The Thousand Words

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Chapter 14

For a day that had started off so well, I was sure in a horrible mood. The meeting really pissed me off. I couldn’t believe the twins would stoop as low as they did in trying to get back at me. My dad and Bruno had been long-time adversaries, but there was no justification to come after my career and good name. None at all. Their call to my employer was strictly below the belt. I wasn’t going to let it go. Not a chance. I would get even. Pure and simple.

I dropped Jane back off at her house after we got a quick bite to eat at a Cuban food truck in downtown Cincinnati. They have the best, if not the only, Cuban sandwiches in town. Not a lot of demand for that cuisine in Ohio but it was sure tasted damn good. Jane bought which was nice. We often took turns when we did things like this. We usually can’t remember whose turn it is, so we just end up guessing and hope it’s close to even. She was going to do some research for me out of her house in the afternoon before heading to her other job. She helped a friend with all of the back office tasks and billing for a dance studio.

I wound up back at the office checking on a number of older photographs I had taken to see if they would be suitable for a few The Thousand Word articles. There was a number of other activities that kept me busy for most of the afternoon. With all of the work for the paper and other probable work for the department, the next few weeks were going to be extremely hectic. I wanted to make sure I was able to spend some time with Kelsey as well. No doubt the next time we got together would be a great deal more active and a whole lot less sleeping.

My relationship with Kelsey was going well and she rarely was out of my thoughts for more than just a few minutes. Even with everything happening, I wanted nothing more than to tell her all about my good news. I also wanted to listen to how her day went and hear stories from the kids that she was watching. Someday I will volunteer where she works for a day and read books, play games, and anything else the young patients want from me.

The thought of the current situation snapped me back to reality. I wanted to wrap up the Sarah Jacobs case as soon as possible. It was starting to get under my skin. What was supposed to be a simple and quick picture taking exercise was turning in to a pain in the ass and requiring a lot more time than anticipated. Regardless of what the client wanted, my actions were going to become a bit more aggressive and less passive.

I called the client, John Burns, on my cell in the afternoon. He answered right away wondering if there was any progress on his case. I relayed to him I hadn’t seen or heard anything from her at all, saying it was like she was truly missing. He then told me one of her friends had called to say she was going to be there after work today because she has been visiting some suppliers during the day using a rental car to keep mileage off of her personal vehicle.

It always amazed me clients would get information like this and not tell me. It made my work more difficult but it was hard to reprimand the person who was paying the bills. I thanked him and hung up.

After a bit more work in my office, I drove out to her apartment, parking in the same space as a few days before arriving just before four PM. It was Friday and people had a tendency to leave early regardless of where they were and what they were doing. I was hoping she wasn’t going out after work with friends or something similar.

The apartment was quiet. No signs of life at all. Her car was in the same spot as before. The last time here a friend or relative definitely brought in some food and left again soon after so I assumed she was there then. The information from the client fit right into what the situation here at the apartment. I gave it an hour of watching the apartment for any signs of activity, ready to take a picture if necessary.

Nothing. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Not only was I not being productive I was getting bored and antsy. Zoe Burke’s body and the call from one of the twins to Neil really had me worked up. I was sad and freaked out about Zoe and seething at the same time because of the Thompsons. I couldn’t sit in the car any longer so I got out and decided to go knock on a few doors.

The first one I knocked on was Sarah’s, walking straight up the stairs not pretending I was there for any other reason. I banged on the door a few times and listened for any sort of noise coming from the apartment. Once again, nothing. I looked into the window cupping my hands over my eyes trying to block out any light. The shades were closed but there was a small sliver on the side that allowed me to see a tiny corner inside. I couldn’t make out any movement or any other signs she was there. Zero.

I took out my cell phone and called her number, listening at the door and then the window to see if I could hear anything. I tried her number of few times even going to the point of putting my ear up to the window. Zilch. Finally, I tried the front door. It was locked so it wouldn’t open. Nada.

I gave up and headed back down the stairs. I walked to the door of the apartment directly below and knocked. No one was there. Someone answered at the apartment behind hers but they had gotten home not long ago and had no idea where Sarah Jacobs was. I tried the remaining apartments in her building with no luck either. The residents must not be home from work yet or were out on a Friday night.

I was getting irritated by the lack of progress on this case. Finally, the apartment in the next building that looked across at her balcony showed some promise. There were lights on up there and I could hear some noise coming from the apartment. Most likely vacuuming. I walked up the set of stairs to the apartment and knocked on the door, banging quite hard to overcome the noise. I heard the vacuum stop.

A few seconds later an older woman who was in her late sixties or early seventies answered the door. She was very thin with long grey hair and was wearing some flowered print shirt and dress pants only older women wear. Something you order out of an advertisement in a women’s magazine. They sure don’t sell that style of clothing wherever I shop.

“Can I help you with something?” she asked politely. I felt instantly bad for mentally judging her clothes.

“I have been trying to get a hold of Sarah Jacobs who lives in the apartment across the way there for a few days. It’s really important I see her right away. It’s a pressing matter. Do you know where she might be?”

“I know Sarah. Lovely girl. She helps me with a few things every now and again. Nothing major. Just odds and ends when I need a second set of hands. I can take care of myself. Been living on my own for the last twenty-two years since my husband died.”

I was clearly annoyed and hopefully, she could tell.

“Anyway,” she continued. “I haven’t seen her in the past few days. She might be out of town. She does travel sometimes. Something to do with her job.”

“I work with her,” I said, lying through my teeth. “It’s a pressing work matter. I am just not sure if she is staying here or not. She hasn’t been at work lately.” Another lie. “Since she broke up with her fiancée earlier this week, no one is quite sure where she is staying. I just need to talk with her about something urgent.” Mostly the truth for once.

“She is engaged?” The woman looked surprised. “She never mentioned anything about a fiancée to me. I wonder why. We have such nice conversations. We talk about everything.”

This was going nowhere. I thanked her and grumbled if she did see Sarah have her respond to her voicemails. Back in the car, I thought for a few minutes. This was a complete waste of time. Still, I gave it another hour of waiting. A number of people came and went but not a single individual went to her apartment. Not wanting to sit in the car for the rest of the night, I drove off back to my office and went to work on a few The Thousand Words submissions.

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