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Authors: James Patterson,Richard Dilallo

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BOOK: The Midwife Murders
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CHAPTER 74

AN ERUPTION IN MY brain. An explosion of confusion and anger and fear. I can almost feel my mind clicking madly, trying to sort out what I am seeing, and what it all means.

Sarkar. Rudra Sarkar. Dr. Sarkar.

Then comes an extraordinary surprise. Something else explodes inside me. Along with my rage I experience something completely shocking: I feel my heart breaking. At what? The horror of what surrounds me? The screaming of the innocents? The jungle of tubes and wires and monitors? Yes, of course, and also the astounding betrayal, from, of all people, Dr. Sarkar. This is a man who delivers life, and he is now standing before me, a monster, even beyond a monster. Who the hell is this guy? The devil himself.

“This had to happen, Lucy. It was only a matter of time before your nimble mind figured it all out. I knew that one
day you’d find it.” The voice is the warm, reassuring voice I have always liked, the voice that soothed so many expectant mothers.

“But I never dreamed I’d find you here, Dr. Sarkar. Never. It absolutely never crossed my mind.”

Sarkar’s charm has not at all disappeared. He smiles. His eyelashes flutter. “This is simply the arrival of the inevitable,” he says.

“No. No. This was never inevitable,” I say.

“Let me tell you something wonderful, Lucy.” A pause, a smile. Then, “Your visit could not have occurred at a better time. Only last week I had to dismiss my assistant, Nina. I believe you knew her.”

I am stunned, now speechless.

Sarkar continues to talk. “Because, you see … Well, Lucy, this might be a wonderful opportunity for you. This might …”

Yes, I am shaking, but I am also hoping that deep inside I will find the strength to confront this horror.

The explosion travels from my brain to my lips. “Stop! Stop talking!”

“Lucy, please. This is a professional space,” he says.

“You are a fucking madman,” I yell, as if this observation was a revelation.

He laughs, then turns deadly serious. “No, I am a pioneer. What we are doing will aid, no,
cure
infants with congenital heart problems. We are isolating those genes that—”

“Don’t talk anymore,” I yell.

Our argument seems to have woken every infant in the nursery. The wailing is almost overwhelming. Sarkar and I stand alone together in the nursery.

His eyes twinkle, but it is a watery, distant, peculiar twinkle.

“Let me explain the procedure. Tell me if you don’t see the
value,” Sarkar says, as if we are two colleagues chatting over a cup of coffee.

The babies continue screaming. I glance at the door to see if the women will return.

Where is Troy? Swimming in the river? Where is anyone?

I say, “When I thought the babies were being harvested for childless couples, I thought it was disgusting. The word itself,
harvested,
is awful. But I thought at least the babies would have homes, probably good homes, probably good parents, advantages. But this. This is kidnapping and murder rolled into one. And the pain. The infants are suffering, being tortured.”

I move closer to Sarkar, who continues to smile in a hateful, condescending manner.

I intend to continue yelling. I don’t know when I’ll stop, when I’ll run out of words that reach beyond anger.

Then I look down into the crib beside me.

A tiny baby, wearing a tiny plastic brace on his tiny shoulders. The baby has lots of beautiful dark hair.

It is, of course, the Morabito baby, the very infant who only a few hours ago Dr. Sarkar helped deliver.

Then I hear a voice. “What the hell is going on in here?”

The door has opened. The two women who’d left a few minutes ago have returned.

I begin to reach into the crib.

“I’ll handle this,” Sarkar shouts at the women. “Get out. Get the hell out.”

The two women scurry back through the door and close it behind them. As soon as I hear the door click, I hear a loud sound, a human grunt.

Suddenly rough hands grab me by both my shoulders. I’m thrown to the ground. My head hits the floor. Hard.

I am lying on my back. Sarkar is on top of me. He is like a schoolboy who has won a schoolyard fight. His knees have pinned down my shoulders. A punch to my right cheek, followed by a harder punch to my other cheek. The teeth in the back of my mouth crackle.

I taste the blood filling my mouth.

Sarkar gets up from me quickly. Standing over me, he looks a mile tall. Then he—I don’t believe this—kicks me. Over and over and over.

I am screaming.

I think I’m going to pass out. And then …

I hear a gunshot.

