Sometimes, for no particular reason, I find myself mentally writing my own Charley Project entry for if I should disappear on that particular day. Tracking my movements and potential witnesses for the police to question, examining my personal life for clues.
Today, for example, a plumber came over in the morning. I was very tired when I let him in, having been up most of the night, and wanted to go back to sleep, but he wouldn’t let me. Insurance purposes, he said. He replaced our water heater and left. The plumber would not be a suspect in my disappearance, since I (and presumably he) was seen by others later that day, but he might be able to remember the shirt I was wearing. None of the other witnesses I can think of would have seen the logo on the front.
This afternoon, I spoke to my father on the phone and we had a normal conversation. After that I went to the bank and cashed a check. The teller would remember me but would produce a puzzling detail: I gave her the impression that I had traveled to Iceland on vacation recently, when in fact I haven’t been out of the country in over ten years. (What happened was the check was payment for a sweater from Iceland which I bought for a friend, as I told her when we were making small talk at the counter, and when I said it was from Iceland she assumed I’d been there and bought it. In fact I’d bought it over the internet, but I decided to let her keep thinking I’d been to Iceland rather than possibly embarrass her by correcting her.)
After the bank, credit card records will show I purchased gas at a gas station across the way. I went inside the station also, and the clerk might remember me (and the bank teller also) for my unusual dress: I was wearing a long, black woolen cloak that came down to my ankles. The cloak has slits for the arms so you can see my red shirt underneath, but it would have concealed the “Fricker’s” logo on the shirt. I might also be remembered for my somewhat odd purchase: four one-liter bottles of soda.
After that I went home again. The presence of my car in the driveway, my wallet and phone and other effects in the house, and the soda in the fridge would prove that. Also, the cops would find the cloak I’d been wearing earlier. Let’s pretend I vanished at that point, leaving my car and all my stuff behind and no signs of a struggle.
My disappearance will not be noticed until at least 9:00 or 9:30 p.m., when Michael comes home and finds the house deserted. That’s roughly a five-hour time window. He would try to call my cell only to discover it was still at the house. He would check with our across-the-street neighbor, whom I sometimes visit, and she would have told him she hadn’t seen me all day. Since I never leave without my car except to visit that neighbor or get the mail, Michael will become seriously concerned at this point and start calling people to see if they’d heard from me or seen me. Once he gets negative responses, he will probably call the cops.
Let us pretend that the police begin investigating my disappearance from the outset, rather than filing away the report and telling Michael to get back to them if I don’t come home within a few days. Given my bipolar disorder, the police might presume I’ve gone off my meds and wandered away and/or offed myself. But a check with my doctor and with Michael would have indicated I was taking the medication as far as they knew. I was behaving normally just hours before I disappeared, and while I can decompensate rapidly, I don’t do so THAT rapidly. As days and possibly a few weeks pass with no sign of me or my body, I would hope the police would discard this theory as it defies common sense.
The idea that I left on my own also defies common sense, given that I’ve never done so before and have left absolutely everything behind, most notably my car. The police can easily check with everyone I know in town and verify that none of them have given me a ride. The idea of a secret person, perhaps a secret boyfriend unknown to anyone, would have to be discussed. There is no evidence to support that theory, but stranger things have happened.
Once foul play became a serious consideration, Michael would become the natural suspect in my disappearance. They always blame the boyfriend. Going against this theory is our good relationship with a lack of domestic violence of any kind, the fact that Michael would most certainly cooperate fully with the police and take a polygraph, and most importantly, the fact that he was at work all day until around 8:30 p.m.
Having absolutely nothing to go on, and me being an adult and all, the police might just throw up their hands at this point, though I think Michael and my family would have something to say about that. The best bet is that something bad happened to me, possibly at the hands of a stranger, possibly at the hands of someone who knew me. A big clue would be whether or not the door was locked when Michael came home. A locked door does not, of course, mean 100% that I left the house voluntarily, but it would be an indication.
As for distinguishing characteristics, I’ve got pretty distinctive teeth — I’ve had two removed in the back — a prominent scar on my left forearm, and a mole on my right knee. That’s about it. The most recent good photographs would be from Michael’s family’s church portrait this past summer.
I think my Charley Project casefile would end with something like: “It’s uncharacteristic of Good to leave without warning, and her loved ones don’t believe she left of her own accord. Although there is no hard evidence of foul play in her case, the lack of contact since her disappearance leads police to believe she met came to harm.”