We take the train to 79th and Broadway. On the way there, I send a message to my mother that we have returned to the city, were given the rest of the day off, and that I will be going sightseeing for the day with Josh. Mom messages back that she hopes we have a great time. Josh takes me to Zabars to pick up snacks for the boat ride.
Josh gives me a little history of the Upper West Side. “Zabars is a New York institution. It has been around over 100 years. This is the beginning of your New York education. Have you been anywhere else in the city yet?”
“Not really.” I reply.
Zabars is bustling and overcrowded with self important New Yorkers. I love it. Unlike supermarkets back in California, there is a unique energy to the place. The cheese department alone has more selections of cheese than I ever thought possible. I turn to Josh. “I have done a few things. I’ve been running in the park with my mom. Hopefully, I will be able to do the whole loop soon. We frequently stop off to eat on either the east or west side and then we walk home. I have also been to SoHo and the MOMA.”
“Well you are making progress. Here, let’s get a few cheeses, some baguettes, grapes, and some water.” I’m more than happy to let him choose. Left on my own, I would have been lost for the entire afternoon in this place. As Josh continues throwing food in his basket rapidly, he asks. “So you run?” He lays the items in front of the cashier and pays for the items.
“I just started with my mom. She’s pretty good at it. I wasn’t sure I would like it. I danced for years growing up. It got me out of the lab or I would have become one of the fixtures there.” We start walking down 79th street. Unlike the architecture in California, the buildings around here are older. They have more history to them, a story to tell. We cross over Riverside Park and head to the water basin.
“Did you like working that much?” Josh asked.
“Yes and no. I enjoy what I do but when I was at Stanford, especially in the beginning, I was the youngest student there by years. For the first few years I commuted and then I stayed in the dorms. I was so much younger than everyone there that I was considered a bit of an oddity. Most people were nice but not interested in hanging out with a kid. So I studied, worked or danced. I have been harboring this fantasy that when I moved here I would be viewed automatically as an adult and have friends close to my own age.”
“It sounds like you were lonely. Do you regret having to grow up so fast?” Josh asks.
“No. There were times I would have liked to have friends, but I doubt I would have fit in with kids my own age. Life isn’t always so black and white. You can either look at your gifts or talents as blessings or curses, or just accept that there is good and bad with everything.”
“So are you going to dance again?”
“I might. I haven’t even looked into where I could dance in New York. I am not sure how much time our upcoming project will even allow us.”
“We’ll usually have time off on the weekends. Dr. Morehouse is pretty reasonable. I had a friend who took classes at Broadway dance center. It is down in the forties on the West side and has a very good reputation. They also have classes in the evening I think.”
“Thanks. I’ll definitely look into it.”
We arrive at the boat basin. Josh explains that the boat basin had been constructed right before World War II under Robert Moses. Moses was the man responsible for most of the expressways and bridges that traverse the five boroughs. Moses was highly criticized at the end of his career for favoring automobiles over people and giving low priority to public transit. He became the historical antichrist after climate change issues forced a major restructuring of public transit in New York. Despite the criticism, his influence is still everywhere. Josh admits that if only for the boat basin, he is grateful to him.
When he finishes his history, I give him a big smile. “Thanks. I love stories like that. I think you missed your calling as a tour guide.”
“Maybe. My pop was a history buff and used to tell me stories all the time. I guess I absorbed them. Well here she is.” He points to his boat moored off the dock, which is actually a yacht. He holds out his hand and helps me onto the dinghy. Josh hands me the bags from Zabars. He slips the ropes off their moorings, jumps into the dinghy and starts the engine. We reach the yacht within minutes and Josh again helps me onto the yacht. After he retrieves the bags we got at Zabars, he looks at me standing on the deck just staring at him.
“You look surprised.” Josh starts heading down to the kitchen galley with the bags in his hand. I follow him.
“I wasn’t expecting a yacht.” I look at Josh who at the moment is manually examining all the surfaces of the galley. He walks up stairs and does the same exercise. I know next to nothing about boating but I don’t think that what he his doing is normal prep work to take a yacht out. “You don’t like to advertise you have money or are the chairman’s son. Do you?”
“I guess you don’t like people looking at you as a prodigy with no social skills and I don’t like people assuming I am a rich, spoiled brat.” Josh slips the gears into reverse and takes the boat out to the open channel. I sit back for a moment to consider what he just said.
“Do you want me to get the snacks?”
“Sure. Grab me a beer in the fridge. Help yourself to whatever you want.”
I set up our boat picnic on a makeshift table next to the wheel.As we travel southward in the middle of the Hudson, I can feel the tension from the day leave my shoulders. Josh points out places of interest. Just south of the Statue of Liberty, Josh shuts off the engine and throws over the anchor.
Josh studies me for a minute as he sits next to me. “So, what did you think of today?”
“The scientific methods in that study Cruz is conducting left something to be desired. I had no idea my work would be used this way.”
Josh pauses for a moment before speaking. “How did it feel seeing your father there?”
