I arrive at the meeting some six minutes later. The office where I work is small, but held in a large tower of companies, with huge glass windows and a neutral colour scheme. Resenting the idea of professionalism, my mother had painted our office with every colour of paint she could get her hands on, so it currently looks like the studio of an angry and confused artist. If she’d been allowed to paint the rest of the building, I’d fear for the occupants of the other floors.
The furnishing of the board room had a similar treatment. My father, who runs the accounts and the staffing of the company, had managed to talk my mother into chairs and a large table, but that was as far as he’d managed. I enter the room to find four men in expensive suits sitting on brightly coloured plastic chairs, that were made for schools, not offices. From appearances, I can see what my mother meant by important. I realise my lateness has let the company down.
“Excellent Sena, glad you’ve decided to join us,” my mother proclaims and I take a seat near the door.
“Great,” one of the suits says. “Now, you understand the privacy of this investigation we require?”. My mother nods and babbles some stuff about a privacy clause and I zone out briefly before paying attention to the suits’ reply. “We will require that yes. This matter is of a sensitive nature to the public interest and we’d like to see it kept private.”
“What do you know of John Salem?” another suit enquires.
“We know who he is.” I reply. Everyone knows John Salem. John Salem invented the trees. Except, we don’t really know him. We know his name, but we don’t know his face, or anything other than he’s the man who made the trees, the man who saved us. Every January, the world celebrates John Salem day, celebrating his achievement and the existence of the after. The after is a miracle, not made by a God, but by science and the brilliance of man kind. The brilliance of men like John Salem.
“Of course,” the suit continues, mimicking my mothers previous answer. “Then you’ll understand the importance of what we’re going to tell you.”
I can see what they’re going to say coming. And I see why everything is so serious and important. Times like these make me wish we did have a purpose, rather than just investigating anything, because then we wouldn’t have to do jobs like these. Clearly John Salem is missing, presumed dead.
A few months ago, we had a similar case. The 14-year-old daughter of a billionaire, bought to our attention by her mother, had simply disappeared from her room at night. There was no kidnapper, and no ransom, but also no trace of her. We found her body in an abandoned warehouse eight days later.
I go to reply but my mother gives me a warning look and replies instead. “Continue, please.”
“John Salem lives a simple life, in a modest house, alone. His only contact with the outside world is with us, and recently he has been unobtainable. There is no evidence of him leaving his home, and our cameras and guards have not seen him leave, yet there is no evidence of him being there either. He’s simply vanished.” the second suit says dramatically. I sense the drama degree on his walls at home.
“Could you not just break in?” I enquire. My mother rolls her eyes and mouths business at me. I mouth back an apology.
“We have of course tried.” the third suit says, speaking for the first time.
The fourth suit stands, and I think he’s going to leave in disgust, but he instead places a briefcase on the table. He opens it with precision and then takes out two brown envelopes, one which he slides across the glass table to my mother and the other to me.
“We require you to find John Salem. Search his house for possible break ins, stake out the area. Find out where he is” the first suit speaks again.
My mother closes the deal and they leave. I still have questions, but I sense my mother is getting ready to shout at me for almost ruining an important deal. She does.