Please Enjoy The First Chapter
There was light early morning traffic on Savannah Avenue, but in this section of the city I doubted there was ever heavy traffic. The sun came up glaring between the bumps that people in Florida call hills. For or minute or two, before the day burned with the regular Sunshine State ferocity, the sky reflected the innocent blue of creation.
I drove slowly through Quail Ridge, past the tennis courts, swimming pools and the two-story houses that were just a couple of rooms shy of being mansions. With the rapid expansion of the economy, I wasn't sure if the houses were an example of new wealth or old wealth. I half expected an iron gate and a guard at the entrance but the residence I was looking for merely had a wide driveway leading to a contemporary residence spread out over a slope. White pillars contrasted with the yellow trim on the house. Over the door was a ceramic circle that looked like the head of a lion.
I wondered if a butler would greet me but Bolly Canterley opened the door before I knocked. He was a handsome, stocky man with curly brown hair, green eyes but a haggard look. He hadn't shaved and the beard stubble stuck out like jagged cactus spines.
"Come in," he said.
I walked into a large living room decked in green. A woman wearing pale yellow bathrobe that didn't' match the decor stood in the doorway. She had her arms crossed and a cigarette stuck between the fingers of her left hand. She showed a wan smile. There was something that bothered me about her posture but I couldn't define it.
Canterley gestured toward me. "Geneva, this is Jarrod Bamyon, the private detective I called."
As acknowledgement, she brought the cigarette to her lips, inhaled, and blew out some smoke.
"Let's go into the study," he said.
I followed him and his wife followed me. Canterley walked down a hall and into a room filled with paintings and bookshelves. He slid behind a large oak desk and sat down in a black, office chair,. His wife perched on the edge of the desk.
"I gather there's been no word from your daughter," I said.
He shook his head. "No. And, as I mentioned, there's two guns missing from the house."
"Bolly is a member of a hunt club. Members go out a couple of times a year," Bolly said. She puffed She puffed on her cigarette, then stubbed it out in an orange ashtray. "We have dozens of guns around."
"Only twelve handguns, Mr. Banyon," he said quickly, almost apologetically. "I'm a collectior--"
"Yes." There was a pause. "Four cases of cartridges are also missing."
"Do you know why she would take a gun,or guns."
He shook his head.
"Stephanie has gone shooting with her father occasionally, on ranges. She doesn't like hunting," Geneva said. "She has some athletic ability and is an excellent shot but, unlike her father, has never been fascinated with guns."
Maybe she is now, I thought.
Geneva, another cigarette stuck in her mouth, stared at me. "By the way, do you carry a weapon?" she asked.
I lifted my coat to let her see the Glock.
"You carry a big gun."
"Had to shoot some big people."
I should never try humor before nine a.m. Mornings are not my best time.
Geneva didn't smile. "Do all private detectives have your rather mordant sense of humor, Mr. Banyon."
"No they don't." I smiled. "I'm unique."
She took a deep puff on the cigarette then pulled it out of her mouth, As she exhaled smoke, her eyes looked beyond me.
"Perhaps too much so," she said, but I wasn't sure who the words were directed at.
As I went down the front steps I looked back and glanced at the house. I realized the ceramic lion wasn't a lion at all. It was a human face on the circle, some god of mythology, a malignant and angry deity of a long-forgotten people.