Sweet sweet Isabel

This is my bit for last week’s entry for Picture It and Write! photo prompts brought to you every week by the girls, Ermisenda and Elizabeth, at Ermilia Blog. Be warned: this can get pretty long and it takes a little while to see where the photo plays in. Nope. I lied. You see, you have to read to the very end to find it out! Bwahahahaha! I am so eeevile 😀

via Ermilia Blog
via Ermilia Blog

… twenty five years old … frequents top class bars … twice divorced, no children … the new face of Cover Girl … net worth of … an very private individual …

The lights didn’t come from bulbs but from the small sea of rectangular monitors that cluttered every available surface in my personal bat cave. There were no outlets for lamps or light bulbs at all, and this was the way I preferred it, surrounded only by the continuous stream of back lit information flickering across the screens. I reread what I had so far as I sucked on the cherry passion flavoured lollypop. My current case was a rather strange one on two counts. I let my fingers dance a complicated foxtrot over the keys and waited for the search to be completed.

Turning my focus on another monitor, I leaned back and reclined a bit and the wheels of the soft black leather chair complied easily enough rolling back allowing me to stretch my feet and rest them on the desk. Ankles crossed before the flexible scrolled neon keyboard. It’s been a one of those days so I’ll soak in the blizzard of blinking of tiny reds, blues, greens and oranges for a while.

The first was that the voluptuous darkish blond of my attentions before me happened to be a model. French. I knew this one. I can’t say why, but before looking her up for the first time years ago I could see something Frenchy about the beauty but I couldn’t, for the life of me, with any amount of certainty say what exactly gave me the impression. Now I’m tasked to dig a lot deeper than my previous curiosity had warranted then. Point is, my usual characters extended from petty thieves, ambitious prostitutes, to corporate spies, and more lately international criminals.

But I’d be kidding myself if I thought I was amongst the big boys, the last one the FBI found my assistance necessary in tracking down a high profile continent hopping cat burglar. It would be a foolish to think they’d forgotten me. When they need me again they will use me and claim all the credit to their brilliant and dedicated detectives. Oh so inspirational! Heh. Typical. But I don’t mind it all that, I don’t want to attract a lot of attention. In this line of work too much is asking for trouble, and there’s no telling who might come knocking at my door.

But what ticks me off about those suits is that they get it into their heads that they did everything all by themselves. Not even a cheap ‘thank you’ card. But the fact I’m sitting my ass comfy as I please in my hideaway little world where the damned bureaucrats can’t dream to find me attests that I got the canary. It was delicious, I might add, but perhaps not as sweet as the gift I left the team leader. I feel the smile curving my lips and closed my eyes. A story for another day.

The second was that of my client. And would you have believed it if I hadn’t said it to you myself? Mrs. Fracker, our resident cat lady and bird enthusiast. Please don’t ask me how that works out, it’s one if those unsolved mysteries of the universe. Why would the old crank want the bitch next door to locate the whereabouts of a very private public personality? That one was half easy.

~*~

I was collecting for a job three months ago at Manslow Park two in the morning and the old lady spied me a few yards away while she was on her way home from a 24/7 convenience store. Apparently she had ran out of cat food. Convinced that I was doing drugs she threatened to tell the authorities. Somewhat disappointed at my concern she then declared with all the dignity she can muster while heaving after dragging the sack in her mottled old coat, a pair of bedroom slippers and a head full of curlers, that she would tell everyone of my worthless character. Oh joy.

“What can I do for you, ma’am?” humour her, I’d thought, but make no mistake, I had been impatient to get out of the cold. I looked at her small hunched from and realized that she must be freezing.

“I do not mix with filth!” scandalized right down to her smelly toes.

“Look, I don’t do drugs, okay? I don’t really care if you believe me but is there something I can do to prevent you from making yourself look like a fool? And let’s get inside, shall we?”

