BY: REBECCA MARKS
It’s mid-July. Former NYPD detective, Dana Cohen is very pregnant, several weeks away from her due date, and planning her wedding. Her father Sam is declining much more rapidly in the nursing home and hardly recognizes her anymore. She worries that he will never know his granddaughter. Then a phone call from Dana’s ex-husband Pete Fitzgerald turns her life into a tailspin. Pete’s fiancée, Caterina, has given birth to a baby boy who is now not much more than a month old. A doula Caterina was thinking of hiring came to Caterina’s apartment in Brooklyn. But when Caterina left to go to the bathroom, this woman absconded with the baby boy and basically vanished into thin air. Pete feels that Dana is the person who can investigate and secure the return of the baby. As tired and as pregnant as she is, Dana cannot resist taking on the case, despite the fact that it causes a great deal of conflict with Alex…
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Old Fashioned with a Twist by Rebecca Marks, Dana Cohen is eight months pregnant when she gets a frantic call from her ex-husband. His baby son has been kidnapped, and he is sure that no one but Dana can find him. Dana, who can never refuse an interesting case, agrees, even though she has her own baby who will be born soon to consider, her wedding to plan, an ailing father with Alzheimer’s to worry about, and an overprotective fiancé who doesn’t want her in harm’s way. But it’s all in a day’s work for Dana, a former NYPD detective, as she shuttles back and forth from Long Island to Manhattan in the hottest part of the year trying to find a baby and a kidnapper who have disappeared without a trace.
Told in Marks’s unique voice, filled with marvelous characters, with plenty of surprises, this is a worthy addition to the series.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Old Fashioned with a Twist by Rebecca Marks is the forth book in her Dana Cohen series. In this book, Dana, who is a retired NYPD detective now living on Long Island, gets a call from her ex-husband, Pete. It seems that Pete’s girlfriend has had his baby boy and was trying to hire a nanny, who ran off with the baby when the mother went to the bathroom during the nanny’s interview. Now the nanny and the baby have disappeared without a trace, and the police have come up empty. So Pete begs Dana to find his baby. It doesn’t matter that she is about to have a baby herself, or that she’s just about to get married and hasn’t had a chance to plan the wedding, or even that her father has Alzheimer’s and is in a nursing home. Then there is also the fact that Dana’s fiancé, Alex, is not at all pleased that she is taking on another case in her condition. But Dana can’t say no to Pete. After all, there is a newborn baby at risk, and Dana feels like she has to find him. But there are a lot of players in this game who are not what they seem, and Dana has to wade through all the deceit searching for the truth that she hopes will lead her to little Pete. And she has to do it fast, or her own baby will be here, and Dana’s world will change dramatically.
With a fast-paced story, an intriguing mystery, and Marks’s superb character development, Old Fashioned with a Twist is another jewel in the crown of this talented author. I can’t wait for the fifth book to find out what happens to Dana next.
I feel like a baby whale, just not as graceful. It’s blazingly hot—has to be ninety anyway, and muggy, and I am so huge with this pregnancy that I can’t even get myself up and down the stairs to the beach without feeling as if I’m going to die of asphyxiation. Pregnancy is not for the faint-of-heart, especially when you’re almost forty-four, you’re eight months along, and it’s late July.
On top of that, Alex and I want to get married before the baby comes. I guess I must be old fashioned—who knew? I’d feel better being married when I give birth. So we’ve decided that since Pop isn’t really mobile anymore, we’ll just get married at his nursing home, Island Breeze Rehabilitation Center—in the lovely dayroom with the big bay window—in the morning when the sun is really bright and when Pop is more with-it than he is in the afternoon.
The guest list is small. Pop is going to be there, of course, although he probably won’t even know it; my dear friend Marilyn is my maid of honor; Itzy Itzkowitz—but he’s already told me he probably won’t be schlepping out to the Ends of the Earth, or as he calls it, Siberia, just for some, as he calls it, ridiculous wedding; my darling mentor and lawyer, Jed O’Callaghan, who I know wouldn’t miss it; and, of course, Rabbi Horace Silverblatt, who will be performing the ceremony. Also, Detective O’Donnell, who has both supported me and considered me a thorn in his side when I go after local criminals. And Alex’s colleagues from the nursing staff. The only issue now is that Alex insists on being Jewish when we marry. I don’t care one way or another, but he’s been working at converting, and he’s completely dedicated, so I have no choice but to support him, although I’ve kept myself more aloof from the process than either he or Silverblatt would have liked.
