The Case of the Missing Heart, Part I
"Good morning," Frankie said, smiling from the doorway of the office.
Looking up from his papers, Cass smiled warmly at the woman he loved. "Hi," he said, rising to greet her.
"Hi, yourself," she replied, moving toward him.
Closing the distance between them, Cass and Frankie embraced tenderly. His hands came to rest gently at the small of her back, and her arms glided around his neck as she kissed him softly.
Pulling away for a moment, he told her playfully, "I was wondering when you were coming in to work. You can barely call this morning."
"I'm sorry I'm late, Cass, but a certain lawyer kept me up too long last night," she teased, her fingers playing with the curls in his hair.
"We had important business to discuss," he said seriously, looking into her eyes.
"As I recall, Cass, there wasn't much discussion involved."
"So we got a little sidetracked," he replied, leaning in to kiss her once more.
"Ahem," Stacey interrupted, causing Cass and Frankie to separate abruptly.
"Oh…hi, Stace," Cass said somewhat sheepishly.
Laughing, Stacey asked, "Are you two going to be this sickening all the time?"
Sharing a conspiratorial glance with Frankie, Cass wrapped his arm around her waist and said, "Yes, we are."
Shaking her head in amusement, she asked, "Well, close the door next time, will you? This is a place of business."
"Sure, Stacey," Frankie chimed in, overcoming her mild embarrassment. "Speaking of business, what's on the agenda for today?"
"Well, I've got some confidential work to do for Lucas today. Cass, do you mind if I use your office?"
"Go ahead. I've got a light load, so I can work in the outer office." Looking pointedly at Frankie, he continued, "Besides, the view's much better out here anyway."
Smiling at the welcome sight of her brother in love, Stacey said, "I tell you what….I'll close the door so that I can get some work done. Someone's got to be productive around here."
"See you, Stace," Cass called to his sister as she entered his office and shut the door behind her. Pulling Frankie into his arms, he continued, "Now, where were we?"
"Cass…," Frankie admonished. "I'm sure we have some work to do."
"My schedule is virtually empty today, so I've…."
At that moment, a frazzled young man in his early twenties entered the office. "I'm sorry to bother you, Mr. Winthrop, but I need your help."
"What can we do for you?" Cass asked, disengaging from Frankie's embrace and adopting a businesslike demeanor.
"My fiancée is missing, and the police won't search for her. I've been told that you're the best. You've got to help me!"
"We'll do what we can," Frankie said, reaching out to their new client. "Please sit down, Mr…?"
"Oh, I'm sorry. I'm Mark Franklin."
"It's nice to meet you, Mr. Franklin. I'm Frankie Frame."
"Ms. Frame," he said in acknowledgement.
"How can we help you, Mr. Franklin?" Cass asked, as Frankie led the client to the nearest chair.
"My fiancée, Mary, disappeared last night. You've got to find her."
"I don't know. I left our hotel room for a few minutes, and when I returned, she was missing."
"Was there any sign of struggle or forced entry?" Frankie asked.
"No, but the necklace I was planning to give her was missing. I'm afraid the thief took her, too."
"Did anyone see you with that necklace before last night…anyone who might have wanted to steal it?" Frankie asked.
"I don't see how they could have because I kept it well hidden. I wanted to surprise Mary with it, but now…" he said, trailing off
Casting a glance and Frankie, Cass said gently. "I have to ask you this, Mr. Franklin. Were you and your fiancée having problems?"
"No!" he yelled. "Everything was great between us. We were planning to get married next month."
"Did she seem worried about anything?" Frankie asked gently.
"No," Mark said quickly.
"Are you sure?" Frankie continued. "Sometimes brides get nervous as the wedding approaches."
"Well, maybe she was a little nervous. I know she was worried about fitting in with my family."
"Because she was afraid that a girl from a poor background wouldn't be accepted into the mighty Franklin empire."
"So you're…?" Cass began.
"Yes, I'm one of those Franklins. You have to believe me, Mr. Winthrop. She knows I don't care about her background. I love her."
"It's obvious you do," Frankie soothed. "Can you tell us anything that might help us find her? Does she have friends here? Family?"
Shaking his head, Mark replied, "Her mother died last year, and she has no other relatives."
"She grew up here, then?"
"Yes. She lived here until she went to college. That's where we met."
"Does she have any friends here that you know of?"
"She must have some, but she never really kept in touch with anyone as far as I know. We met all of our close friends at school."
"Did she have a job in town?" Cass asked. "Maybe someone will remember her."
"The summer before our senior year she worked in a bar to make extra money."
"Do you know the name of it?"
"Uh…the Longshoreman, I think. I visited her there at the end of the summer, and I convinced her to stop working at that place…it wasn't in a good neighborhood."
"Hmmm…well, it's worth checking out anyway. Do you have a picture of her?"
"Yes," Mark said, producing the picture. "Her name is Mary Cassidy."
