GH Monday: Day 02 Scene 10
Delgado lived in East Cambridge. Indigo found a parking spot near the courthouse, climbing on top of a snow bank to feed the meter. This part of the city had once been marshland, known as the Great Swamp, before it was reclaimed by the same landfill projects that had filled in the Back Bay in Boston. You could still smell the stink of the swamp, some days, a ghostly reminder of what had once been here and the courthouse was haunted by ghostly waters that periodically acted as a moat, cutting the red brick building from the road. The water might be a phantom, but you’d still get cold and wet and drowned if you tried to walk through it. The phantom waters were back, probably as a result of the previous day’s storm, and the courthouse was accessible only via a temporary wooden ramp that crossed them. There was a line of people waiting to get onto the ramp, all of them bundled up against the cold in dark clothing and warm hats. They still looked half frozen, standing there, stamping their feet. The concrete tower of the jail rose up behind the courthouse like a finger flipping the city off. She turned and made her way to Delgado’s street, wondering what it was like, growing up in the shadow of the jail like that, visible from pretty much every street around here, as the tallest building, brutal and uncompromising.
Delgado’s address was a small apartment block of ten units. She buzzed his unit and a woman answered.
“My name is Indigo Snow,” she said into the intercom. “I’m looking for Joe.”
“Are you police?”
There was a pause and she wondered if she should identify herself as a PI. Then the door buzzed. “Come in.”
She headed up the stairs to the second floor. The building was dated, its internal stairs were unadorned concrete, but it smelled clean and the stairwell was well lit.
A middle-aged woman, plump, dressed in a bulky dark blue fleece and black sweatpants, was at the door. Around her left eye was the faded remnants of a bruise, turned sickly yellow and green.
“Are you Joe’s mother?”
“Yes. Who are you? What do you know about Joe?”
Indigo gave her her most charming smile. “I’m trying to find Joe. I hope he isn’t in any trouble?”
“Oh god, I don’t know what to think,” Mrs Delgado said. She was standing in the doorway, not inviting Indigo in. “I haven’t seen him since Friday. I called the police, but they said it wasn’t a missing person’s case until after forty eight hours and even then, he was a grown-up, who was to say he was missing? It’s been forty eight hours, now, though, do you think I should call them again?”
“Why don’t you tell me what happened?” Indigo answered. “When did you last see him and why do you think he’s missing?”
“Who are you?” Mrs Delgado countered. “Girlfriend?”
“No. I’m looking for Joe. He didn’t turn up to work this weekend and his employer is worried about him. He asked me to look around for him, make sure he’s okay. I’m a private investigator.”
Mrs Delgado looked at her, baffled. “Like in the books?”
“Well, it’s not as exciting in real life.” Indigo kept a warm smile on her face. Her phone vibrated in her coat’s chest pocket, but she ignored it. It was probably only Aunt Sophie, wondering what dressing she wanted on her salad, or what she wanted for dessert.
“How’d a girl like you get to be an investigator?”
“You know. Are you from East Cambridge”
“I’m from Medford, Mrs Delgado,” Indigo explained, patiently. Mrs Delgado gave her another long stare.
“And Joe’s boss hired you?”
“Well, like I say, he was worried about Joe, so he asked me to help him out, make sure Joe was okay. Can I come in?” Indigo held out her PI licence.
“Oh, I suppose so,” Mrs Delgado, giving the licence a cursory glance, backed up a little, letting Indigo go past.
She found herself in a small living room, packed full of furniture, a comfy couch, two armchairs, a coffee table, on which rested a tray with a cup of cooling milky coffee and a plate of oreos. The walls were filled with photographs, more of which were in frames standing up on a dark wooden sideboard. The two mismatched end tables and coffee table were covered in brightly patterned runners and there were several rugs on the floor, overlapping each other, hiding all but the occasional glimpse of a drab, beige carpet. The blinds were metallic slats and closed. There were lamps on the two end tables and another two on the sideboard, all lit. The room was cosy, but dark, the bright sun outside not penetrating here.
“Sit,” Mrs Delgado told Indigo, following her into the room. “I just got in from my shift. You want coffee?”
“No thank you,” Indigo sat on the sofa, shrugging off her coat, and Mrs Delgado lowered herself gently into an armchair, with the frailty of a much older woman. She leaned over to pick up her coffee and cradled the mug in her hand. There was a large, flat screen TV on the wall opposite the sofa, filling the wall. It was on, tuned in to a daytime soap, but the sound was muted. Mrs Delgado’s eyes flicked to the screen from time to time. A man and woman embraced on the TV.
“Mrs Delgado, when did you last see Joe?”
“Friday. He said he was going out to run some errands. I thought he would be back in a few hours, but he never came back. I called his work, but they said he never showed. So I called the police.”
“And they said you couldn’t file a missing person’s report for forty eight hours?”
