Hi there campbellsworld visitors!
We’re back in the Author’s Corner with a truly terrific treat from Mystery author Trish Hubschman.
Now, if you like a good mystery, with a tad bit of romance tossed in, you’ll not want to miss a word.
So, settle down for your mid-day break, or lunch, and enjoy.
Don’t forget to go on reading once you’re through solving the case to learn all about Trish and her magnificent series.
OK. Without further delay, here’s Trish and her tantalizing tale.
Is That Really Her?
(A Tracy Gayle mystery)
By Trish Hubschman
Note: The below characters are from my Tracy Gayle mystery books, Stiff Competition/Miss America (available on Amazone and Smashwords) aned the upcoming one, Ratings Game
“Did this lady ask Ms. Jones if she was her long-lost daughter, Debbie Lynn?” I asked. That seemed to be the next logical question. Johnson and I were on the phone. He had called to fill me in on the cold Missing Persons case he was helping a buddy at the station on. Johnson was a homicide cop with NYPD. He was out on medical leave pending retirement. At the moment, I was sitting in a suite at the Sheridan Hotel in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. My fiancé, rock musician, Danny Tide, was still asleep in the bedroom. Thinking of my beloved, I glanced over my shoulder toward the closed bedroom door. All was quiet. His band, Tidalwave, had a show tonight and the King could get a few more hours sleep before he had to rise and begin prepping for it.
“I spoke to her on the phone and yep, I did ask her that,” Johnson fired back. “Her response was negative. Said she didn’t know how to approach Ms. Jones.” I heard him shrug. “Twenty years is a long time and a lot has happened in those two decades!” Johnson whistled.
I rolled my eyes.. Oh boy, he could say that again. As the story went, Debbie Lynn ran away
from home at sixteen. She got into drugs and prostitution. She was in and out of jail for fifteen years. Shortly before the birth of her child, she decided to turn her life around, and then she suffered a serious vision loss. Miss Tiffany Jones was a New York Times bestselling author with her memoir, Sad Eyes Turned Bright.
“Why didn’t Mrs. Nabors look for Debbie Lynn twenty years ago?” I just had to ask that
“Said she did. Police couldn’t find a trace of one sixteen year old run away on the streets out of hundreds or so of them out there,” he replied easily.
That made sense but I wasn’t giving up yet. “And she wants you to make the introductions after all this time?” My tone was cynical.
Johnson grunted. “Something like that, but after I find out for certain if Ms. Jones is our Debbie Lynn.”
“Do you think she’ll tell you if she was?”” Again, I just had to ask, even though I was pretty sure of the answer.
We continued tossing it around for a few minutes, then I disconnected the call and tossed my phone on the sofa beside me. That’s when I heard it. I swung my head around. My tall, blonde and beautiful knight in shinin armor was in the bedroom doorway. “I didn’t know you were standing there, Tide,” I practically shrieked. I didn’t know what else to say. For some reason, I felt kind of guilty.
Danny came over and sat on the sofa beside me. He picked up my hand and brought it to his lips. “You know, babe,” he said in a low voice. “You looked so happy just then when you were in your Sam Spade mode.” His tone was easy-going. I blushed. “I haven’t seen you that exhilarated In a long time.”
Now, I really felt guilty!
. . .
The next morning, I sat in the back of a Lincoln Town car heading east for New York City. Johnson thought it would be better for me to approach Tiffany Jones, rather than he, a cop, a homicide detective, no less. “Ex-cons can smell a cop a mile away,” he said. I agreed with him on that, though I wasn’t sure how Danny would take me bowing out of the tour when it just got started.
“You’ll take a car service into the city,” Danny instructed when I told him the game plan. We were in bed after that night’s show. I know he was tired. I wanted to argue that I could take the train into the city, but I didn’t. “You can stay at Blair’s place.”
