Learned something about Gmail attachments today…

I have a story idea I worked on using Word Mobile on my phone. I saved the story on the memory card, then attached the file to a Gmail message and saved the message as a draft. When I got to work I was able to open the message and continue working on the story using the work computer, with no issue. However, after saving the file and attaching it to a draft again, I was unable to open the attachment with the mobile versions of either Opera or MSIE on the phone. I couldn’t open the attachment until I got home to my computer. I was a little surprised at being unable to open the story on the phone. Maybe my browsers aren’t up to date…

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Still working…

I haven’t forgotten about the blog, I’ve just been reading up on WordPress to find out how to use some of the program’s capabilities to do “automagically” what I’ve been doing by hand. Like the stories that were broken up into pages — those were previously separate files on my old Blogger blog, where there was no option for paging except to do it yourself. Now I’m finding out about WP’s “nextpage” tag that takes care of everything, once you do a bit of tinkering under the hood. So far I’ve added “nextpage” to Do Not Fondle the Merchandise, Plane Crash, and Floating Wig. Tomorrow I get to Watergun, An Ordinary Bus Ride, and Full Service. Somewhere down the line I’ll play around with it to make it a little “prettier” but for now the default will do.

Then comes getting rid of the hardcoded menu pages, which involves using categories and tags correctly — imagine that! :) — and maybe creating separate template files for Categories and for Tags to create new menus

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Chapter 10: A New Relationship

I
didn’t have time to deal with Natalie’s sudden claim to employment so I met with the new client; a big lady with a fox stole. It turned out to be a typical case involving an unfaithful husband.

Fortunately for my bank account, cheating spouse cases go relatively quickly. I would follow the target for a few days and eventually observe him, or her, with the illicit lover. A few photographs later my job is done and the client makes a killing in divorce court.

This woman’s husband, a Mister Herman, was owner of the local dog track so I thought maybe I’d catch a few races when I investigated.

After we had discussed the case my new client said in a confidential tone, “Your secretary doesn’t look well, Mister Drake. Perhaps my doctor should see her. He’s really very good.”

She gave me the name of a doctor and I politely wrote it down. “Yes,” I agreed flatly, “it would be wonderful if he could see her.”

After I saw Missus Herman to the door I turned to speak with Natalie. She had already straightened out the secretarial desk and was trying to place some magazines under the typewriter to make it level.

“You hired yourself rather quickly.” I said.

“Well, this will help pay for my case if the money I gave you runs out.”

“What about your real job?”

“What about it?” She snapped with a touch of irritation. “Is there anything more hopeless than a fashion model that can’t be seen?” At that she gave the typewriter an unnecessary shove then sat back in the chair.

I knelt down beside her and put a hand on her sleeve. “Hold on.” I said. “Don’t give up. I’m going to do everything I can to solve your case. I’m going to find out who did this and I’m going to find a way to bring you back. You have my word on it.”

She looked at me with her sunglasses and her powdered face smiled. “You’re a good man, Mister Drake.”

I got up and went around the desk to sit in the guest chair. She watched me without speaking. Natalie seemed to be holding her breath. “Alright,” I finally said, “we can try this for a few days and see how it goes.”

She leapt from her chair. “Oh, thank you Mister Drake. You won’t regret this. I used to organize the books and periodicals at the library at my school and I can type 41 words a minute, and I can answer the phone, and if someone asks why I’m wearing sunglasses inside we can say I have a sensitivity to light.” She was talking faster and faster with great excitement.

“Well, yes,” I said, standing up. “I really do need someone to answer the phone.” I could only guess as to how many potential clients I might have missed since my last secretary left.

She gave me a quick hug and said excitedly, “I could just kiss you, Mister Drake.” I wondered if that was simply an expression where she came from.

“I like the idea of the light sensitive eyes,” I said, “and that would go well with albinism which we can use to explain your pale color.”

I gave her a spare key to the office and told her to arrive at half past eight the next morning.

Now I must admit that I had another motive in mind when giving Miss Taylor the job. I wanted to keep her close just in case there was a connection between her and the cat burglar. My instincts told me that I could trust this woman but I always backed up my instincts with investigation.

