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Life Blood


  Produced by Al Haines

  ==============================================================

  This work is licensed under a

  Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License,

  https://creativecommons.org/

  ==============================================================

  LIFE BLOOD

  It lies hidden deep in the mist-shrouded rain forest of Central America.

  A place where a brilliant doctor fulfills dreams for some--and createschilling nightmares for others.

  Now, filmmaker Morgan James is about to journey straight into the heartof a dark conspiracy.

  Where a bizarre human experiment comes at a terrible price, and whereshe may be the next to pay with her . . . Life Blood

  BOOKS BY THOMAS HOOVER

  Nonfiction

  Zen Culture

  The Zen Experience

  Fiction

  The Moghul

  Caribbee

  Wall Street _Samurai_

  (The _Samurai_ Strategy)

  Project Daedalus

  Project Cyclops

  Life Blood

  Syndrome

  All free as e-books at

  www.thomashoover.info

  PINNACLE BOOKS are published by

  Kensington Publishing Corp. 850 Third Avenue New York, NY 10022

  Copyright (C) 2000 by Thomas Hoover

  All rights reserved.

  First Printing: December, 2000 10 987654321

  Printed in the United States of America

  ISBN: 0-7860-1313-3

  Key words:

  THOMAS HOOVER (Author)

  LIFE BLOOD (Novel: Medical Thriller)

  In Vitro, Independent Film, Adoption, Fertility, Human Eggs, Guatemala,Peten, Maya, Mayan Pyramid, Vision Serpent, Jaguar, Baalum, MayanMothers, Movie Making, Copal

  LIFE BLOOD

  Chapter One

  New York, New York. A blissful spring morning beckoned, cloudless andblue and pure. I was driving my high-mileage Toyota down SeventhAvenue, headed for the location shoot that was supposed to wind upprincipal photography for my first feature film, _Baby Love_. It wasabout the pain and joy of adoption. I guess directing your firstfeature is something like giving birth to your first child, but thatgets us way, way ahead of the story.

  My name, by the way, is Morgan Smyth James, after two grandmothers, andI'm thirty-eight and single and strive to be eternally optimistic. Thatmorning, however, in spite of everything else, I was missing Steveterribly and feeling like I'd screwed up essential components of mylife.

  To try for some perspective, let me say I'd always planned to have anormal, loving family. Really. Find an emotionally present soul matewho cared about things I care about--okay, slim and smart andspectacular in bed wouldn't be a minus--get married on a lawn with lotsof white roses some sunny June afternoon, work one or even two perfectkids into our fulfilling, giving lives. But somehow I'd managed to havenone of that. I'd messed up at every turn.

  In reality I had nobody to blame but myself. Eighteen years ago, justout of college, I turned down two really nice guys. My body was fertileand hormone-driven--was it ever!--but grad school loomed and mygreatest fear (instead of, as now, my fondest hope) was getting"trapped" into motherhood. Also, I had the youthful delusion that lifewas forever.

  There was, in truth, one simpatico young director I met at NYU filmschool whom I would have married in a minute, but after Jason won myheart he dumped me for his undergraduate sweetheart who had skillfullygotten herself knocked up during his Christmas break.

  Which was when I first developed my fallback strategy for coping withbad news. After moping around in sweats for two days, cutting class andhiding in a revival house showing a Goddard retrospective, notunderstanding half the French and too bleary-eyed to read thesubtitles, I decided to build a defense system. From that day on, I'dput all heartbreak in a special box, nail down the lid, and act asthough it wasn't there. It worked then and it still works, more orless, now. People sometimes accuse me of living in selective denial(they're right), but it makes me one heck of a survivor.

  And something else. I decided then and there to focus my life: I'dconcentrate on learning to make movies and let the family part justplay out naturally. I had the idea that whereas men's affectionscouldn't be controlled, a career could. Even then I realized it wasonly a partial truth, but I decided to go with it anyway.

