Confessions of a She-Geek

June 12, 2016

Anchor Point, part 4

Filed under: Anchor Point — Teresa @ 6:58 pm

It didn’t take long for Libby to start second-guessing her decision to omit some of the details during the interview. The more she thought about it, the more foolish she felt about indulging some vague sense of unease – especially since Annie’s (Anita’s?) disappearance could indicate a serious medical emergency.

The difference between life and death; wasn’t that how Delgado put it? What if one of the things Libby withheld provided to key to finding Annie-Anita? And how would Libby feel, if the police managed to track Annie-Anita down without the additional details, but too late to save her life? Did Libby want to deal with that kind of guilt, knowing that she might have been able to prevent someone’s death, but decided against it because something seemed a little off?

Over the next couple hours, Libby brooded when she wasn’t fielding phone calls from people reporting various computer-related technical issues. Fortunately all the calls were for easily-solved things that happened on a regular basis; this was a very good thing, given Libby’s level of distraction. Auto-pilot was a beautiful thing.

Lost in her thoughts, Libby was finally startled out of her reverie when a koosh ball hit her left ear. Libby’s startled gaze flitted around and finally landed on Tonya’s mildly-irritated/vaguely-concerned  face, peering at her from around the low divider that separated their desks. Tonya waved the koosh ball slingshot in Libby’s general direction.

“Girl, what is up with you today? It’s like you’re on Venus or something.”

Libby looked at her gravely. “I think I might have made a mistake earlier.”

“Earlier? You mean when you talked Detective tall, dark, and grumpy?” Tonya scooted her chair closer to Libby’s and lowered her voice to a murmur. “What – you think you said something wrong?”

“Um, maybe?”

“Something wrong like, ‘Oops, I used the wrong dinner fork’ kinda embarrassing social faux-pas, or something wrong like, “I picked out the wrong dude from a lineup’ life and death stuff?” Tonya raised an eyebrow. “‘Cause I love you, but you are the reigning queen of making something out of nothing. Remember when you cut Tina off in that meeting, and spent the rest of the day convincing yourself she was mad at you? And when you went to apologize, she had no idea what you were talking about.”

“Yeah, but I’m starting to think it’s more like ‘picking out the wrong dude from a lineup’ life and death stuff,” Libby admitted quietly. “And it seemed like the right thing to do at the time, but now I’m having second thoughts.”

Tonya regarded Libby for a few seconds. “Well, can you fix it? Instead of sitting here stewing about how you did wrong, can you at least try to make it right? If it’s as serious as you think?” Tonya’s phone rang. “Oops; duty calls.” She launched her chair back into position.

That was a perfectly reasonable question. Whatever weirdness gripped Libby’s over-active imagination during the interview had long-since dissipated. She couldn’t come up with a single rational reason to hold back the remaining details. At the very least, she could try to make it right. Libby started looking through the various items on her desk for Detective Delgado’s business card, frowning as the card failed to make itself known.

Muttering all the while, Libby turned her attention to her pockets, then the floor around her, then the trash can. No dice; the card was nowhere to be found. A brief web search led to the city’s web site, which in turn led to a list of contact numbers – including the non-emergency number for the Law Enforcement Center. Libby dialed the number.

“Law Enforcement Center; how may I direct your call?”

“Hi; I’m trying to reach Detective Delgado?”

“What is this concerning?”

“I may have some more information about that missing persons case. Detective Delgado left a business card, but I can’t find it,” Libby admitted sheepishly.

“Who shall I say is calling?”

Oh. Yes, Libby could see how that might be helpful information. “It’s Libby Edwards; we talked this morning. Well, not we like you and me; we, like Detective Delgado and me,” she clarified (likely unnecessarily).

Sounding vaguely amused, the operator replied, “Okay; I’ll see if the detective is available. Please wait.” There was a click, followed by tinny Muzak.

Grabbing a pen, Libby pulled a notepad closer, intending to jot down everything she remembered from Annie-Anita’s conversation. Before she could touch pen to paper, the hold music cut off abruptly.

