I don’t care what he had on his hat—”
“Oh, for Pete’s sake, stop arguing!” Jeannie snapped. “Maybe I imagined him, but if not his life could be in danger!”
Standing listening to them was a girl wearing a man’s khaki pants rolled up at the cuffs. “I saw that guy, he’s a real creep,” she said. “He felt me up.”
The fire officer said: “Keep calm, we’ll find everyone. Thank you for your Cooperation.” He walked off.
Jeannie glared at the lobby guard for a moment. She felt the fire officer had dismissed her as a hysterical woman because she had yelled at the guard. She turned away in disgust. What was she going to do now? The firemen ran inside in their helmets and boots. She was barefoot and wearing a T-shirt. If she tried to go in with them they would throw her out. She clenched her fists, distraught. Think, think! Where else could Lisa be?
The gymnasium was next door to the Ruth W. Acorn Psychology Building, named after the wife of a benefactor but known, even to faculty, as Nut House. Could Lisa have gone in there? The doors would be locked on Sunday, but she probably had a key. She might have run inside to find a laboratory coat to cover herself or just to sit at her desk and recover. Jeannie decided to check. Anything was better than standing here doing nothing.
She dashed across the lawn to the main entrance of Nut House and looked through the glass doors. There was no one in the lobby. She took from her pocket the plastic card that served as a key and swiped it through the card reader. The door opened. She ran up the stairs, calling: “Lisa! Are you there?” The laboratory was deserted. Lisa’s chair was tucked neatly under her desk, and her, computer screen was a gray blank. Jeannie tried the women’s rest room at the end of the corridor. Nothing. “Damn!” she said frantically. “Where the hell are you?”
Panting, she hurried back outside. She decided to make a tour of the gymnasium building, in case Lisa was just sitting on the ground somewhere catching her breath. She ran around the side of the building, passing through a yard full of giant garbage cans. At the back was a small parking lot. She saw a figure jogging along the footpath, heading away. It was too tall to be Lisa, and she was pretty sure it was a man. She thought it might be the missing security guard, but he disappeared around the corner of the Student Union before she could be sure.
She continued around the building. At the far side was the running track, deserted now. Coming full circle, she arrived at the front of the gym.
The crowd,was bigger and there were more fire engines and police cars, but she still could not see Lisa. It seemed almost certain that she was still in the burning building. A, sense of doom crept over Jeannie, and she fought it. You can’t just let this happen!
She spotted the fire officer she had spoken to earlier. She grabbed his arm. “I’m almost certain Lisa Hoxton is in there,” she said urgently. “I’ve looked everywhere for her.”
He gave her a hard look and seemed to decide she was reliable. Without answering her, he put a two-way radio to his mouth. “Look out for a young white female believed to be inside the building, named Lisa, repeat Lisa.”
“Thank you,” Jeannie said.
He nodded curtly and strode away.
Jeannie was glad he had listened to her, but still she could not rest. Lisa might be stuck in there, locked in a toilet or trapped by flames, screaming for help unheard; or she might have fallen and struck her head and knocked herself out or succumbed to the fumes and be lying unconscious with the fire creeping closer by the second.
Jeannie remembered the maintenance man saying there was another entrance to the basement. She had not seen it as she ran around the outside of the gym. She decided to look again. She returned to the back of the building.
She saw it immediately. The hatch was set into the ground close to the building, partly hidden by a gray Chrysler New Yorker. The steel trapdoor was open, leaning against the building wall. Jeannie knelt by the square hole and leaned down to look inside.
A ladder led down to a dirty room lit by fluorescent tubes. She could see machinery and lots of pipes. There were wisps of smoke in the air, but not thick clouds: it must be closed off from the rest of the basement. Nevertheless the smell of the smoke reminded her of how she had coughed and choked as she had searched blindly for the staircase, and she felt her heart beat faster at the memory.
“Is anybody there?” she called.
She thought she heard a sound but she could not be sure. She shouted louder. “Hello?” There was no reply.
She hesitated. The sensible thing to do would be to return to the front of the building and grab a fireman, but that could take too long, especially if the fireman decided to question her. The alternative was to go down the ladder and take a look.
The thought of reentering the building made her legs weak. Her chest still hurt from the violent spasms of coughing caused by the smoke. But Lisa might be down there, hurt and unable to move, or trapped by a fallen timber, or just passed out. She had to look.
She steeled her nerve and put a foot on the ladder. Her knees felt weak and she almost fell. She hesitated. After a moment she felt stronger, and she took a step down. Then a breath of smoke caught in her throat, making her cough, and she climbed out again.
When she had stopped coughing, she tried again.
She went down one rung, then two. If the smoke makes me cough, I’ll just come right out again; she told herself. The third step was easier, and after that she went down quickly; jumping off the last rung onto the concrete floor.
She found herself in a big room full of pumps and filters, presumably for the swimming pool. The smell of smoke was strong, but she could breathe normally.
She saw Lisa right away, and the sight made her gasp.
She was lying on her side, curled up in the fetal position, naked. There was a smear of what looked like blood on her thigh. She was not moving.
For a moment Jeannie was rigid with fear.
She tried to get hold of herself. “Lisa!” she shouted. She heard the shrill overtone of hysteria in her own voice and took a breath to keep calm. Please, God, let her be all right. She made her way across the room, through the tangle of pipework, and knelt beside her friend. “Lisa?”
Lisa opened her eyes.
“Thank God,” Jeannie said. “I thought you were dead.”
Slowly Lisa sat up. ”She would not look at Jeannie. Her lips were bruised. “He …he raped me,” she said.
Jeannie’s relief at finding her alive was replaced by a sick feeling of horror that gripped her heart. “My God. Here?”
Lisa nodded. “He said this was the way out.”
Jeannie closed her eyes. She felt Lisa’s pain and humiliation, the sense of being invaded and violated and soiled. Tears came to her eyes, and she held them back fiercely. For a moment she was too weak and nauseated to say anything.
Then she tried to pull herself together. “Who was he?”
“A security guy.”
“With a spotted scarf over his face?”
“He took it off.” Lisa turned away. “He kept smiling.”
It figured. The girl in khaki pants had said a security guard felt her up. The lobby guard was sure there were no other security people in the building. “He was no security guard,” Jeannie said. She had seen him jogging away just a few minutes ago. A wave of rage swept over het at the thought that he had done this dreadful thing right here, on the campus, in the gymnasium building, where they all felt safe to take off their clothes and shower. It made her hands shake, and she wanted to chase after him and strangle him.
She heard loud noises: men shouting, heavy footsteps, and the rush of water. The firemen were operating their hoses.
“Listen, we’re in danger here,” she said urgently. “We have to get out of this building.”
Lisa’s voice was a dull monotone. “I don’t have any clothes.”
We could die in here! “Don’t worry about clothes, everyone’s half-naked out there.” Jeannie scanned the room hastily and saw Lisa’s red lace brassiere and panties in a dusty heap beneath a tank. She picked them up. “Put your underwear on. It’s dirty, but it’s better than nothing.”
Lisa remained sitting on the floor, staring vacantly.
Jeannie fought down a feeling of panic. What could she do if Lisa refused to move? She could probably lift Lisa, but could she carry her up that ladder? She raised her voice. “Come on, get up!” Taking Lisa’s hands, she pulled her to her feet.
At last Lisa met her eyes. “Jeannie, it was horrible,” she said.
Jeannie put her arms around Lisa’s shoulders and hugged her hard. “I’m sorry, Lisa, I’m so sorry,” she said.
The smoke was becoming more dense, despite the heavy door. Fear replaced pity in her heart. “We have to get out of here—the place is burning down. For God’s sake put these on!”
At last Lisa began to move. She pulled up her panties and fastened her bra. Jeannie took her hand and led her to the ladder on the wall, then made her go up first. As Jeannie followed, the door crashed open and a fireman entered in a cloud of smoke. Water swirled around his boots. He looked startled to see them. “We’re all right, we’re getting out this way,” Jeannie yelled to him. Then she went up the ladder after Lisa.
A moment later they were outside in the fresh air.
Jeannie felt weak with relief: she had got Lisa out of the fire. But now Lisa needed help. Jeannie put an arm around her shoulders and led her to the front of the building. There were fire trucks and police cruisers parked every which way across the road. Most of the women in the crowd had now found something with which to cover their nakedness, and Lisa was conspicuous in her red underwear. “Does anyone have a spare pair of pants, or anything at all?” Jeannie begged as they made their way through the crowd. People had given away all their spare clothing. Jeannie would have given Lisa her own sweat-shirt, but she had no bra on underneath.
Finally a tall black man took off his button-down and gave it to Lisa. “I’ll want it back, it’s a Ralph Lauren,” he said. “Mitchell Waterfield, math department.”
“I’ll remember,” Jeannie said gratefully.
Lisa put the shirt on. She was short, and it reached to her knees.
Jeannie felt she was getting the nightmare under control. She steered Lisa to the emergency vehicles. Three cops stood leaning against a cruiser, doing nothing. Jeannie spoke to the oldest of the three, a fat white man with a gray mustache. “This woman’s name is Lisa Hoxton. She’s been raped.”
She expected them to be electrified by the news that a major crime had been committed, but their reaction was surprisingly casual. They took a few seconds to digest the information, and Jeannie was getting ready to snap at them, when the one with Ehe mustache levered himself off the hood of the car and said: “Where did this happen?”
“The basement of the burning building, in the pool machine room at the back.”
One of the others, a young black man, said: “Those firemen will be hosing away the evidence right now, Sarge.”
“You’re right,” the older man replied. “You better get down there, Lenny, and secure the crime scene.” Lenny hurried away. The sergeant turned to Lisa. “Do you know the man who did this, Ms. Hoxton?” he said.
Lisa shook her head.
Jeannie said: “He’s a tall white man wearing a red baseball cap with the word ‘Security’ on the front. I saw him in the women’s locker room soon after the fire broke out, and I think I saw him running away just before I found Lisa.”
The cop reached into the car and pulled out a radio microphone. He spoke into it for a while then hung it up again. “If he’s dumb enough to keep the hat on we may catch him,” he said. He spoke to the third cop. “McHenty, take the victim to the hospital.”
McHenty was a young white man with glasses. He said to Lisa: “You want to sit in the front or the back?”
Lisa said nothing but looked apprehensive.
Jeannie helped her out. “Sit in the front. You don’t want to look like a suspect.”
A terrified look crossed Lisa’s face, and she spoke at last. “Aren’t you coming with me?”
“I will if you like.” Jeannie said reassuringly. “Or I could swing by my apartment and pick up some clothes for you, and meet you at the ho5pital.”
Lisa looked at McHenty worriedly.
Jeannie said: “You’ll be all right now, Lisa.”
McHenty held open the door of the cruiser and Lisa got in.
“Which hospital?” Jeannie asked him.
“Santa Teresa.” He got in the car.
“I’ll be there in a few minutes,” Jeannie called through the glass as the car sped away.
She jogged to the faculty parking lot, already regretting the she had not gone with Lisa. Her expression as she left had been frightened and wretched. Of course she needed clean clothes, but maybe she had a more urgent need for another woman to stay with her and hold her hand and reassure her. Probably the last thing she wanted was to be left alone with a macho man with a gun. As she jumped into her car Jeannie felt she had screwed up. “Jesus, what a day,” she said as she tore out of th parking lot.
She lived not far from the campus. Her apartment was the upper story of a small row house. Jeannie double-parked and ran inside.
She washed her hands and face hurriedly, then threw on some clean clothes. She thought for a moment about which of her clothes would fit Lisa’s short, rounded figure. She pulled out an oversize polo shirt and a pair of sweat pants with an elastic waistband. Underwear was more difficult. She found a baggy pair of man’s boxer shorts that might do, but none of her bras would fit. Lisa would have to go without. She added deck shoes stuffed everything into a duffel, and ran out again.
As she drove to the hospital her mood changed. Since the fire broke out she had been focused on what she had to do: now she began to feel enraged. Lisa was a happy, garrulous woman, but the shock and horror of what had happened had turned her intoo a zombie, frightened to get into a police car on her own.
Driving along a shopping street, Jeannie started to look for the guy in the red cap, imagining that if she saw him she would swing the car up on the sidewalk and run him down. But in fact she would not recognize him, He must have taken off the bandanna and probably the hat too. What else had he been wearing? It shocked het to realize she could hardly remember. Some kind of T-shirt, she thought, with blue jeans or maybe shorts. Anyway, he might have changed his clothes by now, as she had.
In fact, it could be any tall white man on the street: that pizza delivery boy in the red coat; the bald guy walking to church with his wife, hymnbooks under their arms; the handsome bearded man canying a guitar case; even the cop talking to a bum outside the liquor store. There was nothing Jeannie could do with her rage, and she gripped the steering wheel tighter until her knuckles turned white.
Santa Teresa was a big suburban hospital near the northern city limits. Jeannie left her car in the parking lot and found the emergency room. Lisa was already in bed, wearing a hospital gown and staring into space. A TV set with the sound off was showing the Emmy Awards ceremony: hundreds of Hollywood celebrities in evening dress drinking champagne and congratulating one another. McHenty sat beside the bed with his notebook on his knee.
Jeannie put down the duffel. “Here are your clothes. What’s happening?”
Lisa remained expressionless and silent. She was still in shock, Jeannie figured. She was suppressing her feelings, fighting to stay in control. But at some point she had to show her rage. There would be an explosion sooner or later.
McHenty said: “I have to take down the basic details of the case, miss—would you excuse us for a few more minutes?”
“Oh, sure,” Jeannie said apologetically. Then she caught a look from Lisa and hesitated. A few minutes ago she had been cursing herself for leaving Lisa alone with a man. Now she was about to do it again. “On the other hand,” she said, “maybe Lisa would prefer me to stay.” Her instinct was confirmed when Lisa gave a barely perceptible nod. Jeannie sat on the bed and took Lisa’s hand.
McHenty looked irritated but he did not argue. “I was asking Miss Hoxton about how she tried to resist the assault,” he said. “Did you scream, Lisa?”
“Once, when he threw me on the floor,” she said in a low voice. “Then he pulled the knife.”
McHenty’s voice was matter-of-fact, and he looked down at his notebook as he spoke. “Did you try to fight him off?”
She shook her head. “I was afraid he would cut me.”
“So you really didn’t put up any resistance after that first scream?”
She shook her head and began to cry. Jeannie squeezed her hand. She wanted to say to McHenty, “What, the hell was she supposed to do?” But she kept silent. Already today she had been rude to a boy who looked like Brad Pitt, made a bitchy remark about Lisa’s boobs, and snapped at the lobby guard in the gym. She knew she was not good at dealing with authority figures, and she was determined not to make an enemy of this policeman, who was only trying to do his job.
McHenty went on: “Just before he penetrated you, did he force your legs apart?”
Jeannie winced. Surely they should have female cops to ask these questions?
Lisa said: “He touched my thigh with the point of the knife.”
“Did he cut you?”
“So you opened your legs voluntarily.”
Jeannie said: “If a suspect pulls a weapon on a cop, you generally shoot him down, don’t you? Do you call that voluntary?”
McHenty gave her an angry look. “Please leave this to me.” miss.” He turned back to Lisa. “Do you have any injuries at all?”
“I’m bleeding, yes.”
“Is that as a result of the forced intercourse?”
“Where are you injured, exactly?”
Jeannie could not stand it any longer. “Why don’t we let the doctor establish that?”
He looked at her as if she were stupid. “I have to make the preliminary report.”
“Then let it say she has internal injuries as a result of the rape.”
“I’m conducting this interview.”
“And I’m telling you to back off, mister,” Jeannie said, controlling the urge to scream at him. “My friend is in distress and I don’t think she needs to describe her internal injuries to you when she’s going to be examined by a doctor any second now.”
McHenty looked furious, but he moved on. “I noticed you had on red lace underwear. Do you think that had any effect on what happened?”
Lisa looked away, her eyes full of tears.
Jeannie said: “If I reported my red Mercedes stolen, would you ask me whether I had provoked the theft by driving such an attractive car?”
McHenty ignored her. “Do you think you might have met the perpetrator before, Lisa?”
“But the smoke must have made it difficult for you to see clearly. And he were a scarf of some kind over his face.”
“At first I was practically blind, But there wasn’t much smoke in the room where …he did it. I saw him.” She nodded to herself. “I saw him.”
“So you would recognize him if you saw him again.”
Lisa shuddered. “Oh, yes.”
“But you’ve never seen him before, like in a bar or anything.”