Blair Nelson was Danny’s second wife. She was a talk show hostess. This time I did debate. “I have a perfectly good home on Long Island that I could stay in while I’m working a case with Johnson,”
Danny gave me a look that said, ‘he’s the reason I don’t want you staying there’. Johnson and I had been a couple once upon a time. Last summer, Danny and I became romantically involved. Johnson and I no longer were, but he and I eventually were able to go back to being friends. ““I’ll call Blair in the morning and square it with her. I’m sure she won’t mind,” Danny said. I don’t think he gave a hoot what she might have wanted if it was different than his plans.
As it turned out, she did go for the idea. When she heard the name Tiffany Jones she practically jumped through the phone. “I’m trying to get her on my show. She’s a famous author with a movie about to be made about her life,” Blair said excitedly. “And I must get a jump on all the other interviewers.”
Now that sounded like Blair.
. . .
I was so engrossed in reading Tiffany Jones book on my IPad I didn’t notice the passage of time. I was startled when the driver pulled to a halt in front of Blair’s Central Park West apartment building. Hopefully, I regained myself quickly, so as not to look a complete fool to a total stranger. I offered to tip the driver, but he said it had already been taken care of. Okay, so that left me with the next thing to do, I pulled my tote bag off the seat beside me. I had shoved some essentials in it before leaving PA. I hadn’t taken much with me. I hoped I wouldn’t be away from Danny too long and if I needed anything, I could either go shopping here in the city or back to my house on the Island for a few hours. I got out of the car and went into the building.
The door man told me nobody was home on the eighteenth floor at present. “You can go up, ma’am,” he told me. “Ms. Nelson gave us word that she’s expecting you.”
I took the elevator up. I had the key to Blair’s apartment , courtesy of Danny Tide. Danny was still the owner of his second wife’s Manhattan apartment.
Once inside the perfectly ordered, hauntingly quiet apartment, I dropped my tote on the floor in the front hall and headed toward the kitchen. I made myself a cup of tea, sat down at the table and got my cell phone out of my shoulder bag. I figured I’d take care of some business, call Danny and Johnson for starters, before Blair and Liz got home from wherever mother and daughter were at this late hour of the afternoon.
Danny didn’t answer his phone. My call went to voicemail. What had I expected? This was his day off, no performing tonight. He was probably out having some fun. Well, hopefully, not too much fun. I left a message saying that I arrived safely in NYC and was at Blair’s, no one was home. It seemed kind of creepy here, I said, then giggled. I told him I love him and signed off.
Next I tried Johnson. He picked up. I told him where I was and that Blair was trying to set up a meeting with me and Tiffany Jones since she was also trying to get the new author on her talk show. “Blair’s new producer, Drake Fielding, can work magic, as Blair has told me,” I joked into the phone. “I’m hoping to wrap this up as quickly as possible,” I added.
Liz came into the kitchen a few minutes later. She was the spitting image of her rock star father. She was holding baby Danielle. Liz’s husband was Tidalwave’s keyboard player, Mike Carson . Liz hadn’t been able to join the tour at onset for unexplained personal reasons. She was smiling broadly now. I held out my arms. Liz gave me the baby and plopped into a chair at the table. “I’m not pregnant,” she announced happily. “
Now I knew what was going on with my step-daughter. I forced a smile. “Well, if that makes you happy, honey,” I said.
Liz’s expression soured. She became defensive. ”Danielle is too young to have a little brother or sister and it’s difficult enough to take one baby on tour,” she fired back.
I wasn’t debating her. At that moment, we both heard the front door slam. Blair came bounding down the hall toward the kitchen. She stopped long enough in the hall to observe my tote bag on the floor. She made a squeaking noise, then continued down the hall. She appeared in the kitchen doorway. Blair wes dark all the way around, but beautiful. She was talking briskly. “Drake is a magic man,” she said. Liz and I were looking at her eagerly.
Liz asked her mother the question. “Did you get that prostitute to come on your show Mom?”