“Ms. Edwards? I have Detective Delgado on the line.”

“Thank you,” Libby said (although given how quickly the operator removed himself from the conversation, it was doubtful he’d heard).

A woman’s voice said, “This is Detective Delgado. I understand you have some information for me?”

Libby hung up.




June 5, 2016

Anchor Point, part 3

Filed under: Anchor Point — Teresa @ 8:03 pm

Libby waited anxiously for the police to arrive, grateful that Bob had arranged for her co-workers to cover for the time being. Given how distracted Libby was, it was unlikely that she’d be of much use fielding technical problems until this interview was out of the way.

She was still surprised that she hadn’t been asked to come to the Law Enforcement Center to give her statement, but apparently whoever was conducting the investigation either didn’t want to wait or was already out of the office and found it more expedient for the interviewer to come to her.

Finally at half past ten, two suited men approached the reception desk. After exchanging a few quick words with them, Tina pointed at Libby. The men nodded, then made a beeline for Libby’s desk as Tina attempted to watch what was happening without giving the appearance of watching. In Libby’s opinion, Tina failed miserably in her efforts.

Rising nervously, Libby waited as the men closed the distance, coming to a stop by Libby’s desk.

“Libby Edwards?” The taller one spoke while his slightly-less-tall companion looked on.


“Ms. Edwards, thank you for agreeing to talk with us today. I’m Detective Delgado; this is Detective Chau. Is there somewhere private we can speak?” The detective managed to be simultaneously deferential and authoritative.

Libby gestured toward Bob’s office. “We can use my manager’s office.” She led the way, navigating between the rows of desks separated by low partitions.

As they entered Bob’s office, Libby wondered what the protocol was, seating-wise. Should she be behind the desk as the “host”? Or should one of the detectives sit there since they’d be running the interview?

Detective Delgado took the guesswork out of the way by perching on the edge of Bob’s desk while his partner and Libby sat in the chairs. at a look from Delgado, Detective Chau closed the door.

“Okay, Ms. Edwards. Why don’t you start at the beginning and walk us through what happened this morning?” Both detectives watched Libby intently, pens poised over their notepads.

As they did this, Libby became gradually aware of a faint sense of unease, reminiscent of how she’d felt when she’d encountered Annie/Anita this morning. “Well, I was getting ready for work this morning, and -”

Chau held up a hand. “Excuse me. About what time would you say this was, so we can establish a timeline?”

“Oh. Maybe 5:15?”

Chau nodded and scribbled something in his notebook. “Thanks. What happened next?”

“The doorbell rang.”

“Would it be safe to say this is not a common occurrence for you?”

Huh? What did that have to do with anything?

Something must have shown on her face, because Chau added, “If not, there’s an outside chance that someone else might have seen something; another possible lead.” He leaned toward Libby slightly, leaving Libby fighting the urge to lean away slightly in compensation.

That…  kind of made sense, Libby supposed. And it wasn’t like Libby had a lot of firsthand experience with police interviews anyway; what little she knew was gleaned from various TV shows and movies; it’s unlikely they were terribly accurate.

“I hardly ever get people dropping in without calling, and never that early.”

“So the doorbell rang, and what then?” Delgado prompted.

“I opened the door and saw her standing there.”

“‘Her’ being Anita Wilkes?”

“Yes. Only she called herself Annie Wilcox. She asked if she could borrow my phone.”

Chau and Delgado locked eyes for a split second. “You’re sure about that? Annie Wilcox?”

“Yes. She said her boyfriend was gone when she woke up, and that she needed to make a call.”

“Did she say who she was calling?”

“No; she gave me the number, and I dialed it in, then handed her the phone.”

“You dialed the number?”

“Yes; I dialed and when someone picked up, I told him I was calling on behalf of Annie Wilcox, who wanted to talk to him.”