I move my aching, bleeding head ever so slightly. I see it all happen. I see Sarkar’s feet stumble and hesitate and stumble again.

He falls. He falls to his knees. Then he completes his collapse. He’s on the floor. On his back right next to me.

We must look just like a boyfriend and girlfriend sleeping on a blanket at the beach.

I do not know what makes me move. I do not know what motivates me. I do not know why anything is happening the way it is happening. I find the strength to kneel. I look at Sarkar’s face. His eyes are open, but they look like the eyes in a corpse. I push him onto his stomach. Blood is soaking his blue scrubs. Nothing will stop the flow of blood here. What makes me want to try to save him? Who would want to save the devil?

I find the strength to push Sarkar onto his back again. I push hard on his chest. Compression. Exertion. I lean in and hold his chin with one hand, his nose with the other hand. I put my lips on his lips and try to breathe life into him.

“Take a deep breath, and just push, one big push, just give me
a short breath and then a big push.”
That is what I am thinking or hearing or saying. I am in a great confusion. Is this birth or is this death?

“Lucy, it’s no use,” I hear. It is Leon Blumenthal who is speaking.

I am still hearing the word
push.
If I could only get Sarkar to give one good push.

Hands reach down and touch my shoulders and arms. The hands must be those of Leon Blumenthal.

Those hands lift me gently, and I am forced to remove my lips from Rudi Sarkar’s lips.

CHAPTER 75

NEW JERSEY STATE POLICE. FBI. Harrison Police.

Officers and more officers and more officers.

Blaring sirens and flashing red lights.

Vehicles. Helicopters overhead.

Medics and sharpshooters and doctors and nurses.

It is the whole rich crazy symphony of fear and noise and general bullshit that accompanies something so awful and huge and shocking.

“Get her into the ambulance right now,” I hear.

Blumenthal?
Wait. Of course not. No, I guessed wrong. They weren’t his hands. It can’t be. Blumenthal was never called. I said don’t call him. I was arrogant. I didn’t need him.

Troy.
Of course it was Troy. Troy called Blumenthal. Troy ignored my orders.
Thank you, Troy. Thank you, God.

“Don’t move, miss,” says a police medic. “Don’t move. You’re injured.”

“No, I’m not. But thanks for caring,” I say, and I start to
stand. I’m up. I’m good. I’m better. I feel the bulky bandage that encircles my head. Then I hear a voice.

“I had to do it, Lucy. I had to call Blumenthal and Cilia,” Troy says. We hug like two siblings who haven’t seen each other for years.

“Well, of course you had to call. That’s exactly what I told you to do,” I say.

“No. You specifically said not …” And then he smiles. “You are a lying bitch. Always have been. Always will be.”

“No, buddy. It’s just my compulsion to always be right,” I say. And we hug again.

The medic makes one more attempt with me. “You really should be checked by a doctor, miss.”

“Doctor?” I say. “I’ve seen all the doctors I wanna see today. I’ve got doctors on the ceilings and the floors.”

I look around the crazy, noisy nursery. Pediatric nurses and doctors, probably from the nearest hospitals, are spreading out among the cribs. Infants are being disengaged from tubes and monitors and wires. Infants are being handed from one medical person to another. Some are being rushed out of the room, presumably to emergency stations. Other babies are simply held and patted and soothed and fed and changed.

It’s a mess, but as my mother used to say every Christmas and Thanksgiving, surrounded by her noisy, sloppy relatives,
“Yes, it’s a mess. But it’s a joyful mess.”

Then I see Blumenthal approaching me. He’s barking into his cell phone. He’s shooting orders at police officers. He looks stern as he comes near me. But in only a moment I can tell that his anger is all pretend. He tries hard not to melt into someone gentle. But he manages to keep the angry face.

“You did everything wrong. You did exactly what I told you
not
to do.”

“Yes, that’s true. I guess I’m sorry, but I’m not really sorry,” I say. Then, full of arrogance and sarcasm and peace, I add, “Listen, Detective. You had the right town. Unfortunately, you had the wrong state. But you came close. I just had to step in.”

Then he says, “And everything turned out all right. Thank you. Thank you, Lucy.”

With that, we throw our arms around each other and hug. And it is then that I begin sobbing. Loud. Relentless. Uncontrollable.

