There were only eight houses in Stratfield, but none was less than five storeys high. A fleet of assault gliders could have parked on any of the buzz cut lawns. The road dividing them 4 by four provided ample room for two juggernauts to lay across it end to end.
The walls were just about small enough for a fully grown giraffe to see over. That, and the just as tall front railings, couldn't help but make me wonder what they were hiding.
Number seven belonged to the party I was calling on. Donald Krane was a once big time movie writer and director who decided to give it all up four years ago and try his hand "at this writing shit". His most successful period was during the silent era.The bulk of his output had been in the comedy vein with the odd swashbuckler and gangster flick thrown in. During the war, he like many directors started trotting out propaganda films. When peace came around again, he was more interested in making message movies than entertaining. Unfortunately nobody was taking delivery. So he tried making a comedy again, but the old spark wasn't there. After a few more efforts, some of which were moderately successful, but none of which lit up the box office, he decided to get into the scribbling racket. Well, as he told an interviewer in a magazine article charmingly titled "WHO THE HELL ARE YOU? " subtitled "He was hot, now he's not" I see names like Faulkner and Chandler on movie credits, I though it was time for a little takeback".
He'd taken heed of the maxim "Write what you know about" and penned two fiction works set in Hollywood. They both traced the adventures of talent scout Noah Stapeleton. Each had been top of the best sellers list. Heck, who doesn't like to read about the movie capitol. Looking through "Who's who" I found out, he was 48, a widower, and had one child.He had been given his first directing assignment at the grand old age of 23. He'd gotten 7 oscar nominations as best director, and 4 more for his screenplays. He'd won only twice, one for directing, and one for writing. It was for the same movie But not only that, it was for his biggest flop, one of his "listen to me, Goddam it" movies. The movie had of course been reissued after it's Oscar success. It made even less money the second time around.
The general reaction of movie critics seemed to be summed up by one who said "Just because you put diamonds on crap, doesn't mean it's still not crap".
I looked at my watch, placing a hand against my sweat covered forehead to shade my eyes from the callous sun.
It was half an hour since we spoke on the phone. His daughter was missing and he wanted me to find her.
The weather was hotter than Hades, and my only reason for even thinking about work was because my wallet was emptier than a politician's campaign promises.
Ivy crept up the sides of the house, in some cases obscuring the large leaded windows. The copper brown walls and mahogany door were both in need of a fresh coat of paint.
Surprisingly the gates were locked. There was a buzzer and intercom on the wall beside them. I pressed the buzzer. There was a spluttering sound, then a female voice with an Irish accent asked.
"Who is it?" "
"Steve Gallagher. I'm here to see Mr Krane."
"Oh yes; He told me to expect you. I'll open the gates"
I got back in my jalopy and parked around the side of the house. The front door had a large knocker in the shape of a lion's head with a ring in it's mouth. The eyes looked a little sad as if nobody had pulled on the ring in a very long time.I heard the same voice again. This time it was coming from above me.
"Go right in. He's in the study. You'll find it just underneath the stairs".
I stepped back. A slim almost lampost thin woman was sticking her head out of one of the top windows. Brown hair with tinges of grey, crowned a handsome ruddy face. She looked to be in her early fifties.
"Galway?" I queried.
"Wicklow. You're not Irish yourself, though, are you. Gallagher, that’s a Norwegian name, isn't it?"
"No it's Chinese. Actually I was born in Meath. But I left Ireland when I was ten. How long since since you left the old country?"
She shrugged, but not in a nonchalant way, it was slow and deliberate as if she was carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders.
"Are you the housekeeper"?
"Yes," she said with sigh, that was almost as heavy as the shrug "and you can add maid and private secretary alongside that. It would be no harm if he took on some extra help."
"So there's only the two of you in the house?"
"Yes. But I hope you can fix that by finding Mr Krane's daughter. I'd better not keep you any longer. He's probably very anxious to see you. Good luck."
