Note: This story is set in 2003, between the first and second series of Without a Trace.
- 1 -
10.15 a.m., Wednesday, 16th July
The path was plenty wide enough to walk side by side and the mid-summer sun was plenty bright enough to justify wearing shades but Martin Fitzgerald was aware that he and Danny Taylor were acting like archetypal FBI agents as they strode purposefully towards the entrance of an impressive brownstone. Hed be a liar if he ever tried to deny that he got a kick out of the power that his position gave him and he knew that Danny felt the same. It wasnt why hed applied for the Bureau or for the Missing Persons Squad but it was an enjoyable fringe benefit.
He smiled wryly.
Only the notice identifying the building as the Twilight Years care facility disrupted the fantasy, whisking away any kudos in their mission. Not that he had anything against elderly people in fact, a crime against someone who should be enjoying the respect and protection of society would offend him to the core but still
Whyre we here? Danny wondered aloud. These guys probably wander off all the time.
Local boys called it in, Martin told him.
That was all he knew and he was as puzzled as Danny about the reasons. The Missing Persons Squad stepped in fast enough for children but, with adults, there had to be a reason to suspect foul play. After all, there was nothing in the Constitution to say that grown men or women couldnt move on to new pastures if they wanted to. The answer would not be long in coming.
Two uniformed officers were waiting on the porch, one male and one female.
Whats the story? Danny called out as they approached.
The female officer stepped forward, confident and professional but just a little too eager. Martin suppressed another smile. Hed noticed before how easily women took to Danny, not to mention overhearing some of their teammates barbs on the subject of his love life. It had to be something in his manner, given that he was no pin-up.
The managers worried about one of her staff: ultra-reliable and this is the second day hes missed. She paused. Danny inclined his head encouragingly. I know its not long but the thing is its the second call weve had about the same guy. He does a night job and his boss there called in about him too. She was looking uneasy now, thinking that sounded pretty thin, and repeated herself. I mean I know its not long but
Danny smiled, seeming to warm the air a few degrees with his expression.
Two worried bosses says its out of character?
Sokay, Danny reassured her. Give us what you got.
The cop took out a small pad and read from notes made in a precise hand.
Dedea Guzam. Works here as a care assistant for the old folks.
Martin listened attentively but his mind flitted from one impression to another, taking in and analyzing everything he saw and heard, just as he always did. He doubted that old folks was an expression favored by those in the social services any more and yet the young woman spoke it with fondness and respect. People sometimes worried too much about vocabulary, without hearing the attitudes that stirred beneath it. He had no doubt that she had become a cop to try to help people and that vulnerable groups like the elderly were right at the top of her list of priorities.
The manager, Mrs Edith Jackson, says hes never missed a day or even been late. She was worried yesterday when she couldnt get an answer on the phone. She called us when it was still the same this morning.
What about the other job? he prompted.
Same thing. Hes a bartender downtown. When he missed the night before last, they were surprised but figured something must have come up. When he didnt show again last night, the owner called it in. No one got around to doing anything about it until this morning, by which time wed got this call.
You been to talk to them? Danny asked.
No, she looked uncomfortable. Our sergeant figured we should call you.
Martin read the politics behind that in an instant. The New York Police Department was always short of manpower. The sergeant undoubtedly thought his officers had better things to do than to look for citizens who had done nothing but miss a day's work and had said in no uncertain terms that there was an over-funded FBI unit set up for precisely that purpose. Such thinking did not trouble him, partly because he understood the pressures that made a man think that way and partly because every time they succeeded in reuniting an involuntarily missing person with their loved ones, he knew the job was worthwhile. Their failures left him low for days but the elation of a triumph more than made up for it. He smiled to the woman, matching Dannys warmth, and saw her relax in response.
Well take it from here.
She nodded her thanks. Wed better get back to it.
Her silent companion nodded and turned away.
Dollar to a dime says its a waste of time, Danny said, rapping the door and then shoving his hands into his pants pockets.
Ill keep my dime. But then again, how many concerned employers call the cops about a missing employee these days?
Martin removed his sunglasses. As well as shielding his eyes from the sun, they were useful tools in their job. Concealing the eyes made an interviewer less human, more daunting to the suspect. Revealing them made him more approachable, someone to trust to confide in. Hed seen Danny use them in the same way, although he was inclined to keep them on more often, and also to hide his emotions when it was hard to keep a professional distance in a case that hit too close to home in some way.
The woman who opened the door was in her middle years, a tidy and authoritative forty-something with graying hair swept into a functional and yet graceful chignon. She looked exactly the kind of person you would hope might run a nursing home, firm and yet kind.
Automatically raising his badge, Martin announced them. FBI, maam. We understand youre worried about one of your employees.
The womans eyes scanned both badges efficiently. It was not the cursory glance that many citizens gave them. She had surely noted their names and department.
Come in, gentlemen. I appreciate your coming so promptly. I was not convinced that the authorities would consider this a matter worthy of investigation.
That decision had, in fact, not yet been made. Martin judged her to be a woman who preferred straight-talking and so he spoke frankly.
Were here to decide that.
Ordinarily, it would be their boss, Jack Malone, making that call but he was still jumping through hoops to pacify the father of their last missing person, who seemed to think that suing the FBI was somehow going to bring his little girl back. Martin hadnt decided how he felt about that yet: it was good to see a man who cared about his child so passionately but wasting Jacks time might mean that other people lost their children instead of finding them in the nick of time.
Five minutes later, they were seated in Mrs Jacksons office, receiving a systematic description of the missing man. Several snapshots littered the desk, all showing a dark-haired, dark-eyed and smiling man with the elderly residents of the home. It was the smiles that struck Martin, not just on Guzams face but on everyones. Some of the faces were frail and even a little vague but all looked happy and glad to have him around.
Dedea was born to work with elderly people, Mrs Jackson was telling them. He isnt just conscientious and dedicated. No, he likes caring for them, being in their company and listening to their stories. You cant imagine how hard it is to find the right staff for a place like this. How many people these days can be relied upon one hundred percent?
Till yesterday, Danny remarked.
His tone was neutral, simply pointing out that Dedea had let the woman down and that there might be no sinister reason for that. Mrs Jackson seemed to consider that for a moment but did not take the bait. When she went on, her voice was as calm and self-possessed as before.
True. And I was prepared to accept that was an aberration and, indeed, to overlook it. However, she paused for emphasis. Today is a very special day for us here at Twilight Years and I can tell you with absolute certainty that Mr Guzam would have been here or, at the very least, would have telephoned if something, no matter how serious, prevented that.
She stopped speaking, letting the pause extend until it was clear she intended to make them prompt her for the reason for her certainty. It was a device to guarantee that they were paying attention and afforded the information the significance she believed it merited. Danny obliged.
And that would be why?
Mrs Jackson pushed two of the snapshots towards them. They showed Dedea Guzam with a white-haired woman with lively eyes of a startlingly clear sky-blue.
That is Celia Usher. She is our oldest resident and a great friend of Dedeas. She met Martins steady gaze with an intense amber stare of her own. Celia is one hundred years old today and there is no way Another characteristic pause. Absolutely no way that Dedea would miss it. That is why I involved the police in what might otherwise seem something of an overreaction.
Martin picked up one photograph and saw Danny do the same with the other. Photographs could be misleading, by chance as much as by deliberate manipulation, but he saw no reason to doubt this one. It showed two people genuinely fond of each other, over a gap of several generations, and he found himself sharing the womans conviction that this man would not miss the birthday party. He glanced at Danny and saw the same judgment in his deep brown eyes. Martin had never known anyone to have a hundredth birthday party but that only supported the idea that it was a rare and special event, not to be missed.
Well need to know everything you know about this man, maam.
When they left half an hour later, he had no doubt that they did indeed know everything that she knew about the missing man. Unfortunately, as was often the case with workplace contacts, the information was frustratingly vague in most key areas. In fact, although the manager of a sizeable residence for the elderly could hardly be passing her days in idle chatter, Mrs Jackson knew a surprising amount about Guzam from countless half-overheard conversations with her charges but a mans taste in television, films, books and food was not likely to lead them straight to him.
Apart from his Slovakian nationality and his entry as a young man into the United States in the nineties, only one interesting thing had emerged. The manager of his day job knew nothing of his night job. Looked at from one angle, that was hardly surprising if the man was being creative with his tax returns. However, her assertion that he was always bright, alert and ready for work did seem strange if he was spending his nights tending bar.
- 2 -
10.50 a.m., Wednesday, 16th July 26 hours missing
Danny sat sideways in the passenger seat of the department sedan and punched the number that Edith Jackson had given them into his mobile phone. He let it ring good and long but there was no answer and no message inviting him to leave a message. He looked across at Martin.
Theyd be lucky if they found anyone at the bar in the middle of the morning but it was worth a try before they headed for the home address in Mrs Jacksons meticulous filing system. While Martin drove, Danny thought about their quarry. Mrs Jackson had been wrong when she said that he couldnt imagine how hard it was to get the right staff. Hed seen the care system closer than he wanted to, albeit for children not elderly people, and he knew there were plenty of people working in it who werent fit to keep a dog, let alone a child. It had taken society a while to realize that people might have their own agendas for taking in youngsters. There were other sickos just as keen to prey on helpless octogenarians. Although it turned his stomach to consider the possibility, he knew that a wizened eighty-year-old was no safer from sexual abuse than a child, and that violent abuse and chronic neglect were even more prevalent.
Of course, Dedea Guzam could be just such a man. His close friendships with these people might be a cover. Danny studied the snapshot that was still in his hand, the clearer of the two with Celia Usher. He was as certain as he could be that the woman retained all her mental faculties and that she was genuinely fond of the young man dancing with her. That didnt mean there was nothing going on between them, and Dedeas position of responsibility in the home would make that unethical, but unusual sexual tastes werent normally something with which the FBI concerned itself. Danny was sorry that harsh experience took all those options through his mind. He wouldnt have minded seeing nothing below the smiling surface of the shot.
Martin parked in the no-stopping zone outside the bar and tossed an FBI card onto the dashboard. Danny hopped lightly out of the car, read the Closed sign on the door and then thumped loudly with the side of his fist. Perhaps half a minute passed before he saw movement inside. If appearances were anything to go by, the man who opened the door had not long left his bed. He gave their badges a perfunctory glance and then stood aside to let them in.
Danny looked around, taking in every detail of the scene. Morning was not a good time to visit a bar and this one had not yet been cleaned up from the night before. Hed woken up to stale beer and stale smoke just like this on countless occasions and had no use for the memory of what hed been then. He switched his attention back to the man who had answered the door. He was over six feet tall, well built with a six-pack still faintly discernible under a slight paunch. Even unshaven and unwashed, he wasnt a bad looking man. He wore an open terry cloth robe and red boxers underneath. Danny wondered whether he would have made more effort if it had been their fellow agent, Samantha Spade, standing before him. Probably not, he decided. Doubtless the bar-owner saw an endless string of beautiful women every night and hardly noticed them any more.
This about Ded? the man asked.
Martin had led the interview at Twilight Years and so Danny automatically took his turn.
Yeah. You called him in missing, Mr he consulted his notes. Thomas.
Didnt realize you Feds did this sort of stuff. Figured itd be the local boys.
Missing Persons Squad, Danny told him what he could have read on their IDs. He paused before expanding on the reason for their involvement. Fact is, you werent the only one to call him in.
That so? the man said, perhaps with mild surprise. Didnt think Ded had any family to miss him. Thats kinda why I figured maybe I oughta call, just in case something bad had gone down.
Any reason why it would?
Were in New York.
Danny couldnt help warming to the man. There was something in his brusque concern and matter-of-fact attitude that said Guzam had found two good employers.
Thats true, he conceded. Did you know that your bartender had a day job?
No. But it aint a crime. Leastwise, it wasnt last time I heard anything about it.
What hours did he work here?
Seven till two.
The best. Never missed a day. Well, cept once I had to send him home cause he was puking all over. Rest of us used to joke about it sometimes. We figured Ded would show up even if he was dead. He hesitated before adding. Doesnt seem so funny now. You dont get staff like that in bars. Most of these kids figure theyre doing you a favor and theyre off at the first chance. Ded was in a class of his own.
You got an address for him?
Someplace, I guess.
The answer could have been evasive, although there was no sign of that in the tone.
He was a legal employee?
Thomas looked up sharply. Yes, he was legal. Point one, I never took on illegals because Im not looking to stiff my people I pay going rate. Point two, only a jerk or a traitor takes em on now.
Danny just smiled and nodded.
I had an address, Thomas continued, more quietly as if to himself. Whether I can find it now is another thing altogether.
He went through to the back of the bar. Danny followed with Martin close behind. The state of Thomass office instantly explained his doubt about finding an address. It was a tip.
Im not too hot with paperwork, he admitted. Slong as the booze arrives and the suppliers get paid, I dont pay it too much mind.
He scanned the room, as if trying to imagine what he might have done with information on staff.
Im lucky if I get six months out of most of em so it hardly seems worth the hassle.
He yanked open a filing cabinet drawer, then another and another. All were stuffed with papers that might not have been disturbed in years. Danny was just beginning to wonder whether to wait when the man pulled down a dusty box file from a shelf. A yellowed label identified it as Employee Records. Thomas leafed through the papers and then held one out.