The next day I left my new secretary to sort my files while I explored her apartment. I had known what time her roommate went to her job and I knew they kept a hidden key. Unlike some of the ham-handed members of our police department, I knew how to search a place and not leave any evidence of the search. It was no surprise to me that I found none of the items attributed the cat burglar thefts.

I was now confident that I could take Natalie Taylor at face value.

By mid day I returned to my office and was very surprised. When I opened the door to the outer area I was pleased to see how clean and neat things were. I heard someone in the next room and found Natalie working at my file cabinet. She looked up and smiled. Her skin looked much more natural now but she still wore the glasses. I guessed that she added something colorful to the talc to give her the natural tone.

I also noticed how her pink blouse and gray skirt hugged her figure.

“Mister Drake,” she said, “I’m making good progress on organizing your files.” At that moment she took her hands out of the drawer and I saw into her hollow sleeves.

“Oops,” she said, “Sorry.” She turned to the desk where she had laid a pair of short white gloves and turned away from my sight to put them on.

“Miss Taylor,” I said walking around to my desk, “the office looks great.” She had cleaned up my office rather well and had even added a plant at the window.

I gestured to her hands. “You need not be embarrassed by that you know.”

“I have to be ready if someone comes to the door.”

“Well, yes, that’s true but when it’s just the two of us I want you to feel at ease. You should relax a little bit.”

“That’s very nice of you.” She said, “But I’d rather not bother you with my lack of appearance.”

“It’s no bother.”

“It’s alright, Mister Drake, you don’t have to pretend.”

“Pretend?”

“Yes,” she said a bit shyly. “I saw how shocked you were the first time we met.”

“That wasn’t shock.” I said, “I just wasn’t expecting … I had never seen …”

“It’s alright.” She said again, “I understand.”

“No you don’t.” I said and walked over to her. She became silent when I stood rather close.

Being so close I could speak softer. “Haven’t you heard the expression that beauty is only skin deep?”

At this she laughed. “Well, in my case it doesn’t even go that far.”

Then the telephone rang cutting off my next comment. I turned to pick it up but Natalie said that she should get it and ran to her desk.

“Jonathan Drake’s office. Oh, hello Doctor Morand. No, there’s been no change. Yes, I think my mood is improving.” I was glad for the last part.

“Yes, Mister Drake is here. Hold a moment please.”

“Thanks,” I called out then picked up the phone on my desk. “Drake.”

“Mister Drake,” the doctor said excitedly. “I’ve been searching for cases similar to Miss Taylor’s. I may have found something.”

As I was soon to learn, Natalie Taylor was not the first woman to become invisible.

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Chapter 9: Face to Face

I recognized the shape of Natalie’s face from her photograph but I immediately saw that something was wrong about it. Her skin was extremely pale and chalky except for her bright red lips. I further noticed that her hair was lighter than it had been in the photographs I’d seen. I couldn’t see her eyes because she wore dark, yet fashionable, sunglasses.

“Talc?” I asked.

She smiled, said yes, and the smile expanded into what would have been a grin.

“Oh damn!” I said. Her face was like a hollow mask. While she had cleverly coated her face in talcum powder and applied lipstick to her lips, she had no teeth. She looked like a hollow mask with red lips.

Noting my curse she took out a small folding mirror and examined her face. “My regular lip color isn’t this vivid,” she observed casually. She then looked at me with her dark glasses and asked, “Is the inside of my mouth that noticeable?”

“Well,” I said hesitantly, “I don’t want to discourage you. It’s really a very clever idea. Perhaps you could use a veil again but it need not be so thick this time.”

She sat and opened her purse. This one was much larger than the one she carried in her widow guise the night I had met her. This one had to be larger because it was filled with a variety of scarves, veils and at least three pairs of gloves that I could see. It was then that I noticed that her hands were also coated with talc.

“Good job on the hands, too.” I added.

“I don’t think that part is going to work very well. It gets on everything I touch and I sometimes smudge little holes. Unsightly blemishes, you might say.”

She took out a simple veil to pin to her small hat.

“And the wig is nice, too.” I said, “Very close to your own color.”