So it wasn't the weight of the world she was carrying, just that of the house. I wanted to tell her that I hadn't even decided to take the case yet. But she had disappeared from view.
I pushed hard at the door. It opened and I stepped inside.
I was in a medium square hallway with light grey panelled walls, and a floor covered in heavy jet black carpet. Two bears could have spent their honeymoon there without anyone noticing them.
To the right was a long black wrought iron staircase. Halfway up it on the wall was a portrait about three feet high and two foot wide. It's subject was a smiling boy of about six. He wore a bright blue sailor's suit and his head and ears were covered by a mass of curly blonde hair.
The sun shining in the portrait's background was only slightly more golden than the boy's thatch.I wondered if Krane was the subject. I rapped on the door beneath the stairs and a male voice with enough gravel to build a few feet of driveway growled "Yeah. Who is it?"
"Steve Gallagher. The guy you asked to find your daughter."
"Oh yeah. The private dick. Wait a minute."
I didn't hear him come to the door. When he opened it, I saw why. His feet had neither socks nor shoes, and he was standing on deep blue carpet.
He was dressed in slightly faded powder blue shorts and a long sleeved cream coloured shirt. The sleeves were rolled up past the elbows, exposing muscular arms which were thick with hair. His head was a different matter. The top of it was completely bald, and shiny with perspiration. The dark hair at the sides was peppered with grey. He was a tall bird , about six foot three, and he must have weighed around two hundred pounds. None of it looked like blubber. If someone had asked me to guess what his occupation was, I wouldn't have said writer.
His face was strong boned but pale. He didn't look as if he spent a lot of time in the sun.
"I'm Krane," he said."Come in."
I followed him in and closed the door behind me.
At the far side of the room was an open window which let in golden flecks of sunlight. Underneath it was a small hardwood table, that had probably once been yellow, but looked as if it had last been painted during the civil war. On top was an Underwood typewriter, that looked about as new as the table and lying on top of the carriage, a glass ashtray almost brimming over with cigarette stubs. Faint traces of smoke drifted out from one of them.
There were two brown leather chairs in the room. One had its seat under the table, and the other was in the middle of the floor. The ceiling and walls were painted a dull reddish brown. While I was trying to figure out if the blue floor carpet emphasised the dullness of the rest of the room, or vice versa, Krane roughly pulled the leather chair out from the table.
He sat down with such force that I was surprised when he didn't fall through it. With a curt gesture, made with a hand big enough to hold a pair of turnips in, he motioned me to sit on the other.
I sat down.
An unopened bottle of Johnny Walker stood on the floor. He leaned down and picked it up, but instead of opening it, he threw his arm back over his shoulder until the bottle was touching his back, then with another grunt like I had heard before, he fired the bottle against the wall. When it hit, it, broke into pieces of multifarious sizes. He watched the mess flow down and began to cry, softly to himself, as if I wasn't in the room at all, like someone who had gotten all the loudness out of his system, and this was all he had left. He had his eyes closed now and was rocking his head back and forth. Then he turned his hands into fists and pushed them against his forehead. When he spoke, the tone in his voice was a mixture of begging and demand.
"Look, whatever the hell your name is."
"Gallagher," I interrupted.
"Yeah. Whatever. I want my daughter found. I don't care how much it costs. Just find her for me."
"Have you tried the police? They have a whole department that looks after that kind of thing." "The police have enough missing persons cases to deal with. Besides I have a reason for not getting them involved."
" What's that?"
"Later. What would you like to drink?"
The begging had gone out of his voice now, and demand had turned to anger.
"I'd like an answer to my question first."
"You'll have a drink first, and like it. Either that or you can leave right now."
In other circumstances I might have turned on my heels and walked out the door, but his daughter was missing, and he was entitled to a few mood swings.
"All right," I said "I'll have a drink."
He rose from the chair, walked over to the door, and shouted.
