I was now intrigued by the idea that the hot babe who dropped that explosive load in my office might, somehow, be related to the dead doctor. But how?
As far as I knew he wasn’t married and had no children. I remember a conversation we had one night at the bar across from the train station. He had just moved into the offices next to mine. I spotted him going into Magee’s and thought I’d follow him in and try to get to know him.
I found out his name was Sydney Small and, a couple of beers in, that he was from Schenectady, a city I hate simply because it’s name sounds disgusting. Makes me think of snot coming out of someone’s anus: slimy, and a yellowish brown. Schenectady… yech! But I didn’t mention it.
‘So, Sydney,’ I asked, ‘married? Kids?’
‘Not as far as you know,’ he said. He was right and, at the time, I didn’t care enough to find out, but times change.
The label listed ‘Ima’s’ birthdate as 10 of March, 1992, young enough to be a daughter. I was hoping that, though the name was a fake, the date was legit.
I walked back over to tell Margaret I was off to Schenectady. ‘Eeew,’ she said.
‘I know, I almost gagged saying it. If you don’t hear from me in a day or so, tell Mike where I went. It’ll give you something to talk about – the man’s a horrible conversationalist – and give him this envelope.’ It was a printout of the picture of the label.
‘This about the bombing?’
‘Could be,’ I said.
It was a short walk to Pennsylvania Station from my office across the street. I bought a ticket for the Empire Service. Three hours later I arrived in Schenectady feeling like I should be holding my nose as I step out onto the platform.
Getting out of the station, I hailed a cab. Didn’t hail so much as nearly get run over by an over eager townie in a yellow car. I asked him to take me to the hospital. ‘Hey! I didn’t even touch you!’
‘Just drive, idiot.’
‘Okay,’ he said. ‘Welcome to Schenectady!’ I rolled down the window and threw up on the street.
First opened in 1885, Ellis Hospital is now an ultra-modernized complex of buildings on Nott Street, a street whose name-resemblance to the word ‘snot’ did nothing to help my stomach stop churning at the thought of being in Schenectady. I gave the kid a fifty and told him to wait, and got out of the car clutching my belly, running to the closest trash can.
Once inside the hospital, I asked at information desk for the records department and was sent down the hall. There I was greeted by a petite blond with a nose the size of the M-104 bus. I couldn’t help staring and she noticed, smiled, blushed, and touched her hair in that way that indicates she thought I was staring at something other than her huge honker.
‘Hi,’ I said, ‘I’m up from New York. I’m working a murder case and trying to dig up some information. I was hoping you could help me.’
‘New York, huh. Well welcome to Sch…’
‘DONT SAY IT!’ I shouted.
‘Oh my! Are you all right?’
‘Sorry,’ I said, ‘it’s been a long train ride. Anyway, I hoping to see your birth records for March 1972.’
‘Oh, I’m sorry, but I can’t show you those.’
Giving her my best, trying not to look nauseated, smile I said, ‘Oh c’mon, surely you can do something. This is a murder investigation I’m on.’
‘Well, maybe I can ask Minerva, my boss’ She turns around and calls out to the other office, ‘Minnie, can you help me? I have a detective from the City here and he needs to see some records.’
From the other office out steps the pierced and painted beauty who’d so beguiled me earlier that morning. The name etched on the frosted glass in the door was ‘Minerva Small.’
‘Minnie Small,’ I said to myself, ‘you’ve got to be shitting me.’