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Authors: Alex Connor

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‘I don’t know much about him. It was Marty who suggested him. Apparently he’s helped a couple of other women who wanted to adopt. I suppose Africa’s no different to here. Girls get in trouble and need a way out, so they give their babies up.’

‘They have a choice?’

‘Oh, Bobbie,’ Ellen said, chiding her gently. ‘You
do
worry about things so much. The girls get their lives back so they can move on – and they get paid well.’

‘I suppose this man takes a commission?’

‘It
is
a business, honey.’

‘So how do I do business with him?’

Ellen dropped her voice to a whisper. ‘He’ll call and see you about the money.’

‘Then what?’

‘He’ll have the baby brought to you. After that, you won’t ever have to see him again.’

Bobbie’s tongue ran over her dry bottom lip. She was suddenly nervous, terrified about her decision. But she wouldn’t go back on it. She wanted a child, and now she was going to get one.

‘Just one thing,’ Ellen said suddenly. ‘You can’t mention where or how you got the baby. Or tell anyone about this man.’

‘Is he …’ Bobbie paused, wanting to ask the question and at the same time not wanting to hear the answer. ‘… is he dangerous?’

‘You want a baby, don’t you?’ Ellen asked steadily. ‘Well, sometimes we have to go about things in ways we wouldn’t usually choose.’ She patted Bobbie’s hand maternally and changed the subject. ‘Now, eat up. A new mother needs all her strength.’

29

The next day it rained. And it kept raining, right through the afternoon and into the turn of dusk. It rained so hard that the traffic slowed down on the New York streets, the headlights bouncing off the slick roads. The clouds rained down like they hadn’t rained for years, as if they wanted to get rid of all the collected water which was making their white froth heavy. Downspouts overflowed, drains choked and were smothered under the onslaught, and a million American pigeons hunched up against the windows of a thousand office blocks. Along the sidewalk, people hurried under awnings and into doorways, a sulky moon dozing in a gap between the clouds. At the Guggenheim Museum they were having a Roy Lichtenstein show, and in Central Park the drivers with their pony traps waited for customers under the dripping trees.

Emile Dwappa watched the rain with indifference. Standing across the street from Roberta Feldenchrist’s apartment block, he watched the comings and goings of the wealthy and their cars. He wondered, fleetingly, which car he would buy when he was rich, and decided that he
would go for an English Jaguar. Class, he thought solemnly, was everything. Who wanted a BMW – the Brixton drug-runners’ car? Or some flashy pimp Cadillac? He didn’t want to be noticed, he wanted to be rich. And if nobody else noticed how rich he was, that was fine by him.

Glancing at his watch, he looked up at the penthouse apartment, its lights shining out into the driving rain. Even from street level, the place looked big. He wondered what it would be like to have so much space for yourself. Space up above the masses, away from the dog shit on the streets and the drains which crept down into the sewers below. He wondered then if he would like to live in New York and realised instantly how much he disliked the place. There was no sun, for one thing. Oh, it was raining at the moment, but the previous day it had been fine. And still no sun had got down into the crazy paving of the streets. And all the shadows, he thought, shaking his head. What was the point of walking among buildings so tall that you were always in half-darkness?

Turning his face upwards, he let the rain fall on his skin for a moment and moved into the shelter of a doorway. Roberta Feldenchrist was expecting him … the thought was amusing. One of the richest women on earth needed
him
. She wanted what he could give her. Only him … He had already worked out what he would charge her. She would baulk at the sum, of course, but she would pay. She had no choice. He thought of the cuttings he had read in the society pages, about how Ms Feldenchrist was giving a baby shower at the weekend for her adopted son

… It amused him to think of the expression ‘baby shower’. Sounded like they were going to drown the poor bastard.

Dwappa had done his research meticulously after his brother had tipped him the wink about Bobbie Feldenchrist. And now he had a very clear picture of a rich cow who had always got her own way – until Mother Nature had slowed up her progress. No amount of money could make a barren woman fertile again. The chemotherapy, he thought idly, had stopped the Feldenchrist line short. But Ms Feldenchrist wasn’t going to let fate, or nature, stand in her way. Even when her first attempt at adoption failed.