"Kitty, bring me in a bottle of.... "
He turned back to me and asked "what's your poison?"
"Anything," I said.
"Just make sure that it's bad for me."
He looked away from me again, cupped his hands over his mouth, probably unnecessarily, and hollered.
"Okay Kitty. Bring down the rest of that dead soldier, and there's something to be cleaned up."
Her voice travelled down the stairs like a demented express train.
"Could you be more precise sir? I hope you haven't been sick on the floor?"
The tone in her voice suggested that if he had been, it couldn't have been the first time. Still if she felt okay about talking to her employer like that, he must have been tolerable to work for.
"No. You'll see what it is, when you get down. Just bring: a dustpan, mop, the liquor and two pony glasses."
"I'm on my way, sir."
" Well step on it, woman."
He sat down heavily again and looked mournfully at his clothes.
" I don't often dress like this, and I'm usually not as rude as that."
"Oh" I said, "and just how rude are you, usually?"
He grinned at that, and reached a hand around to scratch thoughtfully at the back of his neck.
"I guess you must deal with all kinds in your line of work."
"The best, the worst, and everything in between," I said.
He nodded his head slowly, as if he knew exactly what I was talking about.
"Can we start again. i just need a drink, and you look like a drinking sort yourself. But if you want to walk, no hard feelings. The only excuse I can offer is that my daughter's disappearance has made me do a lot of things that I normally wouldn't."
"Like what?" "Hitting the bottle. It's supposed to drown your sorrows."
"It doesn't seem to be working," I observed.
He laughed. The sound was loud and powerful, like a cannon going off.
"I never touched the damn stuff before. That was why Kitty asked if I had gotten sick. But now that I've started, I'm not sure if I'll be able to relinquish the pleasure."
"I thought all writers were alcoholics.?"
Krane didn't answer. He just stared blankly at me. Then a hiccup came from somewhere in his belly, then another, and another. Then he couldn't hold it any longer and the laugh came again. He began to shake and doubled up. One hand curled into a fist pressed against his stomach. I just sat there wondering if I had a nutcase for a potential client. Finally he calmed down. But before either of us could say anything, he had started again. He had three laughing fits in all. When he did manage to speak, he said, "I'm sorry: you're the first person who has ever referred to me as a writer; even I don't do that."
"Well maybe you could hire me as a publicity man instead.Now would you mind telling me why you don't want the police involved."
"Six days before my daughter disappeared; she came home with a man twelve years older than her. Now he's vanished as well.I think the guy is a bum, and I'm not talking about someone looking for a hot meal."
He looked at me despondently.
"What do you want me to say? that he robbed me. Well he didn't."
"So why did you think something was wrong?"
"The way he behaved. The fact that he would hardly ever talk about himself."
"So you think he had something to hide?"
"Yeah. But don't ask me what?"
"You made sure that I knew that she was twelve years younger than him. Why? Is she a minor or something?"
"No. She was twenty four two months ago."
"Twenty four!" I said, with exaggerated surprise. (Although I had probably seen her date of birth in 'Who's Who'. "Not exactly an ankle biter, is she?"
"She's still my daughter!"
"Don't you think she's old enough to go her own way?"
He spoke earnestly, "Look at this from my point of view. Her mother died when she was six months old. Since then I've had to bring her up on my own. She moved out when she was twenty. She only moved back in while her own place was being decorated. No matter what age she is, she'll always be my child. I want the best for her, and I don't think this guy is that."
How do you know that he's twelve years older than her?"
"Twelve, twenty. Who the hell cares. I just don't think he should be seeing her."
"Did you tell her that you had reservations about him?"
"I told her that she should dump him and get back with Paul."
"Paul Sawyer. He's a lawyer. She had only split up with him six days before."
"Sawyer the Lawyer," I said.
