Thursday, June 08, 2006

RoMystery - Chapter 1

Chapter 1

Sophia "I know, mamá. I was only out of town for a month on my last photo shoot. I cannot believe Pierre married her!” Sophia's tears had been exhausted a few hours earlier, but her mother could still hear the catch in her voice. "He was my fiancé. He didn't even extend me the courtesy of letting me know he had broken up with me," she sniffed audibly.

Puffy bloodshot eyes were unbecoming on anyone, but seemed exaggerated on this top model. During the past week, each time Sophia looked in the mirror at her bloodshot, misty blue eyes, they reminded her of the red, white, and blue of the French flags raised all over Paris.

"I wish you didn't feel this need to go so far away from home to get over his betrayal…or for such a long time," Josephine de Jardin told her daughter. Although Josephine lived in St. Raphael and Sophia in Paris, she thought her daughter’s new job in the United States was much too far away.

Sophia had accepted a modeling assignment that would keep her away for over a year. She did not want to reveal to her mother the real reason for her trip to the U.S. "I'll be able to come home to visit a couple of times, and you can travel to see me, too. Besides, I will be able to see most of the major cities in the United States during my assignments." Trying to justify her decision, she added, "It is a necessary distraction."

They heard the boarding announcement for Sophia’s direct flight from Paris to Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport. Sophia and her mother stood and hugged in a tearful farewell. Sophia gathered her purse and carryon, “Au revoir mamá. Je t’aime.”

“I love you, too. Call me as soon as you get settled at your hotel so I know you arrived safely,” her mother said with glistening eyes.

“Okay.” She lined up with the other boarding passengers, and looked back at her mother, offering a little wave.


Sophia deplaned nine and a half hours later and gracefully walked through the stifling, hot Jetway that merged into the crowd walking in the much cooler large hallway toward the baggage area. Although she still looked fabulous, she felt like something the cat dragged in.

As Sophia strolled, she couldn’t help but compare this trip to her last one. Everything then had been perfect until she had returned home to discover she was no longer engaged. The weeks since had been filled with tears and feelings of inadequacy. Her self-doubt ran in a constant loop. Why had Pierre chosen someone else? Why had he been seeing this other woman for four months while he was my fiancé? It’s not like they were just casually dating. Sophia tipped her head back and shook her hair as if to remove the frustrating circumstances from her mind.

She turned her thoughts to retrieving her baggage and the miracle it would be to find them all quickly at the carousel. She couldn’t wait to check into her hotel.


Sophia“Finally,” thought Wes as his aircraft taxied up to the terminal at the Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport. Though the flight was not that long from Midland, it seemed interminable to Wes who was anxious to continue on to San Antonio and to his new assignment. But first he had to check in with the local office in Garland to assist with the wrap up of some business for which he carried critical information. That would mean a rental car and short drive with a four-day stay before he could move on.

As he approached the front exit, a flight attendant knocked on the security door that separated the passenger compartment from the cockpit. She requested something and a co-pilot handed her a small, though apparently weighty, handbag, which she then handed to Wes as he passed by her. She thanked him for flying with American Airlines, wished him a good stay in the Dallas area and, with a somewhat wistful look and hopeful timbre to her voice, asked him to be sure to fly with American again. Barely noticing her, Wes assured her that he would, though his thoughts were already on his new future.

Wes had been out in West Texas burning up some of his accumulated vacation time. That is, if you could call vacationing the assisting of Jake middle name or initial? Carlson with what he called a little problem. Not that he really had any choice in the matter because Big Jake, as he is fondly called, had been Wes’s mentor early in his career and if it weren’t for the now retired Big Jake, Wes would never have landed this new position. He was not as experienced and was a little young for the new grade, as well as the new position for which he had been selected. But with Big Jake’s guidance and Wes’s innate ability, he had succeeded in impressing the powers to be. Wes was looking forward to the new position as commander with the Unsolved Crimes Investigation Team located in San Antonio. So, he really had no choice but to head out to hot, dry West Texas when he was yet again asked to help Big Jake of the internationally known Carlson Investigations, Inc.

Through a crowd that parted for him with his approach, as his appearance was a man of confidence and bearing. The circular silver badge pinned to the upper left of his shirt had its effect, too. Across the top it read, “Department of Public Safety” and below that were the near mystical words, “Texas Rangers.” The rank of Lieutenant was stated in the center of the lone star that filled the central portion of the circle. Just pushing forty, 6’2”, trim waist with a firm torso that belied his age, Wes was dressed in boots, western cut clothing, and wore a white felt Rancher-style ‘cowboy’ hat. He moved with the agility of the distance runner that he is. Angular face, eyes the color of steel, but with a ready smile and kind word on his lips as he passed through the crowd. The chiseled look of his face, while handsome in a rugged, well-tanned way also made him look just a little fearsome. Women looked with interest; men with longing. All of which seemed lost on the man as he crossed the airport lounge and then traversed the hallway toward the revolving doors that separated the secure arrival area from the baggage claim areas.