She stopped what she was doing. “How do you know my hair color? You’ve never seen my hair.”

I stood a little taller and said, “I’m a detective. I’m good at guessing things.”

We both laughed at that.

I watched her as she fixed her veil in place, touched up her face and put on a pair of white gloves. She took extra care to get the cuffs of the gloves under the sleeves of her jacket.

I said, “I guess you’ll be fine as long as gloves and hats never go out of fashion.”

She gave a short laugh and said, “I doubt that will ever happen.”

We then walked into my inner office and talked about the case. I reviewed what I had learned from Doctor Morand then started to review the suspects. Since I didn’t want to prioritize them yet, I started in the order that I had taken notes. But my client stopped me on the first one.

“Greta? You can’t be serious.”

“Well consider some points,” I said, “You were visible when you went to bed that night?”

“Yes, I was.”

“How sure are you?”

“I took a bubble bath.”

“And your body could still be seen when you toweled off?”

“Is that a professional question, Mister Drake?”

“Not entirely, no. Let’s move on. So, in the morning you were definitely invisible as soon as you woke. Right?”

“Yes, that’s right. And Greta was shocked when she saw me. Or, saw my pajamas.”

“Correction,” I said, “the only thing we can say with certainty is that Greta acted shocked. Remember that she is the only one who had access to your person during the time of the vanishing.”

Natalie just stared at me with her dark glasses so I went on. “Unless, the source of this phenomena included a time delay, then we have to go back to the dinner at the yacht club.”

“Bradley? But he’s always been so nice to me.”

I leaned forward and tried to sound more serious, “Has he really been all so nice?”

“Well,” she didn’t sound so sure, “I admit he doesn’t lack for ego. But he bought me so many nice gifts.” But as she said this it sounded as if the gifts had loss some market value in the past two weeks.

“How did you meet him?” I asked, truly curious.

“He saw my picture in a magazine and sent flowers to me through my employer.” She paused and then continued in a deeper vein. ” I guess he just wanted a pretty face to have around, a trophy to show off. And now I don’t even have a face so I expect I won’t see him again.”

I decided not to tell her what he had said at the ranch.

“I’ve depended so much on my appearance. My whole career was based on that. My family and friends back home always told me that my beauty would take me far and now I’ve lost that.”

I handed her a handkerchief from my desk drawer.

No,” she said with a sudden determination, “I’m not going to cry. I’m going to do something about my problems. Maybe it’s time to start a new career.”

She looked down at the handkerchief I had given her and made a point of handing it back to me. “Besides,” she said, “Crying would make my face run.”

Before we could continue there was a knock at the outer door. As I started to stand Natalie sprung from her chair and went out to answer it.

“Good day,” a woman’s voice said, “I’m here to see Mister Drake. Are you his secretary?”

I could hear Natalie’s voice very bright and cheerful. “Yes, I’m Natalie, Mister Drake’s new secretary. Please make yourself comfortable and I’ll tell him you’re here.”

Next Chapter

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Chapter 8: An Unseen Visitor

I spent the next day working on my other open case. I had been so involved in Natalie Taylor’s case that I had let the first one slide.

This case involved a potential insurance fraud. A lumberyard had burned down and the official fire marshal investigation couldn’t make a solid determination on the cause. They never ruled out the possibility of arson but lacked evidence confirming it. Eventually the insurance company paid the owners and decided to spend no more resources on it. About a year later, one of the three men who owned the lumberyard came to me suspecting both of his two partners. Although the insurance company had paid him his portion, he was determined to get to the truth.

So far my investigation had turned up nothing new. Both of the businessmen had moved on to separate ventures but occasionally still associated together.

I spent the day wading through records of various business transactions archived at the bank. The bank manager was very cooperative since I solved a case for him a few years back. Most of the transactions seemed legit but I made note on a few that seemed atypical. After about six hours I gave up and headed back to my office.

As I approached the steps of my building Vince waved a newspaper and called out. “Johnny, special edition.” I went over and looked at the paper he was holding. It was the same edition I had bought that morning so I bent close as if to read the print. We’d done this before.

In a quiet voice Vince said, “I think someone went up to your office ten minutes ago. Hasn’t come back.”

