‘Tis the season for my annual Christmas noir tale.
Still one of my favorites.
The Case of the Missing Mary
By Leslie Noyes
(Note: This first appeared several years ago, back in the good old days when Trump’s candidacy was merely a bad joke. It’s one of my personal favorites. Hope it makes you grin.)
I leaned back in my wooden chair and aimed a dart at the picture of Donald Trump I’d taped to the door of my cramped office. Bullseye, baby. Before I could launch another projectile at the human embodiment of evil there was a tentative rap at the door.
Quickly I stashed the darts, downed a shot of Glenlivet and hid the bottle under my vintage oak desk.
“Come in,” I intoned with as much gravity as I could muster. I was new at this detective gig and badly needed a client. Throwing darts at Trump, no matter how satisfying, wasn’t paying the bills.
The man who walked through my door was a sight for hungry eyes. Tall, dark, and handsome, and apparently built like Thor if the bulges in his well-tailored suit were to be trusted.
“Excuse me,” he said. “I’m looking for Mr. Noyes, the private investigator…”
“It’s Ms. Noyes,” I smiled. “My receptionist just stepped out for a bit.” Little did he know my receptionist, Glenlivet, was hiding under the desk. I nudged the bottle with my foot for reassurance.
“Oh!” He was clearly flustered, so I rushed to reassure him. Rising from my chair I stepped closer, hoping to encourage him to stay.
“Don’t let my gender color your expectations,” I said. “I’m fully qualified to handle discreet investigations.”
I held my breath as I watched him wrestle with his thoughts. Finally he extended a hand, and I exhaled.
“My name is Joseph. Joseph Carpenter, and my wife has gone missing.”
I motioned for Joseph to have a seat and took my place on the other side of the desk. Pulling out a pen and notepad I asked Joseph for details.
“She was right beside me. We were watching over our newborn son and I turned away for just a second to greet a man, a foreigner of some distinction, who’d brought a baby gift. When I looked back, Mary was gone.”
Joseph’s rugged face collapsed in tears. It took all of my strength to maintain a professional distance. My maternal instincts were urging me to comfort this man, but he didn’t need a nursemaid, he needed a detective. And by God, that’s just what he’d get.
“Do you have a recent picture of your wife, sir?”
“No, we weren’t into pictures. But she was just a little thing. Maybe five feet two. Brown eyes. Dark brown hair. Olive skin. She was, is, beautiful. She has the most beatific smile.”
I tried my hand at sketching a picture of Mary.
“No, her nose is a bit larger,” Joseph said. “Yes, like that. And her lips fuller.”
Finally we had a sketch that Joseph approved.
“Joseph, did you notice any strange characters hanging around, let’s see, the manger on the night of your wife’s disappearance?”
“Well,” he began, “Besides the foreigner there were a couple of other visiting dignitaries. They looked fairly trustworthy; although, come to think of it I have no idea why they dropped by.”
“Ok, that’s a starting place. Anyone or anything else?”
Joseph snapped his fingers. “There was a shepherd there ranting about some star he followed. Could it be…?”
“I couldn’t say right now, Joseph, but I promise to do everything in my power to find your Mary.” I stood and indicated we were through.
“By the way, how’s the baby?” I asked offhandedly. “I know newborns can be a handful. Is it possible Mary just took off?”
Joseph’s temper flared. I could see I’d hit a nerve. “Absolutely not! You have no idea what Mary has gone through to have this child, why….”
I held up one hand. “I had to ask Mr. Carpenter. I believe you.”
I told him I’d need a retainer and I’d bill my services at a hundred dollars per hour. Then I assured him I’d get on the case immediately.
“Money’s no problem. One of those foreign dignitaries brought gold. For a baby!” He shook his head in amazement.
As he paused at the door, Joseph Carpenter turned, his face half in shadow.
“Ms. Noyes. Have you done anything like this before?”
“Yes,” I answered honestly. “Every December.”
Almost every year one piece of my nativity goes missing. One year it was the lamb. I found it nestled next to the Christmas snow globe. Another year it was a wise man, the one carrying myrrh. He didn’t turn up until I was putting decorations away. Apparently the myrrh king had been napping in a Target bag. This year it’s Mary. One can’t very well have a nativity scene without the mother of Jesus. I’ll keep looking. Until I find her I have a cut out Mary from a Christmas card to stand in for her:
The scale isn’t that bad, right?
Peace on Earth, people!
