Page 31

 Sara Shepard

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The train descended into a tunnel, and the passengers began to stand. “Penn Station next,” a conductor’s voice blared over the loudspeaker. Spencer grabbed her canvas shoulder bag and got in line with the others. When she emerged into the great hall, she looked around. The signs to the subways, the taxis, and the exits were a jumble. Pulling her purse close to her side, she followed the crowd up a long elevator to the street. Cabs jammed the broad avenue. Lights flashed in her face. The gray buildings rose into the sky.
Spencer flagged down a cab. “Two twenty-three Perry Street,” she told the driver when she got in. The driver nodded, then veered into traffic, turning up the sports station on the radio. Spencer jiggled up and down giddily, wanting to tell him that she lived here, that she was going to her brand-new apartment, and that it was right around the corner from her mom’s.
The cab driver ambled down Seventh Avenue and turned into the mazelike streets of the West Village. When he took a right onto Perry, Spencer sat up straighter. It was a beautiful street. Old, well-maintained brownstones lined each side. A girl about Spencer’s age in a gorgeous winter white wool coat and a big fur hat passed, walking a labradoodle on a leash. The cab crept by a gourmet cheese shop, a store that sold musical instruments, and a quaint school, its tiny playground behind a polished iron fence. Spencer studied the printouts she’d made of the photos Michael Hutchins had sent the other day. Her future home might just be on the very next block. She scanned the street in anticipation.
“Miss?” The cab driver swiveled around, eyeing her. Spencer jumped. “Did you say two twenty-three Perry?”
“Two twenty-three Perry, that’s right.” Spencer had the address memorized.
The driver peered out the window. He wore thick glasses and had a pen tucked behind his ear. “There is no two twenty-three Perry. It would be in the Hudson.”
Sure enough, they were at the very west end of Manhattan. Across the West Side Highway was a promenade, full of walkers and bikers. Beyond that was the Hudson River. Beyond that was New Jersey.
“Oh.” Spencer frowned. She rifled through her notes. Michael hadn’t included the address in his e-mail, nor could she find the doodle from the other day. “Well, maybe I got the address wrong. You can let me off here.”
She thrust a couple of bills at the driver and got out. The cab took a right at the light, and Spencer whirled around, puzzled. She started walking east, crossing Washington, then Greenwich. Michael had told her that the apartment was right around the corner from Marc Jacobs, which was at Perry and Bleecker. The numbers of the buildings around it were 92 Perry. Eighty-four Perry. Had the apartment’s address been one of those?
She kept walking up Perry to make sure, but the numbers on the apartment buildings kept going down, not up. She made sure to look at each building carefully, trying to match it with the building from the photos, but none looked quite right. Eventually, she hit the intersection of Perry Street and Greenwich Avenue. The street ended in a T. Across the street, Perry was nowhere to be seen—there was a restaurant called Fiddlesticks Pub & Grill instead.
Spencer’s heart began to race. It felt as if she’d been plopped into a reccurring dream she’d had since second grade, the one where a teacher announced a surprise test, and while the other students eagerly began to fill in the answers, Spencer couldn’t even decipher the questions.
She pulled out her cell phone, trying to keep calm, and dialed Michael’s number. There was obviously an explanation for this.
A recording of an operator’s voice blared through the receiver—the number she had dialed had been disconnected. Spencer dug around in her bag and found Michael’s card. She keyed in his number again, repeating it back to herself to make sure she hadn’t transposed any digits. There was the same recorded message. Spencer held the phone outstretched, pain radiating at her temples.
Maybe he changed phone numbers, she told herself.
Then, she dialed Olivia’s number. But Olivia’s phone just rang and rang. Spencer held her finger on the end button for a long time. This didn’t necessarily mean anything, either—only that Olivia must not have an international calling plan.
A woman pushing a baby carriage veered out of her way, struggling to hold a bunch of grocery bags upright. When Spencer looked down the street, she noticed Olivia’s new apartment building gleaming in the distance. She started walking for it, invigorated anew. Perhaps Olivia had another number for Michael somewhere. Perhaps the doorman would let Spencer upstairs for a little peek into Olivia’s penthouse.
A woman in a bright blue wool coat exited the apartment building’s revolving doors. Two more people went in, carrying gym bags. Spencer pushed through the door after them, walking into a marble atrium. At the far end of the room was a bank of three elevators. There was an old-school dial above each of them, telling which floor the cars were on. The room smelled like fresh flowers, and there was classical music playing quietly over a hidden speaker.
The concierge at the front desk wore a pristine gray suit and rimless eyeglasses. He gave Spencer a weary smile as she approached. “Um, hi,” Spencer said, hoping her voice didn’t sound too young and naïve. “I’m looking for a woman who recently moved in here. Her name is Olivia. She’s in Paris right now, but I’m wondering if I could get into her apartment for a moment.”
“Sorry,” the concierge said dryly, returning to his paperwork. “I can’t let you up unless I have the tenant’s permission.”
Spencer frowned. “But…she’s my mom. Her name is Olivia Caldwell.”