“And you’re worried about Joe?”
“It’s not like him,” Mrs Delgado’s eyes flicked to the screen, where two girls were eyeing each other up with dramatic cattiness that needed no words, and back to Indigo. “He always tells me where he’s going.”
“He lives here?”
“Yes, he lives here. He is only twenty two and housing is so expensive. I have two rooms and what do I need with two rooms, if Joe isn’t living here? He gives me money towards the housekeeping. He’s been the man of the house since his father died ten years ago.” Mrs Delgado crossed herself.
“He ever get in any trouble?”
“No,” Mrs Delgado scowled. “No, I know what you’re thinking. This is a bad neighborhood, there’s drugs and gangs and a lot of hoodlums about. But that’s not Joe, he’s going to make something of himself, he always has these plans, you know?”
“But he worked at the Blue Room?”
“Oh that’s just a day job, to keep him going, you know? So he can help me out with the rent and the groceries and have some money of his own too. But he’s going to go into business of his own some day.”
“What sort of business?”
Mrs Delgado shrugged, her eyes drawn back to the TV. An advert was showing an elderly woman falling to the floor. “I don’t know. I don’t have a head for such things. But Joe, he has drive, he has determination. He’s a hard worker, not like these punks you see around here, hanging around the streets like they’ve nowhere better to go.”
“Ok, Mrs Delgado. Did he have any business associates, anyone you knew?”
“No,” she frowned. The advert had changed. Now a cat was rolling on its back amidst flower petals falling like snow. “I think his boss is going to go into business with him, though. Maybe he knows more about it.”
“I don’t know his name.”
“And you don’t know what the business is?”
“No, only that his boss thinks Joe has a really good idea and he’s willing to back him. Joe told me, soon we can afford to have a winter vacation, maybe go to Florida, get some sun.”
“Does he have any close friends, that you know about?”
“He has lots of friends.”
“You know any of them by name?”
“I’m not one of those clingy mothers. I let Joe lead his own life without my interference.”
Indigo thought of how, if you asked Aunt Sophie the same question, she’d not only be able to list every one of Indigo’s friends, but would probably have phone numbers for most of them.
“No one serious. He’s not going to get married until he can afford a place of his own, you know?”
“But he does have girlfriends.”
“Sure, he’s a good looking boy. But he didn’t get anyone in trouble, no matter what you might hear.”
“What might I hear?”
Mrs Delgado clamped her lips tight shut, shook her head.
“Might I hear that someone thought he had got someone in trouble? Maybe a girl was saying he had?”
“Are you going to find my son or what?” she demanded.
“I’m trying, Mrs Delgado…”
“Well, he isn’t here. And if his boss doesn’t know where he is…” Mrs Delgado’s face crumpled as the realisation finally hit her. “He’s really missing, isn’t he?”
“He might not be, he might be away with friends, or a girlfriend. That’s why I’m asking these questions. To see if there’re others I can ask about him.”
Mrs Delgado shook her head, her eyes glinting. “I don’t know. Joe doesn’t like me prying in his private life. I don’t know who his friends are. But it’s not like him, he wouldn’t miss work, he wouldn’t anger his boss. He’s always talking about how his boss is a big man, going to help him with his business.”
“But you don’t know what that business is?”
“He said I wouldn’t understand. Why don’t you ask his boss, if he hired you? He must know,” Mrs Delgado clamped her lips shut again, returning her attention to the TV and a close-up of a good looking man in a priest’s collar.
“I will do, Mrs Delgado. If there’s nothing else you can tell me?” Indigo got a business card from her wallet and placed it on the coffee table. “That’s my cell phone number. Call me if you think of anything.”
Indigo got to her feet, shrugging back into her coat.
“Do you think I ought to call the police again?” the older woman asked her. The credits were rolling, too fast to read, on the screen.
“Yes,” Indigo said, after a moment’s pause. “Yes, I think you should file a missing person’s report. I don’t know if they’ll give it all that much attention but…”
“But you think he’s really missing?” Mrs Delgado looked up at her, her voice rising in agitation.
“Is there anyone you can call? A relative, a friend?”
“You think something’s happened to him?” Mrs Delgado insisted with a quiet desperation.
“He might be fine,” Indigo told her. “Don’t imagine the worst yet.”
“But he might not be fine.” It wasn’t a question.
“I think you should file the report with the police,” Indigo said. “And if you have a friend or a relative who can go with you…”
“I’ll call my sister,” Mrs Delgado muttered, her head bowed.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t be of more help, Mrs Delgado.”
She lifted her head as Indigo made her way to the door. “It’s good that the boss likes Joe enough to hire you,” she said. “He must think a lot of Joe, huh?”
“Yes,” Indigo agreed.
“And if you find him…?”
“I’ll let you know,” Indigo promised.
© Essie Gilbey, 2014