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Don Yarber Don Yarber
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Under the Double Star - Chapter One

The continuing novel.  This is chapter two, introduces Kip's friend, Toby Smith, investigator for the California Highway Patrol.


        I was as tickled as a kid with a new puppy.  I could hardly wait to get back to my bachelor apartment and tell Rhonda.  Rhonda is a good friend and nearly constant companion since I met her while working a case in Los Angeles.  She’s nearly five feet nine inches tall and weighs 130.  Her smile is one that Pepsodent toothpaste might have used back in the old days before nine out of ten dentists recommended Colgate.
       But there was someone else I wanted to tell the good news.  Toby Smith is a cop.  He’s a Special Investigator for the California Highway Patrol to be exact.  We have been friends since college.  I picked up the phone and called his office.  His nasal, twangy voice slid through the line and into my skull.
       “CHP, Toby Smith.”
       “Hey Toby, guess what, Old Buddy?”
       “Kip!  You know I hate these guessing games, how about you just tell me.  From the sound of your voice, you hit the lotto!”
       “I’ve got a client!” I said.  “More than that, she’s offered me a quarter mil if I complete the case.”  
       “That’s great, Kip,” he said, and meant it.  “But what is it the client wants?”
       “Not much,” I lied.  “She wants me to find her missing husband’s remains.”
       “Whoa, boy,” Toby said.  “Is he missing or dead?”
       “Both,” I said.  “He was shot down in WW II over a small island in the South Pacific.”
       “How small?” he asked.  
       I hadn’t thought of that.  If the island was big enough to build a runway for fighter aircraft, it might be as big as Catalina.  Searching Catalina would take twenty years!
       “I didn’t ask,” I said.
       “What’s the island’s name?” he asked.
       “I didn’t ask that either,” I confessed.
       “Well, congratulations, Old Pal,” Toby said.  “Sounds like you’ve bitten off a bit more than you can chew.”
       “Let me tell you who my client is.”
       “I already know, its Dorothy Underwood.”
       “How the heck did you know that?” I asked him.
       “I just read the obituary on Robert Underwood and there was a paragraph about his wife, Dorothy, that said her first husband had been a fighter pilot, shot down over a small South Pacific island in WW II.”
       “Oh,” I said.
       “Anyway, good luck, buddy,” he said and hung up on me.
       I sat there for a minute or two, and then turned to my computer and did a Google search for Robert Underwood.  There were over 4 thousand hits but the one I was interested in was his obituary.  Sure enough, there was the paragraph Toby had mentioned.  
       I did a Google search on Dorothy Underwood and found fewer hits, but one in particular was what I was looking for.  She had married Henry Townsend in Hollywood in 1941.  She was a promising young actress, a graduate of UCLA, and the daughter of Mary O’Keith, an actress of some acclaim who had starred in several “B” movies.
       It was Townsend I was interested in.  I couldn’t find much on him other than he was born in Houston, Texas, and his parents had been wealthy.  They owned the second biggest cattle ranch in Texas, appropriately called “The Queen Ranch”.  The fact that he had married Dorothy O’Keith I thought was a little strange but my mind was already wandering away.  I was thinking of what I could do with two hundred and fifty grand.
       I cleared my computer’s search screen and opened a program that stored a boilerplate contract.  It took me nearly half an hour to make the necessary changes in the contract and prepare it for Dorothy Underwood’s signature.  When I was finished I hit the print button and watched as my old printer rattled, coughed and finally spewed out the three pages.  I read it over and decided it was close enough for government work and printed a second copy.  I signed both and put one in a manila envelope, copied Dorothy Underwood’s address from her card and then put both into my briefcase.  
       In the briefcase I found a plastic sandwich bag that had contained my salami sandwich, devoured four hours earlier.  It reminded me that I was getting hungry and the old clock on the wall was nearing half past four, so I locked up the office and left.

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