KIDNAPPED: PART 5

 

Wednesday, 10:40 p.m.

The occupants of the car were silent as Tagliotta and LaTralla drove the Van Horns back to Washington Mews.

The FBI had dispatched a mini-army of agents to search the streets of Camden, New Jersey, block by block.  They’d found three apartment buildings numbered 865, but thorough searches hadn’t turned up Marius, and none of those three buildings had two large pine trees in a parking lot.  The computer guys were trying to figure out the exact location from which the electronic notes from “Marius” had been sent, but they weren’t having any luck; the ISP showed China, which pointed to a hoax.  But Tagliotta wasn’t giving up hope just yet.

Kwan and Murphy greeted them at the door of the Van Horns’ apartment.  Sitting in the living room were three people whom Tagliotta and LaTralla had interviewed late the night before in their Upper East Side apartments: Greta’s parents, Joelle and Quentin Jorgensen, and Nicholas’ widowed mother, Martha Van Horn.  Exhausted hugs were exchanged among parents and children.

“What are they doing here?  As if we don’t have enough to worry about,” Tagliotta whispered angrily to Murphy.

“They just showed up and said they wanted to be here,” Murphy replied.  “You can’t blame them, Rich.”

“Tell them not to get in the way,” Tagliotta growled.

LaTralla watched the gathering from the heirloom Louis XIV chair on which she was perched.  How, exactly, had those parents raised two people like Nicholas and Greta?  Mrs. Van Horn had been widowed early and had raised Nicholas on her own while running an import firm out of her tiny apartment on inconvenient York Avenue.  The Jorgensens were both academics, he teaching anthropology at Columbia, she teaching art history at Barnard.  How, exactly, had two Ph.D.’s managed to raise a blank-faced society woman who seemed to have no interests other than sleeping, doing drugs, and playing tennis?

But the greatest difference between the parents and their children, LaTralla thought, lay not in their personalities but in something else.  Watching the five adults across the room, LaTralla could read the same feelings on the faces of all three grandparents: grief, shock, worry, anger.  In contrast, their kids—Nicholas and Greta—just looked sort of…what?  Harried?  Inconvenienced? Guilty?

LaTralla whispered to Tagliotta.  “Look at them, Rich.  Look at them.  We’re going about this the wrong way.  We have to turn up the heat on Nicky and Gretsky.  They know more than they’re letting on.”

Tagliotta turned his gaze on the five adults.  “Which one do you want?”

“Him.”

“Good.  Because I want her.”

 

Thursday, 7:25 a.m.

The apartment phone hadn’t rung the entire night.  Tagliotta had sent LaTralla home at 2 a.m. to get some shut-eye.  Greta and Nicholas had gone to bed at eleven; so had the grandparents, who’d dispersed to the guest room and to Katrina’s room, which was empty while Katrina stayed with her family in Brooklyn.

Tagliotta’s cell phone vibrated at 7:25.  Maybe word from the FBI?  Had the boy been found in Jersey?  Please, please….

“Yeah?” Tagliotta barked.

It was LaTralla.  “I’m on my way up.  We’re going to find that kid today.”

A minute later, LaTralla was rapping on the front door.  Tagliotta let her in.

“Look at these,” she said, thrusting a sheaf of papers into Tagliotta’s hands.  “Cell phone records for Nicky and Gretsky.  They sat on your desk all last night because Charlesworth forgot to put them in a red envelope.”

Tagliotta shook his head in disgust and began leafing through the pages.  LaTralla stood by quietly, waiting for Tagliotta’s reaction to the names and numbers she’d highlighted in yellow.

“God damn it,” he whispered.

LaTralla nodded angrily.

Tagliotta snapped into action.  “Murphy, you and Kwan wait here for the call.  When everyone wakes up, send the grandparents home.  We’ve been indulgent enough, now it’s time for them to vamoose.”

On their way out of the apartment, Tagliotta asked LaTralla, “Who you going to see first?”

“Her.  What about your guy?”

“He’s French.  He’ll cave.  That’s what the French do.”

 

Thursday, 8:15 a.m.

According to her story, Greta had arrived home at 7:30 and hadn’t checked the messages on the apartment’s answering machine until 10 p.m., when her husband arrived home.  Then they’d listened to the messages together, which had led Greta to check her cell phone for messages and Nicholas to check his.

But the AT&T Wireless record told a different story.  Why had Greta used her cell phone to call her own apartment at 8:02 p.m.?  The doorman had confirmed Greta’s arrival at 7:30.  So that meant that Greta had called her home phone while in her apartment.  Could it be that Greta had listened to Katrina’s voice mail earlier than she let on, and had called her own phone so that the answering machine light would be blinking when Nicholas got home?  Nicholas had confirmed that he’d seen the light blinking.

The first question was: Were Greta and Nicholas in this together, or not?  If Tagliotta had to guess, he would have said not.  Unless they were extremely good actors, the two seemed entirely uninterested in each other’s lives.  But he didn’t care about the Van Horns’ marriage.  He cared about finding Marius.

The second question was: Why, after using her cell phone to call her apartment at 8:02, had she placed a phone call to Philippe D’Arget at 8:04?  When a kid gets kidnapped, the last person you’d expect a mother to call would be her tennis pro.

