The Case of the Missing Mary
By Leslie Noyes
(Note: This first appeared on my blog two years ago, back in the good old days when Trump’s candidacy was merely a bad joke. Guess I should’ve thrown more darts.)
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 the 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?