But that, he decided, was what you got for doing things the right way. Bureaucracy could topple the mightiest plans. Exhaling, Dwappa ducked out from the doorway and walked across the road, dodging a yellow cab and making for the entrance to the apartment block.

Immediately he was stopped by Reception.

‘Can I help you?’

‘I have an appointment with Ms Feldenchrist,’ he replied, his expression unperturbed.

‘Your name, sir?’

‘She’s expecting me. I’m her seven o’clock appointment.’

The porter hesitated, noting the man’s expensive suit and watch, then asked again. ‘Your name, sir?’

‘Please call the penthouse and tell Ms Feldenchrist her guest is here,’ he replied, holding the man’s stare. ‘I’ll take full responsibility.’

Moments later Emile Dwappa, with his expensive watch and $200 haircut, arrived at the penthouse, ringing the
buzzer to be admitted from the escalator reception area into the apartment proper. Above his head a security camera trained its beady eye on him, the blinking of an alarm sensor flickering in a corner. He knew then that his image had been taken and that he would probably also be monitored inside the apartment. Obviously security for Ms Feldenchrist should anything go wrong. But then again, he reasoned, perhaps it would be turned off. After all, she wouldn’t want their meeting to become common knowledge.

Suddenly the door buzzed and he walked in.

‘You’re very punctual,’ a voice said behind him, and he turned to see Bobbie Feldenchrist walking towards him. She had that look only rich women have – an expression of languid arrogance. ‘Please, sit down.’

He did so, facing the windows and looking at the lights on the Chrysler building, thinking about how the remake of
King Kong
wasn’t as good as the original.

‘I suppose you don’t use your curtains?’ he said, disarming her with a smile.

‘No,’ Bobbie agreed, surprised at his elegant English accent and his expensive clothes. This was no thug off the streets. ‘It’s very good of you to come and talk to me, Mr …’

He had expected her to try and get his name and ignored the hint, moving on to the business in hand. ‘I believe I can help you. I hear you want to adopt a baby.’

She took a long breath, as though putting the reality into words was somehow intensely exhausting.

‘I do.’

‘I can make that happen for you, Ms Feldenchrist.’

Her hands wound around themselves tightly. ‘You know of a child?’

‘A baby boy, yes.’

A cry sounded in her throat and Bobbie glanced away for an instant. ‘Can you bring this child to me?’

‘Of course. In two days.’

Again she made a low sound in her throat, as though she could hardly hold on to her emotions. ‘Where is the child coming from?’

‘Africa.’

‘Where in Africa?’

‘That’s not important.’

She turned back to him to pursue the matter, then winced. His expression had closed off, his charm suspended. In his coldness he was warning her, more effectively than words, that he was in charge.

‘I would like to know something about the baby.’

‘I don’t think,’ he said, getting to his feet, ‘that we can do business after all.’

Gasping, she stood up, following him. He was making for the door and then paused, knowing her hopes would be raised when he didn’t leave at once. Slowly he began to walk around the room. One by one he stopped in front of the paintings, his face unreadable, his eyes curious. These were some of the famous Feldenchrist paintings. His research had told him about the Spanish masters in
the Feldenchrist Collection and he remembered reading about the painting he was now looking at.

‘Is this a Goya?’

She nodded stiffly.

‘Creepy.’

‘My father liked it.’

‘Do you?’ he asked, smiling.

‘Yes, I do. I like most of the Spanish masters.’

‘Expensive taste,’ he replied, charming her again. ‘I didn’t think there were many of the Old Masters in private collections any more.’

‘Some.’

‘Like in the Feldenchrist Collection?’

She was trying to cover her impatience. After all, he wasn’t here to talk about art. ‘We have a good selection of works. My father collected all his life, and I carried on where he left off.’

‘You enjoy it?’

‘Yes, I do.’

‘But it’s not the same as being a mother?’ He paused, staring at a Murillo drawing. ‘How much is this worth?’

‘I don’t think that’s any of your business—’ At once Bobbie checked her temper, horrified to see that he had taken offence and had moved to the door. ‘Please don’t leave! I’m sorry if I asked too many questions.’

‘You shouldn’t ask
any
,’ he replied, turning to her and noticing the fine lines around her eyes and the first slackening around the jaw. Time, he thought suddenly, was not on her side. ‘If we do business together, we have to
trust each other. I have to trust you and you have to trust me.’

