Seven Little Girls

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Chapter Twenty-Two

George seemed to know why I walked in the store. “Nothing yet,” he said and pointed at the bulletin board. In the top right corner was a picture of Jody, below it was an appeal for information about her murder in Arabic.

“Hetty brought the picture down Saturday. A shame, she was such a sweet little thing. I introduced her to falafel, she always stopped in for some, every time she came to visit Hetty and the crew.”

Sometimes it struck me, how people naturally reacted to one another. The ‘Jewish Witch’ was a ‘sweet little thing’ who a Syrian grocer introduced to falafel. I guess I always chalked it up to the fact that people, taken singly were better things than governments.

Hetty was in my loft with Beverly, Gerry and two other dancers I knew as Damien and Cristan from interviewing them on Saturday. They brought up the composite sketch the police artist had produced that morning. Tori had used our copy machine to make copies.

I addressed Hetty first. “You told George.”

“He had a right to know Uncle Nick. Jody never missed his falafel and he always flirted with her.”

“Was the photo on the board your idea or his?”

“I took it down to put on the board, but only as a bit of a tribute. Advertising for information was George’s idea.”

“A good one, I thanked him, now I’m thanking you. Why all the copies?”

“We suspended ‘The Eternal Return’ and tomorrow we’re going to hit the streets with this bastard’s picture. The whole company, in threes, we should be safe enough. We’ll find him Uncle Nick.”

“Be careful,” I said, “He’s either a cold-blooded killer or a love-struck teenager. Neither will be pleasant to deal with.”

Just then the elevator dropped. Now my building was four floors, George had the bottom two, his store and his store rooms in the basement and the second floor. Then the lofts. George had a lift in the sidewalk and a conveyor belt to the second story, so whoever called the elevator was coming to the lofts.

As it turned out it was Steve with the last male dancer, whose name was Eddie and another dancer who I identified from the interviews as Carole bringing the young gentleman from the composite.

“Meet Shane Silver,” said Steve. “He was Jody’s classmate in the algebra class she took at the High School of performing arts to get her high school diploma. He plays the violin, viola and cello. He claims that he and Jody are, sorry were, a couple. Not really sure I’d believe a musician, but violinists are so protective of their hands that steak knives scare them. In any case he’s a dead end so far. I thought that you and your wife might want a crack at what he knows.”

’Tori,” I said, “call George and tell him to come himself, kill the composite before it hits the papers and T.V.

“Come in and sit down Shane.”

Once everyone was settled I addressed Shane, “you’re Jewish?”

“Yes, that was how I met Jody originally we were the only Jews in Social studies and algebra.”

“Then,” I said, “you need to thank Steve and the bunch that found you. You’re in danger.”

“Danger? How?”

“What do you know about Jody’s murder?”

“Not much, that she was stabbed to death,” he said and started to tear up.

“This isn’t generally known,” I said, “and the rest of you didn’t hear a word of it, but I think you need to know. So, do you mind if we record this?”

“No,” he got out between sobs.

“Where are you from Shane?” I asked, starting the interrogation slowly.

“Actually Wichita, Kansas. My Dad’s sister, my aunt lives in Canarsie, I applied to the High School of Performing Arts using her address, and I live with her when school is in session.”

“It makes sense, the ballet dancer from Alamosa and the violinist from Wichita alone in the Big Apple would naturally be drawn together. Why didn’t the company know you?”

“Jody said that they watched her, and she was sort of chaperoned all the time. We wanted a little more freedom, so she’d sort of sneak out to be with me.”

“So that you understand, “I said” I am going to tell you something very few people know.

“Jody’s killer carved a message in Arabic across her stomach. It said, ‘Jewish Witch.’

“Now, someone is coming and we’ll wait for him. Because of the message, the counter terrorism division of the NYPD is investigating, and we will wait for them.”

Cristan, who was only nineteen herself, had seated herself next to Shane, took his hand and whispered something to him I missed.

George took half an hour, which in New York probably meant sirens. He arrived with two uniformed officers.

I introduced Shane and then turned to the dancers. “Take the officers down to your loft, Hetty. When we’re done I’ll come down and get you. Hell, teach them to shuffle or something.”

They started to leave and Cristan squeezed Shane’s hand. “I’m staying with Shane,” she said.

“One of us is,” interjected Hetty.

“Why?” I directed at Hetty.

“Only Aunt Tori comes close to understanding us, I’m sorry Uncle Nick, but you don’t get it, and, damn it, is it Captain or Mr. Pappas?”

“George. Hetty,” said George. “What are trying to tell us?”

“Shane is a musician, an ensemble artist, if you isolate him, without support, he’ll become disoriented and you won’t get what you need. Ask Uncle Nick. He’s spent most of the time I’ve lived with him trying to understand it, he doesn’t, but damn he’s tried.”