Danny took it. It was the same address theyd got from Twilight Years.
So how long had he worked here?
Going on four years.
That was about the same as the Twilight Years job as well.
You ever see him outside of this place?
No. I dont get outside of this place that much.
He have any friends here?
Depends how you mean friends, I guess. Everybody liked Ded, on both sides of the bar. But I dont know as it went outside this place. He wasnt exactly into relationships.
Danny looked at Martin. It was the first even slightly negative thing theyd heard about this saint of a man. He let Martin pick up on it, separating the challenge from the rapport he was building with the interviewee.
Meaning? Martin obliged.
Nothing really. He just didnt seem to let people in close. I never heard of him socializing with anybody out of work, thats all. Youd need to come back later and talk to the staff if you want more on that score. Dont get me wrong. I liked Ded a lot but I got a business to run and another twenty people on my payroll. I dont got time to get in close with anyone. Ask my ex-wife.
They could come back to it later. For now, it was good to keep the man sweet.
Okay, Danny told him. Well follow up on some leads and see where they take us. Missing adult wont be a priority unless we find evidence of a problem.
Thomas nodded. Fair enough. A smile. Maybe hes got an ex-wife too. Who knows?
Danny nodded and led the way back to the car, taking the passenger seat again. Fitzgeralds driving was assured and safe, so he was content to chill out instead of getting wound up by the citys aggressive drivers.
So, he began his summary. Everybody loves him and they can set their watches by his movements. Now hes gone.
Reckon Jackll think its a case?
Danny considered the question. Dedea Guzam remained in a group that did not score well on their prioritization system. Hes still an adult male with no dependents. Leaving your boss high and dry isnt a crime.
How about stopping by his apartment?
That would be thorough, Danny thought. Jack liked thorough. Sure.
He punched redial on his mobile phone. There was still no answer from Guzam.
- 3 -
11.38 a.m., Wednesday, 16th July 27 hours missing
Martin pulled up smoothly outside another brownstone, this one far less impressive than Twilight Years. It was in a part of the city that had long since gone out of fashion and was now beginning to crumble, with not enough money around to maintain the expensive fabric built during its better days. Nonetheless, it was a respectable neighborhood and he suspected that a defiant community spirit would make it a far better place to grow up in than the sprawling gated estates in which hed whiled away his childhood. The group of young children playing in the small concrete front yard three doors along under the watchful eye of a senior citizen backed up the judgment. The kids watched in fascination as they strode up the steps and rang on a small plastic doorbell push that was totally out of place on the big old building.
For the third time that morning, a door swung open to reveal a member of the public. For the first time, their dark suits, sunglasses and ID cards came as a surprise. A plump woman of about sixty stared up at them in alarm. Martin could almost see her scanning her memory for anything she might have done to bring the Government down on her. He doubted that her fear had anything to do with her past criminal history, suspecting it stemmed from long hours passed in front of a television that pumped out one conspiracy theory after another. In that other world, FBI agents swept in and devastated innocent lives, violating the Constitution with impunity. He wasnt naïve enough to dismiss the possibility that some agencies did act outside the law, accountable to no one in the public domain, but hed yet to see any sign of it in the Bureau. Certainly he and Danny could expect a roasting from Jack for any breach in procedure, if only because it threatened the success of any prosecution arising from an investigation. He opened with an easy question.
Are you the owner of this property?
Wed like to ask you some questions about one of your tenants.
M-my tenants? she echoed.
We understand that Dedea Guzam rents an apartment here.
She stared up at him, uncomprehending for a moment. Then she seemed to recall the name.
Having spotting the recognition, he was skeptical. Are you sure about that?
Yes. At first, she seemed to intend to leave it at that but then changed her mind. He used to live here. But that was years ago.
Im not sure. I It was back when I had my bad hip. I went in for the new one in the fall of 1999. But then Dedea helped me so much afterwards. He did my grocery shopping for weeks so it must have been a while after that.
Martin took a sidelong look at Danny, who showed the same mixture of amusement and impatience as he felt himself. He wanted an answer to the question but he realized that the woman was giving him plenty more background with her rambling. Here was another person who had liked Guzam, whose memories continued to build up an image of a kind and caring individual who must have seemed like a breath of fresh air in modern New York.
Nearly four years, I think, she eventually concluded.
Do you have a forwarding address?
No, he said hed give me one but he must have forgotten about it.
Martin nodded but suspected that the man had his reasons for not letting on where he was headed.
Do you know why he moved?
Well, she considered. He said something about a new job. Yes, I think that was it. He needed to find a place closer to work. Warming to her theme, she smiled up at him. I gave him a reference to help him find a place. He was a perfect tenant clean, polite, quiet and always paid on time. Her confidence faded. Hes not in any kind of trouble, is he?
No, maam. We just need to talk to him about something.
I knew he couldnt be. Not Dedea. Remember me to him, will you?
Martin nodded. Thank you, maam. Youve been very helpful.
Back in the car, he frowned at Danny. Moved for work?
It was a lie but perhaps just a harmless one.
Maybe that old place started to seem too shabby and he didnt want to hurt the old coots feelings.
Martin wasnt convinced and he didnt think Danny was either.
Lets go talk to Jack, Danny said.
Martin nodded. It was Jacks decision whether they devoted any more public money to investigating this Dedea Guzam, a popular man with no friends. It sure felt wrong but whether it was worth thousands of dollars to chase down some discrepancies was not for him to decide.
- 4 -
2.35 p.m., Wednesday, 16th July 30 hours missing
You both think theres something in this?
Jack had read the brief written report from the two young men on his best team and then listened closely to their answers to his questions. It looked thin on paper but he knew the care with which he explored each aspect of their interviews revealed that he had not dismissed it yet. He let his final question confirm the impression. He watched as they looked at each other before answering. There been a rough few weeks after Fitzgerald joined the team, during which he had wondered whether two ambitious and testosterone-loaded young agents were going to find a way to work together. Their joint assignment to San Diego in the Patrick Kent case had seen the start of a change and now Jack detected a burgeoning friendship underneath their wisecracks. He respected both of them, and knew that their strengths and weaknesses could complement each other perfectly if they could get past their rivalry. If they were agreed that the Guzam disappearance felt odd, that would have a strong influence on his decision.
Yeah, Danny spoke for them. We got two bosses who say hes too dependable to split without notice. He glanced again at Martin before adding, And the birthday partys the clincher.
Jack nodded. Okay. Well do a prelim at least. Brief the others on what youve got.
He let his tone declare that he had not finished speaking, while he considered the allocation of assignments. If Guzam was a customer favorite at the bar, Jack suspected he was a hit with the ladies. Women often liked to talk to women. On that basis, he figured Samantha and the other female member of their team, Vivian Johnson, might get more on Guzam than two good-looking young men who might only distract the interviewees from what had been so appealing about the missing bartender. Besides, hed seen Danny interact with children and could imagine that he would do just as well with the aging occupants of the Twilight Years care facility.
Get Viv and Samantha to start work on Guzams immigration records this afternoon and talk to the customers at the bar this evening, especially the women. You go talk to the old folks who knew him and see if you can get a current address from somewhere. A co-worker maybe. Ill back you up where I can but I still got a few loose ends to tie up.
His team knew what was going on behind the scenes but he felt no need to discuss it. Procedural headaches from the last case were his responsibility but he wanted them focused on the next one.
Danny and Martin nodded, trying to look casual but unable to hide their satisfaction at having won his backing for their call and with the lead role they would be playing on this one. He felt an almost paternal warmth towards them. They were both sharp and conscientious, and he looked forward to molding them into exemplary FBI agents.
- 5 -
3.55 p.m., Wednesday, 16th July 31 hours missing
Martin shook his head.
So this Guzam works with the old folks from eight in the morning until six at night, then goes on to do a seven-hour shift in a bar downtown. When does he sleep?
The question had been bothering Danny too and hed still not come up with an answer. Plenty of men worked two jobs but it was hard to see one surviving on four hours sleep a night for long. He knew from experience that tending bar could be exhausting and he doubted that looking after elderly people was any picnic. Guzam would surely have been dead on his feet, not the happy and smiling figure in the snapshots.
Could be a benny-head, he suggested.
Doubt it. Speedll keep you going for a while but four years ?
Although it was true, Danny was surprised to hear the casual comeback from Martin.
Voice of experience? he asked.
There was a long silence before Martin replied. Exams can be tough. Fathers can be tougher.
Danny nodded, far too familiar with the allure of a bottle of whisky to judge his fellow agent. Hed put his prejudices about life with Victor Fitzgerald as a father behind him months ago, catching from Martins infrequent and non-specific references to childhood in general that growing up with privilege could be just as hard as growing up without it.
Lifes a bitch and then you die.
Martin smiled. For all that he was often clearly troubled by the past, he seem resigned to living with the baggage he carried and made no complaint about it. He parked out front of Twilight Years and Danny followed him to the door, a couple of paces behind this time and still musing over the life they were uncovering, a life that began to look as if it didnt add up. That was not so unusual; apart for abductions, there were often complex reasons behind a disappearance and especially that of an adult. With women, experience told him to start with abusive husbands and weird boyfriends but, with men, work-related problems and clashes with other men came high on the list. That didnt help much when the missing person had held down two menial jobs and seemed to be Mr Congeniality by all accounts.
This time, it was an assistant who let them into the home. She was the girl-next-door type average height, mid-brown hair and unmemorable features but huge puppy-dog eyes and perfect skin lifted her out of the ordinary. Unsurprisingly, she immediately guessed the reason for their visit.
Im sorry, she said, her voice as soft and warm as her eyes. Mrs Jackson isnt here this afternoon. She has a meeting with the County people. Im one of the assistant managers, Carol Barnes.
Turning his most radiant smile on her, Danny said, No problem. We want to talk to the staff and residents about this Dedea guy, see if we can turn up some new leads.
She nodded but asked, Hes not at home then? We hoped maybe he was just sick, couldnt get to a phone or something.
Danny glanced at Martin, seeking his opinion on whether to be candid about the old address in the homes records. Martin gave an almost imperceptible shrug and nod. It was hardly a State secret.
It was an old address, Danny admitted. He moved soon after he started work here.
Oh, she said. Were supposed to report things like that, you know, to keep the records up-to-date. He probably didnt think about it. Its not like we ever needed to contact him at home because he was so reliable.
So reliable. Yes, Danny thought, the man was shaping up into a regular saint.
Now everyones got cell phones, she went on, You dont really need to know where they live.
Danny nodded and wondered idly whether the average citizen realized how much harder those cell phones were making law enforcement. Criminals needed only to get a cell phone in a false name and they were virtually untraceable while they conducted their shady deals.
Do you have any idea where he lived? Direction? District?
Clearly giving that careful thought, she asked, Would you like a cup of coffee? Were just taking the trolley around to the residents.
Normally Danny would have declined any refreshments while working and he saw the slight movement that indicated Martin was about to do just that. He cut across without it being obvious that he was doing so.
Thatd be good.
This way then, please.
Martin looked surprised but fell into step beside him. Danny had a specific reason for accepting. He wanted to fit in, for everyone at the home to know that they were taking the missing man seriously and needed help to find him. Refusing a drink might look like they had a problem with drinking out of the same crockery as the old folks, and he didnt want to send out that message.
Ms Barnes opened a door into a bright sun lounge, presently empty, and said, Take a seat.
Danny did as bidden, and sat flipping a coaster over the edge of the table while Martin prowled the space, examining the pictures on the wall and then staring out of the window at the grounds. Two elderly women were rocking gently on a swing with floral-pattern covers while a tortoiseshell cat sat disdainfully washing its front paw, its gaze fixed on a bird table in the center of the lawn.
I dont think I can help much. Ms Barnes started speaking as soon as she came through the door, obviously used to doing two things at once without wasting a second of her day.
Didnt you get on with Mr Guzam? Martin prompted in a dispassionate tone that told her not to worry about it lots of people didnt get on with their colleagues.
Its not that. I liked Dedea I doubt youll find anyone who didnt. We used to talk quite a lot, you know, time permitting. With this job, you start a conversation on your break and then something happens and you dont finish it until three days later. Her eyes skipped between them and then she added hurriedly, I mean, it must be the same sort of thing for you guys.
They both nodded encouragingly but said nothing.
Its just that I cant remember anything thatd be useful to you. Its not like you want to know that he liked Jimmy Stewart films or that he hated carrots. You might be lucky with one of the residents but some of them dont remember too well and, of course, a lot of them like talking about the past.
Well talk to them, Danny promised. Especially Miss Usher.
Mrs, Carol corrected him automatically. You will be gentle with Celia, wont you. Shes very upset that he wont be at her party and shes convinced something has happened to him or that hell turn up at the last minute.
Danny gave another soothing nod but then asked, We havent managed to trace any friends outside of work so far. Do you know of anyone?
She shook her head slowly. I cant recall him ever mentioning anyone. Except his parents he was very fond of them but they died years ago.
She hesitated, too long to be natural. Danny narrowed his eyes inquiringly.
Were you ? he asked, then added, It wont go any further.
Oh, no, she said hastily. Not that I She blushed. Well, youve seen his picture and he was even nicer on the inside. But I dont think he
Her voice trailed away and the blush deepened.