Drawn by the sound of non-rhythmic counting we approached a house. At least it appeared
to be a house–four sides, a peaked roof, an old stone porch. Even so the roughly cubed structure
was devoid of doors, and on further investigation presented no windows.
intoned a disembodied voice. What manner of edifice, we wondered, looked like a family
dwelling, yet gave no opportunity for entry or exit?
After circling the structure three full times, I banged my fist against the place where the front door
logically should be situated, just up the three stone steps, centered on the building’s apparent
Anterior surface. “Puzzling,” my partner ventured, his antennae twitching, when no response
resulted from my knocking. Suddenly, the house lifted and came crashing brutally down on him.
I scampered away across the sand as quickly as my six legs could carry me, thinking, “What madness?!”
Author’s note: This tale came to me at 2 a.m. I’m not sure what it means, but it insisted on being written.
I’ve been immersed lately in the near future America depicted in Octavia E. Butler’s Parable series. After practically inhaling the first of the novels, Parable of the Talents, I immediately downloaded the second book, Parable of the Sower.
The books’ heroine is a strong, intelligent, teenaged girl named Lauren Oya Olamina. In the year 2024 Lauren turns fifteen. She lives a relatively protected life in a walled community outside of Los Angeles.
Life outside the wall is chaotic. Society as Lauren’s parents knew it has broken down. While communities like the one in which Lauren lives are not uncommon, they aren’t the norm. Even though her family has to conserve resources and take turns keeping watch at night, she’s one of the lucky ones.
But one day that all changes. First her father goes missing, then fire-loving druggies burn her sheltered neighborhood, scattering Lauren’s family. There are no safety nets. The police and fire departments cannot be counted on for aid. Lauren is on her own.
This tale could have merely chronicled Lauren’s journey to safety, but in addition to being a vagabond teenager she has started a religion, Earthseed, and she builds her congregation from her fellow refugees as she founds the community they name Acorn.
I’m still reading the second book, and the situation seems dire. Once again Lauren is on the run, but there’s much more at stake at this point. The newly elected president of the United States ran on a theme of “Make America Great Again.” He’s instituted American Christianity as the national religion, and his supporters are capable of unthinkable atrocities in their quest to wipe out any belief systems other than theirs. It’s a chilling look at what might be in store for our future.
Lauren is a fascinating heroine. Her single-minded drive to complete her grand mission is inspiring, but also frustrating. I want her to be safe, but safety is not her goal.
If you’re into dystopian fiction give Ms. Butler’s books a try. Just let me know what you think.
I’m rereading Margaret Atwood’s novel, The Handmaid’s Tale. This post-apocalyptic novel is absolutely chilling in light of all this abhorrent trump administration holds dear.
I swear the first time I read the book many years ago I didn’t get all the ramifications. Now, they’re hitting me right between the eyes. If you’ve never read it, I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Peace and vigilance, people.
Day 1: Surprise! I’m moving into your head. You’ll think I’m just seasonal allergies for the first 8 hours. Ha! Puny human.
Night 1: Hope you don’t need to breathe. Or maybe I’ll just open up your sinuses and you’ll begin leaking snot like a faucet from your right nostril. Girl, you look so cute with a rolled up tissue sticking out of your schnozzola.
Day 2: I know, you were still hoping I was just an allergy attack, so I thought a slight fever and some body aches might cheer you up. No? Suck it up buttercup. I’m yours for six more days.
Night 2: You imagined that nighttime cold medicine was going to let you sleep through the night as advertised, didn’t you? Bwahahaha! If I had a knee I’d slap it. Better yet, I’ll slap you. Headaches just make me more awesome.
So I’m sick. Dammit. This is all my imagination could handle today. I have a couple of posts queued up, but if you don’t hear from me again you’ll know the cold won.
It was 4:59 on a wintery Monday afternoon. The light bulb in the dollar store lamp on my vintage desk began to flicker, so I toggled it off and wheeled my antique chair over to the main light switch for more illumination. Normally I’d be packing up to leave the office for the day, but I still had a stack of case files to ponder.
After I’d solved a fairly high profile case involving a missing mom last Christmas, https://nananoyz5forme.com/2016/12/06/the-case-of-the-missing-mary-2/, my caseload had skyrocketed, and now I found myself in the enviable position of being able to turn down cases.
I stuck my tongue out at the dart hole riddled photo of Donald Trump that I’d taped onto the back of the office door before backpedaling to my desk, deftly grabbing a bottle of Glenlivet and a fairly clean glass from the bottom drawer to toast the five o’clock hour.
Sighing, I opened the manila folder on top of a hefty stack.
“Boring,” I muttered as I read the first case.
“Mundane,” I grumbled upon reviewing the second.
