Hawkman sat at the desk in his Medford office, poring over the ledger containing case expenses and bills to maintain his private investigator business. When he finally finished, he let out a sigh, put the checkbook away, stacked the bills in a pile and leaned back in the chair. He sure missed Jennifer's help when the end of the month rolled around. But since she'd signed a contract for her mystery series, she had enough on her mind, and he didn't feel right asking her to keep his books.
Just as he rose to get a cup of coffee, the phone rang. He reached across the desk and punched the speaker button. "Private Investigator, Tom Casey."
"Hello, Mr. Casey, my name's Greg Willis. I'd like to set up an appointment to meet with you as soon as possible."
The name rang a bell in Hawkman's mind, but he couldn't place it. "May I ask what about?"
"My teenaged daughter, Sarah, has disappeared and I need your help in finding her."
"Have you filed a runaway or missing person report?"
"Yes, but the police are dragging their feet and have come up with nothing, not even a single clue." He let out an exasperated breathe. "I can't stand not knowing whether she's dead or alive."
"Didn't I read something about this case in the paper?"
"If I remember right, the girl is sixteen years old and you're divorced. Does this child come from that marriage?"
"I'm assuming your ex-wife doesn't know her whereabouts either?"
"No. Though she disappeared while staying with her."
"And the police told you they have no leads?"
Hawkman checked his appointment calendar. "How about tomorrow at one?"
"I'll be there."
After hanging up, Hawkman called his good friend, Detective Williams of the Medford police force. "Hey, Williams, how's it going?"
"Not good, I've lost a couple of my best officers."
"Better pay offers. I can't blame the men. They have families and need higher salaries. Know any rookies looking for a job?"
"Not off the top of my head, but if I hear of anyone interested, I'll send him or her your way."
"Thanks. I'm sure you didn't call to hear about my troubles. What can I do for you?"
"Greg Willis, the man whose daughter's missing, just gave me a ring."
"Oh, yes. He's about driven me nuts, but I understand how anxious he feels. However, he doesn't seem to understand I can't use my whole force to search for her. Usually these kids show up eventually, once they're tired of eating out of garbage cans. Does he want to hire you to find the little urchin?"
"I gather that's his plan. Have an appointment with him tomorrow afternoon, so wondered if I could drop by the station and get the rundown on what you've collected on the case?"
"Sure. Come on over. I can tell you right now, there's not much. Just don't have the man power to pursue a runaway kid."
"Any information will help."
"Okay, I'll pull the file."
Hawkman turned off the coffee urn and picked up the stack of mail from the desktop, which he'd drop at the post office on his way. When he reached the police station, he parked in the visitor's lot and strolled to the door. As he passed the front desk, everyone waved and congratulated him on solving the cold case, which they'd dubbed 'Grave Web'.
"Thanks, guys, appreciate it," he said, smiling as he went down the hall to the detective's office.
He gave a quick knock on the jamb as he turned into the room. Williams glanced up with a twinkle in his eye. "Have a seat. I've got something to ask you."
"Yeah?" Hawkman said as he pulled up a chair.
"Several of my cronies thought it worth my time to ask if you'd be interested in joining our force. We could use a man with your knowledge and abilities."
Hawkman reared back in the seat. "You're kidding, of course."
The detective shook his head. "No. We'd be honored to have you."
Leaning forward, Hawkman placed his elbow on the desk and looked Williams in the face. "You know I'd go nuts. I like to work in the field on my own time. I don't want orders about which shift I have to work and I couldn't handle sitting at a desk signing papers. I'd go mad." He pointed a finger. "On top of that, wearing a uniform would make me grouchy."
The detective guffawed. "So you're telling me, there's no way."
"You got the picture."
"I told the men, I'd never be able to talk you into it. They suggested I give it a try. I've done my duty, so now we can get down to the Sarah Willis case." He pulled a slim file from under some papers on his desktop, and opened it. Removing a photo, he slid it across the desk. "Here's a picture of the missing girl."
Hawkman picked it up and studied the photo. "Is this a recent shot?"
"Yes. The father said they had her portrait taken a few months ago and this is one of the proofs."
"Very beautiful young lady. Big brown eyes, long hair, nice features and clear complexion." He handed it back to the detective. "How tall is she?"
Williams flipped though some of the papers. "She's about five foot, weighs approximately a hundred pounds, and has a small tattoo on her right shoulder blade."
"What's the design?"
"No, but she does have an appendectomy scar below the bikini line." The detective rolled his eyes. "Those are the father's words. I can't imagine a dad worrying about where the scar is when your kid has appendicitis at four years old."
"What role has the mother played so far?"
"Not much. She's so emotional when we talk to her, it's hard to get any facts. Maybe you'll have better luck."
"Does Sarah have a boyfriend?"
"Good question. The folks say she doesn't, but when you look at the picture, it's hard to think there are no boys involved in her life."
"Have you questioned any of her girlfriends?"
"Not yet. We hoped to embark on that task this coming week."
"Obviously, with her reported as a runaway or missing, the description has gone to the National Crime Information Center."
"Oh, yeah, went out immediately."
"Good." Hawkman stood. "This information at least gives me a start. Could I get a copy of the picture and the initial report?"
"Sure." The detective picked up the file and crossed the room to the copy machine.
Hawkman left the police station and returned to his office where he reread the information. It appeared the parents lived in separate apartment complexes. He wrote the addresses on a separate sheet of paper and decided he might cruise by to get an insight on the neighborhood where this young girl lived. He pulled a folder from a new package and shoved the report inside. Since he wasn't sure Willis would hire him, he didn't label the file.
When he arrived home that night, he stayed in the garage so long, Jennifer finally came out the front door. "Hawkman, are you okay?"
"Yeah. Just looking through the recent newspapers to see if I can find the article I read about a missing teenager."
"The Willis girl?"
He shot a look at her. "I know you're psychic now."
She laughed. "I have it in by my computer. I thought I'd cut out the piece as it might be good stuff to keep for future stories."
He stacked the papers back up in a neat pile and followed her into the house. Jennifer picked up the publication and pointed at one of the front page columns. It had a photo of Sarah Ann Willis, with the details below.
"Why are you interested?"
"Her father called me today. I think he wants to hire me to find his daughter. Said the police weren't doing their job. I dropped by the station and talked with Williams, he gave me the initial report which had the parent's addresses listed. Coming home I swung by their apartments and they live in respectable neighborhoods. So the girl does have a decent place to stay."
Jennifer leaned on the kitchen counter. "Kids don't think on those terms. Anyway, I have a feeling the police can't afford to go running around trying to find some sassy teenager, who probably ran off with a boy or is staying at a girlfriend's house."
"You sound like Detective Williams. Oh, by the way, he offered me a job today."
Her mouth dropped open and she stood up straight. "What!"
"They've lost a couple of men and are shorthanded."
"I hope you told him you weren't interested."
Hawkman turned away as a grin formed on his lips. "I told him I'd think about it."
She marched up to his side and grabbed his arm. "Tom Casey, don't you even consider it."