“She’s mine,” Amanda said. “Sophie didn’t want her. Sophie was giving her up.”
I turned to Dre. “And who would’ve helped facilitate that process?”
“Better than aborting them.”
“Oh, yeah, I’m sure they have a great life. Claire’s is certainly starting off wonderfully—you two on the run, a bunch of scary gangsters breathing down your necks, a small matter of identity theft and crank production being your primary sources of income up to this point. Oh, and illegal baby-brokering, I assume. Yeah, Dre? That’s the confidential part of your job—you specialize in unwed mothers, I’ll bet. How warm am I?”
He gave me an embarrassed smirk. “Blazing.”
“Sounds like you guys got this all figured out.”
“How am I any different,” Dre said, “from any legal adoption agency? I find parents for women who don’t want their babies.”
“With zero oversight,” Angie said. “You telling us you’re able to investigate the people the Russian mob sells babies to? Are you serious?”
“Well, not all the time, sure, but—”
“Amanda,” Angie said, “of all the babies you could have stolen, why steal the one who was supposed to go to two of the craziest sociopaths in the city?”
“Your answer is the question.” Claire was asleep against her breast. She placed the bottle on the coffee table and stood. “I can only assume most times where the babies Dre brokers end up. And no”—another damaging glance at Dre—”I don’t normally assume it’s a great place they go to.” She placed Claire in a dark rattan bassinet by the hearth. “But in this case? I knew she’d end up in a bad place. Sophie’s a crank-head. She stopped doing it while she was pregnant, mostly because I had her move in with me and I stayed on her ass. But she went right back to it when Claire was born.”
“Well, she had a reason,” Dre said.
“Shut up, Dre.” She turned back to me. “Sophie wasn’t going to be raising Claire anyway—Kirill and his certifiably insane wife were.” She came over by me and sat on the edge of the coffee table so that our knees were almost touching. “They want that child. And, yeah, the easy thing would be to give her back. I sure don’t want to imagine what’s going to happen when Yefim and Pavel get me in a room alone. Yefim keeps an acetylene torch in the back of his truck. The kind they use on construction sites, with the hood and everything?” She nodded. “That’s Yefim. And he’s the sanest one of that pack. So am I scared? I am petrified. And was taking Claire away from them borderline suicidal? Probably. But you two have a daughter. Would you want her growing up with Kirill and Violeta Borzakov?”
“Of course not,” Angie said.
“It’s not simply a case of the baby grows up with the Borzakovs or you kidnap her. There were other options.”
“No,” she said, “there weren’t.”
“You had to be there.”
She shook her head and walked back to the bassinet and stood looking down into it, her arms crossed. “Angie, would you look at something for me?”
“Sure.” Angie joined her by the bassinet and they both looked in at Claire.
“See those red marks on her leg? Are those bites?”
Angie bent at the waist, peered in.
“I don’t think so. I think it’s just a rash. Why don’t you ask Dre. He was a doctor.”
“Not a very good one,” Amanda said, and Dre closed his eyes and lowered his head. “A rash?”
“Yeah,” Angie said, “babies get rashes. A lot.”
“Well, what do you do?”
“It doesn’t look really serious, but I understand how you feel. When are you seeing her pediatrician next?”
She looked almost vulnerable for a moment. “Her one-month checkup is tomorrow, so, I mean, do you think it can wait till then?”
Angie gave her a soft smile and touched her shoulder. “Definitely.”
We heard a sharp noise behind us and we all jumped in place, but it was just the mail being pushed through the brass slot in the door. It fell to the floor—two circulars, a few envelopes.
Amanda and I moved toward it at the same time, but I was closer. I scooped up three envelopes, all addressed to Maureen Stanley. One was from National Grid, a second was from American Express, and the third was from the U.S. Social Security Administration.
“Miss Stanley, I presume.” I handed the mail to Amanda and she snatched it from my fingers.
We walked back over to the baby as Dre slid his flask back into his jacket.
Angie stood over the bassinet, looking in at the baby, her features softening until she looked ten years younger. She turned from the bassinet and her face grew harder. She looked at Dre and Amanda. “On the top of the list of things that don’t add up about all the BS and half-truths you guys have been selling us since we walked through this door is this—why are you still here?”
“Here, as in Planet Earth?” Amanda said.
“No, here as in New England.”
“It’s my home. It’s where I’m from.”
“Yeah, but you’re an identity-theft master,” I said.
“You got Russians with blowtorches on your ass and you decide to hide out ninety miles away? You could be in Belize by now. Kenya. But you stayed. I’m with my wife on this one—why is that?”
Claire fussed and suddenly let out a wail.
“Now look,” Amanda said, “you woke the baby.”
She took the baby into a bedroom off the living room and for a minute we could hear them in there—Amanda cooing, the baby crying—and then Amanda closed the door.
“When do they stop crying?” Dre asked us.
Angie and I both laughed.
“You’re a doctor.”
“I just deliver them. Once they leave the womb, they leave my sight.”
“You didn’t study child development in med school?”
“Sure, but that was a few years ago. And it was academic then. Now it’s a bit more immediate.”
I shrugged. “Every kid’s different. Some start sleeping regular by the fifth or sixth week.”
“She went four and a half months before her sleep got dependable.”