I didn't feel the need to tell Scarborough, but I had to get back and check in on Blue-eyed Mary, sweet Mary. Friday was fast approaching and I was hoping that she was feeling better.
Usually in the morning, once the breakfast crowd has cleared, Shirley's Diner is usually a pretty quiet place. Now and then, the working stiffs on the utility crews will take a coffee break. Once in awhile, one of the beggars will gather enough nickels to nurse a cup of soup for an hour or two. But it is usually rather slow at ten in the morning.
This morning it was dead slow. When I walked in it was just Shirley in the kitchen doing some dishes and her mama wiping down the counter, but no sweet Mary. "Hey, how's my beautiful Shirley doing this morning?"
"Ready and waiting for Prince Charming, MacKenzie. you haven't seen him, have ya?"
"Where's Mary? She didn't call in sick again today?"
Shirley motioned for me to come closer to the window. "MacKenzie. No, she didn't. No call, no nothing. And I hate to say it, but I'm getting a bit worried about her. She's never done this before. Do you think you could swing by her place and check on her?"
I nodded. Shirley snatched a napkin from the aluminum napkin dispenser that sat at the corner of the pass-thru, pulled the pencil from behind her ear and wrote down the address. "I've just got a feeling that something not good has gone down."
The fact Shirley, this tough-as-nails broad, was worried, got me to worrying as well. "I'll call as soon as I find out what's happening."
Hanover Street, 210. That address brought me to a rather old, but well-kept rooming house with a white picket fence enclosing a tiny front yard, probably no more than six feet deep. The white wooden sign that hung between two posts read, "MRS. HILL'S ROOM & BOARD, est. 1888."
The black front door required a push of a security buzzer to gain entrance. I pushed the button and a kindly voice came through the little, white plastic box that hung next to the door. "Yes, can I help you?"
"I'm here to see Mary ...," I said with the sudden realization that I didn't know Mary's last name.
Luckily, it didn't seem to matter. The voice answered, "Miss Hill will see you. Please wait."
I heard the sound of lady's footsteps coming down a wood floor. I then could sense a gaze peering through the peephole. I assumed I was being sized up by the cautious and protective Miss Hill, so I made the decision to show my badge. That caused the sliding of the door bolt to happen and the appearance of the aforementioned Miss Hill, the great-grand-daughter of the original Mrs. Hill, I was to later learn.
This wisp of a lady in a flower-print jersey dress said in a well-mannered way, "And who is this who has come calling?"
"Ma'am, I'm Lieutenant MacKenzie of the Boston Police Department."
She surprised me with her next words. "I thought the police might be by this morning."
"Really, ma'am. Why is that?"
"She never came home from work a couple of nights ago and no one remembers her taking her suitcase. Yesterday, we assumed she was with a gentleman friend, but it seemed a bit strange to not come home and get a fresh uniform."
This didn't sound good. "Miss Hill, I think we best check her room.'
She agreed. Second floor, first room on the right.