"Yeah yeah," Krane rolled his eyes toward the ceiling. Don't be so f*cking obvious. Here's a riddle for you. If a critic and a lawyer were drowning, which one would I save? The answer is neither. But Paul is an exception. He's the first lawyer I could use the word 'honest' to describe."
"I could name you at least two more. But they never got anywhere with it. Why did he break up with your daughter?"
"Actually she bust up with him. All I can tell you, is that I've never seen two people so nuts about each other as Jenifer and Paul, To use a cliche I would have bet my bottom dollar; they would have walked up the aisle together."
Then the door opened and Kitty came into the room. She looked about ready for a siesta. She had: the dead soldier, two pony glasses, dustpan and brush with her.
Krane stood up and relieved her of the bottle and glasses. He opened the bottle and poured some of the liquid into one of the glasses. He had filled it right to the brim. Then he handed the other glass and the bottle to me.
"Help yourself," he said.
I filled my pony about three quarter way, and handed the soldier back to him. He put it to rest on the floor. Then he stretched an arm out toward the mess he had made; "get rid of that", he said.
Her kisser opened wide enough for the Union Pacific to pass through. She was staring at what Krane was pointing at. Her expression was one of total disbelief. It was as if she couldn't quite get to grips with the idea that her employer would even consider asking her to perform such a task.
"But sir", she said in a hoarse whisper that made her sound as if she was being strangled. "I can't go near that." She pointed a calloused shaky finger at what Krane had indicated.
Krane's eyes became slits. His Adam's apple began to bob up and down, and his cheeks turned a bright red. His expression was similar to Kitty's, but anger was mixed with it. "What did you say!?"
"Well sir. Ever since I was a child, I've hated the smell of liquor. As a matter of fact I can't..."
"Whoa there, "Krane interrupted. "I'm not asking you to smell it; I just need it cleaned up. I don't know why you're making such a big deal about this." Then a sly smile crept slowly over his features. He wagged a finger at her. Nice try Kitty. But I know that you're just trying to get my goat up." This was said in a half hopeful half quizzical tone.
"I'm being perfectly serious sir; I have to draw the line somewhere. If you recall, it was only since your daughter..." she swallowed before carrying on." It was only since she became sweet on that young lawyer; that you've had drink in the house".
"Yeah," said Krane." But that was only for Paul."
"Yes sir. But now you've taken to the bottle yourself. I only took this position in the first place; because you stated in your original advertisement that you were a teetotaller."
"Krane let out a deep sigh." I know. But things change. Besides that was a long time ago. How come you're only finding your tongue now?"
Her answer was fast and to the point.
" I needed the job, sir."
"And you've got something else lined up now. Is that it?"
Her eyes dropped to the floor, but she said nothing. Krane was beginning to lose his patience, and his voice rose by several octaves.
"For God's sake Kitty, stop acting as if I had asked you to remove a corpse."
But Kitty had decided to dig her heels in. "That wouldn't be any worse sir!"
Then as if someone had jabbed a needle into his buns, the big man jumped out of his chair. To say that he was angry would have been like calling Moby Dick, a fish.
When he spoke it was in a low hissing whisper, like Peter Lorre putting the frighteners on the heroine.
"How long have you been working for me?"
"About ten years sir."
The words came out slowly with long spaces in between, as if she couldn't quite remember how to say them.
"Well Kitty. I don't know if you have another job to go to. But if that mess is not cleared up in just as many seconds, guess what."
"What, sir?" She wiped one of her eyes with the back of her hand. Her complexion seemed to have gotten a little lighter and she trembled slightly.
Krane didn't seem to have noticed any of this, or at least he chose not to.
" There will be a body to remove." He paused for a second, and then with a roar that almost scared the shit out of me, said, "Yours!"
Having got his point across, he sat down again.
The woman this had been directed at, was still trembling slightly, but it was no more than that, and when she spoke it was with a tremendous dignity that made me feel that Krane was the one on the defensive. Her tone was calm and even.
