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Authors: Mary Higgins Clark

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BOOK: Where Are You Now?
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Because he lived in the city there was no need for our parents or me to visit him there. Instead, he dropped in at home or met us at a restaurant regularly. I know that after he vanished, my mother and father went up to talk to his roommates and other people in the building, but they never let me come with them. That first summer, they made me go back to camp even though all I wanted to do was to help look for my brother.

As it turned out, I was glad that the Kramers couldn't meet me until now. Yesterday, my mother had me out all day with her, doing some last-minute shopping for her cruise. Then the eleven o'clock news last night carried the story of an NYU student who vanished early yesterday morning after leaving a bar in SoHo. There was a shot of her father and brother leaving her apartment building in the Village, and I realized with a jolt
that it was right next door to mine. I ached for them.

No amount of money can convince Mom that living in the Village is every bit as safe as living on Sutton Place. For her, the Sutton Place apartment is a haven, a home she and my father joyfully bought when she was pregnant with me. At first it was a large six-room, one-floor apartment, but then as my father became more and more successful, he bought the apartment above us, turned the two into a duplex, and doubled its size.

Now, to me, it seems like a prison where until now my mother has been listening, always listening for the key to turn in the door and Mack to call out, “I'm home.” For me, that belief that he might return has become a frustration, a sadness that won't ever go away. I feel so terribly selfish. I loved Mack, my big brother, my pal. But I don't want to have my life on hold any longer. Even the decision to wait before I apply for a job in the DA's office isn't about the fact that being hired means no time off for a while. It's all about trying to find Mack and, if I fail, promising myself that then I'll get on with my own life at last. I'll spend most of these three weeks in Sutton Place while Mom's away, but that's not to feel safe—it's just in case Mack has some way of knowing I'm beginning to talk to everyone who was ever close to him and tries to call me.

This building where Mack had lived was old, the façade that gray stone that was so popular in New York in the early twentieth century. But the sidewalk and steps were clean, the handle of the outer door polished. That door was unlocked and opened into a narrow foyer where one can either dial an apartment number and be
buzzed in, or use a key to open the door to the lobby.

I had spoken to Mrs. Kramer, and I don't really know why, but somehow I expected to hear her voice on the intercom. Instead, a man responded and directed me to their ground-floor apartment.

When I got inside, the door of 1B was already open, and a man was waiting for me who introduced himself as Gus Kramer, the superintendent. As I was going over the file this morning, I remembered what my father had said about him: “That guy is more worried that he'll be blamed for Mack's disappearance than he's concerned that something happened to Mack. And his wife is worse. She had the gall to say that Mr. Olsen would be upset. As if we have to be concerned about the owner of that renovated tenement!”

It's funny that when I was dressing for this appointment, I kept changing my mind about what to wear. I had actually laid out a lightweight pantsuit, the kind I wore to court when I was working for the judge, but somehow it seemed too businesslike. I wanted the Kramers to feel comfortable with me. As much as possible I wanted them to see me as Mack's kid sister, to like me, to want to help. That was why I decided to wear a long-sleeve cotton sweater, jeans, and sandals. As a portent for success, I wore the chain Mack gave me on my sixteenth birthday. There were two gold charms on it, one of ice skates, the other a soccer ball, in honor of my two favorite sports.

After Gus Kramer introduced himself and invited me in, it was like stepping back in time. Despite Daddy's success, he could never budge my grandmother from her apartment in Jackson Heights, Queens. This one had the
same velour furniture, machine-made Persian carpet, and leather-top end tables as hers. The only thing that seemed out of place was the glass coffee table.

My first impression of Gus and Lil Kramer was that they were the kind of people who grow to look alike after years together. Her steel-gray hair was exactly the same shade as his. They were a little shorter than average height, with sturdy bodies. Their eyes were a matching pale blue, and there was no mistaking the wary expression in both faces as they offered me a begrudging smile.

