The Missing Link

This is a true story…

My husband’s biomedical lab had a primate colony to test the effectiveness of new compounds that would lead to medications.  The monkeys and chimps got to recognize the various people who interacted with them.  They were usually very cooperative.  For example, when a particular scientist would appear, chimp #34 would turn her backside so the investigator could swab her private parts to obtain hormone levels.  Of course, she would receive a banana as a reward.

One day in the 1980’s, a friend of mine went to my husband’s office to borrow some books she needed for her graduate thesis.  He invited her to have lunch in the cafeteria on  the 22nd floor, high above Manhattan’s East River.  As they were eating, my friend’s eyes suddenly widened.  “Shelly! There’s a monkey out there!” 

He turned around and there, standing on the ledge outside the window, was a chimpanzee with an orange tag, #34.  She took one look at Shelly and bolted.

 #34 had been missing for a while.  In fact, she had even made the New York Post.  There had been a number of sightings by construction workers who were working on a new building.  #34 subsisted by stealing food from the workers’ lunch boxes.  She seemed happy making her home in the half-finished building, until she encountered the Big Boss on the other side of the cafeteria windows.  Then she disappeared.

The New York City Police had been on the case for weeks.  You can’t have a live chimpanzee, no matter how tame, swinging around the streets of Manhattan.

When #34 was last sighted, she was climbing into a rear window of a very good address on Park Avenue.  New York’s finest traced the apartment and when they knocked on the door, reportedly, an elderly lady answered.  “Ma’am, have you by any chance seen a, well, a chimpanzee?” they asked.  “Why no, officers, I have not,” she declared emphatically, and closed the door. 

To this day, we wonder if there was a chimp living in a Park Avenue apartment, wearing a jeweled collar and a diaper, cared for by a lonely old woman who pampered her with affection and gourmet food.

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