“My new client?” I asked softly, still looking at the paper.

“Don’t think so. No roses. No perfume of any kind.”

“Woman?” I asked.

“Not sure,” he answered. This puzzled me. Vince was always sure. He continued still speaking softly, “Johnny, this person is barefoot!”

“You could hear bare feet?”

He shook his head. “No, not when the street is busy like this. But I did hear the door. Since I heard no shoes whatsoever I figure the person must be barefoot.”

I thanked him quietly then took a paper and thanked him in a normal voice.

I then went up the steps with all my senses aware. Before I reached the third floor I heard the rattling of a doorknob. As I stepped into the hallway it was very quiet and I saw no one. I casually reached for my keys as I approached my door. As I was about only two steps away from the door I heard someone step back away from me. In a flash, I lunged.

I was hopping to grab the person but I only managed to slap some bare skin. The figure pushed me aside, seeming to become momentarily off balance in the process, then ran toward the stairs. I followed the sound of feet pounding down the wooden stairs and at the bottom noticed the door fly open by itself.

I ran out and hoped to hear the slap of bare feet on the sidewalk. As I paused a moment Vince called out one word. “East.” I ran off in that direction.

I got half a block when I came along side the Charles Street bus. It pulled out with
a far bit of noise and I lost the sound of the feet. I scanned around where I stood and tried to listen but the person was either gone or standing still nearby. Either way I couldn’t do anything about it. After a while I walked back to the front steps of my building.

I thanked Vince for his help then went upstairs. I immediately telephoned Natalie’s apartment. It took a while since the phone there was in the foyer and then the landlady went to get Natalie. I also knew it would take Natalie a while if she wasn’t fully dressed.

I glanced at my watch. Even if the person I had chased had gotten immediately in an auto she couldn’t have gotten to Green Bough in this much time.

I breathed a little easier when I heard Natalie’s voice on the line.

I told her that I wanted to update her on the case and she insisted that she come over to my office. About 40 minutes later – I assume she took the bus – she arrived.

When she knocked and I called for her to come in I was surprised when I saw her smiling face and blonde hair.

“Miss Taylor,” I said with surprise, “You have a head!”

Next Chapter

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Chapter 7: Leather and Steel

After nearly a week of trying to meet with Bradley Ambridge, I finally arranged to talk to him at his father’s private ranch. I had to barrow Jake’s automobile to get out there – it was some distance out of town. But the trip did not take as long as I thought it would and I arrived half an hour early.

I parked at the end of the private road near a large stable and told some workers, stable hands, that I was waiting for Mr. Ambridge. I didn’t say which one. They seemed uninterested in me after that and had no time to chat.

To pass the time I walked along the fence and looked at some of the horses. It’s not too
often I see horses outside of the race track so I took the opportunity to admire their grace and beauty in this pleasant environment. As much as I enjoy the business of the city it was nice to get away on occasion.

At some point I became aware of a black horse being ridden from a far field toward my direction. As the rider neared I realized it was a woman. A few more paces and I realized it was a beautiful woman.

She had long black hair that waved behind her as she rode and she wore very finely fitted ridding clothes. The sun lit her face brightly but she did not squint. As she drew closer she looked at me with big dark eyes and smiled at me with bright red lips.

Two of the stable men ran up to aid her dismount but she waved them away. She enjoyed looking down on me as she came along side the fence. She wore black leather ridding boots, tan riding pants, a white blouse, and black leather gloves.

I removed my hat and wished her a pleasant day.

Speaking more at me than to me she said, “So has my brother hired a new accountant? Or are you here about the stable hand job?”

I was quite tempted to answer the latter but decided to play this one straight. “I’m a private investigator.”

“Well,” she said, “Brad always did have a paranoid mind. Would you like to tell me why he hired you?”
As she spoke she slowly pulled at the fingers of her glove then stripped it off. At that moment I thought of Natalie.

“I’m actually here to ask him some questions about I case I’ve taken for someone else.” I said.
She was starting to pull off the other glove, more slowly this time. I then realized that I was staring and looked back at her face. She was smiling with intense pleasure.