"All right, sir, I'll do what you ask, but never ask me to do anything like this again."
"Make it snappy."
When she had completed the chore, she marched out banging the door emphatically after her.
Krane glowered intently in its direction. He was breathing heavily: the sounds were long and slow: his chest rose and fell in the same manner. His face was so red now, that it looked as if the blood was going to burst through the skin.
For a moment I thought he was going to get up and follow her, Instead He put the pony glass to his lips, and poured about half it's contents down his throat.
"Now," he asked, "shall we get back to the subject of my daughter?"
"How long had they been seeing each other?"
"About six years."
I was baffled. For someone who had declared such a disliking for the hard stuff, it struck me as rather odd that Kitty would have continued working for Krane for this length of time. She hadn't been too keen on letting him know whether or not she had another prospective employer. Who knows: maybe she had fallen for the guy.
"That's a long time." I said.
Krane nodded in agreement." Yeah, I already said that I thought they would have been hitched by now. But I've just about given up on that idea."
"So why didn't they tie the knot?"
Krane smiled to himself, stroking his chin at the same time, and getting that thoughtful expression back in place. Then he looked back at me.
"Paul Sawyer is, and I know this is an old fashioned word, an honourable man. He didn't think he was earning enough money to marry my daughter. Last year he became a fully fledged lawyer. It was only then that they became engaged."
"You said that she met up with this other character, six days after splitting up with Sawyer?"
"That's right. She introduced him to me on the first day she met him. I remember she did the same with Paul."
I took my first taste of the liquor. There was ice in the glass: the coolness of the liquid made my throat feel good. I had no idea what it was doing to my kidneys.
" What's his name?" I asked.
" He said it was Arthur Reeves, but I doubt it."
"Do you think he has anything to do with the breakup?"
"I just got through telling you, that she didn't meet him until after the split with Paul."
"Yeah, but she could have been giving him the glad eye long before she told you about him."
"Christ," said Krane." You're not exactly subtle, are you?"
It wasn't the first time I had been accused of that. But from him it sounded like Attila the Hun giving Vlad the Impaler, a ticking off.
"Besides," he went on. "I trust my daughter."
As I didn't know his offspring, I couldn't afford that luxury.
"Did you ask her about it?"
" No. but since it happened before she met this creep, it has nothing to do with her being missing."
"Did you talk to the lawyer?"
"It seems that Paul is as much in the dark as I am."
"Really!" I said with a sneer in my voice. "That doesn't say a lot for six years of love and affection."
"I think Reeves has some kind of hold over Jenifer."
"Yeah," I said." How?"
"The very minute I saw this creep with my daughter, I knew he was a wrong guy. He was just too damn polite for my liking. But it was bullshit polite. He kept calling me sir, but he looked like he wanted to spit every time he said it. I doubt if anything he said was fact."
"Maybe it wasn't. But that doesn't explain why you think he's pulling her strings."
He thought for a moment before replying. "Well I suppose the main reason is that they looked about as much in love with each other as the two of us. The whole thing has to be a sham. I never even saw them touching. Hell, when she brought Paul home for the first time, they couldn't keep their hands off each other. They didn't care whether I was in the room or not."
"Maybe he was shy, maybe he didn't like to touch your daughter in front of you."
"He was shy all right, but not like that. He got Jenifer to ask me to take a look at a movie script, he had written. I told her that he would have to go through the usual channels. She was pretty cut up about that, so I said that if she got rid of him, I'd see what I could do."
"No. This was the evening before she disappeared.
"You said before that he was cagey when it came to talking about himself?"
"Yeah. That's what I mean. On one occasion I asked him what he worked at. He said it wasn't worth talking about."
"Maybe it wasn't," I ventured.
" Yeah, but he wouldn't give a straight answer to whatever I asked him. Actually, when I think about it, personal questions seemed to make him uneasy. What made things worse was that my daughter began behaving in the same way."
"What do you mean?"
