The Girl Who DisappearedChapter one
My name's Samuel. Lenny Samuel. You can call me Len.
I'm a private eye. A private eye is a private detective - a detective who will work for anyone who will pay him. I'm not a policeman. I work on my own as a private eye.
My office is on the west side of Los Angeles, on the fourth floor of a high building. There are only two rooms in my office - the outer room and the inner room. The outer room is the waiting-room. There are four chairs in the waiting-room, although there are never four people waiting to see me. In fact, there is usually no one at all waiting to see me.
In the inner room, there's a cheap wooden desk. There's a big wooden chair for me to sit on and, on the opposite side of the desk, there's a low metal chair for my visitors. The rest of the furniture in my office consists of a large, empty metal cupboard, and a low bed in one corner. When there is a lot of work, I sometimes sleep in the office.
The notice outside my door says: "L. Samuel. Private Detective." That's me. I'm quite tall, nearly two metres, and I weigh eighty kilos. A lot of men say that I'm ugly, but women seem to find me attractive. I've got brown eyes, brown hair and very nice teeth. I had a good nose, too, until someone broke it in a fight last year.
Recently, I haven't been very busy. In fact, I've had very little to do. However, I did have some work last month. It all started late one afternoon, when I was sitting in my office. I had just finished cutting my nails and I was about to clean them.
Suddenly, I heard someone walk into the outer room. I always leave the door of the outer room open, in case anyone wants to come in and see me. When I heard the footsteps in the outer room, I wasn't very surprised.
I thought that someone had made a mistake and come into the wrong office. It was probably someone looking for the doctor next door.
But a moment later, there was a very quiet knock on the door of the inner room.
'Come in,' I shouted and put away the scissors I had been cutting my nails with.
The door opened and in walked one of the most beautiful women I had ever seen. She was about eighteen years old, with blue eyes and long blonde hair. She was wearing a smart green coat and had a big brown handbag over her shoulder.
'Excuse me,' said the girl. 'I'm looking for Mr Samuel.'
'I'm Samuel,' I said, with a quick smile. 'Come in and sit down.'
The girl didn't smile back at me.
'No, I won't sit down,' she said.
'Well, if you won't sit down, at least come in and close the door,' I replied.
The girl came in, walked over and put her handbag on my desk.
'Now,' I said, 'what can I do for you?'
'I need help,' said the girl slowly. 'But I don't know if you will be able to help me. Are you a real private detective?'
'Of course I am,' I replied angrily. 'Didn't you see the notice on the office door? It says "L. Samuel. Private Detective." I'm Samuel. I'm a private eye.'
'All right, Mr Samuel,' the girl said coldly. 'There's no need to get angry. I have a little job for you.'
'Right,' I said quickly. 'What do you want me to do?'
'It's very simple really,' the girl replied. 'I want you to find my sister. She has disappeared.'
Please Find My Sister
'I see,' I said. 'Your sister has disappeared. Have you reported her disappearance to the police?'
The blonde girl shook her head. She looked very nervous and was starting to cry.
'No, I haven't told the police,' she said. 'I don't want any trouble with the police. I just want you to help find my sister.' She took a small, pink handkerchief out of her handbag and dried her eyes.
'All right,' I said. 'Tell me all about your sister.'
'Her name is Elaine Garfield,' said the girl.
'And what's your name?' I interrupted.
'Helen. Helen Garfield,' she replied. 'My sister disappeared a week ago. We had arranged to have dinner together last Monday night, but she didn't come.'
'Perhaps your sister didn't come because she doesn't like the food you cook,' I suggested.
'Don't try to be funny. I flew all the way from New York to see her last Monday,' she said angrily.
'Oh, so you don't live in Los Angeles, then,' I said.
'No,' she replied quickly, 'I live in New York. I flew right across America to see my sister, but, when I got here, I discovered that she had disappeared.'
'How do you know she has disappeared?' I asked. 'Perhaps your sister just forgot about the dinner.'
The blonde girl took a deep breath.
'Look,' she said, 'Let me finish my story. If you don't stop asking questions, I'll find myself another detective.'
'Right,' I said, 'I'm listening.'
'I waited for my sister last Monday evening, in my hotel,' said the girl. 'But she didn't come. I telephoned her, but there was no answer. So the next morning, I went to the office where she worked. At her office, they said that she had been to work the day before, on the Monday. They also told me that she'd left suddenly, in the middle of the afternoon, without telling anyone. After that I went round to her flat, but there was no one there.'
The girl stopped for a minute, and then continued.
'Mr Samuel,' she said, 'I'm very worried about my sister. It's not usual for her to disappear suddenly like this. I'm sure that she's in danger and I want you to find her.'
'All right,' I said. 'It may be easy or it may be difficult, but I'll find her. But first, tell me why you've waited six days before coming to me.'
'That's none of your business,' the girl said.
'OK,' I replied. 'Your sister's name is Elaine Garfield. What does she look like?'
'Oh, that's easy,' Helen Garfield replied, 'she looks like me. We're twins. Now, Mr Samuel, how much money do you charge?
'Fifty dollars a day,' I said.
'Very well, Mr Samuel,' said the girl, 'but fifty dollars a day is a lot of money. I hope that you will work hard for it.'
'Oh yes,' I replied, with a smile, 'I'll work very hard. Now give me the address of your sister's flat, and the name of the office where she works. I'll start work at once.'
The blonde girl wrote the addresses on a piece of paper and gave me the paper.
'One more thing,' I said. 'Can you give me your address, too?'
'That won't be necessary,' she replied, as she picked up her handbag. 'I'll come and see you again tomorrow afternoon, at five o'clock. Goodbye, Mr Samuel.'
Without waiting for an answer, the girl turned around and walked out of the office.
As I watched her walk out of my office, I smiled to myself. 'This is better than cleaning my nails,' I thought. Then I began my work.