  Which brings us down to three years back. And a funny thing washappening. Almost without realizing it, I'd started lingering in storesto look at little pink jumpers, begun gazing into the baby carriagesthat suddenly seemed to be sprouting everywhere. The phrase "my baby"became the most powerful one I could imagine, made my throat swell tillI'd half choke.

  At which precise time, like a _deus ex machina_, enter Steve Abrams,the man who gave me hope. He came along just as I was noticing thatinfinite stream of wonderful guys had dwindled down to relationshipdropouts, men with distant eyes and former wives in other states. Wediscovered each other at the reopened Oloffson Hotel in Haiti, where Iwas shooting a documentary about voodoo and he was photographing thatcountry's ragged, plucky children for National Geographic. Noex-spouses, no need for psychic pampering. Okay, he wasn't going to wina Mr. Universe contest any time soon; he had a couple of extra poundsthat, actually, I kind of liked. But he was my age, had great browneyes, sandy hair thinning only just a bit. No Greek god but definitelya man. He could tune a Jeep carburetor with his eyes closed or fix acranky hotel lock, then recite Byron (sort of) and proceed to snare theperfect Chilean red for crawfish _etouffee_ (yes!). But I knew I lovedhim when I realized it was more than any of that. I felt as if I'dfound the other half of myself. Just one glance across the table and weeach knew what the other was thinking, feeling. We'd laugh at the sameinstant, then as though on cue, half cry together over the miseries ofthat wretched island. Sometimes it was almost eerie. And as forlovemaking, let me just say Steve didn't need a how-to manual. We weremade for each other.

  Maybe it's un-PC to mention it, but I also felt safe around him. And Ithink he felt the same. We liked that feeling. Us fending off the world.

  When we got back to New York, we had to see each other every day. Westill had separate apartments--thanks to the New York real-estatesqueeze--but we were scouting in our spare time for an affordable loftin lower Manhattan that could accommodate Steve's darkroom, my office,and--yes--a baby. We evolved into parents-to-be, pricing babycarriages. Who could have predicted it? The joy of sharing a need. Itwas a total high.

  Before long we decided to stop waiting for the perfect

  space. We'd start on the baby anyway, our first joint project--which,we believed, would only be the first of many.

  But nothing happened. Over a year and still nothing.

  That was when life began to feel like a cruel bait-and-switch. When youaren't ready, you can produce a baby in a momentary absence-of-mind,whereas once you're finally an adult, accomplished, lots-to-offerwoman, ready to be the mother you wish you'd had, your body has closeddown your baby-making equipment like an unused Rust Belt factory.Fertility has calculatingly abandoned you for the Sun Belt of youth.

  "Well," Dr. Hannah Klein, my long-time ob/gyn, declared, "our tests allindicate you're both fertile, so just keep trying, under optimumconditions."

  Optimum conditions. There followed almost a year of "optimumconditions." Do it upside down; wait and have a cold shower while Itake my temperature; no, not that way, not tonight. My mucus isthicker: Quick! Eventually we both began feeling like laboratory rats.Our once-incredible love life drifted into something only a boot-campsergeant with Nazi leanings could be turned on by.

  I think that's what finally caused Steve to go over the edge. Threemonths ago--a Friday morning I shall never forget--he stepped out of myshower, swathed himself in a white towel, and announced he was going toCentral America to do a book. He needed time to think. The move, heexplained, wasn't about us. He really wanted to spend a year down therewith his Nikon, capturing the region's tentative processes ofdemocratic transition. Besides, he was beginning to think we'd bothgone a little mental about the baby.

  Out came that special box of heartbreak again. I consoled myself wewere just having a seventh-inning stretch, but the wisdom in that boxtold me I'd somehow blown it. The baby we hadn't created had become aspecter hovering in the ether between us, ever a reminder of failure.

  As a parting gesture, the never-say-die long shot, he left a "deposit"with Dr. Klein--for her liquid-nitrogen womb-in-waiting--enough for twofinal intrauterine inseminations. Later on today I was going to see herand find out if our last and final attempt had stuck. But nothing aboutmy cycle was giving me any hope.

