Jake opened the motel door and let Elmer Layton stroll in and grab the chair. Jake moved his gear to one side and sat on the bed, while the detective took off his cowboy hat and explained. “We’ve combed the area again and no sign of your girlfriend. Maybe she up and left you, some girls don’t want to hurt their man’s feelings. Maybe she went back to her folks. You called them?”
“We don’t exactly see eye to eye.”
“Well you got any better idea?”
“You want us to call them?”
Elmer sighed. He could see he was getting nowhere. “Okay son, we’ll leave it with you.” Elmer gave back the photo equipment and the keys to the Ford. “The Ford’s clean, just standard sports photo shoots in the camera, nothing that can help us. As far as I’m concerned it’s a cold case.” He got up and put on his hat. “Best of luck, son,” he said as he moved to the door and left.
When the detective returned the keys, it was like giving Jake entry to a new world. First, though, he had to call Emmy’s parents, despite his lack of enthusiasm. Their contact details were taped on the baggage that she left behind. He picked up the motel phone and got a line.
“Mr. Parton?” he asked. “It’s Jake.”
“Jake who, I don’t know any Jake?”
Jake grimaced. “Jake Thackeray, Emma’s boyfriend.”
There was a humph at the other end. “If it’s more money you’re after, the answer’s no and that’s final...”
Jake intervened before the freak could slam the phone down. “Mr. Parton, Emmy went missing a week or so ago. You seen her, or has she called?”
There was a coughing sound. “What did you say?”
There was a long pause at the other end. Mr. Parton taking it in. Finally he spoke. “Look son, Emmy can take care of herself, wherever she is.” There was another pause. Mr. Parton probably winding up his emotions. “If she’s dumped you, then I’m a happy man. Goodbye and good riddance.”
Jake heard the line disconnect and the dialling tone. Well he had tried. And more to the point, she hadn’t contacted them either. Not that she was that close, being fiercely independent, but a real mystery nonetheless.
“I can give you sixteen hundred for it,” said the car salesman.
“It cost us over three grand,” replied Jake. Son of a bitch probably thought he was an easy mark.
“Look kid, there’s a recession; don’t you read the papers or nothing, I’m giving you a good deal. I’ll throw in another couple of hundred for the photo gear. Take it or leave it.”
Jake took it.
And he had read the papers. And he had gone to the Stockton stadium and spoken to the sports coach. And he had a name. And he had copies of the photo shoot pictures from Emmy’s camera. And he had gotten hold of the Bees’ tour dates. Longfield in two weeks time.
“Here’s the two hundred bucks I owe you, I’m moving out,” said Jake, putting the key on the desk.
The woman in curlers took the key. “Stay there while I check the room, ok?”
Jake showed her his backpack. “There isn’t anything worth stealing. Do you think I’ve got the TV or something in here?”
“Just making sure, okay.”
“Yeah, if it makes you happy.” He watched her waddling off to the room.
“What about all the girly stuff you left. Doesn’t she want it?” The woman glared at Jake as though he was a mass murderer.
“She’s gone. You can dump it.” He gave her a big smile. “I’d appreciate a lift into town again. Bus station - would be good.”
Her nosed twitched. She seemed to be suspicious. “Don’t you have a Ford no more?”
Jake hoisted his bag on his shoulders. “Don’t you read the papers or nothing, there’s a recession.”
“Longfield, how much?”
“You gotta change Diageo Falls, twenty five bucks one way.”
“Ok mister, punch the ticket.” Jake climbed on the bus and found an empty seat near the back. He slung his backpack into an overhead. A few more passengers arrived. “Can you help me with my bag?” said the girl.
Jake saw her struggling to maneuver the backpack down the bus aisle. He picked it up and shoved it into the overhead next to his. “Going far?” he asked. “I’m Jake.”
She slumped into the seat next to him. “Hi Jake, I’m Anna. Diageo Falls first stop, then who knows. No ties. I got plenty of time.”
“Same here, but I’m off to Longfield. Private detective work.”
That startled her. “Wow, that’s awesome. Any murders?”
“This case is tracing a missing person. Girl around your age.” He took a closer peek at her. “Not as pretty as you, though,” meaning nice body, no bra, her nipples outlined.
She laughed. “Your eyesight isn’t too good for a detective. Or should I say defective?”
He laughed with her. “Yeah I like that, a defective detective.”
The bent up sign said Diageo Falls. The bus pulled into the station. “Final stop,” said the driver unbuckling his seat belt and pointing to a notice board. “Routing timetable over there folks.”
Jake and the girl were among the last to leave. Some passengers were loading their bags into cars and heading into town. There were a few people looking at the board. Children, free from the confines of the bus, were chasing one another up and down the sidewalk, shouting and laughing. “Want to go for coffee?” she asked.
“Yeah, I’ll take a look later.” He looked around. Just a couple of empty buses standing in their parking lots and a man sweeping trash into a container. Not much activity. “There isn’t any rush by the looks of it.”
Jake finished his coffee and went to read the timetables. He wandered back into the coffee shop and sat back down. “Looks like I got to camp out tonight. The Longfield bus leaves at 6:59 tomorrow morning, if you can believe that.” He glanced at her, hoping. “We could go 50-50 on a room?”
She scratched her nose. “You mean sharing a bed?”
“I can sleep on a chair,” he said - like it was the last thing he had in mind.
“Jake you’re a nice guy and all, but I don’t do one-night stands, even for DD’s.”
Shame, he thought, eyeing her DDs. He surprised himself. Maybe it was her company, maybe his new lease on life that made him impulsive and carefree. “Anna, I wasn’t thinking of just one night, I want you to come with me to Longfield as my assistant DD.”
She laughed. “Hey where’d that come from? You’re not serious?”
“Yeah, I am.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Let’s find a room and I’ll think about it,” she said. “But don’t get any ideas I’m an easy lay, ok?”
He could feel her breasts in his hands already. He felt a hard-on. First time in weeks.
“So tell me more about this girl?” she asked. They were sitting on the motel room floor half watching TV and drinking beer. A ham and tomato sandwich from the store across the road was lying in its packet.
“She’s Emmy. Emerald Parton, West Virginia. Freelance forensic photographer. Reported missing ten days ago. Last known location Stockton.” He put his arm around her and snuggled up close.
She let him fondle her. “And?”
“And the Bees were in town last on that weekend. She liked sports. I talked to a few people there and got a lead. That’s why I’m heading for Longfield.” He closed in for a kiss. “And you’re coming with me.”
Her breathing became shorter. She was becoming aroused. Maybe his eagerness turned her on. He felt her fingers unzipping his jeans.
“I’ve changed my mind,” she said.
“Longfield,” announced the driver. “Ten minute break for those going on to Memphis.” Jake and Anna descended into a hazy heat and looked around. The bus station was adorned with billboards welcoming the Bees to town with pictures of the team. They looked at one. The header said, ‘See the game, a fun day out for all the family and a celebratory firework display, all at concessionary rates.’
“That’s the one,” said Jake, pointing to a picture. “Babe George. The Stockton coach, Lou Mathis, told me BG had a girl in every town. He saw BG with a photo shoot girl; that could have been Emmy.”
“Yeah well don’t get your hopes up. BG will be well protected from the likes of you asking personal questions,” Anna remarked.
“That’s where you come in,” replied Jake.