“I want you to open the door for me.”
“Look through the peephole,” I said.
“I’m not a cop. I’m an assistant district
I stepped back and squared off so the woman inside the basement
apartment could check me out. The hallway and staircase had been
cleared of men in uniform, including the detail from Emergency
Services poised to knock down her door with a battering ram, which
was there when I arrived at the scene a short while ago at one
o’clock in the morning.
I didn’t hear any sound from within. No sense of her
“My name is Alexandra Cooper. You’re Tina,
aren’t you? Tina Barr.” I didn’t say what my
specialty was, that I was in charge of the DA’s Office Sex
Crimes Prosecution Unit. The police weren’t certain she had
been assaulted by the man who had earlier invaded her home, but
several of them thought she might reveal those details to me if I
could gain her confidence.
I moved in against the metal-clad door and pressed my ear to it,
but heard nothing.
“Don’t lose your touch now, Coop.” Mike
Chapman walked down the steps and handed a lightbulb to the rookie
who was holding a flashlight over my shoulder. “The money on
the street’s against you, but I’m counting on your
golden tongue to talk the lady out so those guys can go home and
catch some sleep.”
The young cop passed the bulb to Mercer Wallace, the six-foot-
six-inch-tall detective from the Special Victims Unit who had
called me to the brownstone on the quiet block between Lexington
and Third avenues in the East Nineties.
Mercer reached overhead and screwed it in, illuminating the
drab, cracked paint on the ceiling and walls of the hallway.
“Somebody --- most likely the perp --- shattered the other
one. There are slivers of glass everywhere.”
“Thanks, kid,” Mike said, dismissing the rookie.
“No progress here, Detective Wallace?”
“We haven’t got a homicide,” I whispered to
Mercer. “And they sell lightbulbs at the bodega on Lex. I
don’t know why you think we needed Mike, but please get him
off my back.”
“Damn, I’ve listened to Blondie charm full-on
perverts into boarding the bus for a twenty-five-to-life time-share
at Sing Sing. I’ve seen her coax confessions from the lying
lips of the deranged and demented. I’ve watched as
Mercer put his finger to his lips and pointed at the staircase.
“Tina, these two detectives are my friends. I’ve worked
with them for more than ten years.” I paused to cough and
clear my throat. There was still a bit of smoke wafting through the
hallway. “Can you tell me why you don’t want to open
up? Why it is you won’t trust us? We’re worried about
your safety, Tina. About your physical condition.”
Mercer pulled at my elbow. “Let’s go up for a break.
Get some fresh air.”
I stayed at the door for another few minutes and then followed
Mike and Mercer to the small vestibule of the building and out onto
the stoop. It was a mild October night, and neighbors returning to
their homes, walking dogs, or hanging around the ’hood were
checking on the police activity and trying to figure out what was
The uniformed sergeant from the Twenty-third Precinct, whose
team had been the first responders, was on the sidewalk in front of
the building, talking to Billy Schultz, the man who had called 911
an hour earlier.
“What’s the situation behind the house?” Mike
asked Mercer as I caught up with them on their way down the front
“Two cops stationed there. Small common garden for the
tenants. Back doors from both the first floor and Barr’s
basement apartment, but no one has moved since they’ve been
on-site.” “What do you know about the girl?”
“Not much. Nobody seems to,” Mercer said. He turned
to the man standing with the sergeant, whom I guessed to be about
forty, several years older than Mike and I. “This is Mike
Chapman, Billy. He’s assigned to Night Watch.”
Mike worked in Manhattan North Homicide, which helped staff the
Night Watch unit, an elite squad of detectives on call between
midnight and eight a.m., when precinct squads were most
understaffed, to respond all over Manhattan to murders and
situations, like this one, that the department referred to --- with
gross understatement --- as “unusuals.”
“Billy lives on the first floor,” Mercer said.
“He’s the guy who called 911.”
“Good to meet you,” Mike said. He turned to me.
