Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Walt Murphy – PI – 15

I made it to the appraiser's without any problems. When I entered his office suite, a young woman asked if she could help me to which I replied, "I must be in the wrong place. I'm looking for Mr Steven's office." I'd snagged that name off the list in the lobby. She told me I was on the wrong floor. I thanked her and left. I'll give the appraiser kudos for one thing; he has a hell of a security setup from what little I saw of it. Philips' security company could take lessons from whoever set it up. If I really had left the necklace with the appraiser, Caiazzo's people would have had a hell of a job trying to get it back.

Now I had time to kill until tonight. Okay, not really. I do own a business and my clients like it if I do what they pay me for. I headed back to the office.

Chelsea informed me the minute I walked in that the man from the insurance company had returned the signed e-contract and wired the retainer to my bank. My first thought was, 'Damn, had it only been this morning when I'd talked to him?' It seemed like at least a week ago. I settled down at my desk, emailed him a personal thank-you for his business and then returned to running background checks for one of my regulars. Not exactly the most exciting job, but right now I was glad to be doing rote-work.

Chelsea came in a while later to tell me she was heading home, and caution me to be more careful tonight than I had been last night. I smiled, nodded, thanked her, and she left.

An hour later I was typing up my report on the background checks when I heard someone rattle the doorknob. Given the time, I figured it had to be one of the security guards for the building, checking to be certain the door was locked. I was quickly disabused of that idea when someone knocked, and continued knocking when I didn't immediately answer. Getting up, I pulled out my gun from the waistband holster, holding it behind my back, and went to open the door.

A very pretty, very distraught looking woman stood there. "I need your help" were the first words out of her mouth as she pushed past me into the waiting area.

I cocked an eyebrow, feeling like I walked into a forties movie. After closing and locking the door, I surreptitiously holstered my gun and asked, "With what?"

Instead of answering immediately, she looked around then walked into my office. Only when she'd taken a seat in the chair by my desk did she reply. "My boyfriend's missing. He has been for the last few days."

"Okay." I settled in my chair, looking at her. "Who are you and why do you think he's missing?"

She looked at me like I was stupid. "Because he is? I'm Anna."

"Last name? And his name?"

"Bell. He's"—she hesitated—"Bill… Cooper."

I had the distinct feeling she was lying about his name, but I'd tackle that problem later if I decided she really did need my help, and could pay for it. "Did you two have a fight?"

"No!" She sighed, twisting a strand of her long blonde hair around one finger. "No," she said less emphatically. "He called me a week ago saying he had some business to take care of and when it was finished we'd finally be able to do what we'd been planning."

"That being?"

"Move back to where he'd grown up and get married."

"That certainly makes it sound as if he didn't have any intentions of running off without you."

"He didn't. He wouldn't. I mean…" She held up her left hand, showing me the diamond ring on one finger. "He gave me this when he proposed. Three weeks ago."

"Congratulations," I said somewhat sardonically. "Okay, do you have any idea what this 'business' was he was talking about?"

She nodded. "Maybe. He… found… something valuable, he said. Something he was sure he could sell for a lot of money."

That instantly put me on alert, given what had happened in the last twenty-four hours. Maybe I was jumping to conclusions. But I didn't think so. I also didn't like that she'd come to me. It was too pat. I decided to play along for the moment.

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