Checked Out - Chapter 1

Elaine Viets: A mystery for every mood

Chapter 1


“I need your help,” Elizabeth Cateman Kingsley said. “My late father misplaced a million dollars in a library book. I want it back.”

Helen Hawthorne caught herself before she said, “You’re joking.” Private eyes were supposed to be cool. Helen and her husband, Phil Sagemont, were partners in Coronado Investigations, a Fort Lauderdale firm.

Elizabeth seemed unnaturally calm for someone with a misplaced million. Her sensational statement had grabbed the attention of Helen and Phil, but now Elizabeth sat quietly in the yellow client chair, her narrow feet in sensible black heels crossed at the ankles, her slender, well-shaped hands folded in her lap

Helen studied the woman from her chrome-and-black partner’s chair. Somewhere in her fifties, Elizabeth Kingsley kept her gunmetal hair defiantly undyed and pulled into a knot. A thin, knife-blade nose gave her makeup-free face distinction. Helen thought she looked practical, confident and intelligent.

Elizabeth’s well-cut gray suit was slightly worn. Her turquoise-and-pink silk scarf gave it a bold splash of color. Elizabeth had money once, Helen decided, but she was on hard times now. But how the heck did you leave a million bucks in a library book?

Phil asked the question Helen had been thinking a little more tactfully: “How do you misplace millions in a library book?”

“I didn’t,” Elizabeth said. “My father, Davis Kingsley, did.”

“Was it a check? A bank book?”

“Oh, no,” she said. “It’s a watercolor.”