“Wonderful thing, leather.” She said, “It stimulates all the senses. Sight, sound, touch, scent. Don’t you agree?”

Saying this she tossed her gloves at me and I caught them in front of my face. She seemed to wait so I made a motion to show that I sniffed them. The smell of leather mixed with the sweet odor of a hard ride entered my head. I decide not to mention the sense she had omitted.

She looked me up and down then said, “Are you sure you’re not here for that stable hand job?”
Before I could answer I was startled by a voice about ten yards behind me.

“I trust you’re staying out of mischief, Priscilla.”

My instincts as a detective took over and I hid the gloves inside my jacket before turning around. I would have liked to have the time to straighten my tie and hair as well but decided it was better to quickly face the man who I guessed to be this woman’s brother and Natalie’s boyfriend.

“Detective Drake, isn’t it?” He gave no hint of expecting to shake my hand so I made no such move myself.

Bradley Ambridge had the look of controlled authority and utter confidence. I’ve met men with similar qualities, but not many. Even in what was meant to be casual clothing his appearance was impeccable.

“So Natalie went to the police?” He said with the sound of surprise. “But she has some bizarre medical condition. Why would she need the police?”

“I’m not with the police, Mister Ambridge,” I explained although I’m sure he understood, “I’m a private investigator and my clients come to me for reasons of their own.”

Priscilla interjected, “Natalie Taylor? Are you still taken with that call-girl, brother?”

“Please, Priscilla,” Mister Ambridge said with a tone as sharp as a barber’s razor, “This is a confidential matter. I don’t need you meddling in my affairs. Again.” Then to me he said, “This way, Mister Drake.”

I followed and we walked on the road, away from the fence.

“So Mister Drake, this is about the … thing … that has happened to Natalie? I expect she told you that I was caught quite unprepared by the sight of her.”

“Mr. Ambridge,” I began, “I understand you were with Miss Taylor the night before she vanished.”

“Yes, I took her to dinner at the yacht club. But if you think there was something in the food then wouldn’t dozens of such cases turn up?”

It was a good point but I was leaving such questions to my medical colleague. I asked Mister Ambridge to recount the evening in detail. The story was just as I had heard it before, dinner, dancing, and finally a drive home. There was a kiss at the door – Natalie hadn’t mentioned that.

“And that was the last time I saw her, literally.” I couldn’t bring myself to smile at his weak pun.
With a hint of emotion in his voice he finally said, “Please, tell her that I deeply regret my reaction the next day.”

I stopped and turned to face him. With all his status and image he was just a man like any other. I said, “Perhaps you should tell her that yourself.”

He cast his eyes down to the ground. “I can’t bear to, Mister Drake. It frightens me to see what she has become.”

I thought about this man who seemed to have such a commanding presence only a short time ago. I wouldn’t have thought that anything could frighten him.

“She’s still the same person, Mister Ambridge. She’s still a sweet and wonderful woman who happens to be transparent.”

“Mister Drake, I wouldn’t expect a man of your position in life to understand.” The steel was returning to his voice. “In my world, status and appearance go hand in hand. I cannot risk being seen with a woman who can’t be seen.” This time there was no humor in his voice. He didn’t care if it sounded like a pun. “Look Mister Drake, I know it may sound harsh but there are no headless women in my social circles.”

He then wished me a good day and walked back to the large stable. I wrote some notes in my book and also made some mental notes that were not appropriate for paper.

I walked back to my auto – Jake’s auto, actually – and started to think about my next move. When I looked up I saw Priscilla Ambridge watching me. She had one foot on the bumper and her hands on her hips.

“Going so soon?” she asked.
Not knowing what else to say I reached into my jacket pocket. “You forgot your gloves,” I said offering them to her.

She smiled playfully and said, “You can give them to me when you return.” She walked around to the door as I got out the keys. “Bring them back clean and I’ll give you my boots next time.”

I said nothing and got in the vehicle. She watched as I started the engine and turned around. I avoided looking at her in the mirror.

As I drove back to the city I wondered at what point I had begun to think of Miss Taylor as “Natalie”.

Next Chapter

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Chapter 6: Glamorous Motives and Fashionable Threats

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.

