Chapter 7

AS he had nearly every weekday for the past decade, Mike woke up at five in the morning. He worked out for exactly one hour. He drove into New York City over the George Washington Bridge and arrived at NewYork-Presbyterian's transplant center by seven A.M.

He threw on the white coat and rounded on patients. There were times when this threatened to become routine. It didn't vary much, but Mike liked to remind himself of how important this was to that person lying in the bed. You are in a hospital. That alone made you feel vulnerable and scared. You are ill. You may very well be dying and it seems to you that the person who stands in the way between you and greater suffering, between you and death, is your doctor.

How does your doctor not develop a bit of a God complex?

More than that, sometimes Mike thought it was healthy to have that complex, albeit benevolently. You mean a lot to your patient. You should act like it.

There were doctors who rushed through it. There were times Mike wanted to do that too. But the truth is, if you give your all, it only takes an extra minute or two per patient. So he listened and held a hand if that was required or stayed a little aloof-depending on the patient and how he read them.

He was at his desk by nine A.M. The first patient had already arrived. Lucille, his RN, would be working them up. That gave him maybe ten minutes to review the charts and overnight test results. He remembered his neighbor and quickly searched for the Loriman results in the computer.

Nothing posted yet.

That was odd.

A strip of pink drew Mike's eye. Someone had stuck a Post-it note onto his phone.

See me

-  Ilene

Ilene Goldfarb was his practice partner and head of transplant surgery at NewYork-Presbyterian. They had met during their residency in transplant surgery and now lived in the same town. He and Ilene were friends, Mike guessed, but not close ones, which made the partnership work well. They lived maybe two miles apart, had kids who attended the same schools, but other than that, they had few mutual interests, didn't need to socialize, and totally trusted and respected the other's work.

Do you want to test your doctor friend on his medical recommendation? Ask him this: If your kid was sick, what doctor would you send him to?

Mike's answer was Ilene Goldfarb. And that told you everything you needed to know about her competence as a physician.

He headed down the corridor. His feet padded silently on the industrial-gray wall-to-wall. The prints lining the off-white hallway were gentle on the eyes, simple and with about as much personality as the artwork you'd find in a mid-scale motel chain. He and Ilene had wanted the entire office to whisper, "This is about the patient and the patient only." In the offices, they displayed only professional diplomas and citations because that seemed to comfort. They did not keep anything personal-no pencil holder made by a child, no family photographs, nothing like that.

Your child often came here to die. You don't want to see the image of someone else's smiling, healthy children. You just don't.

"Hey, Doc Mike."

He turned. It was Hal Goldfarb, Ilene's son. He was a high school senior, two years older than Adam. He'd made Princeton early decision and planned to go in premed. He'd managed to get school credit to spend three mornings a week interning for them.

"Hey, Hal. How's school?"

He gave Mike a big smile. "Coasting."

"Senior year after you've already been admitted to college-the dictionary definition of coasting."

"You got it."

Hal was dressed in khakis and a blue dress shirt and Mike couldn't help but notice the contrast with Adam's goth black and feel a pang of envy. As if reading his mind, Hal said, "How's Adam?"


"I haven't seen him in a while."

"Maybe you should give him a call," Mike said.

"Yeah, I should. It'd be great to hang out."


"Mom in her office?" Mike asked.

"Yes. Go right in."

Ilene sat behind her desk. She was a slight woman, small-boned except for her talonlike fingers. She wore her brown hair pulled back in a severe ponytail and had horn-rimmed glasses that nicely straddled the border between looking bookish and in vogue.

"Hey," Mike said.


Mike held up the pink Post-it note. "What's up?"

Ilene let loose a long breath. "We got a big problem."

Mike sat. "With?"

"Your neighbor."


Ilene nodded.

"Bad tissue test result?"

"Weird test result," she said. "But it had to happen sooner or later. I'm surprised this is our first."

"Do you want to clue me in?"