“What did he sound like?” At Libby’s confused look, Chau continued, “Did he have a discernible accent? Vocal tics? Was his voice high or low? Old or young?”

Libby thought. “Nothing jumped out at me as unusual. Which I guess means he sounded like he was from around here. He sounded like an adult? Not old, and definitely not like a kid.” She paused briefly. “He slurred a bit, but I’m guessing that might be because he just woke up.”

“That’s a definite possibility.” Chau agreed, smiling briefly at Libby. “Do you think you’d be able to recognize his voice if you heard it again?”

“I doubt it. I talk to a lot of people on the phone during the course of the day. Most voices just don’t make that much of an impression.” She looked apologetically between the detectives.

Without looking up from his note-taking, Delgado asked, “Did you hear anything she was saying during this conversation, once you handed Ms. Wilkes the phone?”

In addition to coping with an increasingly-insistent case of the willies, Libby now had that little voice to contend with. Careful. Here be dragons.

Without really understanding why, Libby found herself saying, “Not really; sorry.” At seeing the beginnings of twin scowls, she hastily added, “I wanted to give her some privacy, so I left the storm door closed. She walked a few feet away and was talking pretty quietly.”

That seemed to allay their concerns.

“Okay; let’s go back to Ms. Wilcox, then. What was her demeanor?”

“She seemed pretty upset. Scared, you know?”

Delgado nodded. “Did she seem to be injured in some way, or in pain?”

“Not really. She seemed fine, physically; just upset.”

“So once the phone call was done, what happened next?”

“She gave the phone back to me, then she just left. I asked if -” Libby’s brain caught up with her mouth. I should call the police. And she’d said no. That sense of wrongness surged.

“You asked if?” Chau prompted.

“If there was anything else I could do. And she said no,” Libby finished lamely. It was sort-of true, she told herself.

Finishing his writing, Delgado closed his notebook and tucked it into a pocket. “Okay; I think we have all we need for now.” Standing, he extracted a business card from another pocked and extended it to her. “This is my direct number. If you think of anything else, no matter how small, please don’t hesitate to call me. It could be the difference between life and death.”

Libby took the card reflexively as Chau got to his feet. “That’s it?”

“For now at least. If we have additional questions, we’ll be in touch.” Delgado extended his hand. “Thank you.”

Libby shook his hand, then Chau’s. With a nod, Chau and Delgado left, taking the oppressive sense of wrongness with them as Libby let out a sigh of relief.


Anchor Point, part 2

Filed under: Anchor Point — Teresa @ 5:54 pm

Dawn was just barely breaking when Libby pulled into the employee parking lot. Despite the odd interruption to her morning routine, Libby still somehow managed to arrive well before her shift began. Maybe that whole phone call business was just a tiny glitch in an otherwise perfectly fine day.

Grabbing her backpack from the back seat, Libby clambered out of her beat-up Beetle, made sure all the doors were locked (although that last part may not have been strictly necessary, since it was a fairly unlikely target for car thieves), and headed for the main entrance.

She’d nearly reached her desk when the overhead lights flicked on, and a cheery voice called out, “Good morning, Libby! How was your weekend?”

Libby turned to see Tina bustling about, getting the IT reception area ready to go. Tina was a morning person; Libby was not, which made the daily ritual of morning greetings rather perfunctory on Libby’s part.

“It was fine; yours?” Reaching for her coffee cup, Libby hefted it in Tina’s direction. “Be right back; need coffee.”

“Sounds good! I’ll join you!” Mug in hand, Tina scooted around the edge of the reception desk. “I had a lovely weekend! My son stopped by to help me with some repairs, and we wound up grilling out. It’s so nice to have him nearby again.”

Libby blinked. “You grilled out? It’s April. There’s still slush on the ground.”

Tina waved a hand dismissively. “The temperature was above 40; that’s plenty warm. Plus, we had to make sure the grill was working, right?” She winked, then headed for the break room, Libby in her wake. It was way too early to be so perky unassisted.

