Chapter 15

It was a good question. When last I’d been there, when I realized Jenn was missing, her red BMW Z4, her “baby”, had been sitting in the driveway. Like normal. Only I knew for a fact my sister would never have left the keys to “baby” dangling from the ignition.

“Maybe someone stole it?…wait! maybe she’s back and she ran an errand!” I turned to the man who was a cross between Columbo and Spenser for Hire, saw the look of “yeah, sure, that’s it” on his face, and quickly came back to reality. To the sick dread that had been steadily creeping and crawling all over my body since this mess began. Roger was staring at me, with that “oh you poor girl” look on his face.

When I’d gotten up this morning and looked out the window, I confirmed Bob Mitchum’s (no, really, that’s his name) weather forecast for most of the state. Sunny today with unseasonably warm temps and higher than normal humidity levels for this time of year. Damn if Bob hadn’t hit the bull’s eye.

Fall in New England usually appears gradually, slowly. It lessons it’s grip on the heat of summer little by little right up until the first week of October or so. That’s when you can sense the seasonal shift. Each day reluctantly relinquishing it’s hold until you find yourself switching out of shorts for long pants and the camisole for a sweater.

Glancing over to where Jenn’s car had been parked less than 24 hrs ago, I felt sweat forming tiny little beads at my hairline. I had that clammy feeling. The hot/cold sweat feeling that washes over you when you realize you have food poisoning. God, don’t let me throw up.

Why the hell did I put on stockings this morning. Really? Fool. Not so steady in the heels today huh sister? I walked over to the spot where Jenn’s car had been parked, did a slow 360 and said “how the fuck do I know?”

“Whoah, little lady! Calm down. Time out. You asked me for help, remember? Retainer or not, if you don’t want to go through with this tell me now. It won’t be the first time someone’s turned tail ‘cuz they didn’t have the stomach for it.”

That did it. No sooner had Roger finished his little speech and I was hurling. My new shoe god Guiseppe Zanotti would be happy to know I didn’t puke all over his glorious creation. Columbo for Hire wasn’t so lucky. At least replacing his shoes won’t cost a week’s salary.

 

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Chapter 14…

” There’s a deposit? We haven’t mentioned it. Doesn’t matter right now, but thank you. Means Roland can step up to Pedigree for a while.”

” Before we look around, I have to tell you a few things first. Your fingerprints should be all over this place, and that’s normal. But mine shouldn’t be …so I’ll wear gloves while I’m here. This house may very well be part of an official investigation soon, and may actually be declared a crime scene. So at this point, I would suggest for us both to be very careful about what we touch. It could possibly complicate matters, and that might mean taking even longer to find Jenn. Does that make any sense?”

” Well I’m here almost every day, so no, it doesn’t really. But I’ll go your way. I’ll wear gloves too.”

” I’ll rely on you to point out anything that seems off, or tampered with. It shouldn’t take too long. I know you were here earlier, but we’re not looking for people now. Just look for anything that’s out of place.”

“All right, so let’s get to it.”

She seemed to be getting edgier by the minute. It was understandable. But it would be good to determine as soon as possible if this girl was clear of involvement in this. After all, no one, including her, had called the police yet. There was a reason for that…I just had to find out what it was.

Time to test the water. No time like the present. A stitch in time…

Couldn’t think of any more hackneyed sayings.

” Janice…before we even get out…I have to ask you something.”

” What? Can’t we please just go in?”

” Janice…where’s Jenn’s car?”

Chapter 13

Man, my head was starting to pound that slow, dull, throbbing pound. The one that comes from having had one too many expressos (as if anyone needs more than one). Extreme caffeine jolt. Like the man at the carnival barks: “Belted in? The ride down is gonna get bumpy!”

I know it’s his job, but Roger’s questions were starting to bug me. They shouldn’t. I mean, I was the one who went to him. It’s his job. And he knows Jenn. Well, a little anyway. Enough to know that me waiting a couple of days to check up on her shouldn’t appear “suspicious”. Whatever. I was prepared to be put on the suspect list before I walked into his office. Right. Like “sister” sounds better than “butler”.

Damn! Almost missed the exit. Suddenly, I couldn’t wait to get to Aunt Mary’s/Jenn’s house. The car was now getting claustrophobic. Two people in a small metal box on wheels, looming questions and absolutely no answers. Thankfully, Aunt Mary didn’t live too far off Rt. 44. She was big on having access to the main arteries. “In case of emergencies” she’d say. Couldn’t argue with that. Here, one more turn…

I pulled into the driveway at 735 Leona Drive half expecting to see Jenn walk out the front door on her way somewhere. I smiled wryly to myself. She was always going somewhere. But not ever getting anywhere. I turned to Roger, looked him straight in the eye and said: “You. It’s your job. Tell me what’s happened to my sister. I’ve put down a healthy deposit. Give me my money’s worth”.

