Down the back stair, glancing back every other step, expecting to see the poisoned face of Robert appear at the top of the landing. Her right hand slid onto the volute of the rail and she swung in an arc off the last step. She entered the kitchen at a sprint, stopped to spirit a handful of crisp carrots from the refrigerator, and then she dashed down the rear hall to the garage.
Her first stop was the Salvation Army building on Tenth Avenue where reason and hope told her he might be. The matronly figure behind the desk checked the log of entries, running a finger down the list of scrawled signatures. No one by the name of Fuster had signed in over the past five days.
“Let me see, maybe Monday,” she offered, flipping the page back.
“No, no. He left Tuesday evening. Thank you anyway.”
She turned to leave but was stopped by a voice that sounded as if it had been dragged through a pool of tar. “ I know ‘im.” The figure to whom the voice belonged stood tilted and unsteady in the shadows of a doorway ten feet away. He wore a beard of tangled gray beneath a crooked boxer’s nose and vacant eyes. When Maribeth approached him he cocked his bald head as though he’d raised a carbine and was peering into the sight.
“Marvin?” she asked.
“Marvin Fuster. You said you know him?”
The dessicated figure clothed in the gloom of the hallway seemed to come alive. He smiled catlike when she stopped two feet away from him.
“Yeah. I know Fuster, but I don’t know that Marvin fella’.”
“Do you know where he is?” Maribeth asked against all reason of hearing a rational answer. He twisted his head a little more and she could see that he was focusing on her left hand. He moved the spindly fingers of his own right hand to those of his left, rubbing the ring finger almost absently.
“Are you his…WIFE?”
“No, just a friend. Where is he? Do you know?”
“Mar…Oh Jesus.” She left him standing there in his fog of delirium and made her way back down the dreary hall to the entrance.
“I know him! He saved me! You say he’s your husband?” she heard as the door swung outward to the racket of crickets chirping at one another in the evening air.
The feeble-minded man at the Salvation Army turned out to be the most agreeable, if not the most lucid person she encountered that evening. She traveled through the district north of the downtown area scouring every seedy bar she came upon, calling out his name one single quick and cautious step inside of each. After a moment of surprised shock followed by an outbreak of predatory smiles, the drunks answered for him with catcalls and invitations.