Solitary - 4. Chapter 4
“What do you mean she’s gone?” Don asked, when Elena told him the next morning. “Her doctor checked her out?”
“She checked herself out? Is that really possible?”
“It helps to have a back-up – sometimes a lawyer if you’re going against a doctor. Though that’s not what she did.”
Elena smiled. “You’re fishing.”
“I’m lost,” Don admitted.
“And so is she. She’s disappeared.”
Don thought for a moment. “I don’t get it. She didn’t even have clothes. They were covered with blood.”
“There are ways to get clothes.”
“If someone brings them to you.”
“Or if you know the hospital.”
Don seemed unsure.
“Clothes get donated all the time,” Elena reminded him. “Hospitals keep what they need.”
“The things I forget.”
“Still, you’re right – it makes sense that someone helped.”
“No one in her family. They were as surprised as we were.”
“How did they find out?”
“Same way we did – the hospital called around seven this morning, when the shift changed. That’s when they discovered she was missing.”
“What did they say?”
“More like asked – as they did when they called us. If we had any idea where she was.”
“What’d we say?”
“That we’d get back to them. Which I did as soon as I got in. But almost nothing’s changed, and I only got here a few minutes ago.”
“What’s the ‘almost nothing?’”
“Her father filed a missing person’s report on his way to work.” She handed him a printed copy.
“Are we officially on this?”
“Owen said to do what we can but not make ourselves crazy. He’s sure she’ll turn up.”
“Then let’s be polite.” Don glanced at the wall clock.
“Her dad should be at work by now, and we have his number.”
“It’s an hour’s drive. He’s in Hartford.”
“Where’s her mother?”
“I suppose either of them can be interrupted. Which we can do by phone.”
“Why don’t we try meeting her instead? It’s friendlier.”
Don made the call, and less than an hour later, they were sitting in Linda Timmons’ office.
“It’s been a bad twenty-four hours,” she began. “Not even that long.”
“Have you spoken with her friends?” Elena asked.
Linda Timmons hesitated. “I don’t know if either of you have children – or how old they might be. But do you really know their friends and how to reach them quickly?”
Don smiled, knowing what she meant. Elena, with preteen kids, was less sure.
“Her phone’s probably the first route,” Don explained. “Then her computer.”
“We have no idea where either of them is.”
“Where does she usually keep them?” Elena questioned. “When she’s home.”
“I really don’t know. She doesn’t live with us.”
“Oh.” That stopped the questions. “I thought she did.”
“She hasn’t since college – freshman year. She and some friends rented a house in North Hadley.”
“Can we have the address?” Don picked up.
“She hasn’t lived there for years – or probably with those friends. And I have no idea where she’s living now. She’s very private.”
Elena nodded. “Peter Velardi said her records might be out of date.”
“Who’s he?” Linda Timmons asked.
“The director at Bridgeport Hills – where she works.”
“We were surprised about that, too. She has two degrees in social work. Why is she back in a kitchen?”
Don simply laughed. “Sometimes it pays better.”
“Though this is only part-time,” Elena put in.
“When did you last see her?” Don went on.
“Last night,” Linda Timmons replied. “Well, yesterday – after you called.”
“When did you get to the hospital?”
“Right after you phoned. I got there first because I’m closer. Paul walked straight out of his office and raced here, but it still took time. Not that we did anything except sit for half the afternoon. Even when she was finally in a room, all she did was sleep.”
“She didn’t talk?” Elena asked.
“A little – right before we all left.”
“Who else was there?” Don questioned.
“Her sister Georgia – the rest of our family is scattered all over the country. But we spoke on the phone.”
“What did Jessica say?”
“Not much. First, she was confused and had to figure out where she was. Then she seemed embarrassed. And she kept dozing off – at least closing her eyes. We all mostly sat again – talking quietly on our phones or with each other. Or reading. And the TV was on – softly – in the background.”
“How long did you stay?”
Linda Timmons tried to remember. “Well, we got home near eleven. And it isn’t far – at least, for Paul and me. Georgia lives in West Springfield. The nurses were exceptionally kind and let us stay way past visiting hours.”
“Then this morning, you got the call?”
“Yes – and really didn’t know what else to do except call you – hoping you could find some of her friends.”
“You honestly don’t know them?” Don repeated.
Linda Timmons shook her head. “Just some of their names – first names. Erin. Brianna. Charlotte. Craig.”
“And where she works?”
“Not far from here, but I don’t have the address. We sometimes meet for lunch, and she walks.”
“And the name of the agency?”
She again shook her head. “I think it’s a charity helping older people.”
“This area is full of those,” Don noted.
“Would she possibly have gone to her sister’s?” Elena went on.
“There’s no reason, really. They’re close, but no closer than the rest of us. Besides, we called Georgia first thing, and Jess wasn’t there.”
“Does Georgia know her friends?”
“Probably no more than we do.”
“But you stay in touch?”
“Oh, yes – we all do. We’ve always been good at that. We phone and text. And there are photos and videos constantly going back and forth.” She picked up her phone, tapped a couple of places, and handed it to Elena. There were lots of smiling faces.
“And more in the cloud,” Linda Timmons admitted. “Too many.”
Elena passed the phone to Don. “A happy family then?”
“Yes – but private. Maybe what happens when you have six kids. And most of them are two years apart, with Jess the youngest. Then Georgia.”
As Don gave the phone back, he asked, “Does Jess have a car?”
“Do you know what kind?”
