Darkest Fear Page 60

“Cross at the corner,” she said. “And wait for the light.”

The two men walked to the corner and waited for the light before crossing the street. Kimberly Green and her fellow agents fumed. Clara took them by the hand and led them back toward the building’s entrance. Stan and Myron sat on the bench. Stan watched a New Jersey Transit bus go by like it carried the secret to life.

“We don’t have time to enjoy the scenery, Stan.”

Stan leaned forward, put his elbows on his knees. “This is difficult for me.”

“If it makes it any easier,” Myron said, “I know that the Sow the Seeds kidnapper is your father.”

Stan’s head fell into his hands.

“Stan?”

“How did you find out?”

“Through Dennis Lex. I found him in a private sanitarium in Connecticut. He’s been there for thirty years. But you already knew that, didn’t you?”

Gibbs said nothing.

“At the sanitarium, there’s a big garden in the back. With this statue of Diana the Huntress. There’s a picture in your condo of you and your father standing in front of that same statue. He was a patient there. You don’t have to confirm or deny it. I was just there. Susan Lex has pull. An administrator told us Edwin Gibbs had been in and out of there for fifteen years. The rest is fairly obvious. Your father was there a long time. It’d be easy to learn who else was there, no matter how strict the so-called security. So he knew about Dennis Lex. And he stole his identity. It’s a hell of a twist, I’ll give him that. Fake IDs used to be somewhat pretty easy to come by. You’d visit a graveyard, find a child who died, request his social security card, bingo. But that doesn’t work anymore. Computers closed down that loophole. Nowadays when you die, your social security number dies with you. So your father took the identity of someone still alive, someone who has no use for it, someone committed permanently. In other words, he used the ID of a living person who has no life. And to go deeper undercover, he changed the person’s name. Dennis Lex became Davis Taylor. Untraceable.”

“Except you traced it.”

“I got lucky.”

“Go on,” Stan said. “Tell me what else you know.”

“We don’t have time for this, Stan.”

“You don’t understand,” he said.

“What?”

“If you’re the one who says it—if you figure it out on your own—it’s not as much a betrayal. You see?”

No time to argue. And maybe Myron did see. “Let’s start with the question every reporter wanted to know: why you? Why did the Sow the Seeds kidnapper choose you? The answer: because the kidnapper was your father. He knew you wouldn’t turn him in. Maybe part of you hoped someone would figure it out. I don’t know. I also don’t know if you found him or he found you.”

“He found me,” Stan said. “He came to me as a reporter. Not as a son. He made that clear.”

“Sure,” Myron said, “double protection. He gets you with the fact that you’d be turning in your own father—plus he gives you an ethical foundation for remaining silent. The beloved First Amendment. You couldn’t name a source. It gave you a very neat out—you could be both moralistic and the good son.”

Stan looked up. “So you see that I had no choice.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t be so easy on myself,” Myron said. “You weren’t being totally altruistic. Everyone says you were ambitious. That played a part here. You got fame out of this. You were handed a monster story—the kind that propels careers into the stratosphere. You were on TV and got your own cable show. You got a big raise and invited to fancy parties. You want to tell me that wasn’t a part of it?”

“It was a by-product,” Stan said. “It wasn’t a factor.”

“You say so.”

“It’s like you said—I couldn’t turn him in, even if I wanted to. There was a constitutional principle here. Even if he wasn’t my father, I had an obligation—”

“Save it for your minister,” Myron said. “Where is he?”

Stan did not reply. Myron looked across the street.

Lots of traffic. The cars started blurring and through them, standing on the other side of the street with Kimberly Green, he saw Greg Downing.

“That man over there,” Myron said, pointing with his chin. “That’s the boy’s father.”

Stan looked, but his face didn’t change.

“There’s a kid in danger,” Myron said. “That trumps your constitutional cover.”

“He’s still my father.”

“And he’s kidnapped a thirteen-year-old boy,” Myron said.

Stan looked up. “What would you do?”

“What?”

“Would you give up your father? Just like that?”

“If he was kidnapping children? Yeah, I would.”

“Do you really think it’s that easy?”

“Who said anything about easy?” Myron said.

Stan put his head back in his hands. “He’s sick and he needs help.”

“And there’s also an innocent boy out there.”

“So?”

Myron looked at him.

“I don’t mean to sound callous, but I don’t know this boy. He has no connection to me. My father does. That’s what matters here. You hear about a plane crash, right? You hear about how two hundred people die and you sigh and you go on with your life and you thank God it wasn’t your loved one in the plane. Don’t you do that?”

“What’s your point?”

“You do that because the people on the plane are strangers. Like this boy. We don’t care about strangers. They don’t count.”

“Speak for yourself,” Myron said.

“Are you close to your father, Myron?”

“Yes.”

“And in your heart of hearts, in your deepest, most honest moments, if you could sacrifice his life to save those two hundred people on the airplane, would you do it? Think about it. If God came down to you and said, ‘Okay, that plane never crashed. Those people all arrive safely. In exchange, your father will die.’ Would you make that trade?”

“I’m not into playing God.”

“But you’re asking me to,” Stan said. “I turn my father in, they’ll kill him. He’ll get the lethal injection. If that’s not playing God, I don’t know what is. So I’m asking you. Would you trade those two hundred lives for your father’s?”

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