Sometimes you eat dirt no matter how hard you try to keep your face from being rammed into the ground. Sometimes the wrong people pay for the evil that lurks in the shadowed corners of humanity and at the back of a long dark blind alleys. Sometimes its people like me that get the job of cleaning up the mess when the people who are supposed to do the job get hung out on a bureaucratic laundry line.
It was three am on a warm summer’s night, the kind of night that makes you feel good, even if you are tired from a long day and a long gig.
I was loading the last of my equipment into the van when she came staggering down the alleyway. The little light that was shining glinted on her long blond hair and her sky-blue eyes that were glistening with tears. As she reached me, collapsing in my arms she only had time for two words. “Help me.” Then she was unconscious.
I eased her to the brick floor of the alleyway and checked for a pulse. I sighed with relief. She wasn’t dead. And she didn’t smell like booze either. But then I saw my shirt covered in blood.
I checked for a cut, a wound. What I found was a lap of scalp laid open on the back of her head.
I’m a musician not a paramedic so I spent a few seconds a little confused about what to do but pulled my head together and picked my phone out of it belt holster. ‘No Signal.’
I tried the door of the bar I was playing at but the thing had locked itself and no one answered my hammering. I thought about what to do then, coming up with nothing else I loaded the girl with the long blond hair into the passenger seat of my van, grabbed her shoulder bag off the ground and set off to find help, any help. In the end, after twenty minutes, what I found was the hospital emergence entrance.
I ran inside and canvassed for help. The night crew came to my aid in a minute and two minutes later they had the girl in a trauma room. Then I told the nurse everything I knew, which was about the same as what I have told you. Then I went back to my van and got the shoulder bag and delivered it to the same nurse.
Her driver’s license said she was Annie Loams. The license was issued in British Columbia. She was 21 years old and a first year student at York University. “What are you doing way up here?” I muttered curiously.
“Do you know this woman?” The nurse asked. “Jeez. Didn’t you listen. She stumbled into the alley way and collapsed into my arms. Before that I’d never seen her and all she said was, Help Me.” So here I am do my best to help her.” I snarled pretty harshly. “The police have been called. You must remain here to explain what happened to the” The nurse ordered.
There was blood on the shoulder of my shirt but none on my hands. The cops interviewed me with some suspicion but were polite enough not to be too interrogative. Then I took them back to the alleyway where it all happened.
A search didn’t turn up a weapon that could have caused the wound on the back of the girl’s head and nothing was found in the immediate area until the next day.
Then back to the hospital we went. I was told that the girl, Annie Loams was in a coma and there was probably more brain trauma than a concussion.
I was about to leave when I cop told me to stick around for a while. I knew I didn’t have to but I did. There was nothing I needed to worry about and the cops didn’t suggest there was. They just wanted to ask a few more questions. “Maybe you know more than you think you do. Are you sure you didn’t see anyone else?”
“No One. Just the girl.”
It was nearly six thirty when the cops cut me loose but told me to keep myself available.
I said back, “You have all my info. I live here and don’t plan to go anywhere.”
And I didn’t. I’m a senior citizen, nicely settled in to the good life. I’d just been invited to a regular Busker gig at the farmers market and my next gig was in town. I hardly ever go out of town to play.
I figured it was over but like I said in the beginning, “Sometimes its people like me that get the job of cleaning up the mess when the people who are supposed to do the job get hung out on a bureaucratic laundry line.” But then maybe I brought it on myself.
What sent me back to the hospital is a mystery in itself. I didn’t think there was anything more I could do, but I went back anyway, I guess just out of curiosity. I wonder now if others in the same situation would have done the same thing or let themselves get involved in the mystery and drama of a lost girl they didn’t even know.
If I had never gone back I would have never know that her license was a forgery, just like here university student card and every thing else about her. I would have never known she was lost, trapped in a world without a past and not much of a future. I would have never stepped in and said, “Don’t worry. I’ll help you like you asked.” Famous last words of a knight in shining armour from an old, tired musician who knew nothing about being a knight of any kind. But Jeez, I couldn’t just let her wallow in dark confusion.
“Your name isn’t Annie, but I’ll call you that for now. Maybe we can figure out who you are.” I said but wasn’t sure how I was going to do that. The only experience I had about conducting an investigation came from detective novels and TV shows, none of which offers up any realism.
They kept her in the hospital for two weeks. She still hadn’t gotten anything like her memory back and she didn’t have anywhere to go, but she did have some money…well, a lot of money hidden in a bag inside her shoulder bag. I wasn’t sure how much but it was thousands if the hundred dollar bill on the outside of the roll was any indication what was inside. And she had credit cards, the kind that are prepaid that don’t require credit checks. Annie had no idea from who or from where they came or how much was on them.
“We can check it out at a machine. In the meant time lets go find you someplace to stay while we try and find out at least who you are.” I suggested. She didn’t argue.
I took her to a motel, one of those type that will rent a room on a monthly bases. The manager was a little doubtful about doing it but finally agreed, but only for a month and he didn’t want any trouble.
“There won’t be.” Annie Loams assured him, which seemed like an odd thing to say since she couldn’t be sure about anything at that point.
