"I counted to twenty then hit the intercom button on the phone twice.
Seconds later, in walked a vision: medium height with bounteous endowments where I appreciated them most—at top—and no wedding ring. I noticed the rest afterward: medium brown complexion, v-
I pointed to a caned mahogany chair that kept up the rustic theme of my décor—a complement of seasoned, second-
"Montelly. Miranda Montelly," she said in a broad, eastern seaboard accent as she dropped down into the chair so that it shifted slightly under the impact. Her shoulders slumped as if under a burden and there were worry lines bracketing her mouth.
"So, Ms. Montelly, I understand that you need a Good Investigation?" I liked to use the clever gambit to break the ice but she didn’t give it the reaction I thought it rated.
"Mr. Gooding, my cousin, Amanda Rice, disappeared a little over two months ago and I can’t find out what happened to her. I’m at my wits end."
It felt like she’d jumped right to chapter two and I frowned, confused. "Your cousin came here on holiday and disappeared?"
She flapped a hand. "I’m sorry, I’m not explaining properly. Amanda is Bajan, living here. In early February, she sent me an email saying that she was coming to New York on holiday and wanted to visit me. She even sent me her itinerary so I’d know when she would be there and we could plan to meet up. I was excited because I haven’t seen her in a long while, you see. Then the day for her arrival came but I didn’t hear from her. When her three weeks passed and her return date, too, I called every number I had for her to find out why she hadn’t got in touch when she was in the US but she never answered. I sent her emails all through March. Nothing. I even contacted people here that we both knew and no one had seen or heard from her either. I finally flew in myself three days ago and it’s like she disappeared into thin air."
I set my elbows on the desk and steepled my fingers together, hoping I looked like I was thinking profoundly professional thoughts. And I was—kind of. It was the end of April. That meant that Amanda Rice had been out of touch for over ten weeks and, as unwilling as I was to send the first potential income in a month back out through my door, I had to ask the obvious question:
"Why not just go to the police?"
Ms. Montelly gestured elaborately. "I did. A few weeks ago, I called them from the US and told them my concerns. It was only yesterday, in person, that they finally informed me that immigration records showed Amanda checking in for her flight to JFK on the date she’d planned but her name isn’t on any return flight manifests, so they figure she’s still in the US and there’s nothing more they can do."
"And the police in New York?" Thanks to television, everyone knew that America had slews of high-
"I tried the NYPD even before the Barbados Police Force," Ms. Montelly said darkly. "They said that there was no record of Amanda ever landing at JFK or any other US airport for that matter so I should check back here. Each side is saying that it’s the other side’s job which is why I ended up here."
I dropped my posturing, picking up the scent of a real puzzle—and, more importantly, real billable hours. I took out my notebook from my pocket, snatched a pen from the chipped clay mug on my desk, and jotted down the highlights thus far…"