“I should – I handle her insurance.” She smiled. “It’s a white Prius – not old, but not new, either. I’d have to look it up. They all look the same to me.”
“Can you give us the numbers?”
Linda Timmons was already on her computer. While she typed, Elena continued, “Do you know where the car is now?”
Linda Timmons shook her head. Then, as something printed out behind her, she explained, “That’s not what we were worried about yesterday. But it makes sense that it’s where she worked.”
“We thought maybe you picked it up,” Don offered.
Again, Linda Timmons shook her head. Then she handed each of them a copy of the insurance form.
“Do you possibly have her purse?” Elena asked.
“No – though she rarely carries one. It’s been backpacks since around kindergarten.”
“Is this her cell number?” Don asked, indicating the form.
Linda Timmons had to check her screen.
“Yes – but the first thing we did was call. Even before Georgia and without thinking where her phone might be.” She hesitated. “It rang a couple of times then went to voice mail.”
“Does she have credit cards and a bank account?” Elena pushed on. “Or a checking account?”
“Yes, but I don’t know those numbers, either.”
“How does she pay her insurance?” Don wondered.
“Probably online. But to be honest, if the payment’s there, I don’t check the numbers.”
“Do you handle her medical insurance?” Elena questioned.
“No. Sorry. She has something through work.”
“Then I guess we should find her car,” Don decided.
Linda Timmons agreed though almost reminded them, “But it’s more important to find her.”
“Wow,” Don told Elena as they walked back to their car. “I thought that might be easier – even thought we’d get it quickly done.” Elena didn’t reply, then they drove almost without talking to Bridgeport Hills.
The parking lot wasn’t large. There was a single row designated for guests along the wide front of the building and four shorter rows with signs indicating “staff” and permitting visitors. They walked each row but couldn’t find a white Prius. Then, rather than walk back to the main entrance, Elena tapped in the security code, and they used the side staff door. In a few minutes, they were in Peter Velardi’s office.
“I don’t know about her car,” he admitted, “but you might try her locker. That could give you her backpack and phone.”
“Wouldn’t someone pick them up at the same time?” Elena asked.
Peter Velardi shrugged.
“Where’s the locker then?” Don followed up. “And can you open it?”
“I knew you’d ask that,” Peter Velardi said laughing. “I can let you into the staff area and show you the lockers, but unfortunately, we don’t keep track of them. There are too many part-time aides and too much turnover. We just supply the lockers, and people bring their own locks. And sometimes, they only use them during their own shifts – so other people can use them later.”
“And her car? Is there another place to park?”
“You checked the lot?”
“That’s it, really. We ask everyone not to park on the street, but sometimes they have to – on holidays, when we have lots of guests. But this area’s mainly residential, and we like to keep our neighbors as friends.” He stood up. “Let me show you the lockers.”
Elena and Don had passed them, coming through the staff and maintenance areas, but they didn’t mention that. Nor did they tell him they had the code needed to get into the hallways.
Off one of the narrower corridors, there were maybe two dozen blue steel lockers, stacked three high and each about one foot by two. Most had locks, and Peter Velardi opened one that didn’t. It was deep enough for a backpack or for a folded coat in the winter.
“Any idea which might be hers?” Elena questioned.
Peter Velardi shook his head. “I’m afraid I’m not being helpful.”
“Would any of her friends know?” Elena continued .
“Let me ask.” He started to leave, then turned. “Look, just so you don’t get locked in, the passcode’s St. Patrick’s Day – 0317. You almost can’t open a door around here without it.”
They thanked him then smiled at each other as he left. “Trusting people,” Don offered.
Elena agreed. “But it also means Jess Timmons might not need her keys to get in, out, or use her locker. Most of these have combination locks.”
Peter Velardi was back in less than five minutes, bringing with him one of the aides Elena and Don had met.
“I’m not sure I’ll be very helpful,” she began, unknowingly echoing her boss. “One lock looks pretty much like any other. Also, some of us don’t even use the lockers. We leave things in our cars.”
“Any reason?” Elena questioned.
“Well...” the aide began. Then she looked at Peter Velardi.
“Marlena’s being polite,” he admitted smiling. “Even when we think things are safe around here – when they’re right in front of us – residents can pick them up, thinking they’re theirs.”
“Especially people with weaker memories,” Marlena added. “Otherwise good people.” She smiled back at Peter Velardi. “So we’re careful not to bring in things we don’t need.”
“To our offices. To where we work. Even to the locker area,” Peter Velardi continued. “It’s safer.”
“It’s especially true of small things like phones and jewelry. I don’t even wear my wedding ring. You set it down to wash your hands, and it’s gone.”
“It’s a very funny place to work,” Peter Velardi finished. Then he excused himself and headed back toward the lobby. Almost immediately, Marlena followed, and Elena and Don stared at the lockers.
“It could be any one of them,” he finally offered.
“We could ask someone else,” she slowly replied.
“We could,” he allowed.
Then they laughed, neither of them feeling that was useful. In a moment, they were headed to the station.
“Maybe someone else will have an idea,” Elena said as she tapped their way out the security door.
You probably have a crazy and hectic schedule and find it hard to keep up with everything going on. We get it, because we feel it too. Signing up here is a great way to keep in touch and find something relaxing to read when you get a few moments to spare.
Create an account or sign in to comment
You need to be a member in order to leave a comment
Create an account
Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!Register a new account
Already have an account? Sign in here.Sign In Now