nadia nelson, aka 94H-543rt-y77h94-087764, poured tea for tania and larry into little china cups, then put the tiny teapot on a low table between them that looked made of cardboard, and sat back gently in her rocking chair. mrs nelson was short and stout with a bright red face and kinky white hair. she looked at the two detectives as if expecting them to speak first.
tania looked down at the cup which she was holding in her fist like a can of soda. larry held his correctly, by the miniscule handle. he smiled at the old woman.
"thank you , mrs nelson. as you know from our previous visits, everything we say will be recorded." he touched his shirt pocket.
"of course. do you like the tea?"
"it's delicious," larry answered.
"good. now, the reason i left my message is - i remembered something pope anastasius xliv told me - well, not me personally but our discussion group at st bibiana's parish - about the seven deadly sins - '
"excuse me." larry interrupted. "let me get the pictures out of my folder so i can refresh my memory on exactly what we are talking about." he put his teacup and saucer down on the table.
"of course. take your time." mrs nelson smiled at him.
"can i say something?." asked tania.
"of course, dear."
tania clenched her teeth at the "dear," but pushed on. "i have a question - what do these things have in common - racism, sexism. homophobia, hatred, cruelty, abuse and power?"
"we have been over this before, dear - i know the answer - that none of them are listed in the seven deadly sins."
"thank you. i just wanted to get that on the record."
"it's a little stuffy in here," said larry. "maybe detective kelly would like to step outside and get a little air."
"i'll drink to that." tania finished her tea in one gulp, put the cup down and left the tiny apartment.
"she seems a little - overwrought," said mrs nelson.
larry laughed. "you should meet her sister."
tania walked slowly down the street outside mrs nelson's apartment. it was 3075th st at 448th avenue in the 18th level but a hand drawn cardboard sign on a wall above her head proclaimed it the "street of dreams". there were only a few people on the street. she assumed they were police like herself.
there were a number of small churches of various sects. she took a pad out of her pocket and noted them, to check later against the list of redeemable religions.
she kept walking. two small churches faced each other across the intersection of 3075th st and 449th avenue. one was dedicated to elvis, the other to kerouac.
a man outside the church of elvis and a man outside the church of kerouac were shouting at each other across the street.
"you are a false prophet! you teach false doctrine!"
both retreated inside their respective buildings when they saw tania approaching.
she drew up to the church of elvis and was about to pass it when something behind the window caught her eye. she stopped and went inside.
no one was inside except the man who had been shouting at his rival on the sidewalk. he was big and burly, with short brown hair and a neatly clipped beard, and wearing a red checked lumberjack shirt a size too small. he looked at tania warily as she approached the low counter he had retreated behind.
she showed him her identification and badge.
the man shook his head and spread his hands. "no unspeakable crimes here, sister. elvis is the god of love."
"73H-42we9-69j55t-873280y. people call me mike - mike fink."
"that's not much of a number, mike. low on the high side, high on the low side, wouldn't you say?"
"i know my rights, miss."
"all you scripture shouters know your rights. and it's detective to you, not sister or miss."
tania picked a couple of pamphlets off the counter. "elvis' greatest wisdom to live by." "eternal message of love."
she flipped through them. "i see you are big on love, mike. but of course as you testify and spread the word you are careful to observe all human contact laws, right?"
"yes i am."
"great." she dropped the pamphlets back on the counter. "but that's not why i'm here." she nodded at a shelf behind mike. "what's that you've got there?"
he looked behind him. "just some paper."
"looks like envelopes, too. you like to write letters, mike?"
"not much. i like to testify in the street, where folks can see and hear me."
"so who uses the paper and envelopes?"
"well, there was a young fellow used to help me out here, sweeping up and such - those were his."
tania went behind the counter and rummaged through the paper and envelopes herself. "well, there are no stamps, at least. did this person have a number?"
"he was called little jojo. i could look up his number."
"if you 'd be so kind."
mike went into a back room and came back with a little notebook with loose slips of paper stuck in it. he took a slip out and handed it to tania.
"i have all my papers here if you'd like to look at them."
"i am sure your papers are in order, preacher." tania read the number on the slip.
"77H-rt569-h56d42-9574ff28. that's an even worse number than yours, mike. so what happened to our friend little jojo, did you cut him up and eat him?"
mike's face got a little redder. "he started getting strange ideas. he - started thinking he was the god of love himself - setting himself up over elvis. so i had to let him go."
"obviously. but you haven't kept in touch - you don't know where he is now?"
tania nodded toward the window and street. "what about across the street - the kerouac place. might he be over there?"
"kerouac! kerouac is the falsest of false gods! even little jojo wouldn't sink that low." mike calmed down and shook his head. "he was just a little man with big ideas,"
"and you are a big man with little ideas."
"I don't think that was called for."
tania ignored this. she copied little jojo's number down and put her pad in her pocket. "little jojo," she said. 'the god of love, likes to write letters. i like it. we might have done some good work here tonight, mike. you might have been a useful citizen for once in your life."
mike unclenched his teeth. "thank you."
tania walked out into the street. after a moment's hesitation, she headed for the church of kerouac.