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A Dose of Murder, Mystery and Mayhem

A Dose of Murder, Mystery and Mayhem

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A Dose of Murder, Mystery and Mayhem

Länge:
273 Seiten
4 Stunden
Herausgeber:
Freigegeben:
Oct 26, 2016
ISBN:
9781785385902
Format:
Buch

Beschreibung

Come join us for some murder, mystery and mayhem. Walk through many different styles of mystery all warmed up with a hint of the erotic.

Selfies - Michael Bracken
When a slender blonde asks questions about photographs he took of her mother, private eye Carl Flock revisits his past as a divorce attorney’s camera-slinging hired peeper in “Selfies."

Ghost in the Image - P.R. Chase
The first of P. R. Chase's short stories featuring Emily Thorpe, the resourceful and inquisitive leader of a paranormal investigation team in Victorian-age London. Her unique sensitivity to exokinetic energy leads her down the streets of London and the passages of her memories as she frees a haunting spirit--residing within her.

Share the Wealth - Albert Tucher
When a suburban prostitute loses her professional detachment with a client, and he becomes the suspect in his wife's murder, what else can she do but investigate the case in her own unique way?

Phoenix Rising - Casey Pascal
Lily Phoenix is a brilliant young agent working for The Bureau with a reputation for getting the job done. She’s also beautiful and in demand for assignments in the company of the city’s industrial and scientific greats. Despite having seen more of the dark under-belly of society than the majority of those she protects, her focus on work has left little room for her to gain experience of life. That same lack of experience has given her imagination the freedom to wonder what she might be missing. When an audacious crime is committed at The Society of Scientific Enquiry’s annual dinner, Phoenix instinctively moves into action, but as the situation strays into the realm usually only inhabited by her wildest fantasies, she is forced to decide between her duty and her desire.

No More Tears - Logan Zachary
There are more things than steam and sweat in the locker room today. After a fight that leads to a death in at the fitness center, tensions are high as ex-partners argue about … shampoo. Detective Joe DeCarlo is having a bad day, and his workout is doing little to de-stress him. Paavo Wolfe is trying to help him clean up his act and solve the crime in the shower room. But someone is dead and another person has forgotten to buy the shampoo, but there will be No More Tears in the locker room.

Swapping Surveillance - Edmond Fumki
A beautiful lady private detective considers her life and career while sitting in the company car waiting for the suspect that she is to follow to appear. When he does, his trail leads her into a life changing situation of humiliation and pleasure.

The Missing Piece - Morrigan Cox
Lillian was used to having her heart broken. But she wasn’t used to being needy. Not in front of Dexter Drummond. She has a past with the Private Dick and it’s not a pretty one. He wanted a life in law more than he wanted her, and now she’s forced to go to him for help… with her husband. It’s an old crutch for her, but she’s desperate enough to try even if it only twists the knife of betrayal deeper in her gut. Just when she thinks it couldn’t get any worse, there’s an offer of help from another part of her past. Santoro Giulietta has always been the extra wheel in her past with Dexter. The man with eyes darker than her troubles and a mouth as dirty as it is talented. She doesn’t want his help, but sometimes what you need and what you want get mixed up and you end up looking for the Missing Piece.


Fill in the blanks - Hollis Queens
Things heat up when Yvette finds herself teamed up with her hero, Detective Scarlett Warren, in a race to uncover the previous night's debauchery. Will they be able to sort through the booze-soaked clues from the party or will they be distracted by their growing passion?
Herausgeber:
Freigegeben:
Oct 26, 2016
ISBN:
9781785385902
Format:
Buch

Über den Autor


Buchvorschau

A Dose of Murder, Mystery and Mayhem - Nicole Gestalt

2016

Selfies

by Michael Bracken

I had once supported myself quite well by tailing cheating spouses, taking revealing photographs of their infidelities, and delivering prints and negatives to divorce attorneys and the clients they represented. Social media and changing social mores eliminated much of my business. Cheaters now out themselves through their posts, tweets, and selfies. Sexual activities that had once been illegal even between consenting adults bound by marriage are now the subject of bestselling books and casual discussion among co-workers.

