1.1 Down the Rabbits hole…
Credits: Gas station, Hotel, and Private investigator’s office from The Sims Resource
Author’s note: I’m already working on the next chapter, but work Thanksgiving (tomorrow) Through Sunday, so the next chapter should be out either Monday or Tuesday. 🙂
This chapter is Rated PG 13–Language.
The phone. Some people say its the best invention known to man. Alexander Graham Bell had no idea his prized invention would be such a royal pain in the ass, as I watched the phone vibrate in my lap. My Grandmother. Again. I rolled my eyes and resisted the urge to throw my phone at the wall breaking it into a hundred plastic bits.
I silenced the phone, knowing she would leave yet another voice message, and then a follow-up text checking up on me to make sure I was safe, which was so like her.
Two weeks had passed since I left home. I had to admit that it felt great to be on my own. I felt lighter, like I could breathe, as if a heavy weight had been resting squarely on my shoulders, and now that weight had been lifted. That crushing weight however, came right back every time my cell phone would ring.
The phone rang again, the vibration in my lap making me flinch. I picked up the phone again, this time answering it or I knew i would never get to sleep tonight.
“Hello.” I said grumpily into the phone, my voice hoarse from lack of sleep.
“Madeline, I’m so glad you answered. I’ve been worried about you. How are you? Do you need more money? Are you eating ok? Where are you staying?” She began. Only my Grandmother would worry if I was eating.
“I’m good. No, Yes, Renting a place.” I answered all her questions in quick succession.
“Renting?” My grandmother asked me, her sigh through the phone rang loud in my ears. I could almost hear her thoughts through the phone. If I was renting a place, instead of staying in some cheap hotel, then I was really going to stay, and not come running home like she wanted me too.
“That’s what I said.” I said, a tad bit more bitterly then I intended. I pinched the bridge of my nose and willed my voice into a softer tone. “I’m sorry.” I began. “I’m tired, I didn’t mean to bite your head off. Everything is fine. I found a place to rent, I have a roommate, and I’ll be starting work next week.”
Her voice was quite on the other end, but I knew the connection hadn’t been lost, because I could hear her breathing on the other end. “I miss you Madeline.” She said simply, sounding very near to tears.
“I miss you too.” I said honestly. I did. I was still hurt and angry at her lies, but being out on my own, had shown me that all that mattered was family. My grandmother raised me to be strong and independent, and although I was angry with her still, I couldn’t focus on hating her anymore. More than ever, my resolve to find my real mother was stronger than ever. I wanted to show her that she wasn’t alone, that she had family out there that loved and worried about her.
“I gotta go,” I said into the phone feeling the tears prick behind my eyelids. “Don’t worry, every thing is fine. I’ll call you soon.” I hung up without saying goodbye.
I sighed looking down at my phone, finally setting it on my bed side nightstand. I drew my legs up to my chest and closed my eyes, easily picturing my grandmothers gentle smile, and loving green eyes. As much as I hated to admit it, talking to her had calmed my rattled nerves. To say I was stressed was a huge understatement.
As much as I was grateful for having a place to stay, I felt like a ship without a port, lost at sea with nowhere to go. It was an unsettling feeling, and every time I felt like giving up, I pictured my mother, cold, and alone, and I knew I wouldn’t go home without her…
I had almost dozed off to sleep when my bedroom door flew open, and my roommate Zoe Conner entered my room in a cloud of expensive perfume. I didn’t know her well enough yet to tell her that she smelled like a cheap prostitute.
Does she believe in knocking? I thought testily, keeping my eyes closed so she would think I was asleep. No such luck.
“Madeline….” She began in her slightly whiny soprano voice. “Wakey Wakey.” She cooed.
“Zoe, it’s almost midnight.” I groaned.
“Exactly!” Zoe exclaimed. “I’m going to take you out.”
“You’re going to do what now?” I sighed, full of trepidation.
“Madeline. I love you girl. But even my grandma has more of a social life then you do. You’re new in town, you should be out meeting people, and by people I mean, hot guys.” She said this with a wink. “Common Madeline, don’t make me go out all alone…” Her lower lip quivered, her eyes big and limpid, but held a sparkle that let me know she was full of shit, and just kidding around.
“You know I have to meet with the private investigator tomorrow. I don’t want to show up, red-eyed, hung over and reeking of cigarette smoke.” I yawned.
“You suck.” Zoe responded, but knew it was a lost cause, and wasn’t going to waste her time.
“I know.” I sighed, meaning it. Zoe was right. Zoe worked down at the Senior Center Nursing Home, and the residents there probably had way more of a social life then I did, but I came here on a mission, and I was dead set on following through no matter what the cost.
Through my half lidded eyes I watched Zoe stomp dramatically out through my bedroom door taking the cloying cloud of perfume with her, instantly relieving the tension in my head.
I flipped onto my back trying to get comfortable on the old lumpy mattress once again making me miss my grandmother’s home with my Seely Orthopedic mattress. I could swear I felt a spring jabbing me in the lower back. No matter what position I found myself in, I could not get comfortable.
