Hester and Shauna took a taxi to the clinic. Linda had taken the number 1 train down to their financial consultant at the World Financial Center to see about liquidating assets for bail.
A dozen police cars were angled in front of Beck's clinic, all pointing in various directions like darts thrown by a drunk. Their lights whirled at full red-blue alert. Sirens whined. More police cars pulled up.
"What the hell is going on?" Shauna asked.
Hester spotted Assistant District Attorney Lance Fein, but not before he spotted her. He stormed toward them. His face was scarlet and the vein in his forehead was pulsing.
"The son of a bitch ran," Fein spat out without preamble.
Hester took the hit and countered: "Your men must have spooked him."
Two more police cars pulled up. So did the Channel 7 news van. Fein cursed under his breath. "The press. Goddammit, Hester. You know how this is going to make me look?"
"Like a goddamn hack who gives special treatment to the rich, that's how. How could you do this to me, Hester? You know what the mayor is going to do to me? He's going to chew on my ass for jollies. And Tucker" - Tucker was the Manhattan district attorney - "Jesus Christ, can you imagine what he'll do?"
One of the police officers was calling him. Fein eyed both of them one more time before turning away with a snap.
Hester quickly spun on Shauna. "Is Beck out of his mind?"
"He's scared," Shauna said.
"He's running away from the police," Hester shouted. "Do you get that? Do you get what that means?" She pointed toward the news van. "The media is here, for Chrissake. They're going to talk about the killer on the run. It's dangerous. It makes him look guilty. Taints the jury pool."
"Calm down," Shauna said.
"Calm down? Do you understand what he's done?"
"He's run away. That's all. Like OJ, right? Didn't seem to hurt him with the jury."
"We're not talking about OJ here, Shauna. We're talking about a rich white doctor."
"Beck's not rich."
"That's not the point, dammit. Everyone is going to want to nail his ass to a wall after this. Forget bail. Forget a fair trial." She took a breath, crossed her arms. "And Fein isn't the only one whose reputation is going to be compromised."
"Meaning me!" Hester shrieked. "In one bold stroke, Beck's destroyed my credibility with the D.A."s office. If I promise to deliver a guy, I have to deliver him."
"I don't give a rat's ass about your reputation right now."
A sudden eruption of noise jolted them both. They turned and saw an ambulance hurry down the block. Somebody cried out. Then another cry. Cops started bouncing around like too many balls released at the same time into a pinball machine.
The ambulance skidded to a stop. The EMTs - one male, one female - jumped out of the cab. Fast. Too fast. They unsnapped the back door and pulled out a stretcher.
"This way!" someone shouted. "He's over here!"
Shauna felt her heart skip a beat. She ran over to Lance Fein. Hester followed. "What's wrong?" Hester asked. "What's happened?"
Fein ignored her.
He finally faced them. The muscles in his face quaked in rage. "Your client."
"What about him? Is he hurt?"
"He just assaulted a police officer."
This was nuts.
I had crossed a line by running, but attacking that young cop... No going back now. So I ran. I sprinted with all I had.
Someone actually shouted that. More shouts followed. More radio static. More sirens. They all swirled toward me. My heart leapt into my throat. I kept pumping my legs. They started feeling stiff and heavy, as though the muscles and ligaments were hardening to stone. I was out of shape. Mucus started flowing out of my nose. It mixed with whatever dirt I'd accumulated on my upper lip and snaked into my mouth.
I kept veering from block to block as though that would fool the police. I didn't turn around to see if they were following. I knew they were. The sirens and radio static told me so.
I had no chance.
I dashed through neighborhoods I wouldn't even drive through. I hopped a fence and sprinted through the high grass of what might have once been a playground. People talked about the rising price of Manhattan real estate. But here, not far from the Harlem River Drive, there were vacant lots littered with broken glass and rusted ruins of what might have once been swing sets and jungle gyms and probably cars.
In front of a cluster of low-income high-rises, a group of black teens, all with the gangsta strut and coordinated ensemble, eyed me like a tasty leftover. They were about to do something - I didn't know what - when they realized that the police were chasing me.
They started cheering me on.
"Go, white boy!"
I sort of nodded as I dashed past them, a marathoner grateful for the little boost from the crowd. One of them yelled out, "Diallo!" I kept running, but I knew, of course, who Amadou Diallo was. Everyone in New York did. He'd been shot forty-one times by police officers - and he'd been unarmed. For a moment, I thought it was some kind of warning that the police might fire upon me.
But that wasn't it at all.
The defense in the Amadou Diallo trial claimed that when Diallo reached for his wallet, the officers thought it was a gun. Since then, people had been protesting by quickly reaching into their pockets, withdrawing their wallets, and yelling "Diallo!" Street officers reported that every time someone's hand went into their pockets like that, they still felt the thump of fear.
It happened now. My new allies - allies built on the fact that they probably thought I was a murderer - whipped out their wallets. The two cops on my tail hesitated. It was enough to increase my lead.
But so what?
My throat burned. I was sucking in way too much air. My high tops felt like lead boots. I got lazy. My toe dragged, tripping me up. I lost my balance, skidding across the pavement, scraping my palms and my face and my knees.
I managed to get back up, but my legs were trembling.
Closing in now.
