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The Madame Karitska Files

Chapter Text

Tuesday came quickly. Monday had been a day of errands, with only one appointment, a regular, and the rest of the day spent shopping. Groceries from the market, and later a visit to her favorite thrift shop had found a smart dress at an excellent price.

On Tuesday she had no appointments until the early afternoon and busied herself with chores and housework until Beth arrived. They had set no particular time save for “morning”. Madame Karitska knew patience and would have plenty of time whenever the troubled young woman arrived.

When noon came and Beth had not arrived, she began to worry. When her one o’clock appointment arrived, she urged herself to put aside her fears for Beth to concentrate on her client. Mrs. Begely, a regular, was always fearful of her husband’s future and wanted constant reassurances that he was neither wasting his time with his career or casting his eyes upon other feminine waters. As always, she was able to reassure her client that all was well. She had not met him in person but had handled some of his items, brought by his wife. Through psychometry, she was able to determine that he was a rather mild man who loved his wife deeply, despite her fears otherwise.

At four o’clock, with still no sign from Beth, she set off to Sixth Street to visit Help Save Tomorrow, where Laurie worked for her friend Daniel Henry. Daniel was an ex-convict dedicated to helping the poor and homeless that surrounded him. The neighborhood was poor and somewhat dangerous. Madame Karitska had lived in worse in the past and walked without fear but with caution. Bravery does not mean foolishness.

Upon arrival at Help Save Tomorrow she walked in to find Daniel and Laurie sorting food into grocery bags. Thinking of how she had been able to afford her own groceries just the day before, she understood. They tried to hand out bags of groceries every week, when possible, thanks to donations from nearby churches and restaurants in the city.

Her friend Daniel greeted her warmly. “The nearby chain bakery and sandwich place just promised to send over all their leftover bread every morning,” Daniel said cheerfully. “We may be able to hand out bread every day now.”

“That is wonderful news, my friend,” said Madame Karitska. “I wonder, could I borrow Laurie for a while?”

“Sure,” replied Daniel. “She’s due for a break anyway. Just please make sure to bring her back by seven o’clock, that’s when we hand out the groceries and it can get hectic.” Madame Karitska quickly agreed.

“What did Beth tell you about her dinner with her alleged father?” Laurie asked excitedly, as she rushed over.

“But that is why I came,” Madame Karitska said. “Beth never showed today. I am worried, do you know where she lives?”

“Of course,” Laurie replied. “Let me grab my bag and we’ll head over.”

The walk was not far, but both were quiet with their own thoughts until they arrived.

“I have a spare key,” Laurie said as they entered the apartment building. “Beth gave me one when her mother was ill, so that I could water her plants.”

They entered the studio apartment to find a disaster. A couch had cushions shredded, chairs were broken, books thrown onto the floor, clothing and food scattered everywhere.

“Oh my God!” cried Laurie. “Beth? Are you ok?”

Madame Karitska grabbed Laurie’s arm and pulled her back to the entrance of the apartment. “We should not go in until we have contacted the police. I will go find a phone and call Lieutenant Pruden.”

But Laurie had a cell phone. After helping Madame Karitska dial her detective friend, they waited in the hallway for his arrival. “Lieutenant Pruden was quite clear - it was not safe to enter until he or another officer arrived.”

“But what if Beth is in there and hurt?” Laurie said, visibly frustrated.

“I do not think that is likely. We could see the whole apartment from the entrance and there was no sign of her.” Madame Karitska understood Laurie’s impatience. “They will be here soon, and we will find the truth then.”

It was no more than 5 minutes until Lieutenant Pruden arrived with other officers and, surprisingly, the elderly gentleman from Faber-Jones’ party the other day. “Madame Karitska, you remember Simon Brimmer, don’t you? He was visiting the station and insisted upon coming along.”

“Of course, how do you do, Mr Brimmer?” she inquired politely.

“There’s definitely nobody here, Lieutenant,” called out one of the officers inspecting the damage.

After speaking with the other officers for a few minutes, Lieutenant Pruden told the others it was safe to come in. “Just don’t touch anything,” he cautioned.

“Beth’s jewelry box is missing! “ cried Laurie. “I don’t understand. The items in there were only worth about a hundred dollars. Most of it was costume jewelry.”

“Miss Faber-Jones,” said Mr Brimmer. “Do you know what hung on that wall?” He was pointing to a place where a nail stood and a rectangle of paint near it was slightly darker.

“An old painting,” replied Laurie. “Beth said it had been her mother’s favorite. She kept it to have something to remember her.”

“Was it worth any money?” asked Brimmer.

Laurie laughed. “Beth said her mother found it at a yard sale. It was a pretty picture of a stream going through a meadow, that’s all.”

“There you have it,” announced Brimmer. “Clearly this was the work of some hooligan who was looking for money for some nefarious purpose. Likely drugs.” He looked smug.

“Then where is Beth?” asked Madame Karitska, gently.

“Lieutenant Pruden, is it safe for Madame Kartiska to touch something yet?” asked Laurie.

Pruden checked with his colleagues and then told them that anything on the west side of the apartment was safe.

Madame Karitska opened a cabinet in the little kitchenette and removed an obviously well-worn, used coffee mug. She held it quietly for a moment.

“I sense fear, but little more. It is hard to tell...” she trailed off.

“Lieutenant Pruden!” Brimmer said loudly. “Are you going to tell me your police force encourages the use of so-called psychic means?”

“Why, yes, Mr Brimmer, it does,” Pruden answered calmly. “Madame Karitska is not just a friend - she has been instrumental in some of our most important cases.”

Brimmer audibly snorted, and said, “In my day we never would have resorted to such clear nonsense.”

Madame Karitska said nothing but was privately amused. Clearly this Simon Brimmer had no idea of the talents of his record producer friend, nor others who had been at the party on Sunday.

“Mr. Brimmer,” Pruden said. “In my day, we take all the help we can get.” He turned to Laurie. “We’ll put out an alert for her and I’ll notify Missing Persons myself. We’ll do everything we can to find her.”

“Thank you, Lieutenant.”

“Lieutenant Pruden, were you able to find any information about this Henry Billings?” asked Madame Karitska.

“I’d almost forgotten,” he responded. “No, there was no information at all. It was kind of strange. There was absolutely nothing, not even a parking ticket. Like he was some kind of ghost.”

“Hmmm,” was Madame Karitska’s only reply.

When the police were done with the apartment, Madame Karitska tried touching a few more items of Beth’s, to no avail. The young woman had disappeared and no one was sure where - or why.