Faye leaned against the door frame, eyes closed, trying to collect herself. There was no reason to worry yet, because it was probably only something simple that they would laugh about years later. He’d disappeared before. Not for this long, but it was hardly unprecedented. In all likelihood, he was perfectly fine. Perhaps he was at the college already. Sometimes he went there early to catch up on grading.
Faye’s stomach turned and she swallowed, feeling dizzy. The boarding house was silent and the air outside was muffled from another layer of fresh snow. She could hear her heart pounding in her ears as her feet padded down the carpeted stairs.
She walked through the dark, empty parlor and down the hallway to Mrs. Finch’s rooms, then knocked on the door. She waited a few seconds then knocked again, listening for movement. She heard nothing so she started knocking and kept knocking until Mrs. Finch finally opened the door.
“What is the… matter with you?” Mrs. Finch wheezed. “Do you know what time –”
“I’m sorry to wake you, Mrs. Finch. Have you seen Silas since last night?”
“I haven’t seen… Mr. Lawrence since… yesterday at breakfast.”
“But he was at dinner!”
“I’ll grant you that… as it may be… but if you recall, I was not at dinner. Not that you would notice.”
“Please, can you remember anything? Did you see him go out at all? He was gone when I came back last night and hasn’t returned since.”
Mrs. Finch looked at Faye with a tired scowl. “I’m sure Mr. Lawrence had a good reason for being out all night. Best to be… patient. He’ll turn up.”
Faye pressed her lips together and turned without a word. The useless old woman. What did she mean that Silas had a “good reason” to be out all night? She ran up the stairs, taking them two at a time, found her coat, and buttoned it with resolve. Then she jotted a quick note to leave on the entry table in case Silas came back before she did and ran back down the staircase and out the door.
The horizon was just beginning to grow pale with morning light, but the streets were still, for the most part, dark and lit only by the fragile glow of the streetlamps. Faye wrapped her arms around herself and started walking down the deserted road. She could have asked Mrs. Finch to get the cab ready, but she couldn’t wait that long. Besides, Harvard was only a mile and a half away from their boarding house.
By the time she arrived at the college, it was 6:30 and the sun had risen. The campus was just beginning to show signs of life. Professors were making their way to early meetings, snow shovelers were clearing the pathways, and a few students were exercising in the yard.
Silas taught in Massachusetts Hall, and that’s where his office was. It was notoriously called “The Museum” by his students, and even the faculty in private conversation. Silas’ collection of oddities and antiquities did not confine itself to their boarding house study. Faye had absolutely refused to let him store anything in their parlor, so he kept the overflow at his campus office. And if his study was filled to the brim, his office could qualify as a hoard. The college did not approve of his use of the office and sent him notice every six months that it must be cleared out. Most of the time, the notice was lost in the mess. All of the time, it went unheeded.
Faye pushed open the heavy doors in the entry of Massachusetts Hall and slipped inside. Her shoes tapped against the marble stairs as she rushed up the steps to the second floor, nodding quickly at a faculty member as they crossed paths in the hall, and opened Silas’ office door. It was dark inside and the window shade hadn’t been lifted yet. She paused there with the door open and her hand on the knob and took a breath and held it. The scent of old books and dust and cigar smoke made her want to see him so terribly she thought her chest might collapse. She licked her lips and picked her way along the winding trail which led through the piles of junk and pulled the curtain open to the cloudy day. A draft was coming through the pane.
She turned and stared at his desk. It was strewn with papers, old ink bottles, notes, and memos from months ago, and a few empty teacups. Anything telling of recent use – the leather portfolio he carried with him, or his coat or scarf – was notably absent.
“Damn it, Silas,” she fought off tears. “Where did you go?”
She kicked over a pile of books and strode toward the door. Suddenly, a figure burst up from the ground, knocking another pile of books to the ground.
She let out a scream and stumbled back. The figure let out a scream, too.
“Bloody hell!” he shouted, scrambling to his feet. “What time is it?”
“Who are you?” Faye gasped. “What are you doing here?”
The figure, a college student maybe twenty years old, straightened an old but clean suit. He rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly. “My deepest apologies, ma’am. I was supposed to meet Professor Lawrence here for some tutoring and when he didn’t show up, I figured I would take advantage of the situation and catch a nap.”
“Oh,” said Faye. “You haven’t seen him?”
“Afraid not.” The boy paused and his cheeks flushed with color. He bowed quickly. “Beg your pardon, my name is Charles Stevens.”
“I’m Faye Lawrence, Silas’ wife. You played violin at the symphony this past Saturday.”
“That’s right.” He cleared his throat. “Is Professor Lawrence alright? Did he take sick?”
“I’m not sure,” Faye said, her gaze wandering to the floor. “He’s disappeared. Would you do me a favor and send word immediately if you see him?” she asked, looking up and digging in her purse.
“Well, of course I will, but…” he took the calling card Faye handed him and put it in his pocket. “Yes, of course.”
“Thank you. It was good to meet you, Mr. Stevens.”
“Where are you going now?”
Faye paused and realized she had no idea.
“You should check with the other faculty,” Stevens went on. “There’s usually a few of them in the lounge down the hall. Straight on and to the right. It’s the last door. You can’t miss it.”
“Alright,” Faye said. “Thank you.”
Faye walked back out the door and her footsteps tapped quickly down the hall to the lounge. She peered into the window and pushed the door open. There were only a few professors in the lounge, sitting around the fire in the hearth and talking in low tones. She cleared her throat and one of them turned. She approached quickly.
“Excuse me,” she said. “My name is Faye Lawrence. I’m Silas’ Lawrence’s wife and I haven’t seen him since last night. I wondered if by chance he’s been here?”
