The rest of that Christmas Day should have been as dull as I’d hoped and expected but I found myself focused on work and the afternoon hours ticked evenly by. No one came looking for an apartment but I kept myself occupied with the telephone book researching funeral parlors in the area. Mrs. Mason’s words rang in my head like an accusation, propelling me to do my interfering best for Abigail now that I could no longer help with her life. Maybe I could have saved her life, if I’d been in the office to answer the telephone. Maybe if I’d transferred the phones to the service, they could have done something.
I also went into Abigail’s file and copied down the telephone number and address she’d listed as her last residence. Then I made a list of the possible ways I could pin down her movements since last year. After all, I had only Susan’s word that Abigail had left Kevin and their house on 5th Street last December. It’s possible Susan was wrong and that Abigail and her husband and separated and reconciled several times before she officially moved out. Despite Susan’s grief, which appeared genuine if schizophrenic, the two sisters still hadn’t spent much time together. Her desire to see Abigail’s few belongings packed up and given away struck me as slightly ruthless, but what experience did I have of sudden death? None at all.
Taking a fresh steno pad from the supply in Judith’s closet, I opened it to the first page and wrote: What do I want to know?
1. Where did Abigail spend the months between December of 1975 and the first weeks of October this year?
2. Was she living in Atlanta or up in Boston?
3. Where else did she fly?
4. Had she been living with someone? If so, was that why she needed to pay deposits on her gas, electric and telephone bills? My own initial deposit to New York Bell actually traveled with me to Atlanta, but I paid hefty deposits to Georgia Power and the Atlanta Gas Co. Representatives a both companies said it would be the only time I would have to pay them, however often I moved, as long as I remained a “good” customer. So either Abigail was just starting her own service or she’d been a late or non-paying customer earlier.
5. What about her finances?
6. Where were her accounts? Go back to the file and find the bank reference!
7. Did she have life insurance? (Why does that matter?)
8. A will?
9. An heir?
10. What was her history?
Kevin could tell me whose name their previous service had been in. Probably his, I thought, making a note. Bills usually did appear in the husband’s name. One of the reasons women are establishing their own credit and even keeping their own names when they marry is to have the ability to open accounts without the hassle of large deposits. If Abigail, who was only 26, had married in 1970 or so, chances are, when she divorced, she’d had no credit of her own. Even her charge cards were likely in Kevin’s name.
Aaron Rents would have some kind of credit history, or once I started clearing out Abigail’s townhouse, I might find the records myself. It would ghoulish of me, but I felt excited about being there, looking for her among the things she’d left behind. She was become a puzzle to be solved.
I made a quick call to Mr. Invalid thanking him for the poinsettia and telling him about Susan’s visit.
“You want Patterson’s, sweetheart,” he said. “They’re just down on Spring Street and Tenth. You know what they say…”
“If Patterson’s ain’t buried you, you ain’t dead!”