Her mouth tightened. "I don't like most of his friends. They're…tough."
"Like…like I can see them all hanging out in a pool room," she replied with a small smile. "I know that's prejudicial, but it's true. They're not the kind of men I'd have thought he'd be friends with when I first met him two years ago." She looked at me, those big brown eyes tearing up. "I love him. I don't want to think he's…a criminal or something. And I really, really, don’t want to find out something bad happened to him. But after a week…"
"Given what you've said so far, I'm afraid it is a possibility. Unless, of course, he did sell the item then decided he wasn't ready to settle down yet and just took of with the money."
"He loves me! He wouldn't do that."
"Probably not, but it had to be said."
"I know." She bit her lip. "Don't think I haven't wondered about that myself, but I can't believe he'd do it." She hesitated. "Can you, will you, help me?"
Whether this was a set-up or not, there was only one answer to her question. "I can, if you're willing to pay. I wouldn't be in business for long if I worked for free."
I took a sheet of paper from a folder on my desk, handing it to her. "Prices for my different services are listed there. A simple check with hospitals, the police and the morgue aren't too expensive." She winced when I said 'the morgue'. "From there, they go up. I require a retainer to start with and you pay for my time by the hour as well as any expenses I incur."
She read it over, nodding. "I want you to find him or"—she gulped—"his…his body if…if that's what it comes down to."
"All right." Taking out another sheet of paper, I gave it to her, along with a pen. "This is the contract. Read it, sign it, and then I'll need a check or your credit card to pay for the retainer."
She read, filled out the space for her personal information on the bottom, signed it then wrote me a check. Finally I gave her one last paper. "Fill in everything you know about Mr Williams. If you don't know something, leave it blank."
That took her a while but in the end she'd answered most of the questions. I thanked her, told her I'd be in touch, and escorted her to the door. When I unlocked it, I put one hand on the butt of my gun, just in case someone was waiting in the hallway, intending to use her exit to take me by surprise and do nasty things. And not the sort of 'nasty' Ricky and I engage in on a regular basis. The area was clear so I watched her walk down to the elevator before closing the door again.
"Okay," I muttered to myself as I got ready to go stake out Carmichael's building, "was she for real, or a diversion? Am I going to get a call in an hour saying someone broke in here, using the information about the place she gave them?"
I figured only time would tell at this point. Worst case scenario, they were waiting for me at my car. So I made sure I was armed with more than the gun at my back. If they didn't attack me there, I'd be willing to bet someone would follow me to the job since they didn't know where I'd end up when I left here. Even if Ms Bell was a spy, I don't have a desk calendar with notes like 'Carmichael's Electronics-ten pm' jotted down on it.