She nodded eagerly. She would have agreed to anything just to prevent him from walking out.

‘Yes, yes.’

‘I can have the baby here on Saturday.’


Saturday
…’ she repeated, frowning as he handed her a piece of paper.

‘That’s a precaution. Just in case you’re recording my visit …’ Dwappa explained, pointing to one of the cameras. ‘… I thought you might prefer to have the finances remain a private matter.’

She read the amount of money written and laughed. ‘This is absurd!’

‘How much is a baby worth? You have to ask yourself that question, Ms Feldenchrist. Ask yourself how much you want a baby for your “baby shower”. How much you want a little Feldenchrist heir. You don’t want to look like a failure, do you? I mean, you can’t have children naturally, can you? So how embarrassing would it be if you failed to
adopt
one?’

She took a step back. ‘How dare you!’

‘Dare what?’ he responded. ‘You wanted to meet me. You wanted me to get you a child. I’m offering you that – for a fee.’

‘It’s a massive sum!’

‘Like you haven’t got it.’

Her composure was disintegrating fast. Threatened, she knew she had no choice but to agree. She would pay up
and then she would have her child. After that, she could forgot the whole sordid affair. Uncharacteristically, she ducked the reality of her situation. That this man would have something on her for life. That he would have control and the means to exploit her if he chose.

She knew, but she still agreed. ‘All right.’

‘I want the money in cash.’

‘Of course,’ Bobbie replied, hardly able to keep the bitterness out of her tone. ‘Is the baby a healthy boy?’

‘One hundred per cent. I’d like the money when I bring the child here on Saturday.’

She nodded, her voice low. ‘What time?’

‘I’ll call and tell you exactly,’ he replied, ‘and when we’ve concluded our business deal, Ms Feldenchrist, I want you to promise that you won’t say anything to anyone about me. Instead you’ll say that your original adoption went through. It was postponed, that was all. You let everyone think this was the only baby you were ever going to adopt.’ He turned to go, then turned back. ‘It’s very
aware
of you to adopt a coloured baby. I’m sure you’ll be admired by all of your friends. The Third World needs more people like you.’

She caught the sarcasm in his tone and flushed. ‘I just want a child—’

‘And I just want to fulfil your wish. But remember, never mention me. If you do, neither your name nor your money will save you.’

‘Is that a threat?’

‘Yes,’ he replied, taking one last look at the paintings
which surrounded him. ‘You have a good life. You don’t want to risk that, Ms Feldenchrist …’

She was rigid with shock, all colour going from her lips.

‘So remember this. If you mention me to anyone – if you even drop a hint that I exist – I’ll personally make you sorry you were ever born.’

Frightened, she stepped back, bumping into the settee behind her. In that instant she realised exactly what she had done – that the pact she had made was for life. And she also knew that if she broke it, he would kill her.

30

London

‘I got a call from Ben Golding,’ Duncan said, glancing over at Roma. ‘He’s viewed the remains of the Little Venice murder victim and faxed his report through to your office. Professional, huh?’

‘Usual practice.’

‘He could have cried off.’

She glanced at him, puzzled. ‘Why?’

‘His brother’s just died.’


What?
’ she exclaimed. ‘What happened?’

‘He committed suicide, in Spain.’

‘Why would he do that?’

‘Oddly enough, Ben Golding’s insisting that his brother
didn’t
kill himself. He says he’s been murdered.’

Surprised, she took a breath. ‘What makes him think that?’

‘Didn’t say, but he was emphatic about it. Mind you, he was in shock, I could tell that. He was talking too much
over the phone. Not like himself at all. You know, talking like he couldn’t stop. He said that everyone was putting his brother’s death down to a suicide, but he had found the body and he reckoned he’d been killed. Then he just shut up, like he’d said too much.’

Roma frowned. ‘Imagine finding your own brother dead … What else did he say?’

‘He said he was still in Madrid—’

‘Madrid?’

‘That’s where his brother lived.’

‘What else?’

‘Nothing else. Not about his brother anyway. Started talking about the Little Venice case instead.’

BOOK: Memory of Bones
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