Thursday, April 14, 2005

Forget About Me by William Bankier

“Forget About Me” by William Bankier, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, May 2005

A cop, Detective Darren Conway, and his friend, Lucy, attend the showing of a Woody Allen movie. The theater is crowded, and by the time the movie is about to start parties are breaking up because most of the seats left open are singles. One of those open seats is next to Conway. A woman comes by and leaves her jacket in the empty seat, then goes to have a word with her friend before the movie starts. She never comes back.

Conway can’t get the woman out of his mind. He and Lucy wait for her to return for her jacket until after all the other patrons have gone. They turn the jacket in to the theater manager, Lyle, and Conway leaves his card.

Later Conway gets a call from a man called Oswald. He tells Conway that Serena is fine. He won’t let Conway talk to her.

Conway goes back to Lyle and gets a description of the man who picked up the jacket. The name Oswald and the fact that he was wearing a college athletic jacket with the number, 86, on it allow him to find out Oswald’s full name and that he lives in Venice. Conway and Lucy go there and sits at an outdoor café watching the people, hoping to seen Oswald. Before long, Lyle and Oswald come up to the table. Oswald offers to go get Serena, who is staying with him just a couple of blocks away. When Oswald returns, a woman wearing the right jacket accompanies him. Oswald maneuvers her so that the sun is behind her. She thanks Conway for returning the jacket and leaves. Conway is sure that she is not the same woman.

When Conway and Lucy get home, there is a message on his answering machine. It is Serena, Conway recognizes her voice, saying that Conway should leave her alone.

A few weeks later Conway catches a homicide at the theater where he met Serena. Lyle, the manager, is dead. Conway finds Oswald’s address in Lyle’s day planner and, with his partner, pays him a visit. They arrive just as Oswald is about to drive off towing a U-Haul trailer. Asked about Serena, Oswald says she is upstairs. Conway goes up to finally meet this woman he has been obsessing about for weeks.

The story is well-written and kept my interest, but there was just something unsatisfying about it. The ending just doesn’t read true. I suppose that there wasn’t enough build-up given to support Conway’s condition at the end.

In short, a workmanlike story that is ultimately unsatisfying.