George just looked at me with a question in his eyes.

I turned to look at Shane.

“Who do you want to stay with you?” I said.

Cristan squeezed his hand and he just looked at her, then said, “her.”

“Okay, Cristan,” I said, “what you hear is not to be repeated. Even to the company, you understand Hetty?” and I looked directly at her. Then I switched my gaze, “Steve?”

They nodded and headed to the elevator.

“Tori,” I said looking at my wife, “apparently you are the one with the insight, the floor is yours.”

“Okay Shane,” said Tori, “I’m a researcher, I depend on my friends to do what I do. You’re a musician, you depend on others to do what you do. Cristan is a dancer, she needs you to do what she does. You’re looking at single artists. People who need only themselves. I’ve tried to get to Nick, and George, because I love them, so has Hetty, they try, but they don’t get us. What we need from you is what you remember. Don’t let them intimidate you. If you feel intimidated, squeeze her hand. If I see that you are getting you’re confused, I’ll stop everything.

“Now compose yourself, relax. You are among friends. We have the same goals. And two of us understand you. George and Nick will question you, and they are on your side. If they make you uncomfortable, realize that Cristan and I will extract you.”

As it turned out neither George nor I could extract anything useful from Shane. After we sent him downstairs with Cristan, George and I tried to find anything at all, but even going over the tape twice more, nothing emerged.

“You didn’t really think this was going to be easy, did you?” said Tori.

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves…” I said, just to jog Tori’s mind a bit. We both do this to prevent the other from getting tunnel vision about something.

“I hope it isn’t as enigmatic as Rilke,” she said. “It’s sad enough already.”

George picked up his policemen on the way down and sent the company back up. While we were questioning Shane the rest of the company had shown up. Shane came back up with them holding hands with both Cristan and Carole. The company seemed to recognize that his loss of Jody was as great as theirs, and that he needed support.

“We don’t know where to go from here,” said Steve, looking at me.

“I am not real sure that I want you to go anywhere,” I said. “I want you to stay in groups, stay observant. I think you should go back to your ballet. The terrorist mind revels in the chaos it causes, if you proceed as if their actions didn’t affect you, you throw them off.

“I’m relatively sure that you are under some sort of observation. Jodi didn’t look all that Jewish, Tori’s assistant Jen is Hispanic and looks more Jewish than she did. So, the conclusion is that it wasn’t a random attack, but rather a planned one. If it was, it won’t be the last, so your safety is paramount.

“Shane, I arranged for a police cruiser to take you to and from school. Like the company stay observant and safe.

“Do any of you have a license to carry a gun?”

“I’m not sure,” said Steve. “Both Damien and I have deer hunting licenses, I have a Remington 770 30-06, Damien has a 303 Enfield.”

“No, you can’t really carry them in the city. Might not be a bad idea to keep them near to hand though, at home and in the theater.

“Ok, now go. If I find anything at all that I can tell you, I’ll tell Hetty.

“And Hetty, wait a bit.”

Most everyone in Annandale could shoot, rural America syndrome or something. In any case, Hetty occasionally went to the range with us, and I knew she was competent with Kat’s New York Twenty-Two magnum pistol. I got the pistol out of the safe for her, with a box of shells.

“Doesn’t need to leave your loft for a while,” I said, “but you should keep it where you can get to it. Take one of Tori’s purses with a holster in it. I told George I was going to give it to you, and he’ll finagle a permit of some kind for you. When you get it, you should be able to carry it in the purse, if you want to.”

“Thank you, Uncle Nick, it helps. I hate feeling helpless.”

“You be careful with it, and try not to show it. Also keep it secret from the company. If you have to use it, fire as soon as you show it, don’t wait.”

“Why don’t I want the company to know?”

“One of them might slip, and if the people attacking hear it, they’ll aim at you first.”

“Got it.”

“So,” I said after Hetty caught the elevator down, “have you got a plan or are you as lost as I am?”

“I’m going through the New York groups, just like you are. By Wednesday morning we should have places to look at. I am narrowing it down to Iraqi groups and heavily Iraqi Islamic groups. I don’t think that the other Arabs are in Saddam’s corner quite yet. Remember, most were a part of the coalition. However, we both know Tariq, so Saddam’s ‘holy’ understanding of the Arab cause, and his attack on Israel will probably clear that hurdle soon.”

“I’m just worried about the time it’s taking,” I said. “George sat on it a bit and It hasn’t gotten much play in the media. Last time I looked, the city has about five or six homicides a day, so the general public won’t notice without the details. This gives us a problem. Terrorism doesn’t work if no one notices it. If this is terrorism, we are dealing with a frustrated terrorist, or group of them and pretty much pushing them to try again.”

“So,” said Tori, “we have to get lucky, and the best way to do that is to work. I brought your folders home.” and she nodded at my desk.

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