Chapter 12…

” So when did you see Jenn last?”

I felt a hesitancy, as if she had to take a deep breath to begin.

” Saw her on Tuesday afternoon. She asked if I could run Kendra over to her dad’s early because the chef guy was coming over to make her dinner.”

” Chef guy?”

” Vinnacio, Vincento, Vinnie-something. One of the guys she’s seen a lot of lately.”

” And now it’s Thursday. Why the wait?”

‘Tuesday’s a normal night out for her, then home with Kendra on Wednesdays. You don’t want to intrude, you know? But Kendra called me when she didn’t pick her up on time last night.”

That made sense. Jenn and Kendra’s dad still doing the every-other night thing with custody.

” So that’s three, then. People who know something’s not right. And no one’s called the cavalry in yet…have they?”

” Not yet, as far as I know. Still kind of hoping she just shows up. Maybe she’s already back.”

” Her phone?”

Not on, and that’s the weirdest thing right there. That’s how I know something’s wrong. Her phone is never off.”

” Have you spoken to anyone else at all about this? ”

” Just Kendra, and her dad. I just expect Jenn to be in control of it, whatever it is. I asked them to wait through the morning to see if she’d show up, and we’d go from there.”

” Do you think she might have gone straight to work?”

” No. She would check in with Kendra, at the least. And me. And I stopped there just before I found your office this morning. She works just a few blocks away, on Kennedy Plaza.”

” They must have found that odd. That you’d be there, looking for her.”

” The two owners weren’t even there, just the receptionist.”

” You must have found that odd.”

‘”Very. Jenn always said that those guys practically live there. ”

I found that to be somewhat odd.

Home health care. Jenn did payroll and scheduling for them, and left the security field thinking that managing nutjob visiting nurses would be an improvement over nutjob security guys. I had always hoped so, for her sake. But I doubted it.

We consultants tend to lean towards the cynical view. And are sometimes known to drown our disappointments in crullers, even the coconut-covered ones if need be.

Dark days indeed.

The Rt.44 exit off 295 was coming up fast. Next stop, North Smithfield.

Chapter 11

He was funny. A little rumply and none too neat but Jenn was right. He seemed like a genuinely nice guy. But can he find my sister? Jenn was never big on details and when it came to the men in her life… Nothing. Nada. Nunca. Mouth shut tighter than a nun’s behind. This one though – P.I. Cruller– there’s more here than meets the eye. The witty repartee, the charming self deprecation… A lot more going on behind that Columbo routine.

We were coming up on Washington St. slowly, a lone Greyhound bus directly in front of us taking it’s sweet time deciding which way to turn. Which is how I felt this morning. Suspended in traffic, I suddenly found myself trying to remember the last time I’d been this side of the river. Many a year has passed since graduating Brown and even though I’d moved out of the city ages ago, I still loved it. The “East Side”.

The East Side of Providence surrounding Brown was always known as “college hill” with Thayer St. being a main drag. Back in the day, I’d spend weekend afternoons with friends walking in and out of the shops, lunch at Montana’s. Ah, the good old days. Gone now. Like my sister.

So much for reminiscing. Jenn was missing. She was missing for God’s sake! How does that happen? How does an older, seemingly more stable sibling go missing?

“I don’t know, Janice. Your sister is the most together person I know. At least on a professional level. The dating thing? That, I always thought a little….weird.”

Damn! Had I spoken out loud? I turned to Mr. Cruller (his last name did begin with a “C” afterall) and slowly nodded my head in agreement. Then I took a left onto W. Exchange St. headed towards the interstate.

Chapter 10…

” So do you need to stop for anything before we get on the highway? I see a few clean spots on your shoulder there.”
More wryness.
We consultants thrive on wryness. Snappy comebacks are stock in trade for us.
” No…but thanks for your… concern…”
Timing is everything with snappy comebacks. A just ever-so-slightly ascerbic tone, slight mid-sentence hesitation…and just a wisp of a sidelong glance. Devastating.
We consultants need to keep a semblance of control.

” So have you tried the new broccoli-and-cheese soup bowl at Panera? Your choice of rye or pumpernickel. I think you could use a little green right there, by the pocket.”
” Why, you poor emaciated little thing. I may have to buy you lunch when we’re done. There’s a Panera on 44 in the Home Depot plaza.”
” I know, I sort of live around there.”
“And it’s probably on the way. Exit 7?”
Another wry smile, and a telling silence.
” I just bought you lunch, didn’t I?”
” Nothing personal. I just hate crullers.”

Semblance of control…don’t leave home without it…