A missing Person

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Worker’s Deed newspapers in the abdominal cavity.”

“No, the Duma newspaper” murmured the youth and relaxed again on the grass.

“The Duma newspaper stopped getting published before the Liberation of Bulgaria from the Turks. For aesthetic reasons: so that the abdominal cavity isn’t too hallow. “And her hand indicated a cavity.

The youth tried to breathe deeply but could not control his squeamishness.

“One copy with political reports fits precisely... You have grown quite sick.” The old lady closed her glassless eye. “Then the lawyers will naturally declare the expert opinion to de not bona fide. And then...”

The youth attempted to breathe heavily and frequently.

“You go now,” the old lady raised her shoulders in disappointement. “I, too, want to go home but as I am a citizen, I have first to see whether you have slain a man. You are in for it if you have slain, hanged, suffocated, shot, drowned or beaten him up!” she wagged her forefinger and hurried along the alley as fast her high-heeled shoes permitted her. “Or if you have wounded him with a blunt object,” she added more to herself now.

The poodle trotted after her.

The youth with the Alsatian went on sitting on the grass for some time more, then he rose and went his way.

The single street lamp radiated golden light 100-200 meters down on the left hand side.
The old lady neared a statue of a girl holding a basket, straightened herself up and continued at a slower pace.

The street lamp lit a small bridge spanning the river. Its railings were profusely decorated with wrought ironwork and on the other side an alley could be seen, the exact counterpart to the one along which the old lady was moving. The small bridge was a preferred spot in the hot summer months and avoided in winter. On one bench out of the many benches along the alley, under the lamp diffusing golden light, sat an elderly man with moustaches. He was dressed in a suit a bowtie and held a raincoat folded upon his kness.

With curiosity the man followed the approaching lady.

“No traces of violence,” she noted after bending down and looking at him closely.

The man seemed to recover from the original impression which the old lady had made on him.

“Sit down, please,” he said.

“I am tired,” she touched the bench and carefully relaxed upon it.

“Why have you stuck this rose in your hair?” the man went one.

The glassless eyes was now quite helpless; the old lady bent down her hand and shrugged her shoulders like a little girl who is being scolded.

“Where did you get these shoes from? The man was examining the dirty, worn out shoes.

For a second the old lady turned her head towards him and instantly dropped it downwards. She touched the flower with trembling fingers, pulled it away and pocketed it.

“Wipe off your lipstick, too!”

The old lady was about to wipe her lips with her hand but she stopped, delved into one of her pockets and then into the other.

“I have no handkerchief,” she noted.

The man produced a perfectly ironed handkerchief from the pocket of his jacket and gave it to her.

“”Wipe your lips and face clean!” he told her.

“I’ll come no more,” the old lady was offended. “I’ll not set foot in this part of town!” She was feverishly rubbing her cheeks.

“And I’m not too keen on waiting for you for hours for so many years.”

“So many years?!” the old lady exclaimed ironically. There was a period when you did not come for ten years!”

The man paused to think without replying, trying to remember.

“Nothing of the kind!” he said at last.

The old lady looked at him searchingly and fell silent in embarrassment.

“But it’s true,” she went on peevishly shaking her head. “Once I waited for you ten solid years precisely on this bench.”

The man took the handkerchief from her and put it in the pocket of his jacket.

“How are your daughters doing?” he changed the subject.

“They’re well. I have left behind my husband to look after them.”

The man seemed to be trying to recollect something.

“You are in your Sunday best!” the old lady went on, closed her glassless eye and bent closer to the man in order to better examine his suit. The examination did not satisfy her; she reached out, took one lapel and rubbed it searchingly between her two fingers. “She hasn’t died yet!” she spoke her conclusion outloud. “By yourself, you wouldn’t take your suit to the dry cleaners’.”

The man pulled back. The old lady also leant on the bench.

“I am taking a taxi right away and am going home!” she again started rummaging in her jacket pockets. “Right away!”

“For ten years you have waited for me and I haven’t come?!” Flattered and amazed, the man tenderly clasped her wrist. “Ten years! So what?”