The manager of the ritzy Gotham Racquet Club installed Tagliotta in his office, then went to retrieve D’Arget.  Philippe arrived a few minutes later, looking artificially tan.  His teeth seemed an unnatural white, and he wore a pooka-shell choker that set Tagliotta’s teeth on edge.

“Sit, Mr. D’Arget.  You know why I’m here?”

“Yes.  You want to know if Greta Van Horn has any enemies at the club.”

“Does she?”

“None that I know of.  I spend time with my clients one on one, mostly.  I don’t really see them interact with other people.”

“I see.  Is your relationship with Greta Van Horn strictly teacher/student?”

Philippe hesitated for just a second.  “What do you mean?”

“Mr. D’Arget, kindly do not yank my chain.  You’re a walking stereotype.  The tan, the teeth, the accent, the necklace.  How many of your clients do you sleep with?”

“What I do with my clients, on my own time, is my own business.”

“And where do you live, Mr. d’Arget?”

“In the Village.”

“Yes, in a three-bedroom co-op, right?  That must cost you a pretty penny.  You can swing it on a tennis pro’s salary?”

“I manage my money wisely.”

“Any other sources of income?”

“That’s a private question.”

“OK, here’s another private question.  Why did Greta Van Horn call you at 8:04 p.m. on the night her son disappeared?”

After thinking a moment, Philippe said, “I would like to have an attorney.”

“Why do you need an attorney?  Have you done something wrong?”

“No.  But you’re very hostile, and I don’t like what you’re implying.”

“OK, then maybe instead of implying things, I should come right out tell you what I think.  I think that if we go to your apartment right now, we’ll find Marius Van Horn.”

Philippe’s jaw dropped open in shock.  “What?  That’s ridiculous.  What do I want with a kid?”

“You tell me.”

“I’ve never even met the boy.”

“Do you know how long you can go away for kidnapping and molestation?  A long, long time.”

“This is crazy.”  Philippe choked out the words.

“Should we go there now, then?  Give me a tour of your nice three-bedroom place and let me look in all the closets and other nooks where an eight-year-old could be gagged and blindfolded.”

“You’d need a search warrant for that.”

“Once I tell the judge about your phone call with Greta Van Horn, and show him the cell phone record as proof, he’ll give me a search warrant for any place you’ve been in the last three months.”

“I swear to God, he isn’t there.  I’ve never even seen the kid.  Except on TV and on the missing kid flyers.”

“If you’ve got nothing to hide, then why don’t you tell me about that phone call?”

“So we hook up once in a while.  It’s not a big deal.”

“You have sex with Greta Van Horn?”

“Yes.”

“And did you have sex with her the afternoon her son disappeared?”

Philippe nodded.  “And I do feel really bad about that.”

“Yeah, you have a real kind heart.  So you guys were in the sack while some perv was taking her kid.”

“I guess so.”

“And she called you…why?”

“She was afraid that once you guys started talking to her, you’d figure it out and everything would come out.  Obviously, she doesn’t want her husband to know.”

“From what I’ve seen, she doesn’t seem to care too much about what her husband thinks.”

“That’s where you’re wrong.  She needs his money.  Her parents have nothing except the clothes on their backs.  If he divorces her and there’s proof she was having an affair, she won’t get very much.”

“Yeah,” Tagliotta said.  “I know how things work.  Who knows about the two of you?”

“Just me and Greta.  I mean, I haven’t told anyone.  I never do.  The club frowns on it.  Maybe she told some of her friends, I don’t know.”

“The kidnapper told her she has to give up tennis if she wants her kid back.”

“I saw her say something about that on the news.”

“Where do you two have your trysts?”

“At my place.”

“So if I talked to your doorman, would he say Greta was at your place two days ago?”

“He probably would remember.  And there are security tapes you could look at.”

“You don’t know where Marius Van Horn is?”

“No.  I swear, I don’t.  Look, I’m pretty happy with my life.  I don’t need to kidnap a kid and screw everything up.”

“You seem pretty worried that I’ll get your apartment searched.  Why?”

“No one wants their home ripped apart.”

“Not because the boy is there?”

“I told you, no.”

“So then what don’t you want us to see?”

Philippe hesitated a moment.  Tagliotta continued.  “You know, Mr. D’Arget, there are a few basic rules that never let a detective down.  Rule 1: Find out who’s sleeping with who.  Rule 2: When someone has too much money, figure out where it’s coming from.  I have the answer to my first question: Now I need to know how you can afford that three-bedroom co-op.  The way I figure it, it’s one of two things.  Either you’re a hooker, which makes sense, in which case we’ll get you for prostitution and tax evasion.  Or you have a second career.  Someone’s getting Greta Van Horn all those drugs stuffed into every nook and cranny of her apartment.  I’ll bet my left testicle it’s you, and that Greta called to place an order the night her son got kidnapped.”

Philippe said nothing.

“And that’s what you don’t want us to find in your apartment.  Right?”

“I really do want a lawyer.”

“Call him now.  But I’m gonna make a deal with you.  I don’t care if you screw for dollars or sell Valium to society gals.  But I do care about that kid.  You help us find him, and I’ll forget everything I heard here today.  Here’s my number.  Call me if any memories suddenly come flooding back.”

Tagliotta left feeling very satisfied.  Maybe he was less good looking than the average tennis pro, but he was a hell of a lot smarter.

 

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