The International Woman of Mystery

We all have a lot of peripheral people in our lives. People we see all the time, but who we don’t really know – neighbours, shopkeepers, the milkman, people we see on the bus every day or in the hallway at work, but don’t really talk to much. We might pass the time of day with these folk or talk about the weather or occasionally have a bit of a conversation with them, but that’s about it.

Most of the time we don’t even know their names. Most of the time these are fairly straight-forward people that we don’t really think about. It might even take us a while to notice if we haven’t seen them in a while. But every so often one of these peripheral people appears in our lives and something about them makes you wonder exactly what their story is.

And I mean story in the general sense, not what The Story is.

I firmly believe that every last person in the universe has at least one surprising story in them: The Story.  The Story is the story that you won’t necessarily get even if you know someone quite well. The Story is the kind of story that can really only emerge if you’re one-on-one with the person in a very relaxed environment and you both have all the time in the world to just talk, uninterrupted. (Over a long, soporific meal and a mellow bottle of wine perhaps).

The Story is always a precious gem – sometimes horrible, sometimes touching, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes uplifting or funny – but it’s always something that gets to the very core of that person. When you’ve shared The Story with a person, I think you’ve achieved an intimacy that both of you will remember. You might not even know what your The Story is until someone exumes it for you.

But anyway, that’s not what I meant when I said I sometimes wonder about some of the peripheral people in my life and what their story is. I was thinking more about those people who just don’t make sense; who you can’t comfortably slot into category.

The International Woman of Mystery of my title for instance.

I see her all the time on the bus and in my neighbourhood and sometimes out and about shopping or browsing around. She’s probably in her late 40s; well-groomed; nicely dressed; always well put together. She’s tallish and very, very slender; not unattractive.

She lives in a one-bedroom apartment in an unpretentious building. Whenever we talk, inevitably her utter loathing for Ottawa and everything about it creeps into her conversation. She pines for Montreal where she grew up. I asked her once, “Why don’t you move to Montreal?” And she gave me an enigmatic smile and said, in a faraway voice, “I wish I could. But I have to stay here a few more years.”

Being a nosy-parker, I asked why, but she just side-stepped the question as deftly as she side-steps most of the questions I’ve asked her about the job she says she’s “retired” from.

Very mysterious.

Here’s what I know about her:

  • She lives alone and has no family in Ottawa. In fact, I believe her only living relative, an aunt, lives in Montreal.
  • She is retired from a job that had her living all over Canada and in some foreign countries as well.
  • She was not with the military.
  • She is not working now, nor is she looking for work.
  • She has never been married and has no children.
  • She has lived in Ottawa about 10 years and has lived in at least 5 different apartments in that time because there was always something wrong with the apartment. The one she’s in now has neighbours upstairs that “walk really loudly”, so she’s looking to move again.
  • From what I can gather she spends her days just browsing the shops.
  • She has never spoken of friends nor has she ever spoken of having done anything with friends the evening or weekend before and I have never seen her with anyone. I deduce, threefore (perhaps wrongly) that she has no friends.
  • She’s friendly and pleasant.

So, fellow sleuths, the two burning questions seem to be:

  1. Why can’t she leave Ottawa for a few years yet? And,
  2. What sort of job could she have had that took her all over the country and/or world and from which she could retire by the time she was 40ish and still give her enough income to live on?

Help me. I can’t stand the suspense anymore.

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35 responses to “The International Woman of Mystery

  1. She was a high priced call girl who got run out of Montreal when the cops started sniffing around. She’s waiting for the heat to die down so she can go back and resume her poutine sucking ways.

  2. She’s the mistress of a wealthy semi-famous man. In a few years he will be finished with his business (term of office?) in Ottawa and she will follow him back to his (and her) home of Montreal. So if you find someone in the government there from Montreal who has had business all over Canada that also involved lengthy international travel, well that’s her “boyfriend.” He’s Catholic, been married for 20 to 30 years, his wife is short and fat but with a remarkably pretty face and they have several children. Since IWM mostly feels powerless in her life, she continually finds fault with her apartments to get extra attention from the man, like a demanding child. Or the man wants her to move often so he is not seen repeatedly in the same areas.

  3. Oooooh, I do believe geewits is on to something with her theory. It’s a love match, but unfortunately, his current wife is more suitable for public display for some reason. Maybe he needs his wife’s connections for political office or something. Sadly, IWM will never get him to herself and will remain in limbo the rest of her life, but strangely, that’s okay with her.

