Aron later recalled, in a written confession, that Leiby had asked him for directions to a Jewish bookstore, a landmark that would have allowed the boy to easily navigate his way home. Aron offered to drive him there but explained that he had an errand to run first and left Leiby on the sidewalk. Patiently, the boy waited until Aron returned from the dentist’s office and took him to his car. As they headed for the bookstore, Aron later wrote in his confession, Leiby now told Aron that he “wasn’t sure where he wanted to go.”
Aron explained that he had to attend a wedding up in Monsey; he suggested that Leiby come with him. It is unclear whether Leiby protested, but he and Aron made the trip, stopping along the way at a Sunoco station on the Palisades Parkway. According to an attendant, Aron and Leiby pulled in around 8:15 p.m. Aron opened the door for Leiby, and the pair walked into the bathroom, where they remained for “one or two minutes.” The attendant, who later saw stills from the security footage, said that “there was no pushing, no nothing. The little kid goes easily.” Guests at the wedding would remember seeing Aron but not Leiby, who reportedly remained in the car.
Aron and Leiby returned to Brooklyn around 11:30 p.m. Aron’s back was hurting him and he decided to keep the boy until the next day. He put Leiby in the front room, turned on the TV, and walked down the hallway to his bedroom to catch some sleep. In the morning, Aron dressed for work. He promised Leiby that he would return him to his family when he came back. The day passed normally for Aron. None of his co-workers noticed anything unusual.
On his way home, Aron spotted a large flyer, copies of which were being plastered across Brooklyn by legions of volunteers. The flyer bore the face of Leiby Kletzky. It is hard to understand why Aron reacted to this sight the way he did: Prosecutors have not alleged that he had sexually assaulted Leiby. (Nor is there evidence of such behavior in his past. “He was not a homosexual, not a pedophile,” says Diunov. Adds Kivel: “He was a regular guy, trust me on that.”) At this point he could still have taken the boy home and faced minimal consequences. But instead a different, darker thought must have crossed Aron’s mind. In his confession, he would later write: “I panicked and was afraid.”
In the Tri State offices, Yaakov German was growing antsy. His legwork had brought the search to this critical moment; the Honda driver’s identity and address were tantalizingly close at hand. But in his calculation, it was going to take too long to get that critical information from the dentist. I felt every minute, it’s like a burning,” he remembers. “Who the hell knows what might be happening? We see him take Leiby in the car, and we know—every single second counts.” German scarfed down a slice of kosher pizza and barreled back out into the murky heat.
Outside, he ducked under the police barricade and stood at the spot where the bearded man had parked the Honda. The car had been facing east, and he decided to go east too. All of Brooklyn opened before him—a labyrinth of darkened streets, weed-filled yards. While he walked, he called a friend, who had been in touch with a famous psychic rabbi.
The rabbi was familiar with this part of Brooklyn and had come to the conclusion, after consulting a series of sacred texts, that the boy would be found in Kensington. Kensington was to the east, German thought. He was on the right track. He knew the neighborhood well—in fact, he often visited one of its stores, Empire State Supply, to pick up hardware for his properties. Because he knew the owners, he was sometimes allowed into the back room, where clerks monitored regional sales. He recalled encountering a man there, thin and balding, a “lunatic genius” who could remember the location of every object the place stocked.
German crisscrossed the neighborhood, hopping fences and wading through darkened playgrounds. Once in a while he saw a cop. Among the Kensington yards he would search that night was a plot behind a tidy three-story white house on East 2nd Street. Looking up at the lit windows on the third floor, he howled Leiby’s name and heard nothing in response.
At the same time German was scouring Kensington, Heshy Herbst and Simcha Eichenstein were on Eighteenth Avenue, peering into Sorscher’s dentist office. They were prepared, Herbst remembers, to break down the door. In the event, it wasn’t necessary. Inside they found Sorscher himself, pale and frail, surrounded by five or six detectives. The police seemed to think Sorscher might somehow be involved. “They were slamming him with questions. They thought he was a person of interest,” Herbst says.