The concierge shook his head. “No one named Olivia Caldwell lives here.”
Spencer tried to ignore the sudden, gnawing pain in her stomach. “Maybe she doesn’t go by her maiden name. She might go by Olivia Frick. Her husband’s name is Morgan Frick.”
The concierge gave her a withering look. “No one named Olivia anything lives here. I know every resident in this building.”
Spencer stepped back, glancing at a line of gilded mailboxes on the far wall. There had to be two hundred units in this place. How could this guy honestly know every single person? “She just moved in,” she pressed. “Can you check?”
The concierge sighed, then reached for a spiral-bound black book. “This is a list of the tenants in the building,” he explained. “What did you say her last name was?”
“Caldwell. Or Frick.”
The concierge flipped to the C’s, then to the F’s. “Nope. There’s no one under either of those names. Look for yourself.”
He pushed the book across the desk. Spencer leaned over, looking. There was a Caldecott and a Caleb, but no Caldwell. There was a Frank and a Friel, but no Frick. Her whole body went hot, then cold. “This can’t be right.”
The concierge sniffed and returned the book to its shelf. A black phone on the front desk let out a bleat. “Excuse me.” He picked up the receiver and spoke in a low, polite voice.
Spencer spun around, pressing her palm to her forehead. Two women toting Barneys shopping bags burst through the revolving doors, laughing loudly. A man walking a shaggy Bernese mountain dog came in and joined them at the elevator bank. Spencer was dying to slip in with them, ride the elevator up to the top floor and…and what? Break into Olivia’s penthouse to prove she really lived here?
Andrew’s voice swirled in her head. Don’t you think you’re moving a little fast? I don’t want you to get hurt.
No. The tenant book hadn’t been recently updated—Olivia and Morgan had just moved in. And Olivia’s phone wasn’t ringing because she was out of the country. And Michael Hutchins’s number was out of order because he’d unexpectedly changed it. Spencer’s apartment did exist. She was going to move into an apartment on Perry Street, the best block in the Village, next week, to live happily ever after within a few blocks from her honest-to-God biological mom. This wasn’t too good to be true.
Was it?
Spencer’s skin felt braised. Either give Long-Lost Mommy a rest and keep searching for what really happened…or pay my price, A had said. Beyond halfheartedly telling the others that A had sent her a second note, Spencer hadn’t searched for Ali’s true killer at all. What if this was A’s price? A knew she was looking for her birth mother. Perhaps A had a team of people under his or her control. A woman called Olivia. A man who posed as a Realtor, inventing an apartment at 223 Perry Street without looking at a map for accuracy. A had known Spencer wanted a family who loved her badly enough to risk everything, even her college education.
She turned away from the front desk in the lobby, fumbling for her Sidekick. In a few clicks, she was logging into the account she’d found on her dad’s computer. It felt as if she couldn’t get a deep breath. Please, she whispered under her breath. This can’t be happening.
A statement popped onto the screen. There was Spencer’s name, address, and account number. The balance was in red font at the bottom. When she saw it, Spencer’s stomach heaved. Her vision narrowed until all she saw was the figure before her. It wasn’t many zeros…just one.
The account had been cleared out, down to the very last penny.
Saturday night, Hanna sat at her dressing table, sweeping the last touches of bronzer across her cheeks. The black, lace-lined Rachel Roy sheath dress she’d bought for the Radley party fit her perfectly, snug but not too snug around her waist and hips. She’d been way too busy competing for Mike this week to succumb to her usual Cheez-It binges. If only the Mike Montgomery diet came in a bottle.
There was a knock on her door, and Hanna jumped. Her dad stood in the doorway to her bedroom, dressed in a black V-neck sweater and jeans. “Going somewhere?” he asked.
Hanna swallowed hard, gazing at her made-up reflection in the mirror. She doubted her dad would buy that she was spending a quiet night in. “There’s an opening for this big hotel outside town,” she admitted.
“Is that why Kate’s door is shut too? You’re both going together?”
Hanna set down her makeup brush, resisting the urge to smile. They weren’t going together, because Hanna had won Mike all to herself. Ha. “Not exactly,” she said instead, reining her feelings in.
Mr. Marin perched on the edge of her bed. Dot tried to jump on his lap, but he swished him away. “Hanna…”
Hanna looked at him pleadingly. He was going to enforce the punishment now? “I have a date. It would be weird if she came with us. I’ve learned my lesson, I swear.”
Mr. Marin cracked his knuckles, a habit Hanna had always hated. “Who’s the guy?”
“Just…” She sighed. “Actually, he’s Aria’s younger brother.”
“Aria Montgomery?” Mr. Marin squinted, thinking. The only time Hanna recalled her dad meeting Mike was when he’d taken Hanna, Aria, and the others to a music festival at Penn’s Landing—Aria had had to drag Mike along because Mr. and Mrs. Montgomery were out of town. While they were watching one of the acts, Mike vanished. They frantically searched for him all over the grounds, finally tracking him down at the snack bar. He was hitting on one of the Pennsylvania Dutch girls who made the funnel cake.