A waning moon, p.3
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       A Waning Moon, p.3
 

           Bliss Addison

  If Olive subscribed to feature creatures or call display, Blossom could star sixty-nine the caller or show Olive who had called. She wanted to tell her it could have been a telemarketer, or a wrong number, but doubted the woman would believe her.

  "How long has Jennifer been gone, Olive, if you don't mind me asking," Ian said.

  “Not at all. Three years. She was last seen coming from the university library. The police think she's dead, but she's not. I'd know. I'd feel it here.” She patted her heart.

  “Was there anything to suggest to the police that foul play was involved in her disappearance?”

  Olive shook her head. “They wouldn't tell me anything other than it was an ongoing investigation. If her parents still lived, they wouldn't have gotten away with it.” She stared at the floor a moment, then shrugged. “Later on, it became an unsolved case.”

  “How about a boyfriend? Did she have one?”

  “He disappeared at the same time.”

  Blossom sat on the sofa. “Maybe they ran off together.”

  “What would be the sense of that? They didn't live at home and did what they wanted. Besides, Jennifer was too focused on her education for anything else to catch her attention.”

  “Didn't you mention something about a cult?” Blossom asked.

  “They've got her. I'm sure of it.” Olive clamped her lips together.

  “Where is this cult, do you know?” Ian asked.

  “I don't know, but Jennifer would never join a cult. She's too strait-laced.” Olive looked at Ian. “She wants to be a doctor.”

  “She must be a smart young lady," Ian said, smiling. “Do you remember the name of the police officer who investigated her disappearance?”

  Olive looked upward and studied the ceiling as though his name were written somewhere among the cracks. “It's an unusual name. Fargo...no, Favian. Yes, that's it. Favian Quinn.”

  In her apartment, Blossom set the table and spooned their supper onto plates, noticing that Ian had been quiet since they'd left Olive's. Something troubled him. "A loony for your thoughts," she said, breaking the silence.

  He turned from the spot on the table that had held his attention and stared at her. "I was just comparing my missing person’s case with Olive's missing granddaughter. The two cases are similar."

  "How so?"

  "For one, my client's son might not have gone missing on his own. No one can locate his girlfriend, and they were last seen together. I didn't find it strange until I heard Olive's story. What do you say about a little adventure?" he asked.

  "Like?” It had been a long while since she'd done anything spontaneous and an adventure sounded exciting.

  "Accompany me to St. John’s and help me with my case. I have a few leads to follow up, and you definitely know the city better than I. At the same time, we can look into Olive's granddaughter's disappearance.”

  She took a seat across from him and placed a napkin on her lap. “How long will we be gone?”

  “It depends on what we learn. Maybe a day or two.”

  “I have a store to run, and who will cook for Olive, Lawrence, and Rose?" More and more Blossom was liking the idea of taking off, like she didn't have a care in the world. She couldn’t think of a better way to spend her final days. With that thought…no, she wouldn’t let the Curse ruin the moment.

  Not one more thought on the subject.

  Not one.

  He shrugged. “Get them to look after the store. They’ll appreciate a few days away from the television and waiting for the telephone to ring.”

  Blossom agreed. “Okay.”

  “Great." He slapped his hands together. "Tomorrow you can tell me all about this curse,” he said.

  Chapter Four

  “Detective Quinn?” a perfectly modulated alto voice asked.

  Quinn turned from the window and stared at the six-foot man wearing an expensive three-piece suit, with a wool overcoat draped over his arm and a leather attaché case in his hand that probably cost what Quinn earned in two weeks. The man looked vaguely familiar. “Yeah.”

  “Whitfield Hawkes.” He extended his hand. “We’ve never formally met. It’s a pleasure.”

  Quinn jumped to his feet and shook the lawyer’s hand. He barely managed to keep his nerves under control. Hawkes had that effect on most everyone.

  “I thought we should touch base,” Hawkes said.

  Jocelyn, who had been absorbed with reviewing the files on the missing kids, stood abruptly and offered her chair to the lawyer. “Please, have a seat, Mr. Hawkes.”