Gave me the royal run around, she did. But Mrs. Fracker had surprised me by inviting me to the house of claws and feathers, right after which she made me carry the ton of cat food four blocks and up three cramped flights of stairs. And she does this by herself all the time? I sat in the tiny living room, and it smelled like my old aunt’s house. They had had approximately seven feline nightmares before straying them.

Mrs. Fracker entered from what was the bedroom, the layout of the apartments was uniform throughout the buildings, and presented me with a stiff folded piece of page torn out from the latest edition of Vogue. Yet another surprise. On it was the heartthrob of men and some women, to be fair, across the globe. Jacqueline Pierre. Full lips slightly upturned in a secret smile was painted in a subtle pink rose, minimal make up from what I can see. Her straight blond hair was done in an artfully loose bun and covered knee high in a pretty sleeveless floral dress. Deceptively understated.

“Find her, Raine. Tell her I must see her,” the words trembled out and I froze. Her eyes were expectant. I didn’t need to be told something was seriously wrong, nothing cuts the jaded Mrs. Fracker.

“Why me? Couldn’t you find her some way else?”

“No. Only you, you I trust.”

“Wait now. Hold it. You call me mean things in Yiddish, embarrass me in public and accuse me of smoking pot and you trust me?” I was baffled.

“I say what I want to, young lady, and how I want to. I know you do not smoke anything other than the smoke from burnt toast that somehow pass for food. I wanted you to ask. You did and now I ask. You find people, no?” No longer was she a frail waif with her back straighter, arms folded and everything about her defiant.

“How – ?” She had fooled me into asking. I felt the anger slowly bubbling up. I could have easily turned away earlier, but no, I walked right in. Any warmth I felt for her evaporated. I hated being manipulated and I’m beginning to hate this woman. How dare she? This was the reason why I don’t mingle with people. Hang around with them for a while and they get under your skin, they begin to mean something to you and the affection you would then feel for them can hold you at ransom, can be used against you. Betrayal. I know that special blend only too well. It’s bitter taste makes your insides quiver and knot, the grittiness of it remains on your tongue long after your heart had gone numb with the pain.

I sent her a cool glance and sharply asked, “Well, old woman?”

“Salma,” she said simply.

Salma. Oh, pretty pretty Salma is a dead dead woman walking. I’ll be letting her know it soon enough. This means Fracker knows what I do, or at least a part of it. The FBI only know me to be a very discrete part time two cent private eye who gets lucky from time to time. They know nothing else I’m certain, but Fracker sees me from day to day and could piece one and one together but she would rather chew her left foot off than utter a word to a suit of any kind, of this I’m also 100 percent certain. I don’t want to have to kill her, nasty piece of work she may be but she’s just an old coot. No. Remember she’s a sharp one. Remember that appearances are meant to be deceptive. Never believe anyone until you can prove it yourself. I am my only friend.

“How much do you know?”

“Only that. I don’t want any more. You will find her, I know this,” utterly convinced I’d know this Jacqueline.

“I’ll see what I can do,” I’d said, and I’ll be steering clear of her from now on, move if I have to. She doesn’t need to die, only until she proves herself a threat. Not yet.

“I’ll see what I can do,” I repeated over my shoulder and left.

~*~

I was following through. My eyes were still closed when the machines beeped like crazy and startled me out of my daze into a disoriented mess. The lights burnt holes in my retina. The world was a kaleidoscope. I sat up and braced my head in my hands, taking deep breaths. Eventually it all came in focus and the beeping stopped as fast as it began. Ugh. Man, I hate it when that happens.

What the … ? The search wasn’t finished. It was an e-mail alert. Did I set it to make that racket? Let’s see … It was a letter from one Mr. Patrick Donahue.

Hello Miss O’Leary,

My aunt had made a strange request to me which leads me to believe that she made one to you as well. I attached a copy of an old photo that was buried in the stacks of her belongings at the old house in Montana.

It’s a rather personal matter for her I am aware, but she’s insisted. So here I send you this at her bidding before she mails me a sheep’s heart in the post. Have you heard of that incident two years ago? Anyway, I hope you find this helpful.

