Mystery and Crime Fiction posted January 26, 2022 Chapters:  ...13 14 -15- 


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Luke is all in to find a daughter in the city

A chapter in the book Leave of Absence

A Message of Hope

by forestport12




Background
Luke's on a forced leave of absence from the force. He learns he has a daughter in the city of Buffalo who went missing. He's caught between two worlds and will stop at nothing to find her.


Luke turned the fat key to door number six of the Niagara River Motor Inn. He would have preferred number seven on the end. The door shuddered open, as he shoved it with his shoulder. The stale air crawled up his nose.. Down at his feet, Bugsy with his twitching nose looked inside, unsure of his master's decision. "I just need a nap, then you stay here and hold the fort when I go out."

Luke flicked on the light. He threw his gym bag on the rug. Bugsy hopped on the bed. Nothing special. It had one of those old beds you stick a quarter in that vibrates, stick furniture, one lamp by the nightstand. Luke pulled his revolver out from the butt crack of his pants and placed it in the drawer next to a Gideon Bible. Before settling down, he went over and tugged the window shades tight. He went over to the desk and took the chair placing it under the doorknob.

Bugsy studied Luke as he closed the curtains and then went over to the bathroom with barely enough room for the shower and a small sink. He walked over and clicked on the tv with remote. He sat on the edge of the bed where Bugsy snuggled on his lap. As he surfed the channels he found a nature show for his dog.

Luke breathed a sigh. He went over near the door and turned off the light. When Luke sat back on the bed and propped a pillow, it didn't take long for his eyes to get heavy. Once he closed his eyes, his body went numb. His mind took a break from reality.

His other daughter the one who never made it past seven comes to his bedside dressed in her soccer uniform and ball in her hand. "Wake up Dad. I have to go to soccer practice."

In his dream he mumbles, "No baby, you're not supposed to be here. It's dangerous."

She bounces the ball by the side of his bed. "I know, you have to find my sister. She's out there Daddy. It's okay, anyway. I'm with Jesus."

"I...I missed you."

"Because why..."

"Because you're not here. I can't go where you are and bring you back."

"I'm alive in you, Daddy. Stop trying to find me at the grave. That's just you being silly. I'm okay. Find my sister. You got this."

Luke jolts awake. Taylor was a dream, a lifelike dream. It was as if he could almost touch her. She wasn't angry. She hadn't blamed him for the accident years ago. Tears burned in his eyes.

Bugsy crawled over and licked his master's face. His pug face stared into Luke's eyes. He licked Luke across his mouth. "Stop." But Luke held him like a baby in his arms.

Luke sucked the warm stale air inside his lungs and lets it out, wishing he'd tried the AC unit. From where he sat, and despite the noise on tv, he can hear the cars go by on the boulevard and an occasional horn.

Luke got up and rifled through his gym bag and puts on a clean shirt but stays in his jeans. He goes to the small bathroom with a pink sink and douses a washcloth with warm water and massages his face. His quick therapy worked to starch his mind and stiffen his resolve in order dive into the underworld.

Luke leaves his mascot behind and walks down the street from the motel. Neon signs shine across the busy boulevard. He raced across and where Paradise club was buzzing with people. In the parking lot, he scanned where he thought Spike got into a car. It's dark and the windows are tinted. A flashback. It's the same truck! The one he saw at the gravesite in upstate NY.

Luke ran toward the truck. He sees shadows, maybe it's Chrissy in the back. He waves, but the truck speeds away toward Niagara Falls. If only he had his car.

Luke bends over, catching his breath. He pictured her looking back at him, wondering what kind of crazy would be trying to catch the truck. He raged inside. So close, so far away! He needs to know if she's been seen.

Every city has a place where the adult bookshops and strip clubs take over. Buffalo was no different. He looked up at the Flamingo neon sign. Next to that was Adult World with seduction painted in bold colors. His heart rapt hard against his chest. His lungs burned. He clutched his chest. It wasn't where he wanted to drop dead.

Men with vacant faces, probably many with families back home, maybe bored sitting in their rooms waiting for the next business day, converged at the open door. One of the skinny girls wearing what looks like sport bra with shorts approached him from the door to the club. "Here's a coupon for your first drink, half off."

Luke doesn't smile back. He can't save every girl. Some don't want to be saved. At best she's in in her early twenties. Her crimson lipstick appeared wet under the streetlamps.

Luke responded. "No thanks. I thought I saw someone in the parking lot I knew."

"We don't operate like that. Were a gentlemen's club."

Where was she going with this, he thought? He wasn't looking for a hookup. "No, I'm looking for someone who might be working here."

She was sizing him up. Some men would have loved flirting, especially for his age. "I'm not a snitch. And besides, I could lose my job. You'd have to talk to the manager."

"This is a picture of her." He pulled out the picture of Chrissy in her high school cheerleading uniform. She gives Luke a surprised look, maybe a look in code. But then her poker face made a comeback.

"Like I said, Mister. You can talk to the manager. His name is Buddy Dodge. Everything he does is legal. You a cop or something?"

"I was. I'm an investigator. Trying to find her."

"Let me show you where his office is. He's there, probably counting money. I can take you to see him and knock on his door, see if he's not too busy."

"Okay."

Luke follows the girl. She's so thin, she looks like she could break something when she walks. He decided to look down, but he tripped over the threshold. He didn't want to see all the flesh on magazines inside. He tried to keep one eye open, but it was hard catching glimpses of men brushing past him and the possibility that his own daughter worked inside. It made him hate the men who would have prying eyes on his daughter.

Once inside, he felt like the walls were closing in. But he followed the girl and made it to the office that had a two-way mirror big as a bay window. The girl knocked on the door.

"What is it?" A gruff voiced asked from the other side. "I'm busy."

"It's Candy. Someone's here to see you. He's looking for someone."

"He needs to pay like everybody else. You handle it."

Luke spoke up. "I need to know if a Chrissy works here!" He was loud enough to make browsers keep their distance who were scanning books.

He opened the door. "I don't have Chrissy working for me. Are you with the police?"

"Can we talk in private?"

He opened the door wider. One girl in a short skirt was sitting on his desk. It wasn't Chrissy. "Tomorrow. Say at one in the afternoon." He sighs. "I'm leaving soon."

Luke didn't want to cause a scene, not now. He didn't want everyone involved getting spooked and not coming back. Then he might not ever see Chrissy again. "Okay."

The man's brow furrowed before he shut the door. "You a cop?"

"No. I'm an investigator."

Buddy shuts his door. "Okay. Tomorrow."

As Luke escorts himself out, this time the young girl trying to draw men into the club follows him out. When she gets far enough away from everyone else she stops him in his tracks. "Don't tell the boss. But that picture. I have seen her here just the other day. Are you an investigator or a father?"

"Both."

Candy looks at him with pleading wet eyes. "I need this job. I'm a single Mom. I got nothing else going for me right now."

"Thanks." His eyes burn with tears.

"Be careful", She said, as he walks away.

"The guy who pretends to be her boyfriend needs to be careful."


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