Authors: Betty Sullivan La Pierre
Copyright ©2004 by Betty Sullivan La Pierre
First Published by SynergEbooks, Sept. 2004
Jamey returned from the Post Office, stood in the dining room and stared out the picture window. She never tired of looking over Rio De Janeiro and seeing the beautiful statue of Christ the Redeemer in the distance. Forcing her attention back to the mail she held in her hand, she riffled through the envelopes. One of the letters caught her eye, and she slit it open with a silver letter opener. After reading the contents, she stomped into the den where Bob sat watching the BBC channel on television. A hand on her hip, she stepped between him and the screen, holding out the piece of paper. “I'm so disgusted."
He turned off the set with the remote and glanced up at her. “What's the problem, hon?” he asked, taking the piece of mail.
"When I hadn't received any rent for the house in Medford, Oregon, I figured the company I hired to manage the property was crooked."
"Did you call them?"
She slumped down in the overstuffed chair next to him and let out an audible sigh.
"So what did you find out?"
"In the heat of things, I forgot to record the deed, so the property is still in my aunt's name. Legally, they can't send me the money. Instead they've deposited it into a trust account under my aunt's name, Rachel Smith.” She threw up her hands in disgust. “It's there; I just can't withdraw it until I get the place transferred into my name."
"That shouldn't be a problem. Just send them a copy of the deed and her death certificate.” He waved the sheet of paper. “So what's this about?"
"It's a copy of the rental agreement from a Charley Sullivan and the notice about the money being put into a trust fund. They also mention the tenant has shown an interest in buying the property.” She flipped a hand in the air. “Dang! I really want to sell that place and get it out of my hair. I'd fly back and take care of it myself if I didn't think it so dangerous."
He raised a brow. “Why do you think it's risky?"
She threw out her chin and made a guttural sound. “Remember Hawkman lives there. He's the private investigator I told you about. Even though I never hired him, he stayed hot on my heels the whole time."
Bob pulled her onto the couch beside him. “But he never caught you,” he chuckled. “So, hire a lawyer."
She shook her head. “No, I'd rather take care of it myself without some nosy attorney asking questions I'm not willing to answer. Besides, I don't know any good ones, especially in the Medford area."
"Hey, if you need a lawyer, we'll get one, and he'll be from a reputable firm out of San Francisco.” Bob nibbled her ear. “But I doubt it will be necessary, because you're not going to run into that Hawkman guy. Set up a date, stay low, take care of business and leave. You'll be home before he even realizes you've stepped foot in the States.
"Oh, sure. That's easy for you to say. You don't know Hawkman."
His expression somber, he pulled her close and locked his arms around her. “Here's what we'll do..."
Jennifer stood in the long line at the airport. She stifled a yawn, then glanced up at Hawkman and grinned. “Oh my, I don't think I got enough sleep last night."
He smiled. “You're too excited. Maybe you can rest on the plane."
She nodded. “I'll have to wait until I go through all the flight changes. Once I leave from Seattle, I'll have a few hours before landing at JFK."
"Be sure and call once you're there."
"What will you do while I'm gone?” she asked, a twinkle in her eye.
He put a hand on his chin and gazed at the ceiling. “Well, I think I might hang out at a few bars until you return."
She laughed. “Honey, you're a lousy liar."
He put an arm around her shoulder. “Think I'll take the falcon out a couple of times to hunt."
"Pretty Girl will love the attention. She'll really be spoiled when I get home."
"Then I promised Charley Sullivan I'd help him with his garden."
"He's the man leasing Jamey Schyler's place, right?"
"Yeah, a real nice fellow. I think he'd like to buy it. He sure grumbles about paying a monthly bill for something he doesn't own.” Hawkman snickered. “The man plans on putting in a garden big enough to supply all of Medford with fresh fruit and vegetables. I hope he doesn't take on too much."
"What's the story on Charley? I thought he lived on a farm somewhere between our house and Ashland."
"Yeah, he did, but after his wife Mary died, his kids didn't want him out there by himself. So one of the daughters, who lives in town, spotted the little house for rent in the paper and jumped right on it. He sold the farm and moved in."
"He should be content there. It's private with no immediate neighbors and there's plenty of land for a garden. Working the soil will keep him busy for a big part of the year."
"Yeah, I think so. And he's quite a colorful character. We'll have to invite him for dinner one of these evenings."
"Great idea,” Jennifer said, inching forward in the line. “I sure want some fresh vegetables when they're harvested. By the way, how's the lease handled without Jamey around?"
"She hired one of those companies that manages rental properties."
Jennifer glanced at him with a raised brow. “How did you discover that bit of information?"
"I drove by the property one day and saw a crew of men working around the place. I stopped and asked some questions. They told me Croft's Rental Company had hired them. I had Detective Williams run a check and he discovered their client Jasmine Louise Schyler lives in South America. The rent money is deposited in a bank here in town. That's all the information he could muster without a court order.” He shrugged. “At least we know she's alive, which comes as no surprise. But we figured it wouldn't be worth the effort to dig any farther. Cost too much, and we really don't have anything on her, other than Carl Hopkins saying she framed him. And we have no proof of that either."
Jennifer placed her purse and briefcase on the conveyer belt. “Well, hon, you might as well leave. No sense in hanging around here until I board. I'll see you in about six days. Wish me luck with the publisher."
He gave her a big kiss and smiled. “My author, they're going to love your stuff."