“What’s her name?”
“She your friend?” he said to Billy.
“We chat at the mailboxes occasionally. She’s a
Keeps to herself. Spent a lot of time gardening on weekends in
the summer, so I ran into her out back every now and then, but I
haven’t seen her much since.”
“Lived here long?”
“Me? Eighteen years?”
“Tina sublets. A year, maybe more.”
Mike ran his fingers through his thick black hair, looking from
Billy to me. “You sure she’s in there?”
“I could hear a woman crying when I first got here,”
I said. Whimpering was a more accurate word.
“Tina was sobbing when I knocked on her door,” Billy
“But she wouldn’t open up for you?”
Billy Schultz adjusted his glasses on the bridge of his nose
while Mike scrutinized him. “No, sir.”
“Why were you knocking? What made you call 911?”
“Mercer gave us all this, Mike. Let me get back
He held his arm out at me, palm perpendicular like a stop sign.
“Don’t you want the chronology from the horse’s
mouth? Primary source. Catch me up, Billy.”
I had one hand on the wrought-iron railing but stopped to
“I’m a graphic designer, Detective. Worked late,
stopped off for a burger and a couple of beers on my way
home,” Billy said. He was dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt.
There were smudges of ink or paint on his jeans, too dark in color
to be blood, I thought. “It was about twelve-thirty when I
got near the building. That’s when I saw this guy come
tearing out the front door, down the steps.”
“What guy? Someone you know?”
Billy Schultz shook his head. “Nope. The
Mike looked to Mercer. “Nobody told me about that. The
fire department got here first?”
“Not for real,” Mercer said.
“I mean, I assumed he was a fireman. He was dressed in all
the gear --- coat, boots, hat, even had a protective mask of some
kind on. That’s why I couldn’t see his face.”
“Did you stop him? Did he talk to you?”
“He flew by me, like there was a forest fire on Lexington
Avenue he had to get to. Almost took me out. Even that didn’t
seem odd until I looked up the street for his truck but there
wasn’t one around. Just weird.”
“What did you do then?”
“I unlocked the door to the vestibule, and as soon as I
got inside, I could smell smoke. I could see little waves of it
sort of spiraling upward from the basement,” Billy said.
“We don’t have a super who lives in the building, so
there was no one for me to call. I figured whatever happened had
been resolved. By the guy I thought was a fireman. But I wanted to
check it out, make sure there was nothing still burning.”
“Sarge, you want to get me that mask?” Mercer
The older man walked to the nearest squad car and reached in for
a paper bag while Billy Schultz talked.
“I went downstairs first. It was pretty dark, but I could
make out a small pile of rubble in the corner of the hallway, a
couple of feet from Tina’s door. Nothing was burning --- no
flames --- but it was still smoldering. Kicking off a lot of smoke.
That’s when I knocked on her door.”
“Did she answer?” Mike asked.
“No. Not then. I didn’t hear anything. I figured
maybe she wasn’t home. I ran up to my apartment, filled a
pitcher with water, and came back down to douse whatever was still
smoking. Figured the other firemen must have gone off to a bigger
job and that the last one --- the guy who almost plowed me down ---
was trying to catch up with them.”
The sergeant passed the bag to Mercer, who put on a pair of
latex gloves from his pocket before opening it.
“It’s when I went downstairs the second time that I
“What did you hear, exactly?” I asked.
Billy cocked his head and answered. “I knocked again, just
because I was worried that the firemen might have left her there
even though there was still something smoldering in the hallway.
She was weeping loudly, then pausing, like to inhale.”
“Words,” Mike said. “Did she speak any
“No, but I did. I told Tina it was me, asked her if she
was all right. I was coughing myself from the smoke. I told her she
could come up to my apartment.”
“Did she answer you?”
“No. She just cried.”
“How do you know it’s Tina Barr you were talking
to?” Mike asked.