  Though his manner appeared cordial, his intense expression told Quinn something entirely different. Whitfield Hawkes was not a man to cross.

  “Can I get you a coffee, counselor? It isn't gourmet coffee, but it's decent.” He ran his tongue over suddenly parched lips. The high-profile lawyer was bad news at any time, and if they couldn't find his sister, to say it would not sit well with Hawkes would be an understatement. He would undoubtedly make him and the whole department pay. Quinn couldn't take more harassment. The slander from the accusation that he stole confiscated marijuana from the evidence locker had almost done him in, emotionally and professionally.

  “I'm fine, thanks.” Hawkes placed his coat over the back of the chair and sat.

  “You’ve heard nothing from your sister?” Quinn asked, sitting back down. He held his breath, hoping for a positive response.

  Hawkes shook his head. “Have you any leads?”

  Quinn figured there was no sense b-essing the lawyer and answered truthfully. Hawkes didn’t look like a man who would appreciate sucking-up, either, and Quinn nixed the idea to cajole. “No.” He added, “unfortunately”, when Hawkes fixed him with a steely stare. Quinn understood now how his colleagues had felt under his cross-examination in court. In the silence that followed, the tension in the air grew thick and heavy. Quinn never needed a drink like he did now. He wanted a smoke, too. And more than one. Of each.

  “So, you're no more closer to finding my sister than you were three days ago?”

  Knowing whatever he said would not be looked at kindly, Quinn swallowed and hoped for the best. “We're going back out to the university today to question more students. It's a big place, and we're only two people.”

  “I'll call the mayor and arrange for more manpower.”

  Hawkes made it seem so simple. For him, it probably was. “This could all be a mistake,” Quinn said. “Your sister might be staying with a friend.”

  “Are you suggesting I jumped to the wrong conclusion?” Hawkes cocked a thick, black brow.

  Quinn answered quickly. “No, not at all. It’s just that …sometimes…you know….” He clamped his mouth closed to stop from babbling.

  Hawkes nodded, appearing calmer and less defensive. “That Mary Ellen didn't show up for any of her classes on Friday is a big red flag for me. Since grade one, she's had perfect attendance. Even when she was ill, she didn't miss a class.”

  “Could she have run off with her boyfriend?”

  “As I told Detective Kerr, Graham is not Mary's Ellen's boyfriend. They're friends, study partners really, and only that.”

  “Maybe she let her hair down. Decided to have some fun.”

  “Mary Ellen wouldn't know how.”

  “Can you think of any people who she would have come into contact with prior to last Thursday? A hairdresser, dentist, doctor?” Quinn asked, feeling uneasy again under Hawkes scrutiny.

  “Mary Ellen doesn't have a hairdresser. She trims her hair herself, and hasn't been to her dentist since her six-month check-up in November. The same goes for her doctor.”

  “You have a good relationship with your sister? No problems?”

  “None.”

  Quinn saw a flicker of anger in Hawkes eyes, but only for a moment. The question had sparked his temper. Reversing their roles, he would hate it, too, if a question insinuated unwarranted fault. “Your sister was living with you until last September when she started college?”
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  “Correct.”

  “Was she happy at home?” Quinn watched for a reaction. If Hawkes really had nothing to hide, the question should upset him.

  “She was.”

  Quinn determined from the muscle twitching in Hawkes’ jaw he was perturbed. He also realized something else. This was a token visit on the lawyer's part. Hawkes would take matters into his own hands, and soon, if he hadn't done so already. No doubt the SJPD would end up looking incompetent, just as they looked when Hawkes had them on the stand giving testimony.

  Quinn knew he would push Hawkes with his next question, but the query needed to be made. “Why didn't she continue to live at home, then? Seems to me a studious girl such as your sister would get more studying done at home. Dorms can be noisy, and roommates can be distracting.”

  Hawkes stood, draped his coat over his arm, and took his attaché case in his hand. “I have my investigator working on the case, and the morning paper and the local radio station will broadcast the reward I'm offering for any information leading to Mary Ellen's whereabouts. Have a good day, Detective Quinn.” He nodded at Jocelyn. “Detective Kerr.”

