Chapter 25

M O drove them to the Bronx. He parked in front of the address Anthony had given him.

"You're not going to believe this," Mo said.


"We're being followed."

Mike knew better than to turn around and be obvious about it. So he sat and waited.

"Blue four-door Chevy double-parked down at the end of the block. Two guys, both wearing Yankee caps and sunglasses."

Last night this street had been teeming with people. Now there was practically nobody. Those who were there either slept on a stoop or moved with amazing lethargy, legs congealed together, arms melted against their sides. Mike half expected a patch of tumbleweed to blow through the middle of the street.

"You go in," Mo said. "I got a friend. I'll give him the license plate and see what he comes up with."

Mike nodded. He got out of the car, trying to be subtle about checking out the car. He barely saw it, but he didn't want to take the chance of looking again. He headed toward the door. There was an industrial-gray metal door with the words CLUB JAGUAR on it. Mike pressed the button. The front door buzzed and he pushed it open.

The walls were done up in a bright yellow usually associated with McDonald's or the children's ward at a trying-too-hard hospital. There was a bulletin board on the right blanketed with sign-up sheets for counseling, for music lessons, for book discussion groups, for therapy groups for drug addicts, alcoholics, the physically and mentally abused. Several flyers were looking for someone to share an apartment and you could tear off the phone number at the bottom. Someone was selling a couch for a hundred bucks. Another person was trying to unload guitar amps.

He moved past the board to the front desk. A young woman with a nose ring looked up and said, "Can I help you?"

He had the photograph of Adam in his hand. "Have you seen this boy?" He put the picture down in front of her.

"I'm just the receptionist," she said.

"Receptionists have eyes. I asked if you've seen him."

"I can't talk about our clients."

"I'm not asking you to talk about them. I'm asking you if you've seen him."

Her lips went thin. He could see now that she also had piercings in the vicinity of her mouth. She stayed still and looked up at him. This, he realized, was going nowhere.

"Can I speak to whoever's in charge?"

"That would be Rosemary."

"Great. Can I speak to her?"

The well-pierced receptionist picked up a phone. She covered the mouthpiece and mumbled into it. Ten seconds later she smiled at him and said, "Miss McDevitt will see you now. Third door on the right."

Mike wasn't sure what he expected, but Rosemary McDevitt was a surprise. She was young, petite and had that sort of raw sensuality that made you think of a puma. She had a purple streak in her dark hair and a tattoo that sneaked up her shoulder and onto her neck. Her top was just a black leather vest, no sleeves. Her arms were toned and she had what looked like leather bands around her biceps.

She stood and smiled and stuck out her hand. "Welcome."

He shook the hand.

"How can I help you?

"My name is Mike Baye."

"Hi, Mike."

"Uh, hi. I'm looking for my son."

He stood close to her. Mike was five ten and he had a little over half a foot on this woman. Rosemary McDevitt looked at Adam's photograph. Her expression gave away nothing.

"Do you know him?" Mike asked.

"You know I can't answer that."

She tried to hand the picture back to him, but Mike didn't take it. Aggressive tactics hadn't gotten him much, so he bit down, took a breath.

"I'm not asking you to betray confidences-"

"Well, yeah, Mike, you are." She smiled sweetly. "That's exactly what you're asking me to do."

"I'm just trying to find my son. That's all."

She spread her arms. "Does this look like a lost and found?"

"He's missing."

"This place is a sanctuary, Mike, you know what I'm saying? Kids come here to escape their parents."

"I'm worried he might be in danger. He went out without telling anyone. He came here last night-"

"Whoa." She held up a hand to signal for him to stop.


"He came here last night. That's what you said, Mike, right?"


Her eyes narrowed. "How do you know that, Mike?"

The constant use of his name was grating.

"Pardon me?"

"How do you know your son came here?"

"That's really not important."

She smiled and stepped back. "Sure it is."

He needed a subject change. His eyes took in the room. "What is this place anyway?"

"We're a bit of a hybrid." Rosemary gave him one more look to let him know that she knew what he was trying to do with the question. "Think teen center but with a modern twist."

"In what way?

"Do you remember those midnight basketball programs?"

"In the nineties, right. Trying to keep the kids off the streets."

"Exactly. I won't go into if they worked or not, but the thing is, the programs were geared toward poor, inner-city kids-and to some, there was clearly a racist overtone. I mean, basketball in the middle of the city?"

"And you guys are different?"

"First off, we don't cater strictly to the poor. This may sound somewhat right wing, but I'm not sure we're the best source to help the African American or inner-city teens. They need to do that within their own community. And in the long run, I'm not sure you can stop the temptations with something like this. They need to see that their way out isn't with a gun or drugs, and I doubt a game of basketball will do that."

