A long summer has kept Jimmy McSwain away from the city he loves, uncertain of what the future holds. But upon his return, tomorrow quickly becomes a deadly today.
Jimmy has often done work for his sister Mallory’s law firm, and this time the new partner and his handsome associate want to hire Jimmy to solve the mystery of twin brothers. One of the twins lies in a coma, while the other has gone missing. Aiding Jimmy in this confusing case is Brenden Hendricks, the young lawyer who just happens to have a strong attraction to Jimmy. Then murder rocks the Portnoy clan.
Meanwhile, there’s Jimmy’s lingering obsession with the criminal mastermind Mr. Wu-Tin. Jimmy is determined to bring him down, and the NYPD knows that. Brought in to assist the Special Task Force, Jimmy feels he’s being manipulated, but this is his best lead yet. The problem is his partner assigned to the case: his ex, Francis X. Frisano. Soon Jimmy and Frisano are setting traps for Wu-Tin, even as the cornered man is setting his empire ablaze.
Complex, confounding, the duality in his life will test more than Jimmy’s loyalty. It could rock his very foundation. Deep down he knows that by solving both cases, he’s got a second shot at a new life.
He stood up from where he’d taken up residence. It had been a long enough wait.
“I apologize for the delay. Prudency dictated that I check your credentials. A Mr. Hendricks has vouched for you.”
“Thank you for seeing me. Mr. Hendricks -- and his firm -- are the ones who hired me.”
“As he said. But I still don’t know what Hammondsworth can offer you in regards to Mr. Portnoy.”
“I just have a few questions. Medically related, you know, his chances of waking up.” He thought about his next comment, knowing it would incite a new level of curiosity, perhaps distrust. “His DNA. There’s a lot at stake for the family. Financially.”
“An intriguing combination of topics,” she said, pushing her glasses against the bridge of her nose. She was pretty, if you liked the bookish type.. “Would you follow me?”
“Sure. So long as I know who I’m following.” He threw his best charming smile in the mix to see if she softened. She’d yet to introduce herself. She wasn’t wearing a nametag. To him, she was still the “someone” the guard had referenced.
“Doctor Amanda Morgan. I’m the physician assigned to Mr. Portnoy’s care.”
“A pleasure. I promise I won’t take up much of your time. But if it’s not too much, I’d like to see my client first. I’m aware of his status, but I’m new to the case and still gathering basic info. I’d like to set my own eyes on the subject of my investigation. Always good to put a face to a name.” He paused. “Sometimes when you personalize a case it leads to a quicker resolution.”
They were walking along a stark corridor when she stopped. “An interesting perspective.”
“My sister spent the summer here.”
She paused again. “I thought I recognized the McSwain name. Determined woman.”
“That’s my sister.”
“I have a feeling her brother shares similar, uh, DNA.”
It was a clever retort to Jimmy’s reason for being here, and for the next few minutes a quiet consumed them. They rode up in an elevator to the fourth floor, bland music filtering through speakers filling the silence. They’d gone a floor above where Mallory had recuperated. During this past summer, he’d learned that the fourth floor had its own reputation, and it wasn’t a good one. A sense of doom. Most patients placed in rooms here weren’t expected to ever recover. Made this case a do or die situation. Literally.
Heading down a stark white corridor, Dr. Morgan stopped before the entrance to the room. Jimmy read the patient’s name on the door. It was vague. It said Mr. Portnoy, no first name. Did the institute not even know who they were treating? The mystery deepened.
“I’ll give you two minutes, Mr. McSwain. Please don’t touch anything.”
“I’ll just look. You learn a lot about a person when they’re not talking.”
“Or in Mr. Portnoy’s state, not moving.”
Jimmy opened the door to a dimly lit room, to the beeps of various medical equipment. He remembered it well and tried to focus on the man in the bed and not the sister in his head Stepping forward, he eased over to the side of the bed and stared down at a pale man. There was no color to the part of his face Jimmy could see. The ventilator took up a lot of space. But what he noticed was the man’s ears. Becs had said floppy. He bordered on Eeyore.
You met people all the time in this world, but this time it was one-sided. And eerie. What could the man hear, if anything?
“Mr. Portnoy. I’m a friend of your family. I’m just here to meet you. See if I can, help.”
Just then the man’s arm jerked from beneath a tucked-in blanket. Jimmy took a step back.
He thought the man was incapable of moving. So, maybe he could somehow hear. Was he saying thank you, or was it from a sense of panic. Of being discovered as the other brother. Taking one last look at the man, he retreated to the corridor, where Doctor Morgan was waiting.
“His right arm moved.”
She paused before saying, “An involuntary muscle spasm. Don’t read into it.”
“I thought you said he didn’t move at all.”
“Mr. McSwain, comas are complex medical states, not fully understood.”
“He moved right after I spoke to him.”
He’d have to accept her denial but store in the back of his mind nonetheless. He still wanted information from her. “May I ask a few more questions? I’ll be brief.”
She looked around, then led him to a sitting area near the end of the corridor. Life was quiet on this floor, he hadn’t seen another person other than a couple nurses. There were plenty of chairs available. Jimmy took one facing forward, Dr. Morgan sitting at an angle. Again, she pushed her glasses above the bridge of her nose. Perhaps they weren’t loose. Perhaps it was a tell. Stuff like that made Jimmy suspicious.
“I noticed the name on his door. Just a last name.”
“We do that with all patients. It’s out of privacy.”
“What if the person’s last name is Smith or Jones?”
“Mr. McSwain, Hammondsworth’s procedures are not things I’m free to discuss.”
“Fine. Do you know who the man is in that bed?”
“It’s Mr. Portnoy.”
“Which Mr. Portnoy?”