Danny felt his smile broaden naturally but he kept it friendly, careful not to look as if he were mocking her which he wasnt.
He didnt what?
Date, she said abruptly. Then a pause. Then: Well, not women anyway.
You think he was gay?
Yes. Maybe. I dont know. She looked out of the window for a few seconds. One day in the staffroom, he was packing his bag to go home and I saw a copy of Instinct. I sort of got the feeling he meant me to see it. Her cheeks flamed. Probably so I didnt make a fool of myself. Worse than I already had.
Having got what he wanted, Danny had no intention of letting her embarrassment continue longer than it had to. He moved the interview on in a fractionally brisker tone.
But he wasnt obvious about it?
That made her smile. What, like stockings or leather gear?
Danny grinned back. Whatever.
No. He was quiet and gentle but so are most men in this line of work. He didnt lisp or mince or anything like that.
Thanks, youve been very helpful, Danny told her honestly. Is it okay if we drift around, chat to some of the people here?
She studied them for a few seconds, clearly considering whether they could be trusted to be sensitive and responsible, and then nodded.
Half an hour later, they were on their way with only one more piece of information. Celia Usher had indeed been deeply disturbed by her friends unexpected absence but she was as lucid and self-possessed as the snapshots suggested. She thought, but underlined firmly that it was only an impression and she couldnt recall a specific conversation on the subject, that Dedea lived in Astoria, a popular area with immigrants. It wasnt much a possibility not a certainty and, even then, a sizeable area with a sizeable population but it was better than nothing.
- 6 -
8.48 p.m., Wednesday, 16th July 36 hours missing
Samantha sat rigid, staring through the windshield and quietly seething at being ordered about by her teammates. Although the fact that she had seniority on Martin compounded the problem, she had long since accepted him into the team and was no less irritated about receiving an assignment from Danny.
They were just passing on Jacks orders, Viv said perceptively from the drivers seat. You know hes got other problems right now.
Samantha nodded curtly, then realized that being abrupt with Viv for no reason was childish.
Jack doesnt play favorites. You should know that.
Samantha looked across sharply, wondering what Viv knew about the tangled past that lay between her and Jack. The remark was fair enough, with or without inside knowledge. Shed worked for Jack for long enough to know that the job was everything to him. Shed risked compromising her position on the team by sleeping with him and she was lucky that he was professional enough to separate that from her future prospects.
Besides, Viv went on. This Guzam sounds like a nice guy. If hes in this country on his own with no one else to look out for him, it seems only fair that we should do it. Society could use more hard workers like him.
Samantha relaxed as she considered the case in hand.
Youre right. Ive got no problem with doing it. When Viv smiled, she added, And so its pretty stupid to make a fuss who gives the go-ahead, right?
Viv laughed as she pulled on the parking brake, taking a legal bay some hundred yards along the street from the bar where Guzam usually worked. They walked briskly side by side, visibly official though less ostentatiously FBI than their male counterparts. It was nearly nine and so the place was likely to be coming alive. Theyd discussed the timing before leaving the office, not eager to be up until the small hours with an early start in the morning but willing to sacrifice an evening to duty. Samantha was often surprised by the dedication Viv showed, with a young son at home to consider, but a supportive husband and network of helpful friends and relatives meant the boy was never short of company. Not many people still lived like that in the early years of the twenty-first century and Samantha admired Viv for maintaining such tight bonds. Rather than suspect their out-of-hours assignment meant Danny and Martin had unloaded an unpopular job, she was certain that theyd have been more than happy to question the female customers and the breakdown of tasks only confirmed Vivs opinion that they had been passing on Jacks orders.
Inside, the music was loud and the lights low. It wasnt the assault on the senses that some clubs favored but still enough to make normal conversation impossible. They pushed through the crowds towards the bar. There were four people tending it, two men and two women. They were probably younger than Guzam, though not by much, and equally good-looking.
Holding up her badge to the nearest one, Samantha said, We need to ask you about Dedea Guzam.
The girl nodded. Carl said youd be in.
The girl nodded again.
What can you tell us about Dedea?
The other girl had come over too and they both shook their heads sadly.
Weve been thinking about it, the second one said. All of us. She motioned to the two men. But we cant think of much that would be useful. Ded was a great guy nice, cute and a hard worker too but we dont even know where he lived.
The darker of the two men came over. He let his eye wander appreciatively over Samantha for a second or two but then spoke in a voice that contained only concern and a desire to help.
You could try asking around. He glanced at the crowd. Ded was a chatty guy and someone might remember something. He paused, clearly uncertain about what he was about to say, but then added. Your best bets the women. Start with that lot. He nodded towards a group of eight or nine attractive girls in a booth in the far corner.
Thanks, Samantha told him and then headed towards the booth.
So, the guy was a creep after all. Just another guy with nothing but sex on his mind. Shed almost bought into the special shit as well. When would she ever learn? The group of girls looked up curiously when she reached them. Flashing her badge, she introduced herself and Viv. They looked even more curious but not in the least alarmed. Law-abiding girls out for a drink in an up-and-coming downtown bar why should they be worried?
We need to ask you about Dedea Guzam.
The girls made no attempt to conceal their recognition.
Is he okay? a wide-eyed brunette asked.
Were not sure, Viv said in her most reassuring tone. Were trying to locate him.
We wondered where he was, a red-head told them. Hes always here, every night except Mondays. We missed him.
You know him well? Samantha prompted.
A couple of the girls looked down and another blushed. They knew the man and, as some people would say, in the Biblical sense. The red-head stayed cool, her green eyes returning Samanthas inspection steadily.
Hes a nice guy. He comes over on his breaks, has a drink, you know.
More than a drink, Samantha would put money on it. She couldnt believe the line that Martin and Danny had swallowed about him being so kind and caring, and could almost hear herself telling them how wrong theyd got him. She was too slow to follow up and Viv stepped in, accepting a place on the end of the bench seat on one side of the booth to signal that she intended to explore the matter more fully. Samantha couldnt see the point but only hesitated for an instant before perching opposite her.
So, Viv began. How long have you known him?
Since weve been coming here, the brunette said, not very helpfully.
Maybe eight months? a blonde guessed.
How often do you come in?
Depends, the red-head said.
Usually its at least once a week, the blonde chipped in again. Sometimes more, occasionally less.
That was quite a few meetings, plenty enough to get friendly.
You ever see him outside of work? Viv asked.
They shook their heads, almost in unison.
You wanted to?
He was such a cutie, a second brunette said shyly. And all alone in New York. I some of us we know what thats like. We just wanted to make him feel at home.
Hes from Europe, the first brunette offered, as if that made a difference.
Samantha looked at them in disbelief. Eight young women, all attractive to varying degrees, were offering to give this man the tour of the city or something and she was supposed to believe he turned them down.
The second brunette looked at Viv earnestly. Hed had a hard time there. He never said anything, and he was always smiling, but inside You could just see it. We wanted to help.
But he didnt want your help? Viv prompted.
It wasnt like that, the blonde said a little sharply. He just seemed well like he didnt want to tell us too much about his life outside this place.
So he doesnt talk much?
Samantha heard the implication in her own question, that the man had taken what he wanted and declined anything beyond that. She had not intended to voice the suggestion quite so unsubtly and thought she saw Viv flinch at the disruption to the interview.
Yes, he talks, the blonde snapped.
About everything else, the red-head added.
Everything that matters. The first brunette.
Books films museums galleries The second brunette.
He just knows so much stuff. The first brunette again.
Viv shifted in her seat. So you like him a lot?
The answers came thick and fast.
Yeah, whats not to like?
not to mention handsome.
The last observation came from the first brunette. Depth didnt seem to figure among her assets. It was the second brunette who finally admitted what none of them had said so far.
He seems so lonely, underneath. She deliberately evaded Samanthas gaze and looked instead at Viv. Its hard to explain, because he never asked us for help or looked for sympathy, but you feel like theres some great sadness inside him. Sometimes we well we just wanted to let him know that he wasnt alone. Sometimes it feels so lonely in this city.
All of you? Samantha was surprised at the gentleness in Vivs question.
Not together, the blonde said, almost as if shocked. It wasnt like that.
Admiring her own restraint, Samantha managed to keep quiet but her face must have spoken for her because the girls face grew angrier.
We werent hurting anybody. He was always careful.
He was a lovely man, the second brunette said quietly. Then, when she realized that theyd begun to speak about him in the past tense, she started to cry.
Viv patted her hand. Theres probably nothing to worry about. Were just looking into it because there are a lot of people worried about him, thats all.
The girl nodded but another tear coursed down her cheek. Viv got up to leave and Samantha followed her gladly. It felt like a scene out of the Stepford Wives, all these women duped by a con-artist into servicing his sexual fantasies on his break. It was unbelievable.
- 7 -
9.10 a.m., Thursday, 17th July 48 hours missing
When Viv delivered her report at the team briefing the next morning, Martin watched Samanthas body language. It declared her opinion of Dedea Guzam loud and clear, leaving him even more puzzled than the unexpected results of their questioning. It was as if they were describing a different man.
Hang about, he said. Our sources say hes gay.
Gay? Samantha probably would have laughed, if her mouth hadnt been hanging open in disbelief. You are kidding? Arent you?
Viv frowned. Our sources have him as the regular ladies man. Charming warm funny
She didnt go on but it was clear to Martin that she could have filled several pages of her notebook with the adjectives that the bars female clientele had applied to Guzam.
No way, he countered. Everyone weve talked to puts him as reserved and gentle, showing no interest in women as any more than friends.
Perhaps thats just your interpretation, Samantha put in.
Meaning what? Martin challenged, a shade too fast.
Danny supplied the answer. Meaning we dont notice the guys a jerk-off because were
Enough already. Jack cut him off. So whered you get gay? Thats a bit of a jump from reserved and gentle.
Martin held his breath for a moment, forcing himself to calm down. He didnt like being accused of any kind of bias but he didnt reckon to rise to such accusations either. Hed seen before how Samantha was apt to leap to conclusions and there was no reason for him to feel threatened by it.
Co-worker, he said succinctly. Mostly just an opinion but the woman saw him packing his bag to leave one night and he had a copy of Instinct.
Samantha made an impatient gesture with one hand. So hes gay because of a magazine. Maybe he picked it up for a friend.
Martin met Dannys glance. Neither of them had expressed any judgment about the reading material; it didnt bother him and he didnt think it bothered Danny either. He was saved the need to think of a diplomatic reply when Danny beat him to it.
No straight man picks up a copy of Instinct for anyone, Samantha. Trust me on that.
There was plenty of humor and no judgment in the retort. It summed up exactly what Martin himself felt. He was content for such material to be on sale, and for men who wanted to read it to have the freedom to do so, but he would not be in a hurry to be seen with a copy himself. He was relieved to see a smile in Jacks eyes, even if it didnt reach his lips.
What about his bank records? Jack asked.
Backgrounds on its way, Martin told him.
It always took a while to get the paperwork moving, which was why they went through shoe-leather with the usual inquiries while the system ground slowly on. He was expecting the first batch of information any time but its arrival at that precise moment in the hands of a messenger still came as a surprise. He emptied the envelope onto the conference table and leafed through the contents while Danny and Viv completed their reports, comparing and contrasting their findings. It fell to Jack to summarize the profile, and a confusing one it proved to be.
So, he said slowly. Were looking for a man whos a care assistant and a bartender, reserved but the life and soul of the party, probably gay but promiscuously heterosexual.
Thats about the size of it, Danny was grinning broadly. Hes good-looking, everybody likes him and he doesnt need to sleep. Maybe hes an extra-terrestrial with hypnotic powers.
Martin joined the others in an indulgent smile before adding, An extra-terrestrial with a checking account but no credit cards and no credit history.
Jack rolled a pen through his fingers thoughtfully.
Not too many employers pay cash these days so he might not have much choice about the checking account but no credit cards sounds like a man keeping a low profile.
Martin considered that. It was a possible explanation but people had a lot of reasons for steering clear of finance companies when they could. Besides, a man on a low income might see no point in borrowing money that he never expected to be able to pay back.
Or maybe he just lives within his means, he said.
Never a borrower nor a lender be, Viv quoted with a smile.
He shrugged. Some people still believe it. Anyhow, his banks got a different address. Saving the best until last, he continued, In Astoria.
So hes not that good at the covert business, Danny pointed out.
Im not convinced hes hiding, Jack said. An old address he might not have thought to let anyone know
Martin didnt buy that but shared Jacks view that the man was probably clean and legal. He looked at Samantha for the first time since their earlier exchange.
You said those girls thought he didnt want to tell them about his life outside the bar?
Samantha nodded. Yeah. Why?
Martin shrugged again, the beginnings of an idea stirring somewhere deep inside his mind.
Im not sure. Maybe he just didnt want any unexpected visitors a private type? Or hes got something to hide, but more like a secret than a crime?
They considered the suggestion for a few seconds. It had been a relief when they began to take his offerings as seriously as anyone elses. That in itself made him more willing to volunteer his ideas but he was also beginning to see that their job was made up of guesses about other peoples tangled lives and it didnt pay to have a closed mind about what theyd been up to. In this case, one change of address would hardly cause a professional investigator to break stride but it would be enough to prevent a bunch of co-workers turning up on the doorstep unexpected and unannounced. It was as reasonable an explanation as any other they had come up with so far.
