THE TIES THAT BIND
By Curtis C. Chen
The door to Interview Two closed with a soft click behind Jake. He stood there for a moment. The woman had stopped crying, but her eyes were still red, and she clutched a kleenex in one hand. Her bony fingers looked like claws.
She and Andy both shifted in their seats. Jake leaned back against the wall and folded his arms across his chest.
"We got a name?" Jake asked Andy.
"Leah Comler," Andy said, holding up his phone. The woman's DMV record glowed on the tiny screen. "ID checks out. No priors."
"Why do you need to find your father, Miss Comler?" Jake asked. "Other than the obvious emotional closure, I mean."
"Jake," Andy said. "She's sick. Hospital sick," he added quickly.
Nobody said anything for a moment. Jake glared at Andy. Andy glared back. Jake walked around the table and sat down next to Andy.
"Sorry," Jake said. "I didn't know."
"No, I should apologize," Leah said. "What I did was wrong. I'm sorry. It's just—" She sniffled. "I've been trying to find my father for months. I was sure you were the one."
Jake nodded at her hands. "What is it?"
"Idiopathic aplastic anemia," Leah recited.
Jake slumped back in his seat. "You're looking for a bone marrow transplant." He didn't say what he was thinking: You're dying.
"I'm already in the system," Jake said. "I give blood four times a year. If I was a match, you'd already have found me."
Her lower lip quivered. "I was hoping that my biological father would have had other children. That's my best chance for a donor match."
"I'm not your father," Jake said.
She started crying.
The door to the interview room slammed open, and District Attorney Libby Wasserman stepped inside. "Detectives!" she said. "A word, please? Outside?"
"For crying out loud, Jake!" Libby said after she had ushered Jake and Andy into the monitoring lounge. "She's not some wirehead junkie. Could you try to treat her like a human being?"
"Give me a break," Jake said. "A stranger walks into my precinct, points a gun at me, and says she's my kid? How am I supposed to feel?"
Andy stepped forward. "There's an easy way to settle this. Were you listening in earlier?"
"No," Jake and Libby said in unison.
"Well, Leah's mother died in January," Andy said, "And in her will, she left Leah a safe deposit box at Craneson Credit."
That got both Jake's and Libby's attention. Craneson Credit International had a reputation as bankers to the rich and famous, ensuring security and privacy with state-of-the-art technology from strong encryption to biometric sensors. Craneson's customers included CEOs, celebrities, and more than one organized crime family—which the NYPD only knew because of their grudging cooperation with ongoing federal investigations.
"What's in the box?" Libby asked.
"No idea," Andy said. "According to the will, it's coded so that only Leah and her father can open it. Fingerprint and DNA scan required."
Photo: Manhattan Crime Stoppers flyer, photographed by Adam Greenfield, August, 2007