A waning moon, p.8
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       A Waning Moon, p.8
 

           Bliss Addison

  “The God's truth?”

  “As He is my witness.”

  She sighed with relief.

  “I was a perfect gentleman, by the way. I closed my eyes when you started to take off your clothes.”

  “Uh-huh. I believe it.” His laugh told her he hadn't.

  As the sun glared in the windshield, bright rays that blinded their vision, he donned sunglasses that seemed to materialize from nowhere. She rooted around in her purse until she found hers.

  She looked out at the countryside — the hills covered in a generous white coat, the trees laden with snow, the blanket of white covering rooftops, and smoke streaming from chimneys in a straight plume — a sure sign of snow. It wasn’t unusual for them to have back-to-back storms.

  "It's beautiful, isn't it?" she said.

  "Yes, it is. Very beautiful."

  She turned from the window and found him studying her. "Is something the matter?"

  "Everything's perfect."

  "Good." Her eyes felt heavy. She yawned and covered her mouth. "I'm sorry. I'm suddenly feeling sleepy." She laid her head back against the seat.

  “Blossom?” Ian asked.

  "Yes."

  “Did you have a happy childhood?”

  She smiled as her mother's smiling face flashed before her eyes. “What I remember about my mother —”

  “What do you mean?”

  She opened her eyes and looked at him. “My mother died when I was seven. She committed suicide. All Drummonds affected by the Curse kill themselves on the eve of their thirtieth birthday. Didn't you know? Didn't Vivian tell you?”

  He frowned and appeared deep in thought. “That means...”

  “Uh-huh. I have eight, no seven days to put an end to the Curse, or I'll end up like my foremothers — dead by my own hand.”

  “Time is of the essence.”

  “I'll say. I wonder if suicides are really refused entrance to Heaven?”

  “I like to think God measures the gravity or responsibility of the sin. In the case of suicides, His judgment is based on psychological disturbances, anguish, hardship, suffering, or torture in the life of the victim.”

  “Exculpatory and mitigating factors, so to speak.”

  He grinned. "So to speak. Who raised you after your mother died?”

  “My parents were divorced at the time, but my father stepped up to the plate. He died a couple of years ago. A natural death. That's how I came about owning the book store and the building.”

  “Tell me about yourself, Blossom. What you were like as a little girl.”

  She told him.

  No one had ever asked before.

  Blossom yawned, opened one eye, and stretched.

  Ian looked at her. “Did you have a good nap? How do you feel?”

  She blinked off the last traces of sleep. “Fine.” Squinting, she looked around outside. “Where are we?”

  “Just arriving in St. John’s.” He downshifted and turned onto Water Street.

  She watched pedestrians bundled in fur or wool coats, scarves, hats and mittens, maneuver the snow-packed side of the road — the sidewalks were the last to be cleared after a storm. They moved with ease and comfort, obviously accustomed to the weather.

  St. John’s brought back fond memories. Excitement grew within her and she smiled. “I forgot how beautiful this city is. There's so much to see. The Government House, the Colonial Building, Cabot Tower, the War Monument bordering on Duckworth Street, Cape Spear.” She paused to take a breath. “Which is North America's most easterly point, and Signal Hill, where you can see all of St. John’s. If we have time, I'd like to show you around. You definitely have to see the Peter Pan statue in Bowring Park.”

  He smiled. “I'd like that.” Coming to a stop at a traffic light, he asked, “Do you remember where the police station is located?”

  “Take a right at the next light. If it were summer, we could enjoy the concerts in Harbour Park. How are we going to play this?”

  “What?”

  “With the police. Don't we need a game plan?”

  He shrugged. “I figured we'd start with questions, see where that takes us.”

  It didn't sound like much of a plan, but she didn't voice her opinion.

  Chapter Eleven

  Whit drummed his nails on the steering wheel.

  “Stop that,” Lyron said. “It's making me antsy. Remember, I have a gun.”

  “You wouldn't shoot me,” he said, returning Lyron's smile. Nevertheless, he quieted his hands. “He's late.” Though a bright sun shone through the windows of the BMW, the interior had chilled. He started the car and turned on the heater.