“Gag!” I choked, reading the third, tossing it in the trash can just as a timid knock sounded at my door.
“I’m closed!” I called out. “Office hours are nine to five. Come back in the morning.”
“Okay,” sniffed the disembodied voice, followed by what sounded most assuredly like a whimper.
“Damn,” I thought. “Wait. Hold on. Let me unlock the door.”
With a wistful look at the bottle of scotch, I drained the glass and shoved it and the bottle back into the drawer, promising to visit with them later. I might’ve whispered a word of endearment, but they’ll never tell.
I stood and smoothed my navy dress, stepped into my heels, and crossed to the door expecting to find an elderly woman in need of advice about her late husband’s will. Instead, a highly recognizable giant of a man stood across the threshold, his tear-stained cheeks incongruous on his jowly face.
“Shhh!” He motioned. “I’ve heard Mr. Noyes handles difficult cases discreetly. No one can know I’m here.”
“Of course!” I reassured him. “But, I’m the private investigator. It’s Ms. Noyes.”
His eyes went wide and he began to back away, but I took the bull by the hand and hauled his fat ass into my office.
“You’d better get in here and tell me what’s got YOU so upset. After all, your side won and now we’re all screwed. I need to hear your story, dude.”
A look of resignation on his face, the governor of New Jersey took a look around my modest office and snorted, “What a dump!”
“Hey!” I snapped. “I’ll have you know everything in here is an antique.”
“If by ‘antique’ you mean ‘yard sale reject,’ I guess you’ve got a point.”
I wasn’t going to be distracted by the governor’s insults, though, so I pulled a battered side chair up to my desk, indicating he should take a seat. To his credit he settled his backside onto the moth-eaten upholstery and gave me a pleading look.
“Look, I wouldn’t be here unless I had no other choice. I need help, but you’ve got to promise to keep my name out of the papers.”
“Deal,” I nodded, settling in behind my desk. “But if I agree to take your case it’s $200 up front and I bill at $150 an hour. You pay any travel expenses.”
“Sure,” he said. “Sounds reasonable. Will you take a check?”
“Absolutely not,” I snorted. “You don’t have the best record when it comes to paying your debts. And then there’s the whole Bridgegate debacle. Let’s stick to cash, shall we?”
Slyly, he chuckled. “Fair enough.”
I steepled my fingers underneath my chin, hoping to exude an air of intelligent curiosity, while internally I was chomping at the bit.
“So what can I do for you, Governor?”
Again he looked like he could burst into tears. “I’ve misplaced something. It’s imperative that I locate it with as little fanfare as possible. But at the same time my constituents need to know I have it.”
“Okay….” I said, beckoning him to continue.
“Listen,” he began. “You know I ran in the Republican primaries to be my party’s nominee for president.”
“Yes. I’m aware.”
“Honestly, I felt like I was the best candidate. I smiled and waved. I did my research. I knew stuff. Important stuff.”
“Then this Trump character, a freaking reality tv star, won the nomination. It was humiliating.”
“For all of us,” I murmured.
“But he promised me some awesome perks if I’d help get him elected. Maybe I’d head up his transition team, get the juicy chief of staff post. All I had to do was sell my soul for a few pieces of silver, stand behind him at rallies, be his surrogate on talk shows.”
“Oh crap, Governor,” I moaned. “I can’t get your soul back. You know as well as I do that deals made with the devil are unbreakable.”
“I was pretty sure you’d say that,”he sighed. “But do you think you could help me find my dignity? I’m fairly sure I had it before I dropped out of the race.”
“Governor, pay me my retainer, and I won’t rest until your dignity is back in your hands.”
A smile lit up his face giving the Governor a boyish appearance.
“Honest?” he said. “You promise?”
“Absolutely. Just give me 24 hours. I know exactly where to begin looking.”
Governor Christie forked over $200, shook my hand, and left my office looking ten years younger than he had upon entering. There was a spring in his step that shook the wooden floor as he practically skipped down the hallway.
As soon as he left the building I locked the office door and dialed the number of a well-placed friend in the medical community. He answered on the third ring.
“Bill,” I said. “It’s Leslie.”
“Long time, no talk,” boomed the big, friendly voice. “What’s up?”
“Could you put me in touch with the president-elect’s proctologist? I need his help retrieving something for a client.”
Follow up: My intuition was dead on. Thanks to my contact, Trump’s people scheduled an appointment with his proctologist. Subsequently, Christie’s dignity was recovered. Apparently it was way, waaaaay up Trump’s ass, along with that of other prominent Republicans. The proctologist assured me that’s where they’d remain until said politicians came looking.