  With that, he left.

  Quinn turned and looked out the window until he saw Hawkes' black BMW pull onto Main St.

  “A shit storm is brewing,” Jocelyn said.

  “And we're going to be hip-deep in it.”

  ***

  Hawkes turned into the parking lot of his office building, a four-story brick structure he had built a few years ago that housed dentists, doctors, architects and accountants.

  He pulled the car to a stop at the front of the building, took his cell phone from his pocket, and punched in Lyron Otten's telephone number on the keypad. His friend and investigator picked up on the first ring. “It's Whit. Get me everything you can on Detective Favian Quinn and fax it to me asap.”

  He closed the phone, but didn't make a move to get out of the car. He laid his head back and prayed that Mary Ellen was safe and warm and that he would find her soon.

  Hawkes had never felt as inept as he did at that moment.

  In the lobby of his office building, he forced composure and nodded at the doorman sitting at the reception desk.

  “Evening, Howard. Beautiful day, wasn't it?” The temperature hovered near twenty below, but Whitfield was only cognizant of the fact as it related to a weather forecast.

  “Indeed, sir.”

  “Any day the sun shines is a beautiful day to a Newfoundlander, huh? Have a good one.” Anticipating that Howard would ask him about Mary Ellen, and that those questions would plunge him deeper into guilt and remorse, Hawkes hurried toward the stairwell. He took the stairs to his fourth floor office as he did every day. He was surprised to see his secretary still at her desk.

  “Priscilla, you should be home," he said to his brown-eyed brown-haired secretary. "It's after five.”

  "I was just getting ready to leave. Any news on your sister?”

  “Unfortunately, no.” He set his attaché case on the desk and rested his hands across the top.

  “I'm sorry.”

  “I'll find her.” And whoever has her will pay.

  “Yes, you will. I'll keep the two of you in my prayers.”

  “Thanks. Did you get the motion to Judge McLellan?”

  “Yes, and I filed the trial record on the Moody case with the clerk, too.”

  “What would I ever do without you?” He managed a smile for her.

  “Pray you never find out.” She handed him his messages. “I cleared your calendar for the remainder of the week, like you asked. Irene Langston wants to see you tomorrow at ten and won't take no for an answer.”

  He let out a deep breath. “There's nothing I can do for her.”

  “Did you tell her?"

  "In so many words."

  "Maybe it's time to be blunt."

  Shaking his head, he flipped through the pink message slips. “I'll see her. She has no one to talk to. Go to voice mail and go home. The latter is an order, not a request.”

  “Aye, aye,” she said, grabbing her handbag from the desk drawer.

  He strode through the hallway, the luxurious carpet a soft cushion beneath his feet. His office, a tastefully but inexpensively decorated, non-expansive space that portrayed the image he wanted to project to his clients — efficient, discreet and reliable — came to light beneath the fluorescent fixtures.

  Whit hung his coat in the closet, dropped his briefcase on the beige burlap sofa, sat behind his desk, and let out the sigh he’d held back for the last ten minutes.

  With each passing day, he thought more and more Mary Ellen had been abducted. But why would someone abduct her? It didn't make any sense.

  He took the photo in his hand of the two of them taken at her high school graduation. Even on such an auspicious occasion, she didn't smile.

  Always serious and involved with her studies, he had wanted her to enjoy life. Knowing he could trust her, he had given her some freedom, hoping she would come into her own, have a little fun. Look what his good intentions got her — tomorrow's headline, her picture pinned on a corkboard at police central, and on her way to becoming a statistic.

  From the moment his mother Angela married John Tucker, Whit was Mary Ellen's seventeen-year-old big brother. The day focused clearly in his mind. Mary Ellen had been four years old at the time. Dressed in a pink frilly dress, white tights, and patent leather shoes, she skipped to him, pigtails bobbing on her shoulders, and said, “Daddy said you're my big brother now. I never had a big brother before. Will I like you?”