Ilene Goldfarb took off the glasses. She put one of the earpieces in her mouth and chewed on it. "How well do you know the family?"

"They live next door."

"You close?"

"No. Why, what's that got to do with anything?"

"We may have," Ilene said, "something of an ethical dilemma."

"How so?"

"Dilemma might be the wrong word." Ilene looked off, talking more to herself than Mike right now. "More like a blurry ethical line."



"What are you talking about?"

"Lucas Loriman's mother will be here in half an hour," she said.

"I saw her yesterday."


"In her yard. She's doing a lot of pretend gardening."

"I bet."

"Why do you say that?"

"Do you know her husband?"

"Dante? Yes."


Mike shrugged. "What's going on, Ilene?"

"It's about Dante," she said.

"What about him?"

"He's not the boy's biological father."

Just like that. Mike sat there for a moment.

"You're kidding me."

"Yeah, that's what I'm doing. You know me-Dr. Kidder. Good one, right?"

Mike let it sink in. He didn't ask if she was sure or wanted to take more tests. She would have thought of all those angles. Ilene was right too-the bigger surprise was that they hadn't run into this before. Two floors below them were the geneticists. One of them told Mike that in random population tests, more than ten percent of men were raising children that, unbeknownst to them, weren't biologically theirs.

"Any reaction to this news?" Ilene said.


Ilene nodded. "I wanted you to be my medical partner," she said, "because I love your way with words."

"Dante Loriman is not a nice man, Ilene."

"That was my vibe."

"This is bad," Mike said.

"So is his son's condition."

They sat there and let that sit in the room, heavy.

The intercom buzzed. "Dr. Goldfarb?"


"Susan Loriman is here. She's early."

"Is she here with her son?"

"No," the nurse said. "Oh, but her husband is with her."

" WHAT the hell are you doing here?"

County Chief Investigator Loren Muse ignored him and headed over to the corpse.

"Sweet Lord," one of the uniforms said in a hushed voice, "look what he did to her face."

The four of them stood now in silence. Two were first-on-the-scene uniforms. The third was the homicide detective who'd technically be in charge of the case, a lazy lifer with a potbelly and world-weary manner named Frank Tremont. Loren Muse, the lead investigator for Essex County and the lone woman, was the shortest of the group by nearly a foot.

"DH," Tremont pronounced. "And I'm not talking baseball terminology."

Muse looked a question at him.

"DH, as in Dead Hooker."

She frowned at his chuckle. Flies buzzed about the pulpy mess that at one time had been a human face. There was no nose or eye sockets or even much of a mouth anymore.

One of the uniforms said, "It's like someone shoved her face into a meat grinder."

Loren Muse looked down at the body. She let the two uniforms jabber. Some people jabber to ward off the nerves. Muse wasn't one of them. They ignored her. So did Tremont. She was his immediate superior, all their superiors really, and she could feel the resentment coming off them like humidity from the sidewalk.

"Yo, Muse."

It was Tremont. She looked at him in that brown suit with the belly from too many nights of beer and too many days of doughnuts. He was trouble. There had been complaints leaked to the media since she'd been promoted to chief investigator of Essex County. Most came from a reporter named Tom Gaughan, who just so happened to be married to Tremont's sister.

"What is it, Frank?"

"Like I asked you before-what the hell are you doing here?"

"I need to explain myself to you?"

"I caught this one."

"So you did."

"And I don't need you looking over my shoulder."

Frank Tremont was an incompetent ass but because of his personal connections and years of "service," fairly untouchable. Muse ignored him. She bent down, still staring at the raw meat that had once been a face.

"You get an ID yet?" she asked.

"No. No wallet, no purse."

"Probably stolen," one of the uniforms volunteered.

Lots of male head-nodding.

"Gang got her," Tremont said. "Look at that."

He pointed to a green bandana still clutched in her hand. "Could be that new gang, bunch of black guys who call themselves Al Qaeda," one of the uniforms said. "They wear green."