The men looked at each other, one of them took a pipe out of his mouth and blew a cloud of smoke into the air. “I’m afraid not. He was in yesterday.” He looked at the others, who shook their heads. “Why don’t you check with the secretary downstairs? Joe might have seen him.”
“Thank you. Sorry to disturb you.”
“Give him your card. If we hear from him, we’ll have someone contact you.”
“Thank you,” she said as she rushed out the door. She ran down the stairs, almost tripping over her feet, and gave her card to the secretary. He hadn’t seen Silas either – no one had. But it was still early. His first class wasn’t scheduled to start for another two hours. Faye walked back to the edge of the campus, calmly racking her brain to decide what to do next.
Should she go to the police? Perhaps she should. But maybe they wouldn’t help with something like that. Maybe this was a task for private investigators. But she didn’t know any private investigators. She didn’t even have the faintest idea of how to find one. Mr. Lawrence would. She’d have to see him eventually. Maybe he even knew something.
She hailed a cab and climbed into the seat, then sat there twisting her wedding band, trying to decide what to do. She didn’t want to see Mr. Lawrence. Especially not now. But if she was honest, he was the best one to go to for help.
“Ma’am?” the cabman asked.
“Beacon Hill, number 5 Acorn Street,” she said with resignation.
The driver clicked his tongue at the horse and the cab moved off. She wrapped her arms over her chest and shivered. She hoped Silas had brought a coat with him, wherever he was. Was he alright? Was he alive? Had he fallen in the river or been robbed and murdered?
She couldn’t let her mind go there now. Not when everything depended on her ability to think with a cool head. And for this visit to Mr. Lawrence, she would have great need of a cool head.
When they arrived, she told the cabman to wait for her, hoping it would keep the visit with Mr. Lawrence short, and rang the bell. The butler answered and let her in, taking her coat.
“Good morning, Mr. Oscar,” she said.
“Mr. Lawrence is meeting with someone right now,” he told her. “You could leave a message for him.”
“No, thank you. I’ll wait. It’s … Silas didn’t come home last night, and I wondered if –”
Her voice broke and the butler frowned and nodded sharply. “I’ll let Mr. Lawrence know right away. Please wait here.”
Faye nodded and stumbled back into an armchair. She sat there waiting, twisting her ring and tapping her foot. When Mr. Lawrence walked in, she jumped to her feet.
“I’m so sorry to interrupt, Mr. Lawrence, but… have you seen Silas? Please tell me you have, because I haven’t seen him since last night, and no one else in the boarding house has seen him either –”
Mr. Lawrence held out his hand to stop her and sat down in the chair across from her. She hesitated, then sat down at the edge of the chair.
“How long has he been gone?”
“I don’t know,” Faye wrung her hands and stared at the floor. “I’d gone to play bridge at Lauren Ansford’s and when I returned, he was gone.”
“What time was that?”
“Maybe nine thirty.”
Mr. Lawrence leaned back and rubbed a finger against his lower lip, contemplating her.
“Has your relationship been well? You haven’t been arguing lately?”
They always argued after spending any time with him. But that was hardly unusual. “No.”
“Has he seemed distant lately?”
“Has anything happened that might cause him to…”
Faye’s jaw clenched. “To what, Mr. Lawrence?”
Mr. Lawrence regarded her a moment and went on. “Nothing abnormal has happened?”
“No. Nothing. Except…” Faye paused. “Well, he was acting odd yesterday.” She looked down and twisted her ring.
Mr. Lawrence raised an eyebrow.
“More than normal,” Faye added defensively.
“Do you mean nervous?”
“I’m not sure I would say nervous,” said Faye. “Preoccupied, perhaps.”
“He said it had been a difficult day and I didn’t inquire any further.”
“That’s a pity.”
Faye swallowed and twisted her ring.
“And after you realized he was gone, you didn’t notice anything in the rooms that had been disturbed?”
“There was nothing gone or missing?”
Faye paused and looked up. “Why would anything be missing?”
“You know nothing else?”
Faye bit her lip. “Only that this isn’t like him. He’s never left without telling me. I’m worried about him. What if… what if he–”
“Best not worry over much.” Mr. Lawrence rose and held a hand to her. “Men his age can be unpredictable. I shouldn’t wonder if he’s at the college already.”
“I went there this morning. No one had seen him.”
“You went to the college?” Mr. Lawrence frowned. “You shouldn’t have gone to the trouble without seeing me first.” He cleared his throat and stood, offering her his hand. “I’ll send someone to check in a little later when his class would be starting.”
Faye hesitated and took his hand, standing. “But what if he’s –”
“No reason to worry. I’ll take care of it.” He turned. “Henry,” he called to the butler at the door. “Bring the carriage around for Mrs. Lawrence.”
“I have a cab,” Faye said.
“I’ve asked him to wait for me and it would seem rude to send him away now. Thank you for your offer.”
Mr. Lawrence shrugged as they walked to the front door. They stopped in the foyer.
“What should I do now? I could check with –”
“Do nothing. Leave this to me. You should go home and wait there in case he returns.”
“Do as I say,” he said in a forced gentle voice.
Faye frowned. “As you wish.”
Mr. Lawrence gave her a nod as he walked back toward his study. The butler stood with her coat and helped her into it.
“Thank you, Mr. Oscar,” she murmured absently.
“He’ll turn up,” Mr. Oscar said quietly, pressing her shoulder.
He opened the door as she buttoned her coat and stepped out into the cold again. She climbed into the cab and sat there for a while, chewing on her lip and thinking. Finally, she let out a long breath and leaned back against the wall of the cab.
“Rowe’s Wharf, please,” she said.
She’d left a note. If Silas came back, he’d know she was out looking for him. She couldn’t go back home now. If she didn’t keep moving, she’d only have time to think, and thinking was the one thing she couldn’t let herself do right now.