Then, like his great-grandfather before him, Nicholas Bartholomew jumps.
SIX MONTHS LATER
Lo mein or fried rice?” Chloe says as she holds up two identical cardboard containers of Chinese food.
I shrug. “You pick. I’m fine with either.”
The two of us are in her apartment, which has, for the time being, become my apartment. After I was released from the hospital, Chloe handed me the keys and moved in with Paul.
“But what about rent?” I had asked.
“I’ve got it covered for now,” she said. “Pay me what you can when you can. After what you went through, I refuse to make you sleep on the couch.”
Yet the couch is where I am at the moment, sitting next to Chloe as we open our takeout containers. Lunch instead of dinner. Joining us this afternoon is Ingrid, fresh from her new job at a midtown Sephora. Although she’s dressed in black, her nails are a vivid purple. The bad bus station dye job is long gone, replaced with a relatively demure strawberry blond with a few pink streaks that frame her face.
“Rice for me, please,” she says. “I mean, I like the taste of lo mein better, but the texture’s so icky. It reminds me of worms.”
Chloe grits her teeth and hands her the container. If they gave out Nobel Prizes for patience, she’d certainly be in contention for one. She’s been a saint since the moment I was released from the hospital with a clean bill of health. I haven’t heard her complain once.
Not about the reporters who spent a full week camped outside the building.
Not about the nightmares that sometimes leave me so shaken that I call her in the wee hours of the morning.
Not about Rufus, who yaps at her every time she enters the apartment.
And certainly not about Ingrid, who’s here more often than not, even though she now shares an apartment with Bobbie in Queens. Chloe knows that Ingrid and I are now bound together by what happened. I’ve got Ingrid’s back. She’s got mine. As for Chloe, she looks out for us both.
The two of them first met while I was being held against my will in the Bartholomew. When I never came back to the shelter, Ingrid went to the police, claiming I was taken by a coven living at the Bartholomew. They didn’t believe her.
The police didn’t think anything was amiss until Chloe, returning from Vermont early after eventually receiving the texts I had sent, also contacted them. A friendly cop put the two of them in touch. After Chloe went to the Bartholomew and was told by Leslie Evelyn that I had moved out in the middle of the night, the police got a search warrant. They were on their way to the building just as I was setting fire to 12A.
The fire ended up doing less damage than I intended. Yes, 12A was burnt beyond repair, but the blaze in the basement was contained by the dumpster. Still, it was enough damage to make me worry that I could face criminal charges. The detective working the case remains doubtful that will happen. I was in shock, fearing for my life, and not in my right mind.
I’ll agree the first two are true. As for the third claim, I knew exactly what I was doing.
“Even if you are charged,” the detective told me, “there’s not a judge in this whole city who won’t dismiss it. After hearing what went on there, I’m tempted to torch the place myself.”
From my understanding, that’s the consensus across the country. Because what took place at the Bartholomew was so insidious in its efficiency.
People in need of a life-saving organ were tipped off, usually by a former Bartholomew resident. They then used a dummy corporation to purchase an apartment, paying up to a million more than its market value.
There they waited. Sometimes for months. Sometimes for years. Waiting for an apartment sitter who’d be a suitable donor of whatever it was they needed. After the surgery, the resident spent a few more weeks in the Bartholomew to recuperate. The body of the apartment sitter, meanwhile, was quietly removed via a freight elevator in the rear of the building and taken to a crematorium in New Jersey with Mafia ties.
Records found in Leslie Evelyn’s office indicate that, over the span of forty years, more than two hundred Bartholomew residents received organs harvested from one hundred twenty-six unwilling donors. Some were runaways, and some were homeless. Some had been reported missing, and some had no one in their lives to realize they were ever gone.
But now everyone knows their names. The NYPD published the full list online. So far, thirty-nine families know the fates of their long-missing relatives. Although it’s not happy news, it’s closure, which is why I don’t blame myself for sometimes wishing Jane’s name was on that list.
Bad news is better than no news.
Almost everyone involved was brought to justice, thanks to Charlie. He took my advice and did the right thing, providing police with valuable information about how the Bartholomew operated, who worked there, who lived there, who died there.
Those who managed to escape during the fire were slowly but surely rounded up, including Marianne Duncan, the other doormen, and Bernard. All of them copped to their respective roles in the enterprise and were sentenced accordingly. Marianne began her ten-year stint in prison yesterday. She’s still waiting for a new liver.
The legal fallout extended to former employees and residents, including an Oscar winner, a federal judge, and the wife of a diplomat. Marjorie Milton hired the best defense lawyer in Manhattan to represent her—until it turned out he had also used the Bartholomew’s services. Both eventually entered guilty pleas. The tabloids had a field day.