When Sophia found the motionless revolving doors separating the secure portion of the airport from baggage claim, she stepped into the opening. The doors startled her when they automatically lurched into motion, requiring her to move at their pace. A tall man, who had walked down the hallway in view beside her, stepped in just behind her, bumping her elbow sharply, causing her to lose the grip on her purse. She bent quickly to grab it and lost her balance as the doors continued to turn. The man, who looked like he was in his mid to late thirties, grasped her around the waist to catch her and lunged through the exit before they both lost their footing. Sophia still grasped her retrieved purse and carryon; the man held his soft-sided bag in his other hand. Then, of course, they had to quickly move from the path of the other passengers filing through to collect their luggage.

As Wes approached the automatic revolving doors, he changed his small handbag to his left hand, and quickly stepped into one of the angular compartments. As he did so he inadvertently jostled the woman to his front as his handbag collided with her elbow and she yelped. He must have scored a direct hit on her funny bone. A 33.5 ounce P226 Sig Sauer .357 automatic weapon, holster rig, with restraints, and three loaded magazines, makes quite a ‘club’ with which to strike a woman. She seemed to lose her balance and began to fall. Wes used his free hand to catch her around the waist to keep her from falling and to propel them both on through the doors and out the other side.

“Well, Darlin’, it seems we made it. That door was more dangerous than the flight.” Wes’s eyes were dancing with mirth… as well as with interest. This woman around whom he still had his arm was ‘to die for’. Such a beauty!
“Thank you,” Sophia said as she regained her balance, leaning into his muscular chest and looking into the laughing steel gray eyes of her rescuer. She leaned away from him, effectively breaking his hold as she extended her hand and said, “Hi. I’m Sophia.”

He slowly freed her waist and met her hand with his in a firm, yet gentle embrace. Captured by the intense blue color of her eyes, he responded, “My name’s Wes. Wes Randall. It’s quite nice to meet you.” He paused a minute, not wanting to release her hand. Picking up on her French accent, he asked, “Are you visiting the Dallas area?”

“Yes. Actually, I’m working here for several months.” As an afterthought, she added “Were you on the flight from Paris?”

“No. I just flew in from Midland.”

The loud buzzer on the carousel sounded, indicating that some bags had at last been unloaded from the planes. Sliding her hand from his long, tapered fingers, Sophia said, “Thank you again Mr. Randall for saving me. I need to find my bags.”

“It’s Wes. I’ll rescue you any time, Sophia. You could even say that’s a part of my job. Bye for now.” He smiled as he watched her walk away, then sauntered to the baggage carousel next to hers to wait for his suitcase, thinking, “Wow! She’s gorgeous. And she looks familiar. I wonder why.”

Sophia collected her wheeled luggage and stepped outside to catch the shuttle to her hotel in Las Colinas, a suburb of Dallas.

“Mamá, c’est Sophia. I have arrived at my motel.” The conversation was quick because she knew her mother would want to go back to sleep. As an after thought she added, “We’ll keep in touch via email. I’ll let you know all about my adventures.” She recited the phone number where her mother could contact her. “Je t’aime. Au revoir.”

Sophia returned the dishes to her room service dinner tray while her bubble bath water filled the tub. The long flight had left her tired and grimy. Her ankle was sore from twisting during her incident in the revolving doors. So she closed her eyes and relaxed in the bubbles as she soaked in her bath and thought about Wes. Wes Randall.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

RoMystery - Chapter 2

Chapter 2

Sophia arrived at the photography studio on time as scheduled. Charles Windham, owner of the Windham Agency, was one of the best photographers in the area. Charlie was tall, six-foot one at least. His shock of black hair dangled over his forehead, but was cut short enough that it didn’t get in the way of his camera. Sophia had worked with him once in Paris, so she knew when the sparkle in his dark brown, almost ebony eyes indicated he had the perfect shot.

For her current contract, she would work on various projects with him for several months. Her assignment today was to model a formal midnight blue evening dress, wearing an extravagant diamond necklace, bracelet, and earrings for a posh local jeweler’s advertising campaign. After today, Sophia would be modeling bikinis for a new line of swimwear. Scheduled shooting for that job with Charles would last three weeks.

As she smiled and swayed, she was somewhat nervous with the three security men watching her while they guarded the half-million dollar adornments she Wore. Because of the value of the jewels, the shoot would be completed in one day to reduce the risk of theft.

“Okay, Sophia, just one more pose up here on this low wall. I’ll turn on the heavy duty fan to make your hair and dress flow in the breeze.” Charles left his post to engage the large box fan.

