Z is for Realization
Ida lay on the bed sobbing long into the night before her tears ran dry and sleep finally overcame her. In the morning she woke with her eyes crusted and her hair matted, but during the night she had come to the realization that she needed help if she wanted to do anything more than simply wish for James to come home.
She called Sam Caldwell first. He was not someone she knew but simply a name taken from the yellow pages of the telephone book. “Investigations and surveillance” the ad said. Then it told how Sam had been in business for more than twenty years and was registered with the county and state. But it was the tagline that convinced Ida to make the call. At the bottom of Sam Caldwell’s ad in a seemingly hand-written script it read, “Missing Persons Specialist.”
When Ida Jean Sweetwater walked into Sam Caldwell’s office she was prepared to answer questions about her missing son. She’d brought along a picture and a shirt she’d taken from his closet. She thought she was prepared for anything, but she wasn’t prepared for the sizable price tag hanging on Sam Caldwell’s services.
“It’s an eight hundred-dollar retainer to cover the first two weeks,” he said, “then three hundred a week for as long as I’m actively working the case.”
Ida gasped. “Doesn’t that seem rather high?”
“Not really,” Sam answered. Then he explained that expenses were extra.
Ida hesitated for a moment, picturing the balance in her checking account. “How long do you think it would take to find James?”
Caldwell shrugged. “Could be days, could be months.”
Ida pictured the bank account again. There had been so many expenses: Jim’s illness, the doctor bills, the funeral. She could swing two months if she cut back on groceries and Sam’s expenses didn’t cost too much.
“Okay,” she said. “You’re hired.”
She pulled out the checkbook that still had Jim’s name on it and in a shaky hand wrote the check for eight hundred dollars. She had never in all her life written a check for that much money.