The Dead Room


Page 27


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"I'm just a waitress here," Bridget said.


He smiled. "That doesn't mean you might not have noticed if she had someone special. Did she ever come in here with a man?" Joe asked.


Bridget frowned. "Once or twice, I guess."


"Lunchtime? Cocktail hour? Dinner?"


"I saw her in here with a fellow once or twice. I think the one man was her boss. And the other…well, I guess she worked with him, too." She offered a quick smile. "The one fellow was quite a looker. The boss…well, he wasn't ugly as sin or anything, but he was a grump. You'll have to excuse me now, please. I've got food that needs serving."


She smiled and left them.


"You think she was dating someone who turned out to be…bad?" Leslie asked Joe.


He shook his head thoughtfully, sipping the coffee Bridget had poured when she came to take their order. "No. I don't believe she was dating at all." He cocked his head, smiling ruefully. "I've done this a long time. I've been through all the basics. I've talked to her old friends, old flames. Her heaviest relationship was with a guy in college. He moved to Alaska to be a lumberjack and hasn't come back since. She had a hard time with her father, I know. He was the kind who demanded perfection. I think he spent most of his life trying to fight the 'lazy Irish' stereotype to show the world that the Irish were hardworking and intelligent, so much so that he never let her be a child."


Leslie stared back at him, sipping her own coffee.


He went on. "But she loved him anyway. I'm sure, when they had their last blowup and she walked away, she never imagined he would die before they made peace. She had a strong sense of family and really loved her aunt, too.


"So I'm pretty sure she plunged into work instead of taking time for a personal life-and I think she was trying so hard with those prostitutes because she had listened to her father so long. I think she felt that helping women get off the streets was like reaching back into the past." He met her eyes as he spoke. "A lot of Irish immigrants with nowhere else to turn became prostitutes, and I think Genevieve felt she was helping to make that right by helping these women now."


"And you think, if she were able to, she would contact her aunt?"


He nodded.


The potato soup arrived.


He'd enjoyed it before and was irrationally glad when Leslie said, "It really is the best potato soup ever."


"You never came here before?" he asked her.


"Never. It's a big city, you know."


"Yeah, I do know. It's just that…"


"What?"


He shook his head.


"What?" she persisted.


"When we were kids, Matt loved this place."


"Ah." She shrugged. "We ate in Brooklyn a lot."


"I eat in Brooklyn a lot."


"And there you go-we never ran into each other."


"I haven't been in New York a lot the past few years."


Bridget brought their plates, her bright green eyes smiling. "So many people think they're going to get a pack of fatty bacon strips on their plates." She frowned. "I put the plates down and they say, 'Oh, goodness, the bacon-it's like pork.' What do they think bacon is?" she asked incredulously.


They both laughed politely.


Joe asked her, "Bridget, if I were to bring in pictures, do you think you'd be able to recognize the men Genevieve came here with?"


"I would, I think. Most probably. The one fellow…it was cocktail hour. Dark and busy in here. I'm not as sure about him, but I could try."


"Thanks."


"Delighted to help," she said.


When she left, Leslie asked him, "What pictures do you have?"


"At the moment, her boss's. A few old friends."


"So there really is a method to your madness-or at least your dining choices," Leslie said with a smile. He was glad to see she was eating well and really did seem to feel fine.


"Do you still have a headache?" he asked her.


"Only if I forget and touch my head," she told him, then stared at him seriously. "It's amazing that you showed up," she said.


He shrugged. "Maybe there is such a thing as ESP."


"You doubt it?"


"Of course. Why-do you believe you have it?"


"ESP? No. But there have been so many documented reports of it. I just read about one really sad situation. A mother woke up, sensing her daughter, who was serving in the army in the Middle East, was in danger. She called all over, trying to reach her daughter or at least find out how she was. It turned out she had been killed, just when her mother woke up, feeling so scared."


"Hmm," Joe murmured.


"And there have been dozens of cases involving identical twins. Sometimes one just knew when the other one needed help."