Blair shot her daughter a scathing look. “She’s not a prostitute anymore, darling. She’s a bestselling author and about to have a movie made about her very sad earlier life.” Blair said. Liz shrugged. “And to answer your question, darling, Tiffany Jones will be at my studio at ten tomorrow morning for our private chat, and then we go live at three.” Blair’s tone was exuberant. She looked at me then. “Oh, Tracy, darling, Ms. Jones is willing to meet you tonight at seven-thirty at a place called, mm, I’ve got to try to recall it, oh yes, Gilman’s Pub. I, of course, never heard of the place.”
I did. Now we were getting somewhere.
. . .
I was at Gilman’s Pub by seven-fifteen. It wasn’t crowded. There was a young blonde woman sitting at a corner table by herself. I took it she was Tiffany Jones. I sauntered over to the table. “I’m Tracy Gayle,” I said. “Ms. Jones?”
The woman looked up at me. There was no reaction on her face, but I was certain she was sizing me up with her eyes. I didn‘t move. Finally, she nodded and I slid into the booth across from her. I fished into my pocket and came out with a business card. I held it out across the table to her. She took it and stared at it for a long time. ‘Okay, Ms. Gayle,” she finally said. Her voice level, maybe a tad low. “Why’s a PI looking for me? I’m used to cops, not private eyes.
Until that moment, I hadn’t been sure where I was going to start this, whether to come straight out with a question, ask who Tiffany Jones was. Storytime instead. “A cop friend of mine is helping a cop friend of his with an old Missing Persons case.” I watched Tiffany closely across the table to see if she was catching on, but there was no reaction. “A sixteen year old girl ran away from home twenty years ago. It’s a cold case,” I added, though that much was obvious. “The girl’s mother wants the case reopened. She thinks she’s found her daughter.”
Tiffany didn’t appear impressed, in fact, she was starting to look bored. “Nice story, okay, but what does that have to do with me, lady?” she asked.
I almost heard a drumroll. “Are you Debbie Lynn Nabors?” I dropped. I stared at her. I hoped for something, a flinch, a flicker, but there was no reaction. “Amanda Nabors is the mother. She thinks you’re her long lost daughter.” There I laid it on the line.
Finally, I could see, or I hoped I was seeing, Tiffany struggle inwardly. “What makes this woman think that’s me?”
Fair question. I dug my iPhone out of my other jacket pocket, ran my finger across it and scrolled down the pics till I came across the one Johnson sent me earlier of sixteen year old Debbie Lyn. She looked to be a happy girl. I handed my phone over to Tiffany. She stared at the pic for a long time, and then handed me back the phone. Her face was void of expression. “Do you have anything else for me, Ms. Gayle?” she asked pointedly, slapping her hands down on the table. ”
I wasn’t ready to let her go. “Wait, you didn’t say you weren’t Debbie Lynn,” I posed.
She just looked at me.
. . ..
I touched base with Johnson when I got back to Blair’s apartment. “I didn’t get very far with Tiffany Jones,” I admitted. “I have to say, I think she’s Debbie Lynn Nabors. She didn’t admit it, but she didn’t’ deny it either. It’s just a gut feeling, I guess,” I added quickly.
Johnson made a kind of grunting noise. I’m not sure what it meant. “Always trust your instincts, Gayle,” he said.
He’d been telling me that for years. “What now? Where do we go from here?” I asked.
I swear, I could hear Johnson thinking. “Is Tiffany still scheduled to meet with the Dragon Lady tomorrow?” he asked.
I smiled. Johnson was referring to Blair Nelson. Dragon Lady was Danny’s secret nickname for his second wife. “At ten for their private chat backstage,” I replied. “Three for the taping before a studio audience, but, as I’ve been told, the schedule can change,” I went on almost tauntingly for some reason. “I’m definitely hoping to be there.”
“Me too,” Johnson said. “I’ll bring Amanda Nabors.’
“Wait,” I cut in. “I want to go back to the Island for a bit tomorrow morning to check in at the office.”
Johnson agreed. “Sounds fair. I can pick you up at noon. We’ll get Amanda and drive into the city together.”
We worked out the specifics, and then signed off. I had to call Danny.
“How’s my lady?” he asked in a cheery tone. “Where have been all day?”