Though a sporadic trickle of clients keeps my balance sheet in the black, I did not replace my buxom receptionist when she accepted a better offer from the insurance company with offices two floors below mine, nor did I replace my curvaceous girlfriend when she received a better offer from a senior partner at the law firm where she works as a paralegal. So, I spend my days surfing the Internet and my evenings trying to remember what it feels like to get laid by a woman who doesn’t charge for massages with happy endings.

Sitting in my office one Tuesday morning, reading the day’s headlines on the local newspaper’s website, I heard a delicate cough. I looked up to see a slender blonde standing in the open doorway. She wore a black sheath dress that hugged her minimal curves, held her purse in one hand and held a manila envelope in the other. She was almost pretty.

I’m sorry to interrupt, she said, but there’s no one out front.

My receptionist is on break, I explained. I didn’t explain that Stella’s break had lasted almost eighteen months. Do you have an appointment?

My visitor shook her head. I’m sorry. Do I need one?

I made a production of checking my empty appointment calendar. I have time now, I said as I motioned toward the two chairs on the visitor side of my desk. Come in. Have a seat.

She crossed the room, examined both chairs, and then selected the one closest to my desk.

I asked, What can I do for you?

You did some work for my mother. She opened the manila envelope, pulled out half a dozen glossy 8x10 photographs, and spread them across my desk.

In the top photograph, an older, prettier, and quite naked version of the woman sitting on the far side of my desk was impaled beneath an equally naked man half her age who had a distinctive port-wine birthmark on his left ass cheek. I did not need to examine the photographs to remember the woman, though I pretended I did as I sifted through them and felt myself becoming aroused. Janice Shepherd was the only client I ever had so desperate to end her marriage that she hired me to prove her infidelity, and photographing her with her lover had been one of the few times I used a tripod and a timer. I asked, How did you find me?

The blonde flipped one of the photographs over and I saw my name and address rubber-stamped on the back. She said, I hadn’t expected to find you here after all these years, Mr. Flock, but I had to try.

Carl. Like her, I hadn’t expected to find myself in the same office after all these years. I had gone private after three years spent walking a beat in a bad neighbourhood, and, after a few prosperous years that saw me adding a receptionist and subcontracting work to off-duty beat cops I had once worked with, I had thought I was riding a rocket to the top. Instead, I’d gone into free fall. Call me Carl.

As Janice’s daughter reached across the top of my desk and we shook hands, she said, Kathleen Shepherd.

What can I do for you Miss Shepherd?

I was five when my parents divorced, she said. Neither one ever told me why. My father took his own life a few years later, but my mother didn’t pass until recently. While going through her things, I found these.

Kathleen nodded at the six photographs still spread across my desk. They had been carefully cultivated from several hundred taken over the course of a long evening which left my client satisfied and her pre-Viagra lover spent. I had been careful to make prints of only those photographs in which the woman was identifiable, and I had destroyed all negatives in which any part of the man’s face was visible. I didn’t realize you were a private investigator, she said. I thought you were a photographer.

I am when I need to be, I said.

So, why did you take these pictures?

The same reason I took all the others like these, I explained. To help people exit bad marriages.

My father hired you? When I didn’t respond, she said, Both of my parents are dead, so there’s no one left to protect.

I didn’t correct her. There’s always someone to protect.

***

When Kathleen Shepherd exited my office a few minutes later, I never expected to see her again. That afternoon, the insurance company downstairs called with an assignment. An auto-mobile accident victim with no identifiable social media presence was claiming a back injury. Two days later I delivered several dozen digital photographs of the man unloading flat screen televisions from the back of a stolen delivery truck. The following week I helped an elderly woman without computer skills locate a long-lost cousin, and I was back to killing time cruising the Internet when Edgar Wainwright invited me to lunch at his club.

I had neither seen nor spoken to Wainwright in several years and was surprised to see how little retirement had changed him. Though his lion’s mane of hair had completed its transition from black to silver and the creases at the corners of his eyes had deepened, he still wore a tailored three-piece suit and still stood ramrod straight when he greeted me.

