Previously: Detective Bruce, a former Black Panther who now runs investigations for the 20th Precinct, at 120 West 80th Street, told the group of amateur detectives that he would, without one hairline of a doubt, find Alyosha Zim. He didn’t say how. They met, the building detectives and the police official, at his precinct for the third time. It was a very hot Wednesday in July. Around 4 PM.
Naomi has always been a continual reader, only of novels, mostly featuring women protagonists. Her friend Margaret, who taught mysteries at the New School, suggested reading good mysteries might help her out. Margaret made a list for Naomi of books to read: police procedurals, detective stories: John Banville, Ian Rankin, Gary Disher, Agatha Christie, Elmore Leonard. She went to the St. Agnes Library Branch, to take out one of each. Alice, the dour looking librarian, a middle aged woman very close to the ground, was always sitting behind the desk, passing judgement on every library goers selection, Alice said to Naomi, “I like my mysteries more slash and burn.”
When asked, at the next meeting a week later, Detective Bruce claimed he never read mysteries of any kind. And he wouldn’t. “Why would I?” he said. Bruce preferred, instead, the Harlem Renaissance poets. Langston Hughes in particular. He recited “A Dream Deferred” in full before he began his meeting.
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
He recited in a clear deep voice, baronial.
“I didn’t know that there could be a detective who knew poetry,” Pin Ball exclaimed, and he wondered, for the third or forth time, if Detective Bruce was available. Pin Ball was dressed as Tina Turner. He hoped Bruce had the same thing for Tina that the whole world did. Bruce was handsome, but not in a precious way. More like a Black Panther policeman.
“Where are we with Alyosha?” Mrs. Israel, her clipboard at hand, was ready. Her role in life was to keep the record. Her pen was always at hand.
Charles echoed her thoughts. “We are here for the third time because presumably, you know more than we do about these things. I repeat,” said Charles, wanting to make his point. “The word is presumably.”
“Why are you so skeptical?” Eve responded. She looked, in her way, like the group’s secret head. She wasn’t wearing a crown exactly, but her large hair seemed to glow. “We are here for his help,” she added.
“After a while, we needed it. We’ve agreed to be a team.”
“Actually,” Bruce began. He stood in the center of the unfortunate police station conference room, a room where the lights constantly buzzed, where everyone no matter what color they were looked a sickly green. “Actually,” he repeated, a man who knew how to hold a room, “I read the Langston Hughes poem to make a point. Maybe too subtle for this particular group. We have, as I predicted, quickly located Alyosha Zim. Very quickly?”
“Where?” shouted Richard, although he wasn’t a shouting type.
“Tell us,” the second Richard said, more gently.
“I will of course,” said Detective Bruce. “Just not immediately.”
Esther Cohen posts a poem a day at esthercohen.com.