Not Much Else To Do.

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It’s not that easy to lose a secretary, but Dr Doug managed it.

Now, he expected me to find her.

I won’t bore you with all the details, but I reluctantly took the case and with the help of a little old lady I gained entry to the missing secretaries’ apartment and had a look around.

The little old lady noticed it first; an advertisement in the local newspaper. ‘Antique board-game for sale. Intact. Very rare.’

Someone had circled the advertisement with red ink.

Red ink; always dramatic.

The game is said to have predated ‘Cluedo’ by about thirty years, but the little printing company that made it could not compete.

The game worked best if there were, at least, eight participants, and even better if there were more.

Basically, you were supposed to slip various clues into the pockets of the other players. The clues would ultimately reveal the murderer.

I’m not sure how people got on when they played this game at a cocktail party. Where did the women hide their clues? My imagination dwelled on this point for a few moments.

“She seemed very eager to have a complete game. She told us that her game had a lot of clues missing. We told her who had purchased the game and gave her his address. We never heard from her again. We are sorry to hear that something has happened to her.”

“I don’t know that it has. She’s just missing at this stage, but thank you for all your help.” The couple selling the game seemed harmless enough.

They’d inherited it from an uncle who, as family legend had it, spent time in prison. His incarceration had something to do with the game. Someone died. They couldn’t pin the murder on him, but they got him for perjury, which in my experience is very unusual. The cops often threaten people with perjury, but they rarely ever follow through.

Someone really hated this bloke.

While he was in gaol his house was broken into. There was damage, but nothing appeared to have been taken.

The uncle died in a hit-and-run accident not long after getting out of prison and the nephew got the job of winding up his estate.

Most of the uncle’s stuff went to charity.

“They were not very grateful either. They acted like it was a nuisance. They left a lot of stuff behind. ‘Too much trouble for us’. Even charities are lazy these days.”

The nephew kept the ‘Who Dunnit’ game and a few bits and pieces.

“I almost missed the game when I was cleaning out the house. There were a few loose floorboards in my uncle’s bedroom, and I didn’t notice them until we moved the bed. The game was wrapped in waterproof paper and stored under the floorboards. We thought it must be valuable, so we decided to sell it. I put a ridiculous price on it and I had a series of phone calls not long after the paper came out. I should have asked for more I guess.”

“Never mind dear, you weren’t to know.” This blokes wife was quiet, still attractive, and probably cooked excellent scones, but I didn’t have time to find out.

I was tired, so I headed for home. The hunt for the missing secretary could wait until tomorrow.

Scarlett had dinner in the oven when I got home and I told her about my adventure. She’s difficult to impress, but even she was intrigued by the mystery of the missing secretary.

I had a couple of calls to make the next morning but once they were taken care of I drove over to the address I had been given.

The place was deserted.

Little cream brick houses are bad enough when people are living in them, but they are positively depressing when they are deserted.

This one hadn’t been deserted for long.

“A bloody great truck turned up yesterday afternoon, and a couple of bozos filled it up and they were gone by dinner time. Made it bloody near impossible for me to get in and out of my driveway. I asked them to move and they told me to get stuffed. I considered getting in a little golf practice with my nine iron, but I’m getting on a bit and there were three of them.”

“Probably a wise decision.”

This whole thing was getting weirder by the minute.

“Did you know the bloke who lived there?” I asked.

“I knew the people who owned it before he moved in. They retired somewhere up north and had the house rented out. The bloke you’re interested in was quiet, always wore a brown suit and never had any visitors, at least not that I noticed. He also had a lot of stuff delivered to his house. He asked me to sign for stuff from time to time. Mowed my lawn occasionally by way of thanks. He had a cat too if I remember rightly.”

“You didn’t miss much.”

“When you get old there isn’t much to do except spy on your neighbours.”

I drank the old blokes cup of tea and I ate his biscuits but eventually I had to go.