"Thank you, Mr. Franklin," Cass said as he took the photo. "Why don't you go back to your hotel while Frankie and I follow this lead. If you remember anything else or get further information, call the office and give the information to my sister Stacey. Do you have a number where we can reach you?"
"I'm staying at the Bay City Plaza, Suite 1000."
"We'll contact you as soon as we know anything," Cass assured him.
"Thank you, Mr. Winthrop, Ms. Frame," he said, nodding to each of them. "Hopefully, Mary will be back at the suite when I arrive."
"I hope so, Mr. Franklin. Goodbye."
Just before reaching the entrance to the bar, Frankie finally said what she'd been thinking since they left the law office. "Cass, you really didn't have to come with me. I can take care of myself."
"I know that, Frankie, but did it ever occur to you that I might want to spend time with you?"
Expecting an argument, Cass' answer surprised her. "You do?"
"Of course I do, you doofus," he said, reaching out to stroke her hair. "Besides, I couldn't pass up the chance to revisit the scene of our first successful date."
"We had more than one?" Frankie quipped.
Laughing, Cass replied, "Okay, so we've more than our share of disasters, but we're together, aren't we?"
"There's no place else I'd rather be," she responded, kissing him lightly as his arms pulled her close.
After a few long moments, Frankie disengaged from the embrace. "Come on, Winthrop. We've got work to do."
"Yes, boss," he replied playfully, following her into the bar.
Frankie and Cass questioned everyone in the bar, to no avail. Even their story of a large inheritance for the girl and a reward for information generated no response.
In frustration, Frankie said, "We're not getting anywhere, Cass. Maybe we should go to Mr. Franklin's hotel, and search for clues there."
"In a minute, Frankie. I want you to dance with me."
As tempting as the offer was, Frankie shook her head. "Cass, we're not being paid to dance…we're being paid to find this girl."
"Dancing has always been lucky for us. Besides, I have this feeling we should stick around awhile longer."
"All right, but just one dance" she acquiesced, taking his hand just as the jukebox began playing What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?
"You knew I'd say yes, didn't you?" she asked as they began to dance closely.
"I hoped you would," he replied simply, caressing her back with his hand as they enjoyed the music.
"That date seems so long ago," Frankie mused.
"Before all the bad times," Cass added.
Nodding, she replied, "We were just beginning to learn about each other."
Smiling, he responded, "I learned not to wager against you in a game of pool."
"And I learned not to bet against you in a game of poker, even holding four nines. I was this close to packing my bags for the Caribbean, too."
"I'll take you there someday."
"On Caroline's tickets? How generous of you," she said mockingly.
"No, I gave those back to her."
He nodded. "I found them in my desk drawer after Christmas. Even though you and I were fighting, I knew there was only one woman I wanted to be with."
"Oh, Cass," she replied, tightening their embrace and resting her head against his shoulder.
As the song came to an end, Cass pulled back reluctantly and said, "I'll go call the office to see if there are any new developments. You check to see if the mood in this place has changed any. You might get a better response if I'm not around."
Nodding, Frankie headed to the bar to talk to some new customers. Passing by one of the tables, she heard a man call, "Hey, Red!"
"You used to work for Lucas, didn't you?"
"I did. Why?"
"You two helped me out once. Lemme see if I can return the favor. Give me that photo."
"Sure," she said, handing him the picture and studying his face. "You look vaguely familiar, but I don't really remember you."
Shrugging his shoulders, he replied, "I've just got that kind of face. In my business, it's best that no one remembers me anyway. Now this girl, she's got a face I remember."
"Anything you can tell me would be helpful. Have you seen her lately? Does she have friends we might contact?"
"Nah, I haven't seen her in awhile, but one of her friends worked here until recently. I heard that she's working at the Pelican."
"That's great, Mr…?"
"No need for names here, Red. Go to the Pelican and ask for Jennifer. She's a blue-eyed brunette about 5'6" or so. Hopefully the kid's making a better life for herself."
"I will, thanks," Frankie said, smiling graciously at the man.
"Oh, and Red…."
"Don't let that lawyer break your heart."
Smiling in reassurance, she replied, "He couldn't. He's the one that fixed it in the first place."
Holding hands, Cass and Frankie entered the Pelican Club. Spotting the owner behind the bar, Frankie asked, "Is Derek around?"
"He's in the back. You want me to go get him for ya?"
"If you don't mind."
"No problem. Have a seat."
After the owner's departure, Frankie said offhandedly, "I haven't been here in awhile."
"Yeah, well, it's not really my favorite place."
"Do you have to ask?"
Remembering the last time they were at the Pelican together, Frankie responded, "Hmm…well, that wasn't one of our finer moments."
"I couldn't believe that you were dancing with that creep," he said, his anger still evident.
Flashing a knowing smile, Frankie said, "Jealous, were you?"
"Insanely," he admitted.
"If it makes you feel any better, I much preferred dancing with you," she said, winding her arms around his neck.
"Until I opened my big mouth."
"You know better than to tell me what to do, Winthrop," she teased.
"I know, but I was so desperate to be with you, I couldn't think straight."