- 8 -
11.13 a.m., Thursday, 17th July 50 hours missing
It took about ten seconds to explore Guzams apartment: kitchen area open to the living room, bathroom in which a swung kitten would have got a concussion and a bedroom with a single bed. Danny worked a pair of gloves over his hands and saw Martin doing the same. It wasnt much of a place, and even then was probably costing the missing man more than he could afford, but it was surprisingly homely considering its owner worked eighteen hours a day, six days a week.
In pride of place on a half-moon table against one wall was a selection of framed snapshots. They were carefully arranged but more by size and shape than subject. Black-and-white shots of a couple at various ages, presumably Guzams parents, rubbed shoulders with pictures of Guzam with the residents at Twilight Years and some taken at Thomass bar. Danny looked closer at those. One showed eight girls in a booth, arms around each other and smiles on their faces; they had to be the crowd that Viv and Samantha had interviewed. A couple of the shots showed Guzam with them, each with a face missing, the girl probably taking the picture.
So, Martin said slowly. He doesnt like to take home to work but he doesnt mind bringing work back home. What does that say?
Danny was flattered that his less experienced colleague was asking his opinion but, on this occasion, had nothing to offer on the subject. He shrugged and began to inspect the contents of the shelves and drawers. Dedea Guzam seemed to have a lot of interests. Three shelves of paperbacks ranged from Stephen King to Jane Austen. He flicked through a couple. Penciled prices in cents not dollars told him that theyd come from charity shops. The music was just as diverse, with a collection of trad jazz sitting alongside discount classical CDs and some second-hand rock LPs. There was something strange about the hi-fi equipment but it took Danny a couple of minutes to think what it was. Then it came to him.
He was still thinking about that when he spotted a pair of headphones plugged into the TV. He frowned, remembering the previous landladys description of her model tenant. She had said he was quiet.
Hey, Martins voice came from the bedroom. Take a look at this.
Danny sauntered in, still mulling over his own discoveries. Martin reached into one of a pair of bedside cabinets and tossed a handful of magazines onto the bed. The glossy paper slid freely, letting the titles fan out. Their owner was clearly a breast man.
Nice. Danny grinned. But I got my own. Maybe Samantha was right after all. Or maybe he was just letting nursie down gently liked his women a bit livelier.
Martin grinned and then walked quickly around the bed. Danny inclined his head, wondering what his fellow agent had found.
You got any like this? Martin asked.
He tossed another selection onto the bed. Danny stared, feeling shocked even though the display only confirmed what theyd told Samantha. He wondered if he was going to blush and hoped not. He didnt want Fitzgerald thinking he couldnt handle the sight of a few dicks. He resorted to his usual defense of humor.
Ever heard of bisexual, my man?
Martin held his eye and voiced the same objection that Danny would have raised himself.
In separate cabinets?
Freaky. Maybe its a Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays kinda thing.
Tell you what, Danny said thoughtfully. Id say its a Vivian kind of thing. If she doesnt know, shell know someone who does.
Martin nodded. They were starting to work well as a team and, if calling in one of the others was the best approach, thats the one theyd go for.
- 9 -
13.09 p.m., Thursday, 17th July 52 hours missing
Got a doozie for you, Vivalina, Danny called cheerily across the office.
Viv smiled, waiting for the two young men to come within easy talking distance. They were still pretty relaxed about their current case, given there was no certainty of foul play. Shed gone through the cycle so many times that she knew the emotional roller-coaster inside out. Children were the worst, with few harmless explanations for a disappearance of more than a few hours. Abused women probably came next, for her at least, often running from a husband or boyfriend who needed a kind of treatment that the law did not permit her to deliver. Kidnappings, though rare, figured high on her list of bad cases. After that, most adults either wanted to go missing or had contributed to the circumstances that overtook them in some way. That didnt mean she didnt care, sometimes too much, but she could usually treat it as business as usual rather than one of the dozen or so truly harrowing cases they could expect to handle in any given year.
Been shopping? she inquired casually, eyeing up the paper sacks they carried.
Her eyes widened when they emptied their loads onto her desk. Knowing that anything from their missing mans apartment would not yet have gone through forensics, she used a pencil to push them around. She was not in the least embarrassed by the magazines, and she knew that Danny had not expected her to be. He was not the kind of man who went for those kind of cheap shots, at least not unless someone gave him reason.
Im touched, she murmured when she inspected Martins offering. You shouldnt have.
Thing is. Dannys expression became more serious, as he gestured to the straight titles. He had these in a cabinet on one side of his bed, A wave at the gay ones. And these in another one on the other side. It seemed kinda weird to us one-way Joes.
Viv used the eraser on the end of her pencil to page through a couple of the magazines, checking out the obvious explanation. Danny pulled up a chair close by and Martin perched on the edge of the conference table behind her.
We wondered about bi but Martin let the suggestion trail off.
Viv glanced up at him. But why in separate cabinets?
More to the point, she went on, Why in separate magazines at all? I mean, fair enough pick some you like for whatever reason but theres no overlap here. Id expect a bisexual man to have at least some specialist titles.
Usual things two guys and a gal, isnt it? Danny asked, adding a typical self-mocking aside. Leastwise, thats what I hear.
She smiled and nodded. She could come up with at least one other plausible explanation but it was far less common than most scriptwriters seemed to think it was. She mulled it over, flipping through more pages as she did so. Eventually she abandoned her examination of the expanses of human flesh and focused her attention on the two younger agents.
Was there anything else strange about the apartment?
They thought about that for a minute or two.
Lotta stuff in the bathroom, Martin offered.
What sort of stuff? she asked. Medication?
No, just the usual but a lot of it. Like he couldnt decide what brand he liked, I guess. A slight frown creased his forehead before an apologetic smile chased it away. No disrespect to women or gay men, but it wasnt like a guys bathroom. I mean, how many bottles of shampoo do you have open at the same time, Danny?
They grinned at each other, so different in so many ways and yet clearly sharing a vision of how the typical working man ran his life. Then Danny sat up straighter, as if hed just remembered something.
There was another thing. There were no speakers for the CD player and the TV had headphones.
Poor sound insulation? Martin guessed. Everybody has him down as considerate, whether they knew the gay daytime guy or the straight nocturnal version.
Vivs doubts deepened, as she wondered whether it was time to call on some of her psychological contacts. It was starting to sound as if they really might be looking for two men, albeit sharing one body, and that might make the trail a lot tougher to follow. Her only other idea required a degree of personal anxiety that no one whod known the missing man seemed to have spotted. She thought about the interviews that Danny and Martin had conducted at Twilight Years.
Lets rewind to the assistant manager you talked to for a second
Carol Barnes? Martin checked.
Yeah. She told you about the copy of Instinct, didnt she?
How did she make it sound? Was he embarrassed about it? Try to cover it up?
No, Martin said. Completely the opposite. She thought he wanted her to see it.
Like a thanks but no thanks, Danny added.
She was interested in him?
Oh yeah, Danny grinned. Seems like every woman he ever met was interested in him, even the ones old enough to be his great-grandmother.
Why do you ask? Martin asked.
Because one reason for segregating your belongings like this is to compartmentalize your life and thats more common if youre uncomfortable with some aspect of it. He might have ritualized the satisfaction of the desires that shamed him.
So you werent so far off with the Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays thing, Martin said to Danny. In response to her inquiring raised eyebrow, he explained, Danny figured it might be sort of part-time.
Could be, she conceded. Although I doubt it because his being open with Ms Barnes suggests that hes well adjusted to his sexuality but, if hes not, well need to dig deeper. That wouldnt be a healthy emotional profile and we might find more skeletons in his closet. You didnt find anything else in the apartment?
What, like kiddie-porn? Danny asked.
Sado-masochistic tendencies might be a better fit.
Nope. Apart from what weve said, it looked pretty regular.
Hey, boys, Samantha called as she came in. Anything new?
Not really, Martin told her. Just more pieces that dont seem to fit.
Got another one for you, Samantha said, brandishing a sheaf of papers. Phone companys records. Our friend had not just one but two cell phones.
Aint a crime, Danny pointed out.
True, she came back. But what if I tell you that all the calls from the Twilight Years people come in on one
And all the ones from the bar on the other? Viv guessed.
You got it, Samantha said. But not only that. Once you rule out movie listings, pizza joints and the other noise, almost all the outgoing calls are between the two cells.
The guys talking to himself? Danny frowned as he spoke.
Viv thought about that. She supposed it was possible but shed never seen shared phone conversations listed in a multiple personality disorder case study. It was uncommon for sufferers to switch between identities fast enough to do that, unless Guzam was leaving messages for himself. Of course, there was a more prosaic explanation.
Or someone else uses one of the phones, she pointed out.
Like who? Martin asked.
She shrugged, with as yet no idea who such a mystery person might be, but then Samantha had said almost all the outgoing calls.
Who else did he call?
Samantha nodded, clearly having already gone down that route. Im still running down a few of the numbers but theres one that could be interesting. Maybe once every week or two, theres a call to a priest and the calls come from both cells. This Father Michael Osifchin is assigned to St Nicholass on East Tenth Street, but hes working a womens refuge down in Bed-Stuy.
Is that Roman Catholic? Martin asked.
Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic, Viv told him. Smiling at his surprised expression, she added, One of Reggies friends comes from that background. It fits with the Slovakian origin.
With Jack in a meeting with the legal department, retracing every move on their last case to build a watertight defense against the allegations that were now coming fast and furious from a man with too much money and not enough brains to understand the resources and dedication that had been plowed into the search for his daughter, it fell to her to decide what came next. Jack tended to flip them around, perhaps partly to discourage the kind of in-fighting that had surfaced at the recent briefing but probably more to ensure that information and ideas flowed freely.
Deciding that she would take one of the boys to see Father Osifchin, she considered her choice. Neither of them knew much about religion so they were pegged level there. Both were as sharp as agents came so that was no help. Danny was more familiar with deprived minority areas like Bed-Stuy than his privileged colleague but he was inclined to be aggressive, and something told her that was not the right approach for this clergyman. In any case, the other task in hand was to question Guzams neighbors and try to find the person using the second cell phone. Dannys immigrant heritage, distant though it was, might be just as useful for making friends in Astoria.
Martin, she decided. You come down to Bed-Stuy with me. Danny, Samantha, you go back to Astoria and see if you cant find someone who saw a regular visitor to Guzams apartment. If he pays for a phone for this person, youd think they must be fairly close. In any case, all the calls were local so he or she cant be far away.
Although that was true in as far as it went, not far in a city with the population density of New York didnt narrow it down that much. Still, Viv felt in her gut that they were moving forwards. It might seem as if they were no closer than they had been twenty-four hours earlier but her instincts told her that some of the pieces were about to fall into place. Sometimes it worked that way: one new fact suddenly cast the problem into sharp relief. Occasionally, when the solution to a puzzle had evaded her for days, shed been amazed by the simplicity of the explanation eventually revealed. Hindsight was a wonderful thing.
- 10 -
16.37 p.m., Thursday, 17th July 56 hours missing
Samantha sighed as she raised a finger to a doorbell for the twenty-somethingth time. Like almost every other agent, she preferred fieldwork to deskwork but door-to-doors were the worst part of it. It was the duty that every rookie was glad to shed on promotion but police officers of all kinds and ranks had to return to it often throughout their careers and complaining about it helped no one.
Who is it? a mans voice called out.
She instinctively stepped to one side of the door as Danny drew back to the other. You never knew when a felon with a guilty conscience might do something stupid.
FBI, she called back.
Be with you in five.
Five seconds? Five minutes? Who knew? They waited.
What the hell was he doing? Still they waited.
Eventually, two bolts rasped through their mountings before the door opened by three inches. A sturdy bar prevented it from opening further. Far more effective than any chain, the device would likely have withstood simultaneous kicks from her and Danny. She held up her ID to the balding man inside. He peered closely at it through shiny glass pebbles in a spindly wire frame, his eyes magnified like some weird cartoon character. She doubted he could read a word of the fine print.
Come along in, Miss Spade, he said with enthusiasm, confounding her expectations. I was just making myself a herbal tea. Would you care to join me? I dont get too many visitors.
She waited for him to say something like especially one as pretty as you but he did not.
No, thank you, sir, she said, surprised to find herself matching his good manners.
Her mother was fond of adages like manners maketh a man and courtesy costs us nothing and her own response to this old gentleman made her wonder how different a place the world might be if everyone bought into those quaint ideals.
And you, Mr Taylor?
No, thanks. Danny was more casual. We just want to ask you a couple of questions.
Ask away, the man told them as he went into the kitchen area of the tiny apartment.
Samantha stood at the peninsula unit that divided the two living spaces, while Danny prowled the room, inspecting the mans possessions closely while appearing to take only a casual interest in the faded photographs and cheap ornaments.
Do you know the man who lives in Apartment 5J? she asked.
J ? the man thought about the address. That would be Dedea, wouldnt it?
Thats right. He a friend of yours? Danny asked.
Not exactly a friend hes rather withdrawn but very kind nonetheless. Hes always ready to lend a hand if I need it but I actually know very little about him.