How many divorce cases did you work for me? Wainwright asked after we settled into place at his table and I had my fist wrapped around a tumbler of Jack-and-Coke.

Several dozen, I said. I had never known Wainwright to represent a male client in a divorce, and I suspected he hired some of the women I found straddling drunken husbands in cheap motel rooms, but his checks cleared the bank so I never asked questions. You were my best client.

One of them has come back to bite us in the ass, he said.

Though I had a premonition, I asked, Which one?

The Shepherds, he said. Janice and Charles. They had a daughter, must have been five when they divorced, and she was in the office the other day. She had questions about some photos she’d found.

I didn’t tell him Kathleen had been to see me first. You spoke to her?

No, Wainwright said. One of the junior partners told her the attorney who handled her mother’s divorce had retired and suggested she let the matter drop. After he escorted her from the office, he phoned me.

I sipped from my drink.

This should never have happened, Wainwright said. I told Mrs. Shepherd to destroy the photographs after we had the final decree. There should have been nothing for her daughter to find.

That the photos still existed had surprised me, but I had not been bothered by their existence nearly as much as Wainwright.

You need to dissuade Miss Shepherd from asking any more questions about those photographs. Wainwright opened his wallet and fanned six crisp Benjamins on the table between us. This should be enough to get you started.

I scooped up the money, folded it in half, and slipped it into my shirt pocket. Then I finished my Jack-and-Coke and returned to my office to spend time rereading my file from the Shepherd case, refreshing my memory of the events that led to my photographing Wainwright’s client in flagrante delicto.

***

Charles Shepherd came from generations of family money, had been a professor of biblical history, and was president of the state’s largest Bible college at the time of the divorce. Janice Wilson Shepherd came from a more modest background and had met Charles while an undergraduate studying Home Economics at a Baptist university in Texas where he was completing a Ph.D. They married the summer after her graduation, a year before he received his doctorate after successfully defending his dissertation on the two acceptable Biblical grounds for divorce. Kathleen was born several years later, when Janice was forty-five, and on her fiftieth birthday Janice retained Wainwright, who subsequently retained me.

I tailed Charles Shepherd for more than a month and had sub-contracted a couple of off-duty beat cops to tail him during hours of the day when I couldn’t. The man had no vices. He didn’t drink, didn’t smoke, didn’t gamble, and didn’t even cast appraising glances at the nubile young women who crossed his path on a daily basis. Wainwright’s reaction, when I presented my report, surprised me because he preferred that I never interact with his clients. He threw my report across the desk and glared at me. No one walks on water, he said. Talk to his wife.

Janice Shepherd and I met the following day at a library on the south side where neither of us was likely to see or be seen by anyone we knew. I was seated at a table reading that morning’s newspaper when she settled onto a chair opposite me. We took a moment to appraise one another - she exuded a repressed beauty, with minimal make-up and clothing that masked the voluptuous figure beneath - before we began.

Wainwright’s client understood what I did for Wainwright and let me know she had warned the divorce attorney that her husband would prove difficult to catch in any compromising position. She asked, What if I were the one to stray?

You’d want me to take pictures?

If it’s the only way, Janice said. But let’s maintain some semblance of professionalism. No hiding in closets or kicking in doors. She told me the date, time, and place she expected me. You bring the camera and the film and I’ll provide everything else.

***

The morning after Wainwright hired me to quiet Kathleen Shepherd, I drove to the Shepherd home on the north side. The neighborhood had not changed during the years since I photographed Janice in the master bedroom. Old money had grown older and new money had made minimal inroads into the community. That Janice had remained there until her death did not surprise me.

I parked my ageing SUV in the circular drive beside a new Lexus, and I had just reached the steps leading up to the porch when the front door opened and Kathleen Shepherd greeted me. She wore blue jeans and a white T-shirt with nothing beneath it. Her arms were crossed under her fist-sized breasts, pulling the cotton tight so that the twin dimples of her nipples strained the thin material. I wasn’t expecting to see you again.

I said, I’ve been thinking about you.