"Desperate to be with me or desperate to get me away from him?"
"Both," he admitted. "I couldn't stand the idea of you being with anyone else, but I was also genuinely worried about you. I just had a bad feeling about that guy."
"I wish I had listened to you," Frankie admitted, looking away.
"I wish you had, too," he replied, cupping her cheek and gently turning her to look in his eyes. "Frankie, when I couldn't find you the night of the gala, I…."
"Hey, guys!" Derek called from the doorway.
"Oh, hi, Derek," Frankie said distractedly, turning to face him.
"I'm not interrupting anything, am I?"
"No, of course not. How are you?"
"I'm great, thanks. What did you want to see me about?"
"Oh," Cass said, suddenly remembering why there were there. "Do you know a girl named Jennifer? She supposedly works here."
"We're not sure about the last name," Cass said.
"Is she about 5'6" or so? Brunette?"
"That's the one," Frankie chimed in.
"She's working at TOPS today. She needed some extra money, so I recommended her to Fanny. She's not in any trouble, is she?"
"No, Derek. We're actually looking for leads on a friend of hers. Have you seen this girl around by chance?" Frankie asked, producing the picture.
"That's all right, big guy. You've been a great help," Frankie said, patting her friend on the arm.
"Thanks, Derek," Cass added.
"Hey, Frankie, can I talk to you a minute?" Derek asked.
"Cass, do you mind?" Frankie asked.
"I'll wait for you in the car," Cass said, kissing her on the cheek before leaving. "See you, Derek."
"Bye, Cass," Derek replied.
"So…what's up?" Frankie asked.
"Nothing. I just haven't talked you in awhile, and I wanted to know how things were going with Cass."
"Things are going great, actually."
"I love him, Derek," she replied, her eyes flashing.
"I know that, Frankie. We've all known that for months now."
"Yeah, well now he knows it, too."
"You told him?"
Nodding, she replied, "I finally took your advice, Derek, and I stopped running."
"And you're happy?"
"I've never been happier," she replied sincerely.
"Well, you deserve it, Frankie," he said, reaching out to touch her on the arm.
"Cass finally convinced me of that."
"Yeah, well, I haven't always been Cass' biggest fan, but you two are really good for one another. He adores you, you know."
"I know," she said, smiling a little self-consciously.
"Listen, you better get going before he begins to wonder what happened to you."
"You're right. Thanks for everything, Derek."
Stepping off the elevator together, they were immediately greeted by Felicia. "Cass! Frankie! It's so wonderful to see you two together."
"Hi, Felicia!" they said in unison.
"Can I get you a table? I've got a secluded spot available, perfect for a romantic lunch for two."
"Not this time, Felicia," Cass interjected. "We're here on business."
"Oh, a business luncheon, then? Well, I've got another table…."
Interrupting, Cass said gently, "Actually, honey, we're looking for one of your waitresses….a girl named Jennifer Davis."
"Oh, yes. Lovely girl. She just started working here yesterday."
"Can we talk to her?"
"Not right now. She's on her lunch break."
"Do you know where she went? It's very important that we find her," Frankie asked.
"I believe she went to the park for some fresh air. Is everything all right?"
"Everything's fine. We're just trying to locate a friend of hers."
"Well, good. If there's anything I can do, let me know."
"We will," he said, turning to leave the restaurant with Frankie.
"Oh, and Cass…," she said, grabbing his arms and pulling him within whispering distance. "Let me know how it goes, honey."
"You'll be the first to know," he whispered back, a broad smile on his face.
"What was that about?" Frankie asked suspiciously as the elevator doors closed.
"Oh, nothing. Felicia just wanted to know how things are going with us."
"I see. And why did she whisper to you?"
"You know Felicia. She likes to be dramatic."
"Uh huh," she said dubiously. "You're not planning to lock us in TOPS again, are you?"
"I wasn't, but now that you mention it…," he began, wrapping his arms around her and kissing her neck.
"Cass…," she protested weakly.
"What, Frankie?" he asked, caressing her lips with his own.
"I… know you, Cass," she remarked between kisses. "You're trying…to distract me."
"Is it working?" he managed, his caresses becoming more passionate.
"Mmm hmm," she mumbled in response, giving herself fully to the sensation of his lips traveling along her jaw line and his hands burying themselves in her hair.
The ding of the elevator brought them crashing back to reality, and they barely managed to put a respectable amount of distance between them before the doors opened.
Observant bystanders watched in amusement as Cass surreptitiously wiped the lipstick from his mouth and Frankie tried to rearrange her hair into a respectable style.
"You're a bad influence on me, Winthrop," she whispered to him as they walked through the lobby.
"Well, you're a good influence on me, Frame, so I guess it evens out."
Shaking her head in amusement, she replied, "You go on ahead, and I'll meet you outside. I'm just going to make a quick stop by the restroom to fix my hair."
"You look beautiful, Frankie, but I'll wait as long as you need me to."
"You always do," she said gratefully, leaning over to kiss him on the cheek.