Billy hesitated. “Well, at that point --- I, uh --- I just
Detective. She lives there alone.”
“I went home to get a bucket and broom. Swept some of the
trash into the bucket to throw out on the street---”
Mike glanced at the sergeant. “Yeah, we got it, Chapman.
Looks like amateur smoke bombs.”
“The sobbing was so bad by then, I called 911, from my
cell. Maybe she was sick, overcome by the smoke. I waited out here
on the stoop till the officers came. Three minutes. Not much
longer. That’s when Tina went berserk. That’s when I
knew it was her, for sure. I recognized her voice, when she was
yelling at the cops.”
Mercer removed a large black object from the bag and dangled it
in front of us.
“Yeah,” Billy said. “That’s what the
fireman had on his face.”
“Found it halfway up the block,” the sergeant said.
“Right in the perp’s flight path.”
“That’s not department gear,” Mike said.
“It’s a gas mask. Military style.”
It was a black rubber helmet, with two holes for the eyes,
a broad snoutlike respirator that would fit over the mouth, with
a long hose attached.
“Couldn’t see a damn thing,” Billy said.
“It covered his entire face.”
“What did the cops do?” Mike asked.
“I led them down to the basement. They knocked on
Tina’s door and one of them identified himself, said they
were police. That’s when she started yelling at them to leave
her alone. I mean screaming at them. Freaked out. Sounded like she
collapsed --- maybe fell onto the floor --- crying the whole
“What makes you think she’s alone in
“We’re guessing,” Mercer said.
“She’s the only one to make a sound --- no scuffling,
no struggling, no other voices. But that’s another reason ESU
Mike prodded my side with his fingers as we started up the
front steps. I went back in the vestibule toward the basement
“One of the cops told Tina he just wanted to make sure
that the fire hadn’t affected her,” Billy said, drawing
a handkerchief from his pocket to wipe his smoke-fogged glasses.
“Asked her if she could stand up and look through the
peephole at his badge, for identification. She went
“What do you mean?” Mike asked.
“Tina screamed at the cop. Told him that’s how the
guy got in. The fireman. That he showed her his badge and she
opened the door.”
“It was the fireman who was inside her apartment? You
“That’s why Mercer called me. We don’t know
who the man was, why he was using such an elaborate disguise, why
he went inside, and what he did to this woman. Okay? Don’t
come any closer, Mike. Let me talk to her.”
I walked the short corridor to the rear of the hallway, glass
crunching under the soles of my shoes.
“Tina? It’s Alex Cooper. We’re all still here.
The police officers won’t leave until I convince them that
you’re unharmed. I’ll keep them outside the building if
you’ll let me in for just a few minutes.”
“I’d rank that a toss-up,” Mike said.
“Ten minutes with you or the quick punch of a battering ram?
“You think this helps? You think she can’t hear
you?” I threw up my arms in frustration as I turned to Mike.
“Mercer, please take him upstairs.”
The men marched back to the first floor as I made another
attempt to persuade Tina Barr to let me in.
“I’m the only one in the basement now, Tina. The men
are all outside. I don’t want them to break down your door
any more than you do. But they’re worried that you’ve
been injured. There was a lot of smoke down here. Can you just tell
me if you’re hurt?”
There was no answer for more than a minute. Then a soft voice
spoke a word or two, which sounded as though the woman was still
sitting or lying on the floor inside. I couldn’t understand
her, so I crouched beside the door and put my ear against it.
“Sorry. What did you say?”
“Not hurt. I’ll be okay.”
She spoke haltingly, her words caught in her throat.
“Tina, are you having trouble breathing?”
“We can give you oxygen, Tina. Is it the smoke? Is there
still smoke in your apartment?”
“The man who was dressed like a fireman, did you let him
come into your apartment?”
She was crying again as she tried to speak. “No, no, I
“But you told the police officer that---”
“I only opened the door because he showed me a gold badge
and told me there was a fire. I could smell the smoke and then saw
it. I believed him.” Tina Barr’s words came out phrase
by phrase, embedded in sobs. “He forced his way inside. I
didn’t let him in.”