As the coffee brewed, Tina chattered away while Libby made various encouraging sounds and tried to keep her yawns to a minimum. Five minutes later, they were seated at their respective desks, preparing for another fun-filled day of fielding various complaints and clearing up assorted misconceptions from people who believed that their computers should be working in a way that computers actually didn’t.

Libby logged onto her workstation, noting that she still had a good twenty minutes before her shift began. Time enough to check out the news, then. Taking a sip of coffee, Libby nearly choked when she saw the photograph of her early-morning visitor prominently featured above the headline Local woman missing; police seek tips.

Clicking on the headline led to a video clip of a press conference, which was apparently held the previous day.

A grave-faced man stood at the podium, backed by several equally-serious men and women, some uniformed and some not. “Good morning, and thank you for coming. Yesterday this woman,” He indicated the large photo on the easel to his right, “Anita Wilkes, was reported missing when she failed to show up for work for the second day in a row. Ms. Wilkes is twenty-eight years old, approximately five feet, five inches, and one hundred twenty pounds, with brown hair and eyes. She is also diabetic, which makes it crucial that she is found as soon as possible. She was last seen leaving work on Thursday afternoon, wearing her waitress uniform. If anyone has any information regarding the whereabouts of this woman, we’re asking you to please contact the local police. Thank you.”

The man stepped away from the podium and walked off, ignoring the reporters’ questions. When a few enterprising journalists made as if to follow, they were intercepted by uniformed officers, who gently but firmly turned them away just before the video cut off.

Clicking the back button, Libby scanned the site for any additional information. Little additional detail was forthcoming. Anita (Annie?) Wilkes (Wilcox?) was a graduate student, working her way through school by waiting tables at a local restaurant. Apparently sometime between finishing her shift on Thursday evening and starting her shift on Friday afternoon, she’d gone missing.

So if she was missing, what was the explanation for showing up at Libby’s door not two hours ago? Libby frowned to herself.

“You okay, Libs? You look spooked.”

“Bob!” Libby startled, cursing under her breath as hot coffee sloshed onto her desk. Preoccupied with her thoughts, she hadn’t seen her boss approach.

“Woah, there. Sorry about that.” Bob clucked sympathetically from where he leaned against her desk, then reached behind him and snagged a box of tissues. “I guess you were so caught up you didn’t hear me coming.” He held out the box for Libby. “Happy Monday, eh?”

Libby looked mournfully at the now-sopping tissues.  “No; it’s fine. Alertness is overrated anyway.” She dropped them into her waste basket with a wet plop.

“Not sure you actually need any help being alert.” He chuckled as Libby acknowledged the point. “Something wrong?”

Libby gestured toward her monitor. “That woman who’s missing? I saw her.”

“Seriously?” Bob straightened. “You mean recently?”

“This morning. She rang my doorbell as I was getting ready for work. Wanted to borrow my phone.” She ended the last sentence on an upnote, turning it into more of a question than a statement.

Bob’s gaze sharpened. “Libs, you gotta report this.”

Libby nodded in agreement. “Yeah.” Something occurred to her. “Was there something you needed?”

“Nothing that can’t wait until after you deal with this. Stop by my office and we can talk then.” Bob patted Libby’s shoulder encouragingly. “Quite a way to start the week, huh?”

“Yeah; quite a way.” Libby smiled ruefully at her boss.

Bob headed back to his office as Libby reached for the phone.


May 31, 2016

Anchor Point, part 1

Filed under: Anchor Point — Teresa @ 12:53 am

I need a sign to let me know you’re here
‘Cause my TV set just keeps it all from being clear
I want a reason for the way things have to be
I need a hand to help build up some kind of hope inside of me
And I’m calling all angels
I’m calling all you angels


When the doorbell rings at 5:15 AM, it’s not likely good news – which is why Libby hesitated, pausing in her attempts to coax her eyebrows into something approaching on fleek.

