“She didn’t turn up.”
Sam hadn’t asked, but Dr Doug told him anyway.
“There was a cryptic message on the answering machine and that was it. She isn’t answering her phone and there’s no one at home; at least when I was there.”
“She’ll turn up.”
Sam knew that his comment was half-hearted, but his mind was elsewhere. This was ‘his time’ and he had stuff to talk about. He didn’t know Dr Doug’s secretary all that well, and he was sure that she would be alright. People quit their jobs all the time.
“People quit their jobs all the time.” Sam realised that he’d just said that out loud.
Dr Doug looked at him and Sam could tell that his indifference was showing.
He could say something else to lighten the mood, but he decided to leave it alone.
Sam had never seen Dr Doug so distracted, and within a very short space of time it became obvious that they were not going to get much work done today.
Sam was annoyed.
Usually, he could take or leave it when it came to these sessions but lately he felt that he was making real progress.
His memories were returning, and for the first time since the accident he had a sense that things were going to be okay.
It was all too slow, but at least it was happening.
Writing down his dreams and retelling them in these sessions was strangely cathartic. It seemed to be speeding up the process for both of them. Dr Doug found the ‘dream sessions’ to be revealing, and Sam enjoyed having the excuse to write. Dreams and detective novels weren’t exactly the same thing but writing was writing and it was good for his soul; and his memory, if it came to that.
It was becoming obvious that Dr Doug wanted help to find his wayward secretary; it seemed pointless to fight it.
“I know you have been out of the ‘finding people business’ for a while now but I’m really worried.”
“Look Doc, as I said, people quit their jobs all the time. She probably just found a better job, no offence, and was too embarrassed to tell you. People are weird Doc, trust me, I know.”
“She isn’t a dipsy teenager. She’s a mature young woman with her head securely attacked to her shoulders.”
“No offence Doc, but is there something I should know about you two.”
“No, nothing like that. I learned my lesson a long time ago.”
Sam made a mental note to get Dr Doug drunk and revisit that statement sometime.
“Okay, so no extra-curricular activities between you two but what about strange boyfriends, ex-husbands, protective brothers, cousins, uncles?”
“She’s my secretary not my kid sister, so I don’t know everything about her but one gets a feeling about people and she seems like a solid person with a quiet home-life. Oh, hell I don’t know. She works for me; I try not to pry. Her life is her life. I feel responsible for her, and before you ask again, there is no intimate reason for me to feel this way. I just do. I know something is wrong.”
During their sessions, Dr Doug usually didn’t show much of himself. Sure, he was friendly and caring but he also kept a professional distance. This tended to piss Sam off; just a bit. He understood why therapists did this but he wasn’t exactly going to fall in love with Dr Doug like some wounded soul might, so why the distance? As far as Sam was concerned Dr Doug was treading a very fine line. He found it difficult to trust a person who insisted on too much distance. But, up until now it had worked, and he would stay with the arrangement, at least in the short-term.
“Okay Doc, tell me what you do know about this girl.”
“To start with she’s a woman not a girl. You’ve met her often enough, you must have noticed?”
“Look Doc, when I come here, I’ve got ‘me’ on my mind. She could have two heads, and as long as she doesn’t mess up the appointment, I probably wouldn’t notice. There’s a fair bit of hyperbole in there, but you know what I mean.”
“She seems efficient and friendly and attractive and she seems to be working a bit too hard to be friendly so I’d say that she is a bit on the shy side away from the office. She dresses conservatively, which makes sense if you work around crazy people…. just kidding…. she dresses appropriately but the subdued amount of jewellery is indicative of something. Maybe she knows how beautiful she is and doesn’t see the need for additional adornment, or maybe she doesn’t have the money to buy jewellery. How much do you pay this woman Doc?”
“I pay her very well. Way above the usual rate. I value my employees and I have found that paying them well is the best way to show them that they are appreciated.”
“You must be the first employer in history to work that one out Doc. Okay, so we can rule out lack of funds——— unless, maybe something is happening to her well stocked pay-packet after it leaves here. Blackmail? What the hell could she have done in her short life to warrant blackmail? We’ll put that to one side for the moment. Maybe a sick relative? No, that’s unlikely, unless she insists on private care. Something or someone is draining this woman of funds. When we find out what and who we will know where she is and why.”
“Does that mean that you will find her for me Sam?”
“Reluctantly yes, and I’ll take my fee in free visits, which is no idle threat, as I’m the only person I know who charges more than you do.”
The address that Dr Doug had given him was in a quiet little street in Deepdene.
The two-story apartment-block looked like it had been built sometime in the 1930s. The building was solid brick and the gardens were old and established. The building obviously paid for a gardener to keep the grounds in good order.
The piece of paper said ‘Miss Wilson Flat 4/16 Michaels Way Deepdene.’
Flat 4 was on the ground floor and the corridor was neat and dust free. All the light fittings were original Deco, and intact.
‘The vandals must be on holidays on this side of town.’ Sam enjoyed talking to himself, even if it did earn him the occasional strange look.
The door to number 4 was solid and ornate; most probably an original fixture as well. ‘This place has been well looked after, and I’ll bet the rents are high enough to keep out the riff-raff.’ Sam silently agreed with himself.
He knocked on the door and waited but there was no answer. No sound came from the apartment and the curtains were drawn. Sam tried an old trick of walking slowly away and turning suddenly to see if the curtains moved. He called this trick the ‘Crazy Ivan’, but it did not deliver any positive result.
Another of Sam’s tricks was to walk up and down until one of the other tenants got nervous and asked him what he was doing. In slightly rougher suburbs this tactic could result in a bit violence but this was a refined neighbourhood and the worst he could expect was an indignant old lady; and right on cue, an indignant old lady shouted at him.
“What are you up to young man?”
Sam gave her his biggest smile; the one he reserved for grandmothers and nuns. “I hope I didn’t alarm you, I’m looking for Miss Gene Wilson.”
“What do you want with her?”
So this lady knows who I’m looking for, thought Sam.
“She hasn’t been in to work for a couple of days and my brother was worried about her. She’s normally very reliable. Never takes a sick day.”
Referring to his brother made the whole thing sound like a family matter and this often smoothed the way, especially with little old ladies.
“I see her as she leaves early for work every morning. I don’t sleep much these days.
I like her.
She’s friendly and she always asks how I am. Most people don’t bother to ask. I wouldn’t like to think that anyone was trying to make trouble for her.
You aren’t trouble, are you young man?”
“My wife thinks I am, but generally I like to leave people alone. As I said, my brother was worried.”
There was a distinct chance that this ‘little old lady’ had been ‘someone’ at some stage in her life. She had money now but back in the day she had seen some stuff and probably done some stuff and she had observed a bit of life; and not always the good stuff either.
Sam could always tell.
It was something about the way they talked—— the way they carry themselves.
It didn’t matter if they were male or female, it always showed up the same way.
Something about the eyes and their speech patterns; knowing; wisdom; understanding; compassion even; but not easy, not a push over; just a desire to protect those who needed it.
This little old lady was doing her bit——- trying to protect the person who showed her some respect.
Sam liked this ancient lady, and if he played his cards right she could become an ally. He was wise enough to realise that he was going to need one.
There was something very wrong about all this.
He didn’t have any hard evidence, but he knew that she had not simply changed jobs and been too shy to explain.
The hair was standing up on the back of his neck and he’d felt that sensation before.
There was a mystery to be solved and something told him that he had better be quick about it.