"Well she wouldn't tell me anything either. She wouldn't even let me know where she had met Reeves."
"What was her reaction when you told her that you didn't like him?"
"Well, she said much the same as you, but she was angry with it as well."
"Okay," I said, "I'll take the case. But if they're hitched, there's nothing I can do about it."
He dug into one of his pants pockets and produced a small brown envelope. He handed it to me. It was unsealed. There was a photograph inside. It was a colour snapshot of a young man and woman. Obviously the missing girl and her ex fiancee.
They were sitting on the sand at some beach with their arms around each other's waists, Her head rested against his shoulder, and both of them looking as if they could whip whatever the world threw at them, and then some. but it was only a photograph, I had no really no idea what was going on. for all I knew they could have been beating the shit out of each other before someone asked them to smile.
The woman was rather pretty with fair and freckled skin. Her straight blonde hair reached down to her shoulders. It looked natural, but that probably meant she had gotten an above par dye job. The body didn't make my eyes water. The Adam with her was a tall good looking hunk, with a tanned chest full of heavy black hair. He had a pencil line moustache, and the thick dark hair on his head was highlighted by a little kiss curl. She was wearing a cream white, one piece bathing suit. He had one a pair of dark blue swimming trunks.
"Have you got a picture of Reeves?"
"No, but maybe this will give you some idea of what he looks like. He reached into his pocket again and produced a sketch-pad. Then he tore out the first page and handed it to me. "That's the best I can do."
There was a drawing of a man's face on the sheet. He had thinning hair, a Hitler type moustache, and a low forehead. All of which proved nothing. As it was done in grey pencil I had no idea what colour those features were.
"Turn it over," he said.
I did as asked. There were three phone numbers written on the reverse side. One was Krane's. The others were Paul Sawyer's home and work numbers ,along with the addresses for both.
"Can you tell me what colour his hair is?"
"Black," snarled Krane, "the same as his heart."
It sounded like something a character in "The King's Lady" might have said. I managed to suppress my laughter.
"What else can you tell me about him?. I mean in terms of build, colour of eyes. You know, stuff like that."
"He's about five foot ten, he has a slim almost emaciated build, and I have no idea what colour his eyes are. Whenever he was here, he usually wore a bow tie. But I guess I didn't know him that long."
I put the drawing in the envelope and asked. "How often did you see him?"
"Twice," he said defensively, as if it was something to be ashamed of.
"What about his mannerisms? Was there anything you would describe as distinctive?"
"Not really. Except as I said, he was so polite, he made me want to throw up. You know the kind of thing. 'You have a lovely daughter, Mr Krane. Whenever I go to the movies, I always look out for your name. Christ!, the creep even asked me for an autograph. He didn't get one."
Krane asseverated the last line, as if it was the pivotal moment of his existence.
"When did Jenny disappear?"
"Two days ago. She had come home that evening looking ready to kill someone. But her eyes were quite red.It was obvious she had been crying."
"What time was this?"
"It was about 9 pm. I asked her what the problem was. She wouldn't say a word. not a damn thing. The next morning she was gone."
"Was that the last time you saw her?"
"No. She went up to bed around ten minutes later. I went up at approximately eleven thirty to see how she was. She was sleeping."
"Are you sure she was in the bed?"
Krane looked at me as if I had just dropped in through the ceiling.
"Did you actually see her on the bed?"
"Yes," he said impatiently."I kissed her goodnight."
"So when did you discover that she was missing?"
"Eight o clock the next morning. When she hadn't come down for breakfast; I told Kitty to go and wake her up. I thought she had just overslept, but she wasn't there.
"Was anything missing from the room?" What condition was it in?"
"Her clothes and money were gone. The room was tidy."
"Were the windows open or closed?"
"Christ. You don't expect us to keep them closed in this kind of heat, do you?"
Then disbelief clouded his face.
