A month after Beth’s disappearance, everything starts to feel familiar. It’s something that Todd had feared for but inevitably happened. Coming home to the dark house, eating take-out food every day, no one to ask which tie to wear. That presence, gone.
Even so, Todd still tries to ask the police for development every 3 days, even though the answer is still the same ‘nothing’. Hell, Todd doesn’t even know if the police are helping him or not. The two policemen that had come to the house gave a displeased look at Todd. As if saying to him ‘hey man, I’m sorry your wife left, but maybe you should’ve taken better care of her’. They had judged him even with no information.
His mother had offered to move in and help Todd, but he doesn’t want to worry his parents who is currently enjoying their retirement. This is something that he should sort out alone.
A choice was to hire a private investigator, but it’s just doesn’t feel right.
One day, a letter came in. It was Beth’s credit card statement. Todd usually just give it to Beth, because he knew it mostly consists of Beth’s shopping. But since Beth was gone, Todd decided to give it a check.
He sat himself on the couch and propped his feet on the table. It was the listing of last month’s usage, Beth mostly uses it to shop for things. But there was one that caught Todd’s eyes.
A monthly billing for a storage unit rental.
A storage unit?
Todd look up, trying to search his memories. He didn’t remember ever owning a storage unit, or Beth. Beth never mentioned it. They have their own storage room in the house and Beth placed her unused things there.
Will there be a clue there?
Todd quickly walks to his work room with the letter in hand. He wrote down the name of the place. With quick help from the internet, he got the address easily.
One problem left. He doesn’t have the key.
The house looked like a typhoon had wreak havoc in it, that was the conclusion Todd’s mother had come to when she entered the house.
“My goodness! What happened to your house, son?”, she cried.
There were things all over the floor, every thing. Todd appeared from Beth’s work room. Todd’s mother peeked to the work room as Todd went to the kitchen to grab a drink. She was horrified to find the room flooded with things, everything has moved from its rack to the floor.
She followed Todd to the kitchen and placed the groceries to its respective places. Making sure everything outnumber the beer.
“What is going on? Beth would be devastated.”
“I am looking for something.”
“What is it?”
It was typical Todd-style, he would make sure everything is visible so he would know he had searched the part.
“It might be an important clue to Beth’s disappearance.”, answered Todd.
She sighed at the sight of the hopeless Todd.
“Look, why not hire a private investigator for this? I’m sure one of my friends had hired one to snoop on their husbands.”
“Beth is not like that.”, Todd replied sternly.
“I know, I wanted to believe it too. Beth is a lovely daughter I never had. But right now, the situation is just not adding up, Todd. Look at yourself, you look like you haven’t slept enough, had anything besides beer.”
Todd threw the empty can away and she suddenly felt sorry for her son, clad in hoodie with messy hair.
“I know it’s been hard for you, and it’s been a while. It’s not wrong to go out and unwind a little.”, she said in a softer one.
Todd gave a simple nod as a reply.
“And can we please just give all the searching to a PI?”
No means nothing to his mother when she is serious. She called the PI behind Todd’s back. The PI appearing on his doorstep proves it.
“Mr Robbins, hi I’m Stanley Kirson, private investigator. Your mother had contacted me.”
Todd observes the man standing in front of him, tall body with a confident looking face, as if he can make everyone to believe him.
“Come in.”, replied an annoyed Todd.
The man threw a look left and right around the house.
“You have a good house, Mr Robbins, less walls, it looks very roomy.”, commented Stanley.
Great, a chatty one.
Todd rolled his eyes before seating himself in the living room couch.
“So, onto business, Mr Robbins….. Can I call you Todd?”
“I don’t mind.”
Stanley took out a black thick notebook from his pocket and prepared his pen, like a dedicated reporter.
“So your wife has been missing for a month. No signs or clues in the house?”
“Nothing. Everything is in place, as if she vanished into thin air.”
“Wallets, phone, bag, clothes?”
“It’s all still here.”
“Any signs? Odd behaviours?”
“Well, she did finished her work but didn’t call the editor. She usually calls.”, answered Todd.
“What did she do?”
