"Jesus H. Christ," my father said, rattling his paper in the living room.
Grandma Mazur came to live with my parents several years ago when my Grandpa Mazur went to the big poker game in the sky. My mother accepts this as a daughter's obligation. My father has taken to reading Guns & Ammo.
"So what's up?" I asked. "Why did you page me?"
"We need a detective," Grandma said.
My mother rolled her eyes and ushered me in to the kitchen. "Have a cookie," she said, setting the cookie jar on the small Formica-topped kitchen table. "Can I get you a glass of milk? Some lunch?"
I lifted the lid on the cookie jar and looked inside. Chocolate chip. My favorite.
"Tell her," Grandma said to my mother, giving her a poke in the side. "Wait until you hear this," she said to me. "This is a good one."
I raised my eyebrows at my mother.
"We have a family problem," my mother said. "Your Uncle Fred is missing. He went out to the store and hasn't come home yet."
"When did he go out?"
I paused with a cookie halfway to my mouth. "It's Monday!"
"Isn't this a pip?" Grandma said. "I bet he was beamed up by aliens."
Uncle Fred is married to my Grandma Mazur's first cousin Mabel. If I had to guess his age I'd have to say somewhere between seventy and infinity. Once people start to stoop and wrinkle they all look alike to me. Uncle Fred was someone I saw at weddings and funerals and once in awhile at Giovichinni's Meat Market, ordering a quarter pound of olive loaf. Eddie Such, the butcher, would have the olive loaf on the scale and Uncle Fred would say, "You've got the olive loaf on a piece of waxed paper. How much does that piece of waxed paper weigh? You're not gonna charge me for that waxed paper, are you? I want some money off for the waxed paper.
I shoved the cookie into my mouth. "Have you filed a missing persons report with the police?"
"Mabel did that first thing," my mother said.
"And they haven't found him."
I went to the refrigerator and poured out a glass of milk for myself. "What about the car? Did they find the car?"
"The car was in the Grand Union parking lot. It was all locked up nice and neat."
"He was never right after that stroke he had in ninety-five," Grandma said. "I don't think his elevator went all the way to the top anymore, if you know what I mean. He could have just wandered off like one of those Alzheimer's people. Anybody think to check the cereal aisle in the supermarket? Maybe he's just standing there 'cause he can't make up his mind."
My father mumbled something from the living room about my grandmother's elevator, and my mother slid my father a dirty look through the kitchen wall.
I thought it was too weird. Uncle Fred was missing. This sort of thing just didn't happen in our family. "Did anybody go out to look for him?"
"Ronald and Walter. They covered all the neighborhoods around the Grand Union, but nobody's seen him."
Ronald and Walter were Fred's sons. And probably they'd enlisted their kids to help, too.
"We figure you're just the person to take a crack at this," grandma said, "on account of that's what you do ...you find people."
"I find criminals."
Reprinted from HIGH FIVE by Janet Evanovich, a St Martin's Press publication, by permission of St Martin's Press. © 1999 by Janet Evanovich.
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