I chuckled. “I should be asking you that, Mr. Tide,” I half-teased.
“Hey, I’m innocent. I spent most of the day sleeping and in the gym,” he said. “Tomorrow we’re on the road again and I want to know when my lady’s coming back to us,” he said. That was a fair question, though I didn’t have the answer to it. I filled him in on the day’s happenings. Danny whistled. “You’ve been busy, I see. “
Oh yeah. “And tomorrow even more so,” I added.
“You think they’ll be problems at the shooting,” he asked nervously.
I laughed. “Not in that sense,“ I said. I knew what Danny was thinking. “Ms. Nabors wants to be reunited with her daughter.” For some reason, I felt an eerie chill climb up my spine. Danny and I stayed on the phone a while longer, said a bunch of mushy things, and then signed off. I was exhausted. I wanted to get some sleep, get up early and take a train to the Island. That was my game plan.
. . .
Johnson’s daughter, Kim, picked me up at the train station. “I know it’s only been a few weeks since I last saw you, honey,” I said. “But I’m thrilled to see you. I’ve missed you. Did you change your hair style or something?” We both laughed heartily at that. We were still laughing when Kim pulled Danny’s BMW into my driveway. Out the car I went and practically hopped up the steps to the front door. I swung around in my living room. Oh gosh, I must have looked a sight! When I came back down to earth, I noticed that Kim was staring at me dubiously. “What?” I asked.
“Have you been that homesick?” she said almost disapprovingly.
That really deflated me. “Um, well, I guess maybe a little.” Oh boy, did I feel guilty now! Suddenly, I plastered a broad smile on my face. “Honey, I promise you, in a few days I’ll be sick of it here and eager to get back to my man.” That was true enough. I doubly-missed Danny.
Kim relaxed and we had breakfast together in my kitchen. Kim dropped me at my office by nine-thirty. “Do you want me to pick you up later?” she asked.
“No, that’s okay. Your Dad will be by around noon to get me. We’re driving into Jersey, then back to the city for Blair’s taping.” Holy cow, the sound of all that exhausted me. I got out of the car.
Lois squealed when I came through the office door. Though she was a fully licensed private investigator now, she was sitting at the front reception desk. Her younger sister had been our receptionist, but she had run off with Lois’s fiancé, leaving us short-handed. Lois jumped up when she saw me, raced over and threw her arms around me. I was spellbound. “How’s Danny?” she asked when releasing me. That one brought me up short, though I really can’t say her question surprised me. Lois was a true celebrity fan.
“He’s good,” I replied.” He told me to tell you he says hi.” That was a little lie, but Lois loved it.
“What are you doing here anyway, boss?” she asked. She giggled suddenly. “Of course I know about the Missing Persons case and Tiffany Jones, I mean, I didn’t expect you to come all the way out here. It could have been handled on the phone.”
After I plopped down in my own desk chair, I relayed the whole tale of Johnson’s request of me to make contact with Tiffany and assess the situation to today’s stint of Blair’s live interview of the ex-prostitute turned bestselling author. Lois loved it.
“Well, you have a tad over 2 hours to fill me in on everything and I’ll do the same before Detective Johnson arrives, and I mean I want to know everything.”
. . .
“I have some questions for Mrs. Nabors,” I told Johnson. We were in his Toyota heading for New Jersey. We were going to pick the woman up at her home and bring her into Manhattan with us. What more can you tell me about her? “Have you met her in person?” I asked. Maybe Johnson could give me more insight into the mother before I came face to face with her myself.
“Nope,” he replied. “Only spoke to her on the phone. She sounds desperate to meet up with her long lost daughter again,” he said pointedly. I couldn’t tell which way his opinion fell on this.
“And why is she so desperate about it?” I flung at him. “I know I’ve asked this before, but why is she so sure Tiffany Jones is Debbie Lynn?”
He raised one shoulder. “Why don’t we just wait till we get to her house and you can ask her yourself,” was his response. As logical as that was, it annoyed me.