(Not that Libby had a very clear idea of what constituted fleekness, really, but Tonya assured her that the potential for achieving that level of idealized grooming was technically within Libby’s grasp. “C’mon, Libs, the raw material is there; you just gotta put in a little effort,” is how Tonya’d put it, gesturing vaguely to her own perfectly-shaped brows. “This doesn’t just happen.”)

Putting down her eyebrow pencil, Libby made her way to the front door, flipped on the porch light, then looked out her kitchen window at the girl huddled miserably on the front step. In deference to the late-April predawn, Libby’s visitor wore a knitted beanie on her head and had apparently donned a down-filled vest over what looked like thermal underwear (pajamas?). The ensemble was completed by unlaced winter boots – which, given the amount of slush that had yet to thaw, made sense.

As if sensing that she was being observed, the girl’s head swiveled and her woebegone gaze met Libby’s. The girl’s lips twitched briefly into what looked like an attempt at a smile as she shivered under the yellow glare of the porch light.

As harmless as the girl looked, something about the situation seemed… off. Libby opened the front door, keeping the storm door between herself and the girl. She had no idea why, but a little voice in the back of Libby’s head urged Libby to exercise caution.

“I’m sorry for bothering you so early, but I was wondering if I could borrow your phone?” The girl paused briefly, then blurted, “My phone’s broke, and when I woke up my boyfriend was gone, and I don’t know where he is, and I need to call someone.” She peered up at Libby hopefully.

Was this a scam of some kind? An attempt to gain entry into Libby’s house? The girl looked harmless enough, but then again, wasn’t that how con artists and criminals lured in their intended prey?

Surprised by her own cynicism, Libby  carried out a brief, silent argument with herself. This could just as easily be exactly what it looked like: the girl needed help, and Libby’s light was on, so the girl took a chance that Libby was awake. Surely it couldn’t hurt to offer some assistance.

Be careful, the little voice insisted. Protect yourself.

Libby grabbed her phone and returned to stand in her doorway, keeping the storm door closed. “I can make the call, if you give me the number.”

“Oh, thank you so much! I just gotta look up the number.” The girl reached into a vest pocket and pulled out a battered cell phone. Seeing Libby’s raised eyebrows, the girl turned the phone so Libby could see the shattered screen. “It doesn’t work for making calls anymore,” she said, poking at the screen until she’d found the information. “Okay, here’s the number.”

Libby punched in the digits and hit the call button, waiting as the phone rang several times. She looked at the girl. “No one’s answering…”

Just as the girl’s face began to crumple, a sleepy voice answered, “H’lo?”

“Yes, hello. My name’s Libby; I’m calling on behalf of…” she paused, looking at her visitor.

“Annie.” The girl said, then added, “Wilcox.”

“Annie Wilcox? She needs to talk to you.”

“O-kay?” The man on the other end sounded understandably puzzled.

Opening the storm door, Libby handed the phone to Annie, then shut the storm door again. Apparently her inner voice approved of this tactic.

Annie paced nervously as she muttered into the phone. The tears that were just barely held at bay spilled down her cheeks. “No. No; he’s gone! I don’t know where! I don’t know what else to do…. can you come over? Please? Just… come over? Right away?” Annie listened briefly, then shut her eyes as if in thanks as some tension left her face. “Oh, thank you. Thank you so much! Yes. Yes, I will.”

Disconnecting the call, Annie held the phone out to Libby. “He’s coming over,” she said. “Everything’s gonna be fine.”

Opening the storm door, Libby took back her phone. “Do you need me to call the police?”

Annie paled. “No! No. That’s not necessary. I’m just a little freaked out, is all.” She gestured vaguely toward the phone in Libby’s hand. “Thanks so much for your help.”

Twisting her mouth into what Libby guessed was intended as a smile, Annie turned and scuttled off into the pre-dawn, leaving Libby with a disconcerting combination of relief and confusion.

Well, that’s one way to start your workday, she mused. Shaking her head, Libby switched off the porch light, licked her front door, and returned to her morning grooming.


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