“Well, what is it?”
“Hold your horses, Luke. I’m still trying to get the lens to focus.”
Luke stamped his foot, full of impatience and a burning need to know what exactly it was they’d found.
“Well, I’ll be.”
“It’s a flake of gold.”
That made no sense to Luke. When they’d collected evidence from the scene of the crime the C.S.I. guys had told him there was very little to go on. They’d found these flakes of something like confetti, but there was nothing else at the scene to point them in the direction of the kidnappers.
Gold, though, was even more confusing. A flake of gold would be even harder to trace its origin than confetti. Time was running out and Tuala’s life depended on them finding the location of where the kidnappers were holding her.
“I checked with my source at the department, and they seem to think these mercenaries are from across the border, but as soon as the ambassador’s niece was reported missing the borders were closed and all flights canceled, so it’s impossible they’ve left the country.”
“Is there anything defining about this gold flake, Phil?”
“It would help if you’d gotten more than a couple of them.”
“The police tend to frown on P.I.s procuring their own evidence from a crime scene.”
“Since when has that ever stopped you?” Phil mumbled while he pressed his eyes back over the microscope lenses. “I’ll need to run a chemical test. I’ll have more for you after that.”
“We don’t have time. Just tell me what you got so far.”
“It’s pretty pure, probably 24K. The flake under the scope is scored with lots of tiny lines that run almost parallel.”
Luke nodded as he processed what Phil was able to tell him. “That means there was a machine involved. What might cause gold to flake and leave minuscule scrapes in the surface?”
Phil sat back with a look of intense thought. Luke had to work to keep from tapping his foot again, but when the scientist suddenly sat forward and gasped he had no trouble keeping his foot still. Luke’s whole body went rigid at the dread on his friend’s face.
“I think–now this is complete speculation, Luke, but I think it’s gold leafing.”
“Okay. Why is that such a big issue?”
“I’ve heard of these kidnappers, on the internet. I didn’t take it seriously, but these guys, they anesthetize their victims and then coat them in gold leafing to make them look like statues, then they carry them out of the country.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me.”
“I wish I was. It’s happened at least twice that I’ve read about. It’s one of those things the government’s always trying to cover up. You know? Calling the disappearance of France’s diplomat a yacht accident. The other was the famous athlete, the soccer star, Richard Albrecht. You know, his grandfather is the Prime Minister of Italy.”
“If what you’re saying is true, then we’re in serious trouble. They’ve reopened the borders with thorough searches but aren’t looking for statues. These guys could waltz right past and never get caught. How long would it take to finish covering someone in gold?”
Phil spun around in his chair and stared at the ceiling.
“Are we talking hours?”
“Theoretically, it could take anywhere from a few hours to several days depending on how much of the gold is already prepared.”
“That narrows it down. I need a better estimate, Phil.”
“Hell, Luke. I’m no magician. It’s not like I can pull this stuff out of a top hat.”
“Sorry. It’s already been four hours since she was reported missing. It seems the security guards assigned to her were knocked out, but they swore it was only for a couple minutes. Hey, do you need a special facility to design gold leafing?”
“If you’re using a machine to thin the gold, yes.”
Luke yanked out his cell and hit the speed dial for Darcie. “C’mon, c’mon, Darce, pick up.”
Her perky voice answered on the other end of the line, and Luke breathed a sigh of relief. “Hey, Darce, I need you to do a search for any plants or facilities that make gold sheeting.” He paused to listen to her. “I don’t know. Start with a fifty mile radius and if needed, expand from there.”
True to form, Darcie gave him a location within thirty seconds. “Thanks. I owe you.” He hung up and spoke to Phil.
“Thanks, buddy. Listen, find out anything else you can about that gold and text me with your findings.”
“You got it. Good luck.”
Luke jogged from the building and jumped in his plush, restored black ’64 Mustang.
* * *
The facility Darcie directed him to had turned out to be gold mine. Luke had found his way in and located a locked–well, it was locked–room in the basement with all the evidence a P.I. could need. He found Tuala’s jacket to prove she’d been there and the stub of a Cuban cigar, still warm.
But the real break came in the form of a ticket stub for the Russian Opera. Separatists. An underground organization intent upon starting another Cold War, but on a global scale. There were too many cooks in the kitchen when it came to nuclear armament, and it looked as though they were targeting several nations with this plot.
But all these bits had led Luke here, to this moment in the dark baggage car of a train bound for Canada.
“Wake up, Tuala,” he whispered while he peeled flakes of gold off the young woman.
She moaned and blinked her already uncovered eyes, but Luke had to cover her mouth when she screamed.
“My name’s Luke Gale. I’m a P.I. hired by your uncle. I’m going to get you out of here. Just don’t scream.”
* * *
Luked limped after Tuala and was satisfied as he watched her hug her uncle and aunt on the step of the embassy.
Man! I really wanted to write some serious action for this, but 1000 words is just not quite enough to go crazy. I hope you enjoyed the story all the same. I enjoyed writing it! So fun. Have a wonderful week.
Merry Christmas to all my celebrating friends, too!