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Angels in Disguise

Angels in Disguise by Betty Sullivan La Pierre
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A P.I., his wife, cancer, a missing mother and a little girl kidnapped. You’ll see a side of Hawkman never revealed in this powerful novel. Two stories entwined in such a way, you’ll find yourself crying and cringing at the same time. Your heart will go out to Hawkman as he struggles with his emotions and tries to concentrate on the case handed to him by a distraught father. Hawkman has reservations about a unique grandmother who reads strange books, and a butcher’s daughter who keeps him in turmoil.
SynergEbooks; September 2001
192 pages; ISBN 9780744310900
Read online, or download in secure PDF format
Title: Angels in Disguise
Author: Betty Sullivan La Pierre

After testifying on a client’s behalf, Hawkman left the courthouse around noon and decided to stop by Togo’s. He ordered a large pastrami and soda to go. Carrying his food in a sack, he jumped into his 4X4 and drove toward the office. The tantalizing aroma swirled around his nose, causing his foot to push heavily against the accelerator. His stomach growled as he parked in the alley behind his office. He jumped out of the SUV and headed up the stairs, but hesitated for a moment and admired the new shingle attached at the top of the stairwell: Tom Casey, Private Investigator. Smiling to himself, he hurried up the steps to his small cubicle above the doughnut shop. His mouth watering, he settled at the desk, pulled the waxed paper away from the delicacy, and directed it toward his mouth. But before he could take a bite, someone knocked at the door.

“Come in,” he called, and rolled the sandwich back into the wrapping.

A man, appearing to be in his mid-thirties, dressed in a dark gray business suit, stepped into the office. He had a clean shaven face, square jaw, deep blue eyes, and dark brown hair tinged with gray at the temples. When he approached the desk, his gaze drifted to the food Hawkman had pushed aside.

“Looks like I’ve caught you in the middle of lunch.”

“No problem, it can wait. Have a seat,” Hawkman said, gesturing toward the chair in front of the desk. “How can I help you?”

He held out his hand. “My name’s Paul Ryan, Mr. Casey. You were referred to me by a friend at the office. I need someone to help me find my wife.”

After they shook, Paul sat down and let out an audible sigh.

“You sound a bit frustrated. How long has she been missing?”

“Going on four days. We’re separated right now, and my mother called to tell me Carlotta hadn’t picked up our daughter and she’d been at her home since Friday. She tried to call my wife numerous times, but didn’t get an answer.”

“Did you check the house?”

“Yes. The newspapers were scattered all over the yard. And inside, the mail had piled high under the door slot. It looked like nothing had been touched. I felt disgusted at her irresponsibility for leaving our child with my mother for so long without notifying either of us.”

“What about your wife’s parents?”

“Killed in a car accident years ago.”

“Sisters or brothers?”

“None. She was an only child.”

“Have you filed a missing person’s report?”

Paul shook his head. “No, I didn’t want to feel like a fool if she showed up after a swinging time with some boyfriend she’d picked up.”

“Have you checked the hospitals or called the police to make sure she wasn’t involved in an accident?”

“Yes. She hasn’t been admitted for emergency care and the officer I talked with said they had no record of her being in any accidents.”

Hawkman raised a hand. “Before we go on, if you want me to take this case, I require a down payment. Then I’ll give you a weekly accounting of my expenses.”

Paul nodded and removed his checkbook from the breast pocket of his suit. “Will a thousand dollars get you started?”

“That will be ample.”

He peeled off the check and handed it to Hawkman. “I appreciate you taking this on.”

Hawkman took a large yellow tablet from the drawer. “Okay, first of all, let’s go through some routine questions. Then I’ll need more personal information about your wife. To begin, give me both your full names.”

“Paul Lee Ryan and Carlotta Ann Ryan.”

After asking several questions, Hawkman flipped over the sheet, then glanced at Paul. “Okay, before we go into more particulars on your wife, I want you to file a missing person’s report on her as soon as you leave here. She’s been gone long enough; the police won’t question the time.”