  Lyron nodded and looked at him. “Are you sure he said ‘in the alley behind Bubba's Blues Bar’?”

  He gave him a look. “I earn my living from listening. Of course, I got it right.”

  “Okay, okay.” Lyron raised a hand in the air in mock surrender. “Thought the question needed asking. Still, though. Thirty minutes.”

  “Maybe he's not the punctual sort.”

  “What did he say again?”

  “Just that he had information that would lead me to Mary Ellen.”

  Lyron harrumphed. “Probably a four-flusher hoping to cash in on your misfortune.” He looked around at the buildings. “We're sitting ducks here.”

  “You worry too much.” Whit sat tensely silent, wanting to pace — he did his best thinking with his legs in motion. He looked out the windshield, staring hard at the doorways at the backs of the buildings as though he could will the tipster to materialize.

  His mind wandered, his thoughts, unbidden and unbridled, led down a straight and unfettered path to his sister. Was Lyron wrong? Was this the lead they looked for?

  He shouldn't get his hopes up. Lyron said they would get all kinds of crank calls, probably hundreds of them once the public got wind of a reward. All they needed, though, was one lead, one solid tip that would direct them to Mary Ellen.

  Was she alive?

  He refused to think negatively and closed his mind to the possibility that she might already be dead. “Come on,” he said in exasperation. Normally, he made things happen. Waiting for something to happen, red-lined his patience.

  Whit sat up when a lanky man, his long, blond hair flowing in the wind, pranced toward them in black tasseled loafers and a beige ankle-length trench coat.

  Lyron shifted positions. “Maybe this is our guy.”

  Whit looked at Lyron when he unholstered his nine millimeter and placed the gun in his lap. “Is that necessary? He looks harmless.”

  “One attempt on your life has already been made. We can't be too careful.”

  Whit lowered the window when the man stopped at the driver's door.

  “Mr. Hawkes?” he asked.

  “Get in.” Whit jerked his head toward the back.

  He sat in the middle of the seat and introduced himself. “Trevor Malloy.” He smiled at Lyron and batted his eyelashes. “My friends call me Kiki.”

  Lyron introduced Whit, then himself. “What have you got for us?”

  “Have you got my money, Mr. Hawkes?”

  Whit opened his mouth to answer, but Lyron answered for him. “You'll get it, if your tip leads us to Mary Ellen. That's the way it works.”

  “That's fair.” Malloy crossed his legs at the knees and placed his manicured hands on top of them.

  “Start at the top, Mr. Malloy,” Whit said when it occurred to him Kiki needed prompting.

  Malloy cleared his throat and nodded. “Last Thursday night, as I walked past the library toward my car, I saw a woman. I didn't know it was Mary Ellen at the time, they were a ways ahead with their backs to me —”

  “They?” Lyron asked.

  “Yes, Mary Ellen and the guy I saw her with in the library the last few weeks. It surprised the pee out of me that he liked women, because the man certainly raised the lever on my love-o-meter, if you know what I mean.” He fanned his face with a beige leather glove. “Ooh-la
-la. A real hottie.”

  Lyron glared at him. “Can you stick to what you saw?”

  Malloy shrugged. “Well, he had his arm across her shoulder, and she had her arm wrapped around his waist. At first they seemed like lovers, but that wasn't it. She was supporting him.”

  “What made you think that?”

  “He stumbled a few times and Mary Ellen had to catch him, or he would have fallen. I thought he was drunk or something.”

  Lyron nodded. “Go on.”

  “They finally made it to his vehicle. She propped him against the side of the car while she opened the driver's door. That's when things happened lightning fast.” Malloy slapped the side of his face and rolled his eyes. “The guy made a miraculous recovery, reached into the car and came out with a white handkerchief or gauze or something. He placed it across her mouth and nose with one hand while the other held her around the neck in a stranglehold, then she went limp in his arms. Probably chloroformed her, huh?”

  “What happened, then?” Lyron asked.

  “He opened the back door and put her on the seat.”

  “Then what?” Whit asked, forcing composure he didn't feel.

  “Then he looked around, probably to see if anyone watched. I was hiding behind a fifty-year-old maple tree by that time. Then he got behind the wheel and drove off like he had all the time in the world and like nothing had happened.

