I can find things. Over the years, I’ve found seven wayward wedding rings, dozens of missing earrings, uncountable keys and cell phones, several thousand dollars in cash on the street (including two major wads of drug money), and a lost hamster named April who was hiding inside the wall of my daughter’s bedroom. It’s not a skill I’m particularly proud of. In fact, it’s not really a skill. It’s just something I can do, in much the same way that some people always know which way is north.
I never know where north is.
I’m not bragging about being a finder. There are plenty of much more useful skills that I don’t have. Like being on time. Or investing money so that it turns into more money, recognizing faces, or repairing broken things. Those skills seem just as mysterious to me as finding things might seem to someone who tends to lose things. Everyone’s got a secret skill, whether they know it or not.
When I was writing Third Rail, my debut mystery novel, I decided to give my main character – Eddy Harkness a Boston narcotics detective – the ability to find things. Why not? Being a finder has served me well. And might help a detective even more:
At a sidewalk shooting in Dorchester or a drug dealer’s triple-decker in Mission Hill, Harkness could find the drugs, guns, money, shell casings, and tossed cell phones. It wasn’t supernatural. Harkness didn’t need any help from the spirit world. . . Lost things don’t want to stay lost. Money wants a warm wallet and street drugs crave a narrow pocket. Rings call out for a finger, cell phones want a hand, and bullets need a gun. Harkness didn’t do anything special to find them. They just called out on subtle frequencies and he listened.
Detectives pay close attention, of course. But I wanted to go beyond that, to the level of intuition, dousing, and Ouija boards. To show what I mean, let me tell you about my favorite find.
The Case of the Missing Ring
When a neighbor lost an irreplaceable family heirloom, her great-great-grandmother’s wedding ring, my wife volunteered my skills to find it. The ring might be in her house or her office, the neighbor wasn’t sure. It seemed unlikely that anyone would ever find the ring, much less a reluctant finder enlisted long after it was lost. But as I thought about it, a notion came to me (psychics call this claircognizance or clear-knowing) – and I knew that the ring was in a sunny room near the outside of her house.
When the day came to put my skills to the test, I waited on the porch, giving into a moment of threshold anxiety. What if I couldn’t find the ring? It would be beyond embarrassing. I would look like a fake, a dope, a non-finder prowling around my neighbor’s house. I stood in the foyer, talking awkwardly with the ring-loser, her face a mix of hope and disbelief. Behind her, a ray of sun fell on the stairs.
I began my work, following the sunlight up to a bright upstairs bedroom. I sat in a chair directly in the sun, which pointed my gaze at a dresser. Just looking at it made the hair on my arms stand up. I opened the third drawer, reached way in the back, and felt a cool circle of silver and diamonds on my fingertips.
In all, finding the ring took less than five minutes.
I was relieved and our neighbor was thoroughly spooked. To this day, she treats me with a little hesitance, the way you treat a man with a dark secret. But it’s neither dark nor a secret. The way I think about it, nothing’s ever lost. It’s just waiting to be found. Access those subtle frequencies and you know where they are. This skill is by no means singular; I’ve met plenty of people who can find things. An inordinate number of them are writers.
Read the rest