We drove over the George Washington Bridge, zipped along a few more exits, and then were in a nice town with big houses on very private streets. He came to a halt in front of one. I whistled. “This lady’s rich,” I remarked. I think my eyes were wide. It didn’t make sense.
. . .
We were headed toward the Lincoln Tunnel. Mrs. Nabors sat in the backseat. She was telling us her story, while dabbing at her wet eyes with a tissue. “I think Debbie Lynn was kidnapped. Her father and I went to the police station immediately and kept telling them so, but I don’t think they were listening.” She sniffed back her tears.
I was looking over my seat at her. I had to debate in my head whether I wanted to pick up on that point or fast forward to the present and go for the right now. “Mrs. Nabors, I spoke to Tiffany last night,” I said. Her head popped up higher indignantly. I ignored that and went on. “She didn’t say she wasn’t your daughter, but she didn’t say she was either. Can you give me a reason for this?”
Johnson took over then. “According to the police report from two decades ago, Debbie Lynn was listed as a runaway teenager, Mrs. Nabors, not a kidnap victim.”
“I know,” she said, dabbing at her right eye with the tissue. “That’s what they kept telling us too, but I don’t know why my little girl would want to run away from home.”
Oh boy, I thought, if she didn’t have those answers, how could we get them? We were at the studio in what seemed record time and I don’t think our chat with the mother had surfaced anything solid.
We sat in the fifteenth row. It was a full house. Amanda Nabors sat between me and Johnson and we weren’t in aisle seats. Since we hadn’t been able to get anything concrete from the woman definitely connecting her and Tiffany Jones, Johnson and I weren‘t taking any chances. The woman probably was legitimate and, at least, thought Tiffany was her daughter, Debbie Lynn, but we needed more evidence.
Blair came out amidst wild applause. She gave an opening for Tiffany and then the ex-prostitute turned bestselling author came onto the stage. She wore a gray pantsuit and pink blouse. She looked marvelous and yeah, different from our meeting the previous night. She also had eyeglasses on. Both women sat on comfy chairs on the stage and Blair began, and I have to call it this, her interrogation. It may have made her guests uncomfortable, but she never seemed to have trouble getting new guests on her show, and the audience loved her style.
Beside me, Mrs. Nabors made a squeaking noise. Out the corner of my eye, I saw Johnson pat her hand reassuringly.
On the stage, Blair held up a copy of Tiffany’s book “Sad eyes Turned Bright”. “Darling,” she said to her guest. “You’re a phenomenal person and a credit to society,” Blair said, than lowered her eyes. “Well, now, of course, you are. You’ve turned your life around! Let that be a lesson for other strays to follow.” Blair looked at the audience for a moment before turning back to Tiffany and the real show began. “Darling, I must go back to the very beginning. Oh goodness, how could a girl get mixed up in such sordid things?” It was a rhetorical question. “” Tell us, please, how does a sixteen year old child land up out on the streets doing such things.” Blair picked up the book. “Now, I don’t mean to pry, dear, what was your home life like before you ran away?”
Reflexively, I sat up straighter. This was it! Truth be told. Were Tiffany’s beginnings the same as where we had just come from on that nice private street in New Jersey?
Tiffany licked her lips. “I didn’t fit into the life of a rich kid,” she said almost apologetically. “I didn’t do things like the other snob kids in my Jersey school did,” she went on. “I just wanted to breathe a little.” That pleading tone again. “I wasn’t going to stay away forever. I wanted to come back, but, well, once things happened and I got into drugs and all the other stuff,” she shrugged. “I couldn’t.”
Blair smiled. I think it was to break the tension that was building. “But darling, you are back. You turned your life around. That’s wonderful. It couldn’t have been easy. What was the turning point?”
Tiffany wiped a tear from under her eye, at least that’s what it looked like she was doing. She smiled. “My son, Andrew. He’s five now. I was determined to be a good mother, give my little boy a good life.”