Sweat pasted my shirt to my skin. My ears had that surf rush whooshing through them. I'd always hated running. Born again joggers described how they got addicted to the rapture of running, how they achieved a nirvana known as runner's high. Right. I'd always firmly believed that - much like the high of auto asphyxiation - the bliss came more from a lack of oxygen to the brain than any sort of endorphin rush.
Trust me, this was not blissful.
Tired. Too tired. I couldn't keep running forever. I glanced behind me. No cops. The street was abandoned. I tried a door. No go. I tried another. The radio crackle started up again. I ran. Toward the end of the block I spotted a street cellar door slightly ajar. Also rusted. Everything was rusted in this place.
I bent down and pulled at the metal handle. The door gave with an unhappy creak. I peered down into the blackness.
A cop shouted, "Cut him off the other side!"
I didn't bother looking back. I stepped down quickly into the hole. I reached the first step. Shaky. I put my foot out for the second step. But there was none.
I stayed suspended for a second, like Wile E. Coyote after running off a cliff, before I plunged helplessly into the dark pit.
The fall was probably no more than ten feet, but I seemed to take a long time to hit ground. I flailed my arms. It didn't help. My body landed on cement, the impact rattling my teeth.
I was on my back now, looking up. The door slammed closed above me. A good thing, I suppose, but the darkness was now pretty much total. I did a quick survey of my being, the doctor doing an internal exam. Everything hurt.
I heard the cops again. The sirens had not let up, or maybe now the sound was just ringing in my ears. Lots of voices. Lots of radio static.
They were closing in on me.
I rolled onto my side. My right hand pressed down, stinging the cuts in my palms, and my body started to rise. I let the head trail; it screamed in protest when I got to my feet. I almost fell down again.
Should I just hide here? No, that wouldn't work. Eventually, they'd start going house to house. I'd be caught. And even if they didn't, I hadn't run with the intention of hiding in a dank basement. I ran so that I could keep my appointment with Elizabeth in Washington Square.
Had to move.
My eyes started adjusting to the dark, enough to see shadowy shapes anyway. Boxes were stacked haphazardly. There were piles of rags, a few barstools, a broken mirror. I caught my reflection in the glass and almost jumped back at the sight. There was a gash on my forehead. My pants were ripped in both knees. My shirt was tattered like the Incredible Hulk's. I was smeared with enough soot to work as a chimney sweep.
Where to go?
A staircase. There had to be a staircase down here somewhere. I felt my way forward, moving in a sort of spastic dance, leading with my left leg as though it were a white cane. My foot crunched over some broken glass. I kept moving.
I heard what I thought was a mumbling noise, and a giant rag pile rose in my path. What could have been a hand reached out to me like something from a grave. I bit back a scream.
"Himmler likes tuna steaks!" he shouted at me.
The man - yes, I could see now it was clearly a man - started to stand. He was tall and black and he had a beard so white-gray and woolly it looked as though he might be eating a sheep.
"You hear me?" the man shouted. "You hear what I'm telling you?"
He stepped toward me. I shrunk back.
"Himmler! He likes tuna steaks!"
The bearded man was clearly displeased about something. He made a fist and aimed it at me. I stepped to the side without thought. His fist traveled past me with enough momentum - or maybe enough drink - to make him topple over. He fell on his face. I didn't bother to wait. I found the staircase and ran up.
The door was locked.
He was loud, too loud. I pressed against the door. No go.
"You hear me? You hear what I'm saying?"
I heard a creak. I glanced behind me and saw something that struck fear straight into my heart.
Someone had pulled open the same storm door I'd come in from.
"Who's down there?"
A voice of authority. A flashlight started dancing around the floor.
It reached the bearded man.
"Himmler likes tuna steaks!"
"That you yelling, old man?"
"You hear me?"
I used my shoulder against the door, putting everything I had behind it. The doorjamb started to crack. Elizabeth's image popped up - the one I'd seen on the computer - her arm raised, her eyes beckoning. I pushed a little harder.
The door gave way.
I fell out onto the ground floor, not far from the building's front door.
Other cops were close by - I could still hear the radio static-and one of them was still interviewing Himmler's biographer. I didn't have much time. I needed help.
But from where?
I couldn't call Shauna. The police would be all over her. Same with Linda. Hester would insist I surrender.
Someone was opening the front door.
I ran down the corridor. The floor was linoleum and filthy. The doors were all metal and closed. The motif was chipped paint. I banged open a fire door and headed up the stairwell. At the third floor, I got out.
An old woman stood in the corridor.
She was, I was surprised to see, white. My guess was that she'd probably heard the commotion and stepped out to see what was going on. I stopped short. She stood far enough away from her open door that I could get past her...
Would I? Would I go that length to get away?
I looked at her. She looked at me. Then she took out a gun.
"What do you want?" she asked.
And I found myself answering: "May I please use your phone?"
She didn't miss a beat. "Twenty bucks."
I reached into my wallet and plucked out the cash. The old lady nodded and let me in. The apartment was tiny and well kept. There was lace on all the upholstery and on the dark wood tables.
"Over there," she said.
The phone was rotary dial. I jammed my finger into the little holes. Funny thing. I had never called this number before - had never wanted to - but I knew it by heart. Psychiatrists would probably have a field day with that one. I finished dialing and waited.
Two rings later, a voice said, "Yo."
"Tyrese? It's Dr. Beck. I need your help."