Branna hopes Analia is having a great time at the baseball game. She remembers when she was that age and the world seemed limitless. Branna recalls the first summer she spent in New York City. She and Ziva had moved from Cambridge to New York. That first summer sometimes reaches epic proportions in her memory. They never slept. If they weren’t working, they were going to Yankee games, dining al fresco, hitting the clubs downtown and spending weekends in the Hamptons. Branna had graduated with her M.D. at the age of twenty-two. Like Analia, she had been the valedictorian at all her schools. Back then, like most young people, she felt both invincible and immortal. If that feeling could be captured, bottled and marketed, it would become a bestseller. Branna would label the bottle ’unrequited dreams”.
Branna smiles to herself and then realizes that the train is rolling into her station. She stops off at the local market to pick up the ingredients for a salad. Branna loves this market. It has the freshest produce. The last time Branna lived in the city, only the specialty markets carried this type of produce. As she places tomatoes and avocados in her basket, she sees a note lying on the bottom of the basket. “Meet me in the restroom at Peete’s Coffeehouse.” It is signed Z.
Branna pays for her groceries and makes her way to the coffeehouse. Luckily, she is friendly with the evening barista and asks her to hold her bag behind the counter as she goes to the restroom. Ziva is standing at the sink when she enters. At 5’9, Ziva is strikingly exotic and ageless with porcelain skin and jet black hair. When they first came to New York, Ziva was an “It” girl. To pay off her medical school loans, she had modeled occasionally but never seriously pursued it because of the time constraints imposed by medical residency. The beautiful people in the modeling business never impressed Ziva and the work bored her. Ziva was more passionate and idealistic than most people. Few people knew that Ziva was also a master in mixed martial arts. She always had men chasing her but never quite settled down. While Ziva may have had commitment issues with men, she was the most loyal friend Branna ever had.
Branna is overcome with joy to see her old friend. “Ziva, it is so good to see you. I have missed you so much. I tried to keep tabs on you when I was in California, but our mutual contact Brad went missing in action.”
“God, I have missed you as well. It must have been tough for you being exiled all these years, but you look great. Unfortunately, the authorities arrested Brad and put him in Rosewood. He has yet to even be indicted. I am not sure if he told you, but Brad and I were having an affair. We were secretly married in Mexico before he was detained.”
“I guessed as much. The way Brad talked about you, I knew there was a connection between the two of you. Matthew went missing right before Brad did. I had suspected he was taken to Rosewood as well and I just confirmed it.”
“I also know Matt is at Rosewood. I came back to New York because of Matt and Brad. I don’t think Lucas and her cronies are just content to threaten their critics. There is something sinister going on at Rosewood and I am trying to find out what it is. We have an informant inside. My cover story to anyone but you and Dr. Melville at Rockefeller, is that I am working in Melville’s lab. Lucas has informants everywhere, either because she pays or threatens them. I have followed you here to make sure you weren’t tailed by her henchmen.”
“They haven’t been tailing me so far, or else they are good. There is an informant where we live at the concierge desk. They bug my phone and my apartment. I have a scrambling device that I turn on next to the phone when necessary but I couldn’t chance even the possibility of this conversation being listened to. So I left my phone up by the counter. So where are you living now?” Branna asks.
“I am down in Chelsea. I am renting under a false identity, Samantha Bernd. It has held up quite well at passport control and the DMV. Thank you so much for the money you sent through Brad. His family has money but he was arrested before he could contact them. They are leaving for London shortly and will be setting up a Swiss bank account for us. The fake passport cost a small fortune. I felt so guilty taking money from you. You must have struggled too, with no income. I will pay you back. So how is Analia adapting to New York? I know she is working at the Lucas Institute. I can’t believe you are. The universe never ceases to surprise.”
“First of all, you owe me nothing. You are my sister, at least of the heart. I had more of a cushion to fall back on when our lives were summarily overturned. Besides, I made probably more money as an author than I ever would have as a physician.”
“You’re an author?” Ziva asks with a smile.
