Read an Excerpt
NOWHERE TO RUN
By MARY JANE CLARK
ST. MARTIN'S PRESS Copyright © 2003 Mary Jane Clark
All right reserved.
Chapter One As Mike slid back into their bed, Annabelle got out of it, not bothering to ask him where he'd been or what he'd been doing. Another sleepless night for him, another lonely one for her. It was the rhythm of their lives now. Closing the bedroom door behind her, she switched on the lamps to brighten the early morning grayness and headed for the kitchen. Two plastic lunch boxes, one red, one blue, lay open on the counter. Annabelle placed a bologna sandwich, a bag of pretzels, and a small box of raisins inside each one and tucked a paper napkin on top. As the kettle whistle began to hiss, she whisked it from the burner, lest its screech wake the kids. She had fifteen minutes before she had to rouse Thomas and Tara to get ready for school. Fifteen minutes of treasured quiet that she was not eager to give up. She wrapped her fingers around the warmth of the ceramic mug and took a sip of the steaming green tea, wincing as the scalding liquid hit her tongue. The taste did nothing for her, but she took comfort in the idea that it was good for her, that she was doing something to fortify and cleanse herself. She knew she had to take care of Annabelle. No one else was going to now. With Mike the way he was, if she got sick too, the whole house of cards would come tumbling down. In bare feet, she padded across the living room and switched on the television set, making sure to keep the volume down. Her piece was scheduled to air during the first half hour of KEY to America, and she didn't want to miss it. This one had been a bear. It had entailed doing hours of research on an unfamiliar subject, obtaining the proper permissions to shoot, setting up for interviews and ordering video material, writing the script because her correspondent was too busy and preoccupied to do it himself, and working extra hours to make sure the story was edited on time. Right now, John Lee, M.D., KEY News medical correspondent, would be sitting uptown in the Broadcast Center, having his makeup applied, champing at the bit to go on national television and take all the credit for her hard work.
But that was what it was to be Lee's producer. While Annabelle thought Lee was an ambitious horse's behind, less devoted to the Hippocratic oath than to parlaying his national television visibility into book deals, product endorsements, and an even bigger TV contract the next time around, she accepted her role of making him look good. She wanted to keep this job. She needed it. Mike's disability payments from the city weren't enough to keep their family going. As the theme music of the morning news program began to play, Annabelle marveled that she was working at KEY News again. When she left after two miscarriages, followed by fertility treatments that led to the birth of the twins, she hadn't expected to return full-time to the Broadcast Center ever again. She had worked too hard to have her babies, and she wanted to enjoy raising them. Mike's salary and overtime from the fire department, her occasional freelance producing or writing assignments, and a precious rent-stabilized apartment had allowed them to get by for the last six years.
It had been a golden time.
A strong, vital husband, with a great sense of humor and a quick wit, two healthy children, and a home full of warmth and laughter. Annabelle was glad, now, as she pulled her red flannel robe closer around her and gazed out the window, that she had appreciated those days, lived them fully, reveled in them. So oblivious were they of what was to come. Annabelle watched below as a lumbering street-cleaning truck brushed litter and dirt from the Perry Street curb, while a few early risers strode purposefully toward their destinations. A fat black pigeon landed on the railing of the iron fire escape. A morning like so many others in Greenwich Village, before and after everything happened. A quick glance at the clock on the bookcase told her that it was time to go in and wake the kids. She turned up the volume on the television set to ensure that she would hear the lead-in to her piece and headed to the twins' bedroom.
