Finding Joanna Jones

The problem with being a perfectionist is that it is almost impossible to adapt to change. If asked to move to another town, she’d throw a tantrum, demanding her rightful claim to the apartment she’d rented for the past seven years.

It took her almost two years to acknowledge it as her “new home.”

Young Dr. Clements grunts her teeth in front of her new client, Mr. Jones, who specifically requests her to move with him to London in order to investigate the whereabouts of his missing wife.

“I don’t see any reason why I must come with you to London for a case. Don’t you bring any file?”

Mr. Jones looks at her almost sympathetically; perhaps a tiny part of him wishes to give up on his quest, especially when he has to deal with a difficult woman like this.

“No, Dr. Clements, unfortunately I have none. I must remind you that I will pay you well, and that everything on this trip to your long stay in London will be on me.”

Clements eyes the man from head to toe. His whole attire alone can afford her rent for the next few months. Considering how she has not had any case the past few weeks, she must take this one to pay the bills. She takes a deep breath and tells him to wait in the living room.

The funny thing about Dr. Clements is her tiny apartment with few furniture and many books lying around. A self claimed perfectionist, she is not the tidiest person around, and the convenience of her empty spaces amuses her guest. She enjoys living sufficiently without attachment, believing that someday she might have to leave abruptly like now.

The lady goes to her room and packs her clothes. Strange thing, she thinks to herself, how little clothes there are in her closet. It is a good thing that Mr. Jones will pay for her expenses in London, for she will be buying coats and trousers and more.

As it takes her exactly five minutes to pack up, Mr. Jones seems to have known that Dr. Clements does not have much to carry. She finds him ready to go, standing by the door with a happy smile on his face.

“Consider yourself lucky,” she notes, dragging a tiny suitcase to the door and sticking a sign on it: “On Vacation, Will be Back Soon.”

Mr. Jones offers to carry the suitcase for her, but she raises her hand to stop him. He just smiles and follows her out of the building quietly.

They get on a cab and tell the driver to take them to the train station. The dark sky notifies them that rain is coming, and Dr. Clements hugs herself protectively.

“Scared of thunder and lightning, doctor?” Mr. Jones asks softly.

She looks at him and nods, “Are you, too?”

He laughs, “No, but my wife is. She does the same thing you do now when the sky gets dark.”

As if suddenly reminded of her mission, Clements clears her throat and says, “Tell me more about this case, Mr. Jones. When did your wife go missing, what happened, and how’s she like?”

Joanna Jones is a 35-year-old lady who’d been married to Mr. Jones for ten years. She’s an avid reader, loves to stay in her room, and hates going out in social groups. Last month, she suddenly told her husband that she wanted to go to a bookstore that just opened in Manchester. She then left and never came back.

“Why did it take you a month to look for her? If she is someone who never leaves the house, shouldn’t you be worried 24 hours after her departure?”

Mr. Jones sighs. He then continues the story.

The problem with Joanna Jones is that she has a personality disorder. One of the reasons why Joanna always stays home is because when she goes out, she might lose control, and if confronted, Joanna can turn suicidal.

“However, she always calls me when she disappears, so I know that she is okay.”

Unfortunately, even though he allows his wife to live in such way, Mr. Jones thinks it’s time for her to come home, as it has been a month since she went missing.

“If I ask her where she is, she will think I am looking for her. It usually stresses her out, so I let it drop. Suicidal Joanna isn’t easy to handle.”

For the first time in the hour they have spent together, Clements feels sorry for Mr. Jones. The man must have been having hard time waiting for his wife to come home. Joanna must have her secrets too, Clements thinks, since there is no new bookstore in Manchester in the past seven years. She knows, of course, because when she first moved into the city, a big bookstore just recently opened a block away and crowded her street every day for weeks. Joanna must have lied to her husband to get away, and what the reason might be, Clements is curious.

“I will find your wife, Mr. Jones,” she reassures him.

“I’ve heard you’re the best private investigator around, Dr. Clements. I have confidence in your ability.”

Clements thinks of London and suddenly remembers that she must inform her brother that she left town for a while. Now to think about it, she isn’t so sure how long this case will take her.

She takes out her cellphone and dials his number. The moment the voice mailbox greets her, she goes, “Freddie, I’m off to solve a case in London. Don’t look for me at the apartment, okay? Just ask the landlord lady for the spare key if you need anything from my place. I’ll be back soon.”

Noticing that Mr. Jones is watching her, she explains, “I always call my brother every day. He lives out of town so he worries about me all the time. If I don’t call him and let him know I’m alive, he tends to be upset.”

She will ask Freddie later on why he didn’t answer her call, she says to herself.

“It’s very nice of you to call him everyday, doctor,” Mr. Jones says. “It must make him feel better about not being there for you.”

She realizes now that Mr. Jones must have wished that his wife called him routinely too. Such pity, she thinks, a month is a quite a long time.

Mr. Jones gestures to Clements that they have arrived at the train station. She puts her phone in her coat and gets out of the cab while Jones pays for the fees.

They buy the tickets to the earliest train for London, and wait at a café nearby.

While drinking her brewed coffee, she lets her mind wander. She looks at the man sitting with her again, and absorbs the details of his visuals. Mr. Jones is a fine looking man, Clements notices, and she wonders why his wife would go missing for so long. He seems to be a gentleman too, with lots of money in his bank account.

Perhaps, she thinks, there is more to the story than he tells her, and more to the case than what is presented to her. If Joanna is abused, she swears, she will file reports against Mr. Jones.

Meanwhile, Mr. Jones is quiet and just smiles whenever she glances his way. He must be happy now that he is accompanied by the finest private investigator in the country, she thinks.

During the train ride, Clements decides to read a book and stay awake. She hates falling asleep in public, especially since she is sitting with a stranger. Mr. Jones opens a book too, and reads slowly next to her.

What a peaceful ride, she thinks, and she lets go of her fear and starts drifting off to sleep.

Mr. Jones sees his companion fall asleep and takes her book off her hands. He carefully folds the corner of the page she was reading and closes the book, putting it in his bag. He wonders if Dr. Clements might think he’s invading her privacy by doing so, seeing what a private person she is. But that is something he has to deal with if she wakes up.

Few hours pass by quietly before train stops and he wakes her up.

“It’s London,” he gently shakes her by the shoulders and his companion opens her eyes, looking straight at him curiously.

“Of course it is London, where else would it be?” she asks him.

As she gets up, Mr. Jones takes her suitcase and she lets him, grabbing his arm to balance herself up. After they have walked few meters away from the train, she asks him,

“Where is the book I was reading? Did I leave it on the train?”

Mr. Jones takes out a book from his bag and hands it over to her.

“No, this isn’t the one I was reading.”

He looks at her face this time, takes the book away from her, and puts it back in his bag.

“Sorry, this was the one I was reading on the train, yours is here,” he smiles, grabbing the other book in his bag and handing it over to her.

She goes through each page and laughs, “I swear, I never mark the last page I read. I wish I remember the page number…”

“You read too many books, Joanna,” Mr. Jones responds, carefully guiding her further away from the train.

“I know, Freddie… but I want to get more. I heard there is a bookstore in Manchester with huge collection. I want to go there,” she says cheerfully.

Freddie Jones holds his wife’s hand and smiles sadly, “Not too soon, Joanna, not too soon. There are still many books at home to read.”

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