  In the meantime, though, I had a movie to finish. We were shooting aninterview at a five-story condominium building in Greenwich Villagebelonging to a woman named Carly Grove, who'd recently adopted. Herstory was intriguing, but now--with my own hopes of ever having a babydown to two outs in the bottom of the ninth--well, now I had more thanone reason for wanting to meet her. . . .

  When I arrived, I lucked into a parking space right in front. Oursecurity guy, Lou Crenshaw, was off today getting some city paperworksorted out, but my crew was already upstairs--as director I get toarrive at a decent hour, though later on I also get to do lonelypostproduction work till midnight--leaving our three vansdouble-parked, with a New York City Film Board permit prominentlydisplayed inside each windshield. The building, formerly a Hertzparking garage, was near the end of Barrow Street, facing the HudsonRiver, and was filled with artists and entrepreneurs.

  The truth was, I wanted to get the interview on film as soon aspossible. I was more than a little worried Carly might decide to getcold feet and back out. She'd started to hedge when I had one lastconfirming chat with her last night, something about a "no-disclosure"agreement she now remembered signing. This had to be a one-take,all-or-nothing shoot.

  Which was why I'd sent down the full gang this morning, not just the"key" personnel as I'd initially planned. Leading my (motley) crew wasthe director of photography, first cameraman Roger Drexel, a grizzledveteran with a ponytail who'd been with my producer, David Roth and hisApplecore Productions, from back when he did beach movies and splatterfilms. He worked with the production manager, Erica Cole, our lipsticklesbian, who coordinated crew schedules. The second camera was handledby Greer Seiber, recently of NYU film school, who was so happy to havea job, any job, she acted as though David's previous string oflow-budget, B-flick epics were remakes of _Gone With the Wind_.

  Scott Ventri, another Applecore old-timer, was key grip, the guy whogot the gear on and off the vans, set it up, and signed off on safetyregs. Today he also was responsible for blacking out windows andsetting up lights. The chief electrician, gaffer, was Ralph Cafiero,who'd come down the previous day and temporarily hot-wired the circuitbreaker in the apartment to make sure there was enough amperage. He andhis lighting "crew," another bright-eyed (and cheap) NYU grad namedPaul Nulty, had arrived this morning ahead of everybody else topre-light the "set," a northeast corner of the apartment.

  I'm always a little hyper about sound, so I'd asked Tony Wills, whohandled recording, to also come down the previous day and record the"tone" of the living room, the sound when there is no sound, in orderto have it available for editing. Today he'd run the boom mike and beassisted by Sherry Moran, his latest girlfriend, who wasmixer/recordist. For Carly's makeup and hair, I had Arlene Morris, anold friend from all the way back to my early days as an AD on thesoaps. . . .

  I rang Carly's bell and she buzzed me right up.

  She doubtless had a closet full of Donna Karan suits, but she came tothe door in pre-faded jeans and a striped sweater.

  A successful publicity agent, she was petite, with dark hair and eyesand an obvious don't-bug-me take on life.

  "Come on in. My nanny's here to help keep Kevin out of the way." Shewas sounding like she'd gotten her old spunk back, or so it seemed atfirst. "I've completely cleared the living room."

  I looked around the place, now a vision of setup pandemonium. "You'resure this is all right?"

  "Well . . ." She was biting at her lip. "Maybe we ought to talk first,okay? But come on in. I'll probably do it. Maybe I just need a goodreason to. . . ."

  As her voice trailed off, I found myself mining my brain for a salespoint. Finally, out of the blue, I settled on one. "Because you'retotally crazy?"

  She laughed out loud. "Not a bad start. I live in total madness. It'sthe definition of my life."

  I laughed too and looked around. No kidding. Her loft apartment was awild mixture of stairs and galleries and levels--unconventional inevery way. Also, it had a lot of in-your-face decor, outrageousposters, and African fertility masks, signs of a wonderful, irreverentpersonality. Then too, stuffed animals and toys were strewn all over.

