Quelle: The German for source, spring, well, fount, headwaters, fountainhead, origin.
A distinguished older man sat on a bench under the shade of a tree in Central Park. He may have been reflecting on what to write when he looked down at the cellular phone he held in his hand and began pressing the keys with his index finger. It was the last text message he would send. Minutes later, he appeared to rest, his head tilted back, and his cellular phone dropped to the ground as a breeze stirred the leaves. A young woman walking by noticed the man and called the police.
An early forties looking detective with thin hair and brooding eyes, who I met the next day, noted the dead man was probably in his late fifties, had messy white hair and wore expensive looking cordovan cap toe boots and a grey wool blend suit with an open collar blue shirt underneath. “He didn’t look homeless…except there was no wallet, no papers. No identification on the man.” The man’s cellular phone was a dated Blackberry cellular model and displayed only one message All other names and messages were deleted, save the text to me. There was little evidence the man ever existed except for his body and the message. A baby who perhaps was once cradled in his mother’s arms he now was just another older man who died alone in the city.
The sign read detour. Driving north on I-81, I would cut over to New York City. I was to meet a man who lived in Manhattan about a writing project. I was listening to some Bach on the radio and thinking about the project while driving. I wondered how it might relate to the previous potential book I was to collaborate on in the city. I had spoken with the person for over an hour on the phone. The story seemed riddled with glitches. My initial research suggested to step back. I did.
In the western sky low hanging grey clouds caught my sight. The city was still a couple of hours away. The rain would get there sooner. According to my android phone navigator there was a coffeeshop at the next exit. I exited the interstate and within five minutes found the coffee shop, parked, walked in and ordered a cup of black coffee. I looked at my phone. There were nine messages.
Click. The first three messages were sales pitches for whatever. Delete.
Click. Message four was from a former colleague now living on the east coast outside the District of Columbia. “Just checking in. Are you still alive? If you answer I’ll know one way or the other. Lol.”
I text back. “Since I’m replying to you. I am. Good to hear from you. More later.”
Click. Message five. The name and number was unavailable. Delete.
I took a sip of the coffee. Click. Message six. It was an appointment reminder from a colleague.
Click. Message seven. A politician asking me for his vote. Delete.
Click. Message eight. A fundraiser. Delete.
Click. Message nine. “Within the journey you will need to find the Quelle…so close you can see.” Signed, “Manhattan gentleman.”
The following day I found the bench the detective told me about, where the man was sitting. I sat down, looked around. I could see a portion of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the distance. What else? I checked the few texts we exchanged before the last one including my jottings from our telephone conversations. Perhaps it was something else altogether. Time would tell.
*Excerpt from book Frank is currently writing, based on an actual event.