Before Samantha could prompt him with another question, he went on of his own accord.
He has an older man come to stay now and again. Ive never been quite sure if hes a relative or a he seemed to consider his words, special friend. Dedea is such a private person that Ive never felt it appropriate to intrude.
What does this man look like?
The neighbor raised a hand apologetically to his glasses. I dont see very well until I get close. My impression is of a similar height and build to Dedea. Thats why I thought he might be a relative. He wears a beard that is definitely graying I saw that when we shared the elevator one day. He leaned closer and peered owlishly at her. Why are you asking about Dedea?
Hes been reported missing and so were trying to trace his movements.
Missing, you say? I hope nothing untoward has befallen him such a kind boy.
When did you see him last?
Im not sure I think it must have been Monday. Thats garbage day and he knocked on my door before he went to work to see if I had anything to go downstairs. He usually does that. I always know its him so I dont have to worry about getting dressed.
Samantha caught Dannys surprised glance at her. Perhaps that was why the man had taken so long to open his door to them, struggling to get dressed by himself. No, surely he meant that he was still in his PJs when Dedea left for work.
Im a naturist, you see? he went on brightly. And so few people understand it, but Dedea told me that its quite common in central Europe, where he comes from. He doesnt worry about it at all. You see, he leaned closer still and spoke in a conspiratorial whisper, When you get to my age, people are ready to think youre senile at the slightest excuse. They dont believe me when I tell them that I havent worn clothes in my own home in forty years and I dont plan to start now.
Well, Samantha struggled to keep her voice free of such hysterical over-reactions, Thank you very much for the information, sir. Youve been very helpful.
Have I? Oh, good. I do hope Dedeas all right such a nice boy.
He shuffled to see them out of the apartment. Samantha breathed a sigh of relief as the heavy door shut firmly behind them, then looked up to see Danny grinning broadly.
Door-to-doors, he laughed, Dont you just love em?
Thank God he got dressed before opening the door, she said and meant it.
Still, his version ties up with what the slob upstairs told us. Looks like weve definitely got a regular visitor. Better chase up the forensic boys.
They had not prioritized the fingerprint processing, in a lab that was always working flat-out, because they had no prints other than Guzams to match and there were no signs of foul play in his apartment but now they needed to know who had been there. They expected to match Guzams prints with his immigration records but it would be blind luck if they managed to trace those of the mysterious visitor on the evidence to date, having found no one with a motive to harm this considerate and caring individual.
Kinda odd, Danny said. Only visitor weve got here is a man. Practically everyone else in Guzams life seems to be female.
Samantha considered that and found it to be broadly true. She nodded slowly. Theres Thomas and the two male bartenders, she said thoughtfully, But none of them is in the right age group. And thats about it.
Curiouser and curiouser, she thought. Just like Alice.
- 11 -
17.04 p.m., Thursday, 17th July 56 hours missing
Father Michael Osifchins rich baritone was as American as apple pie but there was no mistaking the Slavic heritage in his wide features and swarthy complexion. Martin had watched in silence as Viv introduced the pair of them and then inveigled her way inside without explaining why they were there. After the priest had settled himself down in a sagging armchair opposite them, he showed that hed been paying attention when they showed their IDs.
Missing persons? he asked. I didnt think you Feds bothered with the kind of people who go missing in Bed-Stuy.
It was a fair point that neither Martin nor Viv would bother to argue. They didnt like the way the system worked on occasion but he was absolutely right that some people were more equal than others when it came to the resources devoted to their disappearance.
Ill help if I can, the man went on. Although I should warn you that I wont play a part in returning children to their abusers, even for the FBI.
His reply suggested one thing. He had no idea why they were calling on him.
This isnt about a child, Martin told him.
Who is it about?
Having taken the baton, Martin decided to run with it. He knew Viv would be watching even more closely than him when he gave the name.
Osifchin was good. He barely flinched. Only the slightest movement of his eyes revealed that he knew the name. Martin let his expression show that hed spotted the reaction. The priest drew a slow intake of breath.
What makes you think Dedea is missing?
That wasnt the first question on any list of likely reactions to their news. It implied that the man had seen Guzam recently enough to think there was no problem. It also implied, at a deeper level, that he would not be entirely surprised if something had befallen Guzam. Martin knew that Viv would be right with him on those possibilities.
What makes you think he isnt?
Osifchin stared at him, clearly trying to see down the avenues that different answers might take him. Perhaps he had been a priest too long because his face was too open and caring for the subterfuge he was attempting. Martin matched the stare, following every subtle shift in the mans features. He was positive that Osifchin wanted to help them but he could see the mans fear at what harm he might do in the process.
Viv must have picked up on that, because she threw in a lifeline.
We work Missing Persons, Father. Were not interested in anything else that you may be concerned about revealing.
The priest held Martins eye for another second or two before slowing turning to look at her. Martin could still see the indecision in his face. The assurance was not enough, and perhaps he was right to think so. They could turn a blind eye to many things but there were limits. They would not be walking away from pedophilia, human trafficking and a dozen other serious crimes. However, it was difficult to see a priest with Osifchins exemplary record covering those up.
Osifchins eyes turned back onto him.
Because I had supper with him on Monday night, as I usually do, and he was well then. Has something happened since then?
Martin was surprised at how much the man had revealed in one answer. He knew Guzam outside work. Perhaps he did not know what a unique position that placed him in.
Maybe, Martin told him. He didnt show up at work on Tuesday and no ones seen him since.
From what we hear, thats right out of character.
I would agree with that assessment.
There was a caution in the replies that their content did not seem to justify.
And would you agree that makes you the last person to see him alive, as far as we can tell?
That is a possibility, Osifchin conceded. He left here around eleven, again as usual, but I am not sure that I shall be able to produce a witness to corroborate that.
Can you describe him for us? Viv asked, backing off the tension a notch.
Surely you have descriptions from his colleagues?
Martin frowned. He could see no reason for the man to shy away from such a simple question.
Humor us. How would you describe him?
Osifchin shrugged. An inch or two over six feet, dark hair, dark eyes, slim but muscular build. About thirty years old. Charming manner. An intelligent and engaging conversationalist.
Yet another person drawn to this enigmatic character. An idea came to Martin, something hed missed when he first interviewed a suspect with Jack but had since added to his growing list of traits and motives that might influence events that they needed to trace.
Were you involved with him?
He watched Viv in his peripheral vision, wondering if she would think the question clumsy, but she was waiting for Osifchins answer. The priest smiled.
I take it you mean sexually. No. My sexuality is immaterial, given that I take my vow of celibacy seriously, but my interests do not lie in that area.
But you knew Guzams did?
Again the priest seemed to consider whether to answer. Is that what youve been told?
Were supposed to ask the questions, Father, Viv chastised him gently.
More thought preceded the admission, I was aware that Dedea had been attracted to men on occasion.
Martin felt the frown return to his forehead. He struggled to see beyond the answer, knowing that the priest was steering a careful line between being honest and being unnecessarily frank. What the hell was it that he didnt want them to know?
Are you saying that he sublimated those desires through religious conviction? Viv asked.
No, Dedea does not believe that homosexuality is a sin.
Do you? she asked.
He laughed softly. The answer to that would take longer than I suspect you have, Agent Johnson, and I doubt my views are relevant to your case. Suffice to say that Dedea is as good a man as I have met and I have no interest in making him feel guilt for something that he accepts as a part of the character given to him by God. I am not a dogmatic man. I seek only to help my fellow man.
It was the first relaxed, totally honest, answer that he had given them. Its friendly candor threw his attempts at deceit into sharp relief.
Okay, so youre saying that he was attracted to men on some occasions, and women on others? Martin guessed.
That might be a fair way of putting it.
Itd be a real help if you could just come clean with
The purr of his phone cut Martin off in mid-complaint. Stepping into the hallway outside Osifchins cozy, if threadbare, living room, he put the tiny device to his ear.
Martin. Jacks voice. Are you and Viv still with the priest?
Yeah. Martin spoke low so that the man in the next room would not hear him through the open door. Not that hes telling us much.
The Bratislavan police have come through on Guzams record back home. Listen to this. Martin heard paper rustling. There was a brother, Ferea, died in the run-up to the elections in ninety-eight. Its down as an unsolved murder but no body was ever found. The suggestion is that it was probably a political execution. Both brothers were advocates of improved conditions for the Roma minority and Ferea had been targeted by Slovak nationalists. The nationalists lost power in that election.
Right before Dedea came to the States.
It gets better. They were twins. Jack paused for effect. And they werent fraternal.
Martin took a step deeper into the shadowy corridor, both the literal one in which he stood and the metaphorical one they were poised to enter.
You think were looking for two men? he asked in disbelief.
Id put money on it, Jack said. Because no matter what fancy psychological theories you find for a twin dealing with his loss, none of them explain the fact that our man doesnt sleep.
He paused for a second and Martin could hear the hesitation in his voice.
You want me to tell Viv and let her run it by him?
Yeah. You okay with that?
Sure. And Martin was surprised to find that he really was. He knew hed already won Jacks respect and that this was purely about the best approach to a weird setup. Viv had a lot more experience on the psychology of missing persons investigations than he did. Well let you know if we get anything. Have you spoken to Danny and Samantha?
Next on my list.
Martin closed the phone and dropped it into his jacket pocket. Leaning around the doorjamb, he called, Viv.
Excuse me, she said to Osifchin before joining Martin and murmuring, Jack?
He nodded and repeated Jacks information in a low whisper close to her right ear. She looked up at him, her face at first surprised and then slowly adopting a why didnt we think of that before? expression. Jack wants you to run it by the priest, he concluded.
They went back inside. Osifchin examined them afresh and knew that something had changed. He raised an eyebrow and the concern was clear in his voice when he spoke.
That wasnt bad news about Dedea, was it?
Viv shook her head, then leaned forward and looked at him intently.
I know youre trying to be honest with us, Father, without getting Dedea into any more trouble than hes already in. Im going to ask you a straightforward question and I want a straightforward answer. Im trusting that you wont lie to me.
Osifchin shifted uneasily but finally gave a slight nod.
Would you describe Dedea as bisexual?
Martin could see that it was not the question the priest had expected but also that he was already extrapolating what they would read into his answer.
The answer, when it finally came, was definite. No, I would not.
He was ready to admit what he now knew theyd uncovered without his help.
So you knew them both?
Yes. In fact, I may be the only person who knew them both. There was great sadness in the admission. He tried, unsuccessfully, to lift the mood. Will you be arresting me? Im sure I must have broken countless laws by keeping that information to myself. And I realize that, to anyone who doesnt know them, it will seem a foolhardy if not downright unpatriotic thing to do.
Thats not our concern right now, Viv said, her voice filled with reassurance even though she could offer no guarantee. Theres no suggestion that either man was involved in any illegal activities and, until there is, we just want to find out whats happened to them.
Osifchin nodded. Ill do all I can to help, though I have little of substance to add. I was their friend. From what you have pieced together, I think you will realize that their lives were lonely ones.
Martin listened as Viv teased every last detail from the mans memory, admiring her interviewing skills even as he reflected on the case, one in which truth was certainly proving to be stranger than fiction. Little wonder that the girls at the bar had taken pity on the brother whose loneliness and isolation showed through his friendly façade. Even less surprising was the fact that the kind-hearted assistant manager at Twilight Years had grown so close to the other man that she mistook friendship for romantic interest. Here were two gregarious and sociable men trying to keep a distance from anyone who might threaten the new lives they had snatched for themselves. Even Martin, usually one to play by the rules, wondered what he would do differently in their place.
According to Osifchin, Dedea was the man who worked at Twilight Years. He was the younger twin, by a matter of minutes, more self-effacing and more romantic in nature. Ferea, the bartender, had the bolder temperament, more outspoken and more carnally inclined.
Could you tell them apart? Viv asked.
By appearance alone? Osifchin checked. Difficult. As you may know, the degree of similarity in twins varies because differences occur in development, both before and after birth. I would say the Guzam twins were remarkably alike physically. If it comes to an autopsy, profound sadness filled his voice again, Youll be able to tell because Dedea has had an appendectomy but Ferea has not.
But youd know by their manner?
Osifchin gave a slight shrug. Perhaps not if they were trying to deceive me but they seemed to delight in their differences in my presence, as if they enjoyed being two individuals for once.
It was a remarkable sacrifice for Dedea to make to share his identify with his brother.
Greater love hath no man, Osifchin agreed. I am not sure that he fully understood how high the cost would be but he never made any complaint about it, either implied or expressed.
What do you mean by the cost? Viv prompted.
Everything that youve uncovered the distance and deceit. The irony was that I think the burden was harder for Dedea to bear and yet it was he who shouldered it by choice. Ferea found the pretense somewhat easier and he was the one to benefit from it.
Why was it particularly hard for Dedea to bear?
Because he was a gentle soul who yearned for companionship. For him, sex went with love and love went with honesty. Believe me when I tell you that I understand loneliness and frustration better than most and I know it when I see it, even in the most uncomplaining of men.
That sent Martin off into another of his parallel trains of thought, wondering what it was like to follow the path that the priest had chosen. He admired any man who stuck to his principles but wondered at the value of adopting such an unnatural lifestyle that it required constant self-discipline and self-sacrifice.