  "I can't really afford the rent," she declared, seeing me survey theplace, "but I need the space for Kevin. I've just joined Bloomingdale'sAnonymous. Twelve steps to shredding your charge plates."

  Her nanny, a Jehovah's Witness from Jamaica named Marcy (who remindedme of a cuddly voodoo doll, complete with cornrows), was bringingCarly's little boy Kevin down from his bath in the upstairs bathroom.

  He was definitely adopted, sandy-haired and peachy, nothing likeCarly's dark, severe strands and Mediterranean skin. When Marcy put himdown, he tried to walk, and I felt my envy ratchet upward a notch. He'djust started taking tentative steps, at eleven months old, and therewas still a Frankenstein quality as he strode stiff-legged, arms outfor balance.

  I walked over, picked him up, and gave him a kiss. He looked like aScandinavian travel poster, a cherubic vision, and I felt a great voidgrowing where my heart had been. Then Marcy reached out and pried himfrom me. I hated to let him go so much I almost pulled him back.

  "You're so lucky," I said to Carly, feeling a surge of yearning. "He'sgreat."

  "You know," she said, "I've been thinking about that 'no disclosure'thing Children of Light made me sign. That's their name, by the way.Like a vow of silence about them. They seemed pretty serious about it."

  Dear God, I thought, don't let her chicken out. Don't, don't.

  "So, we won't mention them. Just never use their name."

  She stood a minute, mute, and then her eyes grew determined. "No, I'vegot a better idea. I like you. And I think more single women ought toknow about adoption. So you know what? I think I'll use their name allover the damned place. I paid what they asked, and for that I ought tobe able to do what I want. What are they going to do? Come and stealKevin back?"

  Then she sighed and stared at me. "Maybe, though, you could run throughagain how exactly we fit into this movie."

  I liked to tell the story to people, just to get their reaction. Thereare always moments of doubt in the film-making process when you wonderif the audience for your picture is going to consist entirely of yourimmediate family, your backers, and your creditors.

  "Well, as I tried to explain before, it's a fictional constructintended to feel like a documentary, about a career slave named GailCrea who's based on a hundred women I know. She's got a great career,manages fund-raising for a major museum, and work is going great. Butthen one day she finds herself suddenly daydreaming about babies,envying mothers. She yearns for someone to take care of, has arecurrent dream she's stealing a baby out of a carriage on the street.It's demeaning."

  "God," Carly said, "I know exactly what you're talking about. I've beenthere. Have I ever."

  The truth was, I also knew it all too well. It was poignant anddemeaning at the same time.

  "Anyway, Gail's focused on career all through her twenties, and by herlate thirties she's become a serious professional. But her personallife is still on hold. She 'meets people' at work, or some other way,and she has a couple of long-standing relationships that finally craterbecause the guys, make that commit-ophobes, 'need space.' Along theway, there're ghastly fix-ups and dismal dinners with what seem like ahundred thousand misfits. She becomes the Dating Queen of New York, buteventually she realizes all the men she's meeting are either assuagingtheir midlife crises with some pneumatic bombshell named Bambi, orthey're divorced and whining and carrying a ton of emotional baggage.The fact is, she's become the sensible, successful professional she'sbeen looking for all this time. This all sort of seeps in as backstory."

  I perched on a stool at the breakfast bar and looked down at my jeans,and noticed that a rip was starting in the crotch. Shit, back tocottage cheese. Those horrible eight pounds I could never get rid of.

  I crossed my legs. "Finally, after she gets a couple more promotions,she wakes up one morning and realizes she's never going to have afamily. All the stable, rational men have disappeared. Like there's ablack hole or something. Nothing's left but the walking wounded. Sheconcludes it's actually easier to get a baby than a decent guy--whichis what she starts trying to do. High concept: This picture is abouthow adopting a baby can enrich the life of a childless human being and,not coincidentally, bring joy to an orphaned infant."

  I remembered when I'd first pitched it to David Roth of Applecore. Hisresponse had been; "Definitely art-house. Probably never get past theAngelika. A wide release is gonna be three screens where they serveiced cappuccino."