A group of boys-cum-men shuffled by her office, all duded out in goth black accessorized with a variety of items in the chain-n-stud family. The pants had huge cuffs and you couldn't see their shoes.

"Hey, Rosemary."

"Hey, guys."

They kept walking. Rosemary turned back to Mike. "Where do you live?"

" New Jersey."

"The suburbs, right?"


"Teens from your town. How do they get in trouble?"

"I don't know. Drugs, drinking."

"Right. They want to party. They think they're bored-maybe they are, who knows?-and they want to go out and get high and go to clubs and flirt and all that stuff. They don't want to play basketball. So that's what we do here."

"You get them high?"

"Not like you think. Come on, I'll show you."

She started down the bright yellow corridor. He stayed by her side. She walked with her shoulders back and head high. The key was in her hand. She unlocked a door and started down the stairs. Mike followed.

It was a nightclub or disco or whatever you call them nowadays. It had the cushioned benches and round tables that lit up and the low stools. There was a DJ booth and a wooden floor, no mirrored ball but a bunch of colored lights that swirled in patterns. The words CLUB JAGUAR were spray-painted graffiti style against a back wall.

"This is what teens want," Rosemary McDevitt said. "A place to blow off steam. To party and hang with friends. We don't serve alcohol, but we serve virgin drinks that look like alcohol. We have good-looking bartenders and waitresses. We do what the best clubs do. But the key is, we keep them safe. Do you understand? Kids like your son drive in and try to get fake IDs. They want to buy drugs or find a way to get alcohol even though they are underage. We are trying to prevent that by channeling it in a healthier way."

"With this place?"

"In part. We also offer counseling, if they need that. We offer book clubs and therapy groups and we have a room with Xbox and Playsta- tion 3 and all the rest of what you often associate with a teen center. But this place is the key. This place is what makes us, pardon the teenage vernacular, cool."

"Rumor has it that you serve."

"Rumor is wrong. Most of the rumors are started by the other clubs because they're losing business to us."

Mike said nothing.

"Look, let's say your son came into the city to party. He could go down Third Avenue over there and buy cocaine from one alley. The guy in the stoop fifty yards away from here sells heroin. You name it, the kids buy it. Or they sneak into a club where they'll get wasted or worse. We protect them here. They can get their release in safety."

"Do you take in street kids too?"

"We wouldn't turn them away, but there are other organizations better equipped for that. We aren't trying to change lives in that way because frankly I don't think that works. A kid gone bad or from a wrecked home needs more than what we offer. Our goal is to help keep the basically good kids from slipping up. It is almost the opposite problem-parents are too involved nowadays. They are on their kids twenty-four/seven. The teens today have no room to rebel."

The argument was one he had made to Tia many times over the years. We are too all over them. Mike used to walk the streets by himself. On Saturdays he would play in Branch Brook Park all day and not come back until late. Now his own kids couldn't cross the street without him or Tia watching carefully, afraid of... of what exactly?

"So you give them that room?"


He nodded. "Who runs this place?

"I do. I started it three years ago after my brother died of a drug overdose. Greg was a good kid. He was sixteen. He didn't play sports so he wasn't popular or anything. Our parents and society in general were too controlling. It was only maybe the second time he had done drugs."

"I'm sorry."

She shrugged, started for the stairs. He followed her up in silence.

"Ms. McDevitt?"

"Rosemary," she said.

"Rosemary. I don't want my son to become another statistic. He came here last night. Now I don't know where he is."

"I can't help you."

"Have you seen him before?"

Her back was still to him. "I have a bigger mission here, Mike."

"So my son is expendable?"

"That's not what I said. But we don't talk to parents. Not ever. This is a place for teens. If it gets out-"

"I won't tell anyone."

"It is part of our mission statement."

"And what if Adam is in danger?"

"Then I would help if I could. But that's not the case here."

Mike was about to argue, but he spotted a bunch of the goths down the corridor.

"Those some of your clients?" he asked, entering her office.

"Clients and facilitators."


"They sort of do everything. They help keep the place clean. They party at night. And they watch the club."

"Like bouncers?"

She tilted her head back and forth. "That's probably too strong a term. They help the newbies fit in. They help maintain control. They keep an eye on the place, make sure no one lights up or does drugs in the bathroom, that kind of thing."

Mike made a face. "The inmates controlling the prison."

"They're good kids."

