• Vol. 10
  • Chapter 09

The Case of Mrs. Brown

She was last seen on Commonwealth Avenue, wearing a pink trench coat, her favorite bronze metallic loafers, and carrying an orange umbrella. There was a relentless drizzle that day, the kind we get in Boston in late April when the air tittered between humid cold and false warmth.
    I jot down what the daughter told me. Her mother had a purse with a gold metal twist lock with her, and a recycled shopping bag with an orange handle.
    "This is very helpful, Miss Brown, people remember unusual clothing, bright colors."
    It’d been three days since Mrs. Brown had disappeared and the police wasn’t doing enough. The photo she gave me showed a woman in her late 50s, handsome, thick gray hair neatly brushed with a side bang, curly waves wrapping around her neck, brown eyes, shiny lips drawn into an ironic smile as if taunting us to find her.
    Miss Brown assured me her mother was in perfect health, no signs of memory loss, or other abnormal behaviors.
    "Is everything—fine between Mr. and Mrs. Brown?"
    "Yes, my parents are fine, they’ve been married for decades."
    "All right. I'll knock on some doors and see what I can find."

    Commonwealth Avenue was a 1.5 mile stretch of sidewalk, residential apartments, and campus buildings. An idea came to me as I pulled out the photo and stared at it for a minute. Dellaria Salon near Kenmore Square offered haircuts, highlights, and balayage.
    "Yes, that's Eleonora," the young woman at the cash register said. "She was just here the other day. I gave her a hair trim and a blowout."
    "When was it?"


The Case of Mrs. Brown

    Without hesitation, Mei-Ling as inscribed in her nametag, said “Last Friday” and when I asked her if there was anything unusual about Eleonora that day, she replied:  "No," she said, "She was her usual upbeat self, she's hilarious, she was in a very good mood, she actually tipped me a lot more last time. I walked her out.”
    "Did you see where she went?"
    "Yes, her boyfriend picked her up, she got in the car, then we waved at each other."
    "Yes, boyfriend! What's wrong with that? They were going on a trip. I'm so happy for her!"

    Back in the office, Miss Brown was dumbfounded. I laid out her parents’ divorce papers I had found from the Public Records Division in front of her, gave her my research on Brian who was also divorced, had a daughter her age and was a co-founder of a small IT company in Burlington.
    "But—but I don't understand!"
    She fixed her gaze on the papers for several minutes. By divine intervention or pure luck, her phone pinged, tearing her out of her shocked state. It was a text from her mother.
    "Hey baby, sorry I couldn't reach out sooner. Dropped my phone in the toilet, lol. I'm in Uruguay right now. Got so much to tell you when I get back. Brunch at Stephanie's in two weeks? Love you, Mom."