Sophia climbed onto the two-foot tall, eighteen-inch wide brick wall that had been set against a stark white background. This last shot was to have full view of the dangling diamond earrings. The light wind would move her hair enough to fully capture the treasures sparkling in the bright lights.

Charlie framed her three-quarter profile, full length, her chin tilted up in a sophisticated pose. “Yes. That’s good. Now flip your hair back to the left. Perfect!” Charles’ camera snapped incessantly.

Exhausted from jet lag and hours of posing in 4-inch heels, when Charlie dismissed her, Sophia had forgotten she was on a narrow wall. She accidentally stepped over the edge. Because of her weakened ankle, she couldn’t catch her balance and fell off the wall. With an outstretched arm, a shriek, and a thud, she found herself on the floor with the glamorous deep blue dress puddled around her.

Sophia could tell from the sharp pain in her left forearm that something was drastically wrong. All four men rushed to rescue her, seating her on a nearby chair to inspect for damage. It didn’t take long for them to decide she had broken her arm. “Come on sweetheart, let me help you up.”

Charlie was ready to usher her out to his car to drive her to the emergency room when one of the security guards suggested that she leave the jewels with them before they left.

Otherwise, everyone would have to ride in one vehicle and the guards would need to stay with her everywhere in the hospital. Since they could make the exchange in a couple of minutes, she and Charlie agreed. She winced when Charlie removed the sparkling bracelet from her left arm that had already started swelling near her wrist.

“Sorry. That must have hurt,” Charlie apologized. He could see moistness in her eyes in her attempt to be brave.

“Miss de Jardin, the X-rays show that you have a hairline fracture of the ulna,” the doctor informed her. “It’s not really serious, but you will have to wear a cast for about three weeks. I’ll give you some pain medication and then we’ll start with the plaster.”

She looked pleadingly at Charlie, knowing wearing a cast would interfere with their shooting schedule. They wouldn’t be able to photograph her with the cast on her arm. Thank goodness they had finished the diamond ad. He picked up on her concern and said, “Don’t worry, Sophia. I can swap some things on my calendar and we’ll do the bikini shoot in a month.”

“I’m sorry, Charlie.”

“Just pretend you’re on vacation and come back ready to work hard. I’ll drive you back to your hotel now. Will you be all right by yourself?”

“Yes, I think so. There is plenty of hotel staff to help if I have a problem.” She paused. “Right now, I’m ready to go to bed and sleep for twelve hours. The medicine should help me do that.”

Awakening the next morning, Sophia immediately knew she was overdue for her pain medication and had been precautioned to eat something with the pills. Tossing her diet out of her thoughts, she called for a room service breakfast of biscuits and jelly, bacon, and hash browns, along with some steaming hot cocoa.

While she ate, she wondered what to do for the next three or four weeks. She thought about some American friends she had met in Paris last summer when her ex-fiancé, Pierre, and introduced her to his business associate. Cassandra Jones had come from Texas to train at the Paris office and brought her teenage daughter Autumn and her daughter’s friend Summer Smith to tour for a couple of weeks.

The girls, in turn, eventually devised a way to get their boyfriends, Spring Springfield and Winter Bonney, to Europe, also. Sophia had become friends with the teens and escorted them sightseeing. She had also taken the girls around the city shopping and showing them some current French fashions. Later, when the kids toured southern France, Sophia had invited them to join her at her mother’s home in St. Raphael, near Nice. When her mother, Josephine, met the eighteen-year olds, she had seen a familiar face in Spring. Hearing his surname, Josephine was taken back to another time.

Sophia remembered her mother’s stunned reaction and comment, “You look so much like Sophia’s father, an American who was here in the Air Force in the mid 60s,” she whispered as moisture slipped to her cheek. “And his family name was Springfield, too!”

Sophia was shocked. She had been told her father had died and had never heard her mother speak of him, even when asked.

Spring had been just as confused. “I’m very sure Dad was never in Europe during the late 1960s.” He’d thought a moment and added, “The next time I talk with him, I’ll explain the situation and ask if he can clarify anything.”

Later Spring had spoken on the phone with his father. He had told Sophia that his Uncle Paul, his father’s brother, had been stationed in France in the late 1960s. His father told him, “Spring, it’s very possible that Sophia is your cousin!”

Her thoughts returned to her aching arm and what she would do for the next three weeks while it was healing. It was then she decided during her time off to track down the man who might be her father. Her initial reaction to the possibility that he was alive was to leave things as they were. She didn’t want to know. But the more she thought about it now, the more she wanted to find him.

It was time to telephone Spring. Sophia had brought his phone number with her. He lived in Plano, another suburb north of Dallas. She picked up the telephone receiver and punched in his digits. When he answered, she identified herself.

