Chris finished her fourth Zoom session teaching sign language. She thought to herself “Gah, my eyes are hurting, I need a break”. She decided to head to the local park to unwind and relax. Putting on her coat and cloth mask and grabbing her white cane, she headed out her apartment’s door.
She tapped her way down the hall, rode down the elevator, and out to the street. She walked the familiar path down to the local park and found her favorite bench by the pond. Through her blurry vision she watched the figures of ducks splashing on the water. Then, a stranger sat next to her, she began to feel uneasy.
Todd Fielding walked anxiously along the park’s path, he hoped this meetup would solve all his problems. He spotted a woman on the bench mentioned in the letter he received that morning and made a beeline for it. He quickly sat down next to the masked woman who paid him no mind, watching the ducks.
“You the woman I was supposed to meet at 1?” he whispered, flashing her a quick look. The woman looked at him and give a quick nod.
“How will you fix my problems?” he asked her, looking over and seeing her shrug her shoulders, then darted his eyes away again,
“Yeah, its best I not know. Okay, here’s the envelope I was told to deliver to you,” sliding over a medium-sized manila envelope, he got up and hastily walked away.
Chris felt the bench creak as someone sat next to her, she tensed up, she does not like people near her since she was Deaf and nearly blind, and the pandemic mess didn’t help matters either.
She looked over and nodded her head in a polite greeting. She can see his mask moving as he’s speaking, but of course she can’t hear him. The stranger glanced over again, and she shrugged her shoulders, but the man looked away before she could put her hand over her ear to indicate she can’t hear him. “Damn, he’s quick”, she thought to herself. The stranger got up and walked away. “Well, that was fast, I hope I didn’t offend him or anything”, she wondered.
She glanced down and saw an envelope left on the bench. She grabbed it, jumped up and started waving frantically at the retreating stranger hoping he’d look back and see her. Her efforts failed as the profile of the stranger got blurrier and blurrier the further away he walked. “Crap.” she muttered quietly in her nasally “Deaf” accent as she sat back down. She held the envelope close to her face to explore it, looking for a name or address. “Nothing, it’s blank! What’s going on here?” she thought. She unfolded her cane and made her way home.
Back inside her apartment, Chris paced her familiar surroundings trying to comprehend what just happened and what to do next. She picked up the envelope from the kitchen table where she had tossed it. Running her fingers over the large brown packet she could feel what seemed to be some sort of thin, hardcover book. She throws her arms up in defeat, “Now I’m curious!” she signed to herself. She sticks the envelope into a Ziploc bag, seals it, and puts it in the freezer. “That’ll loosen the glue” she said to herself.
An hour later, she pulled out the cold bag, took out the envelope and grabbed a knife from her silverware drawer. Chris ran the knife quickly under the envelope’s flap and it unsealed easily and without damage. She slid the book out of the envelope onto her kitchen table, and stared at it closely, it was a small, plain black notebook, a smaller version of her own Moleskine journal. “Nope, no writing on the cover”.
Picking up the book she opens it up to the first page. There on the page were rows and rows of written names and addresses – all had a line drawn through them with a dark pen. She turned page after page, but each page contained the same thing, until she reached near the middle of the book and the last page of writing. There on the scribbled page were six names and addresses without a line through them. Chris flipped through the rest of the pages which were blank, and on the back page was written “MailHut 21st St. #1310” and underneath was a small key taped to the page with scotch tape.
Chris picked up her cellphone and searched for the nearest police station. “I’m not getting involved in this mess”, she declared. When she found the station’s address, she compared it with the bus routes and discovered that the next bus arrives in twenty minutes.
Forty-five minutes later she tapped her way inside the police station and waited for her bad eyes to acclimate to the darker space. She scanned the blurry room and made out a man in a dark blue outfit behind a desk with people in a line in front of it. “That’s probably where I need to go” she guessed. While she waited in line she pulled out her boogie board and wrote “I need to speak to a detective please”. When it was finally her turn, she approached the desk, tapped her ear with her index finger to signal she can’t hear and passed the desk clerk her message. The desk clerk read the message, set the boogie board aside, and leaned over to talk to the person behind Chris and waved them forward. Chris glared at the clerk, picked up her board, erased the message, and furiously wrote “ARE YOU DELIBERATELY IGNORING ME?” She slammed her flat hand down loudly on the desk and held up the board close to the desk clerk’s face.
