PREVIOUSLY: A building on the Upper West Side decided to form an ad hoc detective agency to find a man who vanished nearby. They’re calling themselves Eve and Others. We want readers’ ideas about Alyosha’s disappearance. Could this be a murder or did he just vanish to a place of his choice? Who is Alyosha anyway? And why is he not where he belongs? Let us know your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
They plan a visit to the disappeared man’s apartment, a few blocks away. They’ll meet Anibal, the building’s super, and he’ll take them inside.
Anibal Medrano, handsome Dominican dancer, he could salsa, he could tango, there wasn’t a dance he couldn’t do, married to a tough New York City policewoman by the name of Angie Cruz, he’d been the building superintendent for 15 years. Most of the tenants, he knew inside out. Not every single one of them, but most. His technique was listening, and smiling, remembering all that was said.
The delegation went to visit him. They were a motley group of disparate individuals held together by a building, by an address, held together by their first potluck, their first common mission, the agenda of finding a disappeared man. Who knew why this idea, of uncovering reasons why people just go away when most of us are so fixed in our spots, regimented and certain, coffee at eight, a shower before bed, who knew why some people just stop it all and disappear?
Anibal was waiting in front of the building, prepared to answer whatever he could.
“Here’s his rental agreement,” he said. “I had a copy in my file cabinet. His monthly rent was $185. He was always on time. He said hello and goodbye. I asked the other tenants what they knew about him. Not too much. He was a good dancer,” Anibal said. “A professional. Me, too.”
Here he smiled, as though he and missing Alyosha had more in common than the ersatz detectives suspected.
“Would you mind taking us inside his apartment,” asked Mrs. Israel. For the official encounter, she was wearing a brown wool suit, with the mandatory lapel pin, a gold plated circle. Matching gold clip earrings were on her ears. Her hair, an unflappable helmet, was sprayed in place. She brandished her official yellow pad. “Any facts you might have, I’ll keep for our later study. You can tell me. Height, weight, that kind of thing.”
“His weight had to fluctuate. Like every one of us,” said Pin Ball.
“Not at all,” Richard protested. “Dancers are thin. They’re obsessed.”
“I happen,” said Pin Ball, “to be a professional dancer. Just one of my skills.”
“I’ve got the keys,” said Anibal, bringing the conversation back full circle. “Let’s all go together.”
The room was neat, spare, unruffled. It looked like Alyosha had just gone out for a minute. For Tropicana, for a Creamsicle, for a quick coffee with a friend. They each circled the room, looking for clues: in the medicine cabinet (sunscreen, Covergirl repair stick, nail clippers, aspirin), in the neat dresser drawers where his socks actually looked ironed, in a file with the unimaginative title PAPERS, and at last, on the refrigerator door, where they found this letter, taped in the center. Was this letter an actual clue?
Dear Good Friend Sir,
I am the fifth child and only daughter of the most prominent Nigerian leader ever. The law forbids me from saying his name out loud, much less in this personal letter to you.
I found your name and all your crucial information in the Nigerian Public Library. We are well-equipped. You are a reliable person. It is my intention to give you 500,000 US Dollars. That is 40 percent of my inheritance. Do you want to hear the entire story? If the answer is YES which I hope by All Divine Intention is what you will say (every one of us has our reasons) then I will tell you where to MEET ME. Those details I am not yet ready to reveal.
Here is what I am asking you to do. Write back to me at this Post Office Box where I will eagerly retrieve your reply.
From there, we will continue.
Yours In Hope In God In Good Will and In Eternal Friendship,
Yoruba Edo Efik, Jr. Jr.
Could this be the clue they were all waiting for?