By the end of the interview, he had begun to experience that flicker of fellow feeling that came when an investigator really started to get under the skin of his quarry. Osifchin was right that nothing he told them threw sudden light onto what might have befallen Guzam but, when they took their leave on the front porch, they had a far clearer picture of the object of their search than they had glimpsed thus far. If the priest was to believed, they had uncovered another of the human tragedies that were so often behind disappearances. He was about to leave when Viv turned back.
Did you never see any friction between them? she asked.
Friction? Osifchin seemed to consider the word. I saw them argue passionately on a dozen subjects but always as loving brothers.
So you dont think they could have fought? Martin prompted.
When you have worked with peoples problems for as long as I have, you tend to avoid words like never and always. What youre suggesting is possible but I consider it highly unlikely. And, given that a surviving twin could continue his life as if nothing had happened, both being missing seems to require either that they killed each other simultaneously or that the murderer killed himself afterwards. Neither seems a compelling scenario to me.
Martin had to concede that neither seemed a compelling scenario to him either. He nodded, letting his sympathetic expression convey his understanding of the reasons behind the crimes they were uncovering and his commitment to do his damnedest to discover the truth. The Guzam brothers should have gone to the authorities openly and asked for asylum but, knowing how much all western democracies had clamped down on economic migration in recent years, he wondered if he would have been willing to gamble a brothers life on a successful outcome. He could see why they might have preferred to leave him safely recorded as dead in the official databases.
Viv had one last question for Osifchin.
Do you know how the brothers traveled between here and Astoria?
They usually walked down and took the subway back.
Walked? Vivs surprise was evident. Thats got to be six or eight miles.
Something like that, Osifchin agreed. Not far for a fit person and both of them liked to walk. They also had to be careful with money. He smiled. As does anybody on a low wage trying to live in this city.
Somebody might remember identical twins, Viv said, half to herself.
They wouldnt appear that way. They always avoided being seen together. One of them would wear a disguise nothing exotic, just a hat and false beard really but it gave a convincing impression of an older man, perhaps a father or other relative.
Martin wondered why he hadnt thought of that as soon as he heard there were two brothers. It tied in perfectly with what Danny and Samantha had been hearing from the neighbors in Astoria when they were last in contact.
Viv smiled to Osifchin. Thank you, Father. Youve been very helpful. At least now were starting to understand what were looking for.
You will let me know what you find?
Of course. Youll be the first.
Osifchin was still standing on the porch when it dropped out of sight behind them. He was the only person who seemed really to have known either Guzam brother, the first to show a genuine sense of loss rather than friendly concern towards an acquaintance theyd grown to like. It looked like the friendship had meant as much to him as to the lonely men he comforted. They were halfway back to the office before Martin voiced the inner debate he was conducting.
You understand this celibacy thing for priests? he asked Viv.
She glanced at him, barely taking her eyes from the road. It permits them to concentrate on God.
He heard the skepticism in his reply. It sounded like Osifchins mind was often on things other than God and any man knew that the best way to put those kind of thoughts out of his mind was to deal with their cause. From what he knew of Catholic doctrine, that was out of bounds as well.
For what its worth, she said, Im not an advocate myself. I believe we repress our desires at our peril. Its one thing to expect self-control, and I certainly believe in fidelity for married clergy, but absolute denial is unrealistic. In my opinion.
You and me both, he agreed.
She smiled at him. What else did you make of Father Osifchin?
Martin considered the question, careful separating layers of fact and opinion before answering.
Id say hes a good man doing a tough job. Seems to have been around enough to make a solid judgment. Unless we find something to the contrary, Id set some store by his version of our guys.
Thats my feeling too. So where does that leave us?
Well, he pondered. They could be lying in a hospital somewhere, on a ward or in the morgue, but our searches should have located them. We can try again with the twin detail but I doubt well hit paydirt. And, like the priest says, its hard to see them taking each other out.
And unlikely the two bodies wouldnt have been found in that scenario.
He nodded his agreement. So, somebody did them both and got rid of the bodies. Or something happened to make them run.
Or one of them might have run after the other was killed.
He considered that. Seems like we got two real possibilities. One, these guys were plain unlucky and got assaulted on the way home from their evening out. Wouldnt be impossible for two bodies to lie undiscovered somewhere between Bed-Stuy and Astoria. Two, they ran into someone who knew them back home. Anybody wanting Ferea dead isnt going to leave Dedea around to talk about it, even if he wasnt a target himself.
Right. And we think our men were probably on the subway, although they might have decided to walk or take a cab.
Martin scoured the mental map hed formed of the city that had been his home for less than a year, during which time hed driven for work and taken cabs for leisure. Although he lived in Queens, he wasnt sure of the subway route to Astoria, only a couple of miles from his apartment.
Subway from Bed-Stuy to Astorias gotta be a mess of changes, doesnt it?
Not for a man who doesnt mind a walk, Viv said as she spun the wheel to take them smoothly onto Park Avenue South. The G routell get you most of the way.
Then lets get the local cops to take a look around either end. Thats got to be the odds-on favorite.
Sounds good to me.
Martin flipped out his phone and began making the calls to set that in motion.
- 12 -
18.43 p.m., Thursday, 17th July 58 hours missing
Danny was driving when his cell phone vibrated so he fished it out of his pocket and tossed it to Samantha. It was an FBI cell and so the call had to be related to work. Although he was more than capable of taking a call while driving, he preferred not to divide his attention if he didnt need to.
Hi, Samantha said into the phone, then added in his direction, Its Martin.
Yeah. Jack told us No, nothing much. A few people saw the disguise, most didnt take much notice, a couple said they figured it was a relative. Got ages from forty to sixty, heights from five-nine to six-three.
Danny smiled. No matter how often he questioned people, he was still surprised by their poor observational skills. Few witnesses gave accurate descriptions and the degree of certainty was totally unrelated to the level of reliability.
Sure. Why? she asked. A pause. Okay.
She handed the phone back and he dropped it into his jacket pocket.
Viv wants us to meet them downtown.
Danny glanced over at her but could read nothing from her expression.
Are we thinking our boys went out on the town?
Im not sure. Martin says theyve got the locals checking out the most direct subway connections, concentrating on how he might have taken the G route back to Astoria.
Probably the fastest way, Danny agreed. Cant be more than a ten-minute walk either end.
And meanwhile Viv has another idea she wants us to run down together.
I dont see how they could have both come in on the one set of papers, Samantha mused, only half aloud.
Dont need paperwork to get in,Danny told her casually. Thousands of Mexicans demonstrate that every year. It only gets tricky when you want to work or see a doctor or whatever. Thats where the twin thing comes in handy. Two bosses, two doctors, whos going to notice?
He drove on in silence, weaving his way through backstreets to miss the traffic but making deceptively fast progress downtown. Even so, Martin and Viv were already parked when they reached their rendezvous. They got out and regrouped beside the sedan.
Well, Viv said thoughtfully. Weve been wondering, if they didnt head right on home, where else might they have gone?
Keeping them together? he asked.
Probably. Either that, they met up later or they disappeared in independent incidents.
Coulda hit the town, he offered. Wasnt that late.
But Ferea spends every night in a bar and gets laid in his break, Martin pointed out.
Movies maybe? Viv suggested. They knew from co-workers that both brothers had liked the movies. But we cant check every all-night movie theater on the subway.
Or maybe it was Dedeas turn for some action? Danny said.
I dont buy that, Martin said. The priest was sure he didnt go in for casual contacts.
Danny laughed. Like hed tell a priest.
This one was pretty clued up, Viv said.
Okay, Danny conceded, Maybe he doesnt put out but that doesnt mean he doesnt like to look. Hell, hes a guy isnt he?
Martin inclined his head in partial agreement. And we saw his bedtime reading.
Viv seemed to consider that for a few seconds. She looked up at him. The A route would take them right through Eighth Avenue. Then its one ride on E back home.
They all stood in silence, weighing that one up. As far as Danny could see, it was a fair possibility. Samantha looked doubtful, then directed her question at Martin and himself.
Do you think his brother would go for that?
They shrugged in unison. Ordinarily, Danny would have said no way, but they were talking about a pair of twins sharing one life. The straight one must surely have been comfortable with his brothers orientation for it to have worked so well.
Viv pulled out her cell phone and trawled its memory for a number. Samantha raised her eyebrows inquiringly but the phone was answered too promptly for her to get an answer.
Hey, Marlon. Long time. Viv paused while the man on the other end of the line spoke. Im good but well have to catch up another time this is work. I need insider information on Eighth Avenue. Oh yeah, right. She laughed. No, seriously, Im on a missing persons case and were thinking maybe our guy went clubbing after our last sighting. A pause and then another laugh. No, not that sort of club. We need to narrow it down. Im thinking somewhere good for a drink and a chat, not too pricey, maybe a hot floorshow but nothing heavy. Somewhere a gay guy could take a broad-minded straight guy without him getting hustled in the john. She listened, then glanced up at Danny with a smile. No, theyre not an endangered species. She waited again, then seemed to think for a second or two. Not sure lets say kinda sporty and clean-cut.
Danny guessed that her contact wanted to know their mans tastes and she was guessing from the magazines theyd found at his apartment. Viv scribbled on the pad that she had wedged against the windshield.
Thanks, Marlon. I owe you.
Danny inspected the list. Vivs contact had come up with seven places he thought might offer the kind of night out that they imagined Dedea might have enjoyed.
Talk about guesswork, he sighed.
Martin nodded but sounded more upbeat when he countered, Yeah, but we know the guys reserved and his brothers comfortable with the nightlife. Its not stretching it that far to think that part of their weekly boys night out is some eye-candy for baby brother. And youre right that theyd be hardly likely to discuss it with the priest.
Viv consulted her watch. It was still early for clubs but perhaps not too early for the kind of place they had in mind. Lets get moving then.
Samantha smiled. Maybe Danny and Martin should go together theyd fit in better. I guess theyre even kinda sporty and clean-cut.
Ha ha, Danny said. No, youll do fine. Theyll just think youre a guy in drag.
Samantha scowled but it was a friendly grimace, acknowledging that shed asked for the gibe.
- 13 -
19.34 p.m., Thursday, 17th July 59 hours missing
Viv took the lead into the third bar on their list, the last before they would join up with Danny and Samantha in the seventh and final one. It was easier having done two already but still a situation in which she felt that she had to monitor her behavior carefully. In truth, she much preferred movies to porn, liking an idealized character to go with the idealized body that she was supposed to be buying into. Even so, it was hard to ignore the finely-honed examples of male flesh gyrating provocatively around them. Martin was the kind of man who would never make a female co-worker uncomfortable with the sort of inappropriate reaction that had become unacceptable in professional circles before hed reached puberty. Knowing that, she had no intention of inadvertently falling into the same trap, as some liberated women were inclined to do.
Watching him out of the corner of her eye, she was surprised at how unruffled he appeared to be. Only the most liberal of straight men felt no reaction whatever to overt displays of gay behavior but, if he was uneasy with the floorshows they were seeing, he was doing a good job of hiding it. They began to show photographs of Dedea around, adding that he was likely to be with an older, bearded man. Reactions to their questions ran the whole gamut, from bored through suspicious to aggressive. Several men asked what it was about and received a frank reply that it was a missing persons case. There was no reason to hide that fact and the reassurance made some of the patrons more helpful, clearly glad that the authorities were devoting resources to one of their number when it sometimes seemed as if societys only interest was to persecute them, but it could do nothing to give them knowledge they didnt have.
When their questions finally met with recognition, it didnt come in quite the form that they had expected. The interviewee looked about twelve, although Viv had no doubt he was over-age because no bartender in his right mind would serve a customer who looked like that without a convincing ID. In any case, he showed no wariness of them at all, so either he was one hell of a hustler or he had nothing to hide. He studied the photograph closely.
I think I have seen him, he said eventually. Not here though.
Where then? Viv asked.
At Saint Nicholass.
Really? Viv said thoughtfully.
That was a connection they hadnt pursued. How had Father Osifchin met the Guzam brothers? Quite possibly through his links with the church, which wasnt a million miles from Thomass bar.
Yes, Im a regular and Im almost sure Ive seen this man there. Weve never spoken though.
Viv wasnt aware of showing any reaction to that revelation, and perhaps she didnt, but the boylike youth blushed.
You probably think I shouldnt be here, he said, his embarrassment obvious.
She smiled, a genuine smile that reflected the maternal tenderness she felt for the vulnerable-looking kid. What, having a drink and watching a show? I do that myself.
His eyes lit up in appreciation of her understanding. Your best bet is to ask Father Williams. I mean, theyre all nice guys but hes, well, even more caring. And hes great with names and faces. His rooms are in back of the church, behind a red door on St Nicholas Street, so hes usually somewheres round about.
After thanking him for his help, they headed off to find the others.
You made his day, Martin said casually as they strode along the sidewalk. Youre great with people, Viv.
I meant what I said, she told him. Im not big on guilt for things that dont hurt anybody.
He nodded. Same here. I have a harder time with the ones who are cheating on each other and lying at every turn.
Doesnt do much for your faith in your fellow man, does it? This job?
He laughed. Not on a bad day, no.