“Goddamnit,” I say. “I’m the biggest baby in the room.”

“No, you’re not. You’re the smartest grown-up in this room.
And
you’re the best person I’ve ever met.”

Blumenthal tilts his head back and looks at me. He shakes his head back and forth. He holds my shoulders. We hug again, and then, after a few moments, he says, “We’ve figured out a lot in the last half hour, Lucy.” And he explains—in that concise, brief, logical way of his. He explains that Dr. Barrett Katz was framed, set up by Sarkar. Sarkar falsified records and invoices. Sarkar thought the Katz scandal would be a distraction from the kidnapping scandal. Katz’s insistence that he was innocent was absolutely true.

“I guess I should be happy that Katz isn’t going to prison for thirty years,” I say.

“Yes, you should be. Katz is a good man.”

“Okay, I’ll try to be happy about it. But I’m not predicting my success at that. Once an asshole al—” I begin. But my voice is drowned out. Sirens and shouting and screaming babies.

A few seconds later, above the din, I hear a woman’s voice.

“Leon,” the voice calls. “Leon.” The voice shows up with a very pretty woman attached to it. “Detective, I’m going down
to the Harrison police station. Then I’m heading to Newark’s Children’s Hospital. Most of the babies are being taken there. Then …”

The woman looks at me, and with genuine warmth and enthusiasm in her voice says, “Oh, my God. It’s you. It’s Lucy. You’re the hero of the year. God bless you.”

Blumenthal says, “Lucy, this is Barbara Holt.”

Of course! This is the flashy woman with the fancy shoes who spoke to me so casually, so intimately about “Leon.” I didn’t recognize her without a floral sundress and nine-hundreddollar Louboutin heels. Barbara Holt. The girlfriend.

“Barbara is a new UC. UC means—”

“I know, Detective,” I say. “UC means undercover.”

What I don’t know is where she gets the money to buy those shoes.

“Sorry,” he says. “I just wanted to introduce the two of you.”

Barbara and I look at each other and smile a smile that says,
I know what you’re thinking
. Then we laugh.

She walks quickly toward the door. And I survey the room. It is still a noisy madhouse. The room seems twice as crowded as it did fifteen minutes ago. What I’m guessing are media helicopters can be heard hovering outside, invading like a sloppy army. The babies who have not been rushed off to medical facilities seem to have turned up their volume to a deafening decibel. A few well-dressed politicians are being allowed into what must be considered a crime scene. Mr. Mayor. Ms. Police Commissioner. A woman introduces herself to me and Blumenthal as the “lieutenant governor.” More officers. More doctors. The sirens don’t stop.

Yes, Mom. I know. A joyful mess.

CHAPTER 76

FORTY-FIVE MINUTES LATER, a new group of four NYPD police cars pulls into the dirt parking lot of the pharma facility. Blumenthal and Troy and I watch them from an office window. Men and women pour out of the cars and rush toward the building.

“It’s the mothers, the fathers!” Troy shouts. “I recognize some of ’em.”

I do, too. I see Katra. I see Katra’s father. Bella and Marco Morabito are rushing closer as well. A blur of familiar faces and not-so-familiar faces.

“This is wonderful,” says Troy. I agree.

“Wonderful for some,” says Blumenthal, who has been reading the screen of his iPhone. “We’re allowing in only the parents of the babies who made it through alive. Other moms and dads will have their hearts broken.”

Silence. Then we take a collective deep breath and go to meet the parents. The lucky ones.

EPILOGUE

DR. KATZ AGREED TO my taking a one-month leave of absence with salary.

He’s such a softie.

When I first asked for four weeks he responded, “Does it really have to be quite so long, Ms. Ryuan?” Then he rushed to add, “Well, I suppose you deserve it.”

And I, of course, responded, “
Suppose?
You
suppose
I deserve it?”

So I can’t say that Dr. Barrett Katz is a changed man, but like so many of us at GUH, once he absorbed the enormity of the horror that had happened, things seemed much better. We will never forget the nightmare, but somehow the air seems clearer, the mood seems happier, more peaceful.

One hopeful sign of change in Katz is that he told the GUH staff, “Please don’t call me Barrett anymore. It’s too formal. Call me Barry.”

Okay, Barry, what a loosey-goosey guy you’ve become.