Mike looked at them. Then back at Rosemary. He studied her for a second. She was fairly spectacular to look at. She had a model's face, the kind with cheekbones that could double as letter openers. He glanced back at the goths. There were four, maybe five of them, all a haze of black and silver. They were trying to look tough and failing miserably.



"Something about your rap isn't working with me," Mike said.

"My rap?"

"Your sales pitch for this place. On one level it all makes sense."

"And on another?"

He turned and looked at her straight on. "I think you're full of crap. Where is my son?"

"You should leave now."

"If you're hiding him, I'm going to tear this place down brick by brick."

"You're now trespassing, Dr. Baye." She looked down the corridor at the group of goths and gave a small nod. They shuffled toward Mike, surrounding him. "Please leave now."

"Are you going to have your"-he made quote marks with his fin- gers-" 'facilitators' toss me out?"

The tallest goth smirked and said, "Looks like you've already been tossed around, old man."

The other goths giggled. There was a soft blend of black and pale and mascara and metal. They wanted so to be tough and they weren't and maybe that made them that much scarier. That desperation. That want to be something that you are not.

Mike debated his next move. The tall goth was probably in his early twenties, lanky, big Adam's apple. Part of Mike wanted to go for the sucker punch-just deck the son of a bitch, take out the leader, show them he meant business. Part of him wanted to go with a forearm blow to that bobbing throat, leave the goth with sore vocal chords for the next two weeks. But then the others would probably jump in. He might be able to take on two or three, but maybe not this many.

He was still mulling over his next move when something caught his eye. The heavy metal door buzzed open. Another goth entered. It wasn't the black clothes that made Mike pull up this time.

It was the black eyes.

The new goth also had a strip of tape across his nose.

His recently broken nose, Mike thought.

Some of the goths came over to the broken-nose guy and offered up lazy high fives. They moved as though swimming through pancake syrup. Their voices too were slow, lethargic, nearly Prozac induced. "Yo, Carson," one managed to utter. "Carson, my man," croaked another. They lifted their hands to slap his back as if this took great effort. Carson accepted the attention as though he was used to it and it was his due.

"Rosemary?" Mike said.


"You not only know my son, you know me."

"How's that?"

"You called me Dr. Baye." He kept his eyes on the goth with the broken nose. "How did you know I was a doctor?"

He didn't wait for the answer. There was no point. He hurried toward the door, bumping the tall goth as he did. The one with the broken nose- Carson -saw him coming. The black eyes widened. Carson stepped back outside. Mike moved faster now, grabbing the metal door before it closed all the way, heading outside.

Carson with the broken nose was maybe ten feet in front of him.

"Hey!" Mike called out.

The punk turned around. His jet-black hair dangled over one eye like a dark curtain.

"What happened to your nose?"

Carson tried to sneer through it. "What happened to your face?"

Mike hurried over to him. The other goths were out the door. It was six against one. In his peripheral vision he saw Mo get out of the car and come toward them. Six against two-but Mo was one of the two. Mike might just take those odds.

He moved up close, getting right into Carson 's broken nose and said, "A bunch of limp-dick cowards jumped me when I wasn't looking. That's what happened to my face."

Carson tried to keep the bravado in his voice. "That's too bad."

"Well, thanks, but here's the kicker. Can you imagine being a big enough loser to be one of the cowards who jumped me and ended up with a broken nose?"

Carson shrugged. "Anyone could get in a lucky shot."

"That's true. So maybe the limp-dick loser would like another chance. Man-to-man. Face-to-face."

The goth leader looked around now, making sure that he had his supporters in place. The other goths nodded back, adjusted metal bracelets, flexed their fingers, and made too much of an effort to look ready.

Mo walked over to the tall goth and grabbed him by the throat before anyone could move. The goth tried to spit out a noise, but Mo's grip kept any sound from coming out.

"If anyone steps forward," Mo said to him, "I hurt you. Not the guy who steps forward. Not the guy who interferes. You. I hurt you very badly, do you understand?"

The tall goth tried to nod.

Mike looked back at Carson. "You ready to go?"

"Hey, I don't got no beef with you."

"I have one with you."

Mike pushed him, school yard style. Taunting. The other goths looked confused, unsure of their next move. Mike pushed Carson again.


"What did you guys do to my son?"

"Huh? Who?"

"My son, Adam Baye. Where is he?"

"You think I know?"

"You jumped me last night, didn't you? Unless you want the beating of a lifetime, you better talk."

And then another voice said, "Everybody freeze! FBI!"

Mike looked up. It was the two men with baseball caps, the ones following them before. They held guns in one hand, badges in the other.

One of the officers said, "Michael Baye?"


"Darryl LeCrue, FBI. We're going to need you to come with us."