Yarrow House

Disappearing Act

"I want you to find someone for me,” the wispy, young guy said. “My friend, Jacqui. Jacqui Lee. She’s gone missing.”
“We find things, not people,” Raine said, never one to beat around the bush.

“She means we charge extra for people,” Moss added. The Moss and Raine Detective agency had a steady business tracking down missing items, but the cash flow was a little slow at the moment. “People move around, you know. Things just land, and if you figure out where they’ve landed, they’re not hard to find. Sometimes hard to retrieve, of course,” she added. Her bleached-blonde spiked hair and black leathers contrasted in an unsettling way with Raine’s indeterminate age and weathered attitude.

“I don’t care about the cost,” the guy said. He kept his hands stuffed in his pockets and didn’t bother taking off his hoodie. Moss could see that Raine had taken an instant dislike to him. Moss on the other hand thought he was kind of cute.

"However," she said and rang off. Raine's not one to waste words. You'd think she had to pay for every syllable, the way she parcels them out. We've been partners for a long time, now, ever since she dragged me off the street as a young punk. I could probably count every word I've ever heard her say.

“The last time I saw her was maybe a week ago.”

“So why do you think she’s missing?”

“I haven’t been able to reach her, and when we met last week on the street, she acted strange.”

“What’s strange?” Raine asked.

“Like out of the blue she said, ‘I’m fine,’ even though I hadn’t asked her. And her eyes kept shifting around like she was watching for someone, or watching out for someone.”

Raine named their people-finding fee, made up on the spot, and Moss pried some particulars out of him—Jacqui’s address, phone number. No car, worked temp jobs, he wasn’t sure where at the moment. For a friend, the guy didn’t know that much about her.

“She has a roommate—Heather.”

“How long have they been roommates?”

“Not sure, really.”

“Not sure about much, are you?” growled Raine.

“She’s a really private person,” he said, defensively. Pulled out a money order. “Is $200 enough to start with?”

“You pay the rest the moment we locate Jacqui,” Raine said. “No guarantees about getting her back. That’s your job.” She dropped the check into her desk drawer and pulled out a receipt book. “Who do I make the receipt out to?”

“Brad,” he said. “Brad, uh, Anderson.”

He reeled off an address on Lucile St. Raine had just about every street in Seattle engraved on some internal map. Moss could see she didn’t like the address. When Brad left, Raine flipped the office quarter. Moss loss the toss. “I’ll take Brad,” Raine said, shrugging into her old jacket as she hustled out the door.

Flipping a coin was how they divided up their jobs. Kept it interesting. After their many years working together, they needed something to keep them from killing each other when it came to who did what.

Moss found the apartment—an old pile of bricks on the north end of Capitol Hill. One of those places with a lot of character and small closets.

Heather buzzed her in without question. Moss debated whether to have the “always check who it is before you buzz” conversation, but one look at Heather, and she let it pass. Heather looked like a good-time college girl who thought she was too tough to hurt.

Moss laid out the situation. “Jacqui’s been reported missing. We’re looking for her.” She wandered around the room while she talked. Text books, socks, sweaters, empty plates and bowls, DVD player, Netflix envelope, fridge covered with photos, club fliers, and other papers important to one or the other of the roommates. Someone liked to buy plants but not to take care of them. Bathroom overcrowded with hair care products and drying laundry.

“Where’s Jacqui’s bedroom?” Moss asked. Heather gestured toward a closed door. “When was the last time you saw her?”

“Oh, gee, I’ve been staying at my boyfriend’s a lot and working and studying so I don’t know really.”

“Take a guess.”

“Maybe last week sometime. Tuesday or Wednesday, maybe. She’s not always here either, you know. Since she moved in.”

“When was that?”

“Last month.”

Moss poked her head into Jacqui’s bedroom. It looked like she’d down-sized from a bigger place, boxes, clothes, double bed, matching mirrored dresser covered with make-up containers. A couple of glamorous studio photos. “Is this her?”

“Yes, she wants to be a model, or something. Maybe get into theater.”

Moss wandered out to the kitchen again. surveyed the fridge photos—a couple of them of Jacqui, none with Brad. “So what do you know about her friend Brad?”


Moss filled Raine in over lattes. She’d at least learned where Jacqui was working. Raine studied the photo of Jacqui that Moss had borrowed from the fridge. “Don’t like it,” Raine said. “Something’s wrong. That guy’s not right.”

“So how’d you lose him?”

“He got ahead of me in traffic. Turned before I could catch up with him.” She flipped the photo down on the table. “And like I thought, the address is bogus. Nothing but storefronts on that block. No such address either.”

“So if Brad did something with Jacqui, why would he come to us to find her?” Moss muttered. “Kind of an obvious ploy to divert suspicion. But if Heather didn’t know about him, and no one else did either, why bring attention to himself?”

“Maybe someone else does know about him,” Raine said.

“Let’s give him a call. See if he’ll meet with me again,” Moss said. “You can shadow him when he leaves.”

The telephone made Brad’s voice even more noticeably thin and reedy. Moss argued with him until he agreed to meet her at the coffee shop. While she waited for him, she called the temp agency where Jacqui supposedly worked.

