Officer Landry opened the first of sixteen journals that had been removed from the dead guy’s apartment. The poor guy had been dead a week before the neighbours had complained about the smell, and apparently no one had known there was a little girl – a two-year-old toddler – trapped inside with her father’s rotting corpse.
The journals had been found in a table beside the bed, in a room not quite as overwhelmed by the dead guy’s hoard as the rest of the apartment. They were feminine-looking, and filled with flowery handwriting; Landry figured they might belong to the little girl’s mother, who was nowhere to be found. This first journal was the most recent one he had found, and it was dated six months ago.
“Where are you, Mom?” he asked, flipping slowly through the pages and reading closely for clues to what had happened. As he read through day after day, he realized that the writer was very much in love with her husband, but that she struggled to bring his hoarding under control, especially now that there was a child.
“David is trying really hard,” the last entry noted. “I’m so proud of him. It’s not easy to change something so hard-wired into his brain, but he loves Cindy so much, and he’s making good progress. The whole spare room is almost empty now, and he can walk around to his side of the bed without climbing over anything.
“I think I’ll go out today and get him a present – so he knows I noticed, and so he knows I still love him, even though it’s been rough. I’m going to take his red jersey that he had signed by Stan Lee, and have it mounted into a shadow box. I’ll try to sew up that hole in the shoulder on the sly – it shouldn’t be hard, since he’s taking Cindy to the park this morning. I’m kind of excited about it, actually.
“I think we’re gonna make it.”
Landry frowned. How sad, he thought. She had been helping him with his hoarding, and she was sticking by him … and then she had just disappeared. The neighbours had said she vanished about six months ago, but none of them seemed to have formed any kind of relationship with her or her husband – they hadn’t even been aware of the little girl, except for one old woman across the hall who said crisply that she had assumed the wife had finally had enough of the hoarding and the mess and had taken the little girl away.
But that isn’t what happened, Landry thought. She didn’t seem like the type who would run off, and even less like the type who would leave without her daughter. So where had she gone? Why hadn’t the dead guy ever reported her missing? … maybe because he assumed, like the old woman, that his wife had just become fed up and left him.
That’s even sadder, Landry realized. He died thinking she didn’t want to be with him anymore, and I’m guessing she disappeared on her way to get him that congratulatory present. He reached for the second journal. Maybe somewhere further back was some clue – some person or situation from her past – that might shed light on why she had never come home that day.
Something told him that only death would keep her from coming back home.
“Well, at least the little girl’ll know that her mother loved her, and loved her father.” He decided that tomorrow morning he’d go to the shops around the apartment; maybe one of them was the place where she was going to have the red jersey mounted in the shadowbox.
Maybe someone somewhere knew who she was and where she had gone.
He kept reading, thinking more than once that the dead guy had probably followed his wife into death – that if there was an afterlife to go to, the dead guy and his wife had already reunited, and she had already explained about the jersey, and how proud she had been of him.
“That poor little girl,” he sighed, and closed the journal. He stood and grabbed his coat, heading out to grab some coffee before sitting down to a long night’s work.