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by Betty Gordon
Description: A man goes missing--a shadowy figure, a phantom, a chameleon. Can P.I. Lisa Martin find him before dangerous forces stop her? International intrigue is set in motion when an importer/exporter of Egyptian antiquities goes missing. Lisa Martin, a gutsy P.I., along with a sexy investigator and shrewd journalist, get entangled in a journey filled with suspicious characters and death threats--a journey that radiates from Houston to Cairo, Rome, and London. They soon discover there's much more to this antiquity dealer than Egyptian relics. A maze of deception, danger, and suspense sprinkled with spicy romance is deftly woven into the fabric of Deceptive Clarity.
eBook Publisher: L&L Dreamspell/L&L Dreamspell, 2008 Spring, Texas
eBookwise Release Date: February 2009
2 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [357 KB]
Reading time: 218-306 min.
Don Sekoli took the stairs two at a time landing on the second floor of a small building that thumbed its nose at demolition years ago. He looked down the empty hallway finding his target on the right. Black letters on dark wood, Lisa Martin, Private Investigator. Her name was the only thing inviting about the hallway; in fact, it was the only door with anything on it. He didn't know what he expected, but this sure wasn't it. "What the hell," he said aloud before opening the door and stepping into a designer's nightmare. The bare bones room celebrated a certificate on one wall and that was it, but the knockout behind the desk made up for lack of decorative ambience. Every man's dream was on the phone arguing with the other end. She waved her hand toward a chair. He smiled gesturing he'd rather move around. He didn't see where he could move to, but he didn't want to sit while this gorgeous woman gave him the once over. When Lisa hung up the phone, she flashed a dazzling smile and introduced herself with a chocolate voice inundated with whipped cream. Don was never speechless, but at this moment he couldn't get his tongue and vocal cords to function. It didn't matter--the woman was busy assessing him and he hoped she liked what she saw.
"How about coffee, Mr."
"Sorry, Don Sekoli. And, yes, I'd like a cup--black."
After what seemed an eternity, they sat down coffee in hand and the velvety voice asked what she could do for him. Don thought of quite a few things she could do for him--none of which were his reason for being here.
"All right, Lisa, lovely name by the way." He cringed. You don't tell a serious professional she has a lovely name. "Sorry to interrupt your phone call and I'm not even sure I should be here."
"Let me decide that. Obviously, Mr. Sekoli, you're seeking the services of an investigator because you have a problem. Just start there--with the problem."
Don shuffled in the chair. His large frame, well over 6 ft. with too much pasta padding covering shoulders and thighs, didn't fit in the narrow seat. Standing up and not missing her smile, he started.
"It's this way. I meet with a buddy of mine over beer and darts every Tuesday night at the Metropolitan Bar."
Don saw Lisa's eyebrows rise.
"I know the Metro isn't the classiest joint but it suits us."
"Did I say anything?"
"No, but ... Guess our taste in drinking establishments is different. Anyway, if my bud and I couldn't make a Tuesday, we agreed to call each other by noon on that day. To make a long story short, I haven't heard from him for the past three weeks and I can't get in touch with him."
"How long have you two been rendezvousing like this?"
"I'd say about two years--long enough to be a pattern. Look, Ryan is a standup guy with me. Rumor has it he's not squeaky clean, but I stay out of his business."
"Hold it right there. Before you go any further, let's talk about my end of the business and then you can decide if you want to hire me to investigate your friend."
Don pushed his hands hard on the desk as though preventing it from floating into space.
"Look, let me be straight with you. I don't want any part of investigating his business activities. What he does is what he does, know what I mean? I just want to know if he's okay. He's missing as far as I can tell and I need to find out why. Fair enough?"
Lisa's tiger green eyes focused on her prey sending shivers down his back. "Let's back down a little. If, and that's a big IF at this point, I look into your friend's disappearance, it means I have to look into your friend's activities. Are you involved in any of his business dealings?"
"No, guess I didn't realize that would be a part of it. Of course, you would have to have carte blanche. I understand. Let's get on with it."
Lisa flashed her illuminating smile again. "Don, if you'd sit down, I think we might get somewhere. I'll get more coffee. Sit, please." Silence enveloped them as she filled the two mugs and placed one in front of him.
"As I said before, if you decide you want to hire me, I need to explain how my business works. I charge $50.00 an hour and I need working money up front. I usually ask for a thousand..."
