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Blackout by Betty Sullivan La Pierre
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More than a game ensues when Destiny Wilson disappears from the White Oaks Bingo hall. Her father, Jesse seeks the help of Hawkman and the hunt is launched." Book 5 in the Hawkman Series
SynergEbooks; February 2005
232 pages; ISBN 9780744304824
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Title: Blackout
Author: Betty Sullivan La Pierre

Hawkman shut down the computer, stretched his arms above his head then twisted his shoulders back and forth. Sitting in front of the monitor for hours at his office on a Sunday afternoon made him feel stiff all over.

His gaze shifted to the entry. He could have sworn he heard a soft knock. Tilting his head, he listened. Sure enough, it sounded again. He didn't have any appointment scheduled for today, so who could this be?

Crossing the room, he grabbed the handle and threw open the door. He peered down at a small black child about five or six years old. Her big brown eyes twinkled under a mass of ebony ringlets framing her face. Clutching a rag doll in her arms, she stared up at him with a big smile exposing several gaps in her front teeth. "You must be Mr. Hawk Man. Grandpa said you had a boo-boo on your eye."

He stifled a grin and dropped to his haunches. "That's right. What's your name and what can I do for you?"

"I'm Amanda." Then she turned and pointed down the stairs. "My Grandpa wants to talk to you, but he can't get up here."

"I guess I better go down there then," Hawkman said, closing the door behind him and following the little girl.

She led him alongside the parking lot toward a large oak tree where a man as black as coal dust sat in a rickety wheelchair protected by the shade. Tufts of curly white hair stuck out from underneath his worn leather cowboy hat. He glanced up and grinned, holding out his hand as they approached. "Hawkman, you son of a gun, how come you don't get no older?"

Hawkman grabbed the man's hand with both of his. "Jesse, you old buzzard, where've you been keeping yourself? Haven't seen you in ages. It's good to see ya." He then turned and patted the little girl's shoulder. "How'd you come by such a pretty little granddaughter?"

The old man shoved his hat back and scratched his head. Eyeing the little girl, he pushed his fingers into one of the bib pockets of his overalls and pulled out a couple of dollars. He pointed toward one of the stores next to Hawkman's office. "Amanda, see that little shop over there?"

Her eyes glistening with anticipation, she whirled around and vigorously nodded. "Yes, sir."

"You go do a little shopping. Take your time, but don't talk to no strangers and come straight back here when you're through."

"Okay, Grandpa. I promise I'll be real careful." Grinning, she plopped her rag doll into his lap and grasped the bills in her fist.

Jesse watched the child dash across the lot and disappear inside the store. Then he turned his focus back on Hawkman. "I'm concerned about my daughter."

"Is that Destiny's little girl?" Hawkman asked, rubbing the back of his neck. "Somehow, I can't picture her being old enough to have a family."

The old man moved the doll from his lap and propped it up beside him. "Yep, that's Destiny's baby. I didn't know what to do with a female child after my Rose died. 'Fraid I let the girl run wild. She got mixed up with the wrong crowd and ended up pregnant. At least she had enough scruples not to have an abortion, but she flat refused to give the child up for adoption. Said it was hers and she'd raise it. Well, I couldn't argue with that, so she's been with me ever since. Fortunately, she shaped up. She's a fine mother and got a good job."

"So what's the problem?" Hawkman asked.

"Everything was going okay until two nights ago." He looked away.

"Yeah, go on."

"She never came home from playing bingo."

"Has she stayed out the whole weekend before?"

The old man shook his head. "Destiny's never done anything like this. She'd even call me when she had to drop by the grocery store on the way home from the office. Her guilt about me having to watch Amanda while she worked, made her very caring, especially after I got hurt and ended up in this danged wheelchair." He slapped the hand rests in disgust.

"Sorry about that, Jesse. How'd it happen?"

He waved a hand in the air. "Tell you about it another time. Right now, I need your help in finding Destiny."

Hawkman leaned against the trunk of the tree. "Okay, clue me in on the events before she left the house."

"Destiny never went out and had fun. I didn't think it healthy for a pretty young woman to stay home all the time. So last week I told her she needed to get out with her friends. I'd take care of Amanda. She called me Friday at her lunch break and told me she'd decided to go play bingo with Rene. They'd grab a bite to eat beforehand, then head over to the hall. She figured she'd be home by eleven or so. That's the last time I talked to her." The old man pulled a handkerchief from his pocket, blew his nose and wiped a tear from his eye.

"Have you talked to her friend?" Hawkman asked.

Jesse shoved the hanky back into the bib pouch in his overalls and nodded. "Yeah. When Destiny didn't show by noon on Saturday, I gave Rene a call."

"What'd she say?"

He sighed. "She told me Destiny won a bunch of money and decided since she was on a roll, she'd head for one of the Indian Casinos, thinking maybe she could make a bigger killing. Rene couldn't go with her as she had an appointment Saturday morning, so they parted ways outside the bingo hall. That was the last Rene heard from her. Now, she's concerned, as sometimes low life types hang out in those places."

"I've heard they have pretty good security in the casinos," Hawkman said.

"That's not what worries me. I'm afraid if anyone followed Destiny from the bingo hall after she won all that money, she might not have made it to the casino. She could be lying in a ditch some place with her throat slit." The old man choked back a sob. "And to think I encouraged her to go out for the evening."

Hawkman reached over and patted him on the arm. "Now, Jesse, don't let your imagination run wild. She'll probably be home tonight with a good explanation."

"I'd like to believe that, Hawkman. But I'm really worried."

"Where is this bingo hall?"

The old man glanced up. "I don't have the vaguest idea."

Hawkman pulled a pad of paper and pen from his pocket and handed it to Jesse. "Write down the girlfriend's name and phone number. If Destiny doesn't show up tonight, I'll give the gal a call tomorrow and try to get more information." He wrote his cell phone number on the back of one of his business cards and gave it to Jesse. "Call me at this number in the morning and let me know one way or the other."

Jesse slid the card into his billfold and grimaced. "I'll have to pay you monthly."

Hawkman waved his hand. "We'll worry about that when we know you really need my services."

At that moment, Amanda came running up with a big smile and bright eyes. She held up her sack loaded with cheap toys. "I really got some good buys," she cried with glee.

Grandpa peeked into the bag. "Wow, you sure did." He glanced up and winked. "This little gal knows how to shop."

Hawkman left the two examining Amanda's purchases and headed back toward his office, his mind reeling with Jesse's story. He knew this man well enough that he wouldn't seek his help if he didn't think it necessary. Hawkman definitely didn't like what he'd heard so far. The smell of foul play worried him.
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