“Yes, surprisingly. I wrote thrillers under a pseudonym. Two of them became bestsellers. Even went as far as hiring someone to impersonate me on the book tour. I suspect that we will need money to live on once I extract Matt from that prison. We will likely have to leave the country. As for Analia, she is adapting well. Did you know she is a bit of a prodigy and went into genetic research? She had a tough time going off to college when she was only eleven years old. She never quite fit in with the college students due to the age gap. I don’t know if you heard about the PPZ gene. Analia discovered it, which has become the purported basis for holding the detainees at Rosewood. They are conducting some ridiculous scientific study on the detainees that, according to Analia, has no scientific basis. The real question is what are they really up to?”
“I am not surprised your daughter is as brilliant as her mother. I heard rumors about that farcical study at Rosewood; I just didn’t know that Analia made the discovery of the actual gene. Our resistance group placed the informant within the detention center and we had been planning on getting several of the detainees out, Matt included. Eventually we plan to expose the whole damn thing for the conspiracy that it is. There are several members from the media in the underground movement who are willing to disseminate the information when we have an irrefutable case. I have to ask. How are you coping with your daughter’s work being used against Matt?”
“Honestly, I have to compartmentalize my feelings to protect my daughter from feeling any blame. This is Katharine Lucas’s fault. Analia’s work, if it is used properly and I hope it will be one day, could be extremely beneficial. It is not Analia’s fault, but she could think it is. It is not lost on me that Katharine Lucas may be using Analia’s research as an act of malice towards Matthew and me.” Branna pauses for a minute. “Do you really think we can get the detainees out?”
“I do. Vice President Halliday and Lucas targeted many innocent people and they have accumulated enemies. There is a lot of support in the underground community. It is just everyone is afraid. But a few of the brave ones have been making inroads. We have a team of agents up in Newburgh and they have been studying the complex. The security is strange up at Rosewood. We have used drones to look at the security around the perimeter. If we can get them out of the buildings, we have a decent shot at escape. We started digging an underground tunnel outside the scope of their detection cameras almost a year ago. We only do it at night and we use heat shields as well to block us from satellite view. We should complete it in another three months.”
“I’m impressed that you and your team have accomplished this much. What do you mean the vice president? I knew there were corrupt politicians involved but I didn’t think it went as high up as this.” Branna looks shocked
“Vice President Halliday has been Lucas’ silent partner for years. Haven’t you noticed, he always has a top position in the government? He was an assistant to the Secretary of Health and Human Services when we discovered what was happening with those aborted fetuses. Halliday covered up all the complaints coming in from the other doctors and medical centers. He helped Lucas become as big as she is and in return he made a fortune off her company.”
“So is the whole government involved in this cover-up?” Branna feels sick asking this question.
“Not at all. There are many who are just waiting for someone to take those two and their subordinates down. Halliday and Lucas keep dossiers on everybody with both real and manufactured dirt. They likely have dirt on the President. People don’t talk because of fear. Those who did talk are now vacationing at Rosewood. But if we exposed Lucas and Halliday with verifiable, incriminating evidence, I think they can be toppled.”
“We, or I should say Analia has had some interesting developments. She has developed a friendship with Josh Lucas, Katharine’s son. They are both in the same lab. Actually, she just learned that Josh and another young scientist will be working on mapping the gene for pedophilia. Josh has been very sweet on her. Whether it is artifice or genuine interest, I am not sure. I worry because Analia has led a sheltered life and could be easily hurt. Josh and Analia were at the Rosewood dedication ceremony. Apparently, Josh swiped a disk from the lab up at Rosewood that has the complete list of detainees and their genetic data.” Ziva’s eyes light up at the mention of the memory card.
“That makes me very nervous. He’s the son of Katharine Lucas.” Ziva shakes her head.
“I know. Analia hasn’t given anything away except that she knows her father is at Rosewood. Josh already knew about her dad. My first priority will be to protect her above everything else.”
Ziva sits quietly for a moment before responding. “You have always protected Analia. You’re the proverbial mother bear.” Ziva smiles as she says it. “Speaking of that. There was a rumor of a deep secret buried within the Lucas family. I heard that Katharine Lucas had another child but no one knows what happened to that child. I also heard that another biotech firm seriously recruited the son, Josh. Josh is reputed to be extremely intelligent. I am just speculating, but Josh may be having family issues and is taking a stand. It is a hard call, but he could be trustworthy.”