“Don’t you want to know where the truck was going?” He was stalling, but he had a point.

“How do you know where it was going?” This old bloke was full of surprises.

“I’m a nosey old bastard, but you’ve probably figured that out by now.”

“The thought had crossed my mind.” I smiled and he smiled back.

“I looked in the truck’s cabin and the clipboard had the load’s destination typed on it.”

“And you remember it?”

“Like I said, not much else to do when you get old.”

The address the old bloke had gotten from the truck took me to the outer suburbs. Which was a break in itself because I had a horrible feeling that this bloke had gone interstate, and that would have made things very difficult.

The address was easy enough to find, but all it turned up was a house full of furniture, none of which had been unpacked. His stuff was here, but he was somewhere else, probably selling the game to a well-heeled collector. But, he had to come home at some stage, so I made plans to sit on this address until he showed up.

Experience told me that this bloke knew where Dr Doug’s missing secretary was, and now there was nothing to do but wait.

The Missing Man In A Room With A Window.

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“………….. most nights he could recall

oceans in the city

the myth of floods the

missing man in the room with a window

his eyes closed only in sleep…………”

From ‘Lineage 1’ by lost ironies

Are you truly missing if no one misses you?

Don’t bother to answer; I know the answer; I got myself into this.

The room is about the size of a shipping container, and not one of those super-sized ones either, just a regular one. If this room were a shipping container, it would be painted a faded red with letters stencilled on it that only a dock worker would understand.

I don’t mind that this is a small room; I don’t take up much space. Mostly, I sit in this corner and stare at the sky though my only window. If it was positioned a little lower on the wall I could probably see the people in the street, but then again, that would mean that they could see me; don’t want that.

A thicker cushion would be nice, but the one I’m sitting on works well enough, as long as I fluff it up from time to time.

Speaking of time; it passes very slowly in this room.

When you are ‘missing’, and it wasn’t up to you, time is mixed with the terror of the unknown. When you are missing, and it was your choice, time is mixed with fear and regret.

I don’t want to get all ‘Zen’ on your arse; just saying.

If you ask most people [as long as you catch them at a good moment], they will tell you that all you need is a roof over your head, a bite to eat and someone to love. At the moment, I have two of those things, but I used to have all three.

My food comes from Mrs Wang’s Chinese kitchen on the corner of State and Wilson streets.

I knew Mrs Wang, back in the day, and she knows how to keep her mouth shut. Mind you; a closed mouth costs money and mine is rapidly running out. Mrs Wang leaves my food outside the door, that way she can say that she hasn’t seen me if anyone asks.

Mrs Wang could equivocate with the best of them.

The Spanish Inquisition would not have had a chance with Mrs Wang.

I prefer my own company, but one of the downsides of being on your own is that you begin to lose track of the passage of time. Not in a ‘twenty-four-hour’ sense but in a ‘days of the week’, ‘weeks in the month’ kind of way. It doesn’t really matter either way; I have to stay ‘lost’ for as long as possible, and when the money runs out we will find out.

For all, I know everyone I ever knew is dead. For all, I know I may already be dead. How do you find out when you are dead? They certainly didn’t teach me that at Catholic school.

I wonder if it is like getting an overdue notice for your electricity bill. “Dear Sir, we regret to inform you that you are no longer alive. We are sorry if this causes you any inconvenience. Could you please have your soul polished as soon as possible and don’t forget to report for a debriefing on your most recent life. Please note that if you were foolish enough to choose Earth for your most recent incarnation you are entitled to an additional weeks leave before having to report in. We understand that Rigal 5 is particularly good at this time of the universe. There are always spots open in the choir and tennis lessons are free for new arrivals.”

Maybe not, but being dead can’t be as bad as not knowing. I could ask Mrs Wang, but that would cost me. For the moment, being the missing man in a room with a window is my safest option, and besides, tomorrow it’s egg rolls as well as beef and black bean sauce.