“She’s an illustrator, currently working on a children’s book.”
“Well, okay that may be planned.”, Stanley replied lightly.
“Or just a coincidence.”
“Any conflicts? Small fights?”
The limit’s been breached. Todd lifted his hand in a gesture to stop the private investigator.
“Look. We’re just a normal couple, we had small fights, but I believed there was nothing to make Beth walk out on me. If you’re going to judge me just like the useless police, you should leave now.”
Stanley watched his client’s outburst. He may look gentle from the outside, but it’s better not to touch his fuse.
“I’m sorry for saying that. I believe you.”
Stanley’s eyes caught a pile of boxes stacked everywhere in disorderly manner.
“I took everything out, I was looking for something.”, replied Todd.
“What is it?”
“Beth owned a storage unit I know nothing about and I flipped everything in the house looking for the key.”
“Do you have the name of the place?”, asked Stanley.
Stanley smiled at the paper Todd gave him. This is an easy lead.
“I’ll see what I can do about this. I’ll call you with more info.”
The city life, the people on the streets, on their phones, in their rooms, everything is still the same, without Beth or Todd. For the world, one person missing doesn’t mean a thing, but for Todd, it changes everything.
Todd returned to the office, he felt guilty for being impulsive and leaving his work like that. Also, his father was really angry about it. No one at the office knew of this incident, much to his relief. The last thing he needed was his staff half-peeking at him through their cubicles with a pitiful eyes.
The phone on the table suddenly starts ringing. The PI.
“Todd? It’s Stanley, your PI.”, says the other line.
“I got access to the storage unit. Since it’s belongs to your wife, it would be my pleasure to let you be the first one to see it.”
Why does he made it sound like they are going to open a box of presents? Well, it may be an everyday job for a PI, but still.
Stanley looked at the man beside him. In formal work attire, complete with a tie, shiny shoes. But he stood there in front of the unit. All he need to do was pull up the door in front of him, but he froze. Well, isn’t it human nature. People desire things they don’t know so badly, but when it’s in front of them, they’re afraid.
Stanley saw Todd curled his hand into a fist and stepped forward. The grinding sound followed as Todd pulled the rolling door upwards.
“More boxes.”, mumbled Todd.
More boxes, was the content of the unit. Lots of boxes was placed tidily throughout the unit. There are even racks to keep the boxes in place and neat. Todd and Stanley entered the box-filled unit with a small space to walk around.
Todd was still in awe, but Stanley had moved to do his work.
“This one is clothes.”
“Clothes?”, asked Todd.
Todd approaches Stanley that had torn the tape of the box in front of him.
“But these are men’s clothing. Is this yours?”, asked Stanley.
Stanley’s was given a shake of the head of the reply, he felt he shouldn’t ask the dumbfounded Todd.
“But look, she wrote names for each boxes.”
Todd pointed at several boxes with names written in big black letters. Shirts, pants, others, books.
“Books, maybe there’s a clue in it.”, said Todd eagerly.
Todd reached for a box with books written on it. Stanley found there are quite a number of boxes with books written on it.
“Science books……”, mumbled Todd again.
Stanley looked at Todd as he lifts the thick biology book to him.
“Your wife?”, he asked back.
“She’s an illustrator, not a scientist.”
“Maybe it belongs to the same owner as these clothes.”
Todd’s mind went mental. It was a lot of thoughts crunched into one. Another man, another man, another man….. Deep down in his heart, he wanted to say, maybe this belongs to Beth’s friend and Beth is just lending the unit for him. Even though the writings on the boxes clearly was written in Beth’s handwriting, he chooses to ignore it.
“Todd. There’s something here.”
His legs immediately move to Stanley, who pulled out a vintage looking suitcase. Stanley ran his hand through the suitcase. It’s locked.
“It’s locked with a key again.”, said Todd.
“Well Mr Robbins, it’s a must for all private investigator to master lock-picking.”
Stanley took out a small case from his pocket with his little equipment. It doesn’t took long for Stanley to pick the suitcase’s lock. With a click, he opened the suitcase.
Inside it was another puzzle piece. Books, more specifically, diaries.
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