“Whatcha doin’, honey?”
I wink at Alex. “Well, I can’t lie and tell you I’m working on the guest list, can I?”
He bends down and kisses the top of my head. He’s been doing mostly everything around here since I got so pregnant I can’t even see my shoes when I look down—cooking as usual, but now all the cleaning, and he even massages my feet and puts me in the shower stall and washes me from head to toe, which is lovely and sexy, but it’s hard to have sex when I’m this huge and my center of gravity’s completely off. Somehow, Alex manages to make sex happen, usually from the back and standing up.
“You thinking about the wedding?”
“Constantly. How about you? Are you almost ready to graduate to being an official Jew?”
Alex is converting from his former Christian denomination—I’m not even sure which one. His goal is to finish before our wedding and before the baby is born, and he seems to be on target to achieve both of those things. If I’m being really honest, I can’t imagine why a regular Protestant would want to turn that in for a religion that’s been so vilified for thousands of years.
“I want to go to the mikveh in the Sound.”
I laugh so hard I can’t talk.
He looks crushed. “What?”
“I have no idea what that entire sentence meant.”
“What’s a mikveh?”
Now he laughs. “You seriously don’t know?”
I just shrug. He often makes me feel dumb and defensive about all things Jewish. “I can’t compete with super-Jew-to-be,” I say.
“Oh, honey, I didn’t mean to make you feel bad.” He comes over and tries to sit next to me and hug me, but I turn my body away, to the fullest extent possible. “Come on.” He ruffles my hair, and I shake my head loose from his hand. “It’s the ritual bath, you know, kind of the Jewish equivalent of Baptism.”
I wheel around. “Is that how Horace explained it to you?”
“Of course not,” he says.
“Well, what did the rabbi say?”
“It’s a ritual that’s part of conversion.”
“So you only have to do it if you convert?”
“No, Orthodox Jews require women to do it after they menstruate or give birth, to achieve purity.”
“Yeah, he probably did it too.”
“After he menstruated?”
“Oh, don’t get your hackles up. Jewish men do it too. And it’s getting a lot more popular now.”
“I didn’t realize Rabbi Silverblatt is Orthodox.”
“No, he’s not, and he actually said he was willing to give me a pass, but I wanted to do it anyway. I just thought it would be cool.”
“So people always do this in the Long Island Sound?”
“No, silly. They have immersion pools.”
“I’m sure they have them in lots of places. You know, wherever Jewish people are.”
“So why are you going to purify yourself in the Long Island Sound? Are you sure you shouldn’t take antibiotics first?”
“It’s not that bad.” He puts his hand on his forehead, his brow contorting into worry wrinkles—what I call his nurse-worry-lines. “You’re just kidding, right? It’s not that bad, is it?”
I shrug. “Actually, I can’t wait to watch. Just don’t expect me to go in there like this.” I point to my mid-section.
“That’s okay, you don’t have to. You’re Jewish already.”
I can’t stop thinking about the mikveh and all the things I don’t know about my religion of birth. I guess I’m not paying attention because Alex jumps up. “Hey, somebody’s sending you a text.” He brings my cell over.
“I don’t have my reading glasses on,” I say. “Can you see who it’s from?”
“Looks like your ex. It says P. Fitzgerald.”
“Crap. Pete?” I haven’t heard from my ex-husband Pete since the last time he showed up here, months ago. He figured out I was with Alex, and, after our divorce became final, I thought he’d finally given up. But here he is again. He’s the Energizer Bunny—he never quits. “What does it say?”
“It just says, ‘Nine-One-One. Please call ASAP.’ That’s it.”
“Oh, brother, here we go again.”
“Are you going to call him? Sounds pretty desperate.”
