THE CASE OF THE MISSING CASE.

(Continuing the narrative which began here.)

Chapter 6: Which Returns Us to the Hagia Sophia Diner

 

“YOU NEED MORE protein than that,” Ludmilla told me as she looked over my order.

“Lots of protein in nuts,” I said, and I pointed to the baklava.

“That’s a sweet,” Ludmilla declared with authority. “Sweet cancels out protein. Why don’t you have one of our liver and kidney muffins? Or a bit of soy kibbee—lots of good protein in that.”

“I eat what I like,” I said with finality. “And I like what I eat,” I added, because it seemed to be necessary.

“Suit yourself,” Ludmilla retorted cleverly. She always had the last word.

We were sitting at a small table for two by the window. Mr. Higgins had ordered only a black coffee, but I noticed Ludmilla wasn’t lecturing him about protein. When she left us alone, Mr. Higgins returned to the subject of our previous conversation.

“After you have consumed you baklava, what course do you intend to pursue?”

“I have no idea,” I admitted. “What else do we know about this Harding character?”

“We know that his favorite color is red in the burgundy range,” Mr. Higgins reminded me. “I do hope that suggests an avenue of inquiry to you.”

“Of course it does,” I agreed. “All we have to do is find a dark red storage locker, or a dark red envelope, or a dark red suitcase, or a dark red mattress, and we’ll know where he stashed the money.”

“Or he might have sent it to the region in France which is called Burgundy,” Mr. Higgins suggested.

“Or he might have used the money to buy a collection of the best Burgundy wine,” I added. “Or he might have spray-painted all the money burgundy.”

We had reached this point in our conversation when the police arrived, as I’d guessed they would. They came in a pair, and they had to order some kataife before they started to question us.

We talked to the cops for a while, but no one learned anything useful on either side. Yes, we told them, we had been at the Pierogi Palace looking for Mr. Harding, but he was dead before we got there; no, I didn’t know Mr. Harding personally, although Mr. Higgins knew him peripherally as a member of the Amanuenses’ Club; yes, we would be available for further questioning; no, we did not need tickets to the Policemen’s Annual Modern Dance Recital.

“So tell me,” I began after the cops’ questions petered out, “are you treating this as a murder investigation?”

“Depends on how bored we are,” said Cop No. 1. “If we got lots to do, it’s a heart attack. If we’re just sitting around bored out of our minds, it’s murder. We gotta be prepared for any eventuality.”

I thanked him for the information, and the two cops went back to the counter to order some kataife for the road.

Mr. Higgins and I had just resumed our conversation on various shades of dark red when the cops retuned from the counter and spoke to us again. “Of course, if it turns out to be murder, you two will be our prime suspects. So I wouldn’t leave town or anything.”

“I would,” the other cop interrupted.

The first one gave him an icy stare.

“I mean, if it were me,” Cop 2 continued. “If I knew I might be charged with murder, I’d get going pretty quick.”

“But where would you go?” Cop 1 demanded.

“Don’t know. I hear Scranton is nice.”

“That’s not what I mean. I mean you’d be a fugitive, and everyone would be after you. They’d get you one way or another.”

“Yeah, but it’s a better chance than you’d have with a murder charge,” Cop 2 insisted. “Especially with the way we can plant evidence and all. Even if you didn’t do nothin’, you still end up in for life. I’d leave town and go live in Scranton under an assumed name.”

“What is it with you and Scranton?”

“I’ve always wanted to see Scranton.”

Here Mr. Higgins interrupted. “But this is absurd. Mr. Harding was dead two hours before we arrived at the Pierogi Palace. The death had already been reported. Surely your witnesses told you that.”

“Yes,” the first cop responded, “but all time is relative.”

“No it isn’t,” Cop 2 objected.

“Yes it is,” Cop 1 insisted.

“No it isn’t. Time is absolute. ‘Time’s winged chariot’ ’n’ ’at.”

“But Einstein makes time itself depend on—”

“Yes, but Einstein’s calculations make a difference only at extremes of relative velocity, not in ordinary—”

“So does this mean we’re charged with murder?” I demanded.

“Not yet,” Cop 1 replied. “But I wouldn’t leave town.”

“I would,” said Cop 2.

 

Proceed to Chapter 7.