"That's not a problem. I can give you two to get started."
"Not necessary. A thousand is plenty. I'll give you a weekly financial report--mileage, phone calls, etc. and, of course, will be in touch when there's something to report. How does that sound?"
Don looked away resisting her taking the upper hand. In his construction business, he barked orders to his employees and expected them to be followed to the letter--he couldn't afford to be a pansy. Now he found himself in this woman's hands. In the right circumstance he wouldn't mind, but a business deal was another matter.
He twisted out of the cramped wooden confinement. "Sorry, I'm not made for this." He paused, discomfort mounting.
"Maybe I've jumped the gun here. After all, Ryan's only been on my out of touch list for three weeks. Who knows, maybe he hooked up with someone and is just too busy to call."
Lisa moved around the desk--her 5 foot 9 inch frame more commanding than Don had realized. He pulled himself up as far as he could to erase her domineering posture.
"Why don't you go home or wherever you need to be and think about this for awhile. This isn't a game--it's serious. So, you need to make up your mind. If after that, you still want me to look into the matter, I'll be happy to."
The woman had him beat. He was stumbling around like a teenager and all the vernacular of youth kept going through his head--Wham, Oh Baby, Hello Mama, Way Cool ... His face flushed as he fought his urges.
"Sorry, guess I'm being a jerk. I need your help. So, if you have time, can we get started?"
Her smile zonked him again.
"Of course, we can. You caught me at a good time. I just finished a case." She pulled some forms out of the drawer and put on her most professional face which was every bit as charming as the friendly, let's get acquainted one.
"I know I don't have the most comfortable seats, but do you think you could sit again for just a few minutes?" She watched as he obliged her. "That's better--at least for me.
"Now, give me your friend's full name, address, and phone number."
"Ryan Lucas. I don't have his address. All I have is his phone number, 281-555-9950. Remember, that's his cell."
"Good enough for now. That wasn't so hard, was it? Now, I'm going to put the tape recorder on so I can type the rest up later. Is that okay?"
"I need to know his business and that address if you know it, any close friends that you are familiar with, and, this is important, his routine."
Don filled her in on as much as he knew, but it was sketchy. Lisa moved to his side of the desk pulling a chair around to face him. She crossed her legs in a movement he could only liken to a symphony.
"You said Ryan was in the import-export business. What's the name of the company?"
"I don't have a clue. I always called him on his cell. I can tell you he traveled a lot but guess that's no surprise in that kind of business."
"Well, then, he's just been gone three weeks. Maybe he's on a business trip?"
"Definitely not. Ryan always gave me a heads up when he was going to be gone for awhile."
"Sounds like you guys had something going on here."
"Hey, how often do you meet someone you enjoy with no strings attached--no questions asked? I don't know about you, but I can count them on three fingers. Well, that's how it was with us and why I don't know more about him.
"Anyway, as far as his friends are concerned, I've only met a few. He brought a guy with him a couple of Tuesdays, but this guy and I didn't hit it off and he didn't bring him after that.
"Like I said, Ryan was secretive about his business so I preferred to see him on what you could call a social basis. Know what I mean?"
"Yes, of course, but from what you say, sounds like Ryan might be involved with some shady characters."
"Could be. I do have one name I can give you. There's a woman, Rita Stone, that I saw him with a few times. I think she lives on Hudson Street."
"They were close?"
"From what I could tell, Ryan didn't get 'close' with any woman. Let's just say they saw each other a lot. Other than that, I don't have much."
"You're not aware of any of his habits other than your Tuesday night arrangement? Places he liked to eat, clubs he went to, anything?"
"Actually, there's this one place on the north side of town, Crickets, I think it is."
"Yeah, I remember him saying that he had appointments there several times."
"Appointments at Crickets? Okay, that's something. Anything else?"
Don shook his head. "Sorry, I'm not much help. You think you can do anything with this?"
"You haven't given me a helluva lot to work with, but I'll give it a go and let you know what I find out."
"Lisa, here's the cash for the start-up."
"You carry that bundle with you all the time?"
"No, but I'd been told you would ask for it."
"I meant to ask how you heard about me."
"You did some business for a friend of mine, John Clark, awhile back and he was impressed with your work."
"Yes, I remember Mr. Clark." Lisa stretched out her hand--a firm grip. Don liked that in a woman and she was definitely a woman he'd like to know better.