“He had Spartak make it.”
“No, he didn’t. Yefim was waiting at the Comcast Center when Dre got himself vaporized by an Acela.”
The teacup froze halfway to her mouth. “You want to repeat that one?”
“Dre got hit by a train going so fast that it liquefied him. There’s probably a forensics team out there right now, bagging up the Dre scraps. But they’re little scraps, I assure you.”
“Why would he step in front of a . . . ?”
“Because he was chasing this.” I placed the Belarus Cross on the table.
It sat between us for about twenty seconds before either of us spoke.
“Chasing it?” Amanda said. “That makes no sense. He had it with him when he left the house, didn’t he?”
“And I assume he handed it over to someone, and then that someone threw it back over the tracks.”
“So you think . . . ?” She closed her eyes tight and shook her head. “I don’t even know what you think.”
“I don’t either. Here’s what I know—Dre crossed the tracks into the woods and then someone threw this cross out of the woods and over the tracks. Dre came running out after it and ran into a really fast train. Yefim, meanwhile, claims he was never at the train station and that he never changed the original meeting place. Whether he’s lying or not, and there’s a fifty-fifty chance either way, that’s his claim. We don’t have Sophie, they don’t have the Belarus Cross, and it’s Christmas Eve. Friday. Dre was the last chance Yefim had of scoring another baby to give to Kirill and Violeta. So now Yefim wants the original deal back in place—that cross”—I looked down the table—”and that baby for Sophie’s life, my life, the life of my family, and your life.”
She fingered the cross a couple of times, pushing it up the table a few inches.
“What do the inscriptions mean, do you know? I can’t read Russian.”
“Even if you could,” I said, “they’re not in Russian. That’s Latin.”
“Fair enough. You know any Latin?”
“I took four years of it in high school but all I retained is about enough to read a building foundation.”
“So, no idea?”
I held it in my hand. “A little. The one up top reads Jesus, Son of God, defeats.”
I shrugged and racked my brain a bit. “No, wait. Not defeats. Crushes. No. Wait. Conquers. That’s it. Jesus, Son of God, conquers.”
“What about the bottom one?”
“Something about a skull and paradise.”
“That’s the best you can do?”
“I took my last Latin class ten years before you were born, kid. My best ain’t bad.”
She poured herself more tea. She held the cup in both hands and blew on it. She took a tentative sip and then placed the cup back down on the table. She sat back in her chair, her eyes on me, as calm as ever, this serious child, this marvel of self-possession.
“It doesn’t look like much, does it?”
“It’s the history that gives it its worth. Or maybe just someone deciding it’s worth something, like gold.”
“I never understood that mentality,” she said.
“I can tell you, though, that Kirill’s already lost too much face over this to let any of us live. Certainly not me.”
“You been reading the papers lately?”
She looked over the teacup at me and shook her head.
“Kirill’s hitting his own product too much. Or he’s just having a full-on mental breakdown. He might wrap one of his cars around a pole at a hundred miles an hour before he ever gets around to you.”
“So, I’ll just wait for that day.” She grimaced at me. “And even if, let’s say, everything goes according to this fairy-tale scenario that Yefim—Yefim, yes?—outlined for you?”
“So, okay. We live, Sophie lives, your family lives. What about her?” She pointed down the table where Claire sat, strapped in her car seat, wearing a tiny pink knit hoodie and matching pink sweatpants, her eyes closed to slits. “They take her into their home, Kirill and Violeta, and pretty soon she’s not just the [_idea _]of a baby. She’s an actual baby. She cries at inconvenient times, she screams, she howls when her diaper’s wet, and she shrieks—I mean, like an electrified banshee—when you change her top because she hates having anything covering her face and you can’t remove a top without covering her face, at least not the ones I have on hand. So they take her, these psychotic children in middle-aged bodies, and let’s say they get past all the inconveniences and total lack of sleep that go with having a baby in the house, twenty-four-seven. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. You don’t think Kirill, who’s now lost massive face, power, and respect because he got his own black-market baby stolen from him and he couldn’t get her back—you’re telling me he’s not going to resent that child? Kirill, who, as you said, is having some sort of psychotic meltdown lately? He’s not going to come home some night, amped up on Polish vodka and Mexican cocaine, and bludgeon that baby when she has the temerity to cry because she’s hungry?” Amanda threw back her entire cup of tea like it was a shot of whiskey. “Do you really think I’m giving my baby back to them?”
“It’s not your baby.”
“That social security card you saw yesterday? That wasn’t mine. That was hers. I already have one with the same last name. She’s mine.”
“You kidnapped her.”
“And you kidnapped me.”
She’d never raised her voice, but the walls seemed to shake just the same. Her lips trembled, her eyes grew red, tremors raced through her hands. Outside of highly controlled fury, I’d never seen her show emotion.
I shook my head.
“Yes, you did, Patrick. Yes, you did.” She sucked wet air through her nostrils and looked up at the ceiling for a moment. “Who were you to say where my home was? Dorchester was just where I was born. I was Helene’s spawn, but I was Jack and Tricia Doyle’s child. You know what I remember about that time when I was so-called kidnapped? For seven perfect months, I didn’t feel nervous or anxious. I didn’t have nightmares. I wasn’t sick, because when you leave a house where your mother never cleans and there’s roaches and roach bacteria everywhere and rotten food fermenting in the sink—when you leave a place like that, you tend to feel better. I ate three times a day. I played with Tricia and our dog. After dinner, every night, they dressed me for bed and then brought me to a chair by the fireplace—seven o’clock on the dot—and they read to me.” She looked down at the table for a moment, nodding to herself in such a way I doubted she knew she was doing it. She looked up. “And then you came. Two weeks after you returned me to Dorchester, and a DSS caseworker had cleared Helene to raise me, you know what happened at seven o’clock?”