“Do you go to bars, Lisa?”
“Singles bars, that kind of thing?”
Jeannie boiled over. “What the hell kind of question is that?”
“The kind defense lawyers ask,” McHenty said.
“Lisa isn’t on trial—she’s not the perpetrator, she’s the victim!”
“Were you a virgin, Lisa?”
Jeannie stood up. “Okay, that’s enough. I do not believe this is supposed to happen. You’re not supposed to ask these invasive questions.”
McHenty raised his voice. “I’m trying to establish her credibility.”
“One hour after she was violated? Forget it!”
“I’m doing my job—”
“I don’t believe you know your job. I don’t think you know shit, McHenty.”
Before he could reply, a doctor walked in without knocking. He was young and looked harassed and tired. “Is this the rape?” he said.
“This is Ms. Lisa Hoxton,” Jeannie said icily. “Yes, she was raped.”
“I’ll need a vaginal swab.”
He was charmless, but at least he provided an excuse to get rid of McHenty. Jeannie looked at the cop. He stayed put, as if he thought he were going to supervise the taking of the swab. She said: “Before you do that, Doctor, perhaps Patrolman McHenty will excuse us?”
The doctor paused, looking at McHenty. The cop shrugged and went out.
The doctor pulled the sheet off Lisa with an abrupt gesture. “Lift your gown and spread your legs,” he said.
Lisa began to cry.
Jeannie could hardly believe it. What was it with these men? “Excuse me, sir,” she said to the doctor.
He glared at her impatiently. “Have you got a problem?”
“Could you please try to be a little more polite?”
He reddened. “This hospital is full of people with traumatic injuries and life-threatening illnesses,” he said. “Right now in the emergency room there are three children who have been in a car wreck, and they’re all going to die. And you’re complaining that I’m not being polite to a girl who got into bed with the wrong man?”
Jeannie was flabbergasted. “Got into bed with the wrong man?”
Lisa sat upright. “I want to go home,” she said.
“That sounds like a hell of a good idea.” Jeannie said. She unzipped her duffel and began to put the clothes out on the bed.
The doctor was dumbstruck for a moment. Then he said angrily: “Do as you please.” He went out.
Jeannie and Lisa looked at one another. “I can’t believe that happened,” Jeannie said.
“Thank God they’ve gone,” Lisa said, and she got out of bed.
Jeannie helped her take off the hospital gown. Lisa pulled on the fresh clothes quickly and stepped into the shoes. “I’ll drive you home,” Jeannie said.
“Would you sleep over at my apartment?” Lisa said. “I don’t want to be alone tonight.”
“Sure. I’ll be glad to.”
McHenty was waiting outside. He seemed less confident. Perhaps he knew he had handled the interview badly. “I still have a few more questions,” he said.
Jeannie spoke quietly and calmly. “We’re leaving,” she said. “Lisa is too upset to answer questions right now.”
He was almost scared. “She has to,” he said. “She’s made a complaint.”
Lisa said: “I wasn’t raped. It was all a mistake. I just want to go home now.”
“You realize it’s an offense to make a false allegation?”
Jeannie said angrily: “This woman is not a criminal–she’s the victim of a crime. If your boss asks why she’s withdrawing the complaint, say it’s because ’she was brutally harassed by Patrolman McHenty of the Baltimore Police Department. Now I’m taking her home. Excuse us, please.” She put her arm around Lisa’s shoulders and steered her past the cop toward the exit.
As they left she heard him mutter: “What did I do?”
Berrington Jones looked at his two oldest friends. “I can’t believe the three of us,” he said. “We’re all close to sixty years old. None of us has ever made more than a couple of hundred thousand dollars a year. Now we’re being offered sixty million each—and we’re sitting here talking about turning the offer down!”
Preston Barck said: “We were never in it for the money.”
Senator Proust said: “I still don’t understand it. If I own one-third of a company that’s worth a hundred and eighty million dollars, how come I’m driving around in a three-year-old Crown Victoria?”
The three men had a small private biotechnology company, Genetico Inc. Preston ran the day-to-day business; Jim was in politics, and Berrington was an academic. But the takeover was Berrington’s baby. On a plane to San Francisco he had met the CEO of Landsmann, a German pharmaceuticals conglomerate, and had got the man interested in making a bid. Now he had to persuade his partners to accept the offer. It was proving harder than he had expected.
They were in the den of a house in Roland Park, an affluent suburb of Baltimore. The house was owned by Jones Falls University and loaned to visiting professors. Berrington, who had professorships at Berkeley in California and at Harvard as well as Jones Falls, used the house for the six weeks of the year he was in Baltimore. There was little of his in the room: a laptop computer, a photograph of his ex-wife and their son, and a pile of new copies of his latest book, To Inherit the Future: How Genetic Engineering Will Transform America. A TV set with the sound turned down was showing the Emmy ceremonies.
Preston was a thin, earnest man. Although he was one of the most outstanding scientists of his generation, he looked like an accountant. “The clinics have always made money,” Preston said. Genetico owned three fertility clinics that specialized in in vitro conception-test-tube babies—a procedure made possible by Preston’s pioneering research in the seventies. “Fertility is the biggest growth area in American medicine. Genetico will be Landsmann’s way into this big new market. They want us to open five new clinics a year for the next ten years.”
Jim Proust was a bald, suntanned man with a big nose and heavy glasses. His powerful, ugly face was a gift to the political cartoonists. He and Berringtofl had been friends and colleagues for twenty-five years. “How come we never saw any money?” Jim asked.
“We always spent it on research.” Genetico had its own labs and also gave research contracts to the biology and psychelogy apartments of universities; Berrington handled the company’s links with the academic world.
Berrington said in an exasperated tone: “I don’t know why you two can’t see that this is our big chance.”
Jim pointed at the TV. “Turn up the sound, Berry— you’re on.”
The Emmys had given way to Larry King Live, and Berrington was the guest. He hated Larry King—the man was a red-dyed liberal, in his opinion—but the show was an opportunity to talk to millions of Americans.
He studied his image, and he liked what he saw. He was in reality a short man, but television made everyone the same height. His navy suit looked good, the sky blue shirt matched his eyes, and the tie was a burgundy red that did not flare on the screen. Being supercritical, he thought his silver hair was too heat, almost bouffant: he was in danger of looking like a television evangelist.
King, wearing his trademark suspenders, was in an aggressive mood, his gravelly voice challenging. “Professor, you’ve stirred up controversy again with your latest book, but some people feel this isn’t science, it’s politics. What do you say to that?”
Berrington was gratified to hear his own voice sounding mellow and reasonable in reply. “I’m trying to say that political decisions should be based on sound science, Larry. Nature, left to itself, favors good genes and kills off bad ones. Our welfare policy works against natural selection. That’s how we’re breeding a generation of second-rate Americans.”
Jim took a sip of scotch and said: “Good phrase—a generation of second-rate Americans. Quotable.”
On TV, Larry King said: “If you have your way, what happens to the children of the poor? They starve, right?”
Berrington’s face on the screen took on a solemn look. “My father died in 1942, when the aircraft carrier Wasp was sunk by a Japanese submarine at Guadalcanal. I was six years old. My mother struggled to raise me and send me to school. Larry, I am a child of the poor.”
It was close enough to the truth. His father, a brilliant engineer, had left his mother a small income, enough so that she was not forced to work or remarry. She had sent Berrington to expensive private schools and then to Harvard—but it had been a struggle.
Preston said: “You look good, Berry—except maybe for the country-western hairstyle.” Barck, the youngest of the trio at fifty-five, had short black hair that lay flat on his Skull like a cap.
Berrington gave an irritated grunt. He had had the same thought himself, but it annoyed him to hear it from someone else. He poured himself a little scotch. They were drinking Springbank, a single malt.
On the screen, Larry King said: “Philosophically speaking, how do your views differ from those of, say, the Nazis?”
Berrington touched the remote control and turned the set off. “I’ve been doing this stuff for ten years,” he said. “Three books and a million crappy talk shows later, what difference has it made? None.”
Preston said: “It has made a difference. You’ve made genetics and race an issue. You’re just impatient.”
“Impatient?” Berrington said irritably. “You bet I’m impatient! I’ll be sixty in two weeks. We’re all getting old. We don’t have much time left!”
Jim said: “He’s right, Preston. Don’t you remember how it was when we were young men? We looked around and saw America going to hell: civil rights for Negroes, Mexicans flooding in, the best schools being swamped by the children of Jewish Communists, our kids smoking pot and dodging the draft. And boy, were we right! Look what’s happened since then! In our worst nightmares we never imagined that illegal drugs would become one of America’s biggest industries and that a third of all babies would be born to mothers on Medicaid. And we’re the only people with the guts to face up to the problems —us and a few like-minded individuals. The rest close their eyes and hope for the best.”
They did not change, Berrington thought. Preston was ever cautious and fearful, Jim bombastically sure of himself. He had known them so long that he looked fondly on their faults, most of the time, anyway. And he was accustomed to his role as the moderator who steered them on a middle course.
Now he said: “Where are we with the Germans, Preston? Bring us up-to-date.”
“We’re very close to a Conclusion,” Preston said. “They want to announce the takeover at a press conference one week from tomorrow.”
“A week from tomorrow?” Berrington said with excitement in his voice. “That’s great!”
Preston shook his head. “I have to tell you, I still have doubts.”
Berrington made an exasperated noise.
Preston went on: “We’ve been going through a process called disclosure. We have to open our books to Landsmann’s accountants, and tell them about anything that might affect future profits, such as debtors who are going bust, or pending lawsuits.”
“We don’t have any of those, I take it?” Jim said.
Preston gave him an ominous look. “We all know this company has secrets.”
There was a moment of silence in the room. Then Jim said: “Hell, that’s a long way in the past.”
“So what? The evidence of what we did is out there walking around.””
“But there’s no way Landsmann can find out about it— especially in a week.” ”
Preston shrugged as if to say “Who knows?”
“We have to take that risk,” Berrington said firmly. “The injection of capital we’ll get from Landsmann will enable us to accelerate our research program. In a couple of years’ time we will be able to offer affluent white Americans who come to our clinics a genetically engineered perfect baby.”
“But how much difference will it make?” Preston said. “The poor will continue to breed faster than the rich.”
“You’re forgetting Jim’s political platform,” Berrington said.
Jim said: “A flat income tax rate of ten percent, and compulsory contraceptive injections for women on welfare.”
“Think of it, Preston,” Berrington said. “Perfect babies for the middle classes, and sterilization for the poor. We could start to put America’s racial balance right again. It’s what we always aimed for, ever since the early days.”
“We were very idealistic then,” Preston said.
“We were right!” Berrington said.
“Yes, we were right. But as I get older, more and more I start to think the world will probably muddle along somehow even if I don’t achieve everything I planned when I was twenty-five.”
This kind of talk could sabotage great endeavors. “But we can achieve what we planned,” Berrington said. “Everything we’ve been working toward for the last thirty years is within our grasp now. The risks we took in the early days, all these years of research, the money we’ve spent—it’s all coming to fruition at last. Don’t get an attack of nerves at this point, Preston!”
“I don’t have bad nerves, I’m pointing out real, practical problems,” Preston said peevishly. “Jim can propose his political platform, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.”
”That’s where Landsmann comes in,” Jim said. “The cash we’ll get for our shares in the company will give us a shot at the biggest prize of all.”
“What do you mean?” Preston looked puzzled, but Berrington knew what was coming, and he smiled.
“The White House,” ’Jim said. “I’m going to run for president.”
A few minutes before midnight, Steve Logan parked his rusty old Datsun on Lexington Street in the Hollins Market neighborhood of Baltimore, west of downtown. He was going to spend the night with his cousin Ricky Menzies, who was studying medicine at the University of Maryland in Baltimore. Ricky’s home was one room in a big old house tenanted by students.
Ricky was the greatest hell-raiser Steve knew. He loved to drink, dance, and party, and his friends were the same. Steve had been looking forward to spending the evening with Ricky. But the trouble with hell-taisers was that they were inherently unreliable. At the last minute Ricky got a hot date and canceled, and Steve had spent the evening alone.
He got out of the car, carrying a small sports bag with fresh clothes for tomorrow. The night was warm. He locked the car and walked to the corner. A bunch of youngsters, four or five boys and a girl, all black, were hanging out by a video store, smoking cigarettes. Steve was not nervous, although he was white: he looked as if he belonged here, with his old car and his faded blue jeans; and anyway he was a couple of inches taller than the biggest of them. As he passed, one of them said quietly but distinctly: “Wanna buy some blow, wanna buy some rock?” Steve shook his head without pausing in his stride.
A very tall black woman was walking toward him, dressed to kill in a short skirt and spike-heeled shoes, hair piled high, red lipstick eind blue eye shadow. He could not help staring at her. As she came eloser she said, “Hi, handsome,” in a deep masculine voice, and Steve realized it was a man. He grinned and walked on.
He heard the kids on the corner greet the transvestite with easy familiarity. “Hey, Dorothy!”
A moment later he heard tires squeal and glanced back. A white police car with a silver-and-blue stripe was pulling up at the corner. Some of the kids melted away into the dark streets; others stayed. Two black patrolmen got out, in no hurry. Steve turned around to watch. Seeing the man called Dorothy, one of the patrolmen spat, hitting the toe of a red high-heeled shoe.
Steve was shocked. The act was so gratuitous and unnecessary. However, Dorothy hardly paused in his stride. “Fuck you, asshole,” he muttered.
The remark was barely audible, but the patrolman had good ears. He grabbed Dorothy by the arm and slammed him against the window of the store. Dorothy tottered in the high heels. “Don’t ever speak to me that way, you piece a shit,” the cop said.
Steve felt indignant. What did the guy expect if he went around spitting at people, for Christ’s sake?
An alarm bell started ringing in the back of his mind. Don’t get in a fight, Steve.
The cop’s partner stood leaning on the car, watching, his face a blank.
“What’s the matter, brother?” Dorothy said seductively. “Do I disturb you?”
The patrolman punched him in the stomach. The cop was a beefy guy, and the punch had all his weight behind it. Dorothy doubled over, gasping.
“The hell with this,” Steve said to himself, and he strode to the corner.
What are you doing, Steve?
Dorothy was still bent over, gasping. Steve said: “Good evening, Officer.”
The cop looked at him. “Vanish, motherfucker,” he said.
“No,” Steve said.
“What did you say?”
“I said no, Officer. You leave that man alone.” Walk away, Steve, you damn fool, walk away.
His defiance made the kids cocky. “Yeah, thass right,” said a tall, thin boy with a shaved head. “You got no call to fuck width Dorothy, he ain’t broke no law.”
The cop pointed an aggressive finger at the boy. “You want me to frisk you for dope, you just keep talking that way.”
The boy lowered his eyes.
“He’s right, though,” Steve said. “Dorothy isn’t breaking any laws.” ’
The cop came over to Steve. Don’t hit him, whatever you do, don’t touch him. Remember Tip Hendricks. “You blind?” the cop said.
“What do you mean?”
The other cop said: “Hey, Lenny, who gives a shit. Let’s go.” He seemed uncomfortable.
Lenny ignored him and spoke to Steve. “Can’t you see? You’re the only white face in the picture. You don’t belong here.”
“But I’ve just witnessed a crime.”
The cop stood close to Steve, too close for comfort. “You want a trip downtown?” he said. “Or do you want to get the fuck out of here, now?”
Steve did not want a trip downtown. It was so easy, for them to plant a little dope in his pockets, or beat him up and say he had resisted arrest. Steve was at law schock if he were convicted of a crime he could never practice. He wished he had not taken this stand. It was not worth throwing away his entire career just because a patrolman bullied a transvestite.
But it was wrong. Now two people were being bullied, Dorothy and Steve. It was the cop who was breaking the law. Steve could not bring himself to walk away.
But he adopted a conciliatory tone of voice. “I don’t want to make trouble, Lenny,” he said. “Why don’t you let Dorothy go, and I’ll forget that I saw you assault him.”
“You threatening me, fuckhead?”
A punch to the stomach and a left-and-right to the head. One for the money, two for the show. The cap would go down like a horse with a broken leg.
“Just making a friendly suggestion.” This cop seemed to want trouble. Steve could not see how the confrontation could be defused. He wished Dorothy would walk quietly away now, while Lenny’s back was turned; but the transvestite stood there, watching, with one hand gently rubbing his bruised stomach, enjoying the cop’s fury.