“And in the eleventh year you came! What what?”

“I just came!”

“You said you were passing by chance.”

“Uhu...” The man nodded. “I missed you those ten years, I’m sure.” The man moved closer to the old lady, bent down and kissed her hand.

“What was that for? She had taken the pill from the animal shop out of her pocket and was examining it, again closing her glassless eye.

The man shrugged his shoulders.

“It’s for headaches! Now I remember! I took it especially for you!” She give it to him. “If you have a headache you take one of them and within ten minutes you’ll be cured.”

“Very kind of you to have thought of me,” the man took it, examined it and put into the small upper pocket of his jacket.

“At that time I had an umbrella in red, black and white squares.” she said and her eye behind the manydiopter-glass flashed. “The rain was beating upon the umbrella,” she added shyly. “I dropped my forensic medicine textbook and it splashed in a puddle. It was quite windy and we went into a small pub.”

You had on see-through dress. There-when you took off your coat I saw it was a see-through dress.”

“On the wall there was a poster with a Venetian landscape...”

“I know the pub!” the man exclaimed. “I have been there more than once. It’s two crossings away from here. Do get up!” He hesitantly looked at the old lady’s glasses, at her shoes and the missing buttons of her jacket. “You had on a white see-through dress. Come on, let’s! go” he repeated and reached out for the paper bag.

“Not without my dog, however,” said the old lady.

The man turned round and only then noticed the poodle with matted white and black fur, squatting beside the bench opposite.
“We had a great feast-eating and drinking,” the old lady settled down in the taxi and pushed lightly the poodle to climb down from the seat ant nestle at her feet. The man sat beside her and shut the door.

“Come on admit it, at least now, that you deliberately let the cat out,” said the old lady.

“Are you sure your husband is... er?” the man asked.

“Oh, yes!”

“You’re sure he won’t rise from the dead?”

“Yes, I’m sure. But in any case, he’s not jealous,” the old lady inadvertently stepped on the dog and it squealed.

“Where to?” asked the driver, turning round.

“Give him the address,” the man nudged the old lady.

“Straight home,” she replied. “Didn’t I tell you to open the bag under the table?”

The driver started the engine and the car lightly moved on.

“Where?” the man asked.

“Darling paw,” the old lady caressed the dog and pressed its muzzle to her thigh. “You don’t want to say how much you paid for the glasses.”

“Which street was it?” anxiously repeated the man.

The driver stopped and whit annoyance turned round. The old lady raised her head, looked uncomprehendingly at the man beside her and did not reply.

“The name?” he took her hand. “The name of the street!”

Without turning her eyes away, with a somewhat guilty expression, the old lady shrugged her shoulders helplessly.

“If you are going to tell me where to drive to, do say; if not, get out of the car.”The driver settled in his seat, lit a cigarette and in annoyance threw the match out of the window.

“Along the boulevard and then turn right,” the man said in a firm, cold voice. “I know where it is,” he told the old lady quietly and patted her hand reassuringly. “I hope you are not always so rude to your passengers,” he added when the driver switched into second gear. He sat with a straightened back, his eyes fixed on the road and his palm clenched in a fist upon the back of the front seat.

The old lady sat for a while looking at his profile, then she stretched out her hand, put it in his and imperceptibly smelled him.

“As soon as you touch me, everything stops and come back, to life at the same tame,” she whispered.

He clenched his palm over hers without taking his eyes off the road.

“Sometimes tenderness never dies,” the old lady continued still in a whisper.

The man nodded.

“When your tenderness for someone never dies it is love, isn’t it?”

The man nodded again.

“Please stop at this corner!” he told the driver, let go of the old lady’s hand, and took out his wallet from the inside pocket of his jacket.

She closed her glassless eye and looked out.

“Why did we stop here?” she asked.

The man pointed to the apartment block with columns on the corner and counted a few banknotes.

“What are we going to do here?” sharp notes could be sensed in the old lady’s voice.

