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Ursula Diop, My Worse Nightmare
555 Edgecombe Avenue
I wasn't a fraternity man. I graduated from the School of Fall on Your Can, Get Up, and Keep Trying. Living down in the Valley, I often glanced at the Roger Morris Apartments, 555 Edgecombe Avenue. I wondered if the inside of the joint lived up to the pomp of its exterior.
It was one of those exclusive Sugar Hill addresses where the colored upper crust resided. Their gatekeepers were a hard-nose, vigilant, and discriminating bunch. They acted like Anubis guiding the deceased into the afterlife.
My curiosity was finally quenched. I had to question Ursula Diop. A tenant that lived in the building. She designed women's custom shoes and jewelry. Her mug was splashed across the newspaper columns and magazines all of the time.
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The grapevine had it - her father was a Senegalese soldier in the Tirailleurs Senegalais outfit. Who fought for the French in WWI. That her mother was German and met Mr. Diop while he was stationed in Rhineland.
For someone who’d immigrated to the States after WWII. Ursula was certainly raking in the dough. Heck, I was escorted into the salon by a maid wearing a crisp white apron over a black dress. Two East Indian settees held court in the room. A Persian rug covered the floors. African masks plastered one of the walls and oil paintings the rest. Tiffany lamps dotted the French side tables, and classical music oozed from a Philco radio cabinet
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I started getting antsy waiting for her and lit a cigarette. Shortly thereafter, I smelled the Chanel No. 5 before I saw her eyes, nose, and lips; the polka-dotted dress which fitted her snugly, the art deco silver bracelets gracing her wrists, and those extraordinary red heels. That reminded me of a Coupe-de-Ville tail fins.
Her creations were the rage. I supposed that’s why she was the darling of Paris who was a famous Harlem socialite, the Café Society crowd and the hipsters as well. I stood as she glided into the drawing room like a tigress, placing one foot in front of the other.
“Hello, I’m Ursula Diop.”
"*Detective William Yates, 28th Precinct." The attractive medium height fashion designer sat across from me.
“Why are you here?” The pitch of her voice was well modulated like that of an actress. I’m sure she'd spent hours working with a voice coach. Beneath the eyebrow pencil, red lipstick, red fingernail polish, and class, my radar sensed a chameleon.
Her Reply Made Me Suspicious
“I’m investigating the disappearance of Roxanne Briggs and Joan Thompson.” She stared vacantly into my face. “Are the girls your former employees?"
"They've been missing for two months.” Ursula remained distant and cold as a snow capped mountain. “Have you heard from them?”
“Young girls are flighty these days.” Miss Diop chuckled. “They flitter like butterflies from one interest to the next.”
She didn’t answer my question. It was a simple yes or no. Her reply made me suspicious. I'd questioned the girls' landlord and some of their friends. Everyone I spoke to said her assistants left town abruptly. Surprisingly, I couldn’t locate a next of kin for either of them. The only lead I had was a photograph of them. I'd borrowed it from one of their pals.
“Has anyone called requesting a work reference for Roxanne or Joan?"
Her Lips Clamped Tightly
By now I believed the kitty was up to her pretty neck and soft delicate fingers in their disappearance, kidnapping, or murder. I took a long drag off my cigarette and crushed it into a crystal ashtray. That was worth six of my paychecks. I leaned forward and pointed my finger at her. "The girls were last seen entering your residence!" Her lips clamped tightly. "They haven't been heard from since." Her face stiffened. “The newspapers and the radio fellas are gonna eat you alive when I scoop them." Ursula cut her eyes at me. "What did you do with them?"
"Did you kill them?”
"Aw shout up!" Ursula yanked the red shoes off her feet. I ducked figuring a pair of flying high heels were headed my way. Instead of that the dame placed the stompers in front of the coffee table, ran her hands over them, and sat down. I thought she'd lost her marbles. But electrical sparks began charging the air as the shoes evaporated. I was dumbfounded when the images of the missing girls appeared.
She Burrowed into Me
"Roxanne tell Detective Yates where you and Joan have been," Ursula said.
Roxanne looked at me. "On a cross country-road trip to California.”
“This is insane!” I yelled.
“What are you going to do Yates? Ursula giggled. "The girls are back!" Then she burrowed into me. "If you tell anyone at the precinct or the press about this. They’ll never believe you. Will they?” She laughed. “Go ahead and make a fool of yourself. A bed will be waiting for you at Bellevue with your name on it."
I departed the swank apartment slamming the door. Who was Ursula Diop really, I reflected. Possibly Sekhmet in disguise. I headed back to the Valley for the nearest bar. I needed a drink.
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*Ursula Diop - A fictionalized person.
*Detective William Yates: A fictionalized person.
*Roxanne Briggs - A fictionalized person.
*Joan Thompson - A fictionalized person.
If You Were in the Detective's Situation, Would You Go to the Press?
© 2015 Irma Cowthern