Then luck intervened. The patrol car’s radio came to life. Both cops froze, listening. Steve could not make out the jumble of words and number codes, but Lenny’s partner said “Officer in trouble. We’re out of here.”
Lenny hesitated, still glaring at Steve, but Steve thought he saw a him of relief in the cop’s eyes. Maybe he, too, had been rescued from a bad situation. But there was only malice in his tone. “Remember me,” he said to Steve. “Cause I’ll remember you.” With that he jumped into the vehicle and slammed the door, and the car tore away.
The kids clapped and jeered.
“Whew,” Steve said gratefully. “That was scary.”
It was also dumb. You know how it could have gone. You know what you’re like.
At that moment his cousin Ricky came along. “What happened?” Ricky asked, looking at the disappearing patrol car.
Dorothy came over and put his hands on Steve’s shoulder. “My hero,” he said coquettishly. “John Wayne.”
Steve was embarassed. “Hey, c’mon.”
“Any time you want a walk on the wild side, John Wayne, you come to me. I’ll let you in free.”
“Thanks all the same…”
“I’d kiss you, but I can see you’re bashful, so I’ll just say good-bye.” He waggled red-tipped fingers and turned away.
Ricky and Steve went in the opposite direction. Ricky said: “I see you’ve already made friends in the neighborhood.”
Steve laughed, mainly with relief. “I almost got in bad trouble,” he said. “A dumb-ass cop started beating up on that guy in the skirt, and I was fool enough to tell him to stop.”
Ricky was startled. “You’re lucky you’re here.”
“I know it.”
They reached Ricky’s house and went in. The place smelled of cheese, or maybe it was stale milk. There was graffiti on the green-painted walls. They edged around the bicycles chained up in the hallway and went up the stairs. Steve said: “It just makes me mad. Why should Dorothy get punched in the gut? He likes to wear miniskirts and makeup: who gives a damn?”
“And why should Lenny get away with it because he’s wearing a police uniform? Policemen should have higher standards of behavior, because of their privileged position.”
“That’s why I want to be a lawyer. To stop this kind of shit from happening. Do you have a hero, someone you want to be like?”
“Ralph Nader. He’s a lawyer. That’s my role model. He took on the most powerful corporations in America—and he won!”
Ricky laughed and put his arm around Steve’s shoulders as they entered his room. “My cousin the idealist.”
“Want some coffee?”
Ricky’s room was small and furnished with junk. He had a single bed, a battered desk, a sagging couch, and a big TV set. On the wall was a poster of a naked woman marked with the names of every bone in the human skeleton, from the parietal bone of the head to the distal phalanges of the feet. There was an air conditioner, but it did not seem to be working.
Steve sat on the couch. “How was your date?”
“Not as hot as advertised.” Ricky put water in a kettle. “Melissa is cute all right, but I wouldn’t be home this early if she was as crazy for me as I was led to believe. How about you?”
“I looked around the Jones Falls campus. Pretty classy. I met a girl, too.” Remembering, he brightened. “I saw her playing tennis. She was terrific—tall, muscular, fit as hell. A service like it was fired out of a fucking bazooka, I swear to God.”
“I never heard of anyone falling for a girl because of her tennis game.” Ricky grinned. “Is she a looker?”
“She’s got this really strong face.” Steve could see it now. “Dark brown eyes, black eyebrows, masses of dark hair …and this delicate little silver ring through her left nostril.”
“No kidding. Unusual huh?”
“You said it.” “What’s her name?” ’ ’
“I don’t know.” Steve smiled ruefully. “She gave me the brush-off without breaking stride. I’ll probably never see her again in my life.”
Ricky poured coffee. “Maybe it’s for the best—you have a steady date, don’t you?”
“Sort of.” Steve had felt a little guilty, being so attracted to the tennis player. “Her name is Celine,” he said. “We study together.” Steve went to school in Washington, D.C.
“You sleeping with her?”
“I don’t feel that level of commitment.”
Ricky looked surprised. “This is a language I don’t speak. You have to feel committed to a girl before you fuck her?”
Steve was embarrassed. “It’s just the way I feel, you know?”
“Have you always felt that way?”
“No. When I was in high school I did whatever girls would let me do, it was like a contest or something. I would bone any pretty girl who would take her panties off …but that was then, and this is now, and I’m not a kid anymore. I think.”
“How old are you, twenty-two?”
“I’m twenty-five, but I guess I’m not as grown-up as you.”
Steve detected a note of resentment. “Hey, it’s not a criticism, okay?”
“Okay.” Ricky did not seem seriously offended. “So what did you do, after she gave you the brush-off?”
“Went to a bar in Charles Village and had a couple beers and a hamburger.”
“That reminds me—I’m hungry. Want something to eat?”
“What have you got?”
Ricky opened a cupboard. “Boo Berry, Rice Krispies, or Count Chocula.”
“Oh, boy, Count Chocula sounds great.” Ricky put bowls and and milk on the table, and they both dug in.
When they had finished, they rinsed their cereal bowls and got ready for bed. Steve lay on the Couch in his undershorts: it was too hot for a blanket. Ricky took the bed. Before they went to sleep, Ricky said: “So what are you going to do at Jones Falls?”
“They asked me to be part of a study. I have to have psychological tests and stuff.”
“I don’t know. They said I was a special case, and they would explain everything when I get there.”
“What made you say yes? Sounds like kind of a waste of time.”
Steve had a special reason, but he was not going to tell Ricky. His answer was part of the truth. “Curiosity, I guess. I mean, don’t you wonder about yourself? Like, what kind of person am I really, and what do I want in life?”
“I want to be a hotshot Surgeon and make a million bucks a doing breast implants. I guess I’m a simple soul.”
“Don’t you ask yourself what’s it all for?”
Ricky laughed. “No, Steve, I don’t. But you do. You were always a thinker. Even when we were kids, you used to wonder about God and stuff.”
It was true. Steve had gone through a religious phase at about age thirteen. He had visited several different churches, a synagoge and a mosque, and earnestly questioned a series of bemused clergymen about their beliefs. It had mystified his parents, who were both unconcerned agnostics.
“But you were always a little bit different,” Ricky went on. “I never knew anyone who could score so high in tests without breaking a sweat.”
That was true, too. Steve had always been a quick study, effortlessly making top of the class, except when the other kids teased him and he made deliberate mistakes just to be less conspicuous.
But there was another reason why he was curious about his own psychology. Ricky did not know about it. Nobody at law school knew. Only his parents knew.
Steve had almost killed someone.
He was fifteen at the time, already tall but thin. He was captain of the basketball team. That year, Hillsfield High made if to the city championship semifinal. They played against a team of ruthless street fighters from a Washington slum school. One particular opponent, a boy called Tip Hendricks, fouled Steve all through the match. Tip was good, but he used all his skill to cheat. And every time he did it he would grin, as if to say “Got you again, sucker!” It drove Steve wild, but he had to keep his fury inside. All the same he played badly and the team lost, missing their chance at the trophy.
By the worst of bad luck, Steve ran into Tip in the parking lot, where the buses were waiting to take the teams back to their schools. Fatally, one of the drivers was changing a wheel and had a tool kit open on the ground.
Steve ignored Tip, but Tip flicked his cigarette butt at Steve, and it landed on his jacket.
That jacket meant a lot to Steve. He had saved up his earnings from working Saturdays at McDonald’s, and he had bought the damn thing the day before. It was a beautiful tan blouson made of soft leather the color of butter, and now it had a burn mark right on the chest, where you could not help but see it. It was ruined. So Steve hit him.
Tip fougth back fiercely, kicking and butting, but Steve’s rage numbed him and he hardly felt the blows. Tip’s face was covered in blood by the time his eye fell on the busdriver’s tool kit and he picked up a tire iron. He hit Steve across the face with it twice. The blows really hurt, and Steve’s rage became blind. He got the iron away from Tip—and he could remember nothing, after that, until he was standing over Tip’s body, with the bloodstained iron bar in his hand, and someone else was saying, “Jesus Christ Almighty, I think he’s dead.”
Tip was not dead, though he did die two years later, killed by a Jamaican marijuana importer to whom he owed eighty-five dollars. But Steve had wanted to kill him, had tried to kill him. He had no real excuse: he had struck the first blow, and although Tip had been the one to pick up the tire iron, Steve had used it savagely.
Steve was sentenced to six months in prison, but the sentence was suspended. After the trial he went to a different school and and passed all his exams as usual. Because he had been a juvenile at the time of the fight, his criminal record could not be disclosed to anyone, so it did not prevent his getting into law school. Mom and Dad now thought of it as a nightmare that was over. But Steve had doubts. He knew it was only good luck and the resilience of the human body that had saved him from a murder trial. Tip Hendricks was a human being, and Steve had almost killed him for a jacket. As he listened to Ricky’s untroubled breathing across the room, he lay awake on couch and thought: What am I?
"Did you ever meet a man you wanted to marry?" Lisa said.
They were sitting at the table in Lisa’s apartment, drinking instant coffee. Everything about the place was pretty, like Lisa: flowered prints, china ornaments, and a teddy bear with a spotted bow tie.
Lisa was going to take the day off, but Jeannie was dressed for work in a navy skirt and white cotton blouse. It was an important day, and she was jumpy with tension. The first of her subjects was coming to the lab for tests. Would he fit in with her theory or flout it? By the end of the aftemoon she would either feel vindicated or be painfully reappraising her ideas.
However, she did not want to leave until the last possible moment. Lisa was still very fragile. Jeannie figured the best thing she could do was sit and talk to her about men and sex the way they always did, help her get on the road back to normality. She would have liked to stay here all morning, but she could not. She was really sorry Lisa would not be at the lab to help her today, but it was out of the question.
“Yeah, one,” Jeannie said in answer to the question. “There was one guy I wanted to many. His name was Will Temple. He was an anthropologist. Still is.” Jeannie could see him now, a big man with a fair heard, in blue jeans and a fisherman’s sweater, carrying his ten-speed bicycle through the corridors of the university.
“You’ve mentioned him before,” Lisa“ said. “What was he like?”
“He was great.” Jeannie sighed. “He made me laugh, he took care of me when I was sick, he ironed his own shirts, and he was hung like a horse.”
Lisa did not smile. “What went wrong?”
Jeannie was being flip, but it hurt her to remember. “He left me for Georgina Tinkerton Ross.” As if by way of explanation, she added: “Of the Pittsburgh Tinkerton Rosses.”
“What was she like?”
The last thing Jeannie wanted to do was recall Georgina. However, this was taking Lisa’s mind off the rape, so she forced herself to reminisce. “She was perfect,” she said, and she disliked the bitter sarcasm she heard in her own voice. “Strawberry blond, hourglass figure, impeccable taste in cashmere sweaters and crocodile shoes. No brain, but a hell of a big trust fund.”
“When did all this happen?”
“Will and I lived together for a year when I was doing my doctorate.” It had been the happiest time she could remember. “He moved out while I was writing my article on whether criminality is genetic.” Great timing, Will. I just wish I could hate you more. “Then Berrington offered me a job at Jones Falls and I jumped at it.”
“Men are creeps.”
“Will isn’t really a creep. He’s a beautiful guy. He fell for someone else, that’s all. I think he showed really bad judgment in his choice. But it’s not like we were married or anything. He didn’t break any promises. He wasn’t even unfaithful to me, except maybe once or twice before he told me.” Jeannie realized she was repeating Will’s own words of self-justification. “I don’t know, maybe he was a creep after all.”
“Maybe we should return to Victorian times, when a man who kissed a woman considered himself engaged. At least girls knew where they were.”
Right now Lisa’s perspective on relationships was pretty skewed, but Jeannie did not say so. Instead she asked: “What about you? Did you ever find one you wanted to marry?”
“Never. Not one.”
“You and I have high standards. Don’t worry, when Mr. Right comes along he’ll be wonderful.”
The entry phone sounded, startling them both. Lisa jumped up, bumping the table. A porcelain vase fell to the floor and shattered, and Lisa said: “Goddamn it.”
She was still right on the edge. “I’ll pick up the pieces,” Jeannie said in a soothing voice. “You see who’s at the door.”
Lisa picked up the handset. A troubled frown crossed her face, and she studied the image on the monitor. “All right, I guess,” she said dubiously, and she pressed the button that opened the building door.
“Who is it?” Jeannie asked.
“A detective from the Sex Crimes Unit.”
Jeannie had been afraid they would send someone to bully Lisa into cooperating with the investigation. She was determined they would not succeed. The last thing Lisa needed now was more intrusive questions. “Why didn’t you tell him to fuck off?”
“Maybe because she’s black,” Lisa said.
Lisa shook her head.
How clever, Jeannie thought as she swept shards of porcelain into her cupped hand. The cops knew she and Lisa were hostile. If they had sent a white male detective he would not have got through the door. So they sent a black woman, knowing that two middle-class white girls would bend over backward to be polite to her. Well, if she tries to push Lisa around I’ll throw her out of here just the same, Jeannie thought.
She turned out to be a stocky woman of about forty, smartly dressed in a cream blouse with a colorful silk scarf, carrying a briefcase, “I’m Sergeant Michelle Delaware,” she said. “They call me Mish.”
Jeannie wondered what was in the briefcase. Detectives usually carried guns, not papers. “I’m Dr. Jean Ferrami,” Jeannie said. She always used her title when she thought she was going to quarrel with someone. “This is Lisa Hoxton.”
The detective said: “Ms. Hoxton, I want to say how sorry I am about what happened to you yesterday. My unit deals with one rape a day, on average, and every single one is a terrible tragedy and a wounding trauma for the victim. I know you’re hurting and I understand.”
Wow, Jeannie thought, this is different from yesterday.
“I’m trying to put it behind me,” Lisa said defiantly, but tears came to her eyes and betrayed her.
“May I sit down?”
The detective sat at the kitchen table.
Jeannie studied her warily. “Your attitude seems different from the patrolman’s,” she said.
Mish nodded. “I’m also deeply sorry about McHenty and the way he treated you. Like all patrolmen he has received training on how to deal with rape victims, but he seems to have forgotten what he was taught. I’m embarrassed for the entire police department.”
“It was like being violated all over again,” Lisa said tearfully.
“It’s not supposed to happen anymore,” Mish said, and a note of anger crept into her voice. “This is how so many rape cases end up in a drawer marked ‘Unfounded.’ It’s not because women lie about rape. It’s because the justice system treats them so brutally that they withdraw the complaint.”
Jeannie said: “I can believe that.” She told herself to be careful: Mish might talk like a sister, but she was still a cop.
Mish took a card from her purse. “Here’s the number of a volunteer center for victims of rape and child abuse,” she said. “Sooner or later, every victim needs counseling.”
Lisa took the card, but she said: “Right now all I want is to forget it.”
Mish nodded. “Take my advice, put the card in a drawer. Your feelings go through cycles, and there will probably come a time when you’re ready to seek help.”
Jeannie decided that Mish had earned a little courtesy. “Would you like some coffee?” she offered.
“I’d love a cup.”
“I’ll make some fresh.” Jeannie got up and filled the coffee maker.
Mish said: “Do you two work together?”
“Yes,” Jeannie replied. “We study twins.”
“We measure their similarities and differences, and try to figure out how much is inherited and how much is due to the way they were raised.”
“What’s your role in this, Lisa?”
“My job is to find the twins for the scientists to study.”
“How do you do that?”
“I start with birth records, which are public information in most states. Twinning is about one percent of births; so we get a set of twins for every hundred birth certificates we look at. The certificate gives the date and place of birth. We take a copy, then track down the twins.”
“We have every American phone book on CD-ROM. We can also use driving license registries and credit reference agencies.”
“Do you always find the twins?”
“Goodness, no. Our success rate depends on their age. We track down about ninety percent of ten-year-olds, but only fifty percent of eighty-year-olds. Older people are more likely to have moved several times, changed their names, or died.”
Mish looked at Jeannie. “And then you study them.”
Jeannie said: “I specialize in identical twins who have been raised apart. They’re much more difficult to find.” She put the coffeepot on the table and poured a cup for Mish. If this detective was planning, to put pressure on Lisa, she was taking her time about it.
Mish sipped her coffee then said to Lisa: “At the hospital, did you take any medication?”
“No, I wasn’t there long.”
”They should have offered you the morning-after pill. You don’t want to be pregnant.”
Lisa shuddered. “I sure don’t. I’ve been asking myself what the hell I’d do about it.”
“Go to your own doctor. He should give it to you, unless he has religious objections—some Catholic physicians have a problem with it. In that case the volunteer center will recommend an alternate.”
