Episode 1: The Vanishing Doctor

A slow day in the office of The Hawk, Private Investigator. Rain thumped and drizzled soothingly on the pane of the lone window in the small office. Behind the single desk, littered with newspapers from all over the country opened to articles detailing vanished and missing people, sat the Hawk herself, smoking a cigarette and hoping someone would be by with a case for her. It was true, she was a renowned detective in the business, known for her accuracy and rate of success, but most still preferred their P.I.'s male. She blew smoke against the lone light bulb in the ceiling. The entire office was dimly lit, easy for the eyes. It was dark out, late October, surely no one would stop by at this hour. She might as well close down for the day and head down to The Clanger, a cozy little bar down by the docks, for a drink.

Suddenly, there was a knock at the door, bringing the Hawk out of her dreary daydreams. Behind the grey dimmed glass, stenciled with her name in bold, black letters, she could see the shape of a man. She took the cigarette out of her mouth and called out:
Slowly, the office door opened and the man behind stepped in, wet from the rain. The Hawk looked him over as he stepped inside and shut the door behind him. He was a lanky man, probably around forty years of age, and he had a nervous look to him, eyes flickering this way and that. He had his hands in his rather oversized pea jacket and when he took of his hat, he revealed a frazzled set of dark brown hair underneath. The Hawk usually made mental notes like that of new people she met. Never know when remembering a person's eye color or shoe size might be of use.

The man came up to the desk, stretching out his hand.
"Neville Gillett", he said in a timid voice, almost like he was afraid to talk to her. She gave him a quick glance, then took him by the hand.
"Eleonora Hawk", she said, "please, Mr. Gillett, have a seat." She made a gesture toward a chair facing the desk.
"Thank you", he said, sitting down. The chair creaked ever so slightly. Had to get a new one, Hawk thought, make a better impression if you have better furnish. She looked at Mr. Gillett, who in turn avoided looking directly at her. This man had secrets, she knew instinctively.
"Tell me, Mr. Gillett", she said, shortly, feeling that if he didn't speak up, she would have to, "what can I do for you? What brings you here?"
"It's a colleague of mine, see", Gillett mumbled in a low voice, "hasn't turned up for work lately. I'm scared something's happened to him."
The Hawk nodded. "And what do you do, Mr. Gillett?"
"Me, uh, I'm... I'm an accountant."
"An accountant?" She looked him in the eyes and he quickly looked away.
"Can- can I trust you, Miss Hawk?" He said finally, feeling the intensive gaze of the private investigator on him, it seemed to scare him. Or something else did. But he went on: "maybe I should go to someone else?"
"You can trust me, Mr. Gillett", the Hawk replied tiredly. It was far from the first time she'd heard it. True enough, private investigator was no ordinary occupation for a woman in her mid-thirties in the United States, in the time following the second world war, but the Hawk had made a name for herself a few years back, finding a veteran who had gone missing without a trace. It turned out, he had been kidnapped by mobsters who wanted to put their hands on some smuggled Nazi silver he'd stolen overseas. The Hawk leaned back in her chair, blowing smoke into the air from the almost burnt out cigarette, nesting neatly in an ivory holder and remembered the case. The newspapers had kept the thing under hush, after she'd revealed the veteran had been smuggling stolen goods.
"Cigarette, Mr. Gillett?" She asked, offering the man one. He shook his head. She continued: "You can trust me, Mr. Gillett. I'm a damn good private investigator. And cheap."
"That is why I'm here", he said, nodding, "the cheap part, I mean."
"Tell me about your colleague", the Hawk said, ignoring what he said, "where do you both work? What is he like?"
"I'm an accountant, as I told you, down at St. Michael's. My friend, Johann Winters, is a doctor there, or was, until he disappeared six days ago. He was a kind soul, never hurt a fly, but eccentric. Sometimes he goes on and on about... about irrelevant things, really."
"Hm", the Hawk said, listening intently. "And where does he live. Could you write down the address for me?" She scooched one of the newspapers over the desk and handed Gillett a pen to write. He nodded and began to write, his hand trembling.
"Are you afraid, Mr. Gillett?" Asked the Hawk. He looked up.
"Afraid? Why- why do you ask?"
"You're trembling."
"It- it's merely from the rain", he deflected, "it gets cold outside."
The Hawk nodded, putting her cigarette out in the ashtray on the desk, cigarette crumbling to ashes. She immediately put a new one in the holder, but didn't light it.
"Say, why do you think something has happened to your colleague?" She asked. Gillett put the pen down and looked at her with big, scared eyes.
"I went by his place to look for him there, a couple days ago, then as I was about to leave this guy wearing his hat down over his face and the collar all popped up, saying 'you better stop looking for the doc, ain't gonna find nothin' but pain'. I think- I think it might be the mob."
The Hawk dropped the cigarette and leaned back in her chair, eyes open wide. If the mob was involved, this could be bigger than any one P.I. could snoop out. Barely got out alive, last time.

