In this third installment of the Cat Collier Mystery series, after escaping from captivity in an abandoned train car, Cat stumbles upon a homeless man at the long deserted train station, who helps her get home to Carter. Detrick discovers he knows this homeless man as the one-time legendary saxophone player who played in the downstairs bar when they were both young and the family embarks on rehabilitating the sax player and reopening the bar, “The Blues.”
A Cat Collier Mystery
By Carol Ann Kauffman
My name is Cat Collier. I run a research service called Red Cat Investigation. I have an office in Palazzo Castellano, the gorgeous Gothic architectural masterpiece in the center of Heaton Valley, Ohio. My office adjoins the office of Attorney Erick Carter Larsen, my incredibly sweet, handsome boyfriend. His newly found millionaire father is bankrolling us. I’m the luckiest girl in the world.
Mostly I do online research for private citizens of Heaton Valley. Now, you might not believe this, but privacy is a thing of the past. Death certificates, birth certificates, and real estate appraisals are all public record. Credit scores, bank account balances, and employment records are a little harder, but not much. Social media is a treasure trove of free and easily accessible information about relationships, new babies, new jobs, and current location. Friends of mutual friends can yield a ton of sought-after data. With an Internet connection, a little luck, and minimal hacking skills, I can find out almost anything without leaving the comfort and safety of my lovely new office.
Mostly. But sometimes I have to do a more physical kind of investigating.
“Hey, Nola,” I phoned my secretary, “I’m tailing the same white unmarked full-size Chevy van that picked up Lark Fairpoint, Case #7, three hours ago at the corner of Sinclair Street and Fifth Avenue. 2013 Express model, Ohio license plate number M 1538 C,” I said as I whizzed down Route 169. It felt good having someone I could check in with, someone who would know what I’ve been up to and my last known location. I found the private investigation business attracted some pretty shady characters.
“Okay, got it,” said Nola. “Do you need back-up?”
“No. I don’t see anything suspicious. They stopped at McDonald’s drive through, then went to Dunkin’ Donuts. Lark may simply be on a mindless eating binge or skipping school to hang out with her friends at the mall. That seems to be where they’re heading now. Did you ever do that as a kid?”
“Me? No. My mother would have killed me, revived me, and killed me again. Did you?”
“No. I liked school. What are you doing?
“I’m supervising Detrick while he does his leg strengthening exercises,” answered Nola.
“Hello, Cat,” yelled Detrick in the background.
“And he’s doing very well,” added Nola. “And Carter’s making ham and scalloped potatoes. The aroma coming from the kitchen is making us crazy, so don’t be late for lunch.”
“I won’t. See you soon.”
The van stopped abruptly and four people dressed in black wearing ski masks jumped out of the van and ran into The Big Cheese Pizza Shop on Route 169.
Crap! My sweet little schoolgirl is robbing a pizza shop. I tapped some numbers into my cell phone.
“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph! Don’t you have someone else to bother? You won’t be happy until you get my ass fired. I’m already in enough trouble over you, Cat. What the hell do you want from me this time?” shouted Officer Kiernan Scott of the Heaton Valley Police Department.
I hung up. Scotty’s verbal barrage snapped me back to reality. Marina Fairpoint hired me to find out why her normally happy, pleasant, smart teenage daughter had suddenly become distant and moody with plummeting grades, not get her arrested and ruin her chances of ever becoming the president of the United States.
I snapped some photos as the foursome ran back to the van. I noticed all four were tall, husky body types, not petite like Lark. The van roared down the street, turned down a side street, and pulled into a driveway. I passed the driveway just as the garage door came down. I snapped more photos.
I hung around at the Burger King on the corner, where I had a clean sight of the driveway while I read about the latest innovations in water treatment facilities in Denmark. Two hours and four cups of coffee later, the white van slowly backed out of the driveway and made its way to the mall while I followed a few car lengths behind.
The driver parked the van near the main concourse door and seven people got out, four big, husky boys and three girls. I spotted Lark holding hands with one of the boys as they entered the mall.
I checked my watch. One thirty. Wow, this little girl had an exciting day. Start off at McDonald’s, then have a doughnut, be implicated in a pizza shop heist, and go to the mall.
I drove my falling apart 2009 red Chevy Cruze back to the Palazzo Castellano Hotel, parked in the private underground parking facility, and rode the elevator up to my office on the eighth floor. My secretary was nowhere to be found. I typed up a few notes on the events of the day. I cropped and balanced the light and color in the photos I took at the crime scene on my phone, while still keeping the originals in case I needed to check them for detail.
Time for ham and scalloped potatoes, I guess.
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