The twins say I’m perfect and rare. “We had to look very hard to find someone like you." I am admired.
Please enjoy this sample chapter from the book . . .
Center City, Philadelphia
Nettie first met her friend Kapil Talpur three years ago, just after her return from Paris. He’d collapsed in an alleyway next to her home in Center City, Philly. The young man looked emaciated. She had taken him to a restaurant and bought him a meal; the gesture turned into an enduring friendship. Nettie was walking toward her Locust Street brownstone now and thinking about this sweet, thoughtful guy, his gratitude for that long ago dinner . . .
“Thank you a thousand times,” he’d told her. So Kapil.
“Once is plenty,” she had said.
Kapil Talpur was from Mumbai and had just lost his fellowship then, while in the third year of a doctorate program at the University of Pennsylvania, something to do with particle physics. Financial assistance had been promised in the “not too distant” future, and he’d started a new job at a nearby convenience store to make ends meet until he could go back to school. Three years later and Kapil was still working in the same store.
Sometimes Nettie would see her friend on her way home, though not tonight, apparently. She hoped he was doing well.
The young man always asked how her father was getting along. Kapil didn’t understand why the reverend was living in a retirement community at such an early age.
“Paris didn’t help him,” she’d said. It sounded flippant, uncaring. Nettie had wanted to say, “I feel completely helpless and I don’t know how to dig him out of his terrible sadness.” But she thought that would be too much for any friend to hear.
Nettie turned and crossed Locust, climbing the four concrete steps to the front door of the brownstone. That was when someone behind her cupped her nose and mouth with a wet cloth.
The cloth smelled sweet. It had the sort of smell that left her feeling nauseous. Like any moment she could get a serious case of the hurls. God she hated throwing up. Chloroform, that was her thought. How long do I have? When does this shit knock me out? What’re they gonna do, rape me? Her mom’s story: the two boys down by the Schuylkill River.
Like mom, like daughter.
Nettie kept trying to break free, kicking her legs into the cold night air. The man holding her was amazingly strong for his size. She’d gotten a glimpse of him, the guy and his weird friend. They were frail looking men—tall but very frail.
And no, not his friend.
How could Nettie have thought friend? Brothers—yes, of course. More than that, the two of them are twins. Or I’m seeing double? They’re like Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. But they weren’t fat like the Tweedles. These guys were skinny, very skinny.
Her legs had started going weak, and her brain felt as if it was floating inside her skull. She felt a sharp quick sting in the crook of her arm. A needle, that was her thought. The needle stayed in her arm for five or ten seconds. He’s stealing my blood? Who in the hell takes somebody on the steps of her own home and steals her blood? Nettie was twenty-six and lived alone. She knew a person needed to be careful in Philly, especially Center City. A subcompact Beretta Px4 was in her leather handbag. Now the handbag lay on the step. How priceless, so much for being prepared. Her bag had dropped when the man grabbed her.
“Don’t bruise anything,” one twin said.
“Does she look bruised?”
“It doesn’t show immediately.”
“Shut up, Carl.”
“Hey, no names. Jesus.”
“Relax. She won’t be taking out an ad.”
Before one of the twins had pressed the cloth over Nettie’s nose and mouth, she’d been thinking about making a cup of dark chocolate coco and watching The Maltese Falcon on TCM with her beloved Mr. Muggles, the most spoiled cat in the Delaware Valley. She thought a movie about a bird would keep him interested.
The two men shoved her into the back of a Chrysler Town & Country station wagon. She noticed a rusted left front fender. The wagon had a pea green top and hood. The sides were a phony mahogany wood. She saw the thing during her last moments of consciousness. The wagon smelled like week old laundry and stale fries.
Who drives this, anymore? she thought. Late 80s’ crap, ’88, ’89.
Nettie knew her cars. It was genetic or what-have-you; she got it from her dad who could’ve told you the date and make of any car on God’s highway. Crazy what a person thinks. Oh shit, gypsies, that was what she thought. I’ve been captured by gypsies.
Nettie blacked out.
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