Welcome to His Brother’s Keeper, a fictional mystery series set in 2000, in New York. I’ve decided to periodically lend my blog to a friend, Eva Hirschel. Eva doesn’t have a social media presence but she does have a mystery that she wanted to publish serially on-line, so I’m giving her a hand. Here is Part I, Chapter 1. Enjoy! More to come.
The Internet makes everything so easy. It’s criminal how easy it is. All the information is right there. People don’t even realize it. The most intimate information is there, if you know how to find it. All I had to do was put in her name, and put in his name, and put in the name of the town, and voila, there it was, right there for me, more details than I knew what to do with. Like some kind of divine intervention. Like playing God. Even better actually. Because everybody thinks that no one controls the Internet. Everybody thinks it’s just a jungle of information. But it can be controlled if you know how to use it. Just like people. People are so easy to control if you how to do it. If you have the right information. And I do. Just like God, I can make them jump, I can make them sing, I can make them move, I can make them run. I can make them feel safe or I can make them feel threatened, terrified. He thought he was God, he knew what to tell them to do. But he was wrong. They all died, and it was his fault. And those who managed somehow not to die were still damaged. That’s how I wound up like this, a man without a past, a man without a family. Imagine what it would have been like if the Internet was invented back then. The history of the world would have been completely different. The right people would have gotten the right information. It wouldn’t have been possible to ignore the truth. It wouldn’t have been possible to ignore the cries.
But that’s in the past. This is about the future. I can’t change the past, but I can act now to change the future. I can control it because I have information, I have power. Even God can’t do this. It’s up to me. It’s all in my hands. I’m going to set it right. I’m going to make sure it can’t happen again. He couldn’t do it then, but I can. Now.
I walked in, threw my bag on the floor, and turned on the light. Everything was just as I had left it. Piles of papers and folders covered the desk, my black sweater hung over the back of the chair, and a half-full coffee cup balanced on a pile of books dangerously close to my laptop. The afghan on the couch lay draped across the arm and trailed down the floor, where one corner served as a parking lot for matchbox cars, tractors, and Batmobiles. The light on the answering machine blinked furiously.
What a mess. While I’d been gone it would have been nice if the offices gnomes could have paid a visit and cleaned the place up. Would have been nice too if they could have done some filing. But no, no sign of those ever elusive gnomes. Then again, it was nice to open a door and not have to worry that some lunatic was waiting to grab me.
Home sweet home. I threw myself on the couch, put my hands behind my head, and stared up the ceiling. What a case it had been. Tough. Dangerous. Complicated. And I had done it. I had untangled the mystery. Of course, not by myself. And not without complications. Still, damn I’m good, I thought to myself, and smiled.
Abby Marcus, P.I. Nice to meet you. That sounds good. Well, okay, I’m not a P.I., but I did always want to be one. That was my fantasy growing up. I wanted to either be a P.I. or a spy. In college I thought briefly about joining the CIA or the FBI. That’s what comes from watching too much Get Smart as a kid. It was the shoe phone that did it. Not the gun in the pool stick, no, the shoe phone. Of course, who needs all those pretend gadgets today? It’s the year 2000 – we have devices that are better than any television, so when we’re at the baseball game we don’t have to miss our favorite soap operas. We have phones that fit in our pockets, and are better than any camera. Anyone can order sophisticated spy equipment over the Internet. So who needs Agent 86 and his paraphernalia?
I’ll start again. I’m actually Abby Marcus, freelance researcher. I’m thirty-something, getting closer every day to forty-something. When I look in the mirror, I can see one or two gray hairs, but it’s not too bad. Most people think I’m younger than I am, which I’ve found is often an asset in my line of work. I’m on the short side, to be honest, and could be in better shape than I am, but that’s life. Having two kids hasn’t helped my figure any. Maybe next year.
I live in Brooklyn, New York. Park Slope to be exact. We, being my husband Simon and I, along with our progeny, Hannah and Caleb, live in a brownstone three blocks away from Prospect Park, which by the way is bigger than Central Park. We Brooklynites are very proud of our borough. Along with the best cheesecake and great micro-brewery beer, Brooklyn also boasts the largest member-owned and operated food coop in the United States, of which we are longtime members. In fact, my grandmother can’t believe it, but Brooklyn is in the middle of a renaissance. It’s actually become a cool place to live. People are even saying it’s become more expensive to buy a place in Brooklyn than in Manhattan, but I wouldn’t know – we bought our brownstone a long time ago.
We live in the two middle floors of our brownstone, which we were lucky to buy before real estate went crazy. Even with Simon’s salary as co-owner of a firm that makes its money providing financial data, and the small amount of money that my research jobs bring in, we’d never be able to buy this house today. We have a part-time tenant who happens to be my grandmother living on the top floor during the warm months when she’s not in Florida. The ground level floor is divided in half, with the front half a small apartment where our babysitter lives with her boyfriend rent free, and in the back is my office, looking out on the yard. Having space for a live-in babysitter has been a brilliant stroke of luck. My parents are not around to help, because they are busy chasing their long-deferred dreams. Since my father retired from his practice and my mother’s new-found career as a travel writer has taken off, they are away more often than not and don’t have time for babysitting.
And speaking of the kids, Hannah is four, and Caleb is two. Which gets me back to the freelance researcher thing. I never did become a P.I. or a spy. I went to college, where I studied literature and art, and then to grad school. I worked for art magazines doing photo editing and research, and worked on my Ph.D on the history of photography. With all that school, I became pretty good at research and at writing, so I started taking on freelance research jobs to help pay the bills. First it was pretty basic stuff, going to the library – this was before Google changed the world – for some professor and collecting data, or tracking down an obscure fact. That turned into tracking down obscure books. Then it became tracking down obscure people. Well, I got very good at not leaving any stone untouched, and people I didn’t know started calling and asking me to find things for them – names, numbers, people, objects. Most people don’t realize how much you can do with the Internet, libraries and some basic knowledge about how to get people to say more than they mean to. Now don’t get me wrong, I have never done anything seriously illegal or immoral. No, I’ve actually helped a lot of people locate lost relatives, track down old high school sweethearts, and find biological parents. Along the way, I’ve become sort of a specialist in genealogical research.
When I got pregnant with Hannah, I took a leave of absence from the Ph.D. program. I couldn’t think straight anymore about theory. I decided to devote more time to my research business, to see if I could make a living at it. It’s a perfect job for me, since I can work at home and make my own hours. Most of the time I love what I do, and feel incredibly lucky that I’ve been able to create a career for myself. And in some ways, with a little imagination, it’s not all that different from being a P.I. or a spy. It’s been fun, challenging, and it pays a small fraction of our bills. I like the puzzles my cases present, and I love arriving at solutions and answers. There’s a bit of a letdown when I’m done with a case, although not for too long because there’s always another one waiting for my attention.
But nothing I had done up to now had prepared me for this case.
[To be continued….]