The Jackie Harlan Detective Agency was the best and the most expensive team of detectives money could buy. Their specialty was finding missing people, from newborn babies given up for adoption, to kidnapped toddlers, and on up to the elderly, even if it meant exhuming a buried body.
Normally, Jackie’s three-person team worked out of hotel rooms, but now that Jackie and Carl were married, Michael met the woman of his dreams, and they’d finally located Jackie’s missing son, the agency’s home base was in Alexandria, VA. Their office was located in the spacious family room in the home Carl built for Jackie. It had three desks, a conference table, a massive amount of every kind of technology on the market, and a water cooler. On three of the four walls were fifteen monitors, each showing a different webcam view. With over a hundred thousand people missing in the United States on any given day, the team never lacked for work. Wealthy in their own right, it wasn’t the money anymore after years of being in business, it was the joy of finding missing people alive. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen often.
It was late Friday night when Jackie got a call on the cellphone reserved only for her affluent clients. She answered, listened for nearly a minute, quoted her usual retainer fee, and then disconnected the call.
“Who was that?” Carl asked, as Jackie turned off the table lamp on her side of the bed and snuggled close to him. “An old friend, Senator Jaddel.”
“Really? Who’s missing?”
“He’s hiring us to find Russell Summers.”
“Russell Summers? Why does that name sound familiar?”
“He worked with Morgan Ashton at the Skaldeck Foundation. According to our client, he went missing three years ago.”
Carl nearly sat up in bed. “You can’t be serious! Everybody in the world has been trying to find the three people that went missing from the Skaldeck Foundation. And now there’s a fourth? The first three are just gone, Jackie, and they took all their secrets with them.” He stared at his wife for a long moment, and then slowly laid back down. “You said yes, I take it.”
“Don’t you want to know what happened to them?”
“Well, sure, I suppose. My healthy curiosity didn’t dry up just because I married you.”
“Good, I’m glad to hear that. While we’re at it, he wants us to look for Morgan Ashton, Simone Goulet, and Dave Casso too.”
Carl reached for the lamp on his side of the bed and turned it on. “All three of them? Jackie, have you lost your mind? That case is over twenty years old. Every article ever written and every docudrama ever produced admits there are no clues, and even offering a huge reward didn’t turn up one single witness. Poof, all three were just gone.”
“Yes, well if one or all of them are still alive, our friendly senator wants them found. He’s been a big help to us in the past, and we owe him the courtesy of at least giving his request a few weeks of our time. If there’s nothing to find, then there’s nothing to find.” She kissed him and then turned over. “We better get some sleep. We’ve got a busy day tomorrow.”
“Uh huh,” he half-heartedly muttered, turning the light back off. “What did the papers call that case?”
“The Sunrise Lane Case.”
“That always struck me as an odd name for a multiple disappearance.”
“Not really. It’s the name of a street. That’s where the Skaldeck Foundation was located. The very next day, the building caught fire. There was something odd about that too, not just because it burned, but because two fire trucks got stuck behind traffic jams and didn’t get there until the building was completely gutted.”
“Did they say what started the fire?”
“Not that I remember. It was a long time ago. The Russell Summers’ case is only three years old. How about watching a movie with me tomorrow night?”
“Three, to be exact. Who knows, maybe there’s a hidden clue in there somewhere.”
“Date night with the Sunrise Lane Case? Are you making the popcorn?”