Chapter 17

IN a dream there is a beeping sound and then the words: "I'm so sorry, Dad..."

In reality Mike heard someone speaking Spanish in the dark.

He spoke enough of it-you can't work at a hospital on 168th Street and not speak at least medical Spanish-and so he recognized that the woman was praying furiously. Mike tried to turn his head, but it wouldn't move. Didn't matter. All was black. His head thudded at the temples as the woman in the dark repeated her prayer over and over.

Meanwhile, Mike had his own mantra going on:

Adam. Where is Adam?

Mike slowly realized that his eyes were closed. He tried to open them. That wouldn't happen right away. He listened some more and tried to focus on his eyelids, on the simple act of lifting them up. It took a little while but eventually they began to blink. The thudding in his temples grew into hammer pounds. He reached a hand up and pushed at the side of his head, as if he could contain the pain that way.

He squinted at the fluorescent light on the white ceiling. The Spanish praying continued. The familiar smell filled the air, that combination of harsh cleaners, bodily functions, wilting fauna and absolutely no natural air circulation. Mike's head dropped to the left. He saw the back of a woman hunched over a bed. Her fingers moved over the prayer beads. Her head seemed to be resting on a man's chest. She alternated between sobs and prayers-and a blend of the two.

He tried to reach his hand out and say something comforting to her. Ever the doctor. But there was an IV in his arm and it slowly dawned on him that he too was a patient. He tried to remember what had happened, how he could possibly have ended up here. It took a while. His brain was cloudy. He fought through it.

There had been a terrible unease in him when he woke up. He had tried to push that away but for the sake of his memory he let it back in now. And as soon as he did, that mantra came back to him, this time just the one word:


The rest flooded in. He had gone to look for Adam. He had talked to that bouncer, Anthony. He had gone down that alley. There had been that scary woman with the horrible wig...

There had been a knife.

Had he been stabbed?

He didn't think so. He turned the other way. Another patient. A black man with his eyes closed. Mike looked for his family, but there was no one here for him. That shouldn't surprise him-he might have only been out for a short time. They would have to contact Tia. She was in Boston. It would take time for her to arrive. Jill was at the Novaks' house. And Adam...?

In the movies, when a patient wakes up like this, it's in a private room and the doctor and nurse are already there, as though they'd been waiting all night, smiling down with lots of answers. There was no health professional in sight. Mike knew the routine. He searched for his call button, found it wrapped around the bed railings, and pressed for the nurse.

It took some time. Hard to say how much. Time crawled by. The praying woman's voice faded into silence. She stood up and wiped her eyes. Mike could see the man in the bed now. Considerably younger than the woman. Mother-son, he figured. He wondered what brought them here.

He looked out the windows behind her. The shades were open and there was sunlight.


He had lost consciousness at night. Hours ago. Or maybe days. Who knew? He started pressing the call button even though he knew that it did no good. Panic began to take hold. The pain in his head steadily grew-someone was taking a jackhammer to his right temple.

"Well, well."

He turned toward the doorway. The nurse, a heavy woman with reading glasses perched upon her huge bosom, strolled in. Her name tag read BERTHA BONDY. She looked down at him and frowned.

"Welcome to the free world, sleepyhead. How are you feeling?"

It took Mike a second or two to find his voice. "Like I kissed a Mac truck."

"Probably be more sanitary than what you were doing. Are you thirsty?"


Bertha nodded, picked up a cup of ice. She tilted it to his lips. The ice tasted medicinal, but man it felt good in his mouth.

"You're at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital," Bertha said. "Do you remember what happened?"

"Someone jumped me. Bunch of guys, I guess."

"Hmm hmm. What's your name?"

"Mike Baye."

"Can you spell the last name for me?"

He did, figuring this was a cognitive test, so he volunteered some information. "I'm a physician," he said. "I do transplant surgery out of NewYork-Presbyterian."

She frowned some more, as though he'd given her the wrong answer. "For real?"


More frowning.

"Do I pass?" he asked.


"The cognitive test."

"I'm not the doctor. He'll be by in a little while. I asked your name because we don't know who you are. You came in with no wallet, no cell phone, no keys, nothing. Whoever rolled you took it all."

Mike was about to say something else but a stab of pain ripped across his skull. He rode it out, bit down, counted in his head to ten. When it passed, he spoke again.

