MISSING PERSON

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Chapter 28

His office was located on Broadway just west of Cambie, in a new building that was protected by an elaborate security system. I didn’t want to alert Matt, so I waited for an oblivious or trusting tenant to let me tag along. It didn’t take long. The elevator was similarly protected, but my makeshift host again obliged me, and soon I found myself outside a seventh floor office, separated from Matt by a glass door.

According to the nameplate, he had the office suite to himself, but he’d nevertheless set up a cubicle of sorts, and I could see the top of his head above the partition. I stood there for a few seconds, wondering what I was doing there, wondering whether this was a stupid idea, wondering whether I should have gone to my father and the police; to someone with a moral duty or a legal obligation to split the burden with me. But I’d gotten this far, and when I saw Matt shift in his chair, I gave a few short raps on the glass door.

He stood up and walked over, and I saw his face resolve confusion into recognition. In a few broad paces he approached the door, and pulled it wide open. “Kathleen,” he greeted me. He opened his mouth again, but then closed it immediately.

I nodded. “Hey, Matt.”

“Wow. Um…what brings you here? How did you get in?”

“One of the other tenants let me in.”

“They’re not supposed to do that.”

“Yeah, well, apparently people would rather be polite than careful. Bald guy, was heading up to the ninth floor, in case you care.” Eight years collapsed in an instant, and we were back to that last year of our relationship: familiarity without intimacy.

He shrugged. “What are you – listen, come on in.”

The door swung shut behind me, and I followed Matt to the cubicle. He settled into his chair and motioned me to pull over one of the three on the other side on the desk. This was probably where he met with his clients; it was a nice space, professional without being ostentatious. I dragged one of the chairs to the desk and sat there for a half minute or so while he appraised me. “You haven’t changed at all,” he said at last.

He had. He’d grown into the type of formal and responsible adulthood I associated more with my father’s generation than with mine. There was no one to tell him explicitly to wear suits to his office, or even to have an office, but he’d done both anyway, and he moved so naturally in his clothing and his space that I doubted he even felt like he was making any concessions. It embarrassed me suddenly that I’d devoted so much energy to that battle, and had lost.

“What can I do for you?” he asked.

I sat there across from him, frozen. I’d rehearsed a handful of pitches on the way over – a blustering threat to expose him if he didn’t meet my demands, a dramatic account of everything that had happened in my life since the car accident – but all of them seemed somehow out of sync with the scene, a cubicle in a seventh floor office on West Broadway. “I need money,” I blurted out.

He tilted his head and furrowed his brow. “You need money,” he repeated. He didn’t say it mockingly, and it didn’t seem like he had to restrain himself. People with private offices and who wore suits by choice didn’t need to mock unemployed slobs.

“Yeah,” I said. “I need money and you work for a bank and I need your help.” My voice cracked, and I shook my head in frustration. None of this was going the way I’d planned.

He leaned forward. “Yes, I work for a bank,” he said slowly. “But I’m not in charge of issuing loans. Do you even have an account with us? Your own bank would probably be a better bet for that – how much do you need?”

“Six, seven hundred for now. I can probably pay it back by the end of this week at the latest.”

“Six –” He closed his eyes and kneaded his temple. “That’s nothing. Can’t you put that on a credit card?”

I shook my head. “No, no, I can’t. I can’t do anything people who don’t have money are supposed to do. I don’t have a credit card and I don’t have a bank account and I don’t have a job, I can’t get EI, I have twenty-eight dollars, and I just need six or seven hundred dollars for a few days and I’ll be fine for the next little while. You design computer infrastructure for a bank and I bet you know more than you’ve told them. You can probably get me the money, and with an account of my own, and no one will know, and –”

“Shh, it’s okay, it’s okay, we can work something out. Why don’t you tell me what’s going on?”

I’d played this scene in my head a dozen times on the ride over, prepared to argue, prepared to threaten to blackmail; but not once had I considered what I would say if he were to offer me comfort. I coughed out half a syllable in reply, and then started to cry.

I didn’t tell him everything. I told him about the car accident in Calgary, about the woman with the two small children, about wanting to put the entire incident behind me, about trying to contact the driver only because a micromanager I worked with insisted. I described Roger in full, painful detail, and Matt neither rushed me through the story nor laughed at any part.

I described how my attempts to find the fake Harsha Gill had led me to the real one, and how the real one had been a willing partner in trying to find her imposter until she wasn’t. I told him of the missing kindergarten boy, his scared mother, and the threats I presumed were coming from his father. I mentioned my lost job, the intruder, and finally, the reason for my visit: that I had no money, no credit cards, and no source of income. And I left it there, again not mentioning that there were two missing women. It bothered me both that I knew so little about Harsha’s imposter, and that the person who’d started all this was almost incidental to the story I was uncovering. It bothered me in some intangible way that kept me from mentioning her at all.

Matt finally spoke. “I can’t get you your money back,” he said. “If someone using your identity withdrew it, it’s gone, and there’s no way to trace it. I can easily set up an account for you, though, with a credit card. I can have that for you within the hour.”

I closed my eyes and exhaled. That was all I needed for now. There was more that someone with his skills and access could do for me, but that could wait.

“Thank you so much,” I said, and he shrugged, embarrassed.

We sat there facing each other for another minute or so before I spoke, self-conscious and sheepish. “So how are things with you these days?”

He studied his hands. “Pretty good. I’m – I’m engaged . I’m getting married in August.” He looked up again, gave a small smile.

A pause, an instant too long. “Married!” I exclaimed. “That’s great! Congratulations!” The words came out too bright, plastic, and my voice broke on the last syllable. He looked down again, gracious enough to pretend not to notice.

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