“Honey, you don’t know Pete. Last I heard, he was having a baby and getting married, but he cheated on his girlfriend, and she caught him. Then she moved out. After that, I didn’t think about him anymore. We had enough stuff going on here—the good, the bad, and the ugly.” I have a flashback to the double murder at the synagogue last spring, how it forced cancelation of the play Marilyn was directing, her trauma, and the rabbi’s trauma. It’s still painful to think about.
“True, we did.” Alex sits back down next to me and puts his arm around my shoulders. I nestle into his embrace. I can’t stay mad at him. With the baby, our life will be even more complicated, but I know I can always lean on this man.
“Damn Pete.” I don’t want to sigh, but I do.
“You should call him, Babe. It might be important.”
“He’s probably just horny and forgot I have a boyfriend.”
Alex laughs and kisses me on the cheek. “I hope you’re still cracking jokes after the baby is born and we’re not getting any sleep at all. Call the man.” He pushes the phone at me, but I don’t take it.
I sigh again. “You are a very understanding fiancé.”
“You want me to call?”
“You’d do that for me?” Suddenly, I feel completely exhausted, as if I can’t even lift up my hand to press the numbers to call Pete. “Thanks, love.”
“You’ll owe me one.” Alex takes the phone and walks into the kitchen. In all honesty, I hope he just gets rid of Pete, that Pete is intimidated when a man returns his call. The first time they met, in my kitchen, when Pete had used his key to let himself in, it wasn’t such a friendly encounter. I think the bottom line is that Pete was shocked to find out I’d actually moved on, after more than two decades. He was pretty sure I’d always be there for him when he had “needs.” For once in my life, I was able to extract myself from his clutches. I suspect if I hadn’t met Alex, I’d still have an on-again, off-again relationship with Pete. I close my eyes and start to doze off. At this stage of the pregnancy, the only sleep I get is in ten-minute intervals, usually when I’m sitting up. I drift off and dream about swimming in the Sound.
“Honey?” Alex is shaking me gently, his hand on my shoulder. For a moment, I think it’s part of my dream. I groan a little. I don’t feel like waking up.
Alex’s hand on my shoulder is a little more urgent, a harder shake. “Sweetie? You need to talk to Pete.”
I open my eyes, and the bright sun makes me close them again. “I’m just so comfortable here, please don’t make me wake up.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t want to disturb you, but Pete is very upset. He demanded I put you on the phone. Doesn’t sound like he’s faking it.” Alex pushes the phone toward my face, and something in his voice makes me sit up and blink my eyes open.
“Seriously?” I take the phone and yawn. I can’t make myself move quickly, despite Alex’s urging. “Pete? What?” I know I sound annoyed, not even putting the phone up to my ear. “Wait a minute, I can’t hear you.”
“Oh, God, Dana, thank God, I got a hold of you. I need your help.” His voice breaks as he finishes the sentence.
Alex was right. Pete sounds completely unhinged, gasping as if he’s about to cry. I don’t think I’ve ever heard him like this. I sit up as straight as I can without hurting my belly. “What’s going on? Are you crying?” I manage to tone down my annoyance. At the same time, the baby starts to kick, and I get a sharp pain across the top of my ribcage. “Ow, shit.” I lie back on the pillows. She doesn’t kick my ribs as much when I’m not sitting up. There’s no winning this battle.
Pete doesn’t pay attention to my outburst. “Look, I need your help. It’s an emergency.”
“Can you calm down and tell me what the problem is?” I’m rubbing the top of my stomach, so it feels better.
Alex is hovering over me, his eyebrow raised on one side, his mouth in a question mark. I look at him and shrug. He sits down on the couch next to me and massages my legs, which makes me want to relax and go back to sleep. I smile at him.
“It’s Caterina.” Pete sounds blubbery again.
For a moment, I can’t remember who Caterina is, and then it hits me—she’s the girl he introduced to me as his fiancée, last year in our favorite coffee shop in Brooklyn—the day I thought he was going to ask me to get back together. I hated Caterina that day—wanted to kill her. And when I found out she was pregnant by him…
I reach down with my free hand and put it on top of Alex’s, as if to make sure he’s still there for me. He smiles, turns his hand over, and squeezes mine.
“What about her?” I say.
“She had the baby.”
