The next day I caught a bus to the fashion agency where my client was employed. Called Glamorous Images, it was an upscale place in a decent part of town. I learned that many of the models, including Frankie Gibson, my client’s prime rival, were in the park for a photo session.
It was a pleasant sunny day and as I approached the group was easy to spot. Most of the attention at the moment was on three women in brightly colored dresses and big white hats near some oak trees. Other models were busy with make up assistants. The staff out numbered the models almost two to one and I thought that this must be an expensive business. A man with a camera and tripod seemed to be in charge.
I joined a small group of passersby who gathered to watch as the models posed individually and in groups. Most of the individual work was done with a tall red haired lady who carried herself like a princess on display for a royal court. I guessed that was Gibson.
When the sky clouded over they took a break and I took an opportunity to approach the redhead while she was talking to the primary photographer. As I approached I could hear her complaining about the last group shot.
“Clair and Melissa keep trying to block me.” She insisted to the man who looked like he’d rather not have to deal with it. “I wont have their jealousy ruin my session.”
“Frankie,” the photographer said, ” It looked fine, really. Trust me. You’ll see when the prints get posted later today.”
I felt sorry for the man so I interrupted. “Frankie Gibson? I’m Jonathan Drake, private investigator. I’d like to ask you a few questions.”
She glared at my rudeness and I could tell she was searching for just the right words to tell me where to go.
I continued on. “It’s about Natalie Taylor.”
The photographer gasped. “Natalie! Is she feeling better? We’ve been worried about her. She’s been sick for days. What’s wrong? You’re a detective?”
Frankie Gibson glared at the photographer with an expression that clearly said that not everyone has been worried. I tried to answer him but she cut me off with a question.
“What happened? Has she disappeared?”
I looked at her directly and asked, “Why do you say that?”
“They all do.” she replied, “Sooner of later they all run away. It’s jealousy. They can’t stand to be in my shadow.”
This woman was a real package deal. I took the pleasure of ignoring her for the moment and talked to the photographer.
“Miss Taylor is under the care of a fine doctor.” I said, “Some sort of skin condition I believe.”
He still looked very concerned. “But, you’re a detective?”
“Yes,” I said, “She’s lost a piece of jewelry, something rather precious to her. It’s not very expensive but it’s been in her family for a long time.”
“And you think I stole it?” Miss Gibson had raised her voice to the point where a number
of people were watching. She seemed angrier at being ignored that at the accusation I didn’t make.
“I didn’t say it was stolen, ” I said coolly, “It’s lost. She may well have dropped it during a photo session.”
She scoffed in my face, “Well, I sure don’t know anything about it. Maybe the cat burglar got it.”
She stormed off to find a particular make-up woman so I continued to speak with the photographer. As soon as she was gone he confided to me that Miss Gibson was always like that.
“She seemed rather upset about Natalie Taylor.” I said, “Has there been a problem there?”
“Frankie has a problem with everyone.” He said, “But, I’ll admit, things had been worse between those two recently. Oh, you should have heard them.”
“Any threats made?” I asked.
“Oh, nothing serious.” He said, “I don’t think Frankie would actually harm someone physically but she has been known to destroy some very good prints. The girls tend to take out their frustration on the photos, unfortunately. And sometimes they take each other’s make-up or something. Anything to make it harder for the other to look good.”
The clouds were clearing again and I knew my time was short. This man — I hadn’t even gotten his name yet — was a good source of information. He clearly had a mind for detail.
I asked one last question. “Please, even if the threats were not about physical violence can you remember the last thing Miss Gibson may have said to Miss Taylor?”
“Well just last Monday she said that Natalie ought to ‘have her face erased’. But I’m sure she didn’t mean it like in the movies, being ‘rubbed out’ and all that. She probably would have destroyed some negatives or something.”
“Thanks for the information.” I said and gave him my card as he turned to call his staff together.