“It’s so good to talk to someone who knows all this stuf,” Lisa said.
“The fire was no accident,” Mish went on. “I’ve talked to the fire chief. Someone set it in a storage room next to the locker room—and he unscrewed the ventilation pipes to make sure the smoke was pumped into the locker room. Now, rapists are not really interested in sex: it’s fear that turns them on. So I think the fire was all part of this creep’s fantasy.”
Jeannie had not thought of that possibility. “I assumed he was just an opportunist who took advantage of the fire.”
Mish shook her head. “Date rape is usually opportunistic: a guy finds that the girl is too stoned or drunk to fight him off. But men who rape strangers are different. They’re planners. They fantasize the event, then work out how to make it happen. They can be very clever. It makes them more scary.”
Jeannie felt even angrier. “I nearly died in that goddamn fire,” she said.
Mish said to Lisa: “I’m right in thinking you had never seen this man before? He was a total stranger?”
“I think I saw him about an hour earlier,” she replied. “When I was out running with the field hockey team, a car slowed right down and the guy stared at us. I have a feeling it was him.”
“What kind of a car?”
“It was old, I know that. White, with a lot of rust. Maybe a Datsun.”
Jeannie expected Mish to write that down, but she carried talking. “The impression I get is of an intelligent and completely ruthless pervert who will do whatever it takes to get his kicks.”
Jeannie said bitterly: “He should be locked away for the rest of his life.”
Mish played her trump card. “But he won’t be. He’s free. And he will do it again.”
Jeannie was skeptical. “How can you be sure of that?”
“Most rapists are serial rapists. The only exception is opportunistic date-rapist I mentioned before: that type of guy might offend only once. But men who rape strangers do it again and again—until they’re caught.” Mish looked hard at Lisa. “In seven to ten days’ time, the man who raped you will put another woman through the same torture—unless we catch him first.”
“Oh, my God,” Lisa said.
Jeannie could see where Mish was heading. As Jeannie had anticipated, the detective was going to try to talk Lisa into helping with the investigation. Jeannie was still determined not to let Mish bully or pressure Lisa. But it was hard to object to the kinds of things she was saying now.
“We need a sample of his DNA,” Mish said.
Lisa made a disgusted face. “You mean his sperm.”
Lisa shook her head. “I’ve showered and taken a bath and douched myself. I hope to God there’s nothing; left of him inside me.”
Mish was quietly persistent. “Traces remain in the body for forty-eight to seventy-two hours afterward. We need to do a vaginal swab, a pubic hair combing, and a blood test.”
Jeannie said: “The doctor we saw at Santa Teresa yesterday was a real asshole.”
Mish nodded. “Doctors hate dealing with rape victims. If they have to go to court, they lose time and money. But you should never have been taken to Santa Teresa. That was one of McHenty’s many mistakes. Three hospitals in this city are designated Sexual Assault Centers, and Santa Teresa isn’t one of them.”
Lisa said: “Where do you want me to go?”
“Mercy Hospital has a Sexual Assault Forensic Examination unit. We call it the SAFE unit.”
Jeannie nodded. Mercy was the big downtown hospital.
Mish went on: “You’ll see a sexual assault nurse examiner, who is always a woman. She’s specially trained in dealing with evidence, which the doctor you saw yesterday was not—he would probably have screwed up anyway.”
Mish clearly did not have much respect for doctors.
She opened her briefcase. Jeannie leaned forward, curious. Inside was a laptop computer. Mish lifted the lid and switched it on. “We have a program called E-FIT for Electronic Facial Identification Technique. We like acronyms.” She gave a wry smile. “Actually it was devised by a Scotland Yard detective. It enables us to put together a likeness of the perpetrator, without using an artist.” She looked expectantly at Lisa.
Lisa looked at Jeannie. “What do you think?”
“Don’t feel pressured,” Jeannie said. ”Think about yourself. You’re entitled. Do what makes you feel comfortable.”
Mish shot her a hostile glare, then said to Lisa: “There’s no pressure on you. If you want me to leave, I’m out of here. But I’m asking you. I want to catch this rapist, and I need your help. Without you, I don’t stand a chance.”
Jeannie was lost in admiration. Mish had dominated and controlled the conversation ever since she walked into the room, yet she had done it without bullying or manipulation. She knew what she was talking about, and she knew what she wanted.
Lisa said: “I don’t know.”
Mish said: “Why don’t you take a look at this computer program? If it upsets you, we’ll stop. If not, I will at least have a picture of the man I’m after. Then, when we’re done with that, you can think about whether you want to go to Mercy.”
Lisa hesitated again, then said: “Okay.”
Jeannie said: “Just remember, you can stop any time you feel upset.”
Mish said: “To begin, we’ll get a rough approximation of his face. It won’t look like him, but it will be a basis. Then we’ll refine the details. I need you to concentrate hard on the perpetrator’s face, then give me a general description. Take your time.”
Lisa closed her eyes. “He’s a white man about my age. Short hair, no particular color. Light eyes, blue, I guess. Straight nose…”
Mish was operating a mouse. Jeannie got up and stood behind the detective so she could see the screen. It was a Windows program. In the top right-hand corner was a face divided into eight sections. As Lisa named features, Mish would click on a section of the face, pulling down a menu, then check items on the menu based on Lisa’s comments: hair short, eyes light, nose straight.
Lisa went on: “Kind of a square chin, no beard or mustache …How am I doing?”
Mish clicked again and an entire face came on the main screen. It showed a white man in his thirties with regular features, and it might have been any one of a thousand guys. Mish turned the computer around so that Lisa could see the screen. “Now, we’re going to change the face bit by bit. First, I’ll show you this face with a whole series of different foreheads and hairlines. Just say yes, no, or maybe. Ready?”
Mish clicked the mouse. The face on the screen changed, and suddenly the forehead had a receding hairline.
“No,” Lisa said.
She clicked again. This time the face had a straight fringe lie an old-fashioned Beatle haircut.
The next haircut was wavy, and Lisa said: “That’s more like it. But I think he had a part.”
The next was curly. “Better still,” Lisa said. ”This is better than the last one. But the hair is too dark.”
Mish said: “After we’ve looked at them all, we’ll come back to the ones you liked and pick the best. When we have the whole face we can carry on improving it using the retouch feature: making the hair darker or lighter moving the part, making the whole face older or younger.”
Jeannie was fascinated, but this was going to take an hour or more, and she had work to do. “I’ve got to go,” she said. “Are you okay, Lisa?”
“I’m fine,”Lisa said, and Jeannie could tell it was the truth. Maybe it would be better for Lisa to get involved in hunting the man down. She caught Mish’s eye and saw a flash of triumph in her expression. Was I wrong, Jeannie wondered, to be hostile to Mish and defensive of Lisa? Mish was cettainly sympa.
She had all the right words. Just the same, her priority was not to help Lisa but to catch the rapist Lisa still needed a true friend someone whose main concern was for her.
“I’ll call you,” Jeannie said to her.
Lisa hugged Jeannie. “I can’t thank you enough for staying with me,” she said.
Mish held out her hand and said: “Good to meet you.”
Jeannie shook hands. “Good luck,” she said. “I hope you catch him.”
“So do I,” said Mish.
Steve parked in the large student parking lot in the southwest corner of the hundred-acre Jones Falls campus. It was a few minutes before ten o’clock, and the campus was thronged with students in light summer clothes on their way the first lecture of the day. As he walked across the campus he looked out for the tennis player. The chances of seeing her were slender, he knew, but he could not help staring at every tall dark-haired woman to see if she had a nose ring.
The Ruth W. Acorn Psychology Building was a modern four-story structure in the same red brick as the older, more traditional college buildings. He gave his name in the lobby and was directed to the laboratory.
In the next three hours he underwent more tests than he could have imagined possible. He was weighed, measured, and fingerprinted. Scientists, technicians, and students photographed his ears, tested the strength of his grip, and assessed his startle reflex by showing him pictures of burn victims and mutilated bodies. He answered questions about his leisure-time interests, his religious beliefs, his girlfriends, and his job aspirations. He had to state if he could repair a doorbell, whether he considered himself well groomed, would he spank his children, and did certain music make him think of pictures or changing color patterns. But no one told him why he had been selected for the study.
He was not the only subject. Also around the lab were two little girls and a middle-aged man wearing cowboy boots, blue jeans and a western shirt. At midday they all gathered in a lounge with couches and a TV, and had pizza and Cokes for lunch. It was then Steve realized there were in fact two middle-aged men in cowboy boots: they were twins, dressed the same.
He introduced himself and learned that the cowboys were Benny and Arnold and the little girls were Sue and Elizabeth. “Do you guys always dress the same?” Steve asked the men as they ate.
They looked at each other, then Benny said: “Don’t know. We just met.”
“You’re twins, and you just met?”
“When we were babies we were both adopted—by different families.”
“And you accidentally dressed the same?”
“Looks like it, don’t it?”
Arnold added: “And we’re both carpenters, and we both smoke Camel Lights, and we both have two kids, a boy and a girl.”
Benny said: “Both girls are called Caroline, but my boy is John and his is Richard.”
Arnold said: “I wanted to call my boy John, but my wife insisted on Richard.”
“Wow,” Steve said. “But you can’t have inherited a taste for Camel Lights.”
One of the little girls, Elizabeth, said to Steve: “Where’s your twin?”
“I don’t have one,” he replied. “Is that what they study here, twins?”
“Yes.” Proudly she added: “Sue and me are dizygotic.”
Steve raised his eyebrows. She looked about eleven. “I’m not sure I know that word,” he said gravely. “What does it mean?”
“We’re not identical. We’re fraternal twins. That’s why we don’t look the same.” She pointed at Benny and Arnold. “They’re monozygotic. They have the same DNA. That’s why they’re so alike.”
“You seem to know a lot about it,” Steve said; “I’m impressed.”
“We’ve been here before,” she said.
The door opened behind Steve, and Elizabeth looked up and said: “Hello, Doctor Ferrami.”
Steve turned and saw the tennis player.
Her muscular body was hidden beneath a knee-length white laboratory coat, but she moved like an athlete as she walked into the room. She still had the air of focused concentration that had been so impressive on the tennis court. He stared at her, hardly able to believe his luck.
She said hello to the little girls and introduced herself to the others. When she shook Steve’s hand she did a double take. “So you’re Steve Logan!” she said.
“You play a great game of tennis,” he said.
“I lost, though.” She sat down. Her thick, dark hair swung loosely around her shoulders, and Steve noticed, in the unforgiving light of the laboratory, that she had one or two gray hairs. Instead of the silver ring she had a plain gold stud in her nostril. She was wearing makeup today, and the mascara made her dark eyes even more hypnotic.
She thanked them all for giving up their time in the service of scientific inquiry and asked if the pizzas were good. After a few more platitudes she sent the girls and the cowboys away to begin their afternoon tests.
She sat close to Steve, and for some reason he had the feeling she was embarrassed. It was almost as if she were about to give him bad news. She said: “By now you’re wondering what this is all about.”
“I guessed I was picked because I’ve always done so well in school.”
“No,” she said. ”True, you score very high on all intellectual test. In fact, your performance at school understates your abilities. Your IQ is off the scale. You probably come top of your class without even studying hard, am I right?”
“Yes. But that’s not why I’m here?”
“No. Our project here is to ask how much of people’s makeup is predetermined by their genetic inheritance.” Her awkwardness vanished as she warmed to her subject. “Is it DNA that decides whether we’re intelligent, aggressive, romantic, athletic? Or is it our upbringing? If both have an influance, how do they interact?”
“An ancient controversy,” Steve said. He had taken a philosophy course at college, and he had been fascinated by this debate. “Am I the way I am because I was born like it? Or am I a product of my upbringing and the society I was raised in?” He recalled the catchphrase that summed up the argument: “Nature or nurture?”
She nodded, and her long hair moved heavily, like the ocean. Steve wondered how it felt to the touch. “But we’re trying to resolve the question in a strictly scientific way,” she said. “You see, identical twins have the same genes—exactly the same. Fraternal twins don’t, but they are normally brought up in exactly the same environment. We study both kinds, and compare them with twins who are brought up apart, measuring how similar they are.”
Steve was wondering how this affected him. He was also wondering how old Jeannie was. Seeing her run around the tennis court yesterday, with her hair hidden in a cap, he had assumed she was his age; but now he could tell she was nearer thirty. It did not change his feelings about her, but he had never before been attracted to someone so old.
She went on: “If environment was more important, twins raised together would be very alike, and twins raised apart would be quite different, regardless of whether they were identical or fraternal. In fact we find the opposite. Identical twins resemble one another, regardless of who raised them. Indeed, identical twins raised apart are more similar than fraternal twins raised together.”
“Like Benny and Arnold?”
“Exactly. You saw how alike they are, even though they were brought up in different homes. That’s typical. This department has studied more than a hundred pairs of identical twins raised apart. Of those two hundred people, two were published poets, and they were a twin pair. Two were professionally involved with pets—one was a dog trainer and the other a breeder—and they were a twin pair. We’ve had two musicians—a piano teacher and a session guitarist—also a twin pair. But those are just the more vivid examples. As you’ve seen this morning, we do scientific measurements of personality, IQ, and various physical dimensions, and these often show the same pattern: the identical twins are highly similar, regardless of their upbringing.”
“Whereas Sue and Elizabeth seem quite different.”
“Right. Yet they have the same parents, the same home, they go to the same school, they’ve had the same diet all their lives and so on. I expect Sue was quiet all through lunch, but Elizabeth told you her life story.”
“As a matter of fact, she explained the word monozygotic” to me.”
Dr. Ferrami laughed showing white teeth and a flash of pink tongue, and Steve felt inordinately pleased that he had amused her.
“But you still haven’t explained my involvement” he said.
She looked awkward again. “It’s a little difficult,” she said. “This has never happened before.”
Suddenly he realized. It was obvious, but so surprising that he had not guessed until now. “You think I have a twin that I don’t know about?” he said incredulously.
“I can’t think of any gradual way to tell you,” she said with evident chagrin. “Yes, we do.”
“Wow.” He felt dazed: it was hard to take in.
“I’m really sorry.”
“Nothing to apologize for, I guess.”
“But there is. Normally people know they’re twins before they come to us. However, I’ve pioneered a new way of recruiting subjects for this study, and you’re the first. Actually, the fact that you don’t know you have a twin is a tremendous vindication of my system. But I didn’t foresee that we might be giving people shocking news.”
“I always wanted a brother,” Steve said. He was an only child, born when his parents were in their late thirties. “Is it a brother?”
“Yes. You’re identical.”
”An identical twin brother,” Steve murmured. “But how could it happen without my knowledge?”
She looked mortified.
“Wait a minute, I can work it out,” Steve said. “I could be adopted.”
It was an even more shocking thought: Mom and Dad might not be his parents.
“Or my twin could have been adopted.”
“Or both, like Benny and Arnold.”
“Or both,” she repeated solemnly. She was gazing intently at him with those dark eyes. Despite the turmoil in his mind he could not help thinking how lovely she was. He wanted her to stare at him like this forever.
She said: “In my experience, even if a subject doesn’t know he or she is a twin, they normally know they were adopted. Even so, I should have guessed you might be different.”
Steve said painfully: “I just can’t believe Mom and Dad would have kept adoption a secret from me. It’s not their style.”
“Tell me about your parents.”
He knew she was making him talk to help him work through the shock, but that was okay. He collected his thoughts. “Mom’s kind of exceptional. You’ve heard of her, her name’s Lorraine Logan.”
“The lonelyheart columnist?”
“Right. Syndicated in four hundred newspapers, author of six best-sellers about women’s health. Rich and famous, and she deserves it.”
“Why do you say that?”
“She really cares about the people who write to her. She answers thousands of letters. You know, they basically want her to wave a magic wand—make their unwanted pregnancies vanish, get their kids off drugs, turn their abusive men into kindly and supportive husbands. She always gives them the information they need and tells them it’s their decision what to do, trust your feelings and don’t let anyone bully you. It’s a good philosophy.”
“And your father?”
Dad’s pretty ordinary, I guess. He’s in the military, works at the Pentagon, he’s a colonel. He does public relations, writes speeches for generals, that kind of thing.”
Steve smiled. “He has a highly developed sense of duty. But he’s not a violent man. He saw some action in Asia, before I was born, but he never brought it home.”
“Did you require discipline?”
Steve laughed. “I was the naughtiest boy in class, all through school. Constantly in trouble.”
