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Forty-six

Around noon Jerry Atkins appeared in Grace's doorway for a minute. He wiggled his finger at her, then walked away. Grace glanced at Craig. He was eating a calzone at his desk and drinking one of those huge containers of Coke, careful not to drip on his work. He didn't notice her leave.

Grace and Jerry had a method for meeting during the day. He would go downstairs to the newspaper stand in the building, and she would meet him there. He always said if anyone saw them together it would look like a coincidence. She thought it was pretty silly, so what if people saw them together? They'd worked in the same office for almost twenty-three years, longer than anyone else.

In the beginning of the relationship he used to call her into his office several times a day. They spent hours discussing all her problems, her life plan and options, and of course his distress about his empty marriage. She'd sit on his sofa, and they'd talk as if there was nothing else in the world to do. He was a wealthy man. He took her out to lunch and to dinner and promised to help her in her career. No one had ever paid that much attention to her in her entire life. At twenty-one she'd enjoyed his pleasure in her prettiness and never for a moment thought forty-four was old. Now, because he was paranoid about the telephone, he would E-mail her to meet him at the newspaper stand, and the only time she saw him socially was at the firm Christmas party.

She got downstairs first and was busy reading tabloid scandals in the private lives of the rich and famous, and predictions of the end of the world before 2002, when Jerry turned up. He motioned toward the door, and they went outside. It was a gorgeous day, but neither was in the mood to notice. Jerry turned south on Third Avenue. It was lunch hour and the sidewalk was jammed.

"Any word from Dylan?" he asked.

"No. Have you spoken to the police?"

"Yes, I had a telephone call from the Mayor. I also had a call from the Police Commissioner's office, too. Everybody's working on this."

"The Police Commissioner called you?"

"His office called." Jerry spoke with obvious pride. "A deputy commissioner assured me they were doing everything they could to find my son. He sounded like a very nice man. I also spoke to some detectives. They didn't seem very competent. I hate to break this to you, but there's been a murder in the park. Not Maslow. I was right that this has nothing to do with Dylan."

"A murder?" Grace was horrified. "Who was murdered?"

"Just a homeless man. A mental patient."

"Did you tell them about Dylan?"

"No, I didn't, Grace. I didn't think that would help the situation. It would only confuse things."

He didn't tell the police his daughter was missing? Grace was overwhelmed by anger. They walked downtown, moving with the crowd. She hadn't eaten anything for nearly two days. Somehow, she wished that Jerry would ease her suffering and offer to take her to lunch so she could talk about the daughter she'd loved and nurtured for so many years, pour her heart out, and receive some comfort that she was not alone in caring about what happened to her.

"I went to see Maslow's supervisor, Dr. Frank," he went on.

"Oh?" What good would that do?

"I told him about Dylan."

"Was he surprised?" she asked. What about me, Grace thought. "What did you say about me?"

Jerry shook his head. "He asked some questions about her life, our life together. I told him the information was confidential. We don't want the police to know about this."

"Why not?"

"My hope is that he will try to contact Dylan himself."

"I told you Dylan is not at home."

"I know, but don't upset yourself, Grace. She always comes home. She has nowhere else to go."

Grace felt her frustration spiral. Sometimes she wanted to kill Jerry. So many things about him were infuriating. He collected their receipts, even from the drugstore and Starbucks. He knew every purchase. That irked her and Dylan so much. He went over their credit card expenses as if he were the one who was responsible for them. But the truth was he didn't pay his own share of their life together. She even paid his cleaning bills, and she was poor. She had nothing of her own. He'd always insisted on being the head of her family without taking any of the responsibility a husband would take. Now the Mayor of New York City was in touch with him about Maslow, and no one cared at all about her. For the first time she knew how his wife must feel.

"Who is this person who's supposed to get in touch with Dylan?" she asked.

"I told you. He's a psychiatrist. He'll talk to her, find out what's going on with her. If she knows something about Maslow's disappearance, I know he'll tell us."

"I thought you were so against psychiatrists."

"But you were so worried, my sweetheart, my darling." He stopped and gave her a tender look. "I did it for you. You said you wanted all the children safe. Well, I have the appropriate people working on it. Whatever you want I do for you." He took her hand and squeezed it.

She knew how his mind worked. As far as he was concerned, the situation with her was now under control.

"Now be patient. I think we'll have this taken care of soon and then we'll get back to normal," he told her.

She gave him a look. Get back to normal? They'd never get back to normal. They'd never been normal.

"Don't look at me like that. When everything settles down, I'll marry you and adopt Dylan, I promise." He brought her hand to his lips and kissed her fingers in the middle of a whirling crowd.

Grace couldn't bring herself to say she'd heard all this before. After the kiss to her fingertips, Jerry left her without offering lunch, and she went back upstairs to her office. In the kitchen she poured herself some very old coffee and tossed in two packets of hazelnut nondairy creamer. Lunch. She took the cup and returned to her office. Craig wasn't there. But she knew his habits. He'd gone off to sneak a few cigarettes and have a piece of cheesecake. In the quiet moment she called the police and asked for the detectives handling the Maslow Atkins case. The man on the phone asked her name. She told him who she was. She was put on hold for a long time. Finally the man came back on the line, gave her a name, and told her where to go. The address was across town on West Fifty-fourth Street. She took a taxi.


Forty-five | Tracking Time | Forty-seven