  “Cool character,” Lyron said and looked at Whit.

  Malloy clucked his tongue, nodded once, twice, then said as he laced his fingers together around his knees, “Stone cold.”

  “What time was that?” Lyron asked.

  Malloy tightened his lips at the corners and looked upward. “Around eight fifteen or so. I went straight back to my dorm, feeling like bull pucky. I was sure he was gay. Drat.” He unlaced his fingers and slapped his thigh. “Just my type, too.” He flapped his hands in the air. “The brightest blue eyes I ever saw and that dimple in his chin sent my heart a pitter-patter. Darling little...” His voice trailed off as he stared into space.

  Whit raised his eyebrows and looked at Lyron.

  Lyron rolled his eyes but asked pleasantly, “Can you describe him for us?”

  When, after a moment, Malloy didn't answer, Lyron snapped his fingers in Malloy's face.

  “Huh? What? Excuse me, I drifted off for a second. Did you say something?”

  “Describe him. Approximate height, weight, hair color, skin color, distinguishing marks, moles or scars.”

  “Well, he has this tiny mole above his right lip. Right here.” Malloy indicated the area just below his nose.

  “Uh-huh.” Lyron said, frowning. “Go on.”

  “One of his front teeth overlapped the other. Don't you just love that?”

  Malloy squeezed his legs together and hugged himself.

  “Can't say I placed too much thought on it,” Lyron said, deadpan. “What else?”

  “He stood about five-nine and was about my weight – one-sixty – and he had the sweetest nose. Short, but it had a little bump in the middle.” Malloy's brow creased and he appeared deep in thought a moment. “His feet turned in, like...like...”

  “He was pigeon-toed?” Lyron asked.

  Malloy pointed a finger at him and nodded. “Too cute.” He stared into space again and said in a whisper-soft voice, “He had the smallest ears. Just made me want to —”

  Lyron cut in. “Anything else?”

  “That's it, I guess.”

  “You didn't happen to get his name, did you?” Whit held his breath.

  “No. I tried to find out before that incident. Lordy, did I try. I wanted to hook up with him. But no one knew his name.” He rolled his eyes.

  Whit exhaled, feeling deflated.

  “I got his license plate number that night, though.” Malloy dug in his coat pocket, came out with a slip of paper folded in a square and handed it to Lyron.

  Whit looked at the paper in Lyron's hand, excitement flowing through him. A break, finally.

  “Did you report what you saw to the police?” Lyron asked.

  He nodded. “Uh-huh. Later that evening, after I got over my heartache and came to my senses. I don't think Mr. Policeman believed me, though. Probably thought I was just a gay cracker looking for attention.” He tsked. “Like I have to fabricate stories to get my kicks, know what I mean?” He exaggerated a wink.

  Lyron faced forward and wrote furiously on his coiled pad.

  Whit gave Lyron credit for keeping his cool. “Thank you for your time, Mr...uh, Kiki, and for the information. You've been very helpful. Where can we reach you?”

  Malloy gave him his cell phone number. He opened the door and looked at Whit. “Look man, the guy wasn't rough with your sister. I mean, he didn't dump her in the back seat, he placed her, like she was a fragile piece of crystal.”

  Whit nodded. Hearing that gave him some comfort. He hoped her abductor continued to treat her well.

  Lyron turned and faced Malloy. “Would you be available,” he checked his watch, “say around four? I'd like you to describe this man you saw with Mary Ellen to a friend of mine so he can make a computer-generated picture of him. You'll get paid for your time.” Malloy shrugged. “Sure.”

  Lyron gave him Whit's home address.

  When the door closed behind Malloy, Whit turned to Lyron. “I think he liked you.”

  Lyron holstered his gun and grunted. “And I think he smoked some bad weed a time or two. His gay-dar needs to be recalibrated. It's way, way off.”

  “Do you think he was telling the truth?”

  “I'd say so.” Lyron bit the inside of his cheek. “We know now how Baleman,” he made air quotes, “got Mary Ellen, and if we rely on Kiki's intuition, the guy’s gay. We'll check out the local bars, see if anyone remembers seeing him.”

  He raked his fingers through his hair and blew out a breath. “The bastard played on her vulnerability and sympathetic nature and used it against her. She wouldn't have anticipated any danger.”