Her hazel eyes sparkling, she threw him a kiss and headed for the boarding gate.
Hawkman stuck a toothpick in his mouth, adjusted his leather cowboy hat and left the terminal. His new Chevy Tahoe All-Terrain Z71 sparkled in the sunlight. He smiled as he unlocked the door and climbed inside. Jennifer didn't even mind riding in this vehicle. She said it rode like a luxury car. He pulled out of the parking lot and headed for the office. Later today, he'd stop by Charley Sullivan's place. Together, they'd map out the materials needed to get the ground ready for the garden.
He pulled around into the alley behind his office to an isolated spot where he could park his new vehicle without worrying about his doors getting nicked. A space between the donut shop and the cleaners offered just enough room. The aroma of the freshly made donuts swirled around his nose. The shop hadn't opened yet, but when he glanced in the window, the baker grinned and immediately unlocked the door. His hair had a covering of white flaking flour which drifted around him like a cloud.
"Ah, Hawkman, you're here early today."
"Had to take Jennifer to the airport.” He stepped inside and took a big whiff. “Man, sure smells good in here."
The old baker chuckled and motioned toward the huge trays of cooling pastries. “Take your pick. They're still warm."
Hawkman made his choices, placed his money on the counter and headed up the outside stairway leading to his office. He immediately put on the coffee pot, hung his leather jacket on the coat tree, booted up the computer then settled down behind his desk with a chocolate covered donut held between his thumb and forefinger.
After several hours of working on a missing person case, he leaned back in his chair with an air of satisfaction. The young man he'd been hired to locate had enlisted in the Army. His aunt would be happy to know the boy was safe and sound. He raised his arms above his head and stretched, then shut down the computer. Time to go see Charley.
When he pulled up in front of the small house, he spotted the old farmer, hat in hand, scratching his head as he stood in front of a storage shed located on the neighboring lot.
"Hey, Charley, what's up?” Hawkman called as he strolled toward him.
Plopping his hat back onto his head, Charley hitched up his overalls and pointed at the door of the small building. “That old rusty padlock hasn't been opened in a coon's age. Who the hell does this lot belong to? No one's been around since I moved in. And there's a nice little four wheel tractor stored inside. It would be great for workin’ my field."
Hawkman shadowed his face with his hands and looked through the one small window pane in the door. “Hmm, you're right. There are also other tools hanging on nails around the wall."
"It's a shame for them things not to be used. They'll just rust away. You reckon you might find out who owns this piece of property, bein's you're a private investigator? Maybe if I made a deal with the guy to give him some of my crops, he'd let me use the equipment."
"Sure, I can find out. But it'll have to wait until tomorrow. The courthouse is closed on the weekend."
"No problem. There's plenty of time."
As they stood shoulder to shoulder, Hawkman noticed Charley's hands and face had the look of a weathered cowboy. His alert brown eyes squinted as they peered from underneath a worn sweat-rimmed straw hat.
Charlie took several long steps forward and waved his hand over the area. “This here's where I want to plant the corn, tomatoes and peppers.” Then he pointed to the right. “Over there, think I'll put in some different types of lettuce. Salads are always popular in the summer.” He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his face, then gestured in another direction. “Around the edge I'll sow some zucchini and other squash."
Then the two men meandered back toward a couple of plastic lawn chairs nestled under the shade of an old oak tree.
"Have a seat and I'll get us a beer. Then we can chat a bit."
Hawkman sat down and pushed back his hat with his forefinger. He felt a cool breeze ripple through the edges of his damp hair as he flipped up his eye-patch and wiped the sweat from his face with the back of his sleeve. The warm days indicated the time had arrived to get the garden planted.
Charley came out of the house carrying two frosty bottles. Handing one to Hawkman, he sat down and laid his hat on the ground next to his chair. He brushed a hand across his forehead, pushing back strands of dark hair streaked with white. Taking a long drag of the beer, he sighed. “Aah, it's a beautiful day."
"Yep. Summer's upon us,” Hawkman said. He leaned forward, resting his elbows on his thighs. Reaching down, he jabbed at the ground with his finger. “This soil needs a good turning over or else you won't get much of anything to grow. Too much hardpan. Tomorrow morning, I'll run by the garden shop and rent a rototiller."
Charley nodded and kicked at the soil with his heel. “Yep, you're right. Good idea about rentin’ one of those little tractors. I didn't cherish the thought of plowin’ by hand. I appreciate you helpin’ me get things ready."
Hawkman glanced at him with a somber expression. “Of course, you realize there's a condition you have to meet for my help."
The older fellow grinned. “I suppose your cute little wife wants a share of fresh produce."
"You got that pegged right.” Hawkman said, laughing.
"I sure wouldn't mind owning this place. The house has all the room I need and there's plenty of space for a garden. I'd stay plenty busy."
"Did you talk to the rental agency? Maybe the owner would be interested in selling if she knew she had a buyer."
"Yeah. They said they'd get back to me, but I ain't heard nothin’ yet. They told me she lives out of the country and it might take a bit to contact her."
Charley raised a brow and glanced at him with questioning eyes. “So how'd you know that?"
Hawkman rose and cuffed the man's shoulder. “Long story, Charley. Maybe one of these days I'll tell you about it.” He put the empty bottle on the chair. “I'm heading home. Jennifer will be calling soon from New York. I'll see you bright and early in the morning."