the worried man

posted by victor @ 3:13 pm December 25, 2008 in

Saw him today. The worried man.

Came to us about a year ago. Little over a year. Won’t be forgetting him anytime soon. “I’m worried,” he told us. “The woman I love has disappeared.”

He knows we’re listening. The woman he loves had been missing for some time, at that point. We didn’t have anything.

“I gave her gifts,” he told us. Alright. Gave us receipts matching items we find in her apartment. Jewelry, DVDs, electronic gadgets. So we’d known about him, knew there was someone. Of interest. No idea who he was, though. No name, no face. Not ’til he came to us.

“We met on the bus one day,” says the worried man. “She smelled so nice. We talked.”

We find traces of her DNA under his fingernails. Blood. This is why we can hold him. Sliver of evidence, unfortunately proving nothing ’til we find her. If we can find her.

The worried man tells us “I understand.” Says “I’m sorry,” over and over. “I wish there was more I could do.”

There is more you can do, we tell him. Tell us what the hell you’ve done with her. Ask him over and over. Make him tell us the same story again and again. Pray for a slip-up, some hint of what might’ve happened to the poor gal.

Her employers were the ones who called. Three days missed, no word, calls not returned. Not like her at all, they said. The worried man agreed. “No. Not like her at all.” Why wait so long, we ask. To come forward. Takes him a while to answer, first time.

“I was worried,” he said. Eventually.

Employer didn’t know she’d moved recently. Neither did mom, until we found her. Said she and her daughter weren’t close at all, never were. Father drank himself to death some years back. Kind of man who beat his wife. “Took advantage,” she called it.

Kind of man raises a daughter with no friends, no one who’d miss her. A woman who would let herself get involved with someone like the worried man. Become his lover. Then vanish.

“She loved me,” insisted the worried man. “She wouldn’t just leave.”

Tell us about the blood under your fingernails, we ask. Demand. “I don’t know,” he says, every time. Lie detector agrees. He doesn’t know.

Handful of witnesses confirm seeing them together, same places he said they would. Gift shop. Nice restaurant. Museum. “Seemed happy,” they’d say. Dates would end up at her place.

Tell us about the last time you were together, we tell him. Describe it to us. “It was lovely,” he’d say. “Every time, not just the last. Every time.” He’d give us a look, like it’s rude to ask for details. Even now. Details match up every time, no matter how we twist him, make him repeat it forward and backward.

Week later we find her car, few miles outside of town. Hidden. Search the surrounding area, find a bracelet, some teeth.

Hearing this, the worried man apologizes. For not being able to help more. Not able, we ask, or not willing? But he just gives us his look. We let him go.

Year later, today, I see him. Year later, he looks exactly the same. Thinner.

He sees me, too. Guess I look the same. Older.

Woman with him seems distracted. I introduce myself, show the badge. Ask how things are. He gives me the look, and she doubles it. Tugs his arm, impatient. Hungry, she says. Last I see him, he’s holding a door open for her. Nice restaurant.

Same restaurant. They disappear inside.

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