Next Chapter

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Chapter 5: The Diagnosis — a Clear Case of Transparency

“Something has been added to Miss Taylor’s body.”

Doctor Morand and I were in his office that evening after all of his patients and most of his staff had left. He was doing his best to explain things to the uneducated, namely myself.

“I took a blood sample and could see inorganic elements.” He continued.

I interrupted, “You could see her blood?”

“Yes,” he said, “away from the body the phenomena gradually faded. Or more precisely, the blood sample faded into the visible spectra.”

“So you think some sort of medicine has been given to her?” I asked. “Wouldn’t she remember getting stuck with a needle?”

“Mister Drake,” Morand said with an effort at patience. “When I say it is in her blood that does not mean the substance entered via injection. It could have been consumed by mouth or even absorbed through the skin. But the one thing I am sure of is that her body did not produce this. There’s no evidence that this is some sort of latent glandular effect.”

“Is it permanent?” I asked in a cautious tone.

He looked lost in thought for a moment and I was about to repeat the question when he said, “It shouldn’t be. You see, Mister Drake, the body eventually processes everything that enters it. In some cases, it happens quickly and in others, not so quickly. Some medicines will settle in an organ, say the liver, brain, or bone marrow, but eventually these will drop back into the system and be processed. Now admittedly we are dealing with an entirely unknown substance but I’ll have to see her again and take another sample to see if the level in her system has changed. This could be very slow acting.”

I sat back trying to absorb everything like a black cat soaking up the summer sun through an open window. Then I asked, “Have there been other cases like this?”

Doctor Morand sat back, too and thought for a long time. I gave him as much time as he needed.

Finally he said, “Only in theory. But I don’t recall now where I read it. I’ll have
to do some research.”

I thanked him for the meeting and promised that I’d be back as I gathered information. He took my number and said he’d telephone if anything new came up.

I was glad to have this doctor as a partner on this case. If he worried about the scientific part then I could concentrate on discovering who might have done this.

As I walked back to my office I thought about an angle that can never be ignored. In every case I have to consider the possibility that a client is not what they pretend to be. Although I had a good instinct for such things and felt rather confident about Miss Taylor’s sincerity I had to consider all possibilities. In some cases I’d even be set up. Sometimes people figure a private investigator makes a great alibi or can mislead the police like a herring throwing bloodhounds off a scent.

I considered, what if Miss Taylor somehow did this to herself and then came to me to… what? I could think of no motive. There are plenty of advantages to not being seen but then why would anyone expose that secret? It didn’t make sense.

I decided to stop by the police station on my way to the office. I needed a change of subject to clear my thoughts and I had friend on the evening shift. By “friends” I mean that they wouldn’t threaten me with a holding cell the moment I walked in the door.

This night was not bad. Most everyone was in a fair mood. Most importantly I didn’t run into Stanley Fenton, a police detective who seemed always anxious to put me behind bars if he could. Or at the very least he’d like to see to it that I quit the detective business. He hated me when I solved a case that he couldn’t and he hated me when he thought I was in the way of his cases.

The topic of the evening, of course, was the cat burglar. While the number of incidents continued to grow the amount of evidence, or rather, the lack of evidence, stayed constant. Every case had no witnesses and no fingerprints. The jobs were too varied to be all insiders and too similar to be unrelated.

One thing the cops were sure about was that this was a compulsive burglar. He took things that varied in value from expensive jewelry to cheap mementos that only had value to the owner. And none of the goods had turned up for sale on the streets or been reported from other cities. This one stole because he enjoyed it. The thrill of the act was his motive.

Or her motive, I thought. What better cat burglar than one who can’t be seen. Perhaps I’d have to conduct a more thorough search of the apartment on Green Bough Avenue.

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Chapter 4: The Scene of the Incident

I knocked on the door and a short, dark-haired woman with black horn-rim glasses opened the door. “Miss Hindemith?” I asked, “I’m Jonathan Drake, a private investigator.”

From a back room I heard what was unmistakably Natalie Taylor’s voice say, “That’s him! Wait Greta. I’m not decent.”

