Christine nodded, numbly, her heart sinking, but Marcus was already scrolling through the contacts, finding a number, and pressing CALL.
“Hi, Dr. Davidow, this is Marcus Nilsson, with Christine on speaker.”
“Hi, Marcus, hi, Christine.”
“Hi,” Christine said, noting the difference in Dr. Davidow’s voice from earlier this evening. Before, he had sounded warm, lively, and interested, but now he sounded tense, worried.
“Dr. Davidow, I know you spoke with Christine today about Donor 3319. I see his sample has been taken off the shelves. Do you know why?”
“I did speak with Lee Ann at Homestead tonight. I was just about to call you—”
“And what did she tell you?”
“She said they would take 3319 off the shelves, pending investigation. I told her that was the most prudent course of action, and they agreed, out of an abundance of caution.”
“So is our donor Zachary Jeffcoat?”
“I don’t know, but the fact that 3319 was taken off the shelves does not mean that he’s Jeffcoat. Homestead took it off pending their investigation—”
“Doc, is it him or not?” Marcus raised his voice, still controlled.
“They won’t confirm or deny.”
“Level with me. They won’t tell you? They’re your subcontractor, for God’s sake!”
Dr. Davidow cleared his throat. “I know this is hard to understand, but they can’t disclose that information to me. They have a legal relationship to the donors and it’s sacred to them.”
“Do you really not know, or you don’t want to know?”
“I don’t know. I did ask them, but they wouldn’t confirm or deny.”
Christine slumped against the headboard, noticing that Murphy had crawled over to her, resting his head on her thigh. She put her hand on his soft, furry head, not knowing who was comforting whom.
“Dr. Davidow, did they do an investigation after they spoke with you but before they took him off the shelves?”
“I don’t know that.”
“Did they take him off the shelf while you were speaking with them?”
“No. 3319 was available when we were on the phone, and we spoke for maybe fifteen minutes, about a half hour or so ago. I don’t know when 3319 was taken off the shelves, but it was still available when I was speaking with them, so I’m sure it was in response to my call.”
“Doesn’t that mean it’s him?”
“No, it doesn’t. It means they’re going to investigate.”
“But how much investigation can it take? They have the guy’s name on file. It takes three minutes to look at a file.”
“No, Marcus, I’m sure the files concerning the identity of the donors are protected, if not encrypted. Not everyone in the Homestead office may have access. The assistant director may not even have access. We don’t know.”
“Okay, that I’ll buy.” Marcus stopped pacing, then nodded.
“Look, I’ve never had this situation before, or anything like it. I care about you and Christine, and I think you should come in tomorrow and we can talk this over.”
“Are they going to call you back and tell you the results of their investigation?”
“No they’re not. I asked them to and they declined.”
“But I have a right to know that information.” Marcus started pacing again. The dog swiveled his head around, watching him, too.
“It’s not a question of whether you have that right. It’s a question of what Homestead is obligated legally to tell you. Look, I just got off the phone with Michelle. I think you both should come have a session with her, at four o’clock.”
“I don’t need a therapy session, I need an answer. My wife could be carrying the baby of a serial killer.”
Christine felt the words like a blow. Hearing Marcus say it aloud made it so real. Tears sprang to her eyes. It was real. It was true. And she was lost, all was lost. Her dream of motherhood, of parenthood, of their new family, was over. Her thoughts raced. She knew Marcus would never think of the baby as his, would never see himself as the father, and the baby’s father was a killer, a murderer. But she was carrying the baby, it was still her baby, and she and the baby were all alone, on their own. She was holding the bag.
Marcus and Dr. Davidow kept talking on the phone, but their voices grew far away. Christine couldn’t hear anything they were saying, she couldn’t feel the dog’s head under her palm. Marcus was turning toward her, his forehead buckling in alarm, but she couldn’t speak. The bedroom fell away, the heavenly blue walls and soft lamplights vanished, and she felt herself slipping into blackness.
She didn’t have another thought before she fainted dead away.
The entrance hall buzzed with last-day activity as Christine entered the school building. Teachers’ aides hustled back and forth to the office with forms, workmen rolled handcarts of taped boxes toward trucks idling outside, and two kindergarten teachers, Linda Cohen and Melissa DiMarco, hurried to the office, looking over, grinning, when they spotted Christine.
“Christine,” Linda called out. “Your party was so fun! Stay in touch, okay?”
“Sure, thanks!” Christine kept up her smile, still trying to wrap her mind around what was going on. She had vomited this morning, but had told herself it was morning sickness. She only had to keep it together for one more day.
Melissa chimed in, “Best of luck! We’ll miss you!”
“I’ll miss you, too!” Christine beelined for her office door, but she had to pass the administrative office, where Pam and the staff were boxing files and taping bookshelves. Pam motioned to her to come in, but Christine pointed to her watch and kept walking. She reached her office, opened the door, and went inside.
“That you?” Lauren called out from the adjacent office, rising from her desk.
“Yes!” Christine called back, letting her tote bags, backpack, and purse drop onto the blue carpet. She glanced around, but she’d already packed up her office, so the place didn’t look familiar at all, much less somewhere she’d worked for almost ten years. Her desk, of brown indeterminate wood, was generic without her photos of Marcus, Lady, and Murphy, and her white walls looked so empty without her American Library Association poster of Elvis Presley reading a book, captioned READ. Her bookshelves were covered with brown paper, and her bulletin board stripped to original cork, covered with thumbtack holes like public-school constellations. Christine had left posted only her Fountas & Pinnell Literacy Scale and her favorite inspirational poster, from Maya Angelou: If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.