Sunday Storytime: “She ran away from home to come here, you know…”

I will show you a little bit of Fait Accompli this week, in which Claudia and Tasha pay a visit to Nadia’s former landlady, Gail Lovejoy, and ask her some questions. I’m pretty sure there are no new Broken Generation vocabulary terms popping up in this excerpt. To see other excerpts from the same novel-in-progress, visit the “fait accompli” tag.

****

“Could you please tell us what you know about Nadia’s disappearance?”

“Right. She went missing some time between Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning. She went to work on Wednesday—she worked lunches most days—and I was at the supermarket when she was supposed to come home. So, I don’t know if she ever got home that day. Then on Thursday, Louis called me and said Nadia hadn’t shown up for work, and she wasn’t picking up her cell.”

“Sorry, who’s Louis?”

The nice lady in charge of the house is getting a visit from the police, but not the ones she’d called.

“He owns Marco Polo’s, where Nadia waited tables? He’s an old friend of mine, in fact I got her the job. So he called me up and said Nadia was missing work, and did I know where she was. She never, ever missed work, you know, she was always on time and never asked to leave early. She got along with her co-workers and her customers were always happy to see her.”

“So what did you do after Louis called?”

“Well, I tried her cell, but she didn’t pick up for me, either, so I let myself into her room, and it was bizarre. All her belongings were inside, and there was no sign of a struggle. Her keys, phone and about a day’s worth of tips were on the floor, but nothing else was out of place. I didn’t know what to think, but if Nadia locked herself out of her room by accident, she would have knocked on my door.”

“Was she seeing anyone socially?”

“She didn’t have a boyfriend, if that’s what you mean. Which I always thought was kind of odd, for such a pretty girl in that age group, but, well…actually she didn’t have much of a social life. She had some friends at the restaurant, and sometimes she went to dinner at their houses, but mostly she just went to work, came home and studied.”

“What was she studying?”

“She didn’t give me specifics, but I think it was a lot of subjects. See, when she got here, she had no formal education, but then she got her GED, and this whole time, she’s been saving up for college. I took her books back to the library after she went missing.”

“Alright. Did anyone ever contact you about her?”

“You mean, like a ransom call? No, I never heard a peep from anyone. I called the Hyattsville police, and they haven’t been helpful. You know, I think they think she just ran away, which is ridiculous, I mean why would a girl run away and leave her phone and money behind? She ran away from home to come here, you know, and she didn’t do it flat broke, so what their problem was—”

“Excuse me, Mrs. Lovejoy,” I cut in. Strictly speaking, I wasn’t supposed to question witnesses like this, in fact I shouldn’t have even been in the room with her and Tasha, but I needed to learn about my new client, and the information might have been useful to Tasha. “Did Nadia ever say why she ran away from home years ago?”

“Yes, she did. It was to escape an arranged marriage. She wouldn’t tell me much about the groom, just that her parents wouldn’t let her meet someone that she liked.”

“Ma’am, how did Nadia get between home and work?” asked Tasha.

“The restaurant’s just a few blocks away, so she walked. Now, there were a few nice boys at the restaurant who would always walk her home, and sometimes one of them would meet her at the corner and walk her to work,” it looked like Tasha was going to say something, but Gail Lovejoy kept plowing on, “although, they rarely ever saw her all the way to the house. They usually just went as far as the corner and let her walk the rest of the way alone.” She made it sound like this was a criminally negligent thing to do.

“Did she feel unsafe between here and the corner?”

“Well, she didn’t seem to feel unsafe on this street, but she obviously wasn’t safe, and a person who grew up around here should have seen that!”

“So what you’re saying is, a person who’d want to abduct Nadia could reasonably expect her to be unaccompanied between the nearest street corner and her door at a predictable time of day?” Tasha prompted.

“Yes, exactly! There was nothing to protect her.”

Tasha exchanged one of our Jaded Public Servant looks with me. We could see plenty of bystanders on that street to protect a vulnerable girl like Nadia.