Missing in Death

By: J. D. Robb

In Death 29.50


On a day kissed gently by summer, three thousand, seven hundred and sixty-one passengers cruised the New York Harbor on the Staten Island Ferry. Two of them had murder on their minds.

The other three thousand, seven hundred and fifty-nine aboard the bright orange ferry christened the Hillary Rodham Clinton were simply along for the ride. Most were tourists who happily took their vids and snaps of the retreating Manhattan skyline or that iconic symbol of freedom, the Statue of Liberty.

Even in 2060, nearly two centuries after she’d first greeted hopeful immigrants to a new world, nobody beat “The Lady.”

Those who jockeyed for the best views munched on soy chips, sucked down tubes of soft drinks from the snack bars while the ferry chugged placidly along on calm waters under baby blue skies.

With the bold sun streaming, the scent of sunscreen mixed with the scent of water, many jammed the decks for the duration of the twenty-five-minute ride from Lower Manhattan to Staten Island. A turbo would have taken half the time, but the ferry wasn’t about expediency. It was about tradition.

Most planned to get off at St. George, jam the terminal, then simply load back on again to complete the round trip. It was free, it was summer, it was a pretty way to spend an hour.

Some midday commuters, eschewing the bridges, the turbos, or the air trams, sat inside, out of the biggest crowds, and passed the time with their PPCs or ’links.

Summer meant more kids. Babies cried or slept, toddlers whined or giggled, and parents sought to distract the bored or fractious by pointing out the grand lady or a passing boat.

For Carolee Grogan of Springfield, Missouri, the ferry ride checked off another item on her Must Do list on the family vacation she’d lobbied for. Other Must Dos included the top of the Empire State Building, the Central Park Zoo, the Museum of Natural History, St. Pat’s, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (though she wasn’t sure she’d successfully harangue her husband and ten- and seven-year-old sons into that one), Ellis Island, Memorial Park, a Broadway show—she didn’t care which one—and shopping on Fifth Avenue.

In the spirit of fairness, she’d added on a ball game at Yankee Stadium, and fully accepted she would have to wander the cathedral of Tiffany’s alone while her gang hit the video heaven of Times Square.

At forty-three, Carolee was living a long-cherished dream. She’d finally pushed, shoved and nagged her husband east of the Mississippi.

Could Europe be far behind?

When she started to take a snapshot of her “boys,” as she called Steve and their sons, a man standing nearby offered to take one of the whole family. Carolee happily turned over her camera, posed with her boys with the dignified lady of liberty behind them.

“See.” She gave her husband an elbow poke as they went back to looking out at the water. “He was nice. Not all New Yorkers are rude and nasty.”

“Carolee, he was a tourist, just like us. He’s probably from Toledo or somewhere.” But he smiled when he said it. It was more fun to yank her chain than to admit he was having a pretty good time.

“I’m going to ask him.”

Steve only shook his head as his wife walked over to chat up the picture taker. It was so Carolee. She could—and did—talk to anyone anywhere about anything.

When she came back she offered Steve a smug smile. “He’s from Maryland, but,” she added with a quick finger jab, “he’s lived in New York for almost ten years. He’s going over to Staten Island to visit his daughter. She just had a baby. A girl. His wife’s been staying with them the past few days to help out, and she’s meeting him at the terminal. It’s their first grandchild.”

“Did you find out how long he’s been married, where and how he met his wife, who he voted for in the last election?”

She laughed and gave Steve another poke.

“I’m thirsty.”

She glanced down at her youngest. “You know, me, too. Why don’t you and I go get some drinks for everybody.” She grabbed his hand and snaked her way through the people crowded on deck. “Are you having a good time, Pete?”

“It’s pretty neat, but I really want to go see the penguins.”

“Tomorrow, first thing.”

“Can we get a soy dog?”

“Where are you putting them? You had one an hour ago.”

“They smell good.”

Vacation meant indulgence, she decided. “Soy dogs it is.”

“But I have to pee.”

“Okay.” As a veteran mother, she’d scoped out the restrooms when they’d boarded the ferry. Now she detoured to steer them toward the nearest facilities.

And, of course, since Pete mentioned it, now she had to pee. She pointed toward the men’s room. “If you get out first, you stand right here. You remember what the ferry staff looks like, the uniforms? If you need help, go right to one of them.”

“Mom, I’m just going to pee.”

“Well, me, too. You wait for me here if you get out first.”

She watched him go in, knowing full well he rolled his eyes the minute his back was to her. It amused her as she turned toward the women’s room.