The headlines of January 16, 2012 read:

“International Space Station Triples Living Space!”

Intl Space StationThanks to the international consortium of investors,  the space station has more than tripled its living space in preparation for the new space tourists.  The original space station spanned the area of a U.S. football field including the end zones & had more livable room than a conventional 5 bedroom house with 2 bathrooms & a gymnasium.  The additional living space provides for 15 more bedrooms, 6 more bathrooms, a restaurant/dining room & a games room/library.  Each floor boasts a 360 degree bay window.  Tourists from all over the world can stay at the space station for a week only to ensure space is available for everyone who wants to travel there.  Waiting lists are generally at least 6 months long.  The shuttle takes off from Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.

Photo courtesy of NASA.

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Ten days after their last meeting, Carver called Edward Hotspur with his report.

“I’ve taken the picture you gave me & I’ve been to each & every business in this whole area & no one knows her.  It seems like no one even remembers seeing her.  Since she didn’t seem to work anywhere near, I thought maybe she was from out of town, so then I moved on to local hotels.  That’s where I ran into a bit of a snag.”

“What kind of snag?”

“Well, you see I had a picture but no name.  I couldn’t just walk into the hotels & ask them if they knew who she was.  They would have thrown me out on my ear or called the police on me!”

“So what did you do?” asked Edward.

“Usually, it’s the housekeepers who know the most about the guests, much more than the people who run the front desks.  So I went to the hotels in the early mornings when the housekeepers were starting their shifts & met them in the laundry rooms.  I would make up a story about my sister running away from home to escape my evil father, show them the picture & ask if they’d seen her.  If they asked for her name, I would tell them I wasn’t sure what name she was using since she didn’t seem to want to be found.

It took some doing, but after about 8 hotels I finally found a housekeeper who remembered seeing her.  A hundred dollar bill (which will be added to your invoice by the way) convinced her to let me into her room.  There was a Do Not Disturb sign on the door, so the bed had not been made up but otherwise the room was very tidy.  There were a few toiletries in the bathroom & a flimsy nightgown laid over the end of the bed, but nothing else in the room.  There was dust on the tables so it looked like it hadn’t been used for a few days, but then I had an idea.  So I went to the front desk & offered to settle her bill & check her out.  They asked if I’d like the charges added to the credit card on file & I agreed but I wanted the receipt to give my sister & they gave it to me.  Her name is Shelby Black!”

“Shelby Black . . . it doesn’t sound familiar, but what an interesting name.  Anything else?”

“I did a credit check on the name Shelby Black & was able to find out she has a mortgage on a condo in Chicago.  A friend of mine lives there, he’s also a private investigator & he was able to stake out her condo.  She wasn’t there at all yesterday or today, so I asked him to see if he could get inside.  The condo was pretty swanky but it doesn’t look like anyone’s been there in at least a week – there was some milk in the fridge out of date about 6 days ago.  From checking the closets, my buddy says he thinks she lives alone because there is only 1 set of clothes in the place.  There was some mail on the desk & it looks like she was on the waiting list for a couple tickets as a space tourist, so she must have money.  It looks like her flight is scheduled for 4 days from now.  I’m heading for Kennedy Space Centre tonight.  In preparation for a flight, tourists have to attend training sessions & quarantine a week in advance, so she should be there already if she’s going to make her flight.”

“Wow, you’ve made a lot of progress,” said Edward.  “I wonder who the 2nd ticket was for?  Let me know what you find out later this week.”

The next night, Edward’s cell phone rang as soon as he left work.  It was Carver’s number on the call display.

“Carver, what’s up?”

“You better get down here right away Hawtspur, it looks like Shelby is in real trouble!  I staked out the space centre & managed to get a look at the passengers as they were leaving the training centre for their quarters.  She looked white as a sheet & this tall husky dude was dragging her along by the arm.  I don’t know exactly what is going on, but she didn’t look like she was happy to be there!”

“But I can’t just up & leave!”

“Well you better Hawtspur because I need help!  I can’t do this on my own.  At least Shelby will recognize you.  If I approach her she won’t have a clue who I am, whether I’m friend or foe.  I’ll try to find out who the guy is while you’re on your way.  So get your ass down here!”

“Okay, okay, I’m on my way!  Meet me at the airport when I get to Florida & you can fill me in!”

TO BE CONTINUED . . .

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