THE NAUSEA CAME IN WAVES.
At first Grace tried to ignore it. She was under stress. She wasn't eating properly. After Jasmine Delevigne had told her about Connie and Lenny, she ran back to her miserable room, crawled into bed and stayed there for two days. This was worse than Davey Buccola's betrayal, worse than being sent to Bedford, worse even than being raped. She only got out of bed to use the toilet and to vomit. The vomiting was getting worse, both more frequent and more violent. She was getting sick.
It's probably a virus. I'm depressed. My immune system's low.
After forty-eight hours of unbearable nausea, Grace finally dragged herself to the Duane Reade on the corner. With a baseball cap pulled low over her eyes and a muffler covering the bottom half of her face, she mumbled her symptoms to the pharmacist.
"Uh-huh. When was your last period?"
The question caught Grace by surprise. "My period?"
"Is there a chance you could be pregnant, sugar?"
Grace tried to block out the sounds and images, but they kept coming: The van driver's face, his cruel, flat black eyes, his voice taunting her. Don't worry, Lizzie, we've got all night.
"You're quite sure?"
"I'm positive. There's no chance."
Grace bought a pregnancy test.
Ten minutes later, sitting on the broken toilet she shared with three other tenants, Grace peed on the stick for the requisite five seconds, mentally chiding herself for wasting fifteen bucks.
This is ridiculous. I'm late because I'm exhausted.
Two pink lines appeared in the results window. Grace's palms began to sweat. It must be a faulty test. She ran back to the pharmacy and wasted another fifteen bucks. Then another. Each time the white plastic stick taunted her, its pink lines dancing in front of her eyes like the elephants in Dumbo.
Positive. Positive. Positive.
Congratulations! You are pregnant.
Grace felt dizzy. She slumped back on the bed and closed her eyes. Somehow, over these past three weeks, she'd managed to block out the rape. As if she knew instinctively that to let it in, to think about it, would destroy her. But now there could be no more hiding. It was here, inside her, growing and alive like some unwanted alien, a parasite consuming her from the inside out.
I have to get rid of it. Now.
A doctor was out of the question. Grace was already using the third of the fake driver's licenses Karen had made for her at Bedford. This week Grace was Linda Reynolds, a waitress from Illinois. The cards were good enough to fool sales assistants and hotel desk clerks, who only glanced at them for a second. But Grace couldn't risk showing them to some doctor's officious assistant who might take a good, long look.
I'll have to do this myself.
Some of the girls in prison had talked about backstreet abortions, appalling, gruesome horror stories involving coat hangers and hemorrhages. Remembering them, Grace started to shake.
I can't. I can't go through with it.
There has to be another way.
IN A QUIET CORNER OF QUEENS Public Library, Grace sat at a computer. A quick Google search told her what she needed to know.
...ingestion may cause gastrointestinal upset, spontaneous abortion, seizures, coma, disseminated intravascular coagulation, hepatic and renal injury and death.
There was a health-food store that sold herbs a few blocks away.
Grace headed there.
"THE ROMANS USED TO USE THIS, you know." The clerk at the store was in a chatty mood. "It was a common herb for cooking. Of course, what you have here is the essential oil." She passed Grace a thumb-size glass bottle. "You can't cook with this. Not unless it's a stew for your mother-in-law and you're trying to kill her!" Grace forced a smile. "But a few drops in the tub? Amazing. Your troubles will melt away."
If only. "How much do I owe you?"
"That'll be fifteen dollars and twenty-two cents." The clerk dropped the bottle into a paper bag and handed it to Grace. Suddenly her face changed. "Do I know you from someplace? Your face looks familiar."
Grace pushed a twenty-dollar bill into her hand. "I don't think so."
"No, I do. I'm sure I do. I never forget a face."
"Keep the change."
Grace snatched the bag and ran out of the store. The clerk watched her go. It was terrible the way people in this city lived their lives in such a rush. She seemed like such a nice girl, too. Hopefully the oil would help relax her.
I'm sure I know her from somewhere.
MITCH CONNORS MET JOHN MERRIVALE FOR lunch at a restaurant in midtown Manhattan.
"Thanks for meeting me."
John Merrivale stood up and smiled graciously. Mitch was struck by how slight he was. Everything about him seemed faint, from his colorless skin and watery gray eyes to his thin, reedy voice and limp handshake. He's more ghost than man.
"N-not at all, Detective. I'm happy to help, if I can. I assume this is about G-Grace?"
"Actually it's about Lenny."