A few hours later, the Hawk stood outside the address Gillett had given her. An old house, dating at least a hundred years back, just outside of town. Rich neighborhood. The rain had eased, but still drizzled making her unwilling to just stand around. She snuck up the side of the house to look inside through the windows. It was always awkward, peering into strangers homes, in case someone saw you, you always had to be able to get out fast, even being a private investigator without ulterior motives. There was darkness all inside Winters' home. Not unexpected, in the middle of the night, but it did look as if there hadn't been a soul there in some time. A small layer of grey dust was collecting on the furnishings.

Sneaking up to the patio door, she found it unlocked. She looked around, found no neighbors looking over the hedge and snuck in, careful to take her wet shoes off to not make muddy shoeprints or sounds. No one was home. The entire house was quiet, silent as a wall, except for the ticking of a clock. She looked around, only to find no clue to anything but that the doctor had lived an ordinary life. The place looked immaculately clean and neat, though, with exception for the dust. She expected she'd find any clues in the study, if there were any clues at all to find.

She found first the master bedroom, which had been left seemingly untouched; bed made, black and white photos of loved ones nesting neatly in their frames. However, she noticed one frame, by one of the nightstands, had its photo taken out. There was no trace of it. And the wardrobe was emptied out, almost entirely. There wasn't much more she could make out in the darkness.

Right next to the bedroom was the study, the room larger than her own entire office and drenched in the darkness which covered the entire house. She didn't dare turn any light on, so she searched in the dark for clues. Sitting in the doctor's chair behind his desk, she found that it was not as neat as the rest of the house; it was littered with papers and folders, most detailing patients from St. Michael's. As she sat, she seemed to find mostly nothing. An old bill, uninteresting. A patient journal from two years back, odd that he'd save it, but uninteresting. There was one thing; a cigar box, neat and ornate and with a stylish, high end brand on the face. The Hawk tried to open it, but someone, likely the doctor himself, had put a little lock on it and it was locked tight. No key could e found. What secret was inside was kept incredibly safe. She shook it gently, hearing something inside. She didn't dare smash it, lest the contents be destroyed as well. Leaning back with a sigh, the Hawk wondered what the next step was. The hospital of course, he must have an office there and more friends. If the mob was involved however...

Suddenly, she noticed a glisten in the corner of her eye. The rain had ceased outside, and the moon was out. There was a glare, shining through the window and cast a white light on the desk. Next to it was the trash bin. The moonlight was glaring on something in it. Hoping it could be a clue, she quickly stuck her hand in to look and - just a piece of plastic. She sighed again, taking some strips of shredded paper from the bin in her hand and looked at it unenthusiastically. Slowly, she realized anything the doctor had shredded may be of use. As she began collecting the pieces of the paper, there were sudden noises from downstairs.

The Hawk froze in place. Two people had come in through the patio door. One said something about boxing and the other quickly whispered:
"Hush! Can't you see the shoes, there's someone here. Quick, look around."
She heard them begin to search as her heart raced in her chest, so loud they might actually hear it. What was she going to do? If Gillett was right and these were mobsters, she was in deep trouble. She had to get out, and hurried over to the closest exit; the window. She opened it as quickly and silently as she could, just as she heard footsteps coming up the stairs.

The men from downstairs rummaged quickly into the bedroom and, finding no one in there, the study, where the open window stopped them. One of them leaned out and looked around.
"You gotta climb after and look so he don't hide on the roof", he said to the other one.
"Why me?" The other replied, angrily.
"'Cause I was the one look out the window and I said so", said the first. What then followed was some bickering before the second guy reluctantly went out the window to have a look. When they found no one, they hurried out the door.
"First bastard you find what got no shoes on him, kill 'im!" Yelled the first guy as they rushed down the stairs.




From her hiding place in the empty wardrobe in the bedroom, the Hawk could hear them continue to bicker out on the streets. She slowly let go of the pistol's hammer in her coat pocket and took a deep breath. She was sweating and her heart beat heavily. For half an hour she stayed in the wardrobe, silent as a cat at night, just hoping the men didn't return. Then she swiftly snuck out and hurried downstairs and out the patio door, the shredded paper safe in her coat pocket.

She hurried along as she walked, glad the rain had stopped, and glad that the mobsters would be looking for a bootless man. St. Michael's was not a far ways off, a private hospital for rich knobs. Eleonora Hawk didn't think of it as such, be she didn't much like rich people. They all acted like they were better, much like everyone she knew, really. Her pops had been a rich knob and her mother poor. The Hawk was born out of wedlock as a result of the man's extramarital relations. Even the name, 'Hawk', was a taken name to distance herself from the prick. She'd grown up in an orphanage. Made few friends, except for an older boy name of Quinton, with whom she had a sexual relationship for during their teenage years. She had heard he died on some Jap island somewhere.

Finding the hospital felt almost like a safe haven in the dark night; there were electric lights shining both within and without the hospital. She looked around to see she wasn't being followed and entered through the front door. Being the middle of the night, the hospital was drowsy and silent, the doctors on call taking the chance to get a few minutes of much needed rest. The Hawk noticed no one by the reception and so followed a few signs that said 'Offices'.