  4. Perhaps she is in the witness protection program…witnessed a terrible crime….testified against the Mob…something like that. She can’t go back to Montreal until it is safe for her to return.

  5. Dr. Monkey – Hmmm. It’s a theory.

    Geewits – Wow! That’s a pretty good story. I’d modify the “wealthy” part though because he’s not keeping her in high style, that’s for sure. Also, none of our politicians are wealthy as far as I know. I’ll have to do some investigating…and maybe do some overnight surveillance of her apartment…nah, I’d rather sleep.

    MM – I thought of that, too, actually. But Ottawa isn’t exactly out of reach for a Montreal mob. I also thought she might be under some sort of house arrest, where she’s allowed out during certain hours of the day, but has to be back in her apartment, alone for the rest of the day. That could also be why she moves – to get a change of scenery. And she didn’t retire from her job so much as get caught embezzling from it and fired??? (PS: Remind me never to give her my blog address)

  6. Hey, *I* went all over the country and/or world and I was retired by the time I was 40ish and I still still have enough income to live on. Two things: good timing in real estate and a part-time job at a bar.

  7. Maybe she’s from a galaxy far, far away, stranded on Earth until her mother ship returns in a couple of years.
    Try talking to her in Klingon and see if she answers..

  8. My Woman of Mystery was seen at random times from the bus window, striding along or ocasionally, on the same bus as I was riding.
    We never spoke although I smiled and nodded, she responded in kind. She intigued me.

    She was tall, taller than I. Her hair worn in a long high pony tail was white, most often peaking out from a visor. Funky earrings always danced beside her pleasant face. Her clothing was interesting and perhaps a little dated. Her purse, more of a cloth sack really, was always on her shoulder. Both her hands clasped to the strap just above her heart. Her gnarled fingers sported a number of rings of seemingly original design. Her age was indeterminate, but certainly she was no “little old lady.”
    I watched for her and wondered if we were neighbours. She disappeared over the winter and I was delighted to catch sight of her earlier this spring. A condo in Florida, I wondered?

    Recently, I flipped open the Citizen. I have an old habit of scanning the births looking for former clients from my years as a Realtor. I moved on to the announcements and finally deaths.

    Her name was Beatrice and she was 94 at the time of her passing. No longer a mystery.

  9. Ellie – Ya but you were travelling for the sake of travelling, not for a mysterious job and you have a partner in your retirement. But you can still be an international woman of mystery if you want.

    Glen – Now that you mention it, it’s clear as a bell that this is exactly the answer. I don’t know any Klingon, though.

    Chris – Thanks. Any ideas?

    Jay – Aw, that’s sad that so many people will probably only get to know anything about this woman through her obituary. Then again, she lived a good long and from the sounds of it, active healthy life. And she made something of an impression on you and probably lots of others. So, maybe it’s not so sad afterall.

    Mayopie – That’s a good idea. Then, as in Jay’s story, I’ll be able to discover the truth from her obituary and/or during the course of my murder trial.

  10. She was employed with the foreign service prior to developing fibromyalgia or some permanent psychotraumatic disorder that restricts her ability to work. She is now receiving income replacement benefits from the Ontario Disability Program, which requires residency in Ontario for benefits to continue.

    At age 50, she will be able to claim a reduced public service pension as well as CPP – which will obviate the need for disability payments, and enable her to return to Quebec if she wishes.

  11. Right, Darrell. That’s likely. *rolls eyes at rational explanation*

    I think she’s waiting out the statute of limitations on something.

    – RG>

  12. I had a cousin who was in the witness protection program, once upon a time. She had hung out with bad bikers. Turns out she was probably worse than they ever were. She is evil and we never speak of her.

  13. I have no idea what she does or who she is but want to find out from Dr Monkey if “poutine sucking ways” is some new high priced call girl service.

  14. Darrell – Of course! Why didn’t I think of that!

    Grouchy – I’m more inclined to think she has to stay for nefarious reasons rather than heroic ones, too.

    Jazz – Nuh-uh! I know a few things about the auntie and I know it ain’t you. Say…why are you trying to pass yourself off as this woman’s auntie, anyway? What exactly DO you know?

    Milan – But that doesn’t explain why she has to remain in Ottawa for several years, against her will.

    Julia – I could see her as an ex-biker chick. If she’s in WP, maybe I don’t want to hang around her too much, eh?

    Dave1949 – I think it may just have been a figure of speech, like “beer swilling”, but who knows?

