It’s called CleanLand, and if I have to do laundry (not one of my favorite things), at least I can get a good beef and sausage combo there around the second load.
But this laundry day would be different, and I knew the minute she came in…
I stuffed a load of all colors into the largest washer I could find, and shoved the requisite change in. I bought and threw in some detergent and boom! I was doing laundry. I sat for a sec half wondering why I always wait so long to do laundry, and half deciding if I was up for a vending machine breakfast of champions.
Then it happened, as it usually does. In walked trouble, and I knew it from the minute I saw her. The day had instantly changed from light laundry, some chow, and a good bit of loafing…to danger, screaming, and flying bullets.
She was mid-thirties, athletic and tall, but was dressed to the nines and definitely wasn’t here for laundry OR beef. Her harried face had the look of panic, and she frantically looked for the first friendly face. I tried my best to pretend I was examining my fingernails, as if I knew what I would do with them if I found something besides gnaw it off.
“Pardon me sir,” she said. I sighed and looked up. “I really need some help, do you live around here?”
This was looking up. Maybe she was an heiress and wanted me to take her back to my place.
“I do,” I said standing, and offered my hand. “Filton Sibley, how can I help?”
She pulled a strand of hair behind her ear and shook my hand tentatively. “I-I’m visiting from out of town but I’ve…lost something.” She looked around and hushed her tone and volume. “It’s my daughter. Someone has her and if I don’t…” She put her hand to her face with a pained look, and tears welling.
“Did you call the police?” I asked, still hoping I could avoid being the police today.
“I’m a little scared to.” She looked around again and sat down. I sat too. “They told me that I shouldn’t contact the police and that I deliver something for them. But, I don’t know…what to…do…” and then she really began to sob. Folks were looking in our direction, including the testy Asian woman who told me I shouldn’t put so much soap in with my laundry load.
I tried my best to comfort her, but this wasn’t my forte. “Listen, everything will be okay. When did they take her?”
“Earlier this morning.” She sniffed and wiped her nose on her sleeve. “We were getting out of a cab to sightsee, and they must have known we were tourists because they followed us and -”. More sobbing.
I wracked my brain. What’s the procedure for this? I could never remember the stupid police codes and procedures. I was more of a consulting detective, not an actual cop. One thing was for sure, this lady was a mess, and her daughter was toast unless I went to work.
“Okay, um…” I paused, realizing I didn’t know what to call her. Ma’am? Babe?
“Judy.” She sniffed again and reached in her purse, pulling out a tissue. I’m sure her sleeve was thankful. “My name is Judy Talbot. My daughter is Kaylie.”
“Well, we are going to get Kaylie back Judy. You need to know, I’m a detective for the Chicago police department. I know exactly what to do.”
I had no idea what to do. But, nothing would happen sitting here.
“Hey you,” the Asian lady yelled. “Stop messin’ with that lady and watch your load.” She pointed to the washer, which was foaming over because of too much laundry soap. I thought of several lewd replies regarding my load, but thought better of it. This was no time for laundry, again.
“Let’s get out of here and see what we can do, Judy,” I said getting back up and heading to the door.
“But your laundry,” she pointed.
I walked over to the washer and put my knapsack over it. I looked at the Asian lady staring a hole at me. “I’ll be back. And if I’m not, you can have the clothes. And the extra soap!” Then I had a brief moment where considered how nicely my Bears sweatshirt might actually fit her.