“Breaking the rules. Running in the hallway. Wearing red socks. Chewing gum in class. Kissing Wendy Prasker behind the biology shelf in the school library when I was thirteen.”
“Because she was so pretty.”
She laughed again. “I meant, why did you break all the other rules?”
He shook his head “I just couldn’t be obedient. I did what I wanted to do. The rules seemed stupid, and I got bored. They would have thrown me out of school, but I always got good grades, and I was usually captain of one sports team or another: football, basketball, baseball, track. I don’t understand myself. Am I a weirdo?”
“Everybody’s weird in their own way.”
“I guess so. Why’d you wear the nose ring?”
She raised her dark eyebrows, as if to say “I ask the questions around here,” but she answered him just the same. “I went through a punk phase when I was about fourteen: green hair, ripped stockings, everything. The pierced nonstril was part of that.”
“It would close up and heal over if you let it.”
“I know. I guess I keep it because I feel that total respectability is deadly dull.”
Steve smiled. My God, I like this woman, he thought, even she is too old for me. Then his mind switched back to what she had told him. “What makes you so sure I have a twin?”
“I’ve developed a conmputer program that searches medical records and other databases for pairs. Identical twins have similar brain waves, electrocardiograms, fingerprint ridge counts, and teeth. I scanned a large database of dental x-rays held by a medical insurance company, and found someone whose teeth measurements and arch forms are the same as yours.”
“It doesn’t sound conclusive.”
“Maybe not, although he even has cavities in the same places you do.”
“So who is he?”
“His name is Dennis Pinker.”
“Where is he now?”
“Have you met him?”
“I’m going to Richmond to see him tomorrow. I’ll do many of the same tests on him, and take a blood sample so we can compare his DNA with yours. Then we’ll know for sure.”
Steve frowned, “Do you have a particular area that you’re interested in, within the field of genetics?”
“Yes. My specialty is criminality and whether it’s inherited.”
Steve nodded. “I get it. What did he do?”
“What did Dennis Pinker do?”
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“You’re going to visit him, instead of asking him to come here, so obviously he’s incarcerated.”
She colored faintly, as if she had been caught out in a decpetion. With her cheeks flushed she looked sexier than ever. “Yes, you’re right,” she said.
“What’s he in jail for?”
She hesitated. “Murder.”
“Jesus!” He looked away from her, trying to take it in. “Not only do I have an identical twin brother, but he’s a murderer! Jesus Christ!”
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I’ve handled this badly. You’re the first subject like this I’ve ever studied.”
“Boy. I came here hoping to learn something about myself, but I’ve learned more than I wanted to know.” Jeannie did not know, and never would know, that he had almost killed a boy called Tip Hendricks.
“And you’re very important to me.”
“The question is whether criminality is inherited. I published a paper which said that a certain type of personality is inherited—a combination of impulsiveness daring, aggression, and hyperactivity—but that whether or not such people become criminals depends on how their parents deal with them. To prove my theory I have to find pairs of identical twins, one of whom is a criminal and the other a law-abiding citizen. You and Dennis are my first pair, and you’re perfect: he’s in jail and you, forgive me, you’re the ideal all-American boy. To tell you the truth, I’m so excited about it I can hardly sit still.”
The thought of this woman being too excited to sit still made Steve restless too. He looked away from her, afraid his lust would show in his face. But what she had told him was painfully disturbing. He had the same DNA as a murderer. What did that make him?
The door opened behind Steve, and she looked up. “Hi, Berry,” she said. “Steve, I’d like you to meet Professor Berrington Jones, the head of the twins study here at JFU.”
The professor was a short man in his late fifties, handsome with sleek silver hair. He wore an expensive-looking suit of gray-flecked Irish tweed and a red bow tie with white dots, and he looked as neat as if he had just come out of a bandbox. Steve had seen him on TV a few times, talking about how America was going all to hell. Steve did not like his views, but he had been brought up to be polite, so he stood up and held out his hand to shake.
Berrington Jones started as if he had seen a ghost. “Good God!” he said and his face turned pale.
Dr. Ferrami said: “Berry! What is it?”
Steve said: “Did I do something?”
The professor said nothing for a moment. Then he seemed to collect his wits. “I’m sorry, it’s nothing,” he said, but he still seemed shaken to the core. “It’s just that I suddenly thought of something …something I’ve forgotten, a most dreadful mistake. Please excuse me.” He went to the door, still muttering: “My apologies, forgive me.” He went out.
Steve looked at Dr. Ferrami.
She shrugged and spread her hands in a gesture of helplessness. “Beats the hell out of me,” she said.
Berrington sat at his desk, breathing hard.
He had a corner office, but, otherwise his room was monastic: plastic filed floor, white walls, utilitarian file cabinets, cheap bookshelves. Academics were not expected to have lavish offices. The screensaver on his computer showed a slowly revolving strand of DNA twisted in the famous double-helix shape. Over the desk were photographs of himself with Geraldo Rivera, Newt Gingrich, and Rush Limbaugh. The window overlooked the gymnasium building, closed because of yesterday’s fire. Across the road, two boys were using the tennis court, despite the heat.
Berrington rubbed his eyes. “Damn, damn, damn,” he said with feeling.
He had persuaded Jeannie Ferrami to come here. Her paper on criminality had broken new ground by focusing on the components of the criminal personality. The question was crucial for the Genetico project. He wanted her to continue her work under his wing. He had induced Jones Falls to give her a job and had arranged for her research to be financed by a grant from Genetico.
With his help she could do great things, and the fact that she came from a poor background only made her achievement more impressive. Her first four weeks at Jones Falls had confirmed his judgment. She had hit the ground running and her project got under way fast. Most people liked her—although she could be abrasive: a ponytailed lab technician who thought he could get away with sloppy work had suffered a scorching rebuke on her second day.
Berrington himself was completely smitten. She was as stunning physically as she was intellectually. He was torn between a fatherly need to encourage and guide her, and a powerful urge to seduce her.
And now this!
When he had caught his breath he picked up the phone and called Preston Barck. Preston was his oldest friend: they had met at MIT in the sixties, when Berrington was doing his doctorate in psychology and Preston was an outstanding young embryologist. Both had been considered odd, in that era of flamboyant lifestyles, with their short haircuts and tweed suits. They soon discovered that they agreed about all sorts of things: modern jazz was a fraud, marijuana was the first step on the road to heroin, the only honest politician in America was Barry Goldwater. The friendship had proved more robust than either of their marriages. Betrington no longer thought about whether he liked Preston: Preston was just there, like Canada.
Right now Preston would be at Genetico’s headquarters, a cluster of neat low-rise buildings overlooking a golf course in Baltimore County, north of the city. Preston’s secretary said he was in a meeting, and Berrington told her to connect him anyway.
“Good morning, Berry—what’s up?”
“Who else is there?”
“I’m with Lee Ho, one of the senior accountants from Landsmann. We’re going over the final details of Genetico’s disclosure statement.”
“Get him the fuck out of there.”
Prestan’s voice faded as he moved the phone away from his face. “I’m sorry, Lee, this is going to take a while. I’ll catch up with you later.” There was a pause, and he spoke into the mouthpiece again. Now his voice was peevish. “That was Michael Madigan’s right-hand man I just threw out. Madigan is the CEO of Landsmann, in case you’ve forgotten. If you’re still as keen on this takeover as you were last night, we’d better not—”
Berrington ran out of patience and interrupted him. “Steven Logan is here.”
There was a moment of stunned silence. “At Jones Falls?”
“Right here in the psychology building.”
Preston immediately forget Lee Ho. “Jesus Christ, how come?”
“He’s a subject, he’s undergoing tests in the laboratory.”
Preston’s voice went up an octave. “How the hell did that happen?”
“I don’t know. I ran into him five minutes ago. Imagine my surprise.”
“You just recognized him?”
“Of course I recognized him.”
“Why’s he being tested?”
“It’s part of our twins study.”
”Twins?” Preston yelled. “Twins? Who’s the other god-damn twin?”
“I don’t know yet. Look, something like this was sure to happen sooner or later.”
“But now of all times! We’ll have to pull out of the Landsman deal.”
“Hell, no! I ’m not going to let you use this as an excuse for going wobbly on the takeover, Preston.” Now Berrington wished he had not made this call. But he had needed to share his shock with someone. And Preston could be an astute strategic thinker. “We just have to find a way to control the situation.”
“Who brought Steve Logan into the university?”
“The new associate professor we just hired, Dr. Ferrami.”
“The guy who wrote that terrific paper on criminality?”
“Yes, except it’s a woman. A very attractive woman, as a matter of fact—”
“I don’t care if she’s Sharon fucking Stone—”
“I assume she recruited Steven to the project. She was with him when I met him. I’ll check.”
“That’s the key to it, Berry.” Preston was calming down now and focusing on the solution, not the problem. “Find out how he was recruited. Then we can begin to assess how much danger we’re in.”
“I’ll get her in here right away.”
“Call me right back, okay?”
“Sure.” Berrington hung up.
However, he did not call Jeannie immediately. Instead he sat and collected his thoughts.
On his desk was an old monochrome photograph of his father as a second lieutenant, resplendent in his white naval uniform and cap. Berrington had been six years old when the Wasp went down. Like every small boy in America, he had hated the Japs and played games in which he slaughtered them by the dozen in his imagination. And his daddy was an invincible hero, tall and handsome, brave and strong and all-conquering. He could still feel the overpowering rage that had gripped him when he had found out the Japs had killed Daddy. He had prayed to God to make the war go on long enough for him to grow up and join the navy himself and kill a million Japs in revenge.
He had never killed anyone. But he had never hired a Japanese employee or admitted a Japanese student to a school or offered a Japanese psychologist a job.
A lot of men, faced with a problem, asked themselves what their father would have done about it. Friends had told him this: It was a privilege he would never have. He had been too young to get to know his father. He had no idea what Lieutenant Jones would have done in a crisis. He had never really had a father, just a superhero.
He would question Jeannie Ferrami about her recruitment methods. Then, he decided, he would ask her to have dinner with him.
He called Jeannie’s internal number. She picked up right away. He lowered his voice and spoke in a tone that his ex-wife, Vivvie used to call furry. “Jeannie, it’s Berry,” he said.
She was characteristically direct. “What the heck is going on?” she said.
“Could I talk to you for a minute, please?”
“Would you mind stepping into my office?”
“I’ll be right there.” She hung up.
As he waited for her, he wondered idly how many women he had bedded. It would take too long to recall them one by one, but maybe he could approximate scientifically. It was more than one, more than ten certainly. Was it more than a hundred? That would be two point five per year since he was nineteen: he had certainly had more than that. A thousand? Twenty-five per year, a new woman every two weeks for forty years? No, he had not done that well. During the ten years he had been married to Vivvie Ellington he had probably had no more than fifieen or twenty adulterous liaison in total. But he had made up for it afterward. Somewhere between a hundred and a thousand, then. But he was not going to take Jeannie to bed. He was going to find out how the hell she had come into contact with Steve Logan.
Jeannie knocked at the door and came in. She was wearing a white laboratory coat over her skirt and blouse. Berrington liked it when the young women were those coats as dresses, with nothing else but their underwear. He found it sexy.
“Good of you to come by,” he said. He drew out a chair for her, then pulled his own chair around from behind his desk so there would not be a barrier between them.
His first task was to give Jeannie some plausible explanation for his behavior on meeting Steven Logan. She would not be easy to fool. He wished he had given it more thought instead of counting up his conquests.
He sat down and gave her his most disarming grin. “I want to apologize for my weird behavior,” he said. “I’ve been down-loading some files from the University of Sydney, Australia.” He gestured at his desktop computer. “Just as you were about to introduce me to that young man, I realized I had left my computer on and forgotten to hang up the phone line. I just felt of kind of foolish, that’s all, but I was pretty rude.”
The explanation was thin, but she seemed to accept it. “I’m relieved,” she said candidly. “I thought I had done something to offend you.”
So far, so good. “I was on my way to talk to you about your work,” he went on smoothly. “You’ve certainly got off to a flying start. You’ve only been here four weeks and your project is well under way. Congratulations.”
She nodded. “I had long talks with Herb and Frank over the summer, before I officially started,” she said. Herb Dickson was the department head and Frank Demidenko a full professor. “We figured out all the practicalities in advance.”
“Tell me a little more about it. Have any problems come up? Anything I can help with?”
“Recruitment is my biggest problem,” she said. “Because our subjects are volunteers, most of them are like Steve Logan, respectable middle-class Americans who believe that the good citizen has a duty to support scientific inquiry. Not many pimps and dope dealers come forward.”
“A point our liberal critics haven’t failed to make.”
“On the other hand, it’s not possible to find out about aggression and criminality by studying law-abiding Middle American families. So it was absolutely crucial to my project that I solved the recruitment problem.”
“And have you?”
“I think so. It occurred to me that medical information about millions of people is nowadays held on huge databases by insurance companies and government agencies. That includes that kind of data we use to determine whether twins are identical or fraternal: brain waves, electrocardiograms, and so on. If we could search for pairs of similar electrocardiograms, for example, it would be a way of identifying twins. And if the database was big enough, some of those pairs would have been raised apart. And here’s the kicker: Some of them might not even know they were twins.”
“It’s remarkable,” Berrington said. “Simple, but original and ingenious.” He meant it. Identical twins reared apart were very important to genetics research, and scientists went to great lengths to recruit them. Until now the main way to find them had been through publicity: they read magazine articles about twin studies and volunteered to take part. As Jeannie said, that process gave a sample that was predominantly respectable middle-class, which was a disadvantage in general and a crippling problem to the study of criminality.
But for him personally it was a catastrophe. He looked her in the eye and tried to hide his dismay. This was worse than he had feared. Only last night Preston Baer had said, “We all know this company has secrets.” Jim Proust had said no one could find them out. He had not reckoned with Jeannie Ferrami.
Berrington clutched at a straw. “Finding similar entries in a database is not as easy as it sounds.”
“True. Graphic images use up many megabytes of space. Searching such records is vastly more difficult than running a spellcheck on your doctoral thesis.”
“I believe it’s quite a problem in software design. So what did you do?”
“I wrote my own software.”
Berrington was surprised. “You did?”
“Sure. I took a master’s in computer science at Princeton, as you know. When I was at Minnesota, I worked with my professor on neural network-type software for pattern recognition.”
Could she be that smart? “How does it work?”
“It uses fuzzy logic to speed up pattern matching. The pairs we’re looking for are similar, but not absolutely identical. For a example, x-rays of identical teeth, taken by different technicians on different machinery, are not exactly the same. But the human eye can see that they’re the same, and when the x-rays are scanned and digitized and stored electronically, a computer equipped with fuzzy logic can recognize them as a pair.”
“I imagine you’d need a computer the size of the Empire State Building.”
“I figured out a way to shorten the process of pattern matching by looking at a small portion of the digitized image. Think about it: to recognize a friend, you don’t need to scan his whole body—just his face. Automobile enthusiasts can identify most common cars from a photograph of one headlight. My sister can name any Madonna track after listening to about ten seconds of it.”
“That’s open to error.”
She shrugged. “By not scanning the entire image, you risk overlooking some matches. I figured out that you can radically shorten the search process with only a small margin of error. It’s a question of statistics and probabilities.”
All psychologists studied statistics of course. “But how can the same program scan x-rays and electrocardiograms and fingerprints?”
“It recognizes electronic patterns. It doesn’t care what they represent.”
“And your program works?”
“It seems to. I got permission to try it out on a database of dental records held by a large medical insurance company. It produced several hundred pairs. But of course I’m only interested in twins who have been raised apart.”
“How do you pick them out?”
“I eliminated all the pairs with the same surname, and all the married women, since most of them have taken the husband’s name. The remainder are twins with no apparent reason for having different surnames.”
Ingenious Berrington thought. He was torn between admiration of Jeannie and fear of what she could find out. “How many were left?”
“Three pairs—kind of a disappointment. I was hoping for more. In one case, one of the twins had changed his surname for religious reasons: he had become a Muslim and taken an Arab name. Another pair had disappeared without a trace. Fortunately, the third pair are just what I was looking for: Steve Logan is a law-abiding citizen and Dennis Pinker is a murderer.”
Berrington knew that. Late one evening, Dennis Pinker had cut the electric power to a movie theater in the middle of a Friday the 13th movie. In the ensuing panic he had molested several women. One girl had apparently tried to fight him off, and he had killed her.