As she beheld the two little heads that lay cradled against the Barney pillowcases, Annabelle stopped, wondering yet again if she would ever get over the magic of having these fabulous creatures in her life. Rough-and-tumble Thomas, so quick to laugh, so eager to please. Thoughtful and artistic Tara, quieter and more complicated than her brother but, as Annabelle's mother used to say, "full of the devil." Two children who were conceived in such love and hope, and whose existence had exceeded their parents' most cherished dreams. She smiled and shook her head as she watched Thomas raise his thumb to his mouth in sleep. During the day, her son was trying so hard to break the habit, but he was addicted to the comfort of it. In the whole scheme of things, what did it really matter, she asked herself, watching his gullet move beneath the soft skin of his throat as he sucked. He would give it up when he was ready to give it up. As a matter of fact, sometimes she felt like crawling under the covers and sucking her thumb herself. But she couldn't. Thomas and Tara needed at least one parent who was acting like one. She hated herself for the resentment she had been feeling lately. At first, she had been understanding of and sympathetic to Mike's uncharacteristic dark moods and long, chilly silences. After what he had been through, it was all too predictable that he'd shut down. He'd been there, seen it, lost close friends, and attended too many funerals to count. The ghosts of the dead hovered in the firehouse. But his depression had been going on for too long now. Though Mike was dutifully attending his mandatory counseling sessions, "cuckoo time" he called it, Annabelle didn't see any improvement. He didn't want to leave the apartment, didn't want to ride an elevator, shuddered when he heard an airplane fly overhead. What hurt her most was observing his lack of interest in the children and seeing the puzzled, hurt expressions on their faces when Daddy refused to give them their baths or read them a favorite bedtime story. It fell on Annabelle to plug all the parental gaps and explain to the twins that, while Daddy wasn't feeling well now, he would surely be better soon, soothing them as she tried to convince herself.
She hoped the medication would kick in soon. It had been over two weeks since Mike had started on the new prescription. There had been no change Annabelle could observe.
She bent down and touched her daughter's thin shoulder. Tara's round, blue eyes popped open. The child was disoriented for only a moment, quickly recognizing her mother's face and taking in her surroundings. She sat upright, brushing her fine, tangled brown hair back from her forehead, and reached for the cardboard shoe box she had carefully placed at the foot of the twin bed the night before.
"There it is, honey. All set for show-and-tell today." "Good," said the child, opening the lid and inspecting the contents, as she had so many times before going to sleep last night.
"You did a beautiful job on those, Tara, you really did." Annabelle reached in to take one of the painted leaves from the box. As she examined it, she uttered a silent prayer of thanks that Mrs. Nuzzo had taken the kids to the playground yesterday afternoon, scouring it for the dried leaves and then supervising the painting activities. Every Thursday's show-and-tell got to be a real challenge for the parents, coming up with something new for the kids to bring in to share with the first-grade class. Annabelle had been relieved when she got home late from work the night before that this was one parental task she was being spared. Yet another part of her was envious of Mrs. Nuzzo. Gathering leaves with her children and sitting at the kitchen table to decorate them sounded exceedingly sweet.
"Thomas, big guy, time to get up." The boy pulled his thumb from his mouth and clamped his eyelids shut. "Come on, Thomas. If you get up right away, we'll have time to have French toast," Annabelle cajoled. "Otherwise it's Cheerios again."
"And sausage?" the child asked, keeping his eyes closed.
Annabelle fought the temptation to lie to him as an incentive to get him out of bed. "No, honey, sausage is for the weekend. But the French toast will be all nice and warm and syrupy. Just the way you like it. Come on now, get up." The child gave in to the inevitable, swinging his pajama-clad legs over the side of his bed and pulling his knit Spider Man-emblazoned top over his head. Annabelle left the kids to dress themselves in the clothes they had laid out the night before as she heard Constance Young's voice coming from the TV in the living room. Blond, expertly made up, and dressed in an electric blue suit, Constance was looking great again this morning. Annabelle was proud of the friend she had made in her first life at KEY News, when they'd both been starting out, Annabelle as a researcher and Constance as a young reporter. Constance had stayed the course, covering long stakeouts, volunteering for the stories none of the seasoned correspondents wanted to do, paying her dues. While Annabelle was home with her kids, Constance had devoted herself to her professional passion. Now she was cohosting the nation's highly rated morning program and making seven figures a year. Constance was beautiful, smart, successful, and unhateable because she was such a damned nice person.
If not for Constance, Annabelle doubted that she would be working at KEY News again. It was Constance who, upon hearing what was going on with Annabelle, put in the good word to the executive producer Linus Nazareth to hire her. Annabelle knew the producer had no use for mommy trackers, and she was sure Nazareth had decided to take her on just to keep his popular star happy. If Constance Young wanted Annabelle, then Annabelle was in.
