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  • Susan Russo Anderson

A Mind Lost in its own Labyrinth

This is a slice from Missing Brandy. It’s the second book in the Fina Fitzgibbons Brooklyn mystery series. In this scene, Fina and Lorraine question a landlady. They are looking for Brandy’s kidnapper.

“He had a room upstairs. We’d never have rented to him if he hadn’t been a gentleman, and he paid a year in advance. He’s such a gentle person. Henry wouldn’t hurt anyone.”

“How long was he here?”

“Almost five years. Gave me cash each January. But last week he said he wouldn’t need the room anymore. I told him I owed him money since he’d paid for the year, but he wouldn’t take it. That was …” She slid over to her computer and tapped a few keys. “That was last Wednesday. Fastidious man, about his person and the apartment.”

“Would you have his forwarding address? His phone number?”

She shook her head.

“Did he give you any reason for leaving?”

“Most people don’t. Most people who rent our studios move on eventually. We were lucky to have him for as long as we did.”

“Could we see the apartment?” I asked.

“There isn’t anything left to see. The room is spotless.”

“Still, we’d like to see it,” Lorraine said. “You see, we need to talk to him. We’re low on options, and he may know something.” She held up the image of Brandy and told the woman what she knew about the girl’s family. “Her mother is beside herself. Tell me, do you believe in sixth sense?”

Have you ever known anyone like Lorraine? You peg them as useless, almost forget they’re in the room, but all of a sudden they surprise you with their wisdom and power.

“Of course, I understand.”

She led us up a narrow stairwell to the fourth floor. The carpeting was worn in spots, but the place was free of dust and well lit, although the air smelled faintly of boiled vegetables. On the third floor, music blared from behind one of the doors, and the landlady knocked on it and asked the tenant politely to turn it down.

“Henry never once complained about the noise. Sorry to see him go.” On the top landing, she unlocked the door, and we entered a garret with one window. I looked out onto the roofs of brownstones and just a sliver of Prospect Park.

The room smelled scrubbed. It was empty except for a chair, a floor lamp, a scratched wooden desk, and a single bed. I opened the closet and looked inside, peered in the nightstand, underneath the bed. I examined the walls, the floorboards, the mattress. Nothing but the inescapable sense of doom. The air held dampened desires, missed opportunities, a mind lost in its own labyrinth. For me, that barren studio was like a coiled snake under a rock. I looked at Lorraine and noticed goose bumps on her arms.

Photo: Cover, Missing Brandy. Cover design, Avalon Graphics.


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