  Lyron reached into his jacket pocket. “Not many people would.”

  Whit opened his mouth to speak but Lyron stilled him when he held a finger in the air and with his other hand punched in a number on his cell phone. “Evelyn, how's it going?... Ah, you know me too well... How's Sun Sushi sound?” He grimaced as he listened. “Okay, dinner at Rumpelstiltskin's, then. ... Great.” He unfolded the paper and read the license plate number Malloy gave them. “No, I'll wait. Thanks, sweetie.”

  Lyron swung the phone against his chest and looked at Whit. “You're going to owe me big time for this. Evelyn Parks is not any man's dream, if you get my drift. Rumor has it she has three nipples. Two of them are on the inside of her thigh.” He visibly shook, then grimaced and held his hand against his shoulder. “Keep forgetting I was shot.” He put the phone back to his ear. “I'm here... Okay... Uh-huh... Got it. Thanks, hon. See you Saturday at eight... Yeah, I'm looking forward to it, too.” He flipped the phone closed and looked at Whit.

  “Well?”

  “The car was reported stolen Thursday afternoon and hasn't been found yet.”

  Whit slammed an open palm against the steering wheel. “Damn.” He thought for a moment and realized something good could still come from Malloy’s tip. “When the car is found, maybe we'll get lucky and get a print.”

  Lyron shook his head. “Don't fool yourself. It's probably at the bottom of a river or burned to a crisp by now, and if it's not, it's been wiped clean, believe me.” He worried his bottom lip.

  “What is it?” Whit asked. “You only chew your lip when things are not going as you expected.”

  “This guy is slick, and I wouldn't put too much stock in his description, either. He's covered his tracks and covered them well. Like you said, this was a carefully orchestrated plan.” Lyron flipped open his cell phone and punched in a number.

  “Who you calling now?”

  “My computer guru so we can get the composite made. He should be back in town by now. Just so
you know, he likes to be paid in cash before he does any work.”

  Whit shrugged. “We'll stop by the bank before I drop you off at the house.” He checked the time.

  Lyron raised a brow. “Have to be somewhere?”

  “I have a pre-trial motion before Duplessie at two.”

  “You couldn't have it postponed?”

  Whit huffed a breath. “The old fart wouldn't allow a postponement if the lawyer on record were dead.”

  Lyron snorted and flipped his phone closed. “No answer.” He looked out the window. “Damn. We're behind in the investigation. Getting shot didn't help, either. We should have had a composite made from Dixon's description of Baleman and had those pictures plastered around town long before this.”

  Whit started the car. “We'll go to him, then. Where does he live?”

  Lyron gave him the address.

  ***

  On the sidewalk outside The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, Blossom could tell something was up with Ian, but she didn't ask. When he was ready to talk, he'd tell her.

  The sun sat high in an unblemished sky, and the breeze was resplendent with the scent of freshly fallen snow. She took in a lungful of air and blew it out slowly.

  “What a jackass,” Ian said. “Four kids disappear from the same place within a space of three years, and he doesn't find it odd?”

  She frowned. “Whoa. Four kids?”

  He showed her the front page of the newspaper. “I snatched this from Quinn's desk.”

  She read the article below the crease. “Well known criminal lawyer, Whitfield Hawkes, is offering a fifty thousand dollar reward for any information leading to the whereabouts of his step-sister, Mary Ellen Tucker. Ms. Tucker was last seen leaving Memorial University campus library last Thursday evening. Graham Earley, a friend of Ms. Tucker's, is also missing.” She lowered the newspaper. “Jennifer disappeared from the library, and her boyfriend is missing, too.”

  “Uh-huh. Tucker's brother employed a PI to help the police in the search for his sister.”

  “So?”

  “Maybe we can join forces with him.”

  “We just knock on his door and explain we're looking into Jennifer Lamb's disappearance on behalf of her grandmother and say, Mr. Hawkes, I think we should join forces, and thank you, we'd love to stay for supper...”

  “Why not? I can be very persuasive.”

  “You do have a way of making things happen.” By Jupiter, did he! Sometimes she thought God stood at his back giving him a needed push now and then.

 
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