I was ordering take-out Monday evening, when my ex-motel room office door opened to reveal a tall, willowy blonde in an expensive suit. Behind her, the Seaver Inn’s neon sign reflected incongruously off her black Bentley. I’d have recognized Georgia Kollett, my landlord’s thirty-year-old wife, anywhere.
She glanced over her shoulder, then quickly closed the door. “Please, Mr. Cable, I need your help.”
I hung up, rose, and extended my hand. “What can I do for you, Mrs. Kollett?”
Her immaculately manicured fingers were like ice.
“Please, call me Georgia.”
“Okay, Georgia. Have a seat and tell me how I can help. Would you like some water?”
“Yes, please.” She settled into the leather guest chair I’d bought when business picked up after the Hammett case.
I filled a plastic cup from my water cooler and handed it to her.
“Thank you.” She gingerly removed her sunglasses. Her left eye was bruised and swollen.
“Quite the shiner. How’d that happen?”
“I don’t know. I was with two old friends for what was supposed to be a four-day girls’ weekend in Gatlinburg. We had fun Saturday and Sunday, but I woke up this morning with this.”
“Do you have any other injuries?”
She shook her head. “I don’t think so. But when I looked for make-up to cover the bruise, I found something in my purse.”
She dumped out her handbag on my desk. Among her cosmetics, tissues, and other feminine paraphernalia lay three empty .45 caliber shell casings. “Once I realized what they were, I tried not to touch them.”
“Good thinking, especially under the circumstances.” I picked one up with a pencil and sniffed. It was recently fired. “Have you called your husband?”
She grimaced. “I’ve tried several times, but Charles hasn’t answered.”
I dialed Kollett’s office and got his voicemail. “Charles Kollett Real Estate and Developers cares about your call, so please leave a mess—”
I hung up. “Nobody at the office, apparently.”
“There’s been no answer all day. I think Inez must have quit.”
“The new receptionist. She’s only been there a couple weeks.” She frowned. “Charles has problems keeping office help.”
I scribbled a few notes. “What did your girlfriends have to say?”
She returned her belongings to her purse, leaving the cartridges. “I haven’t seen them since Sunday, and I’ve been unable to reach them by phone.”
“So, that’s three spent shell casings, three missing people—and one black eye.”