  I was dead set to prove him wrong.

  "So," I wound up, "I've shot the entire film, but now, thinking itover, I've decided there's one last thing I need to do. As I go throughthe story, at every step of the adoption process I want to cut to aninterview, just talking heads, tight shot, of somebody who actuallywent through it. Nonfiction. The real-life happy ending. And that'swhere you come in."

  What I wasn't telling her was, I was increasingly concerned the picturemight be slightly hollow without this punch of real life.

  "Well," Carly declared with a grin, "my ending couldn't be happier."

  "Okay, want to get started?" I looked around at Arlene, makeup, whoalways seemed to have more on her face than in her bag. I kidded herabout that a lot. But she was actually the one who had found Carly,bumping into her at a gym in the Village.

  "Hey, let's go for it." Arlene grinned.

  I turned back to Carly. "So how's about we prep a little while you'regetting the 'natural' look?"

  In the back of my mind I knew what I wanted for the interview.Something like the feeling I remembered from _The Thin Blue Line_,where people engaged in Hamlet-like monologues that told us more aboutthem than they themselves knew, that let us really know their secretsand their fears. The interviewer was never seen or heard.

  Arlene ensconced Carly at the dining room table, a weathered countryFrench, where she'd already unfolded and plugged in a mirror withlights.

  "Having Kevin has been wonderful," Carly began. "He's changed my life.Sure, being a single 'supermom' makes for a lot of bad-hair days, butno matter how much I complain, it's worth every burp."

  I thought momentarily about having her hold him during the interview,but instantly decided it would be too distracting. Kevin and hiswonderful eyes would commandeer the camera. A kid this cute in a scenewas nothing less than grand larceny.

  He came toddling in now, dragging a stuffed brown bear. Then he bangedits head and tried to say its name. "Benny." His funny, awkward walkreminded me a little of Lou Crenshaw after a couple of drinks. God, hewas fantastic.

  "Come here, sweetie." I picked him up, inhaling his fresh baby scent,and wanted to hold him forever--while he slammed the bear against myface. This child, I thought, is too good to be true.

  He was wearing a small bracelet around his left ankle, a tiny littlechain, with a small silver medallion attached. It looked like the faceof a cat. Funny. Carly didn't have a cat, wasn't a cat person, so whythe little bracelet? And the back had a bunch of lines and dots, like ajumbled-up Morse code.

  Ask her about that, I thought. But later.

  Now Carly was caught up in the sound of her own voice and on a roll.While Arlene continued with the makeup, moving to her eyes, she bubbledon.

  "Like I told you on the phone, I tried and tried to adopt, through awhole bunch of lawyers, but it was a nightmare. One guy even helped meput ads in newspapers all around the country, but nothing worked. Ikept getting scammed by women who wanted thousands of dollars up front,then backed out at the last minute." She was getting up, lookingintense. "Let me have a minute. I want to make coffee for everybody."

  I followed her into the kitchen, which was the "country" type with afaux granite counter and lots of copper-bottomed pans hanging from theceiling.

  She was right about the pain of adoption, which was why her story wassuch a burst of sunshine. As part of the start-up research for mypicture, I'd actually gone to meet an adoption attorney out inBrooklyn, a sleazy-looking guy named Frank Brasco. I'd been pretendingto be a client, to find out firsthand how tough it really was. What Iheard was chilling.

  "I don't want to get your hopes up," he'd declared for cheery openers."Finding a healthy, Caucasian, American baby is virtually out of thequestion, so naturally we focus on foreign-borns. All the same, it cantake years, and there's incredible paperwork. Passports for the kid, anextended visa for you while you go there and then wait around toprocess everything in triplicate. Bribes, corruption, you can'timagine." He sighed and adjusted his toupee, as though the very thoughtmade him weary. "And that's just the foreign end. Here you have theINS, the Immigration and Naturalization Service. They givebean-counting paper-pushers a bad name." He examined me closely. "NotJewish, I take it. 'Cause if that's what you're looking for, you mayhave to wait for the Messiah."