"Are you trying to tell me that someone came in through the window and abducted my daughter. That's about as unlikely as someone freezing to death in this weather. I'm a pretty light sleeper and I would have heard any commotion. Besides Jenny would have put up enough of a struggle to waken the devil."
"Yeah," I said, "but it would be kind of hard to make a lot of noise, if someone stuck a rag or handkerchief laced with chloroform over your mouth. Is there someone who might get a kick out of snatching your daughter?"
He breathed hard before replying. his voice was shaky."There are a lot of people who would like my next screenplay to be turned into an enormous flop. But I don't think they would do something as malevolent as kidnap my child."
"You're probably right. Besides if someone is holding her, you probably would have received some kind of communication by now. I'll give you my two cents worth. Your daughter was sold on this guy, but she meant nothing to him, just something to while away the hours. Then he skipped town without telling her. She found out about it, came home in a sulk, and next morning decided to take out after him. As for Reeves trying to kiss ass with you, he probably was a fan. Hell! Maybe that's why he hung around your daughter in the first place."
"What are you talking about?"
Well, he probably wanted to boast to his friends that he had the daughter of a famous writer as a conquest."
Krane rose slowly and stiffly from the chair like a dead man struggling out of his grave and in the same manner paced up and down the room, carrying his drink with him.
When he sat down, he did it so heavily that I thought this time he would definitely go through the chair. I guessed that he would have gone through a lot of bed springs in his time. He took another took another swig of soldier, and looked at me with eyes of stone.
"Bullshit",he said icily. "If you had ever met my daughter,you wouldn't have painted her as such a weak willed character. I may not know Jenny's every thought. But I can guarantee you that she's not the kind of person to go around chasing after creeps like Reeves. She's got a lot more savvy than that. If she has gone after him.it isn't out of love."
"Does she have a car?"
Krane clutched his chest and began to cough. Then the laugh like a cannon roar came. It lasted for almost two minutes. When he had recovered, he looked at me through tear stained eyes and asked." Is the Pope a communist?" Then he broke up again."
When he had recovered for a second time,I said," Sorry?"
"Jenny happens to believe that cars are the major contributor to pollution in this country."
"You mean she's one of those people who goes around forming circles around endangered trees?" "Yeah," said Krane. "But not just trees. This planet of ours is shot to hell, and it's people like her the government should be listening to".
I could have said something cynical. Instead I asked "What about her friends. Maybe she hooked up with one of them?"
"Friends!" He opened his mouth and the boom came again. Luckily he didn't lose his head this time.
I shook my head inquiringly. "You mean she hasn't any? Not even among the tree circling fraternity."
"Well, not as many as she could have. My daughter is quiet outspoken. That's not always a good thing, specially among the young.They have a lot more to lose. People tend to become strangers twice as fast as they get to know her."
Then his cheeks moved up past his eyes, while they dropped to the floor. He snapped his fingers and said "But there is Claire Harrison... Claire is the kind who will stick with you through thick and thin. Her Stepfather died three months ago in a hit and run accident. But I believe Claire and her mother think it was foul play."
"It seemed he owed some money to a gambling casino. They think the owner had him murdered."
"What do you think?"
"Look, what the hell is this?" He took another mouthful of soldier. "I'm hiring you to find my daughter. If the investigation of Harrison's death sounds more appealing to you; I suggest you contact his widow."
"Sorry," I said "but whenever I hear talk like that, I go on automatic. When was the last time your daughter and this Harrison woman were together?"
"I'm afraid I don't know. She goes whenever the notion takes her. But if you're thinking that she might have gone there, I've already checked. Claire says that she has seen neither hide nor hair of her."
"When did you contact her?"
" Where does she live?"
"46 Bloomhill road, Calamanda."
" Calamanda! huh. I was there a couple of times. I promised myself that the next time I went, I'd bring a tank along."
He let me have another of his strange looks, but said nothing. I took out my notebook and wrote down the address.
