Excerpt from A Well-Known Secret by Jim Fusilli, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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A Well-Known Secret

by Jim Fusilli

A Well-Known Secret
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2002, 304 pages
    Oct 2003, 320 pages

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"Is he the grandson?"

"He's very sick. She should see him."

"Mrs. Maoli said the boy has never seen his grandmother. Is that— "

"No. We would not take him to prison."

"How old is the boy?"

"He is three."

I found myself sketching invisible flow charts with my finger on the tabletop, avoiding the coffee-cup rings. "I'm trying to understand: You haven't seen her since—"

"Not in five years. This Christmas, five years. For a few minutes only."

"Does she know she has a grandson?"

"I wrote to her, yes."

I leaned forward. "There's no easy way to say this— "

"I understand, Mr. Orr, that Sonia does not want to see me and she does not want to see Enrique. I understand. But the situation has changed."

"Perhaps not for Sonia, Mrs. Salgado."

She stopped, then she shook her head. "I cannot explain. She is my daughter. I am seventy years old. And Enrique is sick."

"Sure," I nodded, "and you want to make things right."

"I think it is too late to make things right. But she was my little girl," she said without a trace of sentiment, without anger. "Then she was lost to me. I cannot explain. The newspapers said she was a monster. No."

Thirty years in Bedford Hills made it Murder One for Sonia Salgado. There was no sense asking her mother why she'd done it. A premeditated killing meant money or revenge.

"Perhaps she's hiding, Mrs. Salgado. That may be why she can't be found."

"I have thought of this and this is why I ask you and I do not ask the police. You can find her and you can give me the information. No one will know."

"You expose her and you may put her--and yourself--in danger."

"Mr. Orr, I just want to see my little girl. I want her to see Enrique. I want to see what is possible now."

"I understand, but— "

"And you help children, Mr. Orr. We know this."

On the north side of Union Square Park, they were cleaning away the debris from the Farmers' Market: Rotted fruit that had escaped the homeless lay in a pile near the curb. A city dump-truck moaned and wheezed as it backed toward 17th Street.

"Sure, Mrs. Salgado. Why not?"

She smiled, not in triumph but as if to signal that a burden had been lifted, a milepost passed.

"Give me a call in a day or two," I added.

"Thank you."

"No thanks yet," I said. "Let's wait until something gets done."

She reached for her handbag, but I dug out a five before she could get her money to the table.

"No, Mr. Orr, I insist." She pulled out a small brown wallet and dropped two folded singles between our cups.

That wasn't enough to cover my coffee, but I said nothing. I shouldn't have asked the proud old woman to meet me at this place, whose high prices paid for a hip cachet rather than customer satisfaction.

But since Mrs. Maoli said she knew Dorotea Salgado from the Farmers' Market, I thought it might be convenient for her.

What kind of people charge $3 for coffee?

I told her I was going to have another cup. She thanked me again, and I waited until she was halfway to Lex before I asked for the check. I left her two singles as a tip.

The New York County District Attorney's office is about a two-mile walk from Union Square. The best way to get there on a mild April morning is to cut through the park and stay on Fourth until the Bowery meets up with Park Row; or just take Lafayette through Little Italy toward the construction near Paine Park. Either way was faster than a cab, especially today: Somebody'd been given a big enough bag of cash to let Tim Robbins take over Spring near Balthazar for his latest flick, and traffic on Broadway had slowed to a dribble. Or so said WNYC before I left the house.

Excerpted from A Well-Known Secret © Copyright 2002 by Jim Fusilli. Reprinted with permission by Putnam. All rights reserved.

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