Annabelle had been working her tail off to prove herself and satisfy Nazareth's latest ringing directive to "make bioterrorism sexy. Seduce me. Tell me why I should care and what I can do to save myself. Keep me and all the mommies at home riveted to our television sets lest our babies lose their lives." With those twisted marching orders, Annabelle had been forced to become all too knowledgeable about botulism, smallpox, tularemia, and plague. As she cracked eggs over the rim of a stainless-steel mixing bowl, Annabelle listened to Constance's introduction. "Now, in our continuing series 'What you need to know about bioterrorism,' KEY News Medical Correspondent Dr. John Lee reports this morning on anthrax. You may be surprised at what he's found." Annabelle turned to watch as the videotape rolled and a cluster of rod-shaped bacteria lit up the television screen. "Anthrax is the perfect killer, invisible and silent," began Dr. Lee's smooth voice. "But actually anthrax is a livestock disease and, usually, humans contract it through contact with diseased animals or their hides." The image on the television switched to a medical textbook picture of an ugly, black scab on a human hand. "Though anthrax spores can be ingested if infected livestock is eaten, most human infection, ninety-five percent of it, is through skin contact-what we call cutaneous anthrax. A small pimple or ulcer grows into a coal-like lesion. In fact, anthrax got its name because an infection looks like anthracite or coal. The good news is, while potentially deadly, cutaneous anthrax is highly treatable with antibiotics.
"But by far the deadliest form of anthrax is inhalation anthrax. Once someone has breathed anthrax spores into their lungs, flulike symptoms will appear. A fever, cough, body aches-symptoms that don't normally send you running to the doctor. But if there is no aggressive antibiotic treatment, the fever will elevate, breathing will become labored, and the body will go into shock."
The doctor Annabelle had interviewed the week before at New York Hospital was identified on the screen and offered his expertise: "When this severe stage sets in, it is almost always too late for a cure." Now, Lee appeared on the screen and began walking through a laboratory. "But anthrax, as it exists in nature, is not the perfect weapon. Purifying and concentrating the anthrax spores and weaponizing them, causing those purified spores to separate so they can linger in the air and be inhaled, requires real laboratory skill. There is no way to account for all the anthrax strains that exist. Hundreds of scientists and technicians can get ahold of anthrax, and they know how to weaponize it."
The medical correspondent paused to rest his hand on a piece of machinery on the lab bench. "One of the steps in making the powdered, airy form of anthrax is freeze-drying the spores. A tabletop freeze dryer can be purchased for under eight thousand dollars. So you see, the notion that only a state-sponsored biological weapons program could produce weapons-grade anthrax is a misconception." As the report ended, Thomas came out of the bedroom, shoes in hand. Annabelle bent down to tie his sneaker but looked up in time to catch Dr. Lee, live on the set, holding up a tiny vial of white powder. "Constance, we'd all like to think that anthrax is so dangerous, so deadly, that it must be well guarded, impossible, we hope, for anyone with evil intentions to get his hands on. But what I have here is a test tube containing weapons-grade anthrax. I can't tell you how I got it, but if I could get it, so could other people. This is a weapon you can use and you can hide." Annabelle watched openmouthed, not believing what she was seeing. The camera closed in on the vial, then pulled back to Constance, who shrank back in her seat across from the medical correspondent.
"What's wrong, Mommy?" asked Thomas.
"Nothing, sweetie. But Daddy is going to have to get up and walk you guys to school this morning. Mommy has to get in to work."
Chapter Two The president of KEY News sat at her kitchen table, drinking her second cup of black coffee and scanning the OpEd page of The New York Times while keeping an ear on the television set playing in the background. "... What I have here is a test tube containing weapons-grade anthrax. I can't tell you how I got it, but if I could get it, so could other people."
Yelena Gregory's head whipped around to view the medical correspondent proudly displaying his booty. Linus had gone too far this time. She grabbed the telephone and punched in the numbers of the Broadcast Center control room.
"Gregory for Nazareth," she barked. It took three seconds for the executive producer to get on the line.
Excerpted from NOWHERE TO RUN by MARY JANE CLARK Copyright ©2003 by Mary Jane Clark. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.