CHAPTER 35

Win called Myron on the cell phone.

“Drew Van Dyne, your assistant Planet Music manager, is also a teacher at Livingston High.”

“Well, well,” Myron said.

“Indeed.”

Myron was on his way to pick up Claire. She had told him about the “she’s fine” phone call. Myron had immediately reached out for Berruti, who was, as the voice mail informed him, “away from her desk.” He told her what he needed in the message.

Now Myron and Claire were going to Livingston High to check out Aimee’s locker. Myron also hoped to catch up with her ex, Randy Wolf. And Harry “Mr. D” Davis. And now, most of all, Drew “Music Teacher — Lingerie Buyer” Van Dyne.

“You have anything else on him?”

“Van Dyne is married, no kids. He’s had two DUIs in the past four years and one drug arrest. He has a juvie record but it’s sealed. That’s all I have so far.”

“So what is he doing buying lingerie for a student like Aimee Biel?”

“Pretty obvious, I would say.”

“I just talked to Mrs. Rochester. Katie got pregnant and ran away with her boyfriend.”

“A not-uncommon story.”

“No. But what — do we think Aimee did the same?”

“Ran away with her boyfriend? Not likely. No one has reported Van Dyne missing.”

“He doesn’t have to go missing. Katie’s boyfriend is probably afraid of Dominick Rochester. That’s why he’s with her. But if no one knew about Aimee and Van Dyne…”

“Mr. Van Dyne would have little to fear.”

“Exactly.”

“So pray tell, why would Aimee run away?”

“Because she’s pregnant.”

“Bah,” Win said.

“Bah what?”

“What precisely would Aimee Biel be afraid of?” Win asked. “Erik is hardly a Dominick Rochester type.”

Win had a point. “Maybe Aimee didn’t run away. Maybe she got pregnant and wanted to have it. Maybe she told her boyfriend, Drew Van Dyne…”

“Who,” Win picked up the thread, “as a schoolteacher, would be ruined if word got out.”

“Yes.”

It made awful sense. “There’s still one big hole,” Myron said.

“That being?”

“Both girls used the same ATM machine. Look, the rest doesn’t even rise to the level of coincidence. Two girls getting pregnant in a school with almost a thousand girls? It is statistically insignificant. Even if you add two girls running away because of it, okay, the odds that there is a connection rise, but it’s still more than plausible that they aren’t related, wouldn’t you say?”

“I would,” Win agreed.

“But then you add in both using the same ATM machine. How do we explain that?”

Win said, “Your little statistical diagnosis goes through the roof.”

“So we’re missing something.”

“We’re missing everything. At this stage, this whole matter is too flimsy to label supposition.”

Another point for Win. They might be theorizing too early, but they were getting close. There were other factors too, like Roger Chang’s threatening “bastard” phone calls. That might be connected, might not be. He also didn’t know how Harry Davis fit in. Maybe he was a liaison between Van Dyne and Aimee, but that seemed a stretch. And what should Myron make of Claire’s “she’s fine” phone call? Myron wondered about the timing and the motive — to comfort or terrorize; and either way, why? — but so far, nothing had come to him.

“Okay,” Myron said to Win, “are we all set for tonight?”

“We are indeed.”

“I’ll talk to you later then.”

Win hung up as Myron pulled into Claire and Erik’s driveway. Claire was out the front door before Myron came to a complete stop.

“You okay?” he asked.

Claire didn’t bother answering the obvious. “Did you hear from your phone contact?”

“Not yet. Do you know a teacher at Livingston High named Drew Van Dyne?”

“No.”

“The name doesn’t ring a bell?”

“I don’t think so. Why?”

“You remember the lingerie I found in her room? I think he might have bought it for her.”

Her face reddened. “A teacher?”

“He worked at that music store at the mall.”

“Planet Music.”

“Yes.”

Claire shook her head. “I don’t understand any of this.”

Myron put a hand on her arm. “You have to stay with me, Claire, okay? I need you to be calm and focus.”

“Don’t patronize me, Myron.”

“I don’t mean to, but look, if you go off half-cocked when we get to the school—”

“We’ll lose him. I know that. What else is going on?”

“You were dead-on about Joan Rochester.” Myron filled her in. Claire sat there and stared at the window. She nodded every once in a while, but the nod didn’t seem to be connected to anything he said.

“So you think Aimee might be pregnant?”

Her voice was indeed calm now, too matter-of-fact. She was trying to disengage. That might be a good thing.

“Yes.”

Claire put her hand to her lip and started plucking. Like in high school. This was all so weird, driving this route they’d gone on a thousand times in their youth, Claire plucking her lip like the algebra final was coming up. “Okay, let’s try to look at this rationally for a moment,” she said.

“Right.”

“Aimee broke up with her high school boyfriend. She didn’t tell us. She was very secretive. She was erasing e-mails. She wasn’t herself. She had lingerie in her drawer that was probably bought by a teacher who worked in a music store she used to frequent.”

The words hung heavy in the air.

“I have another thought,” Claire said.

“Go on.”

“If Aimee was pregnant — God, I can’t believe I’m talking like this — she would have gone to a clinic of some sort.”

“Could be. Maybe she’d just buy a home pregnancy test though.”

“No.” Claire’s voice was firm. “Not in the end. We talked about stuff like this. One of her friends got a false positive on one of those once. Aimee would get it checked. She’d probably find a doctor too.”

“Okay.”

“And around here, the only clinic is at St. Barnabas. I mean, that’s the one everyone uses. So she might have gone there. We should call and see if someone could check the records. I’m the mother. That should count for something, right?”

“I don’t know what the laws on that stuff are now.”

“They keep changing.”

“Wait.” Myron picked up his mobile phone. He dialed the hospital’s switchboard. He asked for Dr. Stanley Rickenback. Myron gave his name to the secretary. He pulled onto the circle in front of the high school and parked. Rickenback picked up the phone, sounding somewhat excited by the call. Myron explained what he wanted. The excitement vanished.

“I can’t do that,” Rickenback said.

“I have her mother right here.”

“You just told me she’s eighteen years old. It’s against the rules.”

“Listen, you were right about Katie Rochester. She was pregnant. We’re trying to find out if Aimee was too.”

“I understand that, but I can’t help you. Her medical records are confidential. With all the new HIPAA rules, the computer system keeps track of everything, even who opens a patient’s file and when. Even if I didn’t think it was unethical, it would be too big a personal risk, I’m sorry.”

He hung up. Myron stared out the window. Then he called the switchboard back.

“Dr. Edna Skylar, please.”

Two minutes later, Edna said, “Myron?”

“You can access patient files from your computer, can’t you?”

“Yes.”

“All the patients in the hospital?”

“What are you asking?”

“Remember our talk about innocents?”

“Yes.”

“I want you to help an innocent, Dr. Skylar.” Then, thinking about it, he said, “In this case, maybe two innocents.”

“Two?”

“An eighteen-year-old girl named Aimee Biel,” Myron said, “and if we’re correct, the baby she’s carrying.”

“My God. Are you telling me Stanley was right?”

“Please, Dr. Skylar.”

“It’s unethical.”

He just let the silence wear on her. He had made his argument. Adding more would be superfluous. Better to let her think it through on her own.

It didn’t take long. Two minutes later, he heard the computer keys clacking.

“Myron?” Edna Skylar said.

“Yes.”

“Aimee Biel is three months pregnant.”

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