“I’ll get off with you to see you to the entrance,” the man answered and waited for his change. “So, I’d be sure you’ve gotten home.”

“I do not live here!” the old lady intertwined her fingers resting her hand on the book in her lap, staring angrily in front of her at the driver’s head, bent over the money.

“You do live here” the man replied patiently and with tenderness.

“I don’t!” The old lady turned her head towards the window on her side but that way she could see nothing but the apartment block with the columns, so she again directed her glance towards the driver’s bald head.

“This is it, this is it!” The man collected the change, put pedantically the wallet back into his inside jacket pocket, opened the door and lent a hand to the old lady.

She did not move. The driver pushed his wallet under the seat and started the engine.

“That other woman lives here,” the old lady protested slowly, sharply and distinctly.

The man cast a glance in the direction of the building with the columns and bent over the car.

“Which other woman?” he asked.

“The singer!” the old lady answered without turning and without moving her eyes away from the driver’s pate. “The gingerhaired women!”

The man quickly straightened up, knocked his head in the car’s roof but paying no heed to the pain looked in embarrassment at the building again.

“The woman with the earrings!” again came the old lady’s voice.

“My cousin lives here.” The man sat back inside the car. I must be wrong; I have confused the buildings. Let’s continue,” he added, addressing the driver and clearing his throat without a glance at the old lady.

“Some cousin!” the old lady looked around and followed with hatred the white building vanishing out of view of the taxi. “Ginger-haired and wearing earrings! Her husband is a tamer of wild animals! Of lions!”

“Where to now?” asked the driver in exasperation.

“Why does he have to tame lions?” The old lady continued in a friendly. “Because he realizes he can’t cope with monkeys! He is simply not lucky with the monkeys!”

“Go straight ahead, somewhere there,” the man told the driver hurriedly. “I have enough money.”

“And you’ve mixing me up with her!” The old lady started sobbing and miserably covered her face with her hands. “A circus actor!” With her hand she made a gesture like the one circus assistants make to present the performers to the audience.

“Oh don’t please, don’t! The man came closer to her and attempted to embrace her.

The old lady spun round and pushed him away.

“And her husband once beat you! You have forgotten than, too!”

Curiosity flickered in the man’s eyes.

“Was it him? Y-e-e-s...”

“I want to go home! I have a family and children!”

“She was beautiful,” the memory brought warmth into the man’s eye’s. “Gorgeous and temperamental!”

The driver shook his head and clicked his tongue noisily.

“Ouch!” the man cried with pain but his exclamation was drowned in the dog’s squealing.

“A singer! A pathetic falsetto!” the old lady repeated her attempt at prodding the man’s leg with the bared mental of her heel but he managed to withdraw and the heel stuck again into the poodle’s back. This time the squeal was terribly piercing, the dog scratched on the seat cover, climbed up the back of front seat and jumped into the driver’s lap. He sharply braked the car, it skidded, the noise of other cars braking behind him was heard and them came the sound of clashing tinplate. The taxi shook and came to a standstill. The driver slowly turned round. His red face beginning to sweat, he stared into his passengers.

“It never rains but it pours” the old lady summed up the situation with a reassuring voice, stretched out her hand, touched the man’s hand next to her, slipped her palm under his, sighed and looked out of the window.

The poodle slipped off the driver’s lap, he kicked it, still staring back and in the next moment cried out with pain and bend double.

A man of about thirty, dressed in military uniform was frantically pulling at the car door from outside and shouting but his words couldn’t be heard for the squealing and groaning inside. In his panic the driver failed to notice the military man, pushed down the handle, leant on the door with all of the weight, it suddenly opened making him lose balance and fall at the other man’s feet. The poodle jumped over the driver, still squealing crossed, the street without a hitch, and darted into a yard gate. The driver caught at the trouser leg of the military man.

“It bit me, ouch, it bit me!” with the other hand he was clutching his ankle. “Ouch, there’s blood... my blood...” he looked at his blood-stained hand in horror.