“You can trust us, Tina. Now you know that man
wasn’t actually a fireman. His badge wasn’t
real.” Mercer had already checked that with the department
and had been telling that to Barr before I got there. “The
cops think the man started the fire himself in order to break in to
She was taking deep breaths on the other side of the door.
I took one, too, and tried to get at what had so far been
unspoken. “I work with victims of sex crimes, Tina.
That’s all I do. It’s why the police thought I might be
able to help. I deal with the most sensitive cases you can
imagine,” I said, closing my eyes, which burned from the
lingering smoke. “Did this man assault you
She coughed again.
I didn’t know how long he’d been within the
apartment before Billy Schultz saw him running from the building at
in the morning.
“Did he awaken you when he knocked, Tina?”
“Do you know what time it was when you first went to the
“Five,” she said.
“Five o’clock in the afternoon?” She must have
“Look, I’m going to have to let the police work on
your door, or the back window in your kitchen, Tina. You may be a
little woozy. He couldn’t have been inside there that
There was a noise before Tina Barr spoke next, as though she
shifted her position. She had gotten to her feet, perhaps angered
by my comment. I stood up, too, as she pounded on the door.
“I know exactly what time it was when the man knocked, do you
understand? It wasn’t the middle of the night, Ms. Cooper. It
was five o’clock.”
All the cops and I had assumed the events had occurred within
minutes of Schultz’s arrival home. Fast, like most break-ins,
and while the smoke bombs were steaming. We were wrong.
“I apologize, Tina. That’s even more reason for me
to know what he did to you.” I didn’t want to suggest
the word rape to her. I needed her to reveal to
me what had occurred.
“I don’t want to talk to any cops, Ms. Cooper.
I’ll tell you what happened if that will make them go
“I’m alone down here now. The men won’t come
in.” I paused before I spoke again. “I give you my
Tina Barr sniffled, then was quiet. I heard the dead bolt turn.
The door opened a few inches and I could see the young woman
peering out from behind it, clutching the lapels of her white
chenille robe with one hand. Her dark brown hair was disheveled,
her eyes reddened from at least an hour of crying, and what looked
to be remains of adhesive tape forming a rectangle on the skin
around her mouth, where she had probably been gagged.
I reached out a hand to her, hoping to comfort her with a touch,
but she recoiled at the movement in her direction.
“You’re mistaken if you think this was about a sex
crime, Ms. Cooper. He wanted to kill me,” Tina Barr said.
“That man left me for dead.”
“I don’t want to press charges.”
Tina Barr was seated in an armchair in the cramped living room
of her apartment, and I was opposite her on a small loveseat that
was sorely in need of reupholstering.
“That’s not even an issue right now, Tina. I’d
like to know what happened to you. We don’t have a suspect,
so there’s no one to prosecute.”
“You told me you wanted to make sure I was all right. You
see I’m not hurt, so now you can leave.”
She was unnaturally pale and rested her forehead in her hand, as
though she needed that support to keep it upright.
“A couple of minutes ago you told me a man tried to kill
you. You told me he was with you in here for more than six hours.
How can I walk away from this? You don’t look well, Tina. You
must be terribly frightened.”
“I’m nauseous. I just want to lie down.”
I tried to make eye contact with her, but she was staring at the
“Who did this to you, Tina? Do you know that?”
Her entire body trembled. “No idea. There was some
horrible black mask covering his face.”
I didn’t want to press her, to cross-examine her, but it
seemed unlikely that her attacker had had the mask on for so many
hours. “The whole time he was here? Didn’t he ever take
“I don’t know what he did. I don’t
I expected her to be a difficult interview after the experience
the cops had when they got to the building. But I hadn’t
thought she would stonewall me once she opened the door.
“You don’t remember?”