“I know about Katharine’s other son. He suffered anoxia at birth. Katharine’s obstetrician screwed up and didn’t bring her in at the appropriate time. I was on call when she came in. I also helped with the private adoption of that baby by the paternal grandfather. You had already left when this happened.”
“Dear God. No wonder she has it in for you. I can’t believe that bitch gave up her own child. No wonder she became such a nightmare and is out for revenge. She probably hasn’t realized it yet, but the person she hates the most is herself.”
“Are you still in contact with the person who supplied you with the false passport? I would like to get three made for Analia, Matt and myself. We should also get one for Brad.”
“The forger lives here in Manhattan. It will take time to do those passports so we should look into it soon. Do you even have a passport photo of Matt.?”
“I have a picture of Matt from two years ago. He sent it to me because I wanted to see what he looked like. A photographer should be able to make it into a passport photo.”
Ziva shakes her head in disgust and they sit there for a moment, reabsorbing the past. “I have Brad’s old passport so we can use that photo and I’ll get in touch with the forger. Will you be able to look at this memory card Josh has? We should get as much evidence as possible before we break Matt and Brad out.”
“I don’t know. According to Analia, he doesn’t want her to hold the memory card so she can’t be implicated. He already told her that our apartment will most definitely be searched. Apparently, his apartment is also regularly searched. Analia mentioned something about Josh using a private computer with high cyber security so that he can’t be hacked. Apparently, Katharine’s paranoia extends to her son.”
“Talk about healthy, family dynamics.” Ziva just shakes her head. “Do you hate her? Katharine? I did for a very long time, but the hate consumed me and I had to move on.”
“It would have been so much easier if we had lived in the same city. We could have helped each other. No, I also couldn’t continue hating her. But I did grieve.” Branna looks pensive for a moment. “Are we still the same women who came to New York almost twenty years ago or are we only fragments of the people we once were? Life really didn’t turn out as we expected. Now I have to meet you in a public bathroom.” Branna smiles tentatively, as the years pass over her face.
“I am not sure. I think I am afraid to look at who I have become. For a while, I felt dead inside. But, I fell in love with Brad and I don’t want Katharine Lucas’ vision for the future of humanity to become public policy. I don’t want to harm her but she and Halliday need to be stopped. I finally feel alive again and I don’t want to lose that feeling. “
Branna reaches over and holds her hand. “You are still my Ziva. We can beat Katharine Lucas. Strange, returning to New York has made me feel hopeful again as well.”
“Listen, the people outside will think we are up to something in here.”Ziva rolls her eyes. “Actually, we are up to something. Here is my address. Please destroy it after you memorize it. Can we meet this weekend? There is a concert at St. John the Divine on Sunday at noon. My friend is the choirmaster and will let us use a room.”
“As long as Analia doesn’t need me, I will be there.” Branna hugs Ziva fiercely with tears in her eyes. “It feels so good to be back together. Listen Ziva. I almost forgot to tell you. Malin, Dave’s new wife, is connected to Katharine Lucas. I saw her in Lucas’ office and she is moving very quickly up the ladder at Cornell even though she barely publishes. I don’t trust her. Ergo, that means I don’t completely trust Damian anymore. It kills me to say that. He also knows you are working at Rockefeller. You need to be careful. There was a warrant out for your arrest.”
“I understand. I already had my own suspicions. I probably shouldn’t return to Rockefeller until we know more about Damian. I already know about the arrest warrant. There is somebody in the underground I can check with. We will talk more on Sunday. I’ll bring lunch. Goodbye my friend.” Ziva hugs Branna fiercely again and departs quickly.
Branna gets a cup of coffee and picks up her bag from the barista. Walking home, she catches the sunset going down over the Hudson. The streets are crowded on this warm, summer night. She misses the flavor of the old New York. This city is much more circumscribed, uniform. Fortunately, the people are still the crusty New Yorkers she once knew. As she enters her building, she calls out to George.
“Hey George. Do you know if my daughter has returned yet?”
“She just went up fifteen minutes ago.” George replies.
“Thanks. Have a good night.” Branna steps into the elevator. Just as the doors close, she hears George whisper softly.
“You too doctor.”