“I had forgotten all about the singer,” the man turned towards the old lady. “For years I hadn’t thought of her. Her name was Lolita.”

“Gabby,” the old lady contemptuously corrected him.

“Lolita, Lolita...”

“Blood!” the driver repeated. He tried to straighten up with the help of the stunned military man but lost consciousness - his blood-stained hand - spread fingers - still stretching out. His body slid down and his outstretched hand, searching for support, left a long jagged trace of blood on the green uniform.

“Your name and address also, please!” ball-point pen and note-pat in hand, the traffic policeman turned to the old lady. He was quite young, a sergeant, who most probably had only recently started his career in the police.

The taxi end the Fiat behind it were still immobile, rammed into one another. Some ten yards behind them the military man had placed an expensive signaling triangular and from time to time cast a glance towards it, fearing it might vanish in the melee. The old lady gave policeman her name and fell silent.

“The address, too, if you please,” the policeman reminded her, knocking with the ball-point pen on his note-pat.

“Mine is enough,” the man with the bow-tie intervened. “Probably...” he diplomatically added.

“You live at the same address?” the policeman got ready to jot it down.

“No,” the man answered.

“We’ve never lived together,” the old lady explained and sighed.

“Your address, please!” the policeman cast an anxious glance at the lieutenant who was questioning the two drivers.

“Evenings aren’t warm yet,” the old lady pulled at the two sides of her jacked.

“Your passport!” the policeman stopped knocking on his not-pad and with somewhat glassy eyes started examining the two of them, even moving a step aside in order to observe them from all direction.

“At the moment we don’t have the lady’s passport,” the man with the bow-tie said after a certain pause. “Tomorrow we could present it to you.”

The policeman looked sharp.

“Tell him everything,” muttered the old lady.

The policeman touched his holster with his right hand and the ball-point pen drew a line on his jacket. He tried to clean it, spat on his finger and rubbed the soiled spot but the blue stain only grew bigger and he have up the effort. The man with the bow-tie hesitated.

“Why should we keep it secret?” the old lady added with determination.

“At the moment she cannot remember where she lives,” the man said flatteringly.

The policeman distrustfully eyed the old lady who in her turn was also observing him, her hand on the glassless eye.

“At the moment?!” the policeman asked slowly squinting his eyes and thinking over something.

“This one will foist on us a rotting corpse and then you’ll see what a night we’ll make of it,” the old lady shared her impression.

The policeman, with the ball-point pen upon note-pad, froze and his eyes darted from the man to the old lady.

“There’ll be no one to open the skull,” she was visibly angry. “As to the rest, I can cope with it myself.”

The policeman tried to clear his throat.

“How Peter the Grave cannot cut off a leg, let alone a head.”

“At present the lady suffers from something which,” the man with the bow-tie started explaining.

“Atherosclerosis of the brain,” the lady spoke before he could finish. “Reduction of fixation memory, emotional deficiency although given good preservation of long past memories.”

“Yes, that’s it,” confirmed the man.

“Hey, boss! A lady here is without a passport!” the policeman addressed the lieutenant.

Silvery wet shone on his forehead.

“Well, you see,” the elderly gentleman delicately put a hand on the policeman’s shoulder, “can’t we settle this between ourselves?”

“Oh, no! There’s a search going on for me!”

The policeman’s glance again froze.

“If he dawdles anymore there’ll be a nationwide search for me,” the old lady snorted indignantly.

“Hey, boss, please, come here!” the sergeant waved a hand in the direction of the two cars.

“Missing persons must carry their passport, it that so?” Angrily, the old lady wrapped her jacked close about her body. “And since I don’t have one, I can’t be found eh?”

“Now look he is simply not experienced enough,” the man with the bow-tie tried to soften the conversation.

“And I have a family!” the old lady continued, not listening to him. “My son immediately responds. He places a call as soon as he walks about the neighborhood and fails to find me. The staff at out district police station are familiar with the case and instantly launch a search for me.”

“You haven’t told me you have a son!” the man with the bow-tie was huffed but he suppressed any jealousy in his voice. “I though you had two girls!”