Sincerely,

Patrick D. Donahue

The old lady’s nephew … Sheep’s heart? What is with these people? Get into it Raina. That’s right, just another quacked client, no sweat –

BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP!
And another goddamned bleep! I’ve got to fix that. This was the last bit of report, a collection of well known facts of Ms. Pierre and some need-to-know info that had required me breaking past several firewalls undetected. I hope with all my heart that this was all worth it, not that I’d get caught.

Originally from Paris, France, Jacqueline Genevieve Pierre was the daughter and only child of the French consulate in America, Jean C. Pierre, and would often accompany him as a child.

An accomplished ballet dancer at the age of 20 but left the stage to study Fine Arts and Textiles after which she became a model for Dolce & Gabbana with whom she still works with to date … … …

Those were the known.

 Pierre was one of the unknown amount of children in the tragic De Claude incident of 1998. She also had a younger sister who disappeared around the same time and is believed to have been included in the numbers of ’98 along with Jacqueline and is thought to be amongst the dead and unidentified … … …

These most certainly were not.

How …? It … No. It can’t be. I know about the De Claude case, I knew a lot more than I’d ever want to. But this Jacqueline, how did she get involved? According to the media reports, her name was never mentioned but yet she was there, nor was there any record the supposed sister. A flood of pictures came with the report, pictures of a younger girl, just coming about her womanly curves and there was something familiar about her features that I couldn’t see in the adult version of her. At the back of my mind something was pulling at me. I could almost touch it …

BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP!

Okay, that’s it. I swung around to haul out the cables but that was when my eyes met the attachment photo of Donahue’s message, glaring accusingly at me as if for not looking even once. And all the breath left my body.

It was a black and white of three children, a little boy to the left in the background walking on stilts, in the forefront to the right was a small girl who seems to be the same age as he but her face was turned away from the camera. It was the older girl beside her that commanded the attention of the photographer. She looked to be around fifteen or sixteen. She stood there relaxed, right arm rapped around her torso and held a cigarette in her left hand. On her pretty face was a devil may care expression.

I knew that look. I know that face. Isabel.

I don’t know how long it was before when I remembered to breathe and by the time I did the lollypop was chewed up to a sticky mush. Oh dear God. My hands were trembling, everything was shaking. How does Fracker know her? Why did she send me this? What does she know about me? What exactly does she want from me? This can’t go on. No way in hell.

The phone rung thrice before she answered.

“Hello?”

“Who is she, Mrs. Fracker?” I demanded.

“Who – Oh. That is Jacqueline. What happened? Did you find her? Tell m -”

“This isn’t her,” I interrupted, it simply can’t be.

“I am telling you it is her.”

“How are you related to Ms. Pierre?”

“Will you tell me if you have found her or not?”

“No I haven’t but what I will tell you is that I won’t go further. I don’t have to give you a reason. You can tell whoever you want whatever you want about me, I couldn’t care less. Leave me alone, you understand? Don’t call me. Don’t try to find me again,” and I hung up.

I lied when I said I wont continue this search, because I will. I have to find the connection between Jacqueline and my Isabel. I can’t understand how it could be but then again I wouldn’t know, now would I? I can’t remember, and this fueled my need to find people, and perhaps to be found. But to be found by who? To find whom? I didn’t know but maybe it’s becoming more clear now. I will get to the bottom of this. I have to.

Where are you Isabel?

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13 thoughts on “Sweet sweet Isabel

  1. I think that’s the longest piece I’ve ever seen for PI&W. Very involved story! I like the way you went and created a whole back story and the whole time I’m thinking what’s this got to do with the picture until the attachment on the message. Nice work!

  2. I can feel a sequel coming soon…? Or are you letting the suspense go on and let our reader’s imagination flow as it pleases?
    A wonderful story, maybe long but which cannot go wrong. Well-done!

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