I knew who it was before the bells on the door finished chiming. 4:47. Every day this week at precisely this time, Joe had walked through the door. Without fail. Without looking up from what I was doing, I called, “No.”
“But I didn’t even get to ask you yet, Frankie!” Joe called back, sliding into the chair in front of me.
“The question has been the same every day this week. Answer’s still no.”
“I know you can figure it out, and the police aren’t even going to try, Frankie.” Joe ran his hand through his slick hair, slinking farther down into the chair. “You have to help her.”
I sighed and looked up. “Joe, the police have done all they can. What makes you think I can do more?”
“I know you can! It’s what you do – you help people find things!”
“Things. Not people.” I went back to the papers on my desk. I knew if I entertained Joe for a few minutes, he would eventually get up and go back to the bar next door. While not the best scenario, it was the best I was willing to give him. No use giving false hope.
Joe sat up quickly, knocking the business card holder off the desk. Distracted, he bent to pick one up. Turning it towards me, he pointed. “Finder of things once lost.” Leaning forward, he put the card in my face. “I know you can help, Frankie. Please. For me. If not for her, do it for your brother.”
“You know that’s not how it works, Joe.” I sighed again. “You know I hate it when you call me ‘Frankie.’ Look, I’ll ask around. But that’s it. I can’t believe I’m agreeing to do even that—oof!” All the air rushed out of my chest as Joe leapt across the desk, knocked me, him and the chair over, Joe landing on top of the pile. “Joe, I can’t breathe.”
Grinning like a jackal, Joe slid off him. “I knew it, Frankie! I knew you’d do the right thing and help me!”
Standing up, I wasn’t sure what I should tell him. Ignoring him for the week didn’t help, and I didn’t think that there was anything that I could do that the police haven’t already tried. But, he was family, and even if he didn’t know what he was getting into, I did.
Some people, once lost, shouldn’t be found.
Walking around the desk, I picked up the fallen cards, thinking. “Go home, Joe. No stopping at the bar tonight, ok? In fact, that’s my fee—your sobriety.” I looked up. “Is she worth that to you?”
“Sure. Sure, Frankie.” His face took a more sober look, as if to show me he could do it if he wanted to. “Straight home. And you’ll call if you find out anything, right? I mean—“
“If I find anything, I’ll call the police,” I said, cutting him off. “Now go home, before I change my mind. Seems I have some more work to do tonight.”
“Thanks, Frankie!” Joe, grinning again, thumped me on the back before shuffling off towards the door. “I owe you!”
Yeah, right, I thought.
Leaning back in my chair, I glanced at the only personal touch on my desk. The photo was old, but still captured the zest and life in her eyes. Her hair cascaded down her shoulders, continuing down to her waist, I knew, even though the photo stopped well before that. A soft smile on her lips and a spark in her eyes. How I missed that smile.
Not for Joe, I thought, but for you. I’d do anything for you, Tina.