“Okay, I’ll do that first thing. Is there anything else I need to do as far as police paperwork is concerned?”

“Not at the moment. I’ll let you know as time goes by. What’s your daughter’s name and how old is she?”

“Tiffany Lynn and she’s ten.”

“Do you have any pictures?”

Paul dug out his billfold and handed him a photo of Carlotta and Tiffany. “This is a recent snapshot of them together.”

“Mind if I make a copy?”

“Not at all.”

Hawkman studied the images as he strolled over to the copy machine. “Nice looking girls you have there.”

“Thanks. I wish I could classify us as a family, but I’m afraid things just aren’t working out.”

He gave the original back to Paul and placed the copy on his desk. “Okay, let’s dig into your life a little deeper. How long have you been married? And when did the problems begin?”

“We’ve been married almost eleven years and I thought things were going real well until two years ago when Carlotta told me she was sick of our humdrum life. She said we had no excitement left and things were boring as hell. I told her to get more involved with Tiffany at school. She’d roll her eyes and tell me I could drop that suggestion into the garbage can.”

“When did you separate and where is she living?

“She threw me out about a year ago, and I moved into a two bedroom apartment. Carlotta still lives at our original house with our daughter.”

“Give me the address.” Hawkman jotted it down, then glanced at Paul. “Do you think she had a lover on the side around then?”

“I’m not sure, but more than likely she’s got guys coming and going now. That’s why I didn’t want to report her missing just yet.” He grimaced. “But I will.”

Hawkman leaned back in his chair. “Do you suspect she could’ve met with foul play?”

Paul shook his head. “I haven’t the vaguest idea.”

“Tell me a little about your mother. Does she take care of your daughter often?”

“Yes, and even when it’s my turn to have Tiffany and I get called into work, Mom will come over to my place to watch her. In fact, I didn’t even know she had Tiffany this past weekend until she called.”

“What does your dad think about this arrangement?”

“Mom’s been widowed for years.”

“Sorry. Does she like Carlotta?”

“Unfortunately, no. But she adores Tiffany.”

Hawkman raised a brow. “Why doesn’t she care for your wife?”

Paul sighed. “From the first day we were married, Mother showed her disapproval in several different ways.”

“Enlighten me.”

“She picks on Carlotta constantly about how she dresses, and handles herself in front of Tiffany. My wife wears sexy clothes which Mother disapproves of vehemently.” He chuckled. “Mom preaches to her that married woman don’t go flaunting their boobs and legs in public places.”

Hawkman glanced at the picture on the desk. “Carlotta appears to be quite a beautiful woman. And it looks like Tiffany is following in her footsteps. However, your daughter looks quite a bit older than ten years.”

Paul nodded. “Yes, I know, and Carlotta doesn’t put any restrictions on how she dresses, and allows her to wear make-up. This angers my Mom to no end.”

“Tell me again about this last weekend when your mother was watching your daughter.”

“Carlotta dropped Tiffany off at Mom’s on Friday afternoon after school, and said she’d pick her up Sunday evening. Here it is Tuesday and there’s been no word from her. Mother tried contacting Carlotta several times, as I said, and even drove by the house, but never caught her home.”

“Does your wife have a car? And if so, what kind?”

“Yes, a Camry and it’s in the garage. That’s the first thing I checked. It gave me a strange feeling in the pit of my stomach to think she’s out with some guy living it up.”

“Well, you can’t be sure, so don’t jump to any conclusions yet. She could have gone out of town with girlfriends. Tell me a little more about your mother and where she lives.”

Paul gave him her address. “She’s a great grandma and has always been very attentive to Tiffany. The child adores her and the feeling is mutual.”

“Did Tiffany say anything about her mother’s whereabouts?”

“No. She just said Carlotta told her she’d be staying with her grandma for a few days.”

“Would you mind if I questioned your daughter?”

“No, not at all.”

[To be continued...]
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