  Now, almost a year and a lot of experience later, I knew full well howright he was. Which was what made Carly's story so fantastic.

  "So how did you manage to get Kevin? You said it only took a fewmonths?"

  "Well, to go back to the beginning, I didn't start out wanting toadopt. But when the guy I was planning to marry got cold feet--afterfour and a half years, the louse--and there was nobody else on thehorizon, I decided to just have a baby on my own. You know, find somesmart, good-looking hunk, seduce him, and get things going theold-fashioned way, or if that didn't work, then I figured I'd just goto a sperm bank. Who needs an actual man, right?"

  She took out a white and green bag of coffee beans, labeled Balducci'son the side. I was still holding Kevin, who threw Benny onto the floor,then began to sniffle and point.

  But Carly seemed not to notice as she shook the coffee beans into thegrinder. "Well, getting a baby the fun way turned out to be moot,because it seems I have some kind of uterine condition--which meant Icouldn't get pregnant, or even do an in vitro. Bottom line, if I wanteda baby, I had to adopt."

  She pressed the button on the coffee grinder, sending a blast ofwhirring through the kitchen. In seconds it was over and she wastapping the batch into her Braun. "So that's when I started on theattorney thing, got worked over good trying to adopt as a single mom,and finally heard about Children of Light."

  "The adoption organization? What do you know about them?"

  "Tell you the main thing," she said, "they're the place that can makeit happen." She reached over and poked Kevin's tummy. "Right, big guy?"

  Sure looked that way. What a cutie.

  By now the spacious living room had been turned into a mini film set,with two 35-mm Panaflex cameras set up, windows blanked out, lights andfilters in place, and a video camera and monitor. Having tested theboom mike and the tape recorder, Tony and Sherry were ready.

  Carly announced to everybody that coffee was available, and I handedKevin over to Marcy. Then together we marched into the living room.

  "Okay," I told her, "we're going to be filming, but ignore that fact.Just look into the back of the camera and talk to it as though it wereme."

  "Hey." She grinned. "You're dealing with a pro. This is my thing."

  I looked around at the cameras and the grips. "Okay, guys. Roll sound."There was a retort as the clap stick used for synching whacked out thestart of the shoot. "Scene one, take one, Carly Grove interview."

  She proceeded to hit the ground running, recounting in great detail herstory of many disappointments. She finally got to the point where shewas trying to adopt the baby of a woman in a Memphis jail, and theneven that fell through.

  "Which was when my main lawyer, Chuck, just gave up and recommended Ihock the family silver, take a Valium, and try this place calledChildren of Light. Where you go when all else fails. So I gave them acall."

  "And what happened?" It sounded too good to be true. "Did they seem . .. in any way unusual?"

  She looked at me, as though puzzled by the question. Then she shruggedit off. "Well, first they tried to get me to check into theirclinic--it's this place up the Hudson--to let them see if my'condition' could be cured somehow, using his special techniques."

  "His?"

  "Goddard. Dr. Alex Goddard. He's a kinda spacey guy, but he's thebig-shot presiding guru there." She remembered the camera and turnedback to it. "I told his staff I didn't have that kind of time, andanyway nothing could be done. They were pretty insistent, so Ieventually ended up talking to the man himself. He sort of mesmerizesyou, but I finally said, forget it, it's adoption or nothing. So hejust sent me back to the peons. Checkbook time."

  I stared at her, hungry for details, but she didn't notice, justpressed on.

  "The money they wanted, I have to tell you, was staggering. Sixtythousand. And believe me, they don't give revolving credit."

  I thought about the figure. It was the highest I'd heard for getting ababy, but it wasn't totally off-the-wall. Terrific babies don't dropfrom trees.

