My best friend, Portia Devon, folded her hands on her desk. The tilt of her head and her scheming eyes reminded me of our young days when we planned midnight excursions to forbidden clubs. That was before she became a juvenile court judge and I became a child finder. She said, “Your fame has caught the attention of a prominent person.”
“You called me here to tell me that?”
“Also to explain the nature of his attention.”
“And who would this prominent person be?”
“An international figure who wants you to find his daughter.”
So like Portia to draw out a mystery. Wriggling into the leather chair designed for the discomfort of adversaries to her chambers, I thought, this could mean a free trip, courtesy of the Internal Revenue Service. Atlanta was weighing on my well-being. My fame, as Portia labeled it, came about because of a horrendous case the city had offered up owing to its drug and gang wars.
I said, “I get that it’s a him who wants to hire me to find his missing girl. Where internationally?”
“Starting here, in this fabulous international city.” Her sarcasm illustrated she meant Atlanta, a city that was trying hard to wipe the slate of its quasi-genteel Southern roots. “More precisely, his wife disappeared with their daughter.”
I opened my mouth to ask a pertinent question, but she raised a hand. “I don’t know much more than I’m telling you, but the trace appears to be straightforward, not much danger.”
I thought about other child traces. Danger could be and often was an issue. I said, “You know I don’t do heights and tight places, like jumping out of planes or diving in caves.”
“There is a cultural element.”
“Cultural in what way?”
“Ethnic customs, religious differences.”
“All right, Porsh, out with it—your prominent person by name, and those of the wife and daughter.”
You are familiar with the Middle East?”
Involuntarily my shoulders drew back. No wars or terrorists, please.
“This is not about absconding fathers,” Portia said.
Portia could be so tedious when she wanted to be. “How old?”
“Four.” Portia tapped her expensive ballpoint pen as she spoke the words, “I don’t know where she’s taken the child, but there will be no State Department involved.”
My agency, Child Trace, Inc., has had many clients and much experience in all that can happen in abduction cases, but I’ve never had a dual citizenship case. I’ve had cases where girls were brought here for the slave trade, primarily from Eastern Europe, South America and China. But no one was looking for them.
Portia sat back. “If you accept the case, you will be told all you need to know, but you must understand the father insists on no FBI, no state police, no Homeland Security, no CIA.”
I didn’t hesitate to tell her, “I’ll have to confide in Lake.”
“Then, no me.”
“Come on, Moriah. You and Lake aren’t joined at the belly.”
“You know what I meant. Lake will be duty-bound, legally, to advise his commander.”
“Not if the Atlanta Police Department isn’t involved. Lake does have a private life. When can I talk to the your—uh—connection?”
“When I assure him of your discretion.”
I got up. “I’ll see you Saturday. You are coming to the ball game with us, aren’t you? We’ve got a ticket for Walker, too.” Walker was her son.
“Moriah, sit your ass down and listen to me.” I sat. “You are the best person for this task.”
“How did your connection know about, and choose, me?”
“Although he resides in New York, he read or heard about the shoot-out in the churchyard.”
“Lake was part of the shoot-out, too.”
I admit I was intrigued, but no way was I going to withhold details of an assignment from Lake. Even if I could, I wouldn’t. From our beginning—as partners when I was with the Atlanta Police Department—we shared information. After we started sharing our bodies, I resigned the shop and started my own agency. Many times he’s been a valuable asset, but that isn’t the reason I would not hold out on him. We simply share everything. Portia knows that.
She returned to her chambers and sat with exaggerated effort. “Stubborn cuss,” she mumbled. “All right. You and Lake, but no APD. You both meet with him as soon as you can. This evening okay?”
“What’s his name?”
“Husam bin Sayed al-Saliba.”
“I think—a dark, striking male face comes to mind—he was in the news.”
“For years he’s been listed as one of the most handsome princes in the world.”
“I thought that man was single, most marriageable.”
“He is, by Saudi law.”
American Nights is the second book in the Moriah Dru/Richard Lake mystery series, published by Five Star Publishing, August 2016.
The investigation begins when Husam tells of falling in love with Reeve, of turning his back on his ascendancy to the Saudi power structure for the woman he loves. He talks of his king’s disapproval of him marrying and siring an infidel. But does he really want to return to the good graces of the royal family and marry Aya and be an heir to kingship? Confused Dru thinks she’s fallen into a fairy tale. After all the prince is fond of reciting tales from the Arabian Nights.
The investigation had just begun when Reeve’s parents, Lowell and Donna Cresley are killed. That brings the Atlanta police into the case and it’s soon evident infidelity abounds and everyone has something dreadful to hide.
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Meet the author
Retireed journalist for The Atlanta-Journal Constitution, Gerrie Ferris Finger won the 2009 St. Martin’s Press/Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel for The End Game. The Last Temptation is the second in the Moriah Dru/Richard Lake series. She lives on the coast of Georgia with her husband and standard poodle, Bogey.
All comments are welcomed.