So Jeannie had found Dennis. Christ, he thought, she’s dangerous. She could ruin everything: the takeover, Jim’s political career, Genetico, even Berrington’s academic reputation. Fear made him angry: how could everything he had ever worked for be threatened by his own protégée? But there was no way he could have known what would happen.
Her being here at Jones Falls was lucky, in that he had early warning of what she was up to. However, he saw no way out. If only her files could be destroyed in a fire, or she could be killed in a car wreck. But that was fantasy.
Might it be possible to undermine her faith in her software? “Did Steven Logan know he was adopted?” he said with hidden malice.
“No.” Jeannie’s brow wrinkled in a troubled frown. “We know that families often lie about adoption, but he thinks his mother would have told him the truth. But there may be another explanation. Suppose they were unable to adopt through the normal channels, for some reason, and they bought a baby. They might lie about that.”
“Or your system could be flawed,” Berrington suggested. “Just because two boys have identical teeth doesn’t guarantee they’re twins.”
“I don’t think my system is flawed,” Jeannie said briskly. “But I am worried about telling dozens of people that they might be adopted. I’m not even sure I have the right to invade their lives in that way. I’ve only just realized the magnitude of the problem.”
He looked at his watch. “I’m running out of time, but I’d love to discuss this some more. Are you free for dinner?”
He saw her hesitate. They had had dinner together once before, at the International Congress of Twin Studies, where they had first met. Since she had been at JFU they had had drinks together once, in the bar of the Faculty Club on campus. One Saturday they had met by accident in a shopping street in Charles Village, and Berrington had shown her around the Baltimore Museum of Art. She was not in love with him, not by a long shot, but he knew she had enjoyed his company on those three occasions. Besides, he was her mentor: it was hard for her to refuse him.
“Sure,” she said.
“Shall we go to Hamptons, at the Harbor Court Hotel? I think it’s the best restaurant in Baltimore.” It was the swankiest, anyway.
“Fine,” she said, standing up.
”Then I’ll pick you up at eight?”
As she turned away from him, Berrington was visited by a sudden vision of her naked back, smooth and muscular, and her flat ass and her long, long legs; and for a moment his throat went dry with desire. Then she shut the door.
Berrington shook his head to clear his mind of lascivious fantasy, then called Preston again. “It’s worse than we thought,” he said without preamble. “She’s written a computer program that searches medical databases and finds matched pairs. First time she tried it out, she found Steven and Dennis.”
“We’ve got to tell Jim.”
“The three of us should get together and decide what the hell we’re going to do. How about tonight?”
“I’m taking Jeannie to dinner.”
“Do you think that may solve the problem?”
“It can’t hurt.”
“I still think we’ll have to pull out of the Landsmann deal in the end.”
“I don’t agree,” Berrington said. “She’s pretty bright, but one girl isn’t going to uncover the whole story in a week.”
However, as he hung up he wondered if he should be so sure.
The students in the human biology lecture theater were restive. Their concentration was poor and they fidgeted. Jeannie knew why. She, too, felt unnerved. It was the fire and the rape. Their cozy academic world had been destabilized. Everyone’s attention kept wandering as their minds went back again and again to what had happened.
“Observed variations in the intelligence of human beings can be explained by three factors,” Jeannie said. “One: different genes. Two: a different environment. Three: measurement error.” She paused. They all wrote in their notebooks.
She had noticed this effect. Any time she offered a numbered list, they would all write it down. If she had simply said, “Different genes, different environments, and experimental error,” most of them would have written nothing. Since she had first observed this syndrome, she included as many numbered lists as possible in her lectures.
She was a good teacher—somewhat to her surprise. In general, ’she felt her people skills were poor. She was impatient, she could be abrasive, as she had been this morning with Sergeant Delaware. But she was a good communicator, clear and precise, and she enjoyed explaining things. There was nothing better than the kick of seeing enlightenment dawn in student’s face.
“We can express this as an equation,” she said, and she turned around and wrote on the board with a stick of chalk
“Vt being the total variance, Vg the genetic component, Ve the environmental, and Vm the measurement error.” They all wrote down the equation. “The same may be applied to any measurable difference between human beings, from their height and weight to their tendency to believe in God. Can anyone here find fault with this?” No one spoke, so she gave them a clue. “The sum may be greater than the parts. But why?”
One of the young men spoke up. It was usually the men; the women were irritatingly shy. “Because genes and the environment act upon one another to multiply effects?”
“Exactly. Your genes steer you toward certain environmental experiences and away from others. Babies with different temperaments elicit different treatment from their parents. Active toddlers have different experiences than sedentary ones, even in the same house. Daredevil adolescents take more drugs than choirboys in the same town. We must add to the right-hand side of the equation the term Cge, meanining gene-environment covariation.” She wrote it on the board then looked at the Swiss Army watch on her wrist. It was five to four. “Any questions?”
For a change it was a woman who spoke up. She was Donna-Marie Dickson, a nurse who had gone back to school in her thirties, bright but shy. She said: “What about the Osmonds?”
The class laughed and the woman blushed. Jeannie said gently: “Explain what you mean, Donna-Marie. Some of the class may be too young to remember the Osmonds.”
“They were a pop group in the seventies, all brothers and sisters. The Osmond family are all musical. But they don’t have the same genes, they’re not twins. It seems to have been the family environment that made them all musicians. Same with the Jackson Five.” The others, who were mostly younger, laughed again, and the woman smiled bashfully and added: “I’m giving away my age here.”
“Ms. Dickson makes an important point, and I’m surprised no one else thought of it,” Jeannie said. She was not surprised at all, but Donna-Marie needed to have her confidence boosted. “Charismatic and dedicated parents may make all children conform to a certain ideal, regardless of their genes, just as abusive parents may turn out a whole family of schizophrenics. But these are extreme cases. A malnourished child will be short in stature, even if its parents and grand-parents are all tall. An overfed child will be fat even if it has thin ancestors. Nevertheless, every new study tends to show, more conclusively than the last, that it is predominantly the genetic inheritance, rather than the environment or style of upbringing, that detennines the nature of the child.” She paused. “If there are no more questions please read Bouchard al. in Science, 12 October 1990, before next Monday.”
Jeannie picked up her papers.
They began packing up their books. She hung around for a few moments, to create an opportunity for students too timid to ask questions in open class to approach her privately. Introverts often became great scientists.
It was Donna-Marie who came up to the front. She had a round face and fair curly hair. Jeannie thought she must have been a good nurse, calm and efficient. “I ’m so sorry about poor Lisa,” Donna-Marie said. “What a terrible thing to happen.”
“And the police made it worse,” Jeannie said. “The cop who drove her to the hospital was a real asshole, frankly.”
“That’s too bad. But maybe they’ll catch the guy who did it. They’re passing out flyers with his picture all over the campus.”
“Good!” The picture Donna-Marie was talking about must have been produced by Mish Delaware’s computer program. “When I left her this morning she was working on the picture with a detective.”
“How’s she feeling?”
“Still number…but jumpy, too.”
Donna-Marie nodded “They go through phases, I’ve seen it before. The first phase is denial. They say: ‘I just want to put it behind me and get on with my life.’ But it’s never that easy.”
“She should talk to you. Knowing what to expect might help her.”
“Any time,” Donna-Marie said.
Jeannie walked across the campus toward Nut House. It was still hot. She found herself looking around watchfully, like a nervous cowboy in a western movie, expecting someone to come around the corner of the freshmen’s residence and attack her. Until now the campus of Jones Falls had seemed like an oasis of old-fashioned tranquillity in the desert of a modern American city. Indeed, JFU was like a small town, with its shops and banks, sports fields and parking meters, bars and restaurants, offices and homes. It had a population of five thousand, of whom half lived on campus. But it had been turned into a dangerous landscape. That guy has no right to do this, Jeannie thought bitterly; to make me feel afraid in my own place of work. Maybe a crime always had this effect, causing the solid ground to seem unsteady beneath your feet.
As she entered her office she started thinking about Berrington Jones. He was an attractive man, very attentive to women. Whenever she had spent time with him she had enjoyed herself. She was also indebted to him, for he had given her this job.
On the other hand, he was a bit oily. She suspected that his attitude to women might be manipulative. He always made her think of the joke about a man who says to a woman: “Tell me all about yourself. What’s your opinion of, for example, me?”
In some ways he did not seem like an academic. But Jeannie had observed that the real go-getters of the university world noticeably lacked the vague, helpless air of the stereotype absentminded professor. Berrington looked and acted like a powerful man. He had not done great scientific work for some years, but that was normal: brilliant original discoveries, such as the double helix, were usually made by people under thirty-five.
As scientists got older they used their experience and instincts to help and direct younger, fresher minds. Berrington did that well, with his three professorships and his role as conduit for Genetico’s research money. He was not as respected as he might have been, however, because other scientists disliked his involvement in politics. Jeannie herself thought his science was good and his politics were crap.
At first she had readily believed Berrington’s story about downloading files from Australia, but on reflection she was not so sure. When Berry had looked at Steven Logan he had seen a ghost, not a phone bill.
Many families had parenthood secrets, A married woman might have a lover, and only she would know who was the real father of her child. A young girl might have a baby and give it to her mother, pretending to be an older sister, the whole family conspiring to keep the secret. Children were adopted by neighbors, relatives, and friends who concealed the truth. Loraine Logan might not be the type to make a dark secret of a straightforward adoption, but she could have a dozen other reaons for lying to Steven about his origins. But how was Berrington involved? Could he be Steven’s real father? The thought made Jeannie smile. Berry was handsome, but he was at least six inches shorter than Steven. Although anything was possible, that particular explanation seemed unlikely.
It bothered her to have a mystery. In every other respect, Steven Logan represented a triumph for her. He was a decent law-abiding citizen with an identical twin brother who was a violent criminal. Steve vindicated her computer search program and confirmed her theory of criminality. Of course, she would need another hundred pairs of twins like Steven and before she could talk about proof. All the same, she could not have had a better start to her program of research.
Tomorrow she would see Dennis. If he turned out to be a dark-haired dwarf, she would know something had gone badly wrong. But if she were right, he would be Steven Logan’s double.
She had been shaken by the revelation that Steve Logan had no idea he might be adopted. She was going to have to work out some procedure for dealing with this phenomenon. In the future she could contact the parents, and check how much they had told before approaching the twins. It would slow her work, but it had to be done: she could not be the one to reveal family secrets.
That problem was soluble, but she could not lose the sense of anxiety caused by Berrington’s skeptical questions and Steven Logan’s incredulity, and she began to think anxiously of the next stage of her project. She was hoping to use her software to scan the FBI’s fingerprint file.
It was the perfect source for her. Many of the twenty-two million people on file had been suspected or convicted of crimes. If her program worked, it should yield hundreds of twins including several raised-apart pairs. It could mean a quantum leap forward in her research. But first she had to get the Bureau’s permission.
Her best friend at school had been Ghita Sumra, a math wizard of Asian-Indian descent who now had a top job managing information technology for the FBI. She worked in Washington, D.C., but lived here in Baltimore. Ghita had. already agreed to ask her employers to cooperate with Jeannie. She had promised a decision by the end of this week, but now Jeannie wanted to hurry her. She dialed her number.
Ghita had been born in Washington, but her voice still held a hint of the Indian subcontinent in its softness of tone and roundness of vowels. “Hey, Jeannie, how was your weekend?” she said.
“Awful,” Jeannie told her. “My mom finally flipped and I had to put her in a home.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. What did she do?”
“She forgot it was the middle of the night, got up, forget to get dressed, went out to buy a carton of milk, and forgot where she lived.”
“The police found her. Fortunately she had a check from me in her purse, and they were able to track me down.”
“How do you feel about it?”
That was a female question. The men—Jack Budgen, Berrington Jones—had asked what she was going to do. It took a woman to ask how she felt. “Bad,” she said. “If I have to take of my mother, who’s going to take care of me? You know?”
“What kind of place is she in?”
“Cheap. It’s all her insurance will cover. I have to get her out of there, as soon as I can find the money to pay for something better.” She heard a pregnant silence at the other end of the line and realized that Ghita thought she was being asked for money. “I’m going to do some private tutoring on the weekends,” she added hastily. “Did you talk to your boss about my proposal yet?”
“As a matter of fact, I did.”
Jeannie held her breath.
“Everyone here is real interested in your software,” Ghita said.
That was neither a yes nor a no. “You don’t have computer scanning systems?”
“We do, but your search engine is faster by far than anything we’ve got. They’re talking about licensing the program from you.”
“Wow. Maybe I won’t need to do private tuition on the weekend after all.”
Ghita laughed. “Before you open the champagne, let’s make sure the program actually works.”
“How soon can we do that?”
“We’ll run it at night, for minimal interference with normal use of the database. I’ll have to wait for a quiet night. It should happen within a week, two at most.”
“Is there a rush?”
There was, but Jeannie was reluctant to tell Ghita of her worries. “I’m just impatient,” she said.
“I’ll get it done as soon as possible, don’t worry. Can you upload the program to me by modem?”
“Sure. But don’t you think I need to be there when you run it?”
“No, I don’t, Jeannie,” Ghita said with a smile in her voice.
“Of course you know more about this kind of stuff than I do.”
“Here’s where to send it.” Ghita read out an E-mail address and Jeannie wrote it down. “I’ll send you the results the same way.”
“Thanks. Hey, Ghita?”
“Am I going to need a tax shelter?”
“Get out of here.” Ghita Iaughed and hung up.
Jeannie clicked her mouse on America OnLine and accessed the Internet As her search program was uploading to the FBI, there was a knock at her door and Steven Logan came in.
She looked at him appraisingly. He had been given disturbing news, and it showed in his face; but he was young and resilient, and the shock had not brought him down. He was psychologically very stable. If he had been a criminal type— as his brother, Dennis, presumably was—he would have picked a fight with someone by now. “How are you doing?” she asked him.
He closed the door behind him with his heel. “All finished.“ he said. “I’ve undergone all the tests and completed each examination and filled out every questionnaire that can be devised by the ingenuity of humankind.”
“Then you’re free to go home.”
“I was thinking of staying in Baltimore for the evening. As a matter of fact, I wondered if you’d care to have dinner with me.”
She was taken by surprise. “What for?” she said ungraciously.
The question threw him. “Well, uh…for one thing, I’d sure like to know more about your research.”
“Oh. Well, unfortunately I have a dinner engagement already.”
He looked very disappointed. “Do you think I’m too young?”
“To take you out.”
Then it struck her. “I didn’t know you were asking me for a date,” she said.
He was embarrassed. “You’re kind of slow to catch on.”
“I’m sorry.” She was being slow. He had come on to her yesterday, on the tennis court. But she had spent all day thinking of him as a subject for study. However, now that she thought about it, he was too young to take her out. He was twenty-two, a student; she was seven years older; it was a big gap.
He said: “How old is your date?”
“Fifty-nine or sixty, something like that.”
“Wow. You-like old men.”
Jeannie felt bad about turning him down. She owed him something, she thought, after what she had put him through. Her computer made a doorbell sound to tell her that the program had finished uploading. “I’m through here for the day,” she said. “Would you like to have a drink in the Faculty Club?”
He brightened immediately. “Sure, I’d love to. Am I dressed okay?”
He was wearing khakis and a blue linen shirt. “You’ll be better dressed than most of the professors there,” she said, smiling. She exited and turned her computer off.
“I called my mom,” Steven said. “Told her about your theory.”
“Was she mad?”
“She laughed. Said I wasn’t adopted, nor did I have a twin brother who was put up for adoption.”
“Strange.” It was a relief to Jeannie that the Logan family was taking all this so calmly. On the other hand, their laid-back skepticism made her worry that perhaps Steven and Dennis were not twins after all.
“You know…” She hesitated. She had said enough shocking things to him today. But she plunged on. “There is another possible way you and Dennis could be twins.”
“I know what you’re thinking,” he said. “Babies switched at the hospital.”
He was very quick. This morning she had noticed more than once how fast he worked things out. “That’s right,” she said. “Mother number one has identical twin boys, mothers two and three each have a boy. The twins are given to mothers two and three, and their babies are given to mother number one. As the children grow up, mother number one concludes that she has fraternal twins who bear one another remarkably little resemblance.”
“And if mothers two and three don’t happen to be acquainted, no one ever observes the startling resemblance between babies two and three.”
“It’s the old staple of the romance writers,” she admitted. “But it’s not impossible.”
“Is there a book on this twin stuff?” he said. “I’d like to know more about it.”