Actually, it was the third person in the room who took over as host. “Ms. MacKenzie, I'm so pleased to meet you. I am Howard Altman, the district manager of Olsen Properties. I wasn't here at the time of your brother's disappearance but I know how concerned Mr. Olsen was—and has been—about it. Why don't we all sit down and let you tell us how we can be of assistance to you.”

I could sense the resentment the Kramers had to Altman taking over, but for me it made it easier to deliver my planned speech. I sat on the edge of the nearest chair and addressed myself to him. “As you obviously have heard, my brother, Mack, disappeared ten years ago. There simply hasn't been a trace of him since then. But he does call us every Mother's Day as he did a few days ago. I got on the phone while he was talking to my mother and vowed to find him. Later that day he went to St. Francis, a church in this neighborhood where my uncle is the pastor, and left a note for me to warn me away. I'm so afraid Mack may be in some kind of trouble and ashamed to ask for help.”

“A note!” Lil Kramer's exclamation silenced me. I was
astonished to see the way her cheeks became flushed and the unconscious gesture with which she reached over and grasped her husband's hand. “You mean he went to St. Francis and left a note for you?” she asked.

“Yes, at the eleven o'clock Mass. Why would that surprise you, Mrs. Kramer? I know over the years that there have been articles about my brother's disappearance and the fact that he contacts us.”

Gus Kramer answered for his wife. “Ms. MacKenzie, my wife has always felt terrible about your brother. He was one of the nicest, politest kids we ever had here.”

“That's what Mr. Olsen said,” Howard Altman told me. Then he smiled. “Ms. MacKenzie, let me explain. Mr. Olsen is so aware of the pitfalls that occur in this day and age with young people, even intellectually gifted young people. He was always around to greet new students. He's up there in years now, but he's told me about how impressed he was with your parents and your brother. And I can tell you, the Kramers have always kept a sharp eye out for heavy drinking, or worse, drug use. If your brother had encountered some kind of problem, it didn't begin or continue under this roof.”

This from a man who didn't know Mack, who only knew about him. The message was loud and clear. Don't look here for your brother's problem, lady.

“I don't mean to suggest that anything about Mack residing here triggered his disappearance. But you can understand that it makes sense for me to start searching for him in the last place where he was seen. The brother I knew would never willingly cause my mother and father and me the grief
and anxiety we have been living with for ten years.” I felt the tears that were always too close to the surface shining in my eyes as I corrected myself. “I mean the anxiety my mother and I experience constantly. I think you may already know that my father was a 9/11 victim.”

“Your brother never seemed like the kind of young man who would just disappear without a mighty important reason,” Gus Kramer agreed.

His tone was sincere, but I did not miss the glance he shot at his wife or the fact that she was nervously biting her lips.

“Did you ever consider the possibility that your brother may have experienced a cerebral hemorrhage or any other physical condition that might have given him an attack of amnesia or even partial amnesia?” Howard Altman asked.

“I'm considering everything,” I told him. I reached into my shoulder bag and took out a notebook and pen. “Mr. and Mrs. Kramer, I know it's been ten years but could I just ask you to tell me what you remember about anything Mack did or said that might have some significance? I mean, sometimes we think of something that didn't occur to us at the time. Maybe as Mr. Altman just suggested, Mack had some kind of amnesia attack. Did he seem in any way troubled or worried, or as though he wasn't feeling well physically?”

As I asked these questions, I thought of how, after the police gave up on trying to find Mack, my father then hired private investigator Lucas Reeves to continue the search. For the last few days I've been reviewing every word of his files. Everything the Kramers told him was in my notes.

I listened as Mrs. Kramer hesitantly, then enthusiastically,
told me how Mack was the kind of young man who always held the door open for her, who put his laundry in his hamper, who always picked up after himself. “I never saw him look troubled,” she said. The last time she had seen him was when she tidied up the apartment he shared with two other seniors. “Both of the other boys were out. He was working on his computer in his bedroom and told me the vacuum wouldn't bother him. That's the way he always was. Easy. Nice. Polite.”

“What time was that?” I asked her.

