Jeffrey gave us the emergency evacuation map of the building that he’d been given when he moved in. There were a lot of interesting janitorial closets and things on it. Even better, since Jeffrey and John had been desperate for a bigger apartment, they’d kept a running list of empty apartments in the building. He was happy to print a copy of their latest list for us from his computer.
“Anything on the internet about what is going on in Manhattan?,” I asked. We hadn’t had working phones since Manhattan was locked down, but I’d wondered about the internet.
“The internet is down. I’ve tried to get on a million times. I like pogo.com,” Jeffrey admitted. “I’ve been reduced to playing Minesweeper.”
We shouldered our backpacks, feeling better for having a little information. It was very little, but it was more than we’d had when we’d had none.
“I’d come with you,” Jeffrey said, “but I want to be here when John comes home. Plus, I can’t leave my cats.” His eyes filled with tears again.
“Jeffrey, I’ve been thinking,” I said. “Can we leave Lexington with you? He seems happy, here. He’d be safer.”
My friends looked at me, faces stricken. “You are shitting us, right?,” Moira said. “Leave Lexington? Let’s leave Bethel while we are at it, huh?”
“You don’t even like cats, Moira. I don’t get your beef.”
“I’m allergic, but I’m not an ASSHOLE. What you are saying with this is you think we won’t find Jill. Because I know good and damned well that none of us would want to face Jill and tell her that we gave her cat away.” A tear rolled down Moira’s face. Jeffrey’s apartment was a veritable vale of tears.
“I’ll admit to feelings of hopelessness,” I admitted. “I’d like for Jill’s cat to be safer than we are likely to be.”
Moira turned to Jeffrey. “Will you take her?”
“Him,” I said. “Lexington is a him.”
“Him, her, it’s a fucking cat. Jeffrey, will you?”
Jeffrey looked down at Lexington. “Sure. Sure I will. You guys can come back for him whenever you want. I’m just cat sitting. And, if you see John, you’ll rescue him and send him home to me, right?”
“Goes without saying, man,” Mike said.
One of the empty apartments was on our floor. It was small and…empty. There was a janitor’s closet, too. It was small and…full of janitor’s supplies. We moved up to the next floor. Same result. We went to four more floors. We were jumpy as hell the whole time. It was really miserable. After we’d finished with the sixth floor, we looked at our list and our map in despair.
“We could search every one of these places and she might not be there,” Trish whispered.
“Damnit, she’s right,” Jonathan said. “I don’t know if my nerves can take it.”
“Let’s go to the lobby,” Moira whispered.
“Why?,” I asked.
“I have an idea,” she said.
So, down to the lobby we trekked. Moira’s arch enemy, Little Orphan Annie, still manned the desk. They smirked at each other. Moira marched past her to the fire alarm on the wall. She pulled it.
“Now every-fucking-body in this building will come down here, and we’ll see what is what,” Moira yelled over the horrible racket. Bethel barked enthusiastically along. Annie glared and grabbed her walkie talkie so she could shout into it.
We had no choice but wait and see who came downstairs. Maybe Moira thought the kidnapper would come down along with everyone else, his bound and gagged victims hopping along beside him. Or maybe she thought we could work by process of elimination, get someone to take a building roll call and tell us who wasn’t there. Or maybe she was just desperate and tired and scared.
Not many people came down at all. Mainly the people with kids. Their parental instinct to save their children was stronger than what everyone else obviously felt, which was why leave the fire just to hop into the frying pan? Bob sure did come down, though, and he headed straight for us with some of his guys.
“You. People. Are. EVICTED!!!!!,” he screamed.
43rd St. sure was quiet at night when giant birds were on the loose.