"How long have I been out?"

"All night. Six, seven hours."

"What time is it?"

"Eight in the morning."

"So no one notified my family?"

"I just told you. We didn't know who you were."

"I need a phone. I need to call my wife."

"Your wife? You sure?"

Mike's head felt fuzzy. He was probably on some kind of medication, so maybe that was why he couldn't figure out why she'd asked something so asinine.

"Of course I'm sure."

Bertha shrugged. "The phone's next to your bed, but I'll have to ask them to hook it up. You'll probably need help dialing, right?"

"I guess."

"Oh, do you have medical insurance? We have some forms that need to be filled out."

Mike wanted to smile. First things first. "I do."

"I'll send someone from admissions up to get your information. Your doctor should be by soon to talk about your injuries."

"How bad are they?"

"You took a pretty solid beating and since you were out that long, there was obviously a concussion and head trauma. But I'd rather let the doctor give you the details, if that's okay. I'll see if I can hurry him along."

He understood. Floor nurses should not be giving him the diagnosis.

"How's the pain?" Bertha asked.


"You're on some pain meds now, so it'll be getting worse before it gets better. I'll hook up a morphine pump for you."


"Back soon."

She started for the door. Mike thought of something else.


She turned back toward him.

"Isn't there a police officer who wants to talk to me or something?"

"Excuse me?"

"I was assaulted and, from what you're saying, robbed. Wouldn't a cop be interested?"

She folded her arms across her chest. "And you think, what, they'd just sit here and wait for you to wake up?"

She had a point-like the doctor waiting on TV.

Then Bertha added: "Most people don't bother to report this kind of thing anyway."

"What kind of thing?"

She frowned again. "You want me to call the police for you too?"

"I better call my wife first."

"Yeah," she said. "Yeah, I think that's probably best."

He reached for the bed's control button. Pain tore across his rib cage. His lungs stopped. He fumbled for the control and pushed the top button. His body curled up with the bed. He tried to squiggle more upright. He slowly reached now for the phone. He got it to his ear. It wasn't hooked up yet.

Tia must be in a panic.

Was Adam home by now?

Who the hell had jumped him?

"Mr. Baye?"

It was Nurse Bertha reappearing at the door.

"Dr. Baye," he corrected.

"Oh, silly me, I forgot."

He hadn't said it to be obnoxious, but letting a hospital know that you were a fellow physician had to be a good idea. If a cop is pulled over for speeding, he always lets the other cop know what he does for a living. File it under "Can't Hurt."

"I found an officer here for another matter," she said. "Do you want to talk to him?"

"Yes, thanks, but could you also hook up the phone?"

"Should be ready for you any minute now."

The uniformed officer entered the room. He was a small man, Latino with a thin mustache. Mike placed him in his mid-thirties. He introduced himself as Officer Guttierez.

"Do you really want to file a report?" he asked.

"Of course."

He frowned too.


"I'm the officer who brought you in."

"Thank you."

"You're welcome. Do you know where we found you?"

Mike thought a second. "Probably in that alley by that club. I forget the street."


He looked at Mike and waited. And Mike finally saw it.

"It's not what you think," Mike said.

"What do I think?"

"That I was rolled by a hooker."


Mike tried to shrug. "I watch a lot of TV."

"Well, I'm not big on jumping to conclusions, but here's what I do know: You were found in an alley frequented by prostitutes. You're a solid twenty or thirty years older than the average club goer in that area. You're married. You got jumped and robbed and beaten in a way I've seen before, when a john gets"-he made quote marks with his fingers-" 'rolled by a hooker or her pimp.' "

"I wasn't there to solicit," Mike said.

"Uh-huh, no, no, I'm sure you were in that alley for the view. It's pretty special. And don't get me started on the delights of the aroma. Man, you don't have to explain to me. I totally get the allure."

"I was looking for my son."

"In that alley?"

"Yes. I saw a friend of his..." The pain returned. He could see how this would go. It would take some time to explain. And then what? What would this cop find anyway?

He needed to reach Tia.

"I'm in a lot of pain right now," Mike said.

Guttierez nodded. "I understand. Look, here's my card. Call if you want to talk some more or fill out a complaint, okay?"

Guttierez put his card on the night table and left the room. Mike ignored it. He fought through the pain, reached for the phone, and dialed Tia's cell phone.