I took the Carolinian from New York City to Charleston. Other than reminiscencing about my old Army days, the trip was uneventful. Just the sway of the rail car to lull one to sleep the miles away.
Charleston is an old town. I learned in the Army that the southerners do not like Yankees prying in their business. They can talk circles around you with their colloquialisms and accent.
I checked in at the police station. I wanted to see if they knew anything about this Drake Manor that Marianne Silvers was working at. If she was missing, maybe somebody noticed. Thinking about my old Army days put me in the right frame of mind. Although a bit older, I recognized Tom Strawbridge right off. Although older at the time, he was assigned to the base I served at for my Basic. He served as a fatherly figure in contrast to the hard-ass drill sergeants.
“Douglas Gamble…yes, I remember you. I had not been at the base long when you came through, so some stick in my mind better than others. After the War, I went back to my old detective job. So, what brings you to Charleston?”
Tom told me about his grand kids and I told him about getting shot in the leg at Saint-Mihiel. Personally, I liked his story better.
“Hey listen,” I said, finally getting back to the case. “I was hired by this woman up in New York. She thinks her sister has gone missing. I told her to call you guys, but she wasn’t having any of it. I figured her money is good, so I would check it out for her. Besides, it is nice to get out of the city sometimes. The sister’s name is Marianne Silvers and she works out at Drake Manor. I figured before I get started, I would check in with you guys. See if you knew anything about the manor place.”
Tom hesitates for a moment, then speaks. “Interesting, we have a missing person’s report for her. She was reported missing about two weeks ago by the Drakes. Drake Manor is a bit of a drive out of town.”
I sensed he was holding something back. His answer was a bit too quick and short for Tom. I pressed him on it. Finally, he tells me a more.
“I know the Drakes better than I would like. Sir Emery Drake pays me a few bucks to keep an eye on his son Jonathon. The old man is out of it half the time, looking up at the stars. Jonathon is all about the party. In these dry times, things can get a bit touchy for Jonathon. He likes to hang out in the downtown establishments.”
He pauses, wiping his forehead in due to the heat. “Maybe you can help me out. I am in a bit of bind. We are stretched thin and keeping Jonathon out of trouble is a handful. We will keep out of your way if you let me know what you find out about Ms. Silvers.”
It always makes me a little nervous whenever the local cops say they’ll stay out of my way. Sure I was doing their job for them, but my buddies in New York usually preferred to constantly remind me who was in charge. I wondered if things were even worse than Julia had suspected. Still I could sympathize with him. I’d been hired to be a glorified babysitter once and it was more trouble than it had been worth.
“Sure Tom. I’ll definitely let you know what I find out. You care if I take a look at that missing person’s report? Might give me some ideas on how to approach the Drakes. Also, the sister thought Jonathon and Marianne might have had a fling. Know anything about that?”
Of course, that wasn’t exactly what she had said. But her explanation was more complex that I wanted to deal with in this heat.