“Yeah, I have one…” She looked along her bookshelf. “No, it’s at home.”
“Where do you live?”
“You could take me home for that drink.”
She hesitated. This one is the normal twin, she reminded herself, not the psychopath.
He said: “You know so much about me, after today. I’m curious about you. I’d like to see where you live.”
Jeannie shrugged. “Sure, why not? Let’s go.”
It was five o’clock, and the day was at last beginning to cool as they left Nut House. Steve whistled when he saw the red Mercedes. “What a neat car!”
“I’ve had it for eight years,” she said. “I love it.”
“My car’s in the parking lot. I’ll come up behind you and flash my lights.”
He left. Jeannie got into her car and started it. A few minutes later she saw headlights in her rearview mirror. She pulled out of her parkihg space and drove off.
As she left the campus she noticed a police cruiser tuck in behind Steve’s car. She checked her speedometer and slowed down to thirty.
It seemed Steven Logan was smitten with her. Although she did not reciprocate his feelings, she was kind of pleased. It was flattering to have won the heart of a handsome young hunk.
He stayed on her tail all the way home. She pulled up outside her house and he parked right behind her.
As in many old Baltimore streets, there was a row stoop, a communal front porch that ran the length of the row, where neighbors had sat cooling themselves in the days before airconditioning. She crossed the stoop and stood at her door, geting out her keys.
Two cops exploded out of the patrol car, guns in their hands. They took up firing positions, their arms stretched out stiffly, their guns pointed directly at Jeannie and Steve.
Jeannie’s heart stopped.
Steven said: “What the fuck—”
Then one of the men yelled: “Police! Freeze!”
Jeannie and Steve both raised their hands.
But the police did not relax. “On the floor, motherfucker!” one of them screamed. “Facedown, hands behind your back!”
Jeannie and Steve both lay facedown.
The policemen approached them as cautiously as if they were ticking bombs. Jeannie said: “Don’t you think you’d better tell us what this is about?”
“You can stand up, lady,” said one.
“Gee, thanks.” She got to her feet. Her heart was beating fast, but it seemed obvious the cops had made some kind of dumb mistake. “Now that you’ve scared me half to death, what the hell is going on?”
Still they did not reply. They both kept their guns pointed at Steve. One of them knelt beside him and, with a swift, practiced motion, handcuffed him. “You’re under arrest, cock-sucker” the cop said.
Jeannie said: “I’m a broad-minded woman, but is all this cursing really necessary?” Nobody took any notice of her. She tried again. “What’s he supposed to have done, anyway?”
A light blue Dodge Colt screeched to a halt behind the police cruiiser and two people got out. One was Mish Delaware, the detective from the Sex Crimes Unit. She had on the same skirt and blouse she had worn this morning, but she wore a linen jacket that only partly concealed the gun at her hip.
“You got here fast,” said one of the patrolmen.
“I was in the neighborhood,” she replied. She looked at Steve, lying on the floor. “Get him up,” she said.
The patrolman took Steve by the arm and helped him stand,
“It’s him all right,” Mish said. “This is the guy who raped Lisa Hoxton.”
“Steven did?” Jeannie said incredulously. Jesus, I was about to take him into my apartment.
“Rape?” Steven said.
”The patrolman spotted his car leaving the campus.” Mish said.
Jeannie noticed Steve’s car for the first time. It was a tan Datsun, about fifteen years old. Lisa had thought she saw the rapist driving an old white Datsun.
Her initial shock and alarm began to give way to rational thought. The police suspected him: that did not make him guilty. What was the evidence? She said: “If you’re going to arrest every man you see driving a rusty Datsun…”
Mish handed Jeannie a piece of paper. It was a flyer bearing a computer-generated black-and-white picture of a man. Jeannie stared at it. It did look something like Steven. “It might be him and it might not,” Jeannie said.
“What are you doing with him?”
“He’s a subject. We’ve been doing tests on him at the lab. I can’t believe he’s the guy!” Her test findings showed that Steven had the inherited personality of a potential criminal— but they also showed he had not developed into an actual criminal.
Mish said to Steven: “Can you account for your movements yesterday between seven and eight P.M.?”
“Well, I was at JFU,” Steven said.
“What were you doing?”
“Nothing much. I was supposed to go out with my cousin Ricky, but he canceled. I came here to check out where I had to be this morning. I had nothing else to do.”
It sounded lame even to Jeannie. Maybe Steve was the rapist, she thought with dismay. But if he was, her entire theory was shot.
Mish said: “How did you spend your time?”
“I watched the tennis for a while. Then I went to a bar in Charles Village and spent a couple of hours. I missed the big fire.”
“Can anyone corroborate what you say?”
“Well, I spoke to Dr. Ferrami, although at that point I didn’t actually know who she was.”
Mish turned to Jeannie. Jeannie saw hostility in het eyes and recalled how they had clashed, this morning, when Mish was persuading Lisa to cooperate.
Jeannie said: “It was after my tennis game, a few minutes before the fire broke out.”
Mish said: “So you can’t tell us where he was when the rape took place.”
“No, but I’ll tell you something else, I’ve spent all day giving this man tests, and he doesn’t have the psychological profile of a rapist.”
Mish looked scornful. “That’s not evidence.”
Jeannie was still holding the flyer. “Nor is this, I guess.” She balled it up and dropped it on the sidewalk.
Mish jerked her head at the cops. “Let’s go.”
Steven spoke in a clear, calm voice. “Wait a minute.”
“Jeannie, I don’t care about these guys, but I want to tell you that I didn’t do this, and I never would do anything of the kind.”
She believed him. She asked herself why. Was it just that she needed him to be inhocent for her theory? No: she had the psychological tests to show that he had none of the chamcteristics assoiated with criminals. But there was something else: her intuition. She felt safe with him. “He gave out no wrong signals. He listened when she talked, he did not try to bully her, he did not touch her inappropriately, he showed no anger or hostility. He liked women and he respected her. He was not a rapist.
She said: “Do you want me to call someone? Your parents?”
“No, he said decisively. “They’d worry. And it will all be over in a few hours. I’ll tell them then.”
“Aren’t they expeeting you home tonight?”
‘I said I might stay with Ricky again.”
“Well, if you’re sure,” she said dubiously.
“Let’s go,” Mish said impatiently. “What’s the damn hurry?” Jeannie snapped. “You have some other innocent people to arrest?”
Mish glared at her. “Do you have anything more to say to me?”
“What happens next?”
“There’ll be a lineup. We’ll let Lisa Hoxton decide whether this is the man that raped her.” With facetious deference Mish added: “Is that okay with you, Dr. Ferrami?”
“That’s just fine,” Jeannie said.
They took Steve downtown in the pale blue dodge Colt. The woman detective drove and the other one, a heavyset white man with a mustache, sat beside her, looking cramped in the little car. No one spoke.
Steve quietly seethed with resentment. Why the hell should he be riding in this uncomfortable car, his wrists in handcuffs, when he ought to be sitting in Jeannie Ferrami’s apartment with a cold drink in his hand? They had just better get this over with quickly, that was all.
Police headquarters was a pink granite building in Baltimore’s red-light district, among the topless bars and porn outlets. They drove up a ramp and parked in the internal garage. It was full of police cruisers and cheap compacts like the Colt.
They took Steve up in an elevator and put him in a room with yellow-painted walls and no windows. They took off his handcuffs then left him alone. He assumed they locked the door. He did not check.
There was a table and two hard plastic chairs. On the table was an ashtray containing two cigarette butts, both filter tips, one with lipstick on it. Set into the door was a pane of opaque glass: Steve could not see out, but he guessed they could see in.
Looking at the ashtray, he wished he smoked. It would be something to do here in this yellow cell. Instead he paced up and down.
He told himself he could not really be in trouble. He had managed to get a look at the picture on the flyer, and although it was more or less like him, it, was not him. No doubt he ressembled the rapist, but when he stood in the lineup with several other tall young men, the victim would not pick him out. After all, the poor woman must have looked long and hard at the bastard who did it: his face would be burned into her memory. She would not make a mistake.
But the cops had no right to keep him waiting like this. Okay, they had to eliminate him as a suspect, but they did not have to take all night about it. He was a law-abiding citizen.
He tried to look on the bright side. He was getting a close-up view of the American justice system. He would be his own lawyer: it would be good practice. When in the future he represented a client accused of a crime, he would know what the person was going through in police custody.
He had seen the inside of a precinct house once before, but that had felt very different. He was only fifteen. He had gone to the police with one of his teachers. He had admitted the crime immediately and told the police candidly everything that had happened. They could see his injuries: it was obvious the fight had not been one-sided. His parents had come to take him home.
That had been the most shameful moment of his life. When Mom and Dad walked into that room, Steve wished he were dead. Dad looked mortified, as if he had suffered a great humiliation; Mom’s expression showed grief; they both looked bewildered and wounded. At the time, it was all he could do not to burst into tears, and he still felt choked up whenever he recalled it.
But this was different. This time he was innocent.
The woman detective came in carrying a cardboard file folder. She had taken off her jacket, but she still were the gun on her belt. She was an attractive black woman of about forty, a little on the heavy side, and she had an I’m-in-charge air.
Steve looked at her with relief. “Thank God,” he said.
“That something is happening. I don’t want to be here all damn night.”
“Would you sit down, please?”
“My name is Sergeant Michelle Delaware.” She took a sheet of paper from the folder and put it on the table. “What’s your full name and address?”
He told her, and she wrote it on the form. “Age?”
“I have a college degree.”
She wrote on the form then pushed it across to him. It was headed:
EXPLANATION OF RIGHTS
“Please read the five sentences on the form, then write your initials in the spaces provided beside each sentence.” She passed him a pen.
He read the form and started to initial.
“You have to read aloud” she said.
He thought for a moment. “So that you know I’m literate?” he hasked.
“No. It’s so that you can’t later pretend to be illiterate and that you were not informed of your rights.”
This was the kind of thing they did not teach you in law school.
He read: “You are hereby advised that: One, you have the absolute right to remain silent.” He wrote SL in the space at the end of the line, then read on, initialiug each sentence. “Two, anything you say or write may be used against you in a court of law. Three, you have the right to talk with a lawyer at any time, before any questioning, before answering any questions, or during any questioning. Four, if you want a lawyer and cannot afford to hire one, you will not be asked any questions, and the court will be requested to appoint a lawyer for you. Five, if you agree to answer questions, you may stop at any time and request a lawyer, and no further questions will be asked of you.”
“Now sign your name; please.” She pointed to the form. “Here, and here.”
The first space for signature was underneath the sentence
I HAVE READ THE ABOVE EXPLANATION OF MY RIGHTS, AND I FULLY UNDERSTAND IT.
“And just below,” she said.
I am willing to answer questions, and I do not want any attorney at this time. My decision to answer questions without having an attomey present is free and voluntary on my part
He signed and said: “How the hell do you get guilty people to sign that?”
She did not answer him. She printed her name, then signed the form.
She put the form back in the folder and looked at him. “You’re in trouble, Steve,” she said. “But you seem like a regular guy. Why don’t you just tell me what happened?”
“I can’t,” he said. “I wasn’t there. I guess I just look like the jerk that did it.”
She sat back, crossed her legs, and gave him a friendly smile. “I know men,” she said in an intimate tone. “They have urges.”
If I didn’t know better, Steve thought, I’d read her body language and say she was coming on to me.
She went on: “Let me tell you what I think. You’re an attractive man, she took a shine to you.”
“I’ve never met this woman, Sergeant.”
She ignored that. Learning across the table, she covered his hand with her own. “I think she provoked you.”
Steve looked at her hand. She had good nails, manicured, not too long, varnished with clear nail polish. But the hand was was wrinkled: she was older than forty, maybe forty-five.
She spoke in a conspiratorial voice, as if to say “This is just between you and me.” “She was asking for it, so you gave it to her. Am I right?”
“Why the hell would you think that?” Steve said with irritation.
“I know what girls are like. She led you on then, at the last minute, she changed her mind. But it was too late. A man can’t just stop, just like that, not a real man.”
“Oh, wait, I get it,” Steve said. “The suspect agrees with you, imagining that he’s making it look better for himself; but in fact he’s admitted that intercourse took place, and half of your job is done.”
Sergeant Delaware sat back, looking annoyed, and Steve figured he had guessed right.
She stood up. “Okay, smart-ass, come with me.”
“Where are we going?” ”
“Wait a minute. When’s the lineup?”
“As soon as we can reach the victim and bring her in here.”
“You can’t hold me indefinitely without some court procedure.”
“We can hold you for twenty-four hours without any procedure, so button your lip and let’s go.”
She took him down in the elevator and through a door into a lobby that was painted a dull orange brown. A notice on the wall reminded officers to keep suspects handcuffed while searching them. The turnkey, a black policeman in his fifties, stood at a high counter. “Hey, Spike,” said Sergeant Delaware. “Got a smart-ass college boy for you.”
The turnkey grinned. “If he’s so smart, how come he’s in here?”
They both laughed. Steve made a mental note not to tell cops, in the future, when he had second-guessed them. It was a failing of his: he had antagonized his schoolteachers the same way. Nobody liked a wise guy.
The cop called Spike was small and wiry, with gray hair and a little mustache. He had a perky air but there was a cold look in his eyes. He opened a steel door. “You coming through to the cells, Mish?” he said. “I got to ask you to check your weapon if so.”
“No, I’m finished with him for now,” she said. “He’ll be in a lineup later.” She turned and left.
“This way, boy,” the turnkey said to Steve.
He went through the door.
He was, in the cell block. The walls and floor’were the same muddy color. Steve thought the elevator had stopped at the second floor, but there were no windows, and he felt as if he were in a cavern deep underground and it would take him a long time to climb back to the surface.
In a little anteroom was a desk and a camera on a stand. Spike took a form from a pigeonhole. Reading it upside down, Steve saw it was headed
PRISONER ACTIVITY REPORT FORM 92/12
The man took the cap off a ballpoint pen and began to fill out the form.
When it was done he pointed to a spot on the ground and said: “Stand right there.”
Steve stood in front of the camera. Spike pressed a button and there was a flash.
There was another flash.
Next Spike took out a square card printed in pink ink and headed
FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION,
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
WASHINGTON, DC. 20537
Spike inked Steve’s fingers and thumbs on a pad then pressed them to squares on the card marked I.R.THUMB, 2.R.INDEX, and so on. Steve noticed that Spike, though a small man, had big hands with prominent veins. As he did so, Spike said conversationally: “We have a new Central Booking Facility over at the city jail on Greenmount Avenue, and they have a computer that takes your prints without ink. It’s like a big photocopy machine: you just press your hands on the glass. But down here we’re still using the dirty old system.”
Steve realized he was beginning to feel ashamed, even though he had not committed a crime. It was partly the grim surroundings, but mainly the feeling of powerlessness. Ever since the cops burst out of the patrol car outside Jeannie’s house, he had been moved around like a piece of meat, with no control over himself. It brought a man’s self-esteem down fast.
When his fingerprints were done he was allowed to wash his hands.
“Permit me to show you to your suite,” Spike said jovially.
He led Steve down the corridor with cells to the left and rigft. Each cell was roughly square. On the side that gave on to the conidor there was no wall, just bars, so that every square inch of the cell was clearly visible from outside. Through the bars Steve could see that each cell had a metal bunk fixed to the wall and a stainless-steel toilet and washbasin. The walls and bunks were painted orange brown and covered with graffiti. The toilets had no lids. In three or four of the cells a man lay listlessly on the bunk, but most of them were empty. “Monday’s a quiet day here at the Lafayette Street Holiday Inn,” Spike joked.
Steve could not have laughed to save his life.
Spike stopped in front of an empty cell. Steve stared inside as the cop unlocked the door. There was no privacy. Steve realized that if he needed to use the toilet he would have to do it in full view of anyone, man or woman, who happened to be walking along the corridor. Somehow that was more humiliating than anything else.
Spike opened a gate in the bars and ushered Steve inside. The gate crashed shut and Spike locked it.
Steve sat on the bunk. “Jesus Christ almighty, what a place,” he said.
“You get used to it,” Spike said cheerfully, and he went away.
A minute later he came back carrying a Styrofoam package. “I got a dinner left,” he said. “Fried chicken. You want some?”
Steve looked at the package, then at the open toilet, and shook his head. “Thanks all the same,” he said.“ “I guess I’m not hungry.”
Berrington ordered champagne.
