I parked my beater outside a dilapidated bungalow surrounded by half a million dollar homes. Mercedes, Lexus, BMW all lined the streets. Back in the day that was the life I wanted. Now all I wanted was enough money for a decent dinner that didn’t consist of ramen noodles. And to make sure my condo wasn’t going into foreclosure. Funny how priorities change.
The clock said it was a few minutes before seven. I didn’t know if I should go to the door or not. Maybe I didn’t have the right place. My head did feel fuzzy. I slurped some of my lemon tea, but it wasn’t helping. Seven in the morning was not my best time. As I was about to head to the door the disheveled figure of Cedric Scott emerged from his dwelling. He strode down the driveway with the same purpose as yesterday and slid into my junkmobile.
“Wilson. Right on time as expected. Good. But we are already late. We’re flying out to New York City. I’ve been called in on an abduction case and I fear it may not be as it appears. So onward to O’Hare.”
I picked up the extra thermos and shook it at him. “Would you like—”
“No coffee. I’ve had my fill. Any more and my mind will burn out. I need it fresh and ready when we land.”
“It’s tea.” I said, taking a deep breath. It was too early for this.
“Oh.” He said, grabbing the thermos, “Lovely.”
I was afraid he would jabber on the rest of the way about who knows what. Instead, he fiddled with his iPad in quiet contemplation. Thank goodness.
When we arrived at the airport we headed straight to our plane, sans security. Cedric said that you don’t have to go through it when flying private. Like I would know. I had never flown first class let alone on a private chartered flight. But it was certainly something I could get used to. Although flying with Cedric would take some patience. Now flying isn’t my favorite thing to do; I’d almost rather get a root canal. And to make it worse, during the entire flight he paced the cramped aisle taking measurements and muttering to himself. And occasionally asking me “what if” questions. Like what if we collided with another plane at such and such an angle and you were sitting in that seat, would you have a chance of survival? Or if a door ripped off mid-flight where would the safest spot on the plane be? You know, normal things like that. Nothing that would already freak out an anxious flyer.
Once we landed in New York a car service waited for us on the tarmac. I wasn’t sure who was footing this bill, but I wasn’t about to complain. We hopped inside and rushed over to a million dollar penthouse in Manhattan. Well, rushed is a relative term in the big city. It was more like racing inchworms to the next light making sure you cut off as many as you can. I felt like we were going to die as we weaved around traffic and buses shot out in front of us. Nothing like placing your life in your driver’s hands. Cedric sat sprawled in his seat absorbed in his world, but I wanted to take my mind off my impending death.
“So what exactly do you want me to do?” I asked.
Cedric shrugged not taking his eyes off some photo on his iPad.
“Okay. Um, I kinda wanted to have an idea before we get to the crime scene.”
“We’ll figure that out. Do you know what’s out of place?” He turned the iPad to me.
A picture of a modern bedroom decorated in blues and greens covered the screen. Dresses and fluffy tops were strewn about the floor with a few pieces on the unmade bed. A laptop, tuned to a tech blog, sat open on the nightstand. Along with what looked like a couple of finance books.
“It looks like a normal woman’s bedroom to me. Maybe she works on wall street.”
“No. Something’s off. I can’t quite figure it out.”
“Let me see it again.” A handbag sat open in the middle of the bed from which a dog-eared book peeked out. “There,” I pointed, “Finance books on the nightstand, tech blog on computer, yet an old book on poetry that is obviously well read inside her handbag. Why? That’s a rather drastic difference. Guilty Pleasure? Secret Passion? It’s something to look into.”
Cedric raised his eyebrows, “Very good Wilson. Very good indeed.”
“Was that a test or something?” I had a sneaking feeling he was trying to figure out how useful I could be.
Cedric stared out the window as we pulled up to a large high-rise on Fifth Avenue. Right across from Central Park. Cabbies honked and people scurried by without so much as a glance. Welcome to New York.
“That was a warm up.” We slid out of the cab and Cedric turned back to me, “This is the real test.”
We headed inside the million dollar lobby with its plush velvet chairs and crystal chandeliers. I stepped into the elevator, but as I turned to push the button I noticed Cedric hesitating.
“You coming?” I asked, sticking my arm in front of the door.
“Elevators. The epitome of a death trap. Suffocation. Crushing bones. I’ll walk.”
“It’s fifteen stories—”
“Fourteen. Technically there’s no thirteenth floor.” He cleared his throat and placed a foot inside the elevator. Then yanked it out. “Nope. An abductor would be more likely to take the stairwells. And there may be missed evidence that I will find. See you at the top Wilson.”
I sighed and let the door shut. So far the rumors were true, but I had hope.
At the top I stepped into a large white foyer with a huge crystal chandelier and modern art adorning the walls. Beyond that was a large open living room crawling with crime scene techs. I peeked past a large burly man into the room and gasped.