A Case for Billie Occasion
by Bertil Falk
part 1 of 2
The young lady was indeed very young. She wore a big, lilac safety pin that penetrated her left cheek. Her hair was black, her eyes were black, her eyelashes black, her eyebrows black, her lips. Black things hung from her ears. As a matter of fact, except for that lilac safety pin, she was all dressed in black. No doubt, she was a punk.
He wondered why there was no black ring in her nose. For a fraction of a moment he considered apologizing, saying that he must have pressed the wrong doorbell.
“Yes?” she looked at him inquiringly.
“My name is David Olsson. Are you Miss Billie Occasion?”
“Mrs. Billie Occasion,” she corrected him. “However, divorced nowadays. What can I do for you?”
“I have a problem,” David Olsson said.
She nodded. “Please, come in.”
He heard the queen of punk rock, Nina Hagen, singing (if that was what she did) “Auf’m Friedhof” in the background. The apartment was a single room with a small kitchen and an even smaller bathroom with a shower cabin and a toilet. Walls filled with expressive artworks, strange posters with ghosts, monsters, amazing landscapes, Gothic castles and psychedelic paraphernalia. You name it.
She showed him a chair — the only thing in the room that looked normal. There was an enormous white cushion on the floor.
“If you want, I can make you a drink,” she said. “How about a Cola?”
“Pepsi or Coke?”
She went into the kitchen, returned, handed him the drink and sat down on the enormous white cushion, all the while carefully observing him.
“Exactly who are you?” She smiled when she asked the question, and the smile disclosed snow-white teeth.
“I’m a detective,” he said and glanced at the panoramic window. The Empire State Building was barely visible through the gray haze of winter. It was snowing. “My sister-in-law told me about you.”
“How is she? I haven’t seen her since my marriage two years ago.”
“She’s fine.” David Olsson made a pause. “She didn’t tell me that you were married.”
She ignored his remark.
“Nor did she tell me that you’re divorced,” he added.
“You must have a problem, since she sent you to me. Right?”
“You bet,” he said.
“What’s the problem?”
“Strange things happen.”
She nodded. “They usually do, when people come to me. Tell me about it.”
“I’m with Homicide.”
“Do you always work on Sundays?” She looked him straight into the eye and he felt somewhat uneasy.
He looked away and his gaze hit an ornamental spider hanging from the ceiling. “This is not an official visit. The fact is that we had a murder case. On the twenty-second of May this year.”
“Seven months ago.”
David Olsson struggled with his story. “It was a man, about thirty-five years old. His name was Anthony Gensten, a computer programmer. An unmarried computer freak. A lonesome wolf. He was stabbed on Fifth Avenue. Many witnesses saw him falling. But nobody saw the actual murder. Someone ran a bayonet through his heart from behind. It’s an unsolved murder.”
“Part of the problem is that the bayonet had not penetrated his clothes. It was as if he had been stabbed before he put them on. And that is impossible, because death was instantaneous.”
“How do you know?”
“That’s what the forensic pathologist said.”
“You’re a psychic?” He suddenly changed the subject.
“That’s what they say,” she replied. “I don’t really know. I may just have some abilities others don’t possess or don’t bother to develop. Now, what about that murder. It took place in broad daylight?”
“At lunch hour. The murder weapon was not found.”
“Isn’t a bayonet a big thing?”
“This one was longer than an ordinary knife, yes. Specialists found that the wound had been caused with a kind of bayonet used in the trenches during WWI. Nobody saw him being stabbed. But hundreds of people saw him falling down on the pavement.”
David Olsson passed his right hand over his left hand’s palm.
“Nothing, until two weeks ago. I went to my dentist. In the waiting room there’s always a lot of old magazines, you know. I picked up one of them and while browsing through it, I suddenly glimpsed the murdered man’s face in a picture. He was with a woman and two other men at a medical conference in Las Vegas. The caption said that the man to the left was Anthony Gensten, who had been stabbed with a bayonet on the twenty-second of May last year.”
“According to the caption, he was stabbed in Los Angeles.”
She did not bat a single one of her black eyelids. “I see what you are driving at,” she said.
“It turned out that Anthony Gensten in Los Angeles had been stabbed in front of the TV set in his home in downtown LA. The bayonet was still in his back, when his mother found him in the morning. If we consider the time difference between the Big Apple and LA it seems that Anthony Gensten in California was killed at about the same time as Anthony Gensten was murdered here on Fifth Avenue.”
“Do you have any explanation...” she began, but broke off in mid-sentence. “Of course not. Then you wouldn’t have come to me. But maybe you have an idea.”
He looked through the window, where a blur caused by a typical December blizzard blocked the view. “We are all stupefied. Personally, I have thought of a synchronicity.”
“I see. You’ve read Carl Gustav Jung, the founder of atavistically oriented depth psychology. Yes, he came up with the theory of synchronicity, which actually is the idea of meaningful coincidences without a common causal past.”
She smiled. “A meaningful murder which simultaneously takes place at two different places at the same time? It seems a little far-fetched to me. But not impossible.”
“What else can it be?”
“I admit that this is a somewhat different murder case,” she said. “What do you want me to do? Solve the murder mystery?”
“I want an explanation.”
“They were look-alikes?”
“More than that.”
“More than identical, but not twins. When the two forensic investigations were compared, they found that the two men actually were the same man. They weren’t two different individuals.”
She gave a Bronx cheer. “You can forget the synchronicity hypothesis,” she said. “This is not a meaningful coincidence. It’s not even a meaningless one. It’s something else.”
“I realize that.”
“Do you have that magazine article?”
He took out the clipping and gave it to her.
“Now, let me see what the caption says. The woman is Dorothy Weaver, a pediatrician from Los Angeles. The two men are Steve Hooper and Dennis Kent, both surgeons from Los Angeles. And it says that Anthony Gensten was a LA gynaecologist? I thought you said he was a computer programmer?”
“When killed in New York he certainly was, but when murdered in his LA home he was a gyneacologist.”
“Yes, of course,” she said, as if something dawned on her. She looked at the cutting. “They were from Los Angeles and they attended a medical congress in Las Vegas together.”
Nina Hagen was now spitting out “Der Spinner.” Billie Occasion closed her eyes and covered her tear glands by putting the thumb and the forefinger of her left hand over the root of her nose.
She was a sophisticated lady. When she talked she pronounced every single syllable. “My son came back from Vegas in the morning. I was not here then. I was out shopping. I found him on the floor in the library in front of the TV with that horrible thing in his back.”
“Did he have a double, a Doppelgänger, a look-alike, something like a twin?”
“He once won an Elvis look-alike competition, but that was many years ago,” Mrs. Gensten said. “That’s all. Why do you ask such a question?” The elegant lady looked at Billie Occasion suspiciously.
“Someone who looked like your son has been murdered in New York City. Did he have any enemies?”
“Not that I know of.”
“How about his colleagues Dorothy Weaver, Steve Hooper and Dennis Kent?”
“They were very close and used to socialize every now and then.”
“Do you know where they live?”
* * *
Copyright © 2008 by Bertil Falk