“I was unconscious the entire time that man was here, Ms.
Cooper.” Tina lifted her head and looked at me. “He
pushed his way in and threw me down. He put a cloth over my mouth
and I couldn’t breathe any longer. I just felt dizzy and
watched the room turn upside down. I thought I was going to die. I
don’t have any idea what he did after that.”
Now I had even more reason to be concerned, and greater need not
to express it.
“How are you feeling?”
“I’ve told you already. I’d like to go to
“Do you know what he drugged you with?”
Tina rested her head on the back of the chair and snapped at me.
“Now how could I possibly tell you that?”
“I didn’t think you’d be able to. That’s
my point. All the more reason to let the doctors examine you, have
them test your blood. You’ve undoubtedly still got something
in your system.”
“I don’t want anyone else coming in here --- can you
“I’d like to take you to the emergency room.
There’s an excellent hospital less than ten blocks
Tina Barr started to cry again. There was a box of tissues on a
desk behind her chair. I crossed the room to get a handful of them,
glancing around for any obvious signs of a disturbance. Bookcases
lined the walls. End tables, like the desk, were cluttered with a
messy array of papers and journals.
“Why don’t you take a minute to compose
I handed her the tissues and reached out to stand the
wastebasket upright. There was a large rag in it, and as I leaned
over, it smelled sickeningly sweet. I used a tissue to remove the
cloth from the basket and put it in the pocket of my jeans.
“Would you like some water, Tina?”
“I’m too nauseous to drink. I’m very thirsty,
but I doubt I can hold anything down.”
I retraced my steps to the loveseat. I could get more facts
later. I wanted to talk to her about medical treatment. “I
just have a couple more questions, okay? When you regained
consciousness, were you still here, on the floor?”
She searched out another spot in the dark pattern of the cheap
Oriental rug and stared at it. “I was on my bed, Ms. Cooper.
I was naked. Completely naked. There was some kind of tape over my
mouth, and my hands were tied to the headboard with a pair of my
stockings. Loose knots, they were. I was able to work them off
“While the man was still here?”
“No,” she said, breathing deeply. “I came
around just a few minutes before he left. I could hear him in this
room, so I just played dead and didn’t move till the door
“Tina, you’ve got to see a doctor.” I was on
the edge of the seat cushion, pleading with her to let me take her
to Mount Sinai Hospital. “They’ve got a wonderful
advocacy program for victims of violence. I just have to call ahead
and someone knowledgeable about the process will be with you
through the entire exam.”
“I told you before I wasn’t raped.” Tina got
to her feet and steadied herself before she started walking toward
the back of the apartment. “I’m going to be
I stood up to follow her. “Let me---”
“Please don’t come inside. I’d like some
A door slammed and I couldn’t hear anything until the
toilet flushed and water ran in the sink. The dozens of questions I
had would be answered, I knew, when she was made comfortable and
felt safe. I needed to get her to the ER as fast as possible. Once
crime scene investigators had access to her bedroom, the trace
evidence on the linens and clothing might tell us more about what
occurred than Tina Barr could.
About ten minutes later, Tina emerged from what must have been
her bedroom and bath area. She was dressed in khaki slacks and a
“If I go with you to the hospital, does it mean I’m
“Not at all. You have weeks to make that decision, if we
catch the guy. This is all about your health, about trying to
figure out what he did to you. If you aren’t examined now,
the tests will never yield the same results in two or three days,
when you might have second thoughts about all this.” I knew
that if she had been penetrated by her assailant, the natural
forces of gravity would eliminate any fluids that could be tested
for DNA. Whatever she had been drugged with would be gone from her
bloodstream, too. “It’s your own best
“I’d prefer to take a cab, Ms. Cooper. I can do this
“There’s an ambulance waiting near the building. We
were all so worried about you. I can cut through a lot of
administrative red tape if I’m along.”