Muse stood and started circling the corpse. The ME van arrived. Someone had police-taped the scene. A dozen hookers, maybe more, stood behind the line, each stretching her neck for a better view.

"Have the uniforms start talking to the working girls," Muse said. "Get a street name at least."

"Gee, really?" Frank Tremont sighed dramatically. "You don't think I already thought of that?"

Loren Muse said nothing.

"Hey, Muse."

"What, Frank?"

"I don't like you being here."

"And I don't like that brown belt with black shoes. But we both have to live with it."

"This isn't right."

Muse knew that he had a point. The truth is, she loved her prestigious new position as chief investigator. Muse, still in her thirties, was the first female to hold that title. She was proud. But she missed the actual work. She missed homicide. So she got involved when she could, especially when a seasoned jackass like Frank Tremont was on the job.

The medical examiner, Tara O'Neill, came over and shooed the uniforms away.

"Holy crap," O'Neill whispered.

"Nice reaction, Doc," Tremont said. "I need prints right away so I can run her through the system."

The ME nodded.

"I'm going to help question the hookers, round up some of the leading gang scumbags," Tremont said. "If that's okay with you, boss."

Muse didn't respond.

"Dead hooker, Muse. There isn't really enough of a headline for you here. Hardly a priority."

"Why isn't she a priority?"


"You said not a headline for me here. I get that. And then you added, 'hardly a priority.' Why not?"

Tremont smirked. "Oh, right, my bad. A dead hooker is priority number one. We treat her like the governor's wife was just whacked."

"That attitude, Frank. It's why I'm here."

"Right, sure, that's why. Let me tell you how people look at dead hookers."

"Don't tell me-like they're asking for it?"

"No. But listen and you might learn: If you don't want to end up dead by a Dumpster, don't turn tricks in the Fifth Ward."

"You ought to make that your epitaph," Muse said.

"Don't get me wrong. I will get this sicko. But let's not play games about priorities and headlines." Tremont moved a little closer, so that his belly was almost pressing against her. Muse did not back up. "This is my case. Go back to your desk and leave the work to the grown-ups."


Tremont smiled. "You don't want that kind of trouble, little lady. Believe me."

He stormed off. Muse turned back around. The ME was concentrating very hard on opening her work case, pretending not to have heard.

Muse shook it off and studied the body. She tried to be the clinical investigator. The facts: The victim was a Caucasian female. Judging by the skin and general frame she looked to be about forty, but the streets had a way of aging you. No visible tattoos.

No face.

Muse had only seen something this destructive once before. When she was twenty-three, she spent six weeks with state troopers on the New Jersey Turnpike. A truck crossed a divider and smashed head-on into a Toyota Celica. The Toyota driver had been a nineteen-year-old girl coming home from college break.

The destruction had been mind-blowing.

When they finally pried the metal off, that nineteen-year-old girl had no face either. Like this.

"Cause of death?" Muse asked.

"Not sure yet. But man, this perp is one sick son of a bitch. The bones aren't just broken. It's almost like they were ground into small chunks."

"How long ago?"

"I would guess ten, twelve hours. She wasn't killed here. Not enough blood."

Muse already knew that. She examined the hooker's clothes-her pink bra top, her tight leather skirt, the stiletto heels.

She shook her head.


"This is all wrong," Muse said.

"How's that?"

Her phone vibrated. She checked the caller ID. It was her boss, County Prosecutor Paul Copeland. She looked over at Frank Tremont. He gave her a five-finger wave and grinned.

She answered. "Hey, Cope."

"What are you doing?"

"Working a crime scene."

"And pissing off a colleague."

"A subordinate."

"A pain-in-the-ass subordinate."

"But I'm in charge of him, right?"

"Frank Tremont is going to make a lot of noise. Get that media on us, rile up his fellow investigators. Do we really need the aggravation?"

"I think we do, Cope."

"What makes you say that?"

"Because he has this case all wrong."