When they reached the last address Marlon had given her, Viv could tell from the way Samantha and Danny, waiting outside, were standing that theyd already checked it out and drawn a blank. It was those moments of insight that told her just how well they were gelling as a team.
No luck here? she checked her intuition.
Nada, Danny said. You?
We have a young man whos sure hes seen Dedea at St Nicholass. He suggested we talk to a Father Williams.
Williams ? Samantha said, clearly recognizing the name. She pulled out a notebook and scanned her personal record of the case. It took her a minute to find what she was looking for. Damn. Here it is. There was a call from Father Peter Williams to one of Dedeas cell phones on Monday afternoon at three-twenty-seven. She glanced up apologetically. It was very short. Things moved on and I didnt get back to it.
Viv glanced at her watch. It was nearly eight oclock and her second late night in a row.
I gotta go, she said reluctantly. I promised Reggie Id help him with a school assignment last night and its due in tomorrow. I cant let him down again.
No problem, Danny said easily. It doesnt take four of us to interview a priest and you pulled the late shift last night so its our turn. You up for it, Martin?
Martin had never yet refused to work an evening or weekend. As convenient as that was for the rest of them, Viv sometimes wondered how a man with his looks, intelligence and kindness could have so much free time on his hands. All she knew about him was that he built model ships, and shed gleaned that from an oblique conversation rather than a direct admission. It was a hobby that could consume vast amounts of time but she doubted that it was helping him to develop much of a social life in New York. She made a mental note to try to explore the subject more fully one day, when circumstances permitted. Having seen what Jacks single-mindedness about the job had done to his marriage, she would hate to see Martin wander off down the same lonely path.
Thanks, she said. Want a lift, Samantha?
Samanthas apartment was out of her way but she could make time for the detour.
No, thanks, Im fine. Im headed uptown anyhow.
Whoa, Danny grinned. Uptown girl, huh? Wont wanna be rubbing shoulders with us downtown boys.
I never did, she told him, tongue firmly in cheek, then teased, Dinner overlooking the Park.
Café des Artistes? he teased back.
Viv smiled. She suspected theyd have known by now if Samantha was dating the kind of man likely to take her there. Besides, she was hardly likely to go straight from work to a formal dinner.
Roof Garden at the Met but whos complaining? Opening preview of the late summer exhibition with a girlfriend, if you must know.
Should be fun, Viv said, not without a little envy.
Im counting on it.
They split up, with Viv driving south while Samantha hailed a cab going north, leaving the two men to carry on the search for the Guzam brothers. If their quarry had perhaps become slightly less mysterious in the time that they had been investigating his disappearance, his sudden fission into two missing individuals had robbed them of any sense of progress.
- 14 -
20.44 p.m., Thursday, 17th July 60 hours missing
Yeah, thats what we figured. Martin spoke into his cell phone through a mouthful of hamburger, having just appraised Jack of their progress and plan for the evening. But we had to stop for fuel before we passed out.
It was an exaggeration but he and Danny had agreed that they couldnt wait another hour to top up their reserves. Overcoming his distaste for junk food, Danny matched his order for a double-quarterpounder with everything, large fries and apple pie. Martin bolted down half of his before reaching for his phone to report in with Jack. He would probably have called in anyway but the fact that Jacks girls were away with grandparents meant that he didnt give it a second thought.
As far as Martin knew, those girls were the only things in his bosss life apart from the job. That did not seem as odd to him as it perhaps did to his teammates, given that his own life was tightly focused on making his mark professionally, independent of his fathers interference. He was not as young as he looked, already on the wrong side of thirty, but he figured there would still be plenty of time for family when he had carved out a place for himself. At least, that was what he told himself on the rare occasions that he analyzed his strategy, but a part of him knew that his unwillingness to commit himself when dating ran deeper. He didnt want to be the distant and demanding husband and father that his own father had been but he was wise enough to recognize that he had no model on which to base any improvement. With no memory of his grandfathers and no surrogate figure to compensate for what his father had so singularly failed to provide, how would he do any better by a child? The idea that a son might grow to resent him as much as he did Victor Fitzgerald made parenthood an unappealing idea. Only now and then, usually when Viv spoke of Reggie with such love and pride, did he wonder whether he might be missing out.
No such thoughts were in his conscious mind at that moment, in the easy company of a fellow bachelor like Danny and speaking to a boss who was single again too, albeit perhaps reluctantly. While he and Viv interviewed one person after another, his thoughts had flitted around the shared life they were unraveling. He couldnt begin to imagine being so close to anyone that he could operate that way. It was true that virtually no one knew both incarnations of Dedea Guzam, which made the charade a lot easier to believe than it would otherwise have been, but it still required a degree of co-operation and co-ordination that he had never experienced. As the pieces slowly fell into place, he saw how both men could not safely appear in public at the same time without a disguise and how the man who was at home while the other worked must live in silence to avoid arousing any suspicion in his neighbors. That was why there were no speakers, only headphones, and perhaps too why the man was so considerate he couldnt afford to have a complaint of any kind made against him, certainly not one that might attract the attention of the police.
Martin yanked his attention back to Jacks voice.
Mind if I meet you there? Jack was asking. It sounds like youre getting close and I dont mind telling you that Id like to see how this one pans out.
Okay, Martin said. Say St Nicholass in fifteen minutes?
It wasnt as if he could object, even if he wanted to, but in fact he didnt want to. He liked Jack, respected his skills and shared his curiosity about the strange case of the Guzam brothers. Closing the phone, he stuffed the rest of the hamburger into his mouth.
Jack keeping an eye on us? Danny sounded a little surprised.
Martin swallowed with difficulty. Sounds more like he wants to see this one for himself.
It is weird.
Too right. You think you could keep something like that going for four years?
Danny shrugged. If I thought my brothers life depended on it? Possibly.
Martin met his eye for a moment, trying to read there the background behind the answer. Hed got the idea that Dannys childhood had been pretty tough from a dozen or more casual comments but theyd never discussed it. He gave a slight nod, acknowledging that it was a hell of an incentive, assuming it was a brother whose life you wanted to save.
Maybe they figured, Danny suggested, That it wouldnt be for ever. Time passes. Maybe Ferea goes back home and sets the record straight. Maybe they go to immigration here and try to get it sorted legally.
Not a great time for that, Martin pointed out.
Perhaps the brothers had been intending to sort it out and those hopes had been shattered by nine-eleven. They might live in genuine fear of ending up in somewhere like Guantanamo Bay, with no access to the justice system and no prospect of a future.
If they were to show up alive, he said slowly, What do you think would happen?
He suspected Danny, with his closer acquaintance to the social services and the immigrant communities, might know more about that than he did.
Dont know, my man. Danny looked at him intently for a few seconds. Ill tell you this: Ive been wondering if were doing them any favors looking for them. If theyve gone to ground for a reason, I figure theyre safer staying out of sight than at the middle of a media circus.
Martin pictured that, didnt like what he saw, and shoved the rest of his fries in the trash container.
Best get moving. Jackll be waiting.
When they pulled up outside St Nicholass, Jack was indeed waiting. He was seated in another anonymous department sedan, staring thoughtfully at the church that had started life in the nineteenth century as an Anglican chapel. Martin pulled in neatly, hood to hood. Alongside was Tompkins Square Park, four hundred square yards of trees and grass which he associated with clashes between homeless people and police back in the eighties but which had clearly matured into an oasis from city-living. Pristine play equipment declared that it was a haven for young families, although only a few dog-walkers were about at that hour.
Hey, Jack, Danny called his greeting as they got out of the car. You sniff the end of the trail?
Jack gave one of his barely perceptible smiles. One of the reasons that it had taken some time for Martin to feel that his boss trusted him was the mans hangdog expression. It was a while before he learned to read the minute changes that signified amusement, satisfaction, criticism and anger. However, beneath the surface, Jack was a compassionate and dedicated man, subject to the full emotional spectrum that those attributes could stir. He also had a nose for the job.
Right now, Id put even money on the G route and someone at the church, Jack told them, But Id sooner watch you interview a priest than help the local boys go through dumpsters.
Martin couldnt argue with that logic. They strode up to the front of the church, not expecting to find it open but figuring to start there before going to look for the priests apartment around the block. The heavy oak doors were locked. Martin gripped the cast-iron ring mounted in the center of the right door and banged it firmly three times. The impact resonated through the door and echoed beyond. He waited, wondering how long it might take a priest to make his way from the far end of the building, especially if he were elderly or infirm.
Less than a minute had passed when he heard brisk footsteps on a stone floor. Seconds later, two heavy bolts slid back and then keys turned in two locks. The tight sound of the mechanisms suggested that they were modern deadlocks. The door opened inwards to reveal a small priest somewhere in late middle-age, possibly twenty years older than Osifchin and only a fraction of his height and bulk. Martin showed his ID.
Were looking for a Father Williams.
Youve found him. Would you like to come in?
Martin nodded and followed him inside, asking in surprise, You open up for anyone at this time of night?
If I had my way, the House of God would be open to any one at any hour but our insurers disagree with me.
Walking through the nave, Martin took in the ornately tiled walls and beamed ceiling. The church was no architectural gem but pleasing in its way, a reminder of the mixed cultural heritage of the parish that it served. Williams led them into a long room to one side of the altar and gestured to some chairs clustered around a table. Martin was still surprised to be admitted without question or resistance but decided to accept the offer of a seat. They might find out more from a relaxed interview than from an interrogation.
What is this about? Williams gave voice to the question that Martin had expected on the doorstep. We often have dealings with the Police Department, for one reason or another, but the FBI ?
Were looking for a missing man, Martin told him. And we have a witness who places him here at St Nicholas and thought you might know him.
Dedea Guzam. Dannys interjection backed him in naming only one man. They hadnt discussed it but Martin was inclined to wait and see how much this priest knew about his parishioner.
Missing, you say?
Martin would have bet his life that the surprise in the rather high-pitched voice was genuine.
Yes, he confirmed. When did you see him last?
Im not sure, Williams said slowly, still looking stunned but apparently trying to think. About three weeks ago, I think. Dedea is a fine man but an erratic churchgoer.
You dont have that much contact with him then? Danny probed.
Jack sat slightly behind Danny, watching and listening but saying nothing.
Well, thats erratic too.
Martin raised his eyebrows invitingly.
We run a boxing club for boys, in the church hall. Dedea helps out when he has time. Hes very handy with his fists, you see. He learned when he was a boy himself.
Martin saw Jacks eyes narrow a fraction. He knew what had crossed his bosss mind because it had crossed his own. The Catholic church was fighting several scandals related to its handling of the abuse of young boys and there might be more to this situation than met the eye. He considered it unlikely. Yes, Dedea was interested in his own sex but there was nothing to suggest gay men were any more likely to be pedophiles than straight ones; the magazines theyd found showed men well over the age of consent, with powerfully developed physiques that bore no resemblance to boyhood. Nonetheless, intending to investigate every avenue, he broached the subject.
You arent concerned about having a layman in close contact with young boys like that?
Williams expression, the epitome of the concerned citizen until that moment, sparked with indignation. Is that all you people can think about? he asked bitterly. Centuries of caring ministry and thats all anyone thinks about.
Just asking, Danny said casually. We dont know a whole lot about this Guzam.
Of course you dont, Williams snapped. You wouldnt ask a question like that if you did.
Meaning? Martin asked.
Williams looked confused, as if suddenly realizing that hed said more than he intended.
I dont mean to as I say, Dedeas a fine man
He likes women a lot. Which is fine too, Williams added hurriedly, But I have implored him to think about settling down with just one. I sometimes feel He looked wretched. As if my absolution for his sins of the flesh might be giving him license to continue. I I believe we have a duty to control our urges. Confession should not be treated as a clean slate ready to be sullied.
Martin considered the reply carefully. It was totally at odds with Osifchins unconditional love for his sinful flock and yet there was an undercurrent of the frustration that Osifchin had so frankly admitted. He thought about the boy who had pointed them to St Nicholass why had he thought Father Williams particularly caring? The man did not strike Martin that way and he had apparently not gotten as close to the Guzam brothers as Osifchin had, given that he did not seem to realize that he had almost certainly known Ferea and not Dedea.
I guess youd know about that sort of control, Martin pursued his point obliquely.
Williams stared at him in silence.
I mean, Martin went on, I was talking to another priest this afternoon and he said something about frustration.
What priest? Williams asked.
A multitude of emotions fairly danced across Williams face.
You know him? Martin asked innocently.
Dont like him much? he guessed.
We are commanded to love all our brethren.
Father Osifchin is a selfless and caring man. I would be the last to say otherwise.
Whatever lies between him and me has nothing to do with your inquiry.
Jack cleared his throat. Let us be the judges of that, Father. Was it you who got Osifchin bumped down to Bed-Stuy?
Williams eyes opened wider. Did he tell you that?, he squeaked.
No, Martin said levelly. We didnt discuss you. It was a guy in a gay bar who put us on to you.
His words hung heavy in the air, while he and his companions waited to see what Williams would make of them.
A gay bar? he echoed. But Ive never been in a gay bar.
It sounded as if he was telling the truth.
Is that where the self-control comes in? Martin asked.
Williams stared down at his hands. He spoke in a whisper.
Why are you treating me like this? What has this to do with Dedea?