"Do you have any idea where Reeves was staying?" I was presuming that he wasn't a native.
"Yes," He said with disdain. "I followed my daughter one night in order to find out. Something I'm totally ashamed of, but whenever I asked her about it, she clammed up. As a matter of fact, the question seemed to frighten her."
"Frighten her," I repeated, "in what way?"
He stroked his chin, and pushed his tongue up against the inside of his top teeth in order to make a clicking sound.
"Maybe frighten is too strong a word. It was as if she was trying to protect me from him."
"If you're right about that, it seems rather curious that she would have introduced him to you in the first place."
"I've already told you that I thought he was exercising some kind of hold over her. But I've also said that my daughter is quiet a strong character." He threw his arms up in the air. "Hell I don't know why she brought him here."
"So where was he staying?"
"At the Glass Hotel, and believe me,I've never seen a place so aptly named. One other thing I did find strange though.Krane, and believe me it sticks in my craw to say this, but he was a smart dresser. Yet he chose the "Glass." It was obvious he could have afforded a better place."
"That might mean something, or it might not.I happen to know where it is, Have you been back there since?"
"Yeah I went back yesterday. But the manager wasn't around, and nobody seemed to know anything".
I'll canter over there first and have a look see. My fee is 100 bucks a day and expenses. I also get a retainer of 150, and I'd like to get a look at your daughter's room."
"There's not much point, but all right, Come on."
He struggled out of the chair again, led me up the stairs and into a small but stylish room.The bed was low level with a curved black tubular headboard.
The fact that the blue lightweight covers were pulled back intrigued me. But I let it lie for the moment.The only other furniture was a cd player stationed in a black teak cabinet: a brown oak locker, and a matching bookseller with two rows of books on it. I glimpsed titles such as "A Socialist vision" " How to achieve Utopia" and "The death of capitalism."
"Have you been in here since?" I asked.
He nodded "Yeah, doing what's probably on your mind. I searched it top to bottom; the books, the locker, the bed , hell I even took the cd apart. Nothing."
"Is your daughter a radical?" I asked.
For a moment he didn't seem to know what I was talking about. Then a flicker of recognition crossed his face. "Oh you mean the books. Yeah if McCarthy was around, he'd have a field day. Thank God that crap is finished with. No she just goes through phases, if you had been here a year ago, you would have seen nothing but stuff on space exploration."
"So you searched the bed?"
"Yeah, every inch of it. Look as I said before I think you're wasting your time. As a matter of fact, I'd say your wasting my time."
"Maybe," I said. "But you still might have missed something. I'm not saying you didn't see everything, but there might be a page marked in a book, a piece of text underlined, things that might mean nothing to you, but that could be a clue."
He smiled at me with wry amusement. "Well I guess this is what I'm paying you for. I'll get that money for you.
"The bed," I said. "Why the pulled down covers?
He bit on his lower lip, and shrugged his shoulders. "I guess it's silly. But it kind of makes me think that she's around. You know, as if she'll come out of the bathroom any second."
"Whatever gets you through," I said.
He nodded contemplatives. "I'll see you downstairs."
When he had gone I opened the locker and looked inside. There was nothing but some back issues of Elle. I went through them, but as Krane had said it was a waste of time.
Fifteen minutes later I concluded he was right.When I saw Krane again, there was a white unmarked envelope in his hand.
"There's seven hundred there. You'll get the rest when I have my daughter back."
"Thanks", I said, "and you were right about the room. There's nothing there."
"Still I'm glad you looked. I like people who know when to back down and when not to. You were right to back down, when I offered you that drink, and right not to, there now."
"One more thing," I said. "If your daughter doesn't want to come back, I won't try and make her."
"Yeah.yeah," he said. "I'll make it easier for you. Just find her. After that we'll take things one thing at a time."
"I'll find her," I told him. For all I knew I could have been lying. But if you haven't got confidence, you have nothing. Right?
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