On cue, Blair’s young personal assistant, Missy Grant, came out from the back of the stage. She held a little boy’s hand. At that moment, all mayhem broke out. Before Johnson and I realized it, Amanda Nabors was out of her seat and racing down the middle aisle toward the stairs. We were a beat behind her. We jumped up and did our best to climb over feet and follow her. People were screaming. A security guard appeared out of nowhere and pushed Blair to the floor of the stage to get her out of danger’s way if there was any. Amanda jumped onto the stage and grabbed young Andrew Jones away from Missy Grant and pulled him into her arms. The child was wailing. Johnson and I were onstage now. We were about to try to peel the child out of the older woman’s arms, but we both stopped dead. Tiffany was now also in Amanda’s embrace and both were crying, not screaming or wailing. Even though I had my feeling about this from the start, I still had to take a moment to let the full gravity of it absorb, mother and daughter and grandson had just been reunited. Holy cow! We did it! I glanced at Johnson for confirmation of what I already knew. He nodded. I looked toward the audience then. Oh boy, it hit me, the cameras were still rolling. What was Danny going to think when he saw this?
. . .
Liz and I were in the dressing room at Ocean Beach Music Arena in Maryland when the five Tidalwave band members got offstage after a fantastic show. They didn’t know we were back. We could hear them talking and laughing heartily as they approached.
“Dad is going to be surprised when he sees us,” Liz said. “Mike too,” she added. There was a gleam in Danny’s daughter’s eyes. Baby Danielle was with her nanny back at the hotel the band was staying at.
“We’ll soon see,” I replied, rising to my feet as the door opened. Jim Crown, the band’s second guitarist came in first. When he saw me he smiled and nodded, and then moved aside to let Danny pass. Then Danny saw me. He stopped dead, stopped talking and stared at me as if unsure what he was seeing. I almost burst into laughter.
“Dad, are you just going to stand there like a friggin’ idiot?” Liz said. Danny glanced at his daughter and made a face. Mike was beside Liz then, and Danny’s attention came back to me.
“Yes, Tide, are you going to say something,” Jim Crown asked. Danny’s head flashed to Jim, and then back to me. A broad smile crossed his beautiful face. Suddenly Danny let out a hoot and raced to me. “Now, that’s more like it, I’d say,” Jim noted.
Danny swept me up in his arms and swung me around. I was laughing. Yes, I was truly happy to be back. I hadn’t realized how much I missed this wonderful man in the two very long days I’d been away. Settling me back down on my feet, Danny pressed a deep kiss on my lips. We were both breathless.“ “Don’t ever leave me again” he growled.
Professionally speaking, I couldn’t promise that, but I was so happy to be in his arms and that’s where I intended to be for a very long time.
MORE ABOUT TRISH AND HER WORK…
A Romantic Suspense Novel
Stiff Competition (Miss America): A Tracy Gayle Mystery
by Trish Hubschman
In e-book ($2.99) and print ($9.50) on Amazon and other bookselling sites.
227 pages in print.
Cover, free text sample, author bio, direct buying links, and more: https://www.dldbooks.com/hubschman/
About the Book
America’s favorite rock band, Tidalwave, is playing the Miss America pageant. Band leader Danny Tide is emceeing the event. All is going according to schedule. The judges have picked the 10 semi–finalists. Suddenly, everything comes to a halt. Miss New Jersey is missing. Nobody knows what happened to her or where she is. Danny calls his longtime PI friend, Tracy Gayle, and asks her to come down to Atlantic City to help figure things out. In need of her best friend for personal support and eager to get to another case, Tracy agrees. There’s an all–out search of the hotels on the boardwalk. They find Miss New Jersey, but it’s not good. Her kidnapping leads to another assault and murder. The big star and the lady PI work together on this one, so that the Miss America pageant can continue as usual.
About the Author
Trish Hubschman has published three books with America Star Books: a short story collection of time travel and romance stories called Through Time and the first two books in the Tracy Gayle/Danny Tide series: The Fire and Unlucky Break. Trish attended college at Long Island University’s Southampton campus, earning a BA degree in English with an emphasis in writing. She lives on Long Island with her husband and two dogs.