    Bob – Hey, in Halifax they still had milkmen deliver milk right to your door. They came in little milkman trucks and everything and if you wanted milk there were little signs you could put in the window and if you didn’t want milk you turned the sign around and it said “NO”

  15. She came to Ottawa to look after the aging aunt, wh0 is expected to pass on within the next few years. Once she goes, leaving a tidy nest egg, IWM will lead the life she’s been dreaming of, moving from apartment to apartment across Montreal, in search of her IMM.

  16. holy cow you have awesome readers with amazing imaginations.

    i’m siding on the witness protection program and/or the concubine theory.

    hey! look at me, i’m reading 🙂

  17. Hmmmmmm…..I’m going to delve into my past association with IWM and guess that she had a married wealthy lover in Montreal. She claimed she was pregnant (or did get pregnant, but lost the child) she thought he’s leave the wife for him, instead he hustled her out of town with monthly child support/maintenance payments as long as she promised to stay out of Montreal with the kid. When the kid hits 18 the payments end and she’s free to return to Quebec. She accepted this deal in anger. However now that she is enmeshed in this deceit she has transferred her dissatisfaction with where this relationship didn’t go (and did go) into never being satisfied with where she lives.

  18. Such good theories, I wonder if she’s sick and the world renown specialist lives in Ottawa. If she moves to Montreal QHIP won’t cover treatment here.

  19. Man, I don’t think I could compare to these ideas if I tried. If I had to guess, she’s probably just…

    … a lost soul, regretting her role in life.
    …wishing she had had children but determined not to be unhappy with her choices.

    I see people like this everywhere. They try so hard to mingle in but occasionally the nosiest (XUP) have to delve in and stir up the contents.

    Honestly, my first reaction to this post was you had better %&#@ing hope she doesn’t find this post — if I were her, I’d be extremely offended, and it’s possible that you might actually be right! Then she’d be so upset that she’d commit suicide or something.

    Hope all goes well ^^
    -JM

  20. Seriously, she’s probably some kind of administrator from Foreign Affairs, on some kind of gardening leave, perhaps for a disability, or maybe just for being a total pain in the butt that nobody can fire. People receiving those salaries have to be technically “available for work,” which would explain why she can’t go back to Montreal.

  21. Megabytes – How very romantic. I hope she finds him.

    Leah – Don’t I just? And yay, I’m so proud of you.

    Mumama – Okay, you win. That actually sounds plausible.

    Nat – Hmmm – she doesn’t seem sick and really, what world renown medical specialist would chose to practice in Ottawa when he could have Geneva?

    Junkie Monkey – The chances of her coming across this blog are extremely slim and even if she did, I think she would find it amusing that she’s inspired such wild speculation. I certainly wouldn’t be offended if the shoe was on the other foot and someone called me and International Woman of Mystery. I’ve said nothing offensive about her and neither has anyone else. But thanks for your concern.

    LesterBee – Cool. Where can I get a job like that? I’d love to go on gardening leave.

  22. I’m sorry, I worded my comment a little more strongly than I actually felt. It’s just that sometimes I’m afraid of how the blogosphere could impact real life. For example, my blog is something I’m very concerned about, because more and more people are finding out who I am.

    I apologize — I certainly didn’t mean to offend you XUP.

  23. Lebowski – I don’t think I know what that means.

    Junkie Monkey – No need to apologize. I wasn’t at all offended and I did appreciate that you would be concerned about this person. I certainly know that all sorts of people find this blog and I’m sure some of them are offended by what they find here, though I certainly never set out to offend anyone. I was just saying that she does have a sense of humour and would probably laugh at all this.

  24. I wish I knew–it seems like a delicate line to draw, since if you overdo it, you could get fired, and if you under-do it, you would likely just end up in some hellish spot somewhere, having to show up and be miserable. (Hey, wait a minute, that’s where I am now!)

    I am on the case, though, and if I figure it out I will share what I learn.

  25. One time drug mule who now deals and has to move around a lot to take the heat off her place. She can’t go back to Montreal because she killed her former drug boss who used her as a mule, but was skimming to much of the cash.

  26. Or, she is full of shit and a trust fund baby…and likes to screw with your head.

  27. Hit woman for sure. She needs to lay low for a wihle because the Montreal high rollers have painted a target on her. She’s waiting for the one old guy who remembers her face to croak.

  28. Cedar – If she’s a trust fund baby, it’s a pretty meagre trust fund..more like a “distrust” fund.

    Tiana – Yikes! I think I might keep my distance from her for a while…maybe even delete this blog post…just in case