Mrs. Israel, organized, intrepid, moderately fashionable the way Queen Elizabeth was moderately fashionable, that is, she looked as though every single day was Easter Sunday, her boxy handbag always in sight. She looked as though she could, at any moment, put on a pill box hat a la Jackie or the Queen herself, Mrs. Israel organized a posse although posse is not a word she’d ever use, to visit the building. She made a list of what they knew, and gave xeroxed copies to everyone. Here are all the facts so far:
Alyosha Zed may or may not be his name. He had lived alone in an apartment three blocks away from the detectives.
He was a dancer from another country – maybe Georgia. Maybe Uzbekistan. Maybe even Armenia. No one knew for sure.
His dance form was flamenco, but he was reputed to know tap, too.
He was thin and handsome, and he worked part time on West 57th Street at a deli named MORTS.
His super was a man named Anibal, half Dominican half Haitian. Anibal is Hannibal in Spanish.
Eve and Others, the detective team, made their first official foray, their first trip together, to the site of the vanishing, an entirely non-descript building, on 80th Street between Amsterdam and Columbus. The building was neither brown nor gray, with a cavernous lobby, both dark and appropriately mysterious. Fluorescent lobby lights flickered. No doorman stood in front, only Naomi’s friend Albert, who had unofficially joined their detective team.
“Anibal is waiting,” he greeted them all. Albert, as fashionable as always, was wearing dark wool red, a memorable color for men’s daytime pants.
He looked purposeful, and distinguished. In a way, they all did – not altogether distinguished, but somewhat. “He’s prepared to give us all that he has. Whatever he knows.”
Together they walked up the dark stairwell to the third floor, to the back apartment where Anibal lived with his very large wife Mamie, and their two young sons. They were all sitting on the couch, all four of them, when the group arrived. The couch had a see through plastic cover making them look like a family carefully placed on top of saran wrap.
“I have the key,” he said, and they walked up another two flights, then entered the studio across the hall from Albert’s. It was mostly empty – just a boxy white room with a pull-out couch, folding chair, card table and a dresser. No pictures on the wall, no give-away photographs, nothing all that personal lying around. An answering machine sat in the middle of the cardtable, and Naomi walked over to it, and pressed the Play button.
“Alysosha,” a man’s voice said, in the only message on the tape. “I’m waiting for you in our usual place.”
“How in the world can we know where that is?” said Pin Ball.
“He went to the same bar every day. Tap a Keg. I’d see him there,” Anibal explained.
“Real Clue Number One, “ Mrs. Israel smiled.
Esther Cohen posts a poem a day at www.esthercohen.com