By four o'clock on Wednesday afternoon the missing jogger was the major breaking news story in New York City and NYPD's priority case. Nothing except bomb scares and murdered children upset New Yorkers more than the possibility of disappearing without a trace. The Mayor and the PC instantly became the center of the media frenzy, stepping up to the microphones demanding results and promising to spare no expense to get to the bottom of the disappearance.
As a result, dozens of people had been deployed to clear the park. Detectives were swarming the area. Emergency vehicles blocked Central Park West all afternoon. For hours cops, TV crews, bystanders, everybody who knew about the case had been waiting for a dog to come up with something.
By four in the afternoon, nothing had been found. Freda was still repeating the same game: bounding up and down the edge of the lake, then turning suddenly toward the interior of the park only to gallop back, plunge into the tall grass and disappear. When she came out of the grass, she circled and circled like the poodle Dim Sum did when she was getting ready to do her business.
The spot that kept her interested was near where April and Woody had come up with the broken beer bottle that morning. April had examined the mucky spot herself. They'd found a sneaker that had been there for ages, the floating condom, a button, a crushed Coke can, a piece of filthy waxed paper, cigarette butts, and other small bits of garbage. The ground itself was undisturbed. No chance a body was hidden or buried there.
"Why does she keep going back there?" April called to Slocum, who stood on a boulder watching the dog like a parent who doesn't want his child to know how irritated he is.
"Something," he called back, noncommittal. "She's onto something."
April heard the excitement in Slocum's voice, then, "Shit!" when Freda finally resolved her lengthy afternoon activities by taking a huge dump in the bull's-eye of her area of interest.
"Must have been some animal there. Maybe a squirrel or something," he explained.
Exhausted, April let herself collapse for a moment on an obliging rock. A few blocks to the north, Woody had been working for hours asking different people the same questions. A dozen other detectives were doing the same thing in different spots. A lot of information about people's comings and goings had to be processed.
Except for what they'd gotten from Maslow's doorman and Pee Wee James, however, no one else admitted to having seen Maslow last night. Didn't mean anything. Sometimes people didn't know they'd seen anything relevant for weeks. For now, though, the search was slowing down. They were giving up. Maslow may have come in here, but he wasn't here now. April checked her watch. Lieutenant Iriarte had long ago come and gone. He'd told her to stay with it until her tour was over, then take her days off as usual.
Now her tour was over, she had two days off in front of her, and the last thing she wanted to do was take them. She was frustrated and didn't trust Woody, Slocum, or the damn dog, Freda, to do their jobs right. She didn't want to go home. She wanted to stay right there and work round the clock until she found the missing man.
She stood there scowling angrily at the dog. What kind of tracker could follow a scent from a man's apartment down to the sidewalk, find the place where they knew he'd come into the park, then not be able to find the place where he'd exited?
If he'd walked to another entrance, wouldn't the dog have been able to follow him there? If someone had carried him out, wouldn't the dog be able to isolate the smells? Giving the sniffer some credit, April did consider the possibility that if Maslow had been assaulted and slightly injured, he might have been disoriented. He might have hailed a taxi right on the park drive and been driven away. But the dog didn't lead them to the drive and then stop. So where did Maslow go?
April was discouraged. A whole day gone and she still didn't know what was up. She didn't have a good feeling about any of it. She decided to check out Maslow's office, get a list of his patients, start digging. There was no way she was going home. Her cell phone rang. She dug it out of her pocket. It was Mike.
"Hey," she said.
"Hey, querida, I'm seeing your little butt on the news right now. You hit the big time with this one." Mike's voice sounded amused.
"My butt?" April was horrified. Publicity was the last thing she needed.
"Yeah, the cameraman must like you. You and the dog are all over the place, wagging your little tails."
"Great." She watched Slocum extricate a plastic bag from his pocket and pick up the doggy do that represented the only product of the dog's workday. And hers.
"Not much. The only whisper we have on the missing p is from a drunk who says he saw a gay guy beaten to death last night."
"Is your guy gay?"
"Possibly. I don't have background on him yet."
"What about a body?"
"Nothing so far." April watched Slocum offer Freda more scent of Maslow, saw the dog obligingly sniff into the plastic bag with Maslow's scent in it, saw the dog sneeze. Her dog Dim Sum sneezed whenever she was angry.
"I'd say the dog has had it," she added.
"Uh-huh. What else?"
"Well, our witness happens to be Park Patrol, remember him?"
"Oh yeah, Pee Wee something. Used to hang out by the lake."
"That's the one. He was so drunk this morning he peed in his pants. I've got him in a room at Midtown North. He should be relatively sober by now."
"May not do much good."
"I was thinking about Maslow taking off in a cab. He left a big wad of cash at home. But maybe he had more with him. It's just that he went out in jogging clothes. He wouldn't exactly leave town like that, or go to a restaurant, but I'll check out cabs."
"What me to join you?"
"Join me in what way? Without a body, there's no homicide, chico . This isn't your turf."
"Not yours, either. They're giving this to Special Case," Mike said.
April was silent, remembering Iriarte.
"I'll meet you at Midtown North in an hour. We'll talk about it then," Mike said gently.
"I can't do it in an hour, Mike. I have to check out Maslow's office, and talk to Jason-"
"You're off it, querida. Trust me on this, will you?"
"Kkkkk." April made the sound of static and terminated the call. Uncharacteristic independence was taking her for a ride. To April's mother, dragons, ghosts of unknown ancestors from China that disappeared long before April was born in New York City, and poor harmony were responsible for everything that went wrong in life. April wondered which was making trouble for her now.
From her rock, she watched two detectives she knew were from the Special Case Unit saunter over to Slocum. Slocum greeted them like old friends, then called the romping dog and clipped on her leash. Together, the K-9 team headed away from her. April knew that the dog and trainer's fifteen minutes of fame were over. She wondered if the dog, like herself, felt the anguish of loss of face and defeat.