"Hmm," he repeated.


"So," she said, grinning, "you must have ESP."


He lifted his cup to her, studying her face. "You know, Robert Adair is certain you have some kind of psychic gift."


"Really?"


"Do you?"


"Who knows?" she said lightly. "Shall we go?"


"I'll get the check," he said.


It turned out that they didn't have one. Mrs. O'Malley insisted on picking up the lunches, so he left a hefty tip for Bridget and they left.


"I should go back to work," Leslie said.


"You were told not to. How about coming back out to my place for a while? I want to clean up and check my e-mail, and we can't look for Didi Dancer or any of the other girls until later."


For a moment she looked undecided. Then she shrugged. "Sure."


As they drove, Joe caught her looking pensively out the window. "What's so interesting?"


"City above the ground, city below the ground," she replied.


He frowned. She grinned ruefully.


"I can't get that thought out of my head, for some reason. Take the crypt we've discovered. So much had been built on top of it that no one had any idea it was even there. Look at the city we see from the car, then take the subway and you don't see any of it. You're traveling like a mole."


"Very true." He frowned, staring at her hard. "What happened this morning?"


She shrugged. She didn't know him that well yet. She had to keep reminding herself that he wasn't Matt. "A piece of the ceiling fell on me," she said.


"Are you sure?"


"They showed me where it caved in," she told him.


He lived in an old brownstone, the first floor and basement of which were his. He watched her examine the place as they entered. She looked around, smiling. He thought it was comfortable. He had a huge sofa and several armchairs in the living room, with an entertainment system in a polished oak cabinet facing it. There was an old hearth, and a display of the antique swords and rifles he had collected over the years. He had a surprisingly large kitchen, a nice dining area, a bedroom, an office and even an alcove that could function as a guest room. The basement hosted his pool table and some beat-up chairs.


"Well?" he inquired.


"Well, what?"


"Does it rate okay?"


She laughed. "Great bachelor quarters," she told him. With an amused grin, she added, "Very manly."


"Can I get you anything-I just want to check my e-mail and get cleaned up."


"I'm fine. I'll see if I approve of your music collection," she told him.


He left her, striding for his office. He'd sent out a number of inquiries to people who might have information on Genevieve, but he had a hunch so strong that he was willing to put money on it that finding Genevieve hinged on finding the right dark sedan-and the man driving it. Still, he had to go through the motions.


As he booted up the computer, he picked up the sleazy magazine with the story about Genevieve. It was one of those articles that began by praising a person, then started tearing her down inch by inch. He'd never heard of the scandal before, but the article hinted of some affair around the time of Genevieve's birth, and talked about her father's coldly autocratic treatment of her. It was skillfully written, implying without directly saying anything that Genevieve might be the result of her mother's affair with another man. He leaned back. He'd read the article many times already, but he felt as if he were missing something. He started to read it one more time.


Joe's place was warm and inviting. The furniture was solid and the wood was polished. She had a feeling he enjoyed spending time at home, but also that he didn't fuss over it. She assumed he had someone in to clean-there wasn't much dust.


She wandered over to the cabinet and started going through Joe's CDs. As she did, she noticed movement behind her and turned.


A man in a New York Regimental uniform was sitting on the sofa; he looked as if he had belonged to some kind of Irish brigade.


He was intent, frowning, concentrating, as he stared at her.


"You can see me," he said after a moment.


"Yes."


"You can see me," he repeated, almost in awe.


"Yes," she said again.


"And you're not scared? You're not going to start screaming?"


She smiled. "No. I mean, you don't intend me any harm, do you?"


"Harm to a lady?" He sounded outraged.


"I'm sorry, I meant no offense."


He was about thirty-five, she thought, gaunt, and his face was prematurely wrinkled; he looked old for his age. But then, she imagined, war could easily do that to a man. His hair was sandy, and he had a small mustache and neatly trimmed beard. His eyes were a soft brown, emphasized by flyaway brows.


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