Instinctively, I looked past Miss Hindemith and in a very brief glimpse saw what Miss Taylor meant by “not decent”. A skirt and blouse — without a head — darted across a hallway into another room.

Miss Hindemith lowered her voice and learned close. “Mister Drake, Natalie’s very sensitive about her appearance. When she comes out, try not to stare.”

“Alright,” Miss Taylor announced as she came down the hallway. A large lavender hat covered her head and a white veil was pinned to its very broad brim. White gloves covered her hands but they were scrunched up because they were a little too long for the sleeves of the blouse.

I explained my policy of private interviewing and Miss Taylor reluctantly agreed to take a walk.

Greta Hindemith recounted the events of the morning when her roommate had vanished and the story matched Natalie’s. I then had her recount anything she could recall during the previous few days. I really had no idea how many days to review and thought again of how unprepared I really was for this case.

I looked around the apartment after we had talked. “Do you lock the windows at night?”

“Well, not when the weather gets warmer as it has.”

“And the hidden key? Does anyone other than Miss Taylor and yourself know about its location?”

“Well, I don’t know about Natalie, but I assure you that I never told anyone.”

In truth, my client never told me about a key. Many people do keep one under the mat or otherwise close by and all it takes is the pretense of certain knowledge to get them to reveal its existence.

After examining the windows in my client’s bedroom, and finding nothing out of the ordinary, I turned to a scrapbook on her dresser. I looked inside and discovered a beautiful strawberry blonde with a glowing smile, rosy cheeks and lovely green eyes. At the moment I didn’t care if I had guessed her eye color wrong. She was stunning without having that falseness that shows on the faces of some fashionable women.

“She’s lovely.” I said mostly to myself.

“She was.” Greta Hindemith said, walking up behind me. “Ironic, isn’t it? That such a beautiful face should disappear?” I wondered how much jealousy this stenographer might hold toward her glamorous roommate. It may have been a presumptuous thought but I’ve solved many a mystery with similar hunches.

“Tell me about this Mister Ambridge.” I asked.

The woman made a sound that would have been a snort had she put more energy into it. “If you ask me, Natalie is better off without Bradley. He’s polite when you meet him but I think he looks down on ordinary folk.” She pronounced the word ‘ordinary’ with mock nobility. “They went to dinner that night but I was asleep when he brought her home. I suppose one of them would have noticed if she had disappeared by then.”

I thought about that. Would she have looked in the mirror when she was home? Could her date have done something to her somehow and but pretended not to notice? But why would he do such a thing. What could have been his motive?

“And as far as you know, he just dropped her off?” I asked, “He didn’t come in for a while maybe?”

She shook her head and said, “I may have been asleep, but I know Natalie. She never invites a man in.”

I thought about how different Miss Taylor was from the sort of woman I might take for a night on the town.

I thanked Miss Hindemith and left. At the bottom of the stairs, inside the foyer, my client was standing looking out. She seemed lost in thought looking out a tall window beside the front door. I stood next to her for a moment silently.

“It never used to be scary.” She said. “But I guess I’d better get used to dressing like a widow.”

She then turned to face me and I almost startled. The white veil she was presently wearing was not nearly as thick as the black one I had first seen her in. And with the light coming through the window I clearly saw an empty hat on that woman. I thought to comment then thought better. I felt like a mutt caught in traffic, not knowing where to turn and sensing that every direction was the wrong direction.

“You know,” she said, “I read that women in the Near East wear veils all the time. Long one’s, too. Maybe I should go there.”

I gave what I hoped was a reassuring smile. “I wish you wouldn’t.” I said. She tilted her head ever so slightly and I added, “I wouldn’t want to miss out on this fascinating mystery.”

She sighed and said, “It’s not easy staying here all day. I feel I’m losing my head both ways.” I was glad to hear that she had the remnants of a sense of humor.

I looked away and said, “Well, if you really need to get out, Miss Taylor, you’re welcome to stop by my office.”

“Thank you, Mister Drake,” she said after a while, “I may just do that.”

I hoped she would.

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Chapter 3: An Unlikely Colleague

I stayed in the office a while making notes on how I might approach this unprecedented mystery. I had all the elements of a typical case but with a very exceptional twist.