“Hey, Sophia! How’z it goin’?” Spring’s peppy, newly tenor, tangy Texas accent was quite a contrast with Sophia’s smooth French meter. “Your mom sent me an email yesterday to let me know you had arrived. I was wondering when ya’d call.”

She related her misfortune at the photography studio and then told Spring, “I’ve decided to try to contact Paul Springfield and talk to him about my mother to determine if he is my father. Do you have his number or address?”

Sophia “I changed my mind. Do you know anything more?”

“Well, last summer after I returned from my trip to France, I talked with dad. He said when his brother got out of the Air Force that he went to work for the FBI and currently is working in a special unit. We haven’t heard from him for the past three years when we saw him at Christmas. We think he might be working undercover, but don’t really know.”

Oh!” Sophia thought a moment. With some disappointment in her voice, she asked, “Where was he the last time you heard from him?”

He was working in San Antonio. I can give you his last address and phone number, but they’re no longer good.”

“I feel silly asking, but what’s his middle name?”

"Ryan. Paul Ryan Springfield,” Spring said.

“Does... does he have any other family?”
“No, he never married. With his job, he was away too much.”

They talked for another thirty minutes, discussing Spring’s friends and what they had been doing since Sophia had seen them. Spring and Sophia also planned to get together soon.Stumped. Sophia couldn’t figure out what to do now. How could she find someone who had essentially been missing for three years? Where would she even start?

Maybe she could try to track some records online. Sophia opened her lap top computer and started a Google search. The fingers on her right hand slowly plunked out the letters, Paul Springfield and clicked on the search button. Three million links, not all with the first name and last name together, popped up. To narrow the search, she added a middle name and put quotes around it for a more specific search. The keys clicked, “Paul Ryan Springfield”, and then as an after thought added, “San Antonio” after it. There were no matches. At this point she wasn’t sure if he still worked for the FBI.

She continued trying various search combinations without finding any leads. An hour and a half later, she folded the computer screen down, shutting it off with a deep sigh. She was already at a dead end. If there were some way she could get his driver’s license number or Social Security number, maybe she would be able to find some information. Another way she’d heard that people could be traced was from their credit cards or car insurance.

Sophia decided she needed the services of a professional. Or find someone in the FBI who could help her. She couldn’t think. Fatigued, she needed to rest. Now that her meds had kicked in, she felt groggy and knew she still needed rest from her long trip, so she put her thoughts on the back burner as her head fell to her pillow, for a short nap. She planned to dress and go to dinner in the hotel restaurant in a couple of hours.

Stuffed on steak, a loaded baked potato, and pecan pie for dessert, Sophia walked the path from her table to the restaurant exit, blaming her voracious appetite on her medications. She looked forward to finishing her last three days of pills. Remembering she had a bikini shoot in San Antonio on her first day back at work, after her cast was removed, she planned a cutback in her food intake as soon as the medicine side effects wore off.

When she approached the glass door at the exit, a gentleman on the other side opened it for her to pass through. As she said, “Thank you,” she looked into the steel gray eyes of Wes Randall.

“Well, howdy, purdy lady,” he said as he swept his white Stetson from his head.

“What happened to your arm?”

“It started when I twisted my ankle at the airport. That weakened condition caused a fall when I was working and I fractured my arm.”

“Ouch! I didn’t know you had twisted your ankle. I feel that it was my fault. I’m sorry.”Conversation came to a halt. With no good reason to stick around Sophia reluctantly made a move to leave.

“It was good to see you again. Goodbye.”

“Maybe we could have breakfast together,” Wes suggested hesitantly.

“What time do you usually eat?”

Sophia quizzed.“Whatever time you’re planning to,” he replied and flashed her a quick wink. Sophia thought a minute, wondering if she could pass up an opportunity to learn more about this good-looking man. She knew she probably wouldn’t see him again. During her dinner, she had decided to travel to San Antonio now, before she had to work again, and find someone to start an investigation to find Paul Ryan Springfield. But that trip would definitely be after breakfast. “I thought I’d eat around nine. Would you like to meet me here?”

“You can count on it!”

In her room, Sophia gathered her clothes and other items to start packing. She set aside what she planned to wear for breakfast and travel. Since she was packing virtually one-handed, she knew it would take longer than usual and hoped some movement around her hotel room would help settle her meal.Sophia made her airline reservation and phoned the management of the condominium she had reserved, to let them know she would be arriving on time. Since the shoot would be starting three weeks late, she asked to extend her rental. After things were settled, she phoned Charlie. “I’ve decided to go to San Antonio now. That way I’ll be well rested before we start working again,” she explained.

Not only would Sophia be a model for the bikini catalog, along with other ladies modeling, but she was in charge of the layout and interaction with the customer with whom she was a partner.

“It would be great if you could scout out some background settings along the River Walk,” Charlie said.

“But of course. I’d be happy to. I won’t feel quite so useless.”