Too much time passed.
I stayed on the bench and waited. In the distance I could see the park's famed marble arch. Stanford White, the famous turn of-the-century architect who murdered a man in a jealous fit over a fifteen-year-old girl, had purportedly "designed" it. I didn't get that. How do you design something that is a replica of someone else's work? The fact that the Washington Arch was a direct rip-off of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris was no secret. New Yorkers got excited over what was in effect a facsimile. I had no idea why.
You couldn't touch the arch anymore. A chain-link fence, not unlike the ones I'd just seen in the South Bronx, encircled it so as to discourage "graffiti artists." The park was big on fences. Almost all grassy areas were lined with loose fencing - double fencing in most places.
Where was she?
Pigeons waddled with the type of possessiveness usually associated with politicians. Many flocked in my direction. They pecked my sneakers and then looked up as though disappointed they weren't edible.
"Ty usually sits there."
The voice came from a homeless guy wearing a pinwheel hat and Spock ears. He sat across from me.
"Oh," I said.
"Ty feeds them. They like Ty."
"Oh," I said again.
"That's why they're all over you like that. They don't like you or nothing. They think maybe you're Ty. Or a friend of Ty's."
I checked my watch. I had been sitting here the better part of two hours. She wasn't coming. Something had gone wrong. Again I wondered if it had all been a hoax, but I quickly pushed it away. Better to continue assuming that the messages were from Elizabeth. If it's all a hoax, well, I'd learn that eventually.
No matter what, I love you...
That was what the message said. No matter what. As though something might go wrong. As though something could happen. As though I should just forget about it and go on.
To hell with that.
It felt strange. Yes, I was crushed. The police were after me. I was exhausted and beaten up and near the edge sanity-wise. And yet I felt stronger than I had in years. I didn't know why. But I knew I was not going to let it go. Only Elizabeth knew all those things - kiss time, the Bat Lady, the Teenage Sex Poodles. Ergo, it was Elizabeth who had sent the emails. Or someone who was making Elizabeth send them. Either way, she was alive. I had to pursue this. There was no other way.
So, what next?
I took out my new cell phone. I rubbed my chin for a minute and then came up with an idea. I pressed in the digits. A man sitting across the way - he'd been reading a newspaper for a very long time there - sneaked a glance at me. I didn't like that. Better safe than sorry. I stood and moved out of hearing distance.
Shauna answered the phone. "Hello?"
"Old man Teddy's phone," I said.
"Beck? What the hell-?"
I hung up. I figured that Shauna and Linda's phone would be tapped. The police would be able to hear every word we said. But one floor below them lived an old widower named Theodore Malone. Shauna and Linda looked in on him from time to time. They had a key to his apartment. I'd call there. The feds or cops or whoever wouldn't have a tap on that phone. Not in time anyway.
I pressed the number.
Shauna sounded out of breath. "Hello?"
"I need your help."
"Do you have any idea what's going on?"
"I assume there's a massive manhunt for me." I still felt oddly calm - in the eye, I guess.
"Beck, you have to turn yourself in."
"I didn't kill anyone."
"I know that, but if you stay out there-"
"Do you want to help me or not?" I interrupted.
"Tell me," she said.
"Have they established a time for the murder yet?"
"Around midnight. Their timetable is a little tight, but they figure you took off right after I left."
"Okay," I said. "I need you to do something for me."
"First off, you have to pick up Chloe."
"For one thing," I said, "she needs a walk."
Eric Wu spoke on his cell phone. "He's on the phone, but my man can't get close enough."
"Did he make your guy?"
"Maybe he's calling off the meet then."
Wu did not reply. He watched as Dr. Beck pocketed his cell phone and started crossing through the park.
"We have a problem," Wu said.
"It appears as though he's leaving the park."
There was silence on the other end of the line. Wu waited.
"We lost him before," Gandle said.
Wu did not reply.
"We can't risk it, Eric. Grab him. Grab him now, find out what he knows, and end it."
Eric nodded a signal in the direction of the van. He started walking toward Beck. "Done."
I headed past the park's statue of Garibaldi unsheathing his sword. Strangely enough, I had a destination in mind. Forget visiting KillRoy, that was out for now. But the PF from Elizabeth's diary, aka Peter Flannery, ambulance-chaser-at-law, was another matter. I could still get to his office and have a chat with him. I had no idea what I would learn. But I'd be doing something. That would be a start.
A playground was nestled up on my right, but there were fewer than a dozen children in there. On my left, "George's Dog Park," a glorified doggy run, was chock-full of bandanna-clad canines and their parental alternatives. On the park's stage, two men juggled. I walked past a group of poncho-sheathed students sitting in a semicircle. A dyed-blond Asian man built like the Thing from the Fantastic Four glided to my right. I glanced behind me. The man who'd been reading the newspaper was gone.
I wondered about that.
He had been there almost the whole time I was. Now, after several hours, he decided to leave at the exact time I did. Coincidence? Probably.
You'll be followed...
That was what the email had said. It didn't say maybe. It seemed, in hindsight, pretty sure of itself. I kept walking and thought about it a little more. No way. The best tail in the world wouldn't have stuck with me after what I'd just been through today.
The guy with the newspaper couldn't have been following me. At least, I couldn't imagine it.
Could they have intercepted the email?
I couldn't see how. I'd erased it. It had never even been on my own computer.
I crossed Washington Square West. When I reached the curb, I felt a hand on my shoulder. Gentle at first. Like an old friend sneaking up behind me. I turned and had enough time to see it was the Asian guy with the dyed hair.
Then he squeezed my shoulder.