A smile stretched across my lips as I brought the viewfinder to my eye and focused. Through the brilliance of the genuinely remarkable telephoto lens, I saw exactly what I’d been waiting all damn day to see.
My mark was doing something seemingly innocuous – kissing a woman on a sidewalk. The fact that the kiss was passionate enough for a public indecency charge was neither here nor there. Honestly, it saved me a lot of freaking time. PDA – if you didn’t mind that sort of thing – was common on the streets of Dallas. Maybe not to the ass-cupping, lipstick smearing level, but I’d noticed this city had a lot of friendly people. Nothing wrong with a little loving now and then. The problem was, the blonde in my mark’s arms wasn’t his wife.
Doug MacKinnon had a penchant for them – blondes, that is. His wife, Julie, was one, or at least she had been in her youth. Now, she dyed her rapidly graying tresses with the help of an expert stylist. She kept her body trim with the help of a celebrity personal trainer, and I’d bet my left boob she had a plastic surgeon on speed dial.
I’d been tailing old Doug for weeks at the expense of his very paranoid, very pissed off wife, and she’d been getting impatient. Even threatened to cancel her contract and refuse to pay. She could threaten all she wanted, my contracts were ironclad, and her deposit was non-refundable. She wouldn’t be the first client to get pissed at me over things I couldn’t control, and in all likelihood, she wouldn’t be the last.
Such was the nature of the beast of private investigation.
I could tell the future former Mrs. MacKinnon hated using someone like me, but I couldn’t quite pinpoint which part of my obviously stellar self she objected to the most. The fact that I was a private detective or that I was a woman less than half her age. Maybe it was both.
Hell, it probably was both.
But it didn’t matter one bit. I was getting paid regardless of her feelings, and with these pictures, she’d be getting paid too.
I stowed my camera, dropping it in its padded case and pulled my F-150 out of the incredibly expensive parking spot across from the Four Seasons that I had to bribe a valet fifty bucks to get. Typically, my truck was inconspicuous in the great state of Texas, except for this one lone corner of people too rich for their own good. But the valet was a contact I used often, and for a little cash on the side, was more than happy to tell me about the illicit actions of my marks.
I hoped Mr. MacKinnon enjoyed his time at the ritzy hotel. With his impending divorce, it would likely be his last for a while.
Merging into traffic, I was heading toward the highway when my phone rang with my mother’s tell-tale Kill Bill whistle ringtone. Gooseflesh rippled down my arms as I checked my blind spot and ignored the ringing cell. I hated the whistle almost as much as I detested my mother, but it did the job of warning me away from my phone.
Detested probably wasn’t the right word.
Exasperated, irritated, enraged, whatever.
Mom and I hadn’t gotten along since I was eight and realized that she’d been cheating on my dad for years – that she was the reason they broke up. She was the reason my little sister, Genevieve, was only my half-sister – a fact none of us knew until Vivi was four and had gotten sick. She was the reason we moved from bumfuck Connecticut to Texas. Texas was great and all, but it seemed like a different world when we moved here.
Sometimes it still did.
I pressed the down volume button, silencing the ringer in a tiny act of rebellion, already knowing if I sent her directly to voicemail, she’d call my father to give him hell.
Take a fucking hint, Mother.
But her call reminded me I needed to ring Vivi. Again. She’d gone on a date last night and had yet to call me back. It was pissing me off. I couldn’t begrudge my little sister a bit of loving, especially if the date went as well as Vivi hoped it would, but calling me when she got home was rule numero uno of the sister code.
My little sister would be getting an earful from me. Just as soon as she answered her damn phone. I took the next exit, rolling to a stop at the light and snatched up my cell. Checking every half second to see if the light changed, I scrolled through my recent calls past my mother’s red missed call to Vivi’s number. Two rings, six rings, voicemail.
My growl was audible as the light turned green, and I gunned the engine to get back to the office. If I wanted to get the MacKinnon case done and dusted – AKA get Mrs. MacKinnon off my back – I needed to get these pictures printed and arrange a meet.