The gracious smile faded. "Oh?"
"I'd like to get a better understanding of your relationship with him."
"My relationship? I fail to see how my r-relationship with Lenny is of any relevance."
Mitch thought, That touched a nerve. Aloud he said, "We're trying to build as complete a picture as we can of the Brooksteins' life before Grace was imprisoned. We're hoping it might help us to predict her movements now."
"I see." John sat down warily.
"Shall we order?"
Mitch opted for a steak and salad. John perused the menu for an inordinate amount of time before deciding on the quiche. Weak and insipid, like him, thought Mitch. But there had to be more to John Merrivale than that. You didn't get to the top of the food chain at an institution like Quorum unless you had a tough side. Or at least some serious smarts.
"You knew the Brooksteins as well as anyone," Mitch began. "Grace even stayed with you and your wife during her trial, I believe?"
"And you paid for her defense."
Merrivale looked uncomfortable. "I did. Lenny was my b-best friend. It was what he would have wanted."
"But you never visited her in jail. Never contacted her again, in fact. Why was that?"
"Try to understand, Detective. I believed in Grace for as long as I c-could. Just like I believed in L-Lenny. But there came a point when I had to face the truth. They both l-let me down. I lost everything when Quorum collapsed. My g-good name, my savings, my l-life's work. I know there were others who suffered more than I did. And I'm d-devoting all my time now to trying to help those p-p-people."
"You're talking about the FBI investigation?"
"Yes." John nodded earnestly. "I'm still trying to m-make sense of it all myself."
Mitch thought, Everything he says makes sense. So why don't I believe him?
The food arrived. Mitch devoured his steak hungrily. He watched John Merrivale pick at his quiche Lorraine, taking tiny bites, like a bird. When they'd finished eating, Mitch changed tack. "If you had to hazard a guess, where do you think Grace might be headed?"
"I have no idea."
"Perhaps Lenny talked to you about some of the places he used to take her?"
"Somewhere romantic, somewhere that might have had significance for them as a couple..."
"I've told you," said John tersely. "Lenny didn't talk to me about things like that."
"Really?" Mitch feigned surprise. "I thought you said he was your best friend?"
"Your best friend never talked to you about his marriage? The most important thing in his life?"
"Grace wasn't the most important thing in Lenny's life," John snapped. "I was." Catching the look on Mitch's face, he blushed and began to backtrack. "Well, not me p-personally. Quorum. Our work t-together. That's what Lenny lived for."
It was too late. The damage was done. Mitch thought, He sounds just like Connie Gray. Like a jealous lover. The hairs on Mitch's forearms began to stand on end.
"Remind me, Mr. Merrivale. Where were you the day of the storm on Nantucket? The day that Lenny Brookstein went missing."
John blinked twice. "I was in Boston on business. It was a pre-arranged trip. I flew out early and I was gone all day. All my statements are in the file, if you'd like to check them."
"Thank you," said Mitch. "I'll do that."
It was only later, after he'd paid the check and John Merrivale had returned to work, that it struck him.
He didn't stammer.
When I asked him for his alibi that day, his speech was perfect.
GRACE LAY BACK ON THE BED, the little bottle of oil in her hand. It smelled heady and comforting, like rosemary wafting on a warm summer breeze.
The label said: WARNING: TOXIC. DO NOT INGEST.
Grace thought about the bastard who had raped her.
She thought about the innocent life inside her.
She thought about Lenny. When she closed her eyes, she could hear his voice.
What about children? I suppose you'll want to be a mother?
And her own. Not really. I'm happy as we are. There's nothing missing.
Lying on the bed, Grace realized that she had sacrificed motherhood for Lenny. She'd sacrificed everything for him, for their love, and she was still sacrificing. How could he have betrayed her with Connie? How? She felt angry and humiliated. She tried to hate him, to let go of his memory, but she couldn't.
It's no use. I still love him. I'll always love him.
She opened the bottle and swallowed the bitter liquid.
I wonder how long it will take.
"YOU OKAY IN THERE, LADY?"
The super was knocking on Grace's door.
"Do you need a doctor?"
Grace couldn't hear him. Pain tore through her body like a giant razor blade, slicing into her flesh, her nerves. She screamed. Blood poured out of her. Her limbs began to shake and dance as the seizure took hold of her body, contorting her arms and legs like a sadistic puppeteer.
The super unlocked the door. "Jesus Christ. I'm calling an ambulance!"
Grace didn't hear him. She was deafened by the sound of her own screams.