  He'd never had a little sister before, either, and took his role seriously. He'd fought her grade school battles, putting the bullies in their place, chasing the bogeyman from beneath her bed, reading bedtime stories to her and teasing her as older brothers tend to do.

  Eight years ago, a drunk driver had collided head-on into John and Angela's car. His mother died instantly, but John hung on long enough to ask Whit to look after his daughter. Up until three days ago, he had kept his promise.

  He pulled a legal pad in front of him and wrote: Last seen: 8:00 Thursday evening by librarian when Mary Ellen checked out a book. They chatted a bit. Nothing much of consequence, except that Mary Ellen mentioned she was calling it a night. Librarian confirms Mary Ellen left the library alone immediately thereafter.

  She didn't return to her dorm, so whatever happened, happened somewhere between the library and her dorm. If someone took her, why hadn't anyone seen anything?

  He dropped the pen across the pad and leaned back in his chair, staring at the pad. She couldn't just vanish, though it appeared that way. Mary Ellen wasn't outgoing and certainly wouldn't talk to strangers let alone go anywhere with one willingly.

  Her disappearance didn't have anything to do with him. At first, he’d considered the possibility. If he'd worked a trial like Somners vs. Love, in which the defendant was affluent and influential, he would think differently, which left him with the same conclusion rolling around in his mind like a pebble in a clothes dryer. She'd been abducted. Not for ransom, though. He would have heard from the kidnappers by now. It had to be something else. What?

  At first, he had thought Earley had something to do with Mary Ellen's disappearance, but now that he knew everything there was to know about him, Whit cancelled him out as figuring into her disappearance. The only thing he could think of was that the young lad had happened upon her abduction and was abducted himself, or he was killed and his body disposed of. Either that or his disappearance was some bizarre coincidence. Stranger things happened.

  His fax machine started. One sheet whirred into the paper tray. Whit took Lyron's report in his hand and read:

  Favian Quinn, 56, 28 years on the SJPD, up until now assigned nowhere cases, questioned 3 years ago when 5 bricks of hashish went missing from the evidence room. Did a stint in rehab for alcohol abuse. Still has a drinking problem, but is smarter now about hiding it. Twice married, twice divorced. No children. Not
well liked among his colleagues. Paired up with Jocelyn Kerr 6 months ago. So far, no complaints. My contact on the SJPD said Quinn's filling in the days until his retirement.

  Whit flicked the sheet of paper across the desk and looked down the hallway at his secretary. “Priscilla, before you leave, get the mayor on the phone for me, please.”

  Chapter Five

  Dr. Anthony Kinlock entered his makeshift lab, shrugging out of his parka as he walked to the monitor. He watched Mary Ellen dart about her cell like a butterfly on steroids then come to an abrupt stop at the steel door. She did the exact thing at least a dozen times a day. There was nothing for her to hear. There never was. She must know the door was soundproof, yet she never gave up hope.

  Now she looked upward and muttered something. He turned up the volume.

  “God, if you can hear me, show Whit where to find me. Please, God, please.”

  Her plaintive cries for help trailed off until she only mouthed the words. Her tears fell freely, and she flopped onto the bed and pounded her fists against the mattress.

  Kinlock could understand her anguish. He was a captive, also. True, he could leave the premises when he pleased, and there weren’t any locked doors he couldn’t open. He had access to a telephone and communication with the outside world and every night he went home to the one he loved, but he was still a prisoner. That would change, though. Soon, he would be free again.

  He watched as she sat up, her fingers pulling at a loose thread on the bedspread. “My brother will look for me and won’t give up until he finds me. He has a private investigator. It might take some time, but Whit will rescue me. When he does, he's going to whup your ass. Just wait.” She stared at the corner across from the camera lens. “I thought you were a nice guy. Whit warned me about men like you.”

  "You should have listened to your brother,” he said though she couldn’t hear him.

  “I bet your name isn’t really Anthony Baleman.” She stared into space a moment. “Everything makes sense now. Doesn't it always, after the fact? Our meetings...they weren't accidental, like you made them seem, were they? I should have been suspicious from the beginning. Why would anyone as cute as you be interested in me?

 
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