The note taped to the bathroom mirror read:
I've got nothing more to say to you, I can't see things your way and you refuse to see things my way, so I've gone to stay with my sister in California. Please don't try to contact me; I don't want to see you again.
Now I was worried. I'd tried to call my wife Ally, short for Alyssa, at lunch time. We'd had a spat that morning about nothing important and I wanted to apologize for losing my temper. I found the note when I got home from work. There were several puzzling things about that note.
First it was where the note was left. Ally and I always left notes on a cork bulletin board on the kitchen wall next to a key rack. We'd hang our car keys and house keys on that rack when we came home, so we thought that was the logical place to leave notes.
The next thing bothering me about the note was my name is John, not Johnny, Delahome; Ally had never called me Johnny. She said if my parents saw fit to name me John that she wouldn't insult them by calling me a bastard form of the name; Ally really likes my parents.
Another part of the note was a problem because my wife doesn't have a sister living in California; in fact Ally is an only child and her parents had passed away ten years ago. Also worrisome is that my wife never uses her full name. I'd started calling her Ally on our first date, she didn't mind that I shortened her name and she's gone by that ever since. She even signs her checks and credit card slips Ally Delahome.
The final thing that bothered me was that Ally wouldn't have run off without giving me a piece of her mind in person and in my face. I'd learned in our one year of dating and two years of marriage that Ally wasn't a shrinking violet when it came to confrontation. My wife is a passionate Irishman; her maiden name was O'Rourke. She had a temper that was advertized by her long red hair and intense green eyes. Those eyes could be sweet and loving or as sharp as broken glass as they bored through you like a laser. Ally might hit me with a skillet to settle our dispute when I came home but she would have been there.
I walked through the house trying to find more information on Ally's disappearance. None of her clothes were missing from her side of the closet, that I could tell, and her personal items from the bathroom were still sitting on the counter. No woman would leave without taking her clothes and makeup, I thought. Her cell phone was in its charger; that's another thing she wouldn't have left behind. Once we get used to having the convenience of a cell phone, we feel almost naked without one.
I made another pass through the house trying to get a clue as to what was going on. The kitchen was, for Ally, a mess. The dirty breakfast dishes were still on the counter next to the sink, she usually cleaned up before she left for work; Ally leaves about an hour after I do. There was cup was on the floor with the coffee it had held in a puddle around it. That wasn't like Ally.
Ally had been living with two other girls when we met. They had left dirty dishes in the sink for days, empty pizza boxes in the small living room and apparently didn't know that clothes were supposed to be hung up or put in drawers. The two roommates' sloppy mannerisms were a bone of continuation between Ally and them on more than one occasion.
When she moved in with me, Ally let me know in no uncertain terms that our place would be kept clean and orderly. I thought with a small grin remembering how stern she had been. She wasn't a "neat freak" but she liked our place tidy in case someone dropped by for a visit.
After one more look around the house, I grabbed a bottle of Jack Daniels, poured three fingers, added ice and headed outside to our covered patio. I sat down in one of our Adirondack chairs with my mind freewheeling. The bright sunny, but cool, spring evening seemed out of place as I sipped on my drink.
Several unrelated and non relevant things ran through my head. Need to cut the grass this weekend, I thought as I looked out across the yard. Really should finish that cover over the BBQ grill; these chairs could use a new coat of stair before the summer gets here; maybe we should put a couple of fruit trees over in that corner of the yard.
It should be cloudy, rainy, and cold, I continued my thoughts. The sun is bright, I can hear the birds chirping and having a hell of a good time; the kids in the park across the street are laughing and playing. How can everything seem so normal when my world is coming apart?
As I tilted my glass, my brain caught up to my thoughts. "No, this is the last thing I need," I said and lowered the glass. "There aren't any answers at the bottom of a bottle. You find solutions to problems so get off your ass and find a solution for this problem."
I'm what's called a consultant for a company here in St. Louis; Last Call Solutions. Our motto is that we are the last company you'll need to call about a problem or question. We are in a sort of ask and you shall receive business. If you want help setting up or have a problem with IT, we are the Last Call you'll have to make; we solve your problem and/or answer your questions. If you have a problem or want to revamp your security measures, we're your Last Call. We can even research and tell you which machinery will be best for manufacturing whatever your product is. I was a problem fixing and solutions guy but I had no experience with this type of problem.
Returning to the kitchen, I poured the rest of my drink back into the bottle. I wasn't a great investigative mind like Sherlock Holmes or even a detective out of a book like Spenser; the character invented by Robert B. Parker. My mind set was finding the problem and fixing it. Okay, I finally thought, I need to call the police first thing.
My phone call to the police was less than satisfying.
"911, what is your emergency?"
"I came home and my wife is missing," I answered.
"Are there signs of a struggle or break in?"
How do you explain to someone that didn't know Ally why I was concerned about the note she left or the messy kitchen? "No, no sign of a struggle or break in."
"Then you've called the wrong number; this is for emergencies. You can call 555-1234 and they will direct you to your closest police precinct." Then the operator hung up.
I wanted to call back and argue that this was an emergency, but realized that it would be a waste of time. So I called the number I'd been given. After being transferred a few times I finally got to the Desk Sergeant at the 16th Precinct.
"You can't file a missing persons report until someone's been gone for over 24 hours," the Sergeant said after I gave him my name and explained the reason for my call.
"I'm sorry, Mr. er did you say Delahome? Anyway that's the procedure. I'll make a notation in today's log but that's all we can do at this time." He paused for a few seconds. "Look Mr. Delahome, most times the wife just went on a binge or is mad about something or had an evening with someone and they come home in a couple of days all sorry and repentant." Then he hung up.
"Son of a bitch," I yelled at the dead phone.
My head felt like someone was beating it like a bass drum. Instead of the whiskey I took some Advil for my pounding head and sat down in my easy chair. Need to calm down I told myself and laid my head back. My cell phone going nuts woke me up.
"Hello?" I answered in a gravelly voice.
"Where the hell are you John?" The caller was Thomas Boone, my boss.
"I'm at home." Glancing at the big antique clock on the side board, I saw it was 9 AM. I'd slept through the night and past my normal wake up time.
"I realize that stupid. I mean why aren't you here? We have that meeting with our new customer, James & James, at 11 and we need to have a final discussion before we meet them."
Shaking my head to clear it, I struggled out of my chair while I talked to Thomas. "Something's come up Boss. I can't come in today so you'll have to handle the meeting."
"What could be more important than increasing our business by 20 percent?"
I hesitated for almost a minute.
"John, you still there?"
"Yeah, I'm still here." I hesitated again, for just a few seconds this time. Thomas was more than my boss; he'd been the best man at our wedding, he was my mentor and my best friend. We'd know each other and been friends since the second grade; sometimes it seemed like a hundred years. "Ally's gone," I told him.
"What'da you mean gone?"
"I came home and found a note that said we were done and she was gone."
"Bullshit," Thomas said in a loud forceful voice. "Ally wouldn't leave like that."
"I know and that's what's got me worried." I explained about our argument, my misgivings about the things she'd written in the note, the fact that none of her clothes or personal items were missing and finally about the messy kitchen.
"You're right, something isn't Kosher here. Ally might have waited and beat you about the head and shoulders with a broom but she'd never just up and leave."
Thomas knew Ally pretty well; they'd worked together at Software Solutions before he started Last Call. He'd tried to get her to come to work for him, but by that time Ally and I were living together. She thought it wouldn't be a good idea for us to work together too. Ally said she had her hands full with me at home; she didn't need it at work too so she stayed with her job.
"Don't move, I'm on my way," Thomas told me.
.... There is more of this story ...