I was nervous about tomorrow’s appointment with the private investigator. I knew I didn’t have much to go on but nearly a decade’s worth of old information. Who knew if my mom was even in North Port anymore. For all I knew, she could have died of a drug overdose long ago.
I shook my head in the dark. I could not entertain those dark thoughts, I knew she was alive. She was out there somewhere, I just knew it.
My mind went back two weeks ago, when I had just arrived here in North Port…
The city lights seemed to sparkle with promise of excitement and danger the minute I stepped off the platform at the train station in North Port. I looked around me, watching everyone hug their families and loved ones, while I stood on the platform like a lost puppy having nowhere to go, and no clue where the hell I even was.
I picked up my suitcases and took off walking towards town, figuring it would be my best shot at finding a hotel. I was cold, and I rubbed my arms briskly while holding on to my suitcases with all my might, not used to being in the big city. I worried that I stood out, and would be an easy target for thieves who would see me as easy prey.
I paused outside a dilapidated old building, feeling a horrid sense of pity to see how some people lived. I saw cardboard box beds, and trashcan fires with people huddled around them for warmth. I felt my heart-break, picturing my own mother somewhere in this city, huddled around the fire warming her hands.
I kept walking…
“Don’t you look lost?” The clerk at the gas station said clucking her tongue against the roof of her mouth in pity.
“That obvious?” I asked trying not to cry. I was so very tired, cold and hungry.
She laughed. “Just a bit. You looking for a hotel?”
I nodded, worrying if I opened my mouth I would let out a sob, and be unable to stop.
She pulled out a map and laid it on the grungy faded counter. She pointed to a spot on the map. “You are here.” She began. “The nicer hotels are in the downtown area, but your still a bit far from there. The closest motel is two blocks away. It’s not that nice, but the beds are clean and its cheap.” She looked me up and down. “You look like you’re going to fall over.” She turned and poured coffee into a styrofoam cup and handed it to me. “You look like you could use this.”
I fumbled for my purse, and the clerk held up her hand. “It’s on the house. Trust me, once you take a sip you wouldn’t want to pay for it anyways.” She laughed, and I smiled a little.
I took a sip, having not had anything to eat or drink since that morning. She was right. As far as coffee went, it was pretty disgusting, but it was hot and it felt like fire going down my throat, instantly making me feel more awake.
“Thank you so much.” I murmured, grateful for the act of kindness bestowed upon me by the kind gas station clerk.
“Good luck honey. Welcome to North Port.”
The small motel was right where the gas station clerk said it would be. It’s white exterior was chipping a little, but it was well light and looked clean enough. It was better than sleeping in a cardboard box after all.
The night desk clerk, yawned at me when I walked into the old outdated lobby. The tabletops littered with old magazines from what looked like the 1970’s. She snapped her gum at me, and asked if I wanted to rent the room by the hour or night. I balked, at the question, and blushed from the roots of my hair down to the tips of my toes. I looked down at my old boots and skirt. Yes, it was on the shorter side, but I didn’t look like a hooker, did I? I guess that was their usual sort of client.
“The night.” I said a little snappish and insulted.
She handed me the keys wordlessly after she processed my credit card. “Enjoy your stay.” She sneered, snapping her gum again loudly, instantly dismissing me to turn back to her trashy talk show on the tiny television in the corner.
I dropped my suitcases next to the door the minute the door closed. I stood there looking at the old wooden paneling and faded comforters. I felt so very far from home in that instant that I could have cried.
I changed into my pajama’s, too tired and exhausted to care much about anything. I crawled beneath the slightly scratchy blanket and stared up at the ceiling.
This is a huge mistake, I thought. What the hell are you doing? You don’t even know if your mom is even alive, and if she is, she is probably too strung out on drugs to even know who you are. Do you even have a plan? I asked myself feeling the tears slide down my face. The answer to that question was no. I had no plan, no clue what the hell I was even going to do when I woke up the next morning…
The early morning sunlight streamed in through the blinds the next morning. It took me a few minutes of stretching and yawning to fully wake up. I sat up stretching and casually glanced at my alarm clock. Shit! I worried, my eyes wide. I need to get my ass in gear, the cab is going to be here in 2o minutes!
I jumped out of bed, tripping over my shoes and bashing my shin against the end table. “Dammit!” I yelled. “Fuck me!” I swore.
I yanked open my dresser drawers and pulled out a sweater, blouse and skirt. If I was going to make it to the private investigator’s office on time, I had to hurry. I dressed quicker then I’d ever dressed before in my life, running to the bathroom to brush my teeth. I patted my hair, I didn’t have time to do it, I guess it would have to stay in a messy bun on the top of my head.
I tip toed past Zoe’s room so I wouldn’t wake her, wondering if she had herself a good time last night, my question was answered when I reached downstairs to find Zoe passed out on the couch, still wearing her red low-cut blouse and mini skirt. She was snoring loudly, the smell of alcohol oozed out of every pore.