Kathleen Shepherd’s social media presence was limited but I had access to other, less public databases, and after I’d finished rereading my files about her parents I’d run a background check on her. She held a B.A. in English from the same Baptist university that had graduated her mother and had granted her father a Ph.D. She held a low-paying position with a non-profit organization, teaching English to non-native speakers in San Antonio, and her primary source of income was a regular stipend from the family trust that had supported her father until his death. She had never married, had no steady relationship, and the only prior relationships I could identify were with men several years her senior.

I doubt that, Mr. Flock.

Carl, I prompted. I had reached the porch by then and I stood within arm’s reach of her, close enough to inhale the delicate aroma of her perfume and the Jack Daniel’s on her breath.

More likely you’ve been thinking about the photos I showed you.

I smiled. Those, too.

It can’t be a coincidence that I visited my mother’s divorce attorney yesterday and you’re here today.

I shrugged.

Kathleen uncrossed her arms and stepped aside. You might as well come in.

I followed her through the foyer into the formal living room, where she offered me a drink that I declined before she settled onto a wingback chair and I claimed the couch. Boxes, some sealed shut, others empty, surrounded us.

Moving out? I asked.

I moved out a long time ago, she said. I’m going through my mother’s things and taking what I want before the estate sale.

Estate sale?

The money’s all gone, Mr. Flock, she said. I’ll be lucky if I get enough from the sale of the house to pay off my mother’s debts.

I motioned toward the sealed boxes. And what are you taking with you?

Memories, Kathleen said. False memories, perhaps, but they’re all I have. I waited her out and she continued. My mother shipped me off to boarding school as soon I was old enough, so this house never really felt like home. It was just a place I visited during the holidays.

I wondered where she had been on that night twenty-five years earlier when I had photographed her mother, but I didn’t ask.

I was hoping I would learn more about my mother by going through all her papers. She had always seemed so buttoned up that the photographs were a surprise. That’s why I visited your office. I wanted to know what you could tell me about them.

Your mother wanted a divorce, I said, and your father wouldn’t grant her one. I was hired to find leverage your mother could use against him. With most of Wainwright’s clients, finding dope on their husbands was easy enough. So many men believed they were too careful to be caught with their pants down until Wainwright showed them the photographs I’d taken. They were politicians, executives, athletes, men of the cloth - rich, powerful men - and none could afford a scandal, unlike today when naked selfies and sex tapes were just as likely to make careers as destroy them. Your father was squeaky clean so your mother took another approach.

She had an affair?

I wouldn’t call it an affair, I hedged, more of a one-night stand with photographs.

Why are you really here, Mr. Flock?

Carl, I reminded her. Did you find the negatives?

Kathleen shook her head. Only the prints.

Do you still have the prints?

Of course.

You might want to forget you ever saw them.

I’m not sure I can, Mr.- She hesitated and, with a wry smile, corrected herself. Carl. Seeing the things my mother was doing with that man may have scarred me for life. She stood. Would you like that drink now?

I told her I would.

***

Over straight shots of Jack from a half-empty bottle Kathleen had earlier left on the kitchen counter next to the manila envelope containing the six photographic prints, I deflected several more questions about the night I photographed her mother. Kathleen wasn’t so much interested in the people I’d photographed, as she was Edgar Wainwright’s role in hiring me for the assignment.

I found his name on several documents, she said. He represented my mother during the divorce, and he continued to represent her until my father died and the spousal support stopped.

Kathleen told me about her visit to the firm from which Wainwright had retired. I tried to ask questions but they brushed me off. Attorney-client privilege they said, but there had to be a reason my mother changed legal advisors immediately after my father’s death.

Wainwright had retained me to get Kathleen to stop asking questions and I wasn’t doing a good job of it. What about her current attorneys?

They were no help. They have no idea why she left Wainwright, and they didn’t do much for her over the years, she said before she turned the questions back on me. How well did you know my mother?

Her question had no easy answer. I knew Janice Shepherd more intimately than many men, yet I knew little about her. We only met twice, I said. The second time I took photographs.

That must have- She hesitated and her eyes searched mine before she continued. -excited you.