She hesitated again, then went back inside and returned with a
small tote. “I’ll go with you. Just don’t ask me
any more questions, okay?”
“Let me call the detectives, so the ambulance is right in
front.” I pressed Mercer’s speed dial on my cell.
“You need me?”
“Ms. Barr and I are coming out. I’m going to ride to
Sinai with her in the bus. Maybe you can meet us at the ER. And get
rid of the guys with the heavy equipment.”
“Done, Alex. Will she let crime scene in to process the
apartment?” I turned to ask her. I wanted the bed linens and
bathrobe, the tape and the pantyhose, as soon as possible. I wanted
to know if there were any more rags inside, whether he had applied
the substance to her face more than once. “Tina, would you
mind if the detectives got to work on looking for evidence in your
bedroom? Fingerprints, possible DNA sources---”
“Nobody comes in here while I’m gone,” she
said. “I don’t want any other strangers inside my home
tonight. Do you understand?”
“Of course I do.” I knew Mercer had heard it, too. I
shut off the phone.
Tina walked behind me on the staircase, bracing her hands
against the wall. When we reached the stoop, I was relieved to see
the police cars and trucks were all gone, and that two EMTs were
standing at the rear door of the ambulance, with the gurney between
I offered her my arm and she accepted it for the short walk. I
introduced us to the EMTs, and they asked Tina to sit down so they
could lift her inside after I climbed up and wedged myself into a
“How you doin’?” the medic asked Tina as his
partner got into the driver’s seat. “You
“I’m sick to my stomach, actually.”
“Take it slow, Howie. Don’t bounce in any
potholes,” he called out to the driver. “My name is
Jorge Vasquez. I’m just gonna get your vitals, miss. Gotta do
Tina reclined on the gurney and pushed up her sleeve for the
blood pressure cuff.
“How old are you, Ms. Barr?”
“Date of birth?”
She gave the year first, then told him March 14.
“Your height and weight?”
“Five-four.” She was six inches shorter than I, and
weighed almost the same. “One thirty-five.”
“What kind of insurance you got?”
Tina covered her mouth with her hand, as though she was going to
be sick again.
“You got insurance?”
The EMT looked over her head at me and I nodded. The hospital
would get its money from the crime victims compensation board if
Barr didn’t pay. This wasn’t the time or place to
dicker about who’d foot the bill for the expensive sexual
“How about your occupation?”
“I’m --- uh --- I’m a librarian.”
“Nice. You like books. Me, I don’t have time to
read.” Vasquez was filling in the blank spaces on his form.
“Who’s your employer? Would that be the
“I’m not working at the moment. I quit my last job
just a week ago.”
“City’s got good benefits. You should think about
it. Which branch, Ms. Barr? It’s regulations. I gotta put
something in this box.”
“No, it wasn’t the city. It was private. It’s
The driver made the turn onto Madison Avenue and we headed
north. Vasquez put his clipboard on his lap, took Tina’s
pressure, and recorded the numbers.
“You mind if I check your eyes?”
The young woman shook her head from side to side and Vasquez
leaned in, studying her pupils and making a note, I guessed, about
how dilated they were.
“You want to start with what happened to you,
“I’m not really sure. I know I was drugged, but
that’s all I can tell you,” Tina said. “And
I’ve got a terrible headache now.”
“Any idea what kind of drug?”
“Like I told Ms. Cooper, I don’t know. But
I’m really thirsty,” she said, licking her lips.
“Sorry. You’re dehydrated, but the triage nurse will
see you in a few minutes. No point giving you anything before that.
She may want to start an IV.”
We were at the hospital in less than five minutes. It was
background information about Tina Barr that I wanted --- something
to lead me to why she was victimized this way --- but Jorge Vasquez
had as much pedigree as he needed.
When he opened the rear doors of the ambulance at the hospital
receiving bay, Mercer was waiting for me. I stepped around the
gurney and jumped down, holding on to his hand.
