Missing Georgia

I was placing a Chinese take-out order Monday evening, when my ex-motel-room office door opened to reveal a tall, willowy blonde in an expensive suit. The Seaver Inn’s neon sign reflected incongruously off her black Bentley, parked four feet behind. I’d have recognized Georgia Kollett, my landlord’s thirty-year-old wife, anywhere. Even wearing those oversize cat eye sunglasses.

She glanced over her shoulder, then quickly closed the door. “Please, Mr. Cable, I need your help.”

I covered the mouthpiece. “Do you like Chinese?”

She pursed her lips. “Yes. Why?”

I nodded and went back to my call. “I’ve changed my mind. Make that a Pu-Pu Platter for two, please, and could you deliver it?” I gave Mrs. Huáng my address. “Fifteen minutes? Fine, Thanks.”

The woman fidgeted and glanced around my office until I hung up.

I rose and extended my hand. “What can I do for you, Mrs. Kollett?”

Her immaculately manicured hand was like ice. “Please, call me Georgia.”

“Okay, Georgia. Have a seat and tell me how I can help you.”

She settled into the new leather guest chair I’d bought when business picked up, and, using both hands, gingerly removed her sunglasses. Her left eye was bruised, bloodshot, and swollen.

I leaned forward in my seat. “What happened to you?”

“I don’t know. That’s why I need your help.”

“Okay. Tell me what you do know. When were you hurt?”

“I’m not sure. I was with two old friends for 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 her handbag out onto my desk. Among her cosmetics, tissues and other feminine paraphernalia lay three empty .45 caliber shell casings.

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