By the time I pulled into the lot, I’d already called Vivi three more times. I swear I was going to wring her little neck the next time I saw her which luckily was going to be in a few weeks. She was coming down to see me this year instead of slogging through another joyless Christmas with our mother. I couldn’t wait.
Through the years, my father worked hard to keep Vivi and me from drifting apart. I knew – even as a kid – that talking to my mother hurt him. I think that was one of the reasons I couldn’t stand her. She broke our family, and instead of making it easier on my father, she did everything in her power to twist the knife.
“Hiya, Sport,” my dad called from his desk, not even looking up from the paper as I strolled in the door.
My dad still reads the paper even though he could get the news faster on the internet. He’s probably single-handedly keeping a few newspapers in business. Back in the day, my dad was one of the best detectives in the DPD. Now, he and I own Perry Investigations together. Granted, Dad keeps the more dangerous cases, and I get the easy ones, but eventually, he’ll loosen the reins… I think.
Mother’s ringtone sounded again, the shrill whistle causing my teeth to grind until I silenced the phone, switching the ringtone completely off this time. Dad’s eyebrow quirked up, but he didn’t look away from the paper. My dad’s eyebrow could do a lot of talking all on its lonesome. It was a gift I had yet to master, but I was working on it.
“Do you think Vivi told her about coming down here for Christmas?” I asked as I worried my bottom lip. I really hoped she hadn’t. One sure-fire way to get a holiday ruined was to tell Darcy Clareborne about it. If my father had a gift for saying an entire paragraph with one eyebrow, my mother had the one where she could ruin any family gathering with a single conversation.
“Doubtful. Viv has a talent for keeping secrets.” And that was a damn fact. She inherited that one from our mother for sure.
My lips twisted at the less than charitable thought. “You’re probably right. Speaking of keeping secrets, I’m pretty sure I closed the MacKinnon case.” I parked my ass on the side of his desk.
“You didn’t climb in the ductwork again, did you?” he accused as he set aside his paper. “You’re going to get stuck one of these days.”
“I did no such thing!” I protested, batting him on the shoulder. “I got him on the street. Take a look at these,” I said offering my camera to him. He scrolled through the photos, whistling when he got to the one where old Doug was pulling up his mistress’ skirt in broad freaking daylight.
Yeah, that one was my favorite too.
“I’m glad she only wanted emailed photos. I’d hate to give those to her in person,” he mutters as he continued his scrolling. “Do you ever think people will get smarter?”
“I doubt it. What kind of idiot does that in public unless he wants to get caught? And the last time we spoke, she said she wanted them in person. I’m not looking forward to this. Maybe you should do it.” I muttered pushing off his desk and settling at my own.
“Maybe, Sport. That woman seems to be a few nuts short of a fruitcake. Tie everything in a big bow for me, and I’ll do the meet.”
Sucker. Sure, I didn’t want to, but I could do it by myself. Didn’t mean I wasn’t going to weasel out of it.
I readied the dossier for Mrs. MacKinnon and wondered if I should try calling Vivi again. My phone immediately buzzed in my hand. Without looking at the display, I answered.
“Gemini? Baby?” my mother’s voice vibrated down the line. Shit. Exactly who I didn’t want to talk to. But something in her voice kept me from hanging up the phone, and a pit of dread yawned wide in my stomach.
“Yeah, Mom?” my voice broke, probably because I knew before she even said it.
“It’s Genevieve. She… There was an accident. She… she’s dead.”
The file in front of me wavered before my unseeing eyes, but I didn’t move. Dad called my name, Mom shrieked into the receiver, but it didn’t matter.
None of it did. Not my clients, not my business. Nothing.
Nothing mattered because my little sister was dead.
Thank you for reading this chapter of Seek You Find Me! New episodes will release on the last Tuesday of each month. If you enjoy this story, you should check out the Shelter Me Series.