I drop my glass before I can catch myself. “I don’t know what you are talking about.”
“I think you do. Remember, I read your file. You were good today. You have very subtle tells. Almost imperceptible. My mother was watching as well. She didn’t pick anything up. But, I suspect now you are wondering if you can trust me, aren’t you?”
“I know it annoys you to hear this, but the truth is you are the chairman’s son. Secondly, I still don’t know you well enough. I would like to trust you.”
“Well, that is a start at least. You’re right, that study is a sham. But those people you were questioning have big egos; they don’t like even the suggestion of criticism. I recognized a few of the detainees there in the audience. They are former politicians and civic servants whose only crime was whistle blowing a little too loudly. Some of them have not even been convicted. None of them have any features consistent with being a psychopath. If you want to know if you can trust me, while you and Cruz were going at it, I swiped a memory card from Cruz’ desk. It was labeled genetic data, Rosewood, July second, two thousand fifty-two. Fortunately, I am not under the same scrutiny as you are. I was depending on you to keep everyone’s eyes on you. The security cameras sweep the room and I had to make sure I wasn’t caught.”
“Why did you do that? You realize that if these detainees are being held illegally and the study is a subterfuge to shut them up, the exposure of that information will lead to criminal charges for those involved. That includes your mother, and possibly your father.”
“I know. I have other issues with my mother, besides this. Honestly, I want to stop her, but not implicate her in any criminal proceedings. I doubt that is possible if I go down this path. My father is not involved in any her schemes. He’s been working hard for years to save my mother from herself and everyone else from her. He would like nothing more to live quietly and work in his lab. Believe me, there are times I would like to kill her, but she is my family.”
“What are you going to do with the memory card from the prison?”
“Let’s hope that the prison roster is on the memory card. I can do background research on what the charges were against those detainees. I was hoping you could look at the genetic data and see if there are any abnormalities.”
“You want me to look at this tonight at home?”
“No. That would be too dangerous, especially in your building. You are more at risk for being hacked than I am. Although my mother was not above sending someone to follow us when we came down to my boat.”
“Your mother had us followed?”
“Yes. I recognized the woman from my mother’s security detail. She wasn’t aware we were going to my boat until too late. We left her at 79th Street. “
“Your mother doesn’t trust you?”
“My mother doesn’t trust anyone. I doubt she thinks I will betray her, but she knows I have not been happy with her for some time. That is why I have to hold onto the memory card. Despite my mother’s ambitions and all her other faults, she would never hurt me. You and anyone else would be another story. I have a private computer I keep hidden. If anyone searched my apartment, they wouldn’t find it.”
“What happens if our suspicions are true?”
“That of course is the difficult part. If we immediately publicize the truth, we risk immediate retaliation against the detainees. We would need more irrefutable proof than this to start. You would want to rescue your father first, wouldn’t you?”
“Yes.” I know by saying this I am crossing a line in the sand. If all of this were an elaborate hoax by Josh to trap me, then his mother would know not only my intentions, but also those of my mother.
“Can I ask why you came to work for the Institute after what happened to your father”.
“I didn’t know about my father until a few weeks ago. I had always thought he abandoned our family when I was young. After I was classified as a prodigy and began doing genetic research, the Institute stepped in and took control of my education. My mother was forced to sign a contract that I would have to work for the Institute as payment for my education upon completion of my postdoctoral.”
“Why didn’t she refuse?”
“They threatened to have her declared an unfit mother and take me anyway. After what happened with my father, my mother couldn’t afford the risk of losing me.”
Josh stares at me dumbfounded. “I can’t believe my mother went that far.” He put his hands on either side of my face. “I am so sorry. Learning this, moving across country and starting a new job. That is a lot for anyone to take in. You appear to be coping really well. How?”
“My mother is a rock. She had to live with heartbreak all these years and she remained strong for me. Plus, I am really good at compartmentalizing.”
“You are pretty tough too, you know.”
“Thanks. We still haven’t figured out what they intend to do with my father or everyone else for that matter.”
“I know. I think we have to see what is on this memory card first. Then we would have to learn the schematics of the prison and how to override their security system without detection. It will be a walk in the park. At least my mother thinks we have a budding romance so spending time together won’t raise her suspicions. Let’s go dock the boat. Take your pick; it is either Fisherman’s Wharf or Brooklyn.”
“Let’s go to Fisherman’s Wharf. I will save Brooklyn for another day.”
We spend the next few hours walking around lower Manhattan. After our discussion, I am surprised at how relaxed I am in his company. We grab a quick dinner on the waterfront before heading back up the Hudson. After we dock, Josh walks me to the subway and rides with me to 135th street where I had previously arranged to meet my mom at the local coffee shop.
Josh gets off with me at the stop. “See you tomorrow morning, Analia. I had a great time with you this afternoon.” Josh gives me a hug and boards the southbound subway. I’m left confused and somewhat elated. I just made my first friend and hope it is for real.