(Note: All the names have been changed to protect the guilty.)
Not long ago, I became Membership Chair of an organization I’ll call San Antonio Mystery Writers Association (even though it isn’t). Weeks went by before I was told that I needed to talk to the previous chair to get the box of materials so I could perform my duties. The chapter called it “The Membership Box,” but hereinafter I shall call it “The Box.”
“Rosa” had not been attending the meetings for quite some time, and I had never met her, so I asked the current treasurer for her phone number and email address. I phoned her, but the call went to voice mail, so I left a message asking for her to call me. I explained what I wanted so she would not think it was a sales call.
I also emailed her a request for the box of materials, even offering to go pick them up at her house, if needed.
A week passed and I did not receive a response, so I left another message and emailed her again.
Another week went by, so I asked the treasurer for her address. All SAMWA had was a post office box number. I told the president of the organization, and she said we would just have to wait for her to contact us.
Several more weeks went by, and I was asked to do some work with the membership forms.
“What membership forms?” I asked.
“The ones in The Box.”
I had only the forms for the people who had joined after I took office. The rest of the forms were in – you guessed it – The Box.
I went online and used a website to locate her address.
I was determined to track her down. If I can write about how a sleuth manages to find out information, surely I could do it myself.
I found three different addresses and a phone number that was different from the one I had tried. I dialed the phone number, but it was disconnected.
I found out from the Internet that she worked in one of the public libraries in town. When I went there and asked for her, the young man went into the back room and said she was not available.
“Will she be in tomorrow?” I asked.
“I’m not sure.” He looked at me as though he thought I might be a collections agent or bounty hunter.
Would I receive the same answer every day? Perhaps he had been the victim of a bill collector or process server and did not want to help me find her. He even might become an obstacle in my caper.
I was now determined to locate The Box. My terrier instincts kicked in. If she wasn’t at work, maybe she was at home. I decided to try the first address on the list, 803 W. Aberdeen. (Don’t try to find it. I changed everything for this story.)
I went to that address even though it was 30 minutes from my house. The numbering system seemed not to be quite right, so I stopped at a McDonald’s nearby and asked what their street address was so I could work backward.
After finding 805 W. Aberdeen, I assumed the next house was 803. I did not find a street number, just a faded place on the curb where the number probably once was. The house I found looked haunted, with an unpainted exterior, loose boards on the porch, and yellowed lace curtains in the windows. It did, however, have four mailboxes on the wall beside the front door.
An electric bill peeked out from one of the mailboxes attached to the house.
Hoping it was not illegal to just look at a piece of mail, I pulled it up just enough to see the address, which turned out to be 801. That meant that 803 was the vacant lot between 801 and 805.
Well, perhaps it was E. Aberdeen. I drove there. It was now a doctor’s office, housed in a relatively new building.
I had another home address from the web, but one said “Oak Street” and one said “Oak Lane.” I found both on the city map, but they were both 30 minutes from my house—in different directions.
I decided to try the library again before I drove to those addresses. Just in case the guard dog (excuse me, her fellow librarian) was going to hide his friend from me, I used a little deception. I carried with me a brightly wrapped present. It was not for her, of course. It was just to get past the young man.
The next day, I went to the library, casually held the package in full view and asked for her again. He looked at the present and said, “She’s in the shelves somewhere.”
When I said, “Can you describe her for me? I don’t know what she looks like,” he looked puzzled, but he did describe her well enough for me to find her.
Once I located her, I looked around to make sure our discussion would not be overheard since I had a bad feeling about what she was going to tell me. I didn’t want to embarrass her.
First, I introduced myself and told her that we would really like for her to join SAMWA again. She graciously replied that she was too busy, with school and work.
I then asked if I could go to her house to get the box, or perhaps she could bring it to the library for me to pick up.
She said, “I threw it away. I had paid for everything in it anyway.”
“Even the lapel pins that cost three hundred dollars?”
“Little gold pins?”
“Yes,” she replied.
“I never had those.”
That was not what the president had told me, but I know a lost cause when I see one.
So I now have no membership box and no pins, but I did get my man. Er, woman. At least I did not have to go to the two addresses to find out The Box no longer existed. My task was finished. Unsuccessful, but finished.
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