Thursday, April 22, 2010
I'd Like To Report A Missing Person...
Posted by Bill Friday
It was Tuesday, September 4th. I drove north on Wilcox, my destination now in sight. I found a space in front of the building and parked. It was the only space left on the street. Was it fate, or just dumb luck?
For this job, I could use a little of both.
5:45 p.m. After a hard day at work the A/C inside was cool and inviting. Outside, the air was hot and wet, a lot like the pavement in a Whitesnake video featuring Tawney Kitaen. 100 degrees every day for... days, but that was another story.
1358 N. Wilcox. Hollywood Division. LAPD's Precinct of Broken Dreams. I stepped inside. A pale-legged tourist with black socks and an Iowa drivers' license sat next to a self-employed, freelance “actress" with six-inch heels and no permanent address. I noticed that, even in the late-summer heat, both of them were wearing wigs.
And just like the curls in their nylon hair, nothing about either of them seemed out of place.
At least not here.
I asked the one in the heels if this was where you go to file a report. She nodded like a regular. As I made my way to the window, a fat cop, dressed all in blue, sat on a stool behind bullet-proof glass, staring at me. Suddenly, I felt dirty. He was looking me up and down like I was a... or maybe he was looking at the "actress". From where I stood, it was hard to tell.
Before I reach the counter, the fat cop spoke.
"How can I help you?"
I'd like to report a missing person." I paused. "Make that… well, there’s a lot of them."
I reached into the manila folder I carried under one arm, and pulled out a list. As I slid the list under the glass, I saw the box. Pink cardboard with white paper sticking out of it. The box looked like it had been worked over good.
And the cop looked full.
"They're all missing," I said.
The cop wiped his hands on a near-by napkin, then grabbed the list.
"These are... names? What kind of names are these?" He picked up a pair of reading glasses from on top of the pink box, and hung them on the end of his nose. He read the names out loud.
"V? What does that stand for? El G? Mora Uman? Steven Lane? You mean that Steven Lane? Tumerica? Joseph M? Merijoe?"
"Oh, sorry... I'm pretty sure that's not really her in the picture." Suddenly, I felt foolish, but I pressed on. "Next to the names are the dates anybody last heard from them." I must have looked anxious. The cop looked at me as much as he did the list. He finished reading the names and looked at me over the top of his glasses, as if to make sure I meant business.
"Crowbar? Vundula? Savage Lettuce... Are these for real?"
"Of course they're for real!"
"What are you, some kind of private detective?
"I'm a writer."
"Figures." He took off his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose. "And these are friends of yours?"
"Kinda. They're other writers."
"And they're missing?"
The cop looked at his watch. As he did, I noticed the clock on the wall behind him. It was five minutes to six. I guessed that Officer Pink Box was almost done with his shift.
"You got anything else?"
I reached into the folder once more. I pulled out five sheets and shoved them all under the glass. Each one had the writer's profile printed on it.
"Those are the last-know whereabouts for each of them. Plus some personal information. I thought it might help."
He flipped through the pages, randomly reading from each one.
"... common-law wife named Oksana... formerly homeless with three AKAs... a bicycle named Mathilda?" He picked up the napkin again. He wiped the corners of his mouth, then tossed the napkin into a distant trash can. Probably the only exercise he ever got. Then he leaned forward... closer... as close as he could get without touching his nose on the window. As he did, he stifled a silent burp.
I thanked God for bullet-proof glass.
"This is everything?"
"Yeah." Instinctively, I pulled back. As if the smell of coffee and donuts might make it's way to my side of the window.
In one motion the cop shoved all the papers back under the glass in my direction. As he did, the clock on the wall behind him struck six.
Then I'm afraid you're on your own."
"Missing. Yeah, I got that. You seem like a bright guy Mr... uh,"
"Friday," he laughed to himself. I thought I heard him muttered the words, "Like that's your real name."
"Mr. Friday..." He stood up to leave. "They'll turn up. They always do."
They always do... They always do...
"So what kind of story is that?"
"Huh? What do you mean?"
The thirteen-year-old boy looked up from the computer screen. He shook his head. The words "gimme a break" were written all over his face.
"Because they're not really missing."
"It's a metaphor," I argued. Never argue with a thirteen-year-old.
"A metaphor for for what?"
I hesitated. A metaphor for what? "Well, they haven't written in a long time."
"Neither have you."
I thought before I spoke... this time. He had me.
"Okay. Then it's... a metaphor for my own futility as a writer?"
"So you're the one who's really missing?" Brown eyes stared back at me. My son wasn't buying any of it.
"You're right," I said. "It is stupid."
"And the first step to recovery is admitting that you have a problem."
"Don't you have homework to do?"
"Why? It's stupid."
He turned and headed up the stairs.
"And don't forget to say good night when you're done." And he was gone.
"I suppose I could just email them," I said to no one.
A voice answered from the other room.
"Are you talking to yourself, again?"