My wife, Margaret, and I dropped the kids off at her parents’ house fairly early on the morning of August 26, 2011. The meeting with my birth father was supposed to be the day before, but Jerry, his cousin, had called me about a week earlier to say that something came up and we needed to change the date. We kept the time at 4:30, but I still wanted to get to Manhattan a few hours early in case there were any travel glitches.
My dad offered to drive us to the train station at Croton-Harmon so I wouldn’t have to drive back after an emotionally draining day. As planned, we got to Grand Central a few hours early and walked around for a while. About an hour and a half before the meeting time, we decided to walk by Jerry’s law office to make sure we knew exactly where it was.
While we were standing in front of the building, we both turned to look at a man coming up the street and about to enter the building. It was Stuart! I had recognized him from a grainy picture I had found on the website of a professional association he belonged to. We quickly turned the other way so as not to be noticed, and started walking away.
We found a Starbucks and got a drink. About a half hour later, my phone rang. It was Jerry. “Stuart’s here, and we’re ready if you want to come a little early,” he said. I told him I would be there shortly, and my heart started pounding. I had thought long and hard about what I wanted to say, and how I would respond to a number of possible questions and red herrings they might throw at me.
We got to the building, and there was a basic security desk. I had told Jerry that my wife would be travelling to Manhattan with me, but agreed that she would wait in the lobby. We told the guard we were headed to the law office, and he let us through. When we got to the office, there was a basic wood door with no window, so you couldn’t see in. We entered, and I told the receptionist I was there to see Jerry.
When he came out and saw that I was with someone else, he got angry. “I told you to come alone,” he said in a harsh tone. I reminded him that my wife was planning to travel with me, but would wait in the lobby. Apparently, he meant the building lobby, not the office lobby. I didn’t know what was in store, and I was nervous to be there alone, but at least the receptionist was there in case anything went awry.
I brought Margaret back down to the building lobby and told her that if I wasn’t out in an hour and didn’t hear from me to come back up to see what was going on. She agreed, and was probably as nervous as I was. I walked back up, thinking to myself, “I’m not going to eat or drink anything they might offer me. I’m going to have my phone in my hand, ready to text the second anything seemed wrong.”
I walked back in, and Jerry asked me to follow him into the conference room. Stuart was sitting on the other side of the table. He said hello and we shook hands. I sat down with my back by the door, and Jerry sat at the head, just to my left. The table was too small for the room, and the chairs just barely fit. There was a bottle of water on the table in front of my spot. Just as we were about to start our conversation, I heard a soft knock on the door, and then a woman’s voice. “Good night,” she said. I began to shake, and drank about half the bottle of water in one gulp. I had no idea what was coming next, and there was no one left in the office but the three of us.
Read Part II here.