The Thousand Words

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Chapter 5

I led the man into my office, leaving the door opened and motioned to one of the chairs for him to sit down in like I had done a few minutes ago with Mrs. Corbitt. We both sat down. He was full of nervous energy, unable to sit still at all. He was looking around my office taking it all in like he wasn’t quite ready to start talking yet. I waited for him to settle down. The delay didn’t appear to help at all.

“Let’s start from the beginning,” I prompted. “Your fiancée is missing?”

He started nodding his head up and down. “Sarah Jacobs. She has been missing for a full day and I am starting to get worried.”

“I have a few questions that will help me get a better handle on the situation.” I reached behind me to a cabinet while I was talking and grabbed a new notebook for recording information, observations, and notes. Something I learned a long time ago from my dad. Every case gets their own notebook so nothing gets mixed up. Notebooks are much better than computers as they allow you to review information anywhere and can be accessed in virtually any situation or environment. “First off, have you filed a police report? You can file one at any time even if the person in question hasn’t been gone for very long. There is a lot more they can do than I ever could.”

“No,” he replied.

“Has she ever done anything like this before?”

This time the man was shaking his head. “Not really. Well, maybe. She can be a bit of a free spirit at times. She frequently gets caught up in a moment and forgets about anything else around her. Once we went to a music festival together. One of those with multiple stages where you sit wherever you want. She went off to go to the bathroom and ran into a couple of friends and totally forgot about me until one of her friends asked her how she was getting home as she was in no condition to drive herself. It was almost seven hours later when she remembered I was with her. In the meantime, I was calling her friends and family asking if they had seen her. The situation was a mess. Didn’t make me feel great being forgotten, but I know how she can just get into her own little world at times. It’s just something I have to live with and help her out when possible.”

He looked around the room a bit more as if thinking of what to say next. “I don’t want to involve the police at all. Nothing official for sure. She was really embarrassed at what happened at the concert, especially with me calling what seemed like everyone she knew. I don’t want anyone to find out. No police or letting her friends and family know what has happened. Can you do that?”

People go missing for all sorts of reasons. Some want to be found because they aren’t really missing in the first place, some don’t want to be found and are actively hiding, while the worst kind can’t be found because something bad happened to them. Usually something heinous.

The man seemed nervous to me. Somewhat understandable in his situation, but I thought there was something more to it. I couldn’t place what it was, but there was something there. The behavior was bothering me. Nothing horrible, yet I wanted to see if I could get to the bottom of it if possible.

“I can do whatever you would like. You are the client. I can poke around as discreetly as possible.” Over his left shoulder, I saw Jane poke her head in the door. She was subliminally asking if I needed her in the meeting at all. I shook my head subtly and she headed back into the front office, staying close if the situation changed and I needed her for some reason. I mentally reminded myself to thank her.

“What makes you concerned now if she has done something like this in the past?” I continued.

The man persisted to fidget and look around my office. “I am not sure. I just want to make sure she is all right. Nothing more.”

I stared at him for a minute waiting to see if he was going to add anything else. Normally people fill the silence as a force of habit. He didn’t say anything. Just squirmed in his chair.

“Let me be honest with you,” I said in my most kind but authoritative and confident voice I had. “I don’t think you are being entirely truthful on what is going on. What haven’t you told me?”

He stopped cold and just stared at me. After a few moments, he closed his eyes, bent over a bit and put his head in his hands. “We had a huge fight last night. It was over finances. I am doing well. Very well in fact. I am concerned about all of her debt. Part of me believes she only loves me for my money and not for who I truly am. We have skirted around the issue for months but I finally had to talk about my apprehensions. She said if money and wealth were all I cared about, she didn’t want to marry me. Threw the engagement ring at me and stormed off.”

He was shaking his head unable to look at me at all. His head was kept in his hands and only looked at the floor. At least finding out why he was nervous was pretty easy. He didn’t say anything else. Neither did I. We just sat there. This time I was going to wait him out.

“I am sorry about the omission,” he finally continued glancing up at me. “Her storming out and calling off the engagement is extremely embarrassing to a man like me. No one else knows and I would like to keep it under wraps. I am hoping she needs to cool off for a bit and we can continue as nothing happened. At least I hope she will take me back unconditionally. I realize I love her so much more regardless of any debt she may have.”

“Have you tried calling or texting her?” I asked. “Or going to where she lives? Direct contact is usually the best way to get a hold of someone.”

“She won’t answer me at all,” he said. “Been ignoring all of the texts and phone calls. I work downtown at a brokerage house so I can’t spend all day looking for her or trying to call. Sounds a bit crass and self-centered but I just can’t do it. It’s a very cutthroat and competitive business. I had to fake a doctor’s appointment to come to see you. We are working a huge takeover right now, so work is absolutely crazy.”

“Good thing I was here and not out on another job,” I added. “I am not here a significant chunk of the time.”

“I was just concerned and wanted to see you as soon as possible,” he replied. “You came highly recommend from a friend of a friend in the police department. I obviously screwed up and making mistakes is not something normal for me.”

“So what exactly do you want me to do?” I asked. “Find her and get her to call you? It seems to me she may just be a bit mad at you and wants some time alone. Did you think about the possibility she wants some time away from you?”

“I only want to make sure she is all right. I am confident this is simply an unresolved spat and she will return.” He paused looking around the office. “You asked me what I want you to do. If you could just take a few pictures of her. Maybe at her work or where she lives. Something from far away so she didn’t see you and send them to me. Those would be a perfect way to know she is fine.”

“I’m not cheap,” I said. “Are you sure about this?”

“Money is not a problem,” he replied quickly. “The peace of mind knowing she is all right is worth any price.”

“I never got your name,” I said, realizing if he did say it, I had no recollection of what it was.

He reached into his wallet and pulled out a card and handed it to me. “John Burns. I go by my middle name. This is a private business card that has my personal cell phone on it. You can reach me at any time.”

I looked at the simplistic printed card. It had ‘W. John Burns’ on the front in straightforward black capital letters. The only other information on the card was his cell phone number and email address. A little strange. I silently wondered if he gave these out at bars or on business trips. It wouldn’t surprise me if his fiancée would hire me at some point in the future to take pictures of him cheating.

We talked for a bit longer. He gave me a bunch of detailed information on his fiancée. Where she lived and worked, how to find her on Facebook, her cell and home phone numbers, as well as a few places she visited like her gym and local coffee shop. I wrote down everything in the notebook asking a number of questions to verify information and fill in details he inadvertently left out.

When I was confident I had enough information to start looking for his fiancée, I told him I would begin searching starting right away. He paid me for seven full days of time and expected expenses in cash up front. I pocketed the money thinking this might be one of those jobs that stays off the books for tax purposes.

We both stood up and headed out into the empty front office area. Jane must have went upstairs when she wasn’t needed. I thanked him and he walked outside to his car and drove away.

Missing persons were not normally what I performed for side jobs. Most of the work is taking pictures of crime scenes when key resources are out on vacation or it’s a busy night, as well as infidelity and insurance fraud investigations. I usually referred this type of work to those who do this full time for no other reason than the typical depressing nature of the outcome. The appearance of easy money and the distinct possibility she is just staying at a girlfriend’s place to blow off some steam, made it an easy choice to take the case. It would be a decision I would later regret.

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