Jeannie would have liked a good slug of Stolichnaya on the rocks, after the kind of day she had had, but drinking hard liquor was no way to impress an employer, and she decided to keep her desire to herself.
Champagne meant romance. On previous occasions when they had met socially he had been charming rather than amorous. Was he now going to make a pass at her? It made her uneasy. She had never met a man who could take rejection with good grace. And this man was her boss.
She did not tell him about Steve, either. She was on the point of doing so several times during their dinner, but something held her back. If, against all her expectations, Steve did turn out to be a criminal, her theory would start to look shaky. But she did not like to anticipate bad news. Before it was proved she would not foster doubts. And she felt sure it would all turn out to be an appalling mistake.
She had talked to Lisa. “They’ve arrested Brad Pitt!” she had said. Lisa was horrified to think that the man had spent the entire day at Nut House, her place of work, and that Jeannie had been on the point of taking him into her home. Jeannie hat explained that she was sure Steve was not really the perpetrator. Later she realized she probably should not have made the call: it might be construed as interfering with a witness. Not that it would make any real difference. Lisa would look at a row of young white men, and either she would see the man who raped her or she would not. It was not the kind of thing she would make a mistake about.
Jeannie had also spoken to her mother. Patty had been there today, with her three sons, and Mom talked animatedly about how the boys had raced around the corridors of the home. Mercifully, she seemed to have forgotten that it was only yesterday she had moved into Bella Vista. She talked as if she had lived there for years and reproached Jeannie for not visiting more often. After the conversation Jeannie felt a little better about her mother.
“How was the sea bass?” Berrington said, interrupting her thoughts.
“Delicious. Very delicate.”
He smoothed his eyebrows with the tip of his right index finger. For some reason the gesture struck her as self-congratulatory. “Now I’m going to ask you a question, and you have to answer honestly.” He smiled, so that she would not take him too seriously.
“Do you like dessert?” ’
“Yes. Do you take me for the kind of woman who would pretend about a thing like that?”
He shook his head. “I guess there’s not much you do pretend about.”
“Not enough, probably. I have been called tactless.”
“Your worst failing?”
“I could probably do better if I thought about it. What’s your worst failing?”
Berrington answered without hesitation. “Falling in love.”
“That’s a failing?”
“It is if you do it too often.”
“Or with more than one person at a time, I guess.”
“Maybe I should write to Lorraine Logan and ask her advice.”
Jeannie laughed, but she did not want the conversation to get Steven. “Who’s your favorite painter?” she said.
“See if you can guess.”
Berrington was a superpatriot, so he must be sentimental, she figured. “Norman Rockwell?”
“Certainly not!” He seemed genuinely horrified. “A vulgar illustrator! No, if I could afford to collect paintings I’d buy American Impressionists. John Henry Twachtman’s winter landscapes. I’d love to own The White Bridge. What about you?”
“Now you have to guess.”
He thought for a moment. “Joan Miró.”
“I imagine you like bold splashes of color.”
She nodded. “Perceptive. But not quite right. Miró’s too messy. I prefer Mondrian.”
“Ah, yes, of course. The straight lines.”
“Exactly. You’re good at this.”
He shrugged, and she realized he had probably played guessing games with many women.
She dipped a spoon into her mango sorbet. This was definitely not a business dinner. Soon she would have to make a firm decision about what her relationship with Berrington was going to be.
She had not kissed a man for a year and a half. Since Will Temple walked out on her she had not even been on a date until today. She was not carrying a torch for Will: she no longer loved him. But she was wary.
However, she was going crazy living the life of a nun. She missed having someone hairy in bed with her; she missed the masculine smells—bicycle oil and sweaty football shirts and whiskey—and most of all she missed the sex. When radical feminists said the penis was the enemy, Jeannie wanted to reply, “Speak for yourself, sister.”
She glanced up at Berrington, delicately eating caramelized apples. She liked the guy, despite his nasty politics. He was smart—her men had to be intelligent—and he had winning ways. She respected him for his scientific work. He was slim and fit looking, he was probably a very experienced and skillful lover and he had nice blue eyes.
All the same, he was too old. She liked mature men, but not that mature.
How could she reject him without ruining her career? The best course might be to pretend to interpret his attention as kindly and paternal. That way she might avoid spurning him outright.
She took a sip of champagne. The waiter kept refilling her and she was not sure how much she had drunk, but she was glad she did not have to drive.
They ordered coffee. Jeannie asked for a double espresso to warm her up. When Berrington had paid the bill, they took the elevator to the parking garage and got in his silver Lincoln Town Car.
Berrington drove along the harbor side and got onto the Jones Falls Expressway. “There’s the city jail,” he said, pointing to a fortresslike building that occupied a city block. “The scum of the earth are in there.”
Steve might be in there, Jeannie thought.
How had she even contemplated sleeping with Berrington? She did not feel the least warmth of affection for him. She felt ashamed that she had even toyed with the idea. As he pulled up to the curb outside her house, she said firmly: “Well, Berry, thank you for a charming evening.” Would he shake hands, she wondered, or try to kiss her? If he tried to kiss her, she would offer her cheek.
But he did neither. “My phone at home is out of order, and I need to make one call before I go to bed,” he said. “May I use your phone?”
She could hardly say, “Hell, no, stop by a pay phone.” It looked as if she were going to have to deal with a determined pass. “Of course,” she said, suppressing a sigh. “Come on up.” She wondered if she could avoid offering him coffee.
She jumped out of the car and led the way across the row stoop. The front door gave onto a tiny lobby with two more doors. One led to the ground-floor apartment, occupied by Mr. Oliver, a retired stevedore. The other, Jeannie’s door, opened onto the staircase that led up to her second-floor apartment.
She frowned, puzzled. Her door was open.
She went inside and led the way up the stairs. A light was on up there. That was curious: she had left before dark.
The staircase led directly into her living room. She stepped inside and screamed.
He was standing at her refrigerator with a bottle of vodka in his hand. He was scuffy and unshaven, and he seemed a little drunk.
Behind her, Berrington said: “What’s going on?”
“You need better security in here, Jeannie,” the intruder said. “I picked your locks in about ten seconds.”
Berrington said: “Who the hell is he?”
Jeannie said in a shocked voice: “When did you get out of jail, Daddy?”
The lineup room was on the same floor as the cells.
In the anteroom were six other men of about Steve’s age and build. He guessed they were cops. They did not speak to him and avoided his gaze. They were treating him like a criminal. He wanted to say, “Hey, guys, I’m on your side, I’m not a rapist, I’m innocent.”
They all had to take off their wristwatches and jewelry and put on white paper coveralls over their clothes. While they were getting ready, a young man in a suit came in and said: “Which of you is the suspect, please?”
“That’s me,” Steve said.
“I’m Lew Tanner, the public defender,” the man said. “I’m here to make sure the lineup is run correctly. Do you have any questions?”
“How long will it take me to get out of here afterward?” Steve said.
“Assuming you’re not picked out of the lineup, a couple of hours.”
“Two hours!” Steve said indignantly. “Do I have to go back in that fucking cell?”
“I’m afraid so.”
“I’ll ask them to handle your discharge as fast as possible,” Lew said. “Anything else?”
“Okay.” He went out.
A turnkey ushered the seven men through a door onto a stage. There was a backdrop, with a graduated scale that showed their height, and positions numbered one to ten. A powerful light shone on them, and a screen divided the stage from the rest of the room. The men could not see through the screen, but they could hear what was going on beyond it.
For a while there was nothing but footsteps and occasional voices, all male. Then Steve heard the unmistakable sound of a woman’s steps. After a moment a man’s voice spoke, sounding as if he were reading from a card or repeating something by rote.
“Standing before you are seven people. They will be known to you by number only. If any of these individuals have done anything to you, or in your presence, I want you to call out their number, and number only. If you would like any of them to say any form of specific words, we will have them say those words. If you would like to have them turn around or face sideways, then they will do that as a group. Do you recognize one of them who has done anything to you or in your presence?”
There was a silence. Steve’s nerves were wound up tight as guitar strings, even though he was sure she would not pick him out.
A low female voice said: “He had a hat on.”
She sounded like an educated middle-class woman of about his own age, Steve thought.
The male voice said: “We have hats. Would you like them to put on a hat?”
“It was more of a cap. A baseball cap.”
Steve heard anxiety and tension in her voice but also determination. There was no hint of falseness. She sounded like the kind of woman who would tell the truth even when distressed. He felt a little better.
“Dave, see if we have seven baseball caps in that closet.”
There was a pause of several minutes. Steve ground his teet in impatience. A voice muttered: “Jeez, I didn’t know we had all this stuff…eyeglasses, mustaches—”
“No chitchat, please, Dave,” the first man said. “This is a formal legal proceeding.”
Eventually a detective came onto the stage from the side and handed a baseball cap to each man in the lineup. They all put them on and the detective left.
From the other side of the screen came the sound of a woman crying.
The male voice repeated the form of words used earlier. “Do you recognize any one of them who has done anything to you or in your presence? If so call out their number, and number only.”
“Number four,” she said with a sob in her voice.
Steve turned and looked at the backdrop.
He was number four.
“No!” he shouted. “This can’t be right! It wasn’t me!”
The male voice said: “Number four, did you hear that?”
“Of course I heard it, but I didn’t do this!”
The other men in the lineup were already leaving the stage.
“For Christ’s sake!” Steve stared at the opaque screen, his arms spread wide in a pleading gesture. “How could you pick me out? I don’t even know what you look like!”
The male voice from the other side said: “Don’t say anything, ma’am, please. Thank you very much for your cooperation. This way out.”
“There’s something wrong here, can’t you understand?” Steve yelled.
The turnkey Spike appeared. “It’s all over, son, let’s go.” he said.
Steve stared at him. For a moment he was tempted to knock the little man’s teeth down his throat.
Spike saw the look in his eye and his expression hardened. “Let’s have no trouble, now. You got nowhere to run.” He took Steve’s arm in a grip that felt like a steel clamp. It was useless to protest.
Steve felt as if he had been bludgeoned from behind. This had came from nowhere. His shoulders slumped and he was sized by helpless fury. “How did this happen?” he said. “How did this happen?”
Berrington said: “Daddy?"
Jeannie wanted to bite off her tongue. It was the dumbest thing she could have said: “When did you get out of jail, Daddy?” Only minutes ago Berrington had described the people in the city jail as the scum of the earth.
She felt mortified. It was bad enough her boss finding out that her father was a professional burglar. Having Berrington meet him was even worse. His face had been bruised by a fall and he had several days’ growth of heard. His clothes were dirty and he had a faint but disgusting smell. She felt so ashamed she could not look at Berrington.
There had been’a time, many years ago, when she was not ashamed of him. Quite the reverse: he made other girls’ fathers seem boring and tiresome. He had been handsome and fun loving, and he would come home in a new suit, his pockets full of money. There would be movies and new dresses and ice-cream sundaes, and Mom would buy a pretty nightgown and go on a diet. But he always went away again, and around about the age of nine she found out why. Tammy Fontaine told her. She would never forget the conversation.
“Your jumper’s horrible,” Tammy had said.
“Your nose is horrible,” Jeannie had replied wittily and the other girls broke up.
“Your mom buys you clothes that are really, like gruesome.”
“Your mom’s fat.”
“Your daddy’s in jail.”
“He is not.”
“He is so.”
“He is not! ”
“I heard my daddy tell my mommy. He was reading the newspaper. ‘I see old Pete Ferrami’s back in jail again,’ he said.”
“Liar, liar, pants on fire,” Jeannie had chanted, but in her heart she had believed Tammy. It explained everything: the sudden wealth, the equally sudden disappearances, the long absences.
Jeannie never had another of those taunting schoolgirl conversations. Anyone could shut her up by mentioning her father. At the age of mine, it was like being crippled for life. Whenever something was lost at school, she felt they all looked accusingly at her. She never shook the guilty feeling. If another woman looked in her purse and said, “Dam, I thought I had a ten-dollar bill,” Jeannie would flush crimson. She became obsessively honest: she would walk a mile to return a cheap ballpoint, terrified that if she kept it the ownerwould say she was a thief like her father.
Nowhere he was, standing there in front of her boss, dirty and unshaven and probably broke. “This is Professor Berrington Jones,” she said. “Berry, meet my father, Pete Ferrami.”
Berrington was gracious. He shook Daddy’s hand. “Good to meet you, Mr. Ferrami,” he said. “Your daughter is a very special woman.”
“Ain’t that the truth,” Daddy said with a pleased grin.
“Well, Berry, now you know the family secret,” she said resignedly. “Daddy was sent to jail, for the third time, on the day I graduated summa cum laude from Princeton. He’s been incarcerated for the last eight years.”
“It could have been fifteen,” Daddy said. “We had guns on that job.”
“Thank you for sharing that with us, Dad. It’s sure to inpress my boss.”
Daddy looked hurt and baffled, and she felt a stab of pity for him, despite her resentment. His weakness hurt him as much as it hurt his family. He was one of nature’s failures. The fabulous system that reproduced the human race—the profoundly complex DNA mechanism Jeannie studied—was programmed to make every individual a little bit different. It was like a photo-copier with a built-in error. Sometimes the result was good: an Einstein, a Louis Armstrong, an Andrew Carnegie. And sometimes it was a Pete Ferrami.
Jeannie had to get rid of Berrington fast. “If you want to make that call, Berry, you can use the phone in the bedroom.”
“Uh, it’ll keep,” he said.
Thank God for that. “Well, thank you for a very special evening.” She held out her hand to shake.
“It was a pleasure. Good night.” He shook hands awkwardly and went out.
Jeannie turned to her father. “What happened?”
“I got time off for good behavior. I’m free. And naturally, the first thing I wanted was to see my little girl.”
“Right after you went on a three-day drunk.” He was so transparently insincere, it was offensive. She felt the familiar rage rise inside her. Why couldn’t she have a father like other people’s?
He said: “Come on, be nice.”
Anger turned into sadness. She had never had a real father and she never would. “Give me that bottle,” she said. “I’ll make coffee.”
Reluctantly he handed her the vodka and she put it back in the freezer. She put water in the coffee maker and turned it on.
“You look older,” he said to her. “I see a little grey in your hair.”
“Gee, thanks.” She put out mugs, cream, and sugar.
“Your mother went grey early.”
“I always thought you were the cause of that.”
“I went to her place,” he said in a tone of mild indignation. “She doesn’t live there anymore.”
“She’s in Bella Vista now.”
“That’s what the neighbor told me. Mrs. Mendoza. She gave me your address. I don’t like to think of your mother in a place like that.”
“Then take her out of there!” Jeannie said indignantly. “She’s still your wife. Get yourself a job and a decent apartment and start taking care of her.”
“You know I can’t do that. I never could.”
“Then don’t criticize me for not doing it.”
His tone became wheedling. “I didn’t say anything about you, honey. I just said I don’t like to think of your mother in an institution, that’s all.”
“I don’t like it either, nor does Patty. We’ re going to try to raiise the money to get her out of there.” Jeannie felt a sudden surge of emotion, and she had to fight back tears. “Goddamn it, Daddy, this is tough enough without having you sit there complaining.”
“Okay, okay,” he said.
Jeannie swallowed hard. I shouldn’t let him get to me way. She changed the subject. “What are you going to do now? Do you have any plans?”
“I’ll look around for a while.”
He meant he would scout for a place to roh. Jeannie said nothing. He was a thief, and she could not change him.
He coughed. “Maybe you could let me have a few bucks to get me started.”
That made her mad again. “I’ll tell you what I’m going to do,” she said in a tight voice. “I’ll let you shower and shave while I put your clothes through the washer. If you keep your hands off that vodka bottle, I’ll make you some eggs and toast. You can borrow some pajamas and sleep on my couch. But I’m not giving you any cash. I’m desperately trying to find teh money to pay for Mom to stay someplace where they’ll treat her like a human being, and I don’t have a dollar to spare.”
“Okay, sweetie,” he said, putting on a martyred air. ”I understand.”
She looked at him. In the end, when the turmoil of shame and anger and pity died down, all she felt, was longing. She wished with all her heart that he could take care of himself, could stay in one place more than a few weeks, could hold down a normal job, could be loving and supportive and stable. She yearned for a father who would be a father. And she knew she would never, ever have her wish. There was a place in her heart for a father, and it would always be empty.
The phone rang.
Jeannie picked it up. “Hello.”
It was Lisa, sounding upset. “Jeannie, it was him!”
“That guy they arrested with you. I picke’d him out of the lineup. He’s the one that raped me. Steve