“I think we’re better off keeping Ms. Barr right
here till she’s called in for triage. It’s kind of
zooey in there,” Mercer said.
“We can hold,” Vasquez said. “I could use the
“They got a gunshot wound in the chest. Fifteen-year-old
kid caught in the crossfire of two dealers. A bad car crash on the
FDR Drive --- three passengers with head trauma --- and the typical
assortment of fractures and bellyaches. You know a possible rape
won’t be seen till daybreak unless you can pull some strings,
Most victims of sexual assault presented to treating physicians
without any external physical injury. To an emergency specialist,
the trauma had occurred when the crime was committed. The survivor
who presented at the hospital was not in need of life-saving
treatment like the other medical patients, but rather was there for
evidence collection and psychological counseling. Without advocates
or forensic examiners on call, these women were often the most
neglected emergency room visitors, waiting hours to be
“We’ll try to get you in as quickly as we
can,” I said to Tina, leaving her in the care of Vasquez and
his partner as I turned to follow Mercer into the ER.
The security guard stood back as Mercer flashed his gold shield
and the automatic double doors swung open to admit us. A dozen
curtained cubicles --- all seemingly occupied --- formed a
semicircle around the nurses’ station, where Mike had settled
in with his feet on the counter, eating chocolates from a box on
“Have you spoken to the head nurse?”
“Yeah, we’re somewhere between the heart attack in
that corner and the domestic dispute racheted up till the missus
settled it by hurling a meat cleaver at the bum’s
neck,” Mike said.
One of the nurses emerged from behind the thin curtains of the
first treatment area, and Mike waved him over. “This is Ms.
Cooper, Joe. You any good at splinter removal? She’s had a
stick up her ass for the last couple of months, and I was
“We’re waiting for one of the SAVI volunteers, Ms.
Cooper,” Joe said, stripping his bloodied gloves off and
dropping them in the hazardous-waste bin along with the syringe in
his hand. He was the size of a fullback, a black man with skin as
dark as Mercer’s, and not in the mood for Mike’s humor.
“Get you in here as soon as we can. I’ve got one going
up to X-ray and another for admission, just waiting on a
“This may not have seemed urgent when the detectives first
called,” I said, knowing that it might take half an hour for
a sexual assault violence intervention program advocate to reach
the ER, “but Tina’s in worse shape than we
I pulled the rag from my pocket, pinching it on a corner to hold
it up. “The perp soaked this in something and knocked her out
by putting it over her nose and mouth.”
“Nice save, Coop.” Mike stood and bent over the
counter, sniffing at the rag. “What’s your guess, Joe?
Ether of some kind? Not so noxious as that. Maybe
Joe didn’t want to come closer. “If that’s
what it was, it’s enough to cause a fatal cardiac
“That baby’s going straight to the lab,
“Tell the EMTs to bring her right in,” Joe
said. “Let’s get your girl worked up.”
The three of us headed for the exit, past the waiting area
filled with anxious family members and friends, down the driveway
and onto the street. The driver had backed out of the bay to leave
room for the next arrival and double-parked on Madison Avenue.
Jorge Vasquez was leaning against the side of the red-andwhite
ambulance. Mercer waved at him as we approached, telling him to
move it in and unload the patient.
Vasquez shrugged his shoulders.
“Don’t give me that ‘not my job’
crap,” Mike said. “Roll it.”
“I’m empty, man,” Vasquez said, brushing his
hands against each other like he was dusting off crumbs. “The
broad took off.”
“Took off where?” I asked.
“RMA, Ms. Cooper. I can’t be holding nobody against
Tina Barr had refused medical attention, despite the ordeal
“Which way’d she go?”
“No sé,” Vasquez said. “She told
me she never wanted the cops called in the first place. Jumped out
the bus and said to tell you to leave her alone.”
Excerpted from LETHAL LEGACY © Copyright 2010 by Linda
Fairstein. Reprinted with permission by Doubleday. All rights