A reporter on the San Francisco Register’s local beat, Ann Sherwood has a sharp, analytical intellect and prides herself in being able to set aside bias and emotion when she is investigating cases.
Ann Sherwood had felt eyes looking at her for several minutes, but was taking the optimistic approach that if she ignored them long enough they would go away. They didn’t. She took a breath, arranged her face to be friendly but not particularly helpful, and looked up. The woman standing there looked to be in her thirties. She clutched a black purse.
“May I help you?” Ann asked, hoping the insincerity in her voice would frighten the woman away.
No such luck. The woman looked nervous, but determined.
“Ms. Sherwood? I understand you write about missing persons.” To support this statement the woman pulled out a clipping of an article Ann had written the week before concerning a missing woman.
“I cover a lot of local crime stories,” Ann responded, waving her arm in an arc to encompass an unimaginably vast array of local crime stories, of which missing persons cases was but the smallest of percentages.
“My husband’s missing.” She pulled up a chair, uninvited, and moved closer into Ann’s space, piercing her eyes with a look of desperation so intense Ann felt a cold wind blow over her heart.
“Talk to the police,” Ann said automatically, turning back to her computer as if the matter were already closed.
“They said he ran off,” the woman continued. “He didn’t.” She took a deep breath. “Listen, you know what they say, the wife always knows?”
Ann turned back. “Yeah?”
“Well, it’s true. My first husband, he cheated on me like nobody’s business. And he was sneaky about it, or tried to be. But I knew, I always knew, even when I told myself I didn’t. That’s why I’m so sure Earl wasn’t having an affair. I know that feeling so well, when you know something’s wrong but you pretend it isn’t.
“Ms. Sherwood, do you know what it’s like to be happy for the first time in your life?”