She pursed her lips. “About ten o'clock in the morning, I would guess.”

“That would be right,” Gus Kramer confirmed quickly.

“And you never saw him again?”

“I saw him leave the building at about three o'clock. I was on my way home from the dentist. I was putting my key in the lock of our apartment. Gus heard me and opened the door. We both saw Mack come down the stairs. He waved as he went through the lobby.”

I watched her glance at her husband for approval.

“What was Mack wearing, Mrs. Kramer?”

“What he had on in the morning. A T-shirt and jeans and sneakers and . . .”

“Lil, you're mixed up again. Mack was wearing a jacket and slacks and an open-necked sport shirt when he left,” Gus Kramer interrupted sharply.

“That's what I meant,” she said hurriedly. “It's just I keep seeing him in the T-shirt and jeans because that's when I had a little talk with him that morning.” Her face convulsed. “Gus and I had nothing to do with his
disappearance,” she cried. “Why are you torturing us?”

As I stared at her I thought of what Lucas Reeves, the private investigator, had written in his file, that the Kramers were nervous that they might lose their jobs because of Mack's disappearance. Now, nearly ten years later, I didn't accept that reasoning.

They were nervous because they had something to hide. Now they were trying to keep their stories straight. Ten years ago Mrs. Kramer had told Reeves that Mack was just coming out of the building when she saw him and that her husband was in the lobby.

At that moment I would have bet my life that neither one of them ever saw Mack leave this building. Or
he ever leave it? That question rushed into my mind and was immediately dismissed.

“I know how long it's been,” I said. “But would it be possible to see the apartment where my brother lived?”

I could see that my request startled them. This time both Kramers looked to Howard Altman for guidance.

“Of course, the apartment has been rented,” he said, “but since it's the end of the term many of the students have already left. What is the situation in 4D, Lil?”

“The two who shared the larger bedroom are gone. Walter Cannon has Mack's old room but he's leaving today.”

“Then perhaps you could phone and ask if Ms. MacKenzie might stop in?” Altman suggested.

A moment later we were climbing the stairs to the fourth floor. “The students don't mind stairs,” Altman told me. “I must say I'm glad I don't go up and down them every day.”

Walter Cannon was a six-foot-four twenty-two-year-old
who waved aside my apologies for the interruption. “I'm just glad you weren't here an hour ago,” he said. “I had stuff all over the place.” He explained that he was on his way home to New Hampshire for a summer vacation and was starting law school in the fall.

He's at the same point in time Mack was when he disappeared, I thought sadly.

The apartment coincided with my vague memory of it. A small foyer now stacked with the luggage Cannon would be carrying, a kitchen directly opposite the outer door, a hall to the right with a sitting room and bedroom off it, a bathroom at the end. To the left of the foyer, a second bath and, beyond it, the bedroom where Mack had lived. Not listening to Altman's comments about how well the apartments were maintained, I walked into what had been Mack's bedroom.

The walls and ceilings were off-white. A light flowered cotton spread was tossed on the bed. Matching drapery panels framed the two windows. A dresser, desk, and easy chair completed the furnishings. A wall-to-wall blue-gray carpet covered the floor.

“This apartment, like all the others after they've been vacated, will have a fresh coat of paint immediately,” Altman was saying. “The carpet and spread and drapes will be cleaned. Gus Kramer will make sure the kitchen and baths are spotless. We're very proud of our units.”

Mack lived here for two years, I thought. I imagined him feeling about it the way I feel about my apartment. It was his own space. He could get up early or late, read or not read, answer the phone or not answer the phone. The closet door was open, and of course it was empty now.

I thought about the Kramers' claim that he was wearing a jacket and open-necked shirt and slacks when he left that afternoon.

What was the weather like that day? I wondered. Was it one of those chilly May afternoons like last Sunday? Or, if it was very warm, and Mack did leave at three o'clock, would wearing a jacket have any significance? A date? A drive to a girl's house in Connecticut, or Long Island?

BOOK: Where Are You Now?
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