But eventually my head was spinning and I decided to grab some dinner down at Jake’s.

I straightened my tie, put on my jacket and hat, and locked up. I always locked both my inner office and my outer office. The outer one was the smaller having only enough room for a secretary’s desk and a guest chair.

I went down two flights of stairs to the street and said hello to old Vince who was trying to sell the last of his pile of evening papers.

He smiled in my direction and said, “New client.” It wasn’t a question. “A proper lady in high heels. Rosy perfume, too.”

I smiled back — Vince can tell when a person is smiling while speaking — and said, “How do you know she wasn’t in the building to see the Higgins and Mertz?” They were realtors, one floor below me. And the space across from mine was abandoned at present.

Vince grinned. “It’s all in the step. She walked like a woman with something heavy on her mind, looking for a great detective to make it all better. So tell me, is she blonde? Brunette?”

I wish I knew. “You know I have a strict confidentiality with every one of my clients.”

Vince laughed at that and I wished him a good night. I headed to Jake’s for one of his ham sandwiches and a whiskey. The establishment was actually called “The Flakey Jakey Bar and Grill” but everyone just called it “Jake’s”. It was an old establishment with cheap food that was still edible. The usual crowd was there, including Lou and Fast Eddie. I often came here to set aside the detective work for a time and forget my cares for a while. But this new case was so unusual that I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

The next morning I went to see my client’s doctor. I found the office building and looked up the name, Martin Morand. A receptionist insisted I needed an appointment until I told her that I was a private investigator. She then went in back and asked me to wait a few minutes.

I sat in the lobby for over an hour. At one point I read the newspaper there. It contained an article about Zwingler’s, the most recent target of the cat burglar. The article speculated if the burglar was interrupted during the crime. A pearl necklace was taken while many other, more valuable, items were left. Still, even if interrupted, there were no witnesses whatsoever.

As I leafed through some other pages an advertisement caught my eye. There was nothing new about it, that sort of ad was rather common. It was for ladies’ undergarments. The brassiere, briefs, and stockings were full, as if worn, but the attire was disconnected, with no apparent woman within. I had never really noticed that sort of ad before and now I had an urge to keep a copy as if it were evidence. I reminded myself that this was just another case and that Natalie Taylor was just a client.

The receptionist broke my line of thought when she told me that the doctor would see me next.

Morand was a short old man, balding and with very thick spectacles. He briefly looked me over with those enlarged eyes as I entered and said, “Young man, I don’t have much time between patients. Am I in some sort of trouble?” He had a hint of a European accent. I assumed he was French by the name.

“No, doctor,” I responded, “It’s about a patient of yours.”

At that he waved me off and started to gather papers from his desk. “Sorry. I have a strict policy of confidentiality with my patients.”

“As do I, with my clients,” I said as he started for the door. “But this is a very special case. I believe you and I need to work together on this.”

He waved in my direction without even looking at me and started to open his door saying, “I’ve no time for this. Please go.”

“I’ve seen Miss Taylor.”

At this he stopped, turned and looked me in the face. He seemed to be sizing me up like a prizefighter sizes up an opponent whom he sees for the first time. After a long pause he said, “You’ve seen her.”

“My mistake,” I said casually, “I didn’t see her. I met her.”

He closed the door that he had started to open and walked back to his desk.

“She’s my client,” I added, “She knows I’m here.”

The doctor put down his papers and asked, “Mister?”

“Drake.” I said, “Jonathan Drake.” We shook hands.

He sighed and looked at his watch then at a notebook on his desk. “I do indeed think you and I should speak Mister Drake. But I’ll need you to come back later. I really do have many patients to attend to. About five tonight, maybe half after.” He looked me in the face with a kind of respect I don’t often get in this business and added, “Please. Come back then.”

“Alright,” I said sensing that he was sincere and not just getting rid of me. “I’ll be back at half past five.”

I left his office and found a telephone. I tried to reach Bradley Ambridge for the second time that morning but only managed to leave a message with a secretary. I glanced at my list and decided to talk with my client’s roommate next. I caught the tram and headed for Green Bough Avenue.

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