Before I met Janice Shepherd, my experience with women had been limited to inept fumblings in the back seat of my father’s car, freebies provided by the streetwalkers on my beat who pretended I was the greatest lover they’d ever had, and a few minutes spent watching each of the cheating men I photographed for Wainwright and his clients. My one evening taking photographs in Janice’s bedroom had taught me more about pleasing a woman than any experience before or since. She had been fifty, her lover twenty-five, and she had guided him through every step from undressing her to caressing her, from kissing her to touching her. She had taught him how to use his fingers and his tongue in ways he had never imagined, and she had done things to her young lover that made his toes curl. Though I had destroyed all the photographs that showed his face, I still remembered the looks of ecstasy I had captured. I said, It did.

Kathleen touched my arm. Just thinking about that night is arousing you, isn’t it?

I swallowed hard but otherwise didn’t answer.

She reached for the manila envelope and pushed back the flap. Do you want to look at the photographs again?

I did but said I didn’t.

She pulled the photographs from the envelope and spread them across the counter. My mother was quite striking, wasn’t she?

I admitted she was.

Kathleen rested her hand on my forearm. Heat raced up my arm. What about me, Carl? Do I remind you of her?

I glanced at Janice’s daughter, not quite sure what game she was playing. Yes, I admitted. Very much so.

Look at her riding that young man, Kathleen said as she tapped a finger against one of the photographs. I could ride you like that, Carl.

After another shot of Jack, Kathleen took my hand and led me upstairs to the bedroom where I had photographed her mother. Empty walls sported hooks where pictures had once hung, and the bed had been stripped down to a bare mattress.

I pulled Kathleen into my arms and tasted the alcohol on her breath as my mouth fastened on hers. We kissed long, deep, and hard, and we had too many layers of cloth separating us until we stripped them off and fell across the bed.

What did my mother do that night, Carl? When I hesitated, she continued. You were there, Carl. You saw everything. What did she do to that young man? What did he do to her?

I didn’t tell Kathleen, I showed her, and when we finished I wasn’t certain I was still working for Wainwright.

***

That afternoon I dug through my filing cabinets looking for the names of the women who had been Wainwright’s clients when he hired me to photograph their straying husbands. A few had died during the intervening years and several had moved away. I narrowed my list to seven women still living in the area.

I found the first in an assisted care facility, but she proved unable to answer simple questions and the administrator would only tell me that her bills were paid by a trust administered by a law firm. I found the second behind a heavy wooden door she refused to open any further than the safety chain would allow. The third invited me in when I identified myself as the man who had photographed her first husband in bed with an under-age girl.

I’m surprised that S.O.B. still holds office, she said.

Maybe he’s cleaned up his act since then.

I wouldn’t bet money on it, she said as she led me into the living room. After we took seats facing one another, she asked, Are you here to help me milk more money out of that randy old goat?

Excuse me?

I’m guessing you still have those photographs. Now that he’s a senator, you should be able to squeeze him a little harder.

I didn’t have any negatives or prints from the jobs I’d worked for Wainwright. He had paid well to take possession of my work product, but I didn’t tell her that. Instead, I said, That’s been discussed.

Well, you tell Wainwright it’s about time, she said. The monthly support checks just don’t stretch as far as they used to.

You’re still receiving money from a divorce twenty-two years ago?

It was a lifetime commitment, she said. Then she narrowed her eyes and stared at me. Wainwright didn’t send you, did he?

I shook my head.

Then I’ve probably said too much. She stood. It’s time for you to leave.

I spoke to two of the other women on the list and learned they also continued to receive monthly support payments from their first husbands.

***

Using the information I had gathered earlier, I determined the approximate dates of divorce of the women Wainwright represented, then searched online for the court filings. Some divorces were too old to be online, but I found several that were and was able to identify opposing counsel in each of those cases. I waded through the legalese of each document, and in several cases stumbled upon the clause, "The parties have entered into an Agreement Incident to Divorce. A copy has been provided to the court for approval but is not filed with the records of this court. Spousal support as set forth in the Agreement Incident

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