When a friend tells Harper Mackenzie that a young lawyer, running for city council, has gone missing, he had no idea what he was going to discover. Former navy military intelligence and now, a private investigator, Harper digs into the life of Peyton Chancellor, trying to uncover the riddle. While Peyton’s friends grow concerned, Harper realizes Peyton may have unleashed the dogs of war when he promised to go after the infamous 1%. The more Harper learns about the young lawyer, the closer he gets to the man himself. What he finds doesn’t shock him. In a world where big money buys politicians, was it any wonder someone may have put a hit out on Peyton? In the dead of the night, Harper is determined to find answers… And- also finds something unexpected- he finds himself.
Harper stood at the wooden rear door. He looked behind him at the privacy fence, and then removed his gun from its holster. He was about to tap out a small pane of glass on the door with the butt of his gun, when he tried the knob. The door was not locked. With the racket of the wind and branches banging and whistling, Harper waited, making sure he wasn’t detected. He turned the knob and opened the back door.
He scanned the backyard, and prepared to make entry. If the house was armed, he was going to find out. He nudged the door, breaking the contact points of a security system. Nothing sounded. He holstered his gun.
Harper paused, listening. He, then, entered the house, shutting the door behind him.
As he looked into the kitchen of this 1960s built home, he could see it had been completely remodeled. There it was. The security system, not armed. Why was the door left unlocked?
Harper had a look around. The living room was neat, minimalist with a white sofa and glass coffee table. The wooden vintage floor creaked as he walked on it. Harper stopped, turning his focus on sound, but it was quiet. He could see three rooms off the living area. One was a bathroom, the other a bedroom, and the last one, a den.
He peered into the den.
The desk had been rifled through, drawers stood open, papers were on the floor. Harper noticed frames on the wall. He took a closer look; law degrees, awards for community service, and…one from a prominent LGBTQ organization.
The plot thickens.
Harper turned on the lamp on the desk. He stood still, and then crouched down. There were file folders on the floor, as if someone was looking for something. Harper noticed wires lying on the desk. Peyton’s PC hard-drive was gone. Harper touched the desk and felt the dust. Since the home was clean, he knew that computer had been there for some time, recently taken.
He turned off the desk lamp and made his way to the only bedroom. A gentle whiff of cologne hit him. Using his flashlight, Harper kept it aimed low to avoid the windows. He entered the room, seeing the bed had been made. He peered around the neat space.
Harper sat on the bed, opened the nightstand, and pointed his beam into it. He spotted condoms, lubrication, and sex toys. He shut the drawer and looked around. Harper noticed photos on a dresser. He inspected them.
Peyton in scuba gear, on a golf course, playing tennis, all with his macho-athlete buddies.
Harper opened a few drawers; they contained clothing, perfectly folded.
So, just the office had been gone through. Whoever had been here, knew where to look for…what? Was Peyton going to battle his own father? Something wasn’t adding up.
If this home had already been searched and the offending items removed, why wasn’t anyone watching it?
Harper picked up one of the framed photos and shined his light on it.
Peyton Chancellor; tall, handsome, smart, ambitious, and…gay. Harper’s thoughts went to the possibility of a boyfriend, a jealous lover? Sometimes these suspicious acts were not done by strangers. It certainly was possible someone Peyton knew had harmed him.
Harper continued to snoop, hoping something would make sense. He noticed an answering-machine light flashing. So few people used landlines anymore, Harper was drawn to it. He checked the number of missed calls. There were many.
He hit ‘play’.
‘Hey, Peyton, where are you? You missed tennis. Call me. By the way, is your cell-phone broken? I got a weird recording. Bye.’
‘Yo, buddy. What’s with your mobile phone? Anyway, are you into the party this weekend? Let me know.’
‘Peyton? It’s Jonas. Where are you? I’m worried. Call me. I tried your cell-phone, I got a weird message on it. So…call.’
Message after message, all from different callers, asking where he was, wondering why he wasn’t answering text messages, or why his cell-phone wasn’t working.
A few more calls were just from people hanging-up. Harper put his flashlight in his teeth, aimed it at the answering machine, and wrote down all the numbers, except Jonas’ since he had it.
He shut off the flashlight and entered the bathroom. Opening the medicine cabinet over the sink, Harper inspected the contents. It appeared that nothing was disturbed or possibly taken, like prescription drugs.
He closed it, and had a look into the tub, hoping he did not see blood or remnants of it. Nothing was visible to his naked eye, but he knew of a method to see if blood had been spilled. He’d have to return, he didn’t have the UV light or the luminal with him.
He heard a noise, shut off the flashlight, and stayed still. As he listened, he left the bathroom and peered out of the front window. A cab was letting off a neighbor.
Harper walked to the back door, opened it, had a last peek at the kitchen, and left. He hopped the fence, and made his way to his car. Once in it, he drove home.
After parking in his garage, Harper turned on lights as he entered his house, and removed his jacket, and his gun. He set all of the paperwork he had for this strange disappearance on the kitchen table.
He picked up his laptop, sitting with it in the kitchen, and began to look up all of the phone numbers left on Peyton’s answering machine.
Once he had a list of names, Harper picked up that photo again. He admired the handsome man and understood why Mindy was worried. Her instincts were correct. Something wasn’t right about this.
Harper typed Peyton’s name into the search engine. He checked everything from his political aspirations, which had been documented in the media, to his social network. Not to mention, Peyton had a law degree from Harvard and had written a few articles.
At this point, Harper had no idea where to pursue this case. Peyton may have angered a few opponents by running for local office, or, he may even have pissed off his powerful father.
He may have taken his shit and left, on his own.
Harper held the picture of Peyton in his fingers, staring into his light eyes. He lost himself for a moment and then set the photo down, and got ready for bed.
Even though it was very late, Harper struggled to shut down. He lay in bed, staring at the ceiling, thinking. As his brain ran from topic to topic, Harper thought about Mindy and her connection to Peyton.
He had met Mindy through a mutual friend, Jonas. Jonas worked with Mindy at a tech firm. His friendship with Jonas wasn’t strong, but he and Mindy had stayed connected. He liked her for her sense of humor, and her kindness.
If anyone would care if someone was in trouble, it was Mindy Berman.
Since Harper couldn’t sleep, he left the bed and returned with his laptop. As he sat upright on the pillows, he searched for more information regarding Peyton. He found videos of the man, and watched them.
Short clips of Peyton Chancellor were uploaded on the ubiquitous video site.
‘…Mr Chancellor, what is your stand on tax breaks for the rich? Do you oppose it? Or since your father owns—’
‘I don’t back bad policies simply because of my father. Now, will you excuse me?’
Harper replayed the video, seeing it was dated three weeks ago. The list of video clips Peyton was featured in surprised Harper. The website continued to run them in sequence of popularity.
Another video played. Harper noticed the comments under it, but disregarded them until he watched the short clip, which had been uploaded over a year ago.
Peyton Chancellor was in a bathing suit, at what appeared to be a pool party at a friend’s home. He was smiling, holding a drink. Someone pushed him into the pool, playfully, and when he surfaced, he laughed, appearing good-natured at the prank. Then, a man came up behind him, in the water, and hugged him, kissing Peyton’s neck. His laughter was cut off by the end of the clip.
Harper began reading the comments.
‘would you want this fag on the city council?’
‘gag! don’t elect this douche! he’s gross!’
At the number of homophobic remarks, vitriol hatred- growing angrier and uglier, Harper tried to identify the source. It appeared to be anonymous trolls all posting within the same two hours, which hit right after Peyton had announced his entrance into politics.