  Carly was still going strong. "It took me almost half a year toscrounge it together. A lot of credit lines got maxed. But when Ifinally did plunk down the loot, sure enough, I had Kevin in less thanthree months. I don't even know where he came from. They took care ofall that, but I do know it was probably out of the country, because ofthe blank INS forms I signed. But then, who cares? With a deal thisgood, you don't press for details, right?"

  Carly Grove had a mutual love affair with the camera. The footage wasgoing to be fabulous. The only problem was, it sounded like an"infomercial" for the adoption miracle wrought by this doctor namedGoddard.

  When the interview began to wind down, losing its punch, I suggested wecall it a day. With the time pushing two o'clock, I wanted to get thefilm to the lab, get it developed, and take a look at the rushes. Ialso had a doctor's appointment, not to mention a meeting with David tobring him up to speed on what I was doing. But surely he was going tobe pleased. The interview, with Carly's honest intensity, would givethe picture spine and guts. Just as I'd hoped.

  You could always tell by the reaction of the crew. Even Roger Drexel,who usually hid his thoughts somewhere in his scraggly beard, wasletting his eyes sparkle behind his Panaflex. Scott was also grinningas he struck the lights and Cafiero ripped up the power lines, nowtaped to the floor. Everybody was in wrap mode, flushed with a greatshoot.

  I followed Carly into the kitchen, where Marcy was feeding Kevin someGerber applesauce. The time had come, I thought, to spring the next bigquestion, out of earshot of the crew.

  "I hate to put you on the spot, but do you know any other women likeyou, single, who've adopted through Children of Light?" I decided toexperiment with the truth. "God knows, depending on what happens in myown situation, I'm . . . I'm thinking I might even want to check themout for myself."

  "What do you mean?" She gave me a quick, concerned look.

  "Maybe I'd like to talk to them about adopting too." I realized I wasbabbling, my usual prelude to obsessing.

  Carly's worried gaze eased up a bit, but she started twisting at herhair.

  "Well, I might have another name. When my lawyer first told me aboutthem, he gave me the name of another woman who'd adopted from them, andI talked to her a little about how they worked. She'd just gotten herbaby, so I guess she was about six months ahead of me in the process.Her name was . . . I think it was Pauline or Paula or something. She'sprobably not the kind of person who'd take their 'no disclosure' crapall that seriously. She was adopting a girl, and she lives somewhere onthe Upper West Side."

  "Any idea how I could find her?"

  "You know, she wrote kids' books, and I think she gave me her card. Incase I ever needed somebody to do some YA copy. Let me go look in myRolodex. I filed her card under 'Y' for Young Adult. Right. It'll justtake a second."

  The woman, whose name was Paula Marks, lived on West 83rd Street. Thebusiness card, a tasteful brown with a weave in the paper, describedher as an author. The address included a "suite" number, which meantshe worked out of her apartment.

  "Mind if I take down her phone number and address? I'd really like tolook her up. To see if her experience was anything remotely like yours."

  Carly gazed at her fingernails a second. "Okay, but do me a favor.Don't tell her how you got her number." She bit her lip, stalling."It's one thing for me to talk to you myself. It's something elseentirely to go sticking my nose into other people's business."

  "Look, I'll respect her privacy just as much as I respect yours." Ipaused, listening to what I'd just said. The promise sounded prettylame. I'd just filmed her, or hadn't she noticed? "Look, let me callPaula, see if she'll agree to be interviewed on camera. I'll keep yourname entirely out if it, I promise."

  She reached down and plucked Kevin out of his high chair, kissed him onhis applesauce-smeared cheek, then hugged him. "Sorry. Guess I'm beinga little paranoid. I shouldn't invite you here, then give you a hardtime about what you're going to do, or not do. I can't have it bothways."

  In the ensuing tumult and confusion of the wrap, I did manage to getone more item from Carly Grove. The address and phone number ofChildren of Light. But I completely forgot the one thing I'd beenmeaning to ask about. That little amulet, with the strange cat's faceand the lines and dots on the back. Why was Kevin wearing it? And bythe time I got to the street, surrounded by the clamor of crew andequipment, it seemed too inconsequential to go back and bother with.

 
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