Chapter 6 is very short, so here are two chapters of “Waltzing in the Snow” — a serialized mystery novella. If you’ve missed any of the first five chapters, scroll down and catch up with the story.
Waltzing in the Snow
Chapter 6: Love Altered is Love
Amanda sat in the quiet car on the train down to DC. Her phone vibrated in her purse as she settled into her seat so as the train picked up speed she headed to the café car where she could use it without raising the ire of her fellow passengers.
“What’s happening Elise?”
“When I came in this morning there was a message from a Daniel Blake. He left his number and said he’d heard from a detective Morgan. Sounded all cool and mysterious.”
“Please text me his number.”
“OK, doing it now. Is that Daniel Blake the playwright?”
“Yes, Elise, we went to college together. He was one of my closest friends, way back when.”
“Elise, I’m not sure how long I’ll be in New York, but I’ll have my phone with me all the time, so just reach out to me if anything important happens. OK?”
“Yes, yes, no problemo. The UPS guy is buzzing, so later!”
Elise made Amanda feel old. She wasn’t a stupid girl — although her language choices made her appear to be a ditz brain. Amanda sighed. She bought herself a bottle of water and a bag of pretzels, deciding that she’d call Daniel when she arrived in New York. There was no hurry. It had been years, a couple of hours more would not make a difference.
Her phone vibrated again. It was Detective Morgan.
“I just got the message that you’re coming to New York.”
“On the train right now.”
“Oh, that’s good. Can you come here, to the precinct house, this afternoon?”
“Yes, of course.”
“Come at 4pm. If you can’t make it, please call and…(Amanda heard shouting)… I have to go now. See you at 4.”
Back in her seat, Amanda checked the calorie count on the bag of pretzels and then ate them all. This was going to be a long day.
Waltzing in the Snow
Chapter 7: We Will Draw the Curtain and Show You the Photo
Daniel arrived at the precinct first. Detective Morgan put him in a small conference room with a cup of bad coffee and yesterday’s New York Daily News. He pulled out his cell phone and checked his email, simply to kill time. He’d played a couple of rounds of voicemail tag with Amanda and they would meet in a few minutes — a lifetime after the first time they’d gone to the police to report Ace’s disappearance.
The half-open blinds in the glass-walled room, allowed Daniel to see people passing by, but so far, no Amanda. He spotted Detective Morgan gently leading an older couple toward the room.
“Daniel Blake, this is Martin and Anna Ruiz.”
They nodded and smiled, seeming to be as mystified as Daniel was at being put into a room together.
“I just got word that Amanda is at the front desk. I’ll be right back and we can start,” Detective Morgan said as he hurried out of the room.
Detective Morgan greeted Amanda with genuine warmth and concern.
“Is it her? Do you think it’s her? I brought her old hairbrush and her old nail clipper. Surely you can find DNA on one of them?”
“Thank you. We may need that, but…. But this will be easier to explain once we sit down.” He opened the door of a small, glass-walled room and Amanda walked in.
“Mrs. Ruiz, Mr. Ruiz? What are you doing here?” Amanda asked.
And then it hit her. Their daughter, Maria Ruiz, disappeared at the same time as Candy. She was a student at Baruch and worked part-time at a wholesale store in the flower market. The Ruiz family complained that the “rich, white girl” got all the press and Amanda thought they were right. She hired a private detective to find Maria, last seen leaving a diner near the flower market, the day before Amanda disappeared. No solid leads came from the expensive investigation, but Amanda started her foundation largely because there were too many cases like Maria’s.
Anna Ruiz hugged Amanda. Martin, rising on unsteady legs, also embraced her. It was only then that Daniel recognized that they were the parents of the “other” missing girl.
“We’ve been able to identify the remains,” Detective Morgan began. “The body is definitely Maria’s…”
“But the barrette,” Amanda blurted out.
“Yes that…” the detective stopped. He took Anna Ruiz’s hand. “I’m so sorry that it took so long for us to find her.”
“How did she die? How did our Maria die?” Martin asked.
“She was shot in the head and heart, two shots, a professional….”
“Oh no!” Anna wailed.
Amanda resisted the urge to yell: What about the barrette? She waited. It was only a few minutes until Martin and Anna settled down, but it felt like an hour.
“The barrette. You said the remains were found with the barrette that I gave Candy…”
“Yes, the silver and pink crystal barrette was found with the remains of Anna Ruiz. You can see why we’d want to talk to all of you about any possible connections between Candace Gregore and Maria Ruiz….”
“What about the man’s body?” Daniel finally spoke.
“Anton Vislovsky, we’ve confirmed it with dental records.” Detective Morgan replied. “We’re looking for connections between the three of them. It’s been years but maybe if you sit together and talk about….”
“Candace worked in a Russian restaurant in the East Village. Did your daughter like Russian food?” Daniel asked.
“No, no, not at all. No Russian restaurants. Maria was paying for school, working hard. The only time she went to restaurants was with us.” Martin insisted.
“But on a date? Maybe a boy took her out to dinner at…” the detective started to ask.
“Maria’s boyfriend was in the Army. They were saving up to get married. She would not have let another man take her out to dinner,” Anna added in her daughter’s defense.
“Did she ever take a class at NYU or use the library at NYU?” Daniel asked.
“No class, and I don’t think she used had much time to use the library at Baruch. Why would she go to another college?” Martin asked.
Amanda listened closely as they went around and around and never came to any conclusion as to how the dead college student was linked to the Russian mobster and the still missing aspiring journalist/waitress. Daniel and Detective Morgan posed possible connections but none of them tracked. The long ago closed restaurant was an obvious line between Candace and Anton Vislovsky, but there was no actual proof they’d met there. Amanda remembered the place well. She didn’t like the food and didn’t know if she was more impressed or appalled by the vast quantities of vodka consumed by the patrons and staff each night. But she did enjoy the music. Candy always sang along with the folk songs.
Left with more questions than answers, Detective Morgan asked Mr. and Mrs. Ruiz for a list of their daughter’s friends and said goodbye to Daniel and Amanda. Amanda hugged both of them but didn’t voice the pat phrases about the closure brought by finally knowing their Maria’s fate. There was no such thing as a good ending more than thirty years after their daughter disappeared.
Outside the air was heavy with humidity and the threat of a summer rain.
“I need a drink,” Daniel said as he took Amanda’s hand.
“I know just the place.”