“What search?” the policeman said.

“I’m telling you, this man leaves the corpses to begin to stink,” the old lady inclined confidentially toward the man whit the bow-tie. “I can’t cope with them earlier than the thirdday. He hands them over stinking already.”

“This lady used to be a specialist in... errr -” the man with the bow-tie decided to make excuses for the old lady’s behavior but remained at a loss for words.

“Please, come over!” the policeman again turned towards his boss and waved his hand, then he bent down and concentrated upon his note-pad and ball-point pen.

“It takes a man like him to fill your mortuary with worm-ridden corpses!” with a circular motion of her forefinger the old lady indicated the dimersions of the worms. “Such a man could provide you with enough angling bait for to open an angler’s shop.”

“No, no. Let’s not trivialize the conversation,” the man with the bow-tie attempted to intervene.

“Fine quality white worms! He knows nothing about missing persons!” The old lady indicated the policeman but as her finger was slightly deformed from arthritis, she swerved her hand in such a way that the finger tip would point at the sergeant.

“We’ll cross out the lady as a witness,” the policeman found a way out of the situation, “Let’s not be formal about traffic accidents of the first degree,” and he began writing down something in his notebook.

“I’ll teach that man a lesson,” the shrill voice of the old lady was heard again about the din.

The policeman abruptly looked up.

“Three days and nights after the notification the search goes on on a district police station level!” she began instructively. “Up to seven days and nights it does on on a city-wide level. Beyond that period the search become na-tion-wide,” she articulated distinctly.

“But yes, everything hinges on the exam time when she got lost.” The man with the bow-tie delved with concern into his jacket’s inside pocket, produced his wallet, and after rummaging within it for a minute, took out a small calendar.

“Each and every citizen must always carry his or her passport and if requested, submit it to the authorities for identification,” the policeman said meanwhile and cast a hopeful look back.

“One lady friend of mine,” the old lady interrupted him, “suffering from angina pectoris used to move only in the neighborhood of their district police station whenever she went out without a passport so that she could be identified in case of exitus; once, however, she crossed the boulevard. Because she was not told that along the...” she made a gesture with her hand but could not find the right word.

“The central dividing line,” the policeman helped her out.

“Yes, along the central line that boulevard was divided into two regions, each with a police station of its own. So she died within the jurisdiction of the other. She was identified on the fifth day.”

“Nowadays there are excellent refrigerators, German make. One corpuse was forgotten for two years in a marginal drawer and when he was discovered there was nothing wrong with him,” the man with the bow-tie intervened in the conversation.

“Hey, boss! Do come, please!” the policeman turned round and waved energetically in the direction of his superior who was assisting the military man and the taxi driver to push the Fiat backwards.

“Her clothes are clean and pressed.” The man with the bow-tie attempted to direct the attention of the sergeant to the conversation by taking him gently by the arm. “This is a fact,” he passed his hand along the old lady’s suit and gently winked at her. “Which comes to support the hypothesis that the woman... the lady,” he corrected himself after the old lady sighed peevishly, ”... that she has left her home today.”

The old lady bowed her head and started twirling the threads of the torn buttons with her hands.

“With this we answer the question as to the precinct where the information about her disappearance and search is stopped.

The policeman nodded approvingly.

“Our second task,” the man with the bow-tie continued, “is to find out the place of residence of the found missing person.”

The lady raised her eyes and peered at him with admiration.

“You haven’t changed since the time when you caught the serial killer,” she said. “I still like at home,” she added.

“Very well, this means she is not from the new suburbs. She must be at least 60-80.”

“That’s right!” the old lady agreed resignedly.

“It’s the down town area. She came from the left side of the river, from the direction of the mountain,” the man pointed with his hand. “Most probably, this must be some eastern district.”

“At the time, you were the first to prove that the dressmaker’s husband had not killed her and that she was the second victim of the serial killer - then, they staved off the death sentence,” the old lady continued without moving her eyes away from the man with the bow-tie.

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