A long corridor, drenched in darkness met her, with a row of doors on either side. Most doors were closed and had names stenciled on them, like her own office door did. A tall, bearded janitor was slowly sweeping the floor in a tired fashion, giving her a glance with his tired eyes but he didn't really care about her. She thought he was familiar, but decided she would have remembered that beard; big, brown and bushy. At the far end of the corridor she found an office with an open door, the stenciled name on it reading, 'Dr. J. Winters, Chief of Medicine'. The janitor didn't so much as glance her way as she entered through the door.

She found the doctor's office in a state of disarray, filing cabinets open and with patient files and important papers sticking out. Probably, the Hawk thought, the other doctors had come in looking for whatever they needed when Winters had disappeared. She searched quickly and thoroughly, noticing no trends in patient names that corresponded with the files he'd kept at home. She looked through his desk and found the drawers mostly empty, nothing important. But... this was interesting. Some white powder, in the crease at the edge of the drawer. She carefully scraped some of it out, getting a bit of it on her finger. Wasn't much, but she guessed it to be cocaine.

In the trash bin was a single crumbled up ball of paper. She unfolded it and read it by the window, in the light of a streetlight. Just a few scribbled notes. 'Rodgers 2 valium', 'Meeting at 5', 'Rapture', 'Dinner w Karen tonite', 'Decided now'. It might mean nothing, but she put it in her pocket along with the shredded sheet of paper she'd found in his home. She figured, that was it, and was just about to turn in and head back home for a few hours of much needed sleep. She could resume this in the morning, when the doc's colleagues were there to be questioned. Then she suddenly noticed, off the glimmering of the light outside into the hard plastic cover of the unlit fluorescent light overhead. A shadow, a little shape. Something stuffed in there.

She stretched, but could reach high enough to dislodge the plastic cover. It must have made a noise when she dragged the desk over, the screeching echoing through the corridor. But no one came, then, though she did her other doctors in the corridor. She stood on the desk, finding it easy to reach the fluorescent lamp. She dislodged the plastic cover and what was hidden on it swiftly slipped out, falling to the floor, clinking as it hit the ground and bounced somewhere out of sight. The Hawk cursed and in a moment of distraction, almost slipped and fell herself, and dropped the plastic cover to the floor, making a terrible noise. Now she heard the doctors in the corridor coming, confused as to who was going through the office at this time. She recognized their voices.

Cursing silently to herself, she hurried to the floor to look for what the doctor had hid in his lamp. She began to sweat as she looked. Whatever it was, was small and hard to find. She scooched under the desk, nothing there. But there! Just by the wall, lying unmoving and still as a grave, a small key. She hurried to grab it and get to her feet. Just as she reached the door, the men in the corridor did as well. And they were no doctors. She thought quickly and rushed them, knocking them aside. One fell to the floor and she rushed out, glad she wasn't as lady like as the head of the orphanage had always told her she had to be, and wore shoes good for running. She darted through the corridor as the men yelled after her:
"It's the guy from the doc's house! Get 'im!"
"Why me?" The other shouted back. But they were in hot pursuit. They were the mobsters who'd been in the doctor's house.

When she reached the entrance she slid to the side, making like she was running for the exit. Instead, she hid under the receptionist's desk. She breathed heavily as the dimwitted mobsters rushed past her and out the door.
"Thought that was Carlson in that office", one said, panting, as they rushed by.
"It don't matter", replied the other in a heavy breath, "come on, we gotta get 'im!"
The Hawk let out a deep breath as they vanished out of earshot and out of sight, in pursuit of her. She'd been damn lucky twice now. Leaning her against the wooden desk she took a deep breath and then looked at the doctor's hidden key. It was a small key, for a locker or a lockbox. Or a cigar box.

She waited beneath the receptionist's desk for a while, to make sure the coast was clear. A couple of doctors passed by, talking idly about a radio serial. This time, she caught a glimpse of them, so she knew they were doctors. Then she hurried out the door, glad to be alive what with all the mobsters hot on the trail same as her, and made for the doc's house. They'd never expect her to go back there. She stuck to the shadows as she walked, careful in case they'd notice her. She still had one advantage though, she knew; they didn't know she was a woman. She had cut her hair fairly short for that reason, making her look like somewhat of a tomboy, but it was beginning to grow out.

Carefully, back at Doctor Johann Winters' home, she made sure the mobsters weren't there and quickly went up to the study to grab the cigar box. Luckily, it was still there. Then, tire screaming in her eyes, she went back for her office. She could catch some shut eye there. The big, beige overcoat she wore also did its job, covering up her body and her breasts. She could easily pass for a short man. Get close though, and the Hawk had definite feminine facial features; a curved nose, long eyelashes and full lips. She usually told herself she didn't need make up, "had no one to look god for anyway", but time and again she found herself applying mascara, rouge for her cheeks and a subtle lipstick. She didn't like that about herself, having to put on makeup to be satisfied with her look.

Finally, back at the office, she took a deep breath, leaning back behind her big desk. She put the cigar box in front of her. She looked at it, wondering if she should save the surprise for the morning. It could certainly wait. Then she found curiosity took the upper hand and she unlocked the box as quickly as she could. Inside, a small plastic audio cassette, like none she had seen before. Confused, She held it into the light, reading the stenciled letters on it; Fontaine Futuristics.