Detective Eli Pettigrew was at this desk in the middle of the busy office, poring over his file of the latest unsolved murder. He was suddenly jarred by a loud slam from the front desk. He looked up to see a woman with long brown hair, wearing glasses and a mask, holding what looked like a mini-tablet up to Desk Sergeant Tolliver’s face. Tolliver began to scold her “Look lady”, he began. The woman held up her hand to stop him and then pointed her ear while shaking her head. Eli recognized this movement to mean that the woman cannot hear, recalling meeting a deaf boy way back in his youth attending Boy Scout camp.
“I’ve got this Charlie”, he calls out to the Desk Sergeant. He got up from his desk and approached the front desk and touched the woman on the shoulder. She looks over at him and again signals she can’t hear. Eli made a writing motion on his palm to indicate he wanted to write to her. She passed him her boogie board and clicked a button to clear the screen. Eli wrote “I can help you”. Moments later Chris and Eli were seated across from each other at his desk. Eli passed her a yellow lined notepad and a pen.
Chris wrote “My name is Christine King, call me Chris. I had a strange meeting this morning”. She wrote down her recollection of the whole morning, passed the notepad back to Eli, then proceeded to get the envelope out of her purse while he read. Eli looked up from the notepad intrigued by the story and held out his hand to receive the envelope as she passed it forward.
Scanning the pages of the little black notebook Eli flipped to the last written page and his eyes were drawn to the last name scratched out. “Is that the same name”, he wondered. He excitedly opened up his file and sure enough, it was the same name and address. He opened another file in the pile and matched it to another canceled name. He managed to match six names in his pile of files, “John”, he excitedly shouted, “those missing people cases, bring them here!” Detective Juanito “John” Sastre brought over a large handful of files and the two men compared names and addresses from the files to the book and discovered eight more names. “This is huge”, Detective John declared, “this is the evidence we’ve been searching for.”
Detective Eli wrote on his notepad and passed it to Chris. “Thank you, we’ve been trying to solve a number of unsolved crimes”, the note continued, “we need to get you to stay a while to be safe. I’ll lead you to a private room and get you anything you need.” Chris read the note and wrote back “Okay, but I’ll need an ASL interpreter for any further interactions please”. Chris rummaged through her purse and pulled out a business card and passed it to Eli. It was the name of an interpreting agency, Eli nodded and motioned for Chris to follow him to a private room.
Chris sat at the table in the room and surfed her cellphone in boredom. It’s been almost two hours since the Detective brought her a coffee and sandwich. She felt a swift breeze across her face and looked up to see the door swinging open with Detective Eli, John, and a woman in dark clothing entered. The woman introduced herself in ASL as Rebecca, “I’m your interpreter” she finished. The two detectives explained briefly about their cases and thanked Chris again for bringing the book. The key in the book led to a postal box with a large sum of cash and a list of contact names that they’ve been trying to implicate for a long time. Eli summed up by telling her “we need your help to catch the man who gave you this book. We need you to take this book and envelope back to the bench and wait for him again. We will have a crew of undercovers to monitor the park”. Detective Sastre pitched in, “There’s a reward as well.” Chris sat back in her chair and contemplated things.
The next morning Chris is back on her park bench watching the ducks, trying to act nonchalant, but inside her heart and mind were racing with excitement. She scoured the blurry landscape for the familiar outline of the stranger she met yesterday. On her third scan she thought she spotted him. The large figure in a dark green jacket got clearer as it lumbered closer, “Yes I’m sure it’s him”.
Chris stood up and held up the envelope which contained a new blank notebook as a decoy. Todd nodded as he approached her. Chris held her hand to her ear and shook her head, she pulled out a note from her front jacket pocket and held it up to him, “You left so quickly, I tried waving you down, I’m sorry”. Todd glanced at the note and realized this woman couldn’t hear anything he said, and her folded white cane indicated she couldn’t see well either and decided she had no idea what was going on. He took the envelope, nodded, and gave a thumbs up. He quickly turned around and started his retreat. As Todd approached the park entrance he was suddenly surrounded by men, one introduced himself as Detective Pettigrew, “You’re under arrest for attempting murder for hire”. Todd was spun around and handcuffed, he looked across the park to see another man with that woman.
Detective Sastre passed Chris a white envelope, stepped back a bit and pulled down his mask and said “here’s that reward”. Chris took the envelope containing a $20,000 check and tucked it in her jacket pocket. She unfurled her white cane, nodded at the detective and walked away in the opposite direction.
Todd watched this interaction and was infuriated, he was tricked, he started screaming expletives toward the woman. Detective Pettigrew tugged on his arm “Y’know you’re yelling at a deafblind woman?”