Please, Father, Jack urged. Just tell us what you know.
Williams looked at him, then back at Martin and lastly at Danny. Martin felt sorry for the guy; it was just the luck of the draw but facing him with three straight men wasnt exactly making his life easy. Finally, he shrugged.
As you surmise, I am an abstinent homosexual. From my reading of the scriptures, I believe no other path is open to me. I endeavor to provide sympathetic counsel to those who find themselves faced with a similar dilemma. I encourage them to find other means of fulfillment.
Was that what you fell out with Osifchin about? Hes more liberal than you, isnt he?
Williams bewilderment flickered into resentment.
You make it sound such a virtue liberal! He spat out the word. No, in fact it was another issue that divided us. Father Osifchin advocated that a parishioner break the fifth commandment.
Williams looked exasperated. He supported the taking of a life.
Let me get this straight, Martin said. Osifchin advocated murder?
Yes, in a manner of speaking.
Jack leaned forward. What were the circumstances?
Several seconds passed before they got a one-word answer. Abortion.
And the reason? Jack prompted. Were there medical grounds?
There can be no justification for taking a life.
The rigidity of the answer reminded Martin of Osifchins remark about dogmatism. He could easily see how the two priests might have fallen out.
Answer the question please, he said firmly.
The doctors predicted that there would be profound disabilities both mental and physical, Williams admitted. But doctors can be wrong and, in any case, it is not for mortal men to decide the worth of a life.
As it happened, Martin disagreed with that view but, more to the point, he judged Williams had been right when he said it was irrelevant to their investigation. However, the disagreement itself could perhaps be involved in some way.
So Osifchin condoned a termination? he asked.
Williams hesitated, seeming as uncomfortable with lies as his former colleague. Not exactly. He refused to condemn it, quoting our Lord, saying he who was without sin must cast the first stone.
That came as no surprise. Martin could almost hear Osifchin saying those words.
And got sent down to Bed-Stuy for his trouble?
Williams shook his head in bewilderment. It wasnt a punishment. Father Michael requested the transfer and the Diocese judged that he might be better suited to a ministry of that kind.
And youve had no contact since?
Apart from the occasional Diocese event, no.
Did you know Dedea was friendly with Osifchin?
Friendly? I know that he used the shelter briefly after he came to this country, when it was still for the homeless, before it became a womens refuge. It wasnt for long he was a resourceful man and very soon established himself in the city.
They have dinner every week. Id call that friendly.
Williams glared. If youre trying to make something of that, dont bother. Father Osifchin is as heterosexual as Dedea and as celibate as I. The sanctity of the vows of priesthood is one doctrine on which we are entirely agreed.
That led Martin neatly on. He was pleased how casually his next question came out.
Did you know Dedea had a brother?
No, Williams said, thrown by the change in subject but without alarm. What, back in Slovakia?
No, right here in New York. An identical twin brother.
A twin? How ? So ? Which ? He seemed unable to decide on his next question.
You had no idea?
No are you quite sure?
Oh, yeah, Danny stepped in. Were sure. They were sharing one set of papers and it sounds like the guy you knew was Ferea, not Dedea.
Is it? Danny asked. You said you knew him better than we do still think so?
It took Williams a few moments to recover. What is the point of your questioning?
The point of the questioning had been to determine whether the priest was a suspect or a witness and, in truth, Martin was still unsure of the answer. He had the call to Guzams cell phone up his sleeve but decided to keep it there a little longer. Williams was less likeable than Osifchin but that didnt make him a criminal. If his answers were honest, and Martin thought they were, hed had a typical, not entirely open, priest-parishioner relationship with Ferea. There was nothing to suggest the kind of emotional intensity or material greed that led to ninety percent of murders.
Just trying to fill in the blanks, Danny said, keeping his responses affable. Itd be real helpful if you could think through the past week or so and tell us anything that could possibly relate to our missing guy in any way.
Only then did Williams ask the question Martin had been expecting.
Which brother is missing?
Both, he admitted.
Williams nodded sorrowfully and returned to the chair that he had vacated in his outrage. It didnt take a genius to work out that two missing brothers cut the chance of an innocent explanation like an accident. It looked more and more as if the men were dead or in flight. The priest was evidently doing precisely what Danny had asked, trawling through his memories to see if any could possibly cast any light on their fate. Several minutes went by before a shadow suddenly fell across his face.
Dear Lord, he murmured.
What is it, Father? Jack used his most encouraging voice to entice an answer.
It may be my fault, after all. His face paled. There was a man here on Monday, seeking shelter. He told me that his name was Dedea, He lifted his eyes from the tabletop and Martin read the horror in their depths. He said it was an unusual name and I I said that I already knew a man by that name I was just making conversation I meant no harm by it.
Martin accepted the role of applying pressure, as Jack and Danny were playing supporting roles.
What else did you tell him?
Nothing. Just that I knew another European by that name.
Was that why you called Guzam on Monday afternoon?
I didnt call him. What makes you think I did?
We have his phone records.
But I didnt call
I think youd better tell us exactly what happened from the time this man appeared on Monday. Jacks voice was polite but firm.
Yes, Williams said weakly, all his anger and outrage faded into dismay. Well, he came into the church sometime in the middle of the afternoon, about three oclock I would think. He said he was homeless and everything about him supported that. His clothes were nothing but filthy rags, his hair was matted and his skin unwashed. He smelled of alcohol. He wanted to know of a shelter where he might find a bed. I made some calls and found him a place on the Lower East Side.
Are you sure you didnt tell him anything else about Guzam?
Yes. He didnt ask and I was busy trying to help him.
Martin frowned. How long did that take?
Im not sure perhaps half an hour? Something of that order.
So the call to Dedea had probably been towards the end of the mans visit.
Did you leave him alone?
No. Then Martin saw Williams spirits plummet further still. Yes. He said he could find his own way to the shelter but his clothes were so poor. I went to get him an old coat from the charity box.
Leaving your phone behind?
Im not sure. A pause. Probably.
Can I see it?
Williams reached into a deep pocket in the folds of his cassock and handed over a cell phone only a model or two out of date.
Its quite a new one. We switched to a cheaper deal but I dont like this one as much as the old one. It seems to do things by itself, when all I want to do is dial and talk.
Martin thumbed through the functions. As the priest said, it was fully featured and one of the functions included a mode to add callers details to its memory. The feature was engaged. He scrolled through the names until he found what he was looking for. He inclined the phone so that all three of the other men could see the display. Dedea Guzams name and number. It had taken him less than half a minute to locate it and he was sure that their mystery man had done exactly the same thing. The brevity of the call suggested that he had texted Guzam or left a message. Texting would be safer, running no risk of having to make direct contact.
Would Dedea have been surprised to get a message from you?
No, I called from time to time to make arrangements for the boxing club.
Do you text?
Sometimes. He looked shamefaced. Sermons can be long and one has often heard them before. I occasionally catch up with some of my calls.
What about coming here to the church late at night? Would that strike him as out of the ordinary?
Not really. Im a late person and so I conduct many of the evening Masses that we hold on Saints Days and other special occasions. Dedea was not particularly interested in the rituals of church life so I doubt he would have known if there was likely to be an evening Eucharist. Our arrangements were generally casual. As you no doubt know, I live nearby and am generally on hand.
So someone wanting to get him alone in a vulnerable position could have exploited that?
But so many things might have gone wrong.
Sure, but nothing to worry our guy, Danny said confidently. He waits for Guzam to show. Anything looks off, he fades away. Not much risk there.
Now weve just got to figure out what the message was, Martin muttered. Thatll be easy.
His sarcasm revealed his fatigue. It had been a long day and hed spent most of it deep in thought. His head was starting to ache.
Is there anything else that might point us in the right direction? Jack pressed Williams gently.
Williams began to shake his head. No. The man left as soon as I brought the coat for him. I went back to the accounts that I had been reviewing when he arrived. I worked for another couple of hours, then Father Theodore came in and I went home for a meal soon afterwards.
For the second time, Martin saw the dawn of realization on the mans face.
The next morning, I found I had misplaced my keys to the church. I hadnt locked up the previous night and couldnt find them anywhere in my apartment. I had to call Father Theodore to open up. We searched the building from top to bottom without success. Although everything was in its place and nothing taken, we had no choice but to call a locksmith to change the locks. We cant take any risks, what with the silverware, collection funds and our audio-visual equipment.
So that was why the locks had sounded so tight and smooth when Williams answered the door to them. But why would the visitor have taken the keys, knowing that the locks would surely be changed as soon as their loss was discovered? Martin felt sure he was missing something.
Youre sure you checked everything? he asked. Nothing missing at all? What about paperwork?
Williams looked less certain. How can I be sure of that? Without knowing what kind of thing might be taken
Jack had been looking intently at Williams, clearly deep in thought. Now he spoke.
Is there any disused part of the church? Anywhere you didnt check after you missed your keys?
No, I told you. We searched high and low he hesitated on the last word. There is the crypt. It used to be open to the public but its been locked for several years now. The safety inspectors required so many modifications that it would have been far too expensive to keep it open.
Lets take a look.
Martin heard a weight in Jacks voice that reflected the heaviness of his own heart. Something told him that they werent going to like what they found. They followed the priest to a door on one side of the nave, his slight, black-clad figure seeming even smaller than when hed greeted them now that he was burdened by his possible role in the fate of a well-liked parishioner. There was no way to tell if the door had been opened recently, given that its surface and knob were as lovingly polished as every other part of the church.
Williams took a large key from a crack in the stonework above the door.
Its not intended to be secure, you see, he murmured, as if explaining to himself. Just to prevent an accident.
The door swung open with only the slightest creak. Williams reached around the architrave and flipped a light switch. Dim yellow lights illuminated a stone staircase. The dust on the treads had been disturbed, by too many feet to leave a clear story.
Martin took the lead, gun in hand although he did not expect to need it, with Jack just behind him. Danny followed, using one hand to guide Williams and poised to restrain him if the need arose.
He counted thirty steps, giving a head height of some twenty feet. The lighting grew brighter as he descended but a stone pillar blocked his view of the space beyond. Maintaining his vigilance, he flowed smoothly around the column. A second later, he knew the time for vigilance was past.
- 15 -
There, in the center of the crypt surrounded by tombs, were the two men they had been seeking. One lay on his back, a large crimson blotch on his chest and a dark halo behind his head where the back of his skull had hit the floor. His posture, and the small amount of bleeding, suggested that hed been dead before he hit the ground. Beside him, his brother was lying on his side, knees drawn up in pain and a wide river of blood staining the stones beyond him. He had used his dying breaths to haul himself closer. Their hands were clasped, fingers intertwined.
Oh Lord, Father Williams said softly. Not in here.
Jack wasnt a religious man, and had no idea why murder should seem worse in a church than anywhere else, but it did. Who knew what had drawn these men into the trap that was to end their lives, first to the church and then down into its crypt? Who knew how long the living man had lain, cold and alone, beside his brothers lifeless body before his own life ebbed away? He could have shouted all night and no one would have heard him deep in the crypt of an empty church.
Williams was already kneeling beside the bodies, murmuring the last rites as was the custom but never once touching the scene that the local cops would soon be crawling over. Now, with the Guzams no longer missing, the case was a homicide and the FBI would be pulled off it. Jack doubted that it made any difference. With what was almost certainly an obscure political motive going back years, there was virtually no chance that the killer would be caught. They were unlikely to discover whether an assassin had been dispatched with the express purpose of executing one or both brothers, or if their fate was more arbitrary, perhaps following a chance meeting with a fellow exile from their native country. No doubt the NYPD would look closely at Father Williams movements and motives but Jack would be astonished if he proved to have anything more than the incidental involvement that they had already uncovered. Why the hell would he leave the evidence inside his own church if he had? And what the hell was his motive?
The murder weapon, a silenced Beretta pistol, lay some ten feet from the bodies, declaring by its presence that it was untraceable. By leaving it at the scene, the killer gave them nothing new to go on. They had no idea which direction he had taken or what he looked like without the layers of dirt and rags that were all Father Williams recalled.
Theyre never gonna catch the bastard, are they? Danny said softly.
I doubt it, Jack admitted, wishing he could sound more positive.
These guys were dead before we even started looking for them. Martins throat sounded dry.
Looks that way.
That wasnt such a bad thing, in one respect. Being a few minutes or a few hours late was worse, as if being smarter or working harder might have made a difference, but nothing they could have done would have saved either of the men lying in front of them this time.
Sirens wailed in the street above, responding to the call Jack had just made and sounding as if they were five blocks away. He took a last look at the Guzam brothers men about whom no one had a bad word to say, who stood up for an oppressed minority in their own country and whose sole ambition was to stay alive. He drew a deep breath and composed himself. It was his custom to try to extract some good from a case when he could. For each abusive parent or self-destructive child they met, there was someone devoted to a loved one and willing to sacrifice all to get them back. Now he focused on a love that had bound these brothers closer than most spouses. If their fate had to be so bleak, he was glad that they died in each others arms and in the presence of their God.
Please send comments to Julia Verinder
The title comes from A Midsummer Nights Dream by William Shakespeare (1595-6)
Two lovely berries moulded on one stem;
So, with two seeming bodies, but one heart.