She hadn’t been at work since last week. And hadn’t called in since then, either. Moss couldn’t talk the receptionist into providing emergency contact info, although she did get her to reveal that the contact was a sister. “Looks like I’ll have to go apply a little in-person coaxing to get the sister’s contact info,” she commented to Raine.

Brad came through the coffee shop door looking harried. Moss catalogued the details of his behavior, considering that he was now a suspect rather than a client. Nervous fiddling, hair oddly tousled, clothes askew. Yes, Brad looked like he was in some kind of trouble but he just didn’t strike Moss as the criminal type. They went around about Jacqui’s sister—didn’t know she had one; mutual friends—none; and a few other queries Moss made up on the spot, just trying to occupy Brad for a while and give some credence for wanting to talk with him. She let him finally worm his way out of the meeting and watched him scuttle out the door. Maybe this time Raine would have better luck sticking with him.

While Raine followed Brad, Moss headed her bike to Jacqui’s temp agency to pry Jacqui’s sister’s phone number out of the receptionist, who turned out to be the manager. Ms. Temp Manager put up a good argument— privacy rights, employee privilege, moral and ethical constraints—but she was no match for Moss’s tantalizing tale of a mysterious disappearance and suspicious friend, or her suggestion that the manager wouldn’t want to be the one who caused them to find Jacqui “too late,” would she?

Jacqui’s sister lived in Portland. She answered on the second ring.

“No I haven’t heard from Jacqui for, I don’t know, a week at least. She’s really bad about calling, you know. I feel like I ought to check up on her, she’s my little sister, you know, but after all she’s an adult, and she should start taking care of herself, you know, but she doesn’t—take care of herself, you know, bad taste in friends, men, you know, and...”

Moss broke the flow of words. “Speaking of men friends, has she ever mentioned a guy named Brad?”


“Brad Anderson, supposedly a good friend.”

“Brad? I don’t think she’s ever mentioned him, not that I remember. But there are so many. A new one every week. I keep telling her she’s going to get herself in trouble one of these days, you know, but she doesn’t listen to me. After all I’m her big sister, you know, and...”

Moss tossed another deflector into the flow. “What’s she doing in Seattle?”

“Oh, taking modeling and acting classes, trying to become a fashion model or maybe get into theater. She’s very pretty, of course, but I think it’s an unrealistic dream, you know. She’s started too late for that kind of thing. You practically have to start as a child, you know. I keep telling her she should get some training in a useful field, accounting or something like that. She’s good with numbers. She’s smart. She could make good money doing something like that, but she doesn’t listen, you know, and...”

Call waiting broke the flow. “Just a minute I have a call coming in.”

“OK, I’m in Georgetown. He’s gone into some kind of warehouse,” Raine said.

“See you in 20 minutes.”

Moss and Raine sat in front of the warehouse in Raine’s old beater and swapped comments on the occasional pedestrian passing by. Moss speculated on ancestry, age, occupation, personality. Raine had a more limited set of categories: “of no interest,” “suspicious character,” or “likely criminal.”

Various people “of no interest” had entered and left the building in the hour since they’d been on stakeout; none were Brad.”Well, let’s go see what we can dig up,” Raine finally said.

“I hope we don’t have to get into digging.”

The door was unlocked. The dimly lit hallway it opened onto was punctuated on each side with several doors and ended in an equally dim stairway. Moss did a quick circuit of the doors, all locked. Raine led the way up the stairs.

Light bled under the bottom of the door at the top of the stairs. They pushed the door open and walked into what appeared to be a storeroom full of old chairs, sofas, tables, racks of used clothing, lamps, and piles of miscellaneous household items. Spotlighted at one end of the room, a couple were carrying on a loud argument.

“OK, take it again,” a voice from the other side of a rack of clothes said, and the couple repeated their argument.

“Isn’t that Jacqui?” Raine said.

“It’s Brad” Moss countered. “I’d recognize that whine anywhere.”

“Can I help you?” A chipper young woman suddenly appeared at their side.

“We want to talk with Jacqui,” Raine growled.

“Or Brad,” Moss added.

The chipper young thing disappeared around the clothes rack, where she reported on the two visitors.

“OK, let’s take a break,” the directorial voice announced.

Raine strode into the spotlight. “Jacqui?” she asked the female half of the arguing couple.

“Or is it Brad.” Moss said.

“You didn’t know I was woman, did you?” the woman said. “See, Jonathan,” she included the Voice with a triumphant wave of her arm. “I did it. They thought I was a man.”

“You mean it was all an act?” Moss demanded.

“A class assignment,” Jacqui corrected Moss. “I had to convince a stranger that I was a man. And I did it, didn’t I? You didn’t guess. Not bad, huh, Jonathan?” She appealed again to the Voice. “They’re detectives, and they didn’t even detect that I was a woman.”

“You have to admit we did find you, though” Moss said.

“Oh, yes, good detective work,” Jacqui agreed with a cursory wave of her hand.

“That’s right, good detective work,” Raine intervened. “So about the rest of our fee.”

“But I wasn’t lost.”

“You hired us to locate Jacqui, and we did,” Moss cut in.

“So, contract completed,” Raine said. “Pay up.”

One-time reproduction for non-resale purposes permitted with the following credit line: by Judith Yarrow, © 2013