"Stop right here!" cried Rockefeller. The plans for Newport had changed, he announced. He wanted to take his daughter to Massachusetts General Hospital to have her head injury checked, and he would grab this cab. "Wait for me at the Whole Foods parking lot," he said, throwing an envelope containing cash onto the front seat.
Once in the taxi, Rockefeller directed the driver not to Mass General but to the Boston Sailing Center. A few minutes later, he and Snooks were climbing into the back of a white Lexus SUV. In the driver's seat was Aileen Ang, a thirty-year-old Asian American piano and flute teacher and Web designer. She had met Rockefeller one year earlier at a members' night at the sailing center. Ang had found him eccentric but not unexpectedly so, given his pedigree, and as time passed she had gotten to know him fairly well, just as a friend.
Recently, he had told her that he was going to sail around the world with his daughter in his new seventy-two-foot sailboat. He invited Ang to join them, saying she could give Snooks piano lessons. Then, just two days ago, her cell phone had rung when she was in a movie theater. She later found that Clark had left her a voicemail asking, "Are you ready to go cruising?"
She called back to say she couldn't go, and he said fine, but could she drive him to New York City, where his boat was docked? Of course, he said, he would pay for her gas and her time, a sum of $500. Since Aileen knew he couldn't drive, she agreed.
On Sunday, she was waiting in her car outside the Boston Sailing Center when Rockefeller and his daughter rushed over and crawled into the backseat. "If you don't mind, I'm going to sit back here, because Snooks has a headache and I want to take care of her," he said. Ang started the car.
"Where are we going, Daddy?" Snooks asked.
"We're going to our new boat," he told her.
Then the father and daughter both lay down in the backseat. Soon after Ang entered Rhode Island, Rockefeller climbed into the passenger seat and asked to borrow her cell phone. Later she picked it up and saw that he had turned it off.
With pounding rain and terrible traffic, the trip stretched to almost seven hours. At one point Ang turned her phone on and saw that she had four messages.
"Just leave it alone," Rockefeller ordered. Dutifully she switched it off again. As she drove, she could hear Rockefeller and Snooks talking, playing games, and singing songs.
"I love you too much, Daddy," Snooks said at one point.
As they were driving into New York City, Clark told Ang to head toward Forty-second Street and Sixth Avenue, where he and Snooks would catch a cab to Long Island for the boat launch. She got stopped in traffic in front of Grand Central Terminal, and before she could even pull over, he said, "I'm going to get off here and grab a cab." He tossed an envelope filled with cash onto the front seat, grabbed his daughter, and took off without even saying goodbye.
As Ang watched them walk away, she turned her phone back on. It rang almost immediately. "What's your Rockefeller friend's first name?" asked the caller.
Ang was perplexed. "Clark," she said.
"Well, he's just abducted his kid and hit a social worker. They're looking for him all over Massachusetts. There's an Amber Alert."
"They just got out of my car!" said Ang. "What should I do?"
"Call the police!"
Several hours earlier, back in Boston, Howard Yaffe had sat up dazed in the street. His hip, chin, shoulder, and knee were bruised and bleeding, and his head was throbbing. He managed to pull out his cell phone and dial 911. "A dad has just kidnapped his daughter!" he told the dispatcher. Once he'd given the necessary details, he called the Four Seasons Hotel, where Rockefeller's ex-wife was staying.
Reprinted by arrangement with Viking, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., from The Man in the Rockefeller Suit by Mark Seal. Copyright © 2011 by Mark Seal
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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