In that one month of paid leave, I spent a lot of good time with Willie, The Duke, Sabryna, Devan, and the baby. Sabryna is now calling the infant Olivia. Why? “Because it is a beautiful name,” she says. “Why should she only have one name when so many people love her?”

Oh, okay, whatever.
It makes sense, if you don’t think too hard about it.

The fact is, no matter what Sabryna calls the baby, she is just about the cutest little being I ever delivered, and that’s saying a lot. We know that one of these days her mother, Valerina, will be ready to take her home, but until that day arrives, we are joyful to have little Anna Tyonna Olivia Gomez with us. Almost as joyful as the Kovacs, and all the other families whose babies were recovered.

I also spent some of my time off with Leon Blumenthal and the ADA assigned to the case follow-up.

Yes, I know, Leon. ADA stands for “assistant district attorney.”

We recorded any details we remembered from the case—the cemetery, the lucky arrest of Orlov in Queens, and of course the events that led to the discovery and death of Rudra Sarkar and his laboratory of terror.

Finding Tracy Anne wasn’t much of a challenge for the FBI. She grew up in Menasha, Wisconsin, a little town on Lake Winnebago. She was not-too-cleverly “hiding out” there with her mother and father. One amusing little tidbit. The Town of Menasha is located right next to a little town called Neenah.

Yep, it’s pronounced exactly the way you think it is.

The greatest tragedies of Sarkar and Orlov’s living nightmare was of course the awful harm done to the innocent babies and their parents. No doubt about that. The case goes down in medical history as one of the most bizarre, and certainly one of the most horrid.

But there was one other personal tragedy. Orlov and Sarkar had bullied and threatened Nina incessantly. Orlov had forced her into her role—he even admitted that to the police. Nina Kozlova truly had wanted to escape from the gang, and she found only one way to do that.

The NYPD found her dead in the bathroom of a Days Inn hotel in the Bronx. Nina had shot herself in the heart.

If Leon Blumenthal had not asked Social Services to arrange a funeral for Nina, she would have been buried on Hart Island, New York City’s potter’s field. Social Services even found a Russian Orthodox priest to preside over the graveside ceremony.

Blumenthal thought we should attend the service. And so he and I did. To my way of thinking, it was a perfect day for the funeral of a sad Ukrainian woman. The weather wasn’t quite rainy, but it wasn’t quite clear. A warm mist showed up on a warm day to make everything even warmer and more humid. The sky was a flat blanket of gray—no clouds, no light, nothing but gray.

The only bright spot in the entire area was the Russian priest, an old man with a very long white beard. His religious vestments were bright red and white with long threads of gold running through. He held a golden crucifix with a golden image of the dying Christ on the cross. The priest was the only ray of lightness, brightness, and sunshine on that dead and dreary day.

“I’ll wait a few more minutes,” the priest said to Blumenthal and me. “Then I must leave. I have other commitments.”

The priest spoke to us because, sadly, we were the only people at the service. Two cemetery workers stood smoking at a respectful distance from our tiny group. I assumed that once the ceremony was over these two guys would
put Nina in the ground and cover her with dirt. And that would be that.

“I’ll begin,” said the priest.

He said some prayers in Russian, or maybe in Ukrainian. He blessed the coffin. He held his right hand on the coffin itself and continued to speak softly in the foreign tongue. When he finished that prayer, he asked that Blumenthal and I touch the coffin. We did, holding our hands on the coffin precisely as the priest had.

I said the Hail Mary. Blumenthal said something in Hebrew. The entire program took no longer than fifteen minutes, maybe not even that. The priest gave the final blessing:

Have compassion on me, the work of your hands, O Lord. Cleanse me through your loving-kindness.

And that was it. It was over, all over.

I couldn’t help but think in police terms: the terror, the horror, the tragedy, all finished, solved and resolved. Case closed.

Both Leon Blumenthal and I said good-bye to the priest and walked to our car.

As we walked away, Leon Blumenthal turned to me and said, “That was pretty sad.” Then he took my hand and held it gently. “So what do you think about all this, Lucy?” he asked as we walked.

I looked up at him, and I considered, as always, telling him exactly what I was thinking. “You really want to know what I think?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said. “I really do.”

“I think we just had a helluva first date.”

BOOK: The Midwife Murders
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