Looks like she had a good time at least, I thought smiling. She isn’t going to feel so hot though when she wakes up, not that I knew from personal experience. I was probably the worlds only 19 almost 20-year-old that had never been drunk before in their life. Pretty damn sad, I thought a little sadly. See what happens when you’ve been the good girl all your life? I thought looking out the window for the cab, and glancing quickly at my watch.
Right on time the cab came to a stop in front of the house. I glanced once more at my passed out roommate and entered the cab, giving the cab driver the address to the Private investigator’s office.
I kept my hands in my lap to keep them from shaking the entire drive there, I was nervous as hell. I felt a little bit like Alice in Wonderland, wondering if I was going to end up regretting going down the rabbit hole. Maybe some things are best kept in the past, I thought staring out the window watching the tall buildings go by.
The office was a little bit more run down then I expected. Not that I really knew what to expect, I had never sought out a private investigator’s office before. I watched the cab drive off toward the inner city, and forced my feet to move toward the door.
It was cleaner inside then I thought, making me relax a little more. I cleared my throat at the receptionist, who finally looked up from her phone call. “I’ll be with you in just a minute.” She smiled, then went back to talking about how boring her job was. I cleared my throat again, causing her to look up at me with such a look of loathing that I flinched from her angry gaze. “I gotta go, I’ll call you back.” She hung up the phone, looking more than a little annoyed. “Do you have an appointment?” She asked.
“Yes, at 8 am, with Detective James Hardy.” I said, sounding more confident than I felt.
“He’ll be with you in a minute. Take a seat.” I did, and watched her pick up the phone again. I sighed.
Everyone has much more exciting lives then I do, I thought eavesdropping on her conversation. Maybe Zoe was right, I really do need to get a life.
Finally she looked up from her phone, spinning slightly in her chair. “He’s ready to see you now, upstairs, last room at the end of the hall.”
“Ms. Drake. It’s nice to meet you.” Detective Hardy said shaking my hand warmly. “You explained a little bit to me on the phone about your situation, but if its ok with you I’d like to ask you a few questions.” He smiled. “Go ahead and take a seat.”
“First off, I’d like to get this out-of-the-way. My retainer fee is 500 dollars, and additionally 50 dollars an hour.”
I tried to keep my face impassive, while my eyeballs wanted to bulge out of my sockets. I wasn’t broke, by any means, but I would be at this rate! Do you really want to find your mother or not? I asked myself. The answer was yes. “That’s fine.” I finally said reaching into my purse and pulling out my check book. “Who should I make this out too?”
“So tell me a little about your situation.” He rested his hands on his desk, and looked at me, his expression was watchful. He reminded me of a hawk. If there was anyone that could find my mother, it would be this guy, I thought.
I spit the story out quickly as if to take the time telling it would leave a sour taste in my mouth that I could never get rid of, leaving out no sordid detail.
“Once someone decides to live on the streets, It can be very difficult to track them down. They live under the grid, not wanting to be found.” He looked at me with a quick narrowing of his eyes. “I won’t lie to you Ms. Drake. This could be difficult, and time-consuming.”
And costly, I thought looking down at my lap feeling discouraged. I looked back up and met his eyes. “I understand. Do everything you can to find her.”
“I’ll start by running a back ground check, and follow-up with the homeless shelters in the city. Do you have a recent picture of your mother?”
I fumbled into my purse again pulling out a photograph of my mother when she was a teen, right before she had run away, before I was born. “Here,” I said sliding the photograph across the table. “It’s as recent a photo as I have, I’m sorry.” It hurt to part from the picture even though I knew it was necessary. In the picture she looked so happy, and full of life.
“It will do.”
He stood coming around to the front of his desk, with his hand outstretched for me to shake. I shook his hand, his hand nearly crushing mine. “I will get started on your case right away, be expecting to receive a follow-up phone call within a few days. I will always ask permission if we incur any additional costs throughout this investigation.”
“Like what?” I asked puzzled.
“Travel expenses possibly. Your mother may have moved. The retainer fee covers the background check, and vehicle registration search.” He paused. “I’ll also be running a criminal background check.”
“Of course.” I felt like an idiot. It was very well possible that my mother was in jail.
“Thank you.” I finally said shaking his hand once more.
“Hang in there. If your mother is out there. I’ll find her.”
I said nothing, but smiled sadly, and walked out of his office feeling somewhat lighter.
I walked down the hallway with no regrets. I had set the first plan in action into finding my mother. I had nothing but the best expectations that Detective Hardy would be the one who could find my mother. But would I like what he found? She could be dead, in prison, a dozen different scenarios popped into my brain, each one more depressing then the one before it.
I had a feeling in the pit of my gut, that I was in for more heartache then I could handle, but I buried the feeling deep in my gut, telling myself that in the end, the heart ache would be worth the pain…