In the room I said, “The doctor that looked after you said your amnesia was probably temporary but couldn’t say for sure.”
“I hope it is, ah, temporary. I sure would like to know who I am, or who I am not and maybe find out why someone tried to kill me.”
“How do you know someone tried to kill you?” I asked suspiciously.
“Someone brained me with a metal bar. I don’t think he was playing a game. I probably just got lucky. Maybe you interrupted my murder.”
My name is T.C. Dempsey. I’m not a detective. I am not a cop. I’m not a writer or anything like the protagonists in the stories about crime that go around solving mysteries. My practical self-told me to leave it all up to the police. I left Annie to get herself sorted out then found my way to the police station to look up Detective March, who was the investigator on the case. In short he told me that they were doing all they could but there wasn’t much they could do. Her finger prints hadn’t shown up anywhere and there were no Annie Loams in the files.
“I made a suggestion and March rolled his eyes, “Maybe it’s a witness protection thing.”
“Look. Dempsey. Go home. Stay out of it. Leave the police work up to the police.” March shot back but you don’t have to be a cop to know that there is something us citizens aren’t suppose to know.
I said back, “What are you going to do?”
March stared at me and said, “Leave.” I knew then that Annie was up against something she wasn’t going to be able to handle on her own and I didn’t know anyone who could. I mean I didn’t know the first thing about private investigators.
I went back to the motel and I explained the situation to Annie but added, “But I do know a lawyer and he is a personal friend.”
Bentley Broggan was a nice guy. He made a living facilitating divorces, family issues and filled in the spaces as Duty Council. I assumed he was good at since he seemed to have a steady flow of clients, mostly happy clients. I knew some off them. Divorce seems to be running rampant in the last few years.
But better than that, he had a secretary who was also a paralegal who was also a wizard on the computer. “But without much to go on it’ll be difficult if not impossible to do any more than the police can do.” She said.
“But I thought maybe you could look in places where the police might not or cannot look.” I suggested, really reaching for straws, and hoping some of those detective shows had something real about them.
“Well. Maybe I can take a different approach, but it might cost you a little.”
It’s a good thing I had brought Annie along. She didn’t bock. She counted out ten C-notes and put them on Sally’s desk. She said, “Will that be a good start?”
Sally Blean smiled. “It’ll more than cover any expenses. I’ll give you a receipt.”
I took her to my favourite spot, a little Indian Restaurant with great food and something that might inspire some conversation, maybe even spark a memory. But what actually happened put me a little deeper into the intrigue of it all.
Don’t ask how I knew it. Maybe some ancient instinct surfaced but as we walked up the street from the parking lot where I put the van I found myself with the uncomfortable feeling that I…we were being watched. Annie noticed it too and had a worried look about her that reached out from somewhere lost and locked in the archives of her memory. Or maybe it wasn’t lost. Little things in our conversations made me think that Annie wasn’t telling me everything, just like the PIs complain about clients never telling them the whole story.
“As we entered the eatery I said point blank, “Annie. There is something you aren’t telling me or the police. What is it?”
She didn’t say anything but got a kind of guilty look on her face. I knew then that there was more to her than she was saying, but she still didn’t help out much.
The waitress came to take our order and served us tea at the same time. While we drank out tea and waited for the meal Annie said, “It isn’t much. I don’t know anything really, only that I was in some kind of trouble once. I think it was bad. I don’t remember what though. Its more of a feeling than a memory.”
Like she said, it wasn’t much but it was something and I considered again that maybe she was on the level and still lost, but I was sure it wouldn’t be long before her memory kicked in. I was sure she was already getting flashes but wasn’t able to sort them out yet. If not she was the best actor I’d ever come across.
The food came and we ate.
I dropped Annie back at her room. It was mid afternoon and I was going for a nap before I got ready to go off to my next gig.
I don’t remember if I had told Annie about it, but she showed up wearing a brim hat and some plain cloths that made here blend in with the crowd. I just assumed I had mentioned it and went to greet her. She was a little stand-offish but let me pick out a good table, a little out of the main stream of things. I was too hyped up for the gig to really notice much difference in her attitude and figured what ever I did pick up was just nervousness. It did occur to me though that it seemed odd that she would come out in public not knowing what might happen, especially since I am sure she was aware that she was being watched.
I let it go and let my entertainer self, kick into gear. The place was packed and after the first song I was thinking, “They like me. They really do like me.”
The evening slipped by in a good mood. People came and went but most settled in with drinks, a little conversation, and an abundance of applauding. It felt just like the old days back in B-Town when little laces like this were a dime a dozen. Ode to nostalgia.
It was somewhere around eleven when two men looking like they were not much interested in a couple of drinks and some good music. They had that, “we’re looking for someone,” look about them. Annie saw them too and just at that moment I knew she’d been playing me from the start. “She was scared. Scared like she knew who the two men were and what they were there for. She lowered her head a little so that the brim of her hat covered her face. People don’t do that unless they know its them who someone is looking for.
Nothing happened. The two men, a cross between a biker dressed up to look nonchalant and a displaced hippy. They really didn’t fit the middle aged crowd.
I don’t know if I should put it this way, even if its true. Its one of those cliché things that writers are supposed to avoid, but then like I said earlier, “I am not a writer,”