By: S.J. Harper

To Haskell, it would appear that the police have done nothing. But we have their case records to show they had done all the requisite background checks. Small comfort, though, to someone waiting for concrete news of a missing loved one.

I let a beat go by before saying, “You mentioned Amy having missing an appointment. Do you keep her schedule?”

“I do.” Haskell punches up something on her laptop, turns the screen so I can see. “Here are last week’s appointments. I keep it week to week.”

“Can you print it out for us?” Zack asks. “Not only the most recent entries, but for the last two months?”

Without replying, Haskell hits a key and the printer on a credenza behind her begins to whir. It spits out a dozen sheets of paper, which she takes from the printer, taps on the desktop to align, and hands to Zack. “You will see that Amy never missed an appointment before—” Her voice drops. “I’ve managed to put off most of what she’s missed. But now that her disappearance has become public knowledge. . . .” One manicured fingernail taps a copy of the San Diego union  -Tribune. It’s open to the Arts page where a headline reads LOCAL ARTIST MISSING.

I rise. “We’ll head over to Amy’s apartment.” I take a business card from my pocket and hand it to her. “We’ll be in touch as soon as we finish there. We may have more questions for you.”

“Anything,” she replies. “Just bring Amy back.”

Her telephone rings and she glances down. “I expect I’ll be busy today answering this damned thing.”

Zack has risen with me. “We’ll leave you to it. We’d appreciate if you didn’t mention our involvement just yet. Gives us a little time to work without the interruption of inquiries from reporters.”

“Of course.”

She reaches for the telephone and Zack and I take our leave.

• • •

“Patterson lives downtown in a high-rise at the corner of Kettner and A Street.” I’m reading from the police report. I look over at Zack. “I suppose you don’t need directions there, either.”

Zack is back behind the wheel. He smiles. “Nope.”

His manner is more relaxed. He seems to have shaken off the effects of his encounter with the woman in the parking lot.

“So, how do you know your way around San Diego so well?”

“Long story. I’ll tell you about it sometime. Right now I want to know your reaction to Haskell.”

“Smart. Efficient. All business. But her feelings for Amy are real. She’s worried. And it goes beyond her own self-interest in a business that appears to be doing very well.”

“We should look into the gallery’s financials, as well as Amy’s and her own.”

I put in a call to the office and let Johnson know what we need. He says he’ll get the warrants and put one of our people right on it.

I disconnect. “How do you know so much about art?” I ask when I’ve slipped my cell back into my handbag.

“I know a little about a lot of things,” he answers.

“Did you really like Amy’s paintings?”

“You didn’t?”

By now we’re making good time. Zack has navigated his way out of La Jolla, and Interstate 5 is wide open.

“Give me Giorgione’s Sleeping Venus or Heda’s Breakfast.” I sigh. “That’s art.”

He laughs. “You realize most people our age don’t even know who the Old Masters are?”

Our age? I stifle a snort.

“Age has nothing to do with preference.” It’s what I say, but actually, it does. I was living in Europe during the fourteenth through eighteenth centuries. While the art was magnificent, living conditions were decidedly not.

Ten minutes later we’ve pulled off the highway and I sit quietly with my thoughts as Zack winds through the maze of one-way streets downtown. We’re not so lucky in finding a parking spot this time. It takes several turns around the block before we spy a driver pulling out of a metered space. Fortunately, we manage to snag it before anyone else.

I look up at the building while Zack feeds quarters into the meter. “Nice digs.”

It’s an upscale condo complex, lots of glass, very modern in design. We let ourselves in through a locked entry with one of the keys on the ring Haskell gave us. There’s a concierge desk, unoccupied at the moment, so we walk straight to the elevators. Amy lives on one of the top floors, requiring use of another key to gain access.

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