“Oh, yeah? Mazel tov.” I yawn again, right into the phone.
“Please don’t be like that, Dana.”
He’s crying again. I can’t stand it. “What the fuck is going on with you? Just spit it out.”
“Caterina had the—our—baby. He was born a month ago. He’s beautiful. His name is Pete Junior.”
I am stunned, thinking about Pete and fatherhood. Those two words never really seemed to go together, and although I guess in the back of my mind I always realized we were both traveling the path to parenthood at approximately the same time, it’s still shocking to me that he actually has a kid. “So, how does this involve me?”
“He has a head of hair like…”
I don’t say anything. Another little Peter Fitzgerald running around in the world. It’s almost impossible to imagine. I’m surprised I have any feelings about it, let alone these strange feelings that make me think I actually care, am actually angry. Even now, after I thought I was over Pete for good.
“Are you still there?”
“Yup. Can you get to the point?”
“You don’t understand. Everything was fine. She was even planning to get back together with me.”
I hold my hand over the phone. “I wish you could hear this,” I say to Alex.
“Put it on speaker,” he whispers.
I do. “Take a couple of deep breaths, Pete,” I say. It used to be Pete who was always telling me to calm down, to lay off the Scotch. “I’m afraid you’re going to pass out. What the hell is wrong?”
Alex shakes his head from side to side. “This guy is a lunatic,” he whispers.
“The baby’s missing.”
“Don’t you read the papers? His picture is on the front page of the Post.”
“You know I’m not a reader.”
“What happened, Pete?”
“The baby’s gone. Everything was okay, and then she was having some trouble breastfeeding, so she hired a doula.”
“What’s a doula?” I mouth the words to Alex. He picks up a magazine and writes “Baby nurse” on it with a pen. Oh. “Okay, so she hired the doula,” I say, as if I knew all along what a doula was. I can’t believe that chick is breastfeeding. What a showoff.
“Right, and the woman came to her apartment, and Caterina asked her to watch Pete Junior while she went to the bathroom, and when she got out of the bathroom, the doula and the baby were gone.”
“Gone?” I realize I’m just kind of answering Pete with one-word questions, but this is a little surreal. “How long ago?”
“Gone. He’s gone, and so is the doula. It’s been three days, and I’m losing my mind.”
“You called the police, right?”
“Yeah, of course. She called me, screaming. I called the police right away. The uniforms and detectives have been all over the apartment and the neighborhood, but there’s nothing. No trace of the woman, no trace of our baby. They don’t have a clue. They even gave me and Caterina a polygraph. Can you believe?”
“And the results of the polygraph?”
“What do you think? Of course, we passed. We didn’t kidnap our own baby.”
“Okay, I had to ask,” I say.
He continues, breathless. “The FBI might be getting involved, but you know how we locals hate that.” He makes a sound like a snort. “Don’t you ever watch the news?”
I’ve been so exhausted from not being able to sleep, I doze off on the couch every night before the news even comes on. I’m trying hard not to get defensive. “Where did Caterina get this doula from? Was it an agency? Isn’t there some way to trace her?”
“No. Caterina was talking to some woman at the park, and the woman gave her the name and number. And now when we call the number, it’s out of service.”
“What about the woman from the park?”
“She’s not there anymore, and Caterina doesn’t even know her name.”
Now Alex is kind of slapping the side of his head, as if he can’t believe what he’s hearing. “This is too weird,” he mouths to me.
“This is pretty weird. Didn’t it occur to either of you to get references on this woman who was going to be taking care of your baby?” I’m sure I sound harsh and judgmental, but I don’t care. What idiots.
“I don’t need you to lecture me right now, Dana. I didn’t even realize Caterina was thinking of hiring someone.” His voice is catching again. “I’m calling you for help. I don’t know what else to do.”
“I’m not sure what I can do either. So there’s a detective on the case? Anyone you know?”
“There are two, and I don’t know them, but I’m telling you, they’re clueless, and the more time that goes by…” He chokes and stops talking for a moment, as if he’s trying to regain his composure. “They can’t do certain things that you can.”
“Are the police monitoring Caterina’s phone?”
“Yeah, but there’s no ransom demand, either by phone or any other way, and no one has tried to communicate with us.”
“Anyone else live in the apartment?”
“Just Caterina and her brother Tony. I get over there as often as I can.”
I just bet he does. I shake my head to get the bad thoughts out. This is about a missing baby, not about my ex-husband’s sex drive. “Did they dust for fingerprints in the apartment?”
“Of course, but either the woman didn’t touch anything, or she was wearing gloves. Caterina doesn’t remember. She’s a wreck. She can hardly remember what the woman looked like.”
“Was the woman an American?”
“What do you mean?”
“Did she have an accent?”
“I don’t know. I never met her. I didn’t think to ask Caterina.”
“Was she young?”
“It was hard to tell. Caterina said she was wearing a headscarf.”
“On a hot July day? Seriously? How covered up was she?”
“I think Caterina said that as well as the black headscarf, she had on a long purple coat or dress covering her body.”
“It’s ninety degrees out, and this chick had on a long coat?”
“Maybe a coat, maybe some kind of long dress or something. It happened so fast, she said it’s hard to remember.”
“So did Caterina have any idea what her face looked like?”
“Like I said, the whole thing only took a few minutes, and she can’t even remember what color eyes the woman had. The police artist did sit down with her, and somehow they were able to come away with a sketch at least of eyes and the top of a nose, for whatever help that’ll be.”
“Any surveillance video?”
“It was like the woman knew exactly where the security cameras were, so the only thing the video shows is her back. Nothing from the front view. And then she turns left onto the side street, where there is only a block of low-rise, residential buildings, and she’s not visible anymore. And the video is pretty grainy anyway.”
“Of course,” I say, sighing.
“If she had only thrown that scarf out, maybe there would have been some DNA.”
“You think the woman in the park was working with her?”
“Who knows? But like I said, that woman is gone too. No trace of her, and Caterina only saw her that one day.”
“You did know I’m pregnant too, didn’t you?”
“What did you say?”
“I’m pregnant. I’m four weeks away from my due date.”
“I thought you couldn’t—”
“Trust me, I can.”
“Well, can you help me find my son?” The catch in Pete’s voice is unmistakable.
“I’m very pregnant, as I told you. It’s not so easy for me to get around. Can’t you call someone else? Someone already in Brooklyn? Don’t you know any PIs?”
Alex is shaking his head no, adding a hand motion to underline his opinion of my getting involved in Pete’s latest disaster. His facial expression tells me he wishes he hadn’t passed the phone over to me. I raise my eyebrows at him, shrug. I’m not sure how I feel about this. I have very little energy to run around and hunt down a kidnapper right now, but even though I’m over Pete, there’s no denying we were married for over twenty years, and there’s something about him that still attracts me. And he sounds so pathetic. The case sounds very interesting. Even though I don’t have my baby yet, I can imagine how horrible it would feel to have her snatched away from me when she was a month old.
“You are the best, and I want you, no one else.”
“Don’t you think it was a little stupid of you and what’s-her-name to hire someone to take care of your baby when you don’t know anything about her?”
“Look, like I said before, I didn’t call to get a lecture from you right now. I just need your help. After you find my baby, you can lecture me all you want. And besides, I didn’t have anything to do with hiring that woman.”
Alex rolls his eyes, and I try not to make eye contact with him, because I know if I do, he’ll be scolding me without saying a word. I wonder if I can find this baby before I give birth. It’s a challenge, and it’s hard for me to say no to any challenge, especially if it means I can lord it over Pete.
“No ransom demand?”
“Nothing,” Pete says.
“So then my guess is that whoever this woman is, she just wanted a baby and not money.”
Alex now has a hand on my wrist, and he’s applying a little more pressure than I think is warranted. He should know by now, that’ll just make me more determined than ever to jump in. I shake off his hand. He gets up, glaring at me, which I see from my peripheral vision, and stomps out to the kitchen. I’ll deal with that. “So, I’m going to have to talk to Caterina first. Is that okay with her?”
“It’s going to be okay with her, no matter what,” Pete says, “and thank you. I’m relieved you said yes.”
“It’s not going to be good for my relationship,” I mutter under my breath.
“What did you say?”
“Nothing.” As steady and wonderful as Alex is, life was more exciting with Pete. It makes me feel guilty to admit it, but it’s the truth. I’ve always known that I’m wired for more than a little excitement, more than a little daredevil action. That’s why I loved being an NYPD detective for all those years. If I’m being honest, that’s obviously why these crazy circumstances always seem to find me—because I allow them to. It’s like I’m a magnet for trouble. Not that I want to do anything to jeopardize my upcoming marriage to Alex. I do love him, more than anything—he’s adorable, funny, an amazing lover, faithful, takes incredible care of my father. And I know he’ll be a wonderful father himself. I’m sure that having the baby is going to provide a different kind of excitement, and I’m trying to get ready for that, but I can’t say no to the thrill of just one more case. So Alex will have to accept that because if he doesn’t know it goes with the territory, he’s getting into an impossible long-term relationship—one that won’t last. I’m selfish, I know, but I can’t change and don’t want to.
“Where do you live now? I’ll go tomorrow. Am I going to bump into detectives who are annoyed with me?”
He sighs, a big one, and sighs again. “It’s a little complicated.”
“Where you live is complicated? Don’t you live in Brooklyn anymore?”
“I—um, she does.”
“Where do you live?”
“Come on, Pete. I don’t have all day.”
“So, I told you we had a little trouble in the beginning, right? I kind of made a mistake, and, even though it meant nothing, Caterina broke up with me, so I’ve been trying to work it out with her this whole time.”
I want to laugh, but I know he’s in a bad way, so I stifle it at least partially. “Yeah? A mistake? What’s her name? Or was there more than one?”
“Come on, Dana, have a heart.”
“I have a heart. What’s the deal?”
“So, Caterina lives in Park Slope.”
“Oh, that’s pretty la-di-dah.”
“Yeah, well, I don’t live with her.”
“I got a place in Fort Greene.”
He sighs again. “So Caterina has this brother.” He pauses, as if I’m supposed to say something, but I don’t. “And he hates me.”
“I wonder why.”
“Yeah, well anyway, he kind of brainwashed her, and she says she won’t move in with me unless I get a place for us in Brooklyn Heights.”
“Jesus, why not SoHo or Tribeca? Buy her a brownstone and a limo with a driver.”
“So he doesn’t care if you cheat on her, as long as you get her a place in Brooklyn Heights? That makes sense—not!”
“So I have to give her brother a lot of space because he’s overprotective of her, and he’s kind of a goon—you know what I mean?”
Maybe things would have gone better for me and Pete if I’d had a couple of brothers. “But you have a gun.”
Alex is glowering at me from the kitchen door. With my mention of a gun, he throws his hands up and walks out of the room. That’s fine with me. I’m not too keen on sharing my plan with him. I take the phone off speaker.
“I know, but I don’t want to do anything that would make him forbid her to see me at all. She does what he says, but I really love my baby, and I think I love her, but I’m really scared. I want little Pete back, and I want her back.” He pauses, as if he’s afraid I might react. I don’t. “But she listens to her brother, and she still doesn’t trust me completely.” His voice chokes up.
I decide to change the subject, because he’s going around in circles, and, for whatever reason, I’m feeling sorry for him, so I want to restrain myself from making another snide remark. My baby’s kicking up a storm. I reach down to my belly and feel a little foot jabbing me from the inside. I feel very protective of that little foot. Poor Pete. “Okay, tell me what her address is and her phone number. Is there an Amber alert out?”
“And I’m assuming the cops went through her apartment really thoroughly?”
“Yeah. With a fine tooth comb.”
“At the park too?”
“And they didn’t come up with anything?”
“So if I just show up there, will she let me in?”
“I’ll tell her to let you in. She’s worse off than I am, really on the brink of a nervous breakdown, and she wants our son back, how ever she can get him.”
“Should I let you know when I’ll be there?”
“You can let me know, but if I have to work, I can’t be there with you.”
“That’s okay, maybe better. I’ll go tomorrow.